CCC08: CSD Municipal v. Houston Dynamo – Harder Questions

This is where things get tricky…and not a little confusing. To begin, when searching for Club Social y Deportivo Municipal, the “Social y” bit is vital: if you try “CD Municipal,” you’ll hit a wall damned quick. If you look at the Global corner of ESPN.com, you will find a section for La Liga Nacional de Guatemala. But you’ll also notice they’re calling the current campaign Clausura 2007 and, when you check results by club, you’ll see some blank results in the past – all of which tells me they need to either hire more interns to make sense of this mess, or higher a Guatemalan to run the space. Then again, having just checked Los Rojos official site (the club’s nickname, by the way) going Guatemalan may not be the answer. Sure, my severely limited Spanish handicaps the effort, but the site lists a February 24th win over Heredia as the club’s “ultimo partido,” rather than their most recent loss to Jalapa, which came on March 1…incidentally, the worst team in Guatemala’s La Liga…well, that is if you check Puesto en Liga on Los Rojos’ official site and not ESPN.com. Wait. Crap, their last game was actually a loss to Petapa…jesus, people. Hire more interns.

Look, all I want to do is figure out how these guys are doing and I can’t even confirm that the Clausura 2008…sorry, Clausura 2007 (?) started in November.

Then again, that probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. The half of Jeff Carlisle’s preview for ESPN.com devoted to the Houston Dynamo’s CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) quarterfinal tie passes on some good dish on the Guatemalan side – specifically, that they have had better periods in front of goal and, by way of curiosity, there are some former Major League Soccer vets on their roster. Guys like old Columbus Crew midfielder Freddy Garcia, to give on example. Turn to the Wikipedia entry on CSD Municipal and you’ll not only learn this is Carlos Ruiz’ former club, but that is Guatemala’s most successful and, apparently, most popular clubs. Not only have they won 25 league titles, plus a buttload of cups, they secured Guatemala’s lone CCC win back in ’74. Club success aside, Municipal still keeps the leading scorer in their history on the books: Juan Carlos Plata, who it seems is tied with Ruiz as all-time scorer with the Guatemalan national team.

Another former Crew player, Mario Rodriguez, rounds up Carlisle’s list of players to watch. That’s not much, but the bigger question is who the Dynamo has available to take on this side. There, the problems begin in the midfield and, potentially, extend back to the middle, where a new Houston player raises cause for concern. Continue reading

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Gamba 6-1 Dynamo: Twas no Team; A Typhoon It Was…Arrr.

Well all right. My first pirate-inspired headline.

So…how bad was the Houston Dynamo’s loss to Gamba Osaka? First, there’s the score to consider: any time your bunch gives up six goals, you couldn’t have had a good night. I don’t think Pat Onstad can remember the last time he let in six…assuming it ever happened. Bare got four of Osaka’s goals and, as one of the commentators noted, all four were not just well-taken, but each was a little bit different from the one before (and I felt inspired to ask this, when he had only two).

No, I think the best measure of the complete, um, uncloseness of the Pan-Pacific Challenge final comes with how I managed sleep. Somewhere around the 60th minute, I promised myself I’d go to bed either when Osaka scored its fourth goal or if the Dynamo showed no meaningful signs of life at the 75th minute. Osaka’s fourth came only minutes later. I went to bed assuming things could only get worse and, when I resumed watching in the morning (let us pause to celebrate the successful operation of a VCR), it did: Osaka dropped in a fifth in short order, hit the post once, again forced Onstad into a desperate scramble, scored their sixth – again, over a flailing, bewildered Onstad…you get the idea.

So…6-1. Suddenly, the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 1-0 loss in the semifinal doesn’t look all that bad…

In spite of the walk-over, I don’t think anyone would argue Houston looked worse than the Galaxy. Houston made repeated forays into Osaka’s half through the length of the rout. But they encountered an organized defense on every trip, even the several occasions they managed to create a little chaos, or even hit the crossbar, as Brian Ching did late in the game. Maybe it was the predictability of the Dynamo’s attack that created the sense of Osaka’s invulnerability, that nearly all their success and promising openings came down Stuart Holden’s right and from elsewhere too rarely if at all. Maybe with Dwayne DeRosario in the middle or someone besides Corey Ashe starting and going the full 90 on the left (and I like Ashe plenty as a sub), the Dynamo might have unlocked Osaka’s defenses. They had plenty of the ball, but, in the final tally, simply couldn’t do much with it.

The Dynamo’s defense was something else again. Too often a couple steps out of sync, a little slow, shell-shocked even: we don’t often see the Dynamo surrender six goals over three games, or even four or five. Bobby Boswell and Patrick Ianni have a lot of work to put into their partnership; put another way, Eddie Robinson just witnessed the embodiment of his job security in real time.

And, just to complete the record, I hadn’t counted on the halftime highlight reel of the Galaxy’s 2-1 win over Sydney FC. Good for them!

A couple random points that don’t fit neatly into the above narrative:

– I’d start Holden over Brian Mullan. I think he’s got more upside, thanks mainly to his fewer years. But he’s got great speed and close control, passes intelligently, and so on and so on. Thoughts?

– On a related note, I think I’ve got a live-blogging concept that I think will work for me.  Dropping random questions as they occur to me.  We’ll see how that goes…

– Judging by the tournament, the Pan-Pacific hierarchy goes Japan, U.S., Australia. For what it’s worth, I’m OK with continuing the experiment, perhaps even letting it evolve into something bigger. Why not invite a Korean team next year? Schedule it closer to the Major League Soccer’s (MLS) regular season? Let the U.S. Open Cup winner fly the league’s flag, etc. Have fun with it. It’s a money-spinner.

MLS Daily Sweeper, 12.13: A Contribution to MLS Underground’s New Direction; Stadiums; Collapsed Rumors; Parsed Trades

– For those who haven’t seen it already, MLS Underground is under new management and, with that, is headed off in a new direction.  And this isn’t so much a sharp right-hand turn as it’s a three-to-four-point turn with an e-brake slide.  Rather than deal in its former insider-dish/rumor-hawking stuff (and I’m still baffled by the commenter to the post who said “there are enough rumor blogs out there…says who?), MLSU is changing its focus to supporters’ groups, whether it’s history, circulating their songs, or making them go national.  It’s a cool idea.  So cool that it triggered something I was thinking about, maybe last night, maybe another night…or maybe I just dreamed it.

That can be found in the comment left by manlyferry – who happens to be me, though I’m leaning toward a change in handle (not yet affected): the basic idea – and I give this with my blessing to anyone who can get their shit together and get it off the ground before I can get my shit together and get it off the ground (should give you, oh, a decade or three; and that assumes it’s even possible, or even desirable) – is to build up a database on places for visiting fans, even away fans, to stay as they visit MLS and, what the hell, USL-1 cities.  These should be cheap options at most, free at best – e.g. places with people who are willing to put up other people (he writes, knowing he has no space of his own); but a simple guide to cheap hotels, contacts in the city to help people with getting around, etc.

The idea is to facilitate, say, summer tours for people wanting to follow MLS teams.  As I said in the comment, it’s like following the Grateful Dead, but without all the shitty music…yeah, you’d lose the drugs, but, on the upside, you get to keep your kidneys.  Pie in the sky?  Quite probably.  But a fella can dream, can’t he?

At any rate, cool concept for MLS Underground and tip of the hat to SF of The Offside Rules for making it happen. Continue reading

MLS Daily Sweeper, 12.12: Gimme a Boswell for a Cochrane

If I learned just one thing yesterday, it was that waiting till the afternoon only caused storms in my brain. Hence, the Sweeper returns to its normal date and time. Not that this affects anybody, but I’m also considering changing my online handle…more on that when I figure it out.

– Here I thought Steve Goff’s recap for the “real” Washington Post (that’s as opposed to the blog they run to satiate the 24-hour cycle) on yesterday’s madness drained the power of the trade whirlwind currently tossing about DC United. As it turns out, a little dust-devil spun off the mother storm, sending Bobby Boswell to Houston in exchange for their back-up ‘keeper Zach Wells and “a future draft pick.” This gives us one more fact on the ground than we had yesterday and, thus, something concrete to talk about. Bueno.

Part of me is sad I won’t get that live experiment I wanted that would compare DC’s defense with Joe Cannon in goal instead of Troy Perkins. On the upside, I get to replace that with finding out just how good a defender Boswell is. To lay down my marker, I think Boswell will do well in Houston’s back-line; that admittedly relies on the theory that the man only needed a little guidance back there, but I think we can all agree that the shit is tight on the Dynamo back line. And even if Boswell doesn’t replace Patrick Ianni outright, this gives Houston a pretty solid back-up. The bastards…

But there’s so, so much more going on with DC. Another Goff post has Perkins’ move abroad looking near-certain (the same post clocks reports that Guillermo Barros Schelotto might return to Argentina; you’d think this would deflate my interest in following the Columbus Crew, but nothing would be further from the truth; this actually makes them more interesting; sorry, long digression). And, if MLS Rumors can be believed (still haven’t run the percentages on that) we should be hearing, oh, today, that Juan Sebastian Veron will announce his intentions to leave Argentina’s Estudiantes for DC United; the rumor/report says more stuff will follow in short order, but let’s see how that first one goes. Perhaps now is when I start counting MLS Rumors’ reliability… Continue reading

MLS Daily Sweeper, 12.11: CWC, CONCACAF, Atlante, TRADE MADNESS…AHH!!

Jesus balls! What a day! So many major and minor things to discuss….best start with the little stuff to warm up. Just like before playing, right?

– One little thing to keep an eye on: I seriously don’t know how teeny-tiny Major League Soccer (MLS) rosters will cope with the scheduling insanity if the powers-that-be follow through with their threat to create a CONCACAF Champions Cup. FC Rocky looked only at Houston’s schedule, but a couple teams will be eating the same shit sandwich.

– The Club World Cup continues (very early) tomorrow morning (report tomorrow) when Etoile Sportive du Sahel enjoys their one-night stand against Boca Juniors. Naturally, Boca is trotting out the typical “we’re not overlooking anyone” business, but one suspects they’re grinning like cats when no one’s looking. Then again, Jonah Freedman’s look at how the world’s mighty have fallen cautions against complacency.

– Don’t know how far behind I am on this (so much for following the Mexican league…oh wait, I couldn’t, not with my cable package), but Atlante, the latest hot thing in Cancun, Mexico, won the Mexican Primera’s Apertura. That makes them the “other” Mexican club for this spring’s CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, right? Wikipedia says it does – smack at the bottom of their brief history of the club. Do note the move from Mexico City to Cancun in August 2007. Luis Bueno wrote a nice recap of Atlante’s accomplishment as well. But the most interesting thing to come out of any of these pieces appears at the bottom of that first link – and it doesn’t deal with Atlante so much as MLS’ future prospects in our local, international tournaments:

“One-time models of success, Pachuca have hit rock bottom. The record-setting club lost 1-0 in the opening round of the Club World Cup to little-known Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel. Los Tozos went to Japan who had high expectations, but the club that could do no wrong for most of 2007 — winning the Clausura championship, the CONCACAF Champions Cup, and the Superliga title — has not played well of late and they failed to make any accounting of themselves on the world’s stage.”

So that’s one CONCACAF Champs’ participant sucking wind. Maybe we’ll get a club to the final in 2008?

OK. Now the big stuff (and the accompanying thought-sprawl): Continue reading