CCC08: Semifinals Tonight, Tomorrow

I’m presently in negotiations with the wife about catching both semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup (no sex for how long, now?), but have kept and will keep as close a watch on the proceedings as I can. As such, a preview post of some sort seems appropriate…even if I’ll be doing more cribbing than original work. A schedule for the semifinals, who plays who when and where, shows on CONCACAF’s official site (tucked way down at the bottom of this)…even if current news too often does not…

CF Pachuca v. DC United (1st Leg; home team first)
(Tonight, FSC, 7 p.m. PST – so, yeah, 10 p.m. PST…wish I lived on the East Coast right now)
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch Pachuca’s escape from Honduras’ CD Motagua in the second leg of the quarterfinals, but know the Mexican team ain’t what it was as recently as one year ago. Still, count Steve Goff – or, looking between the copy and the headline, it’s more accurate to say the Post’s headline writer – among those who still believe DC has their work cut out. He’s mainly using history as the frame, but, as that article points out, DC has done a couple things, both big picture (roster changes) and small (resting people on Saturday; managing their arrival), to get up for this game. Soccer America’s preview goes into a little more detail personnel-wise – and good thing, so you know who you’re watching as well as what – but there’s not a lot about Pachuca’s relative slide since 2007. Here’s to hoping that’s an edge and that a result of some kind will follow. If, however, you want to get really depressed, just review the hard data passed on by Sideline Views…thanks for the smile, guys…

Houston Dynamo v. Deportivo Saprissa (same as above)
(April 2, FSC, 7 p.m. PST)
I never thought I’d type this, but, in spite of the fact they’re playing a Mexican squad, I like DC’s chances better. To begin – or to conclude, rather – Saprissa gets the second leg; given what I’ve read about the atmosphere down there, getting a result tomorrow night only grows in importance. Given that, nagging injury issues, players starting out of position (Brian Mullan: you should be farther upfield, son) and hints of indifference in crucial positions (cough…defense…cough, cough) certainly prompt some concern. Things like that need to be corrected yesterday; Jeff Carlisle, in his semifinal preview for ESPN.com, points to why:

“…their opponents, Costa Rican champions Saprissa, will be brimming with confidence. The ‘Monstruo Morado,’ fresh of their 2007 Apertura triumph, have been laying waste to their domestic league in the current Clausura tournament, sporting an unbeaten record that has seen them win nine of their 10 matches.”

As for direct observation, I saw a little of the Saprissa’s first leg, quarterfinal loss to Mexico’s Atlante FC, a game they played from the back-foot. Even then, however, they showed the ability to break quickly. Atlante contained this pretty well on the night I watched, but Saprissa ran them over 3-0 on the return leg. I dunno. Doubts about Houston’s “D” didn’t fully blossom until I got the full measure of how well and often Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi violated it this weekend; confidence, good or bad, carries over from such performances, so it’ll be up to Houston to get their heads back to frosty.

UPDATE: The Houston Chronicle provides word on the latest injuries for both teams – and, hey, it’s three a piece, 50/50.

Well, here’s to hoping I get to catch at least some of both games…without giving up too much…

GREAT OUTDOORS
– Haven’t been doing this lately and I miss it….unlike the Daily Sweeper. In light of the gap, I thought I’d pass on a video clip that has probably made the rounds dozens of times over. But – because key portions of my brain stopped developing around the second grade – I still absolutely shit my trousers every time I watch it. Enjoy.

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MLS & Yanquis: The Day Ahead

Given that I have to record Poland v. United States and watch it later (much, much later, perhaps as in tomorrow later), I have to hide from soccer-related media starting around 1:30 p.m. PST.  That means no Daily Sweeper for today…which may or may not chap anyone’s ass…I don’t know such things.

Fair not, fear people! I still have a thing or two in the hopper for today, namely, Major League Soccer Conference previews.  Look for those later today…and for a recap on the Poland friendly much, much later.

That is all.

GREAT OUTDOORS
Actually, no, it isn’t.  Don’t know if anyone out there watched any or all of Frontline’s two-day documentary on 9/11 and the Iraq War.  If you didn’t I recommend it highly.  But that’s not why I’m jabbering about it and I won’t subject you to a recount of my views on the war.

The thing that caught me last night was a very brief moment in the documentary, a five-seconds-long clip in which I happened to see that rarest of things on television.  The clip showed a man – an insurgent, I believe – firing, or attempting to fire, an RPG.  I can’t tell you whether or not he actually got off his shot, but, whatever happened, he wound up on his can in the middle of the street.  As he’s sitting on the pavement, sparks flash on the street around him and little whisps of wind trace across his clothing.  Suddenly aware of his total vulnerability, the man turns to look and – this  was the harrowing part for me – you see it register, the comsuming immensity of his predicament.  Then, within the next second, he’s dead: bullets hit his leg and head almost simultaneously, he jerks to his back – and that’s it.  Scary, scary stuff.  That image played over and over in my head over the half hour it took to fall asleep.

Crew Preview Coming…Followed by Other Junk….Help!

It has been said that the first day of any league’s season feels like Christmas Day.  If that hasn’t been said, well, I’m saying it here.  The thing is, this cuts both ways: much like with Christmas, you find an avalanche of obligations on top of you before you know it, never mind being prepared.

I seriously need to write team-specific previews for both the Columbus Crew (here) and the Colorado Rapids (there) before the season starts.  But I’ve got a couple big items I promised myself I’d do prior to the start of the season as well.  But because I take the verb “need” seriously, I’ll be cranking out the Rapids and Crew previews over the next two days.

By way of format, I’ll break down each team in the two vaguest possible ways: defense and offense.  And I think that’s appropriate: midfield complicates position-by-position reviews because what is a midfielder but a forward playing farther from goal or a defender pushing the bubble of safety further upfield?  Don’t answer that, by the way.  It’s just rhetorical justification.

So, look for previews of both team’s defenses tomorrow and for both team’s offenses on Friday.  The Big Picture stuff – conference previews and the ever-dodgy preseason power rankings – come before Thursday next week, just in time for First Kick.  And there’s more CONCACAF Champs’ Cup stuff to do before this week is over.

One last thing: the Daily Sweeper won’t be daily for the next couple weeks, especially on the days I’m doing Major League Soccer Links for Laurie on The Offside while she’s away.

OK, that’s it.  Daily Sweeper coming later.

GREAT OUTDOORS
– From Fark.com comes this reminder of how geeks shared their geeky obsessions before the Web: fanzines.  The page displays covers from old Sci-fi fanzines inspired by Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, hell, even Quantum Leap (“I am Scott Bacula!  I’ve come to suck your blood!  Bleh!”).  The Star Wars covers are the most, um, out there.

How long do friggin’ Tuataras live?  (Fark.com)

– It seems different cultures count money in different ways.  (haha.nu).

CCC08: DC v. Harbour View, on RFK’s Resplendent Surface

Given the stillfrequent references to the playing surface in Jamaica, I expect DC United will elevate their play to the realms art tonight, stroking the ball across the canvas that is RFK’s playing surface.

I kid, I kid. I imagine a plug-ugly win will send DC fans home happy.

We’re not far from the kick-off of the decisive second leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) quarterfinal series between DC and Jamaica’s Harbour View FC (HVFC). Only a couple minor changes to report: DC will, indeed, miss Jaime Moreno for tonight’s game, but the Jamaicans arguably have it worse: they’ll be missing Rafeik Thomas, a semi-hot scorer for the club of late, and Kemeel Wolfe courtesy of visa issues. And don’t forget the team chef…that one’s a killer. Otherwise, the preview that preceded the entire series covers the Big Picture…though, there’s that little matter of the first leg to cover.

(UPDATE: USSoccerplayas.com linked to a Jamaica Gleaner article that does really well with flagging HVFC’s players to watch, what to expect for tactics (more of the same).  And, to add a personal emphasis unrelated to that, I wanted to highlight my concerns about DC’s ability to get its offense firing.  They’re not exactly ripping the nets, with one goal per game setting the high-water mark in recent outings.  I get into my belief they need to score early below, but it bears emphasizing: finding the net is plenty hard, but trying on tired legs only makes it harder.)

I’d argue DC held the edge in both play and style over the first 50, 60 minutes, before pre-season legs undermined their efforts. One competitive game and one week’s further conditioning shouldn’t greatly alter that equation so pressing for an early advantage seems a good tack to take for the hosts. Their capacity to make that pressing count relies on their ability to score – which relies in turn on syncing their play, something Jeff Carlisle smartly flagged in his one-stop CCC08 second leg preview for ESPN.com: Continue reading

Music to My Ears

This came from Soccer By Ives’ more of your questions answered post:

PATRICKFROMNC- do you see mls ever taking a serious look at moving away from the single entity structure?”

IVES– The league can’t stay single entity forever. The training wheels will have to come off at some point and I would argue that the league is already struggling handle the rigors of maintaining a single entity format.”

I would argue the same, but have to confess that’s down to personal distaste for the single-entity set-up as much as anything.  I believe single-entity’s demise, maybe it will happen?

I’ve said this before, but I really don’t see why Major League Soccer can’t operate on a firm, but higher, salary cap.  From there, you can add some crazy crap, like the designated-player rule, but the league really shouldn’t be blessing every last move, even if they’re only rubber-stamping them.  Not anymore.

GREAT OUTDOORS
Free Dawn Wells!  So, she’s not in jail – in fact, she didn’t get hit with much at all – but the woman if 69 fer god’s sake.  And looks pretty damn good for her age.  Anyway, Mary Ann was always my favorite.

– I haven’t been posting these as much as I want to.  Things will settle down shortly…I hope.  Damn life…

Crew v. Rapids: The Intra-Conference Situation (And When Did They Change the Playoff Set-up?)

Lately, I’ve poked around the question of where I think both the Columbus Crew and Colorado Rapids are with regard to building their rosters for the 2008 season (hint: check the links). Both efforts tend to vagueness, but they’re a starting point for discussion at least. This current post starts the project of pulling together something more concrete – namely, where each team fits within their respective conferences.

To begin, I’m assuming Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Competition Committee hasn’t again changed the….dammit. They did. MLS has, again, changed qualification for the post-season (from the rules of competition posted on the official site):

“The top three teams in each conference qualify and are seeded 1, 2 & 3 in their respective four-team playoff conference brackets.”

“The two MLS teams with the next most points, regardless of conference, receive “wildcard” berths.”

Under last year’s rules – that is, the top two teams from each conference qualifying for the post-season, with the remaining four spots being wild cards – the way any given team stacked up against its intra-conference rivals definitely mattered. Obviously, three qualifying teams makes intra-conference comparisons even more relevant. And that’s what this post will begin examining – i.e. how the Crew and Rapids stack up against conference rivals – i.e. the teams they’ll play more often and who will thus mean the most in determining their separate, yet cosmically-bound post-season fates (are multiple “i.e.’s” allowed?).

That said, it bears noting that several teams are still tinkering – Columbus among them, judging by some unfamiliar names in the line-up that lost today to Everton’s reserves. Also, current results matter and they don’t; by that I mean, some results impress me – for example, it’s not so much that FC Dallas beat Atletico Paranaense’s B-team, as my impression that they did it well – while I’m not sure what to make of others. But these are just caveats, excuses perhaps for when what I write below gets proved very, very wrong by later events.

But, within that frame, where do I peg Columbus and Colorado relative to their rivals in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively? And what does that mean for their post-season fortunes? Continue reading

Getting My Head Around Olympic Qualifying

Yeah, about 75% of you covered this stuff a couple months back, when all this was announced, but I’m just getting to it now. For what it’s worth, I blame February. In spite of being the shortest month, there’s just something about it that takes forever. With any luck, though, I’ll help out a couple other people coming late to the party.

So, Olympic qualifying for the United States U-23s (aka, Lil’ Yanquis) starts this coming Tuesday. All Li’l Yanquis games will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel, as will both semifinals, the third-place game (what? who cares?), and the final. A quick list of games, the opposition, and kick-off time (Pacific Standard):

Tuesday, March 11, 5 p.m. v. Cuba
Thursday, March 13, 5 p.m. v. Panama
Saturday, March 15, 4 p.m. v. Honduras

With that, you have all the teams in our group, that is Group A. There’s just Group B besides, so, to put it all together: Continue reading