DC United 2007 Season Review: Consolation Kings

DC United
Record (W-L-T): 16-7-7; 56 GF, 34 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Somewhere down in the mid-summer recesses of this blog, I dubbed DC United the best team in Major League Soccer (MLS).  Just to suggest, at least, that I’m not a lazy sack, I tried to find that post…and discovered there are several.  The first time it happened came after their August 22 win over Red Bull New York, but the affirmation of that opinion grew and grew.  By the time I wrote the post behind that second “grew,” I was preoccupied with figuring out not so much who could stop them, but where; between winning Eastern Conference title and how strong they were at home, the conference semifinals seemed the place to stop them.

And, of course, that’s precisely what happened: the DC defense’s penchant for getting flustered as virgins on their first date let in Chicago’s forwards for a pair of goals that were easy as they were well-taken and lethal.  Thus it was the same story for the past two seasons: DC gets the Supporters’ Shield, an award that, at this point, everyone at least acknowledges before dubbing the MLS Cup-winning Houston Dynamo as league champions.  Picking through the comments of a post-loss post (probably on the incomparable DCenters), the refrain that the Supporters’ Shield wasn’t enough repeated pretty often.

So what’s the story for DC United’s 2007?  They played more meaningful games than any team but the Houston Dynamo.  They won a bunch of them, too, all except the three semifinals they reached (e.g. conference, CONCACAF Champions Cup, and Superliga; they lost the last one, incredibly, to the Los Angeles Galaxy).  So, again, what is that?  “Really good,  but not good enough”?  A “beautiful failure”?  Or is it just a failure? Continue reading

We Have MLS’s 2008 Superliga Participants (Right?)

So…unless I’m misremembering, the Major League Soccer (MLS) teams with the top four regular season records will represent the league in 2008’s  Superliga tournament.  And, a quick look at the current standings, combined with not only the gap in points but the current form of the relevant teams, says the following four teams will represent MLS…in  every sense of that word:

DC United, Houston Dynamo, Chivas USA, New England Revolution

Well, OK, that’s two repeat performers – Houston and DC – both of whom showed really well in both Superliga and the earlier CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.  Both seem strong and stable as this year ends, so that’s to the good.

How ’bout the other two?  Chivas looks great right now and I think they’ll carry over pretty well to next season as well.  But New England?  That’s where I get nervous.  They’ve got some players to whom another year might not be so kind; on the other hand, they’ve got players who could benefit from another year or two as pros (too bad there’s no kind of “carbon-cap swap” equivalent for player experience).  Could be worse, I suppose.  We could have wrong-way FC Dallas limping to a fourth-place finish.
Eh, whatever happens, the Superliga was a hoot.  So long as we get that Primera/MLS final, I don’t care how they stack up right now or which MLS team reaches the final.  Down the road, however….

Daily Sweeper, 08.31: Refunds, Superliga, and Priorities

– With David Beckham laid up for what looks like a really long time, people – notably those who bought tickets at “enhanced rates” to see Beckham – are rightly mulling what it means for the rest of the season’s games featuring an LA Galaxy road-show absent the main attraction. Major League Soccer’s (MLS) officials have held a no refund policy thus far, but a couple people wonder if that’s such a swell idea (hat-tip: du Nord) – even if they agree, as the RSLFM Report does, with the “no refund” concept itself. Here’s what the RSLFM Report suggests as counter-proposals:

“MLS and/or RSL should replicate a form of its own consolation policy created after the cancelled-fireworks on Pioneer Day. Then, ticket holders were offered special vouchers for $5 tickets to the next RSL home match. Although a token, the small gesture was appreciated by many people.”

“An even better solution would be a special Beckham speaking/meet & greet tour.”

Now, this could be a personal preference talking, but I wouldn’t show to a free Beckham event if him talking was the only event on the schedule; so, count me against the second proposal. The first, though, I can see.

On the other hand, I’m not so squeamish about refunding money, but I’d handle it in two parts. First, I would refund the difference between regular admission and “Beckham Admission.” Part two comes with saying, “This special pricing crap will never happen again….at least not till our product is big enough to allow us to jerk around all-comers.” Then again, I found the price-gouging distasteful from the get-go. Yeah, I get why it’s done – e.g. people will, and did, pay – but, I think the guy who wrote the (quite good) piece behind the first link (under, “wonder if that’s such a swell idea”) has it right: MLS just isn’t big enough to piss off/alienate anyone. Continue reading

Superliga Final: Joy, Pride, The Moment

Life gave me a hard, unwelcome shag last night: I won’t bore you with the details on the assumption that you don’t want to hear them; the main thing is, this will be (comparatively) brief and I won’t be posting today with my accustomed relish and volume.

Taking the nouns in the sub-title in order:

To my delight, the online video feed worked flawlessly last night: no hiccupping video, no long pauses, not even an pixilation.  Instead, I enjoyed smooth, TV-esque viewing.  Huzzah!

Coping with the aftermath of that shag meant I caught the game from the 60th minute forward.  While I can’t speak to the first half, I’ll celebrate the second, when I saw one of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) worst teams give one of Mexico’s best an entirely respectable fight.  Good on ya, Los Angeles.  All y’all played to the credit of the league.

Raise your hand if you thought Landon Donovan wasn’t the guy to take the decisive penalty kick.  My hand is raised.

Here’s the thing: I literally jumped out of my chair when Pachuca’s player shanked his attempt off the crossbar.  This was ME cheering for LA, for crissakes.  But then I saw Donovan, who had spent some time before taking his kick getting his legs limbered by a trainer; no less significant are the very reasonable doubts regarding Donovan’s composure under pressure.

But the question lurking behind that one poses no less a problem: if not Donovan, then who?  That Abel Xavier, a defender, stepped up and fluffed the following PK makes it hard to figure where else one might look.  After looking at MLSnet.com’s match report and reviewing the names of the eleven players on the field at the relevant time, I confess myself stumped.  As captain from the BB era (that’s Before Beckham), Donovan really had to take that kick.  I just wish he didn’t.

The biggest surprise for me, though, was Edson Buddle’s kick.  Holy crap, son.  Where did that come from?

Well, CF Pachuca takes the first Superliga title.  So be it.  I’m mainly glad it was a good game and look forward to next year’s.

Ritual Sacrifi…whoops…Superliga Final TONITE!

Best foot forward.

In a better, kinder world, fate would have consented to Major League Soccer to fielding its best, hottest team against the Mexican Primera’s mighty CF Pachuca, a team that one notable pundit dubbed the best soccer team in North America. Instead they’ll face the Los Angeles Galaxy and its south-of-green defense, the same “wall” that the can’t-score Colorado Rapids banged three goals through in 45 minutes time. Why? Because Fate, that rotten bitch, conspired to have the Galaxy’s only win – wait: make that their one competent performance – for the entire month of August come against DC United in the Superliga semis. So, the Galaxy it is: thus, MLS puts its clubfoot forward…and in front of an artificially reduced crowd no less….stupid undergraduates…why aren’t you out drinking? It’s Wednesday, people.

Oh well. At least we have the memories of this inaugural Superliga tournament, along with the hope that next year’s tournament – the qualification for which is based on merit, as opposed to Beckham and demographic calculations – will be better still.

Here, for those who want it, is MLSnet.com’s official preview.

On the upside, it looks like the Galaxy will be able to play, oh, half a Beckham and maybe three-quarters a Donovan: it sounds like both players will suit up for the Galaxy’s likeliest (only?) shot at taking a positive from 2007. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get still another Wild West Shoot-Out; the Galaxy has been part of two of the best games this season, so credit them for that if nothing else.

And, for the record, I will be pulling for them in spite of my essential loathing for them and a soft-spot for Pachuca. Then again, I’m the kind who likes pulling for the underdog – and the more improbable the better….say, a one-legged, blind kid cherishing the delusion of winning the Boston Marathon…why did that image come to me? Sorry, I’m in a cruel mood today.

With the inaugural Superliga nearing its end, looking back and, all at once, forward seems a natural thing to do. And Luis Bueno did just that yesterday for his Press-Enterprise gig (where’s that paper from now?). Bueno weighed the good against the bad and came to a conclusion or two about this tournament: Mexican clubs are better, the format cheated the Mexican clubs with the games being played in the States and in the Primera’s preseason, etc. And he’s got decent points on each count.

As I see it, though, the little cheats we pick up – e.g. MLS teams are in form and on home turf – balance things out. In other words, we get those little edges, while the Mexican clubs enjoy better resources and bigger rosters. That said, I’d also trade a raised salary cap in MLS for playing some of the games in Mexico (to go one or two further, I’d prefer a raised salary cap free of league micro-management – i.e. teams can sign whomever they want under the terms they can so long as they stay under the cap; no developmental players, etc.; just players; and we could alternate between countries for hosting, etc.). And, for next year, regular TV – and regular TV does not include Telefutura, dammit – is a must. My back is already tensing up at the thought of fighting that over-stuffed online feed during tonight’s broadcast; I can already here the echoes of my wife’s biting mockery.

All in all, though, I have to say I enjoyed the Superliga distraction. It’s helps tide me over while I wait for the main event: the CONCACAF Champions Cup…damn, that was a fun tournament this year.

So, go Galaxy. We’re looking to you to find your best foot and get it out there.

Wheels Fly Off in LA: Back Wrap of the Carnage to Come

The Galaxy is a popular topic today – and for all the wrong reasons. Fans, like The LA Galaxy Offside’s Laurie, are depressed – and with ample reason. But one of the big themes today revolves around what hotter-headed people might call the abuse of MLS’s Golden(balls) Goose, David Beckham. Pundits like FC Rocky’s George Tanner throw around phrases like “coaching incompetence” – a charge that sticks tolerably supported when Dan Loney points to the spectacle Pete Vagenas taking in Beckham ill-advised inquiry into the limits of human endurance from the bench. USSoccerplayer.com’s Ian Plenderleith picks through some of the same wreckage, but it’s Andrea Canales who puts Beckham-abuse at the center of her ESPN article (and with a tougher headline earlier in the day; I swear it read stronger earlier). She even gets all Big-Picture on readers, and not without cause:

“Ultimately, such a grave miscalculation could make MLS seem like more of a joke than the play on the field ever has.”


“Ultimately, it doesn’t seem that Beckham’s heart is in question. Instead, the brains of the league and the Galaxy administration — for not protecting their players by failing to protest such a top-heavy late-season travel schedule — are the ones who appear suspect.”

With The Product sucking so badly in front of God and everybody, talk of heads rolling shouldn’t surprise anyone. As to the timing, well…that’s something else.

MLS Rumors posted talk Frank Yallop resigning as soon as next week. Judging by the wording, this is more of a push than a jump, but Yallop seems like he’s leaning into it (or away from it…complicated metaphor; I’m just saying MLS Rumors thinks Yallop won’t mind so much if/when this happens). Posted earlier the same day is word of Jurgen Klinsmann being courted for the job….my god, I love that site…

Then again, Steve Goff’s Soccer Insider suggests Alexi Lalas’ butt is burning too. Maybe one will go, maybe the other. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a managerial bloodbath, the likes of which Major League Soccer (MLS) has never seen. Then again, the stakes have never been so high, have they?

Turning to the immediate object of the multi-faceted panic, I know I’m not the first person to say it, but one thing absolutely needs doing: if Beckham won’t sit out games, someone – Posh, all the goddam Spice Girls, if that’s what it takes – needs to lock Beckham in a room during game time to keep him off the field; have Tom Cruise secure the perimeter with a crack unit from Sea Org, send out Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan to block the route to the Home Depot Center with a paparazzi-parade. Just do something; the man is showing signs of delusion. It’s possible Beckham sees himself as needing to prove something to the global public – about how seriously he’s taking this league, etc. Salvaging the Galaxy’s season probably seems like the straightest line to take, but, noble as the effort may be, it’s also 95% doomed.

So, barring divine intervention or a highly-leveraged Faustian bargain (hell, maybe that’s what’s going on with Alexi Lalas; do we know how he got his present gig?), LA’s season is lost; they’re going to limp into Wednesday’s Superliga final at this point, so relief there doesn’t look too likely either.

So maybe it’s time to cut their losses. Between the schedule and having Beckham for only half the year and at half fitness, the Galaxy has excuses at hand. It’s time to use them.

Daily Sweeper, 08.22: Trouble for TFC; DP for FCD

– Looks like Toronto FC will lose Ronnie O’Brien and Jeff Cunningham for the rest of the season. If this doesn’t effectively end their participation for the 2007 season, I don’t know what will short of the earth opening up during practice. As one might assume, the locals aren’t too thrilled about this.

– Was I alone in thinking that soccer-specific stadiums were supposed to solve MLS’s scheduling problems? What the hell are students doing studying on a Wednesday anyway? The best happy hours happened mid-week where I (sort of) attended college. Anyway, limiting the seating for the Superliga final (pitting the LA Galaxy against Mexico’s CF Pachuca…wait…do you hear the bleating of sheep being led to the slaughter?) not only makes that sound less “super, it sounds so goddam amateur hour.

– Thanks to The Offside Rules for feeding my cravings for rumor: could Denilson still wind up with FC Dallas? Do the locals even want him? Oh, and you may also notice talk of Shaka Hislop’s retirement in TOR’s link.

– Regular readers of du Nord know that Bruce McGuire, who runs the site, reads an incredible amount of crap about soccer on a daily basis. Turns out he can write a bit as well, as readers of the vacationing Luis Arroyave’s Red Card blog now know. Filling in as guest blogger McGuire builds a damn good MLS All-Star team (scroll down…there’s a lot to get past) and also forwards some provocative playoff picks…once he gets past the gimmes (e.g. I love his second-choice selections…bold, spicy, plausible). My only gripe: he didn’t plug Center Holds It. We need love too!

– Speaking of du Nord, he got a gallery of baby/toddler/youth photos of famous players. Most of these guys are genetic misfits in that they’re preternaturally good-looking (and that’s on top of possessing mad skillz…the bastards), but, thankfully, a few holdouts did their unintentional bit to make us slobs out here feel better. The ones that jumped out at me: Thierry Henry looks like a Mon-chi-chi (sp?), but in a good way; Andrea Pirlo has that haunted look often seen in bully-fodder; but first prize goes to Zinedine Zidane who, as a youth, looks like he stared fires…maybe that head-butt wasn’t so surprising….

Superliga, Beckham and Getting TV Right (bonus: Clavijo Rumors)

A couple weeks back, the Powers That Be – I don’t know, at Soccer United Marketing (SUM) or in Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Halls of Power – decided to air the Los Angeles Galaxy’s visit to Toronto FC’s BMO Field on the tiniest of chances that David Beckham would manage his league debut. We all know how that panned out: a decimated TFC squad fought a bland, confused, and Beckham-less Galaxy to a draw – e.g. a mediocre game at best aired nationally.

Moreover, showing that game came at the cost of giving ESPN2 the night off from broadcasting what would have been tonight’s Soccer Thursday broadcast featuring the New England Revolution versus the Colorado Rapids. Now, I’m not about to argue tonight’s game will top the TFC v. LA affair for quality – hell, I’m expecting at least a half-dozen blown sitters out of Taylor Twellman and an own-goal to decide the game – but that’s not the issue. The issue is that the sum of these various decisions amount to swapping one mediocre game for another; add to that the break-even publicity garnered from airing that first game (more people tuned in, but to a lousy game) plus disappointing the expectation that New England v. Colorado will air as planned tonight on ESPN2 (as evidenced by the language used in a post on MLS Rumors that Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo could (finally) get canned if his team doesn’t win this “nationally televised game“) and you have a situation where you lost more than you gained.

Moreover, wouldn’t it just suck if Clavijo lived to coach another day based on the technicality of this game not being televised nationally?

With that error in the past, it’s time to correct another one on its way down the pike. As Who Ate All the Cupcakes so eloquently put it, albeit in service of a totally different point: “Pony up for the rights to the SuperLiga ESPN, don’t complain afterwards” (and it’s a good post by the way; though it doesn’t hold a candle to this one posted on the same site).

On the back of Beckham’s superbly-timed and narratively-sublime goal and with the following factors coming together – a decent likelihood of Beckham actually being available for the game, the general success of the Superliga both at the gate (in the semis, especially) and among the American soccer community, the Galaxy being in the final of said competition, the lucky coincidence this final will pit them against, not just any Mexican club, but the best of them – I can’t think of a better candidate for prominent, national broadcast outside MLS Cup (which no one watches anyway).

My issues (and the post*) with the breaks in Superliga play aside, it’s getting some good love out here in the Web (* I hereby retract my opinions about killed buzzes; I enjoyed both semis; I do still think they should create a break in the schedule and play Superliga within it). Whether it’s other voices correctly attaching the word “shame” to the decision to forgo English-language broadcasts, rock-solid ideas for re-branding the event, or good, random chatter (about halfway down the page under the header, “The Man Makes Some Solid Points”; hat-tip, du Nord), the right people took an interest in this event – and in spite of some serious handicaps. So, next year, let’s stuff the “World Series of Football” back up the disgusting hole from whence it came and make Superliga the highlight event it ought to be.

But, in the here and now, here’s my essential plea: don’t make me watch the final over a piece-of-shit on-line feed. You pricks.

Yeah…That Goal…and Everything about It

“As soon as the free kick was given, I don’t want to sound too confident, but I felt that I was going to score as soon as I had the ball in my hands,” Beckham said afterward. “It felt good. Sometimes you feel like that, sometimes you don’t get any feeling. But tonight, I had the feeling that I was going to score.”

I didn’t see it till this morning – and one can find the video on MLSnet’s main page; no shock there – but, yeah, it finally happened. And exactly as The Powers That Be would have wanted it.

Returning to my bag of first-date/sexual tension metaphors, the American soccer public has at long last enjoy its first true, hot roll in the hay from one David Beckham and, in truth, it was pretty top-notch (for the record, I’m talking about the goal here, which I happened to see on a reasonably smooth video feed, as opposed to the game, which I did not.) On the other hand, the most interesting thing I saw in the video was watching Kyle Martino as Beckham took the kick. Watch closely and I think you’ll see Kyle studying the physical mechanics of Becks’ free-kick from the best seat in the house.

Shh…he’s thinking… (oh, Dreamcast! where did it all go wrong?)

Good as it was to see Major League Soccer’s highest-priced toy working as advertised, imagine the moment for the player. To be absolutely sincere about it, even more than the goal itself, I wanted to see some pure form of joy and relief – a moment of catharsis – that makes sports of all kind worth watching. All the contrived goal celebrations in the world don’t hold a candle to those rare instances of pure, genuine excitement; think Carlos Ruiz falling to his knees when he scored the winner for the Galaxy in 2002’s MLS Cup.

Did we get that with Beckham’s goal last night? I think so. If the man himself lacked in enthusiasm – and I don’t think he did – his dog-piling teammates made up for it.

Oh yeah…and I here DC United was involved in some way. Good for them. And, in the video, did I see a trace of smile on Troy Perkins face? Much like Kelly Gray, who I think was the first MLS player subbed out for Beckham, Perkins owns the strange honor of being the first ‘keeper to be “Beckhamed.”

With regard to that last paragraph, frustrating as it may be at times to have so many discussions and commentary wend their way back to Beckham, there’s no point trying to wriggle away. Love him or hate him, Beckham is the story and will be for a while.

LA Wins! …or DC throws the game…

OK, so I enjo…ame…qual…viewing as I did last night, but – c’mon – seriously*, DC United threw the Superliga semis.  No, no, man…it’s cool, Don Garber never comes ’round here; neither does that Lalas dude.  So, DC threw it, right?

What about the refs?  Any weird calls?  A heavy lean toward LA throughout?  Anything?

Seriously…they threw the game, didn’t they

(* Seriously, seriously?  I watched the second half using the same hiccup-heavy video-feed-crippled-by-DSL method, so I don’t know much about the game.  My guess is DC didn’t throw it.  But, damn, it’d be kinda epic if they did.)