10 Bright Spots of Week 23: things got weird when Jaqua hit for hat-trick

1. Nate Jaqua – it seems every time Luciano Emilio has a great week, someone has an even better one; Jaqua scoring a hat-trick was certainly not something I was expecting from the big man; he scored one in the first half and added a brace in the second to help Houston squeak by Real Salt Lake 4-3 – kind of an odd game

2. Luciano Emilio – four goals in two games for the machine as his rate is skyrocketing and he now sits solely at the top of the scoring tables with 18; none of this would be possible without the service of Gomez, Fred, Olsen, and recently Brian Carroll

3. Maykel Galindo – are defenders worse this year or are the new additions of Angel, Galindo, and Emilio just enough to outclass a plateaued level of defensive talent? after being kept quiet against DC United, the Cuban struck for two against a tired and undermanned Red Bull squad

4. Wilman Conde – a really inspiring first game for the Colombian as it looks like everyone of their summer signings have started strong; he added an assist in Chicago’s 1-0 win over Columbus; I think Conde is the guy that’s gonna put the Fire through to that last playoff spot

5. Marc Burch – this guy has become D.C. United’s most consistent performer day-in and day-out and a damn-good defender at that; the 23-year old former Terp has certainly proven to be a bargain (3rd Round Supp. Pick) plucked from Columbus

6. Corey Ashe – had himself a phenomenal weekend and introduced RSL to his newfangled partnership with Nate Jaqua as he provided the target man with everyone of his services; between Ashe (a rookie) and Stuart Holden (2nd year) Houston looks to have a promising corps of youth for the future

7. Pete Vagenas – he must have been channeling the injured Beckham as his passes were accurate and good enough for two assists – one to Alan Gordon and another to Edson Buddle: hopefully he can channel Goldenballs for the rest of the 10-game stretch they have as it might be helpful to end the year on a good note

8. Brad Guzan – a 3-0 shutout of the Red Bulls made up allowing 2 goals against D.C. United; Guzan has also been Chivas’ MVP all season, even more so than Galindo

9. Cobi Jones – he seems to really help out when the Galaxy are otherwise in dire straits but it would probably be better if the veteran had evened the ship before it hit rock bottom

10. Christian Gomez – two assists and a smidgen of his former self showed this past week; if Gomez wakes up to the tune of last year’s performances, we could see ourselves one hell of a postseason

French Ligue One: Lyon keeps grabbing the headlines with Benzema in the spotlight

Lyon used three unanswered goals in less than 10 minutes to overcome a 2-0 Le Mans lead. The goals were provided by Sidney Govou (71st min), Karim Benzema (74th), and Liverpool/Aston Villa castaway Milan Baros (78th) respectively as OL looks less than dominant this year. Le Mans opened the scoring thanks to Stephane Sessengon as he closed the first half with one and then opened the second half with another. The fact that Lyon looks resilient is dangerous if they decide to become their regular dominant selves again. Benzema looks poised to become the next Ligue One go-to striker and for that, he’s CHI’s player of the week.

Bordeaux kept their upper-table form with a 2-1 win over an upstart Monaco. Monaco barely made a noise and could not withstand a second-half double salvo from Moroccan Marouane Chamakh and Brazilian Wendel.

Nancy keeps winning and they’re not limiting themselves to beating lower table sides. This time the victim was Saint-Etienne, 2-0 with goals from Marc-Antoine Fortune and Carlos Kim. Kim gave them the lead in the 11th minute and Fortune put it away in the 85th. Nancy is proving tough to beat. As they sit clear above the rest by 2 points, with a game in tow.

Rennes and Lille fought it out to a 2-2 draw as Etienne Didot had a great game for Stade Rennais and the wanted Michel Bastos provided the 76th minute equalizer for Lille. Strasbourg and Lorient played to a 0-0 tie, while Valenciennes and Metz did the same.

Toulouse rebounded from a nasty loss to Liverpool in the midweek Champions League qualifiers to push Auxerre even closer to the bottom. Johan Elmander and Moussa Sissoko did the damage late in the game as Auxerre sat helpless, absorbing another loss and boasting a -13 goal difference.

On Sunday, Marseille and Paris St-Germain played to a 1-1 draw with all of the scoring being done within 20 minutes. Djibril Cisse scored his first Ligue One goal of the year but Pegguy Luyindula replied no more than 10 minutes later. Despite inconsistent form to start the season, Lyon is still ahead of those originally predicted to be their biggest competitors this season. If Marseille and PSG don’t get it together, Lyon could lift their 7th.

Also on Sunday, Nice needed just one from Baky Kone to beat Racing Lens, who are off to a winless start in 5 games, 1-0.


EPL Sunday: Chelsea bows to Villa, 10-man Gunners beat Pompey, Friedel frustrates Man City

Aston Villa 2, Chelsea 0

Is it Liverpool’s season? According to this result, Chelsea’s ‘dominate-but-still-lose-and/or-tie-the-game’ mentality is still fresh in their mind. Villa converted their chances behind $7 million dollar man Zatyiah Knight and rising young’un Gabriel Agbonlahor. Knight provided his strike in the opening minutes of the second half, while Agbonlahor caused a riot with his clincher 2-3 minutes before time. If we had taken a look at the pre-game capsules and what not, one figure would have been quite substantial – Chelsea has not beaten the Villans at Villa Park in eight full seasons. Pretty incredible. Former Barca boy Belletti got his first start for the Blues, but failed to help the Villans out of the back of the net.

Blackburn 1, Manchester City 0

After a whirlwind start to the season, Citeh has come crashing back to earth. This time it was Benedict McCarthy who acted as gravity – slotting home a sitter to extend a remarkable 14-game unbeaten streak that the Rovers started all the way back during last season. It was Benni’s first strike of the season as he is already off his pace to best his tally of 24 in 2006. The game saw a Rover and a Blue sent off – Turkish general Tugay and Man City skipper Richard Dunne were shown the showers as physical was the name of the game and it seems the Rovers came out on top. Brad Friedel worked all ninety minutes as he grabbed his first shutout of the new Premiership season.

Arsenal 3, Portsmouth 1

The Gunners played almost a half without the services of Phillippe Senderos after he was ejected for obstruction. Fortunately, Adebayor had converted an 8th minute penalty given to him ever so graciously by David James. Cesc Fabregas added another in the 35th, only to see Senderos sent off abruptly in the right after the halftime whistle. From then on, Pompey pressured but never converted. Tomas Rosicky added the last nail to the coffin only 10 minutes later netting his first Premiership goal of the season (coming after a midweek Champions League goal as well). Kanu pulled one back a minute later and Pompey continued to pressure, but nothing clicked leaving Emirates, Wenger, and the Gunners themselves breathing a sigh of relief as they try and keep pace with the leaders.

EPL: Derby drubbed again (still no Benny) and Dempsey gets number two

Two of the lesser news pieces (in the headline) that were extracted out of a goal-filled EPL Saturday…

Liverpool 6, Derby County 0

A complete ass-whooping. Not just in the score-line. There is no silver-lining here…it is certain to me that the Rams will be heading down. The only thing to watch out for now is whether or not Benny Feilhaber can make a big enough impact to warrant him a contract with a different EPL team come next season. The Reds came off a late but certain 4-0 beating of Toulouse mid-week to put another 6 past Derby – humbly provided by a plethora of Reds. Those being: Ryan Babel (1), Xabi Alonso (2), Fernando Torres (2), and Andrei Voronin (1). Rafa Benitez’s signings are continuing to impress and produce, but the real star of this game didn’t score. It was Jermaine Pennant who flirted with the Derby defense producing plenty of dangerous passes and opportunities.

Fulham 3, Tottenham 3

The Hotspur are giving out points like crazy and Fulham took hold of one after a late 2-goal surge in the last 15 minutes capped by Alexei Smertin and Diomansy Kamara saw the Cottagers rescue themselves after going up early in the game on Clint Dempsey’s 2nd strike of the season. Only one of Lawrie Sanchez’s deadline signings participated, that being former Pompey defender Dejan Stefanovic. For Tottenham, Berbatov got his first goal and so did both youngster defenders – Gareth Bale and former Auxerre defender Younes Kaboul.

Manchester United 1, Sunderland 0 

The day’s late game lacked skill and grace (cue the return of Cristiano Ronaldo). The perfect person to remedy a game like that would be the industrious Louis Saha and he did so…scoring late in the 72nd minute to continue Man Utd’s narrow win streak. Saha this week, Nani last week although Nani is slowly solidifying an important spot on the Red Devil roster as he provided the service for Saha’s game-winner. Ronaldo returns tomorrow as Man Utd looks to dig themselves slowly but surely out of a decent-sized hole.

Everton 2, Bolton 1 

Tim Howard held strong in goal yet again, only allowing the 55th minute equalizer to Nicolas Anelka. Fortunately, Joleon Lescott – a real possibility for significant international time someday soon – provided the 90th minute stroke after new signing and former Boro striker Yakubu struck for his first Toffee goal only 10 minutes into the game. Bolton’s form wavered as it normally does and I certainly don’t foresee that fact changing anytime soon.

Other Results

Newcastle 1, Wigan 0

Michael Owen helped the Magpies overcome a 10-man Wigan side that saw Kevin Kilbane collect two cards and sent off at the start of the second half. Owen scored in the 87th minute as it seems his touch is slowly returning.

West Ham United 3, Reading 0

Matthew Etherington hit for a brace, but it was Craig Bellamy who fired the Hammers ahead first in the 6th minute demoralizing a predictable Reading squad. Jonathan Spector worked the last 10 minutes, while Bobby Convey came on in the 75th. Steve Coppell can’t be happy with this as they sit unmotivated in the danger zone.

Middlesbrough 2, Birmingham 0

Southgate’s boys outplayed City and quelled supporters’ fears after losing the last piece of  2006’s most dependable strike force, Yakubu and Viduka. Boro received a goal from youngster defender David Wheater and in-form Stewart Downing added the sweetener in before the halftime whistle. Out of the three that Southgate had hoped to hang onto during the summer, only Downing remains as Chelsea and Liverpool gave up after finding their wing midfielders in Florent Malouda and Yossi Benayoun/Ryan Babel.

Sunday’s Matchups

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

Arsenal vs. Portsmouth

Blackburn vs. Manchester City    

French Ligue One: Midweek action yields win for Lyon

Lyon overcame a Valter Birsa PK conversion by sandwiching the Sochaux player’s strike with two of their own. Karim Benzema struck again and is fast becoming a staple in the starting line-up while offseason purchase and former Lille leader Mathieu Bodmer provided the winner early in the second half as Lyon survived 2-1.

Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, and Saint-Etienne all registered shutout wins. Monaco needed the early strike from former Vert Frederic Piquionne to over come Lille 1-0, while PSG and Saint-Etienne had slightly more comfortable wins. Amara Diane and Sylvain Armand did the dirty work for PSG and Saint-Etienne’s needed an Ilan penalty kick to beat a faltering Strasbourg. It’s the best start for Monaco [4-1-1] in a long time, while PSG underperforms again [1-4-1]. Les Verts opt for mediocrity in the tables and pure balance [2-2-2].

Olympique Marseille was the odd man out, the only giant to lose in the midweek. Les Bleus lost to a reeling Nice squad led by the production of Vincent Hognon and Belgian David Hellebuyck. Not even Samir Nasri can jumpstart this team as they desperately missing the presence of Ribery on the wing. Benoit Cheyrou does not compare…the game, however, saw most of the chances go Marseille’s way.

Rennes buried the hapless Auxerre even further in their relegation ditch as 2/3 of their concrete scoring chances were put away. Transfer target Jimmy Briand had the clincher as Auxerre never threatened and instead fell to 1-5-0 on the season.

Former Lyon player Alou Diarra hit for the only goal of the game as Bordeaux won a close contest with Metz, 1-0. Bordeaux sits pretty at 4th in the standings.

Tuesday’s match-up saw Valenciennes dominate yet another Ligue One squad. This time the victim was Lorient, losing 3-1 as Valenciennes depended on the brace of Gregory Pujol. To add a bit of a buffer zone, Sebastien Roudet added a goal in the waning minutes. Valenciennes sits proudly tied for first with an admirable 4-1-1 record.

French Ligue One: Monaco, Lyon, Marseille all win, but PSG falls off pace…again

Lyon scraped by Saint Etienne in the battle of the local rivals – young’un Karim Benzema provided the lone strike in the 53rd minute. A win at home but they still don’t look like themselves – if it weren’t for the good play of back-up keeper Remy Vercoutre, Lyon could have been looking at an unfamiliar spot in the standings. Both Freddy Guarin (a second-half sub) and new signing Blaise Matuidi (on Domenech’s rader for Les Bleus) kept up good form for Les Verts.

Paris Saint-Germain is held yet again to a tie, this time a 1-1 draw with Lille. Cameroonian Jean Makoun (a long-time PSG, Lyon transfer target) put Lille up first in early in the second half. Pauleta – the normally prolific Portuguese striker who has lost his touch this season – had a chance to equalize on a PK in the 71st minute when Amara Diane was taken down in the box. Pauleta was saved by the heroics of Pierre-Alain Frau – who found the net three minutes later. Both sides were gifted several opportunities in a game that lacked any finishing prowess.

Strasbourg defeated Lens 2-1 as Wason Renteria – young Colombian striker, just recently signed – was the star of the show. Renteria put Strasbourg up early in the second half to beat a quality Racing Lens squad.

Olympique Marseille took care of their business in Caen with a 2-1 win in an attempt to keep early-season tabs on Lyon. Mamadou Niang and Julien Rodriguez struck to ensure the victory. Caen’s goal was a last gasp strike as Marseille dictated the pace and play of most of the game.

Monaco got a win as well by scoring three unanswered goals after Daisuke Matsui’s opening strike for to put Le Mans in the lead 1-0. Frederic Piquionne (diva), Jeremy Menez, and Leandro Cufre did the damage as Monaco now sits in third (light years away from where they were last year).

Olivier Thomert played the role of hero in Rennes 2-0 win over Metz, scoring both goals. One in each half. His performance earned him CHI’s Player of the Week to join Johann Audel and Rafik Saifi in that category.

Olivier Thomert

David Bellion had the chance for an easy hat-trick but wasted his penalty strike as Les Girondins des Bordeaux could only manage a 2-2 tie against Lorient. I guess if you look on the bright side, Bellion (the former Man Utd youth star) did strike for two. Lorient’s resilience makes them the surprise 2nd place team in the standings.

Nancy kept first place in Ligue One by using four different scorers to pace a 4-1 win over Auxerre, who has started off this season pitifully.

Valenciennes beat Sochaux 3-1 as they continue to prove that they deserve to be in Ligue One as they were last year’s Reading of the Ligue One. Last year’s leading goalscorer Steve Savidan capped the win with his strike in the 75th minute.

Nice and Toulouse played to a 1-1 draw as Toulouse’s minds were clearly looking forward to the Champions League clash at midweek against Liverpool.

French Ligue One Standings

A forgettable Saturday: Fulham loses another lead but Dempsey scores; Arsenal crashes Man City’s party

Chelsea 1, Portsmouth 0

Frank Lampard played to spoiler in Portsmouth’s bid to upend the giants. With their win they now sit pretty at the top – only dropping 2 points in their first 4 games. Lampard had connected for the English national team against Germany earlier this week and his good form has continued during the transition between both levels. The play didn’t favor a Chelsea win most the game, as Pompey fought hard away from home and created a bunch of chances. Sulley Muntari returned from suspension and wreaked havoc in the middle – distributing well.

Arsenal 1, Manchester City 0

Cesc Fabregas cleaned up Robin van Persie’s mess and dispatched Citeh as neither team played particularly well. The game looked certain to end in a bore draw as every pass seemed to be a touch off, each run a step off. That is until Micah Richards – who had a great game regardless – took Hleb down in the box. Van Persie was stoned by young Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmiechel. The Light Blues were truly missing Rolando Bianchi. Manuel Almunia took over in goal for the afflicted Jans Lehmann, who is currently fighting a bad case of butterfingers.

Aston Villa 2, Fulham 1

Fulham’s woes continue despite Clint Dempsey’s first goal of the season in the 6th minute. Villa responded right after half-time but the true kick in the nuts was delivered by Shaun Maloney – a somewhat flop after coming into the Villa squad last year – who struck in the last minute. I certainly hope American-friendly doesn’t become synonomous with relegation.

Bolton 3, Reading 0

A thorough out-classing of the Blues – Nicolas Anelka, veteran Gary Speed, and new Norwegian signing Daniel Braaten provided the firepower. Despite the lopsided scoreline, Marcus Hahnemann had a decent game and Bobby Convey came in to service the last 30 minutes. Reading looked flat-footed all game and barely mounted a formidable attack all match.

Liverpool 2, Sunderland 0

The Reds’ fantastic away form continues as Ukrainian Andrei Voronin is outshining his injured compatriot Andrei Shevchenko by way of actually finishing goals. Big young’un Mohamed Sissoko struck for the first and welcomed himself into the new season. Liverpool thoroughly outplayed Roy Keane’s boys, but the goals didn’t flow – either way, the Reds will like their start to the season.

Birmingham 2, Derby 1

No Feilhaber but Eddie Lewis did his best to fend off the Blues in the battle of the newly promoted. The former Leeds winger assisted Matthew Oakley’s game-equalizing goal. His efforts were futile though as Cameron Jerome had different ideas. His brace in his first start of the season was enough to get the Blues a home win.

West Ham United 1, Wigan Athletic 1

No Jonathan Spector as Lee Bowyer and Paul Scharner scored several minutes apart late in the game to keep this match-up from being a deadlocked draw. It was Lee Bowyer’s first goal in 75 years, while Wigan’s Scharner acrobatically put his in the net.

Everton 1, Blackburn 1

Another American goalkeeper duel. Both Howard and Friedel turned in great performances but it was the Rovers who struck first through the efforts of Roque Santa Cruz. Scotsman James McFadden struck with about 10 minutes to go ruining a slight Blackburn advantage in regards to quality of play. The Toffees couldn’t be happier that the addition of Yakubu and Manuel Fernandes into the starting line-up is inching nearer. Both are sorting out contract/work permit problems.

EPL: Tottenham rebounds while Man United sputters…

Tottenham 4, Derby County 0

Benny Feilhaber watched Derby get slaughtered but a formerly dormant Steed Malbranque who struck for a brace. Darren Bent opened his account with the Hotspurs as they tried to send a message to the rest of the league. Still looks to be a long year if they can’t perform against the big squads. Billy Davies hopes the signing of Eddie Lewis can spark something, anything…

Reading 1, Everton 0

Marcus Hahnemann won the duel of the American keepers as the feisty Stephen Hunt scored right before half-time in what was a purely defensive match-up. Both Hahnemann and Howard fared well but it was the former Rapid that got the win and propelled Reading into the midtable region. Bobby Convey return for 11 minutes of action!

Other Saturday Scores:

Wigan 3, Sunderland 0

Welcome to the Premiership Roy Keane: where you can beat Tottenham one week and lose significantly to Wigan the next. Two penalties allowed that to happen.

Middlesbrough 2, Fulham 1

The result was indicative of the kind of day Fulham was having. My favorite American player to date – Brian McBride – suffered a dislocated kneecap when he crumpled to the ground only 5 minutes after his opening goal. Wish you the best Brian – but it looks to be 5-6 months out. Hamuer Bouazza – about 10 minutes – later dislocated his shoulder and the former Watford starlet could miss several months. M’boro then proceeded to score two and win the game. Silver lining is that Clint Dempsey should see significant time now that Bouazza is injured.

Portsmouth 3, Bolton 1

Pompey won on account of Bolton having a terrible game – but credit new signing from France John Utaka who bobbed and weaved and put a great goal away early in the game. Kanu also struck for his first. Bolton could go down this year.

West Ham 1, Birmingham 0

Mark Noble put away a somewhat controversial penalty, but WHU outlasted City and got the three points.

Newcastle 0, Aston Villa 0

A bore draw. Ashley Young impressed on the left side however and Michael Owen grabbed some vital minutes for himself. Mostly it was just Villa finding different ways to shut down Viduka and Martins who looked like they could be dangerous, but were never really given the chance.

Sunday scores

Manchester City 1, Manchester United 0

The momentum Citeh is gathering is scaring the shit out of everybody. Former Barca man Geovanni has scored his second of the year and put Man Utd in the biggest hole they’ve been in a long time. What will it take for Man U to recover? Losing Ronaldo and Rooney certainly don’t help – should they let the young’uns run rampant?

Blackburn 1, Arsenal 1

Jens Lehmann gifted the Rovers a tie with the Gunners when flailed helplessly at a late David Dunn strike. Between this and the fiasco that was David Healy’s goal the other day against Fulham, the German should almost be axed. Blackburn survived the last 10 minute onslaught without central defender and former DC United player Ryan Nelsen, who was sent off. Brad Friedel, as always, played consistently well. Eduardo da Silva made his debut for the Gunners.

Chelsea 1, Liverpool 1

The ref has been sacked after this game and rightfully so as Chelsea’s PK gift (which Lampard converted) was one that provoked talk of ‘fixes’. All in all, it was just a terrible call but Fernando Torres goal early in the game was brilliant, even though the defending by Ben-Haim was extremely suspect.

Complete Updated Standings.

Introducing, The Perspecto-Scope: MLS Week 19 (+ Goals Video)

As threatened, I’m going to make a stab today at putting Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Week 19 in perspective – just generally looking at trends in form imagined or real in a less constrained (and, puzzlingly, thorough) format than power rankings.

To start with the most tempting – and probably, the most imaginary – of trends, Houston did more than just suffer a second consecutive defeat, but they did so against Western Conference rival and third-tier team (explanation; after the rankings), the Colorado Rapids. A couple of coincidences – starting with the fact that Loss #1 came against lowly Real Salt Lake – raises the possibility that the Dynamo may have peaked too early in the season. Given the noteworthy resemblances, down even to the opponent who kicked it off, this space will hereafter refer to the phenomenon of ending a hot-streak at the wrong time and against a horrible team as “Pulling a DC.” Conventional wisdom no doubt expects a Dynamo recovery, but, in fairness, we all thought DC would pull out of last year’s late-season nose-dive as opposed to testing the theory that Christian Gomez could, in fact, win MLS Cup single-handed.

At the same time, a couple realities in Colorado points to continued futility, the first of them the fact that the Rapids didn’t even score the winning goal against Houston. But the most worrisome thing from the Rapids’ perspective comes with the sense that the formula that got them to the playoffs for the past couple seasons – e.g. solid home record – hasn’t held up for 2007. If “doomed” was a color, one could add it to the Rapids’ home claret-and-blue. Continue reading