MLS Daily Sweeper, 10.19: Canales Double-Dip (Oh, get your minds out of the gutter…)

Seemed like a slow news day for some damn reason…

– Canales #1: If the LA Galaxy are to have a shot in Hell at a successful season, Carlos Ruiz needs to have a Hell of a year.  In an interview with Canales posted on Soccer365.com, el Pescadito sounds more focused than I’ve heard in a couple years…the FC Dallas years to be precise.  Wonder how FC Dallas fans are taking that… (Hat-tip: USSoccerplayers.com).

Canales #2: The anatomy of Mexico coach Hugo Sanchez’s jam.  Speaking for myself, I hope he’s still around during World Cup qualifying.  As funny things go, Mexico failing to qualify would rank pretty highly.  And I don’t mean that maliciously…it’s more about fun following from things coming out of deep, deep, (deep, deep….I mean, this is CONCACAF) left field.

– About last night: I already posted on DC United’s rout over Harbour View FC, but found a couple other takes I appreciated.  The Offside Rules posted a lovely montage capturing the magnitude of the win (which Soccer By Ives posted already…so all y’all have already seen it; don’t care), but there’s also a collection of photos posted on DC United Offside scaled as if viewed by ants.  Can’t promise this one will be up for long – jon, the author, has vowed to fix it – but I like the super-sized images better.

GREAT OUTDOORS
– Suddenly, my Comcast package sounds more ominous than good.  (HT: Fark.com)

– Have I posted this before?  I only know it’s an oldie, but it’s a topical one: The Easter Bunny Hates You.

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MLS: An All-Latin* Trade Orgy!!

(* Assuming I botched the usage, could someone hep me to the proper term for all persons of Mexican/Mexican-American/Central American descent?)

Holy pre-SuperDraft trading, Batman! Between the one player who we all thought would go (Carlos Ruiz to LA) and two that came out of left field – Nick Garcia to San Jose for the #1 pick and, this second one is in the works, Jose Burciaga Jr. to the Colorado Rapids for an “undisclosed pick” (see down at the bottom). Well, those last two came out of left field for me, anyway.

So, I’ll kick this around below in the order I find them significant. Continue reading

Daily Sweeper, 12.14: Fun on the Rumor-go-Round…and it is fun, dammit

– Well, contrary to what was written in so many places earlier today (and on this site – wow – Wednesday; and the preceding ain’t a complete list, either) the deal to bring Juan Sebastian Veron to DC United is dead…for now. But I’d leave that last one in the big ol’, half-meaningless file titled, “Never say never.” Steve Goff has a bit of fun with readers in his autopsy report on the trade, but that misses the point. So…what’s the point? This is fun, dammit! This is the stuff daydreams are made of and, if nothing else, it gives us all something to talk about. What’s more wholesome than conversation ’round the ol’ virtual water-cooler? And, more to the point, figuring how and where a particular player fits in your team? That’s educational, man; it makes you think about how your team functions.

To be clear on this: I will shamelessly post rumors; I love the things. My policy on them boils down to rumor=good. I’ll mention the unconfirmed nature of what I’m passing on, but if you see MLS Rumors as my source, well, the title says it all. No sale is totally done till corporate – e.g. MLSnet.com – says it is. But don’t hide from rumors. They’re entertaining.

– Speaking of trade rumors, the Jared Borgetti to Kansas City Wizards/Colorado Rapids/Chicago Fire trade looks like it’ll go about as far in the end as the Veron thing did. Unlike Veron, however, I didn’t see much upside an a Borgetti deal. The man is 34 for crissakes. Yeah, I know. Blanco is about there too. Still.

3rd Degree had a decent piece today on player movement in and out of Big D. The “out” part of that seems the firmer: seems like they’re shopping Carlos Ruiz pretty widely, so I’m thinking they’re pretty serious about off-loading him. Also, check out where coach Steve Morrow is – and is not – going.

– Finally, seeing who Danny Califf selects as the three people he’d like to meet has grown my respect for the man. Sitting Bull, eh? Top-drawer.

OK, on to the Web junk now… 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

FC Dallas 2007 Review: Succeed…Choke…Repeat

FC Dallas
Record (W-L-T): 13-12-5; 37 GF, 44 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
Some recent constants held for FC Dallas in 2007: lead the Western Conference in the early-mid part of the season – check; head into the post-season like a pack of whipped dogs – check; consequently, lose in the first round – check; have at least one offensive player enjoy a stellar season, Arturo Alvarez’s 2007 to Kenny Cooper’s 2006 – check; have the work of the offense compromised by a shaky defense – check…well, sort of. A lot of similarities tied the campaign just past to the one that came before and upgrades in personnel, changes to the coaching staff, none of it seems to matter.

It’s got to be the grand narrative – the whole pattern of “succeed…choke…repeat,” familiar since 2005 – that most pains Dallas fans and players. It’s like the definition of insanity – e.g. doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results – except Dallas should have a choice. You’d think the coaching staff would order the players to take it easy during the first half of the season, have them rest through August – something – to switch it up. But the pattern persists and has over the past couple seasons.

For all the similarities, some changes did occur on the detail level. Combining an exciting offense with a dodgy defense has been part of Dallas’ reputation since Carlos Ruiz joined the club. That was definitely part of what I expected to discuss when I sat down to type this review. Even knowing Ruiz had an off-year and that Cooper went down after June 9, seeing a meager 37 goals still came as a shock. What about Juan Toja’s arrival? Alvarez’ breakout season? It’s not until you get down to individual stats (all available here) that it adds up, beginning with the fact that Ruiz’ seven goals led the team. This team, possessed of so many well-known weapons, finished fourth from last overall in scoring. Continue reading

Revs Break Duck Over Dallas’ Heart

It wasn’t till Taylor Twellman’s post-game interview, when he smiled about seeing “Rally” (Steve Ralston) and “Heapsy” (Jay Heaps) in the first flush of final victory the New England Revolution had ever known, that real contentment about the state of things filtered in. Even if a sprinkling of New England fans made the trip to Frisco to share the moment, trophy ceremonies in disinterested, or even hostile, environments lack for the due fullness of joy. But calm, happy expression on Twellman’s face and the realization that Ralston, Major League Soccer’s (MLS) answer to Cal Ripken Jr., would collect at least trophy in his relentless career bridged the gap between what I hoped to see and what I got. Call it the difference between a cozy little wedding and a drunken tear through a Vegas chapel: both can make you happy, but one is definitely more fun.

As for FC Dallas, it’s something more than there being no joy in Frisco. A suicide watch might be in order.

In practical terms, I caught about 65 uninterrupted minutes, I saw three goals scored, heard the noise that attended the other and caught the replay, and still have no clue how New England scored their third, or who did the scoring. My apartment building – God bless it and the nuts who live there – was evacuated when the fire alarm went off, something that happens way more often than it should. Based on as much of the game as I saw, though, the story line going in held up – e.g. the Dallas’ defense would sabotage their offense. And thinking of that defense only reinforces all the questions about why a team desperately in need of defensive solidity went and bought a circus animal named Denilson.

The Dallas defense committed something worse than sabotage, really – at least where the two New England goals I saw were concerned; we’re talking Rube Goldberg goals, improbable progressions of events concluding with finishes so easy you’re almost willing to buy the mouse-trap. I’m wondering whether Steve Morrow even bothered yelling at his defenders; after all, what would Dallas’ defenders learn from abuse what they don’t already know? What’s the sense of piling pain on top of humiliation?

The real tragedy is one glorious goal the Dallas’ defense canceled out. When Arturo Alvarez picked up the ball on the touch-line near the cameras, you knew something good would follow. But something better still came as Alvarez rushed toward the Revolution goal and launched a shot past Matt Reis that defied centuries old laws of geometry. After pulling that one out of the top drawer, I’m betting Alvarez had the sadly sparse Dallas crowd on its feet when, a few minutes later, he took off on a run straight through New England’s center. That Alvarez enterprising wizardry came up just short typified Dallas’ night: good, but painfully short of good enough.

Getting back to New England, even as they didn’t look so special at any time I watched, I got to wondering about what this win will do to the Revs’ still-live bid for MLS Cup. Even with everyone pointing to DC United and Houston, or even a Chivas USA team that seems to be fading, the prospect that anyone watching had just watched a kind of exorcism occurred to me. What kind of a lift could New England get from this?

Well, that’s me waxing poetic. I had a couple nuts-n-bolts points to pass on in the form of player ratings – though with a little twist. It occurs to me that when a given player turns in an unremarkable performance, it makes sense to not remark upon it. With that in mind, I started writing down the names of people and/or entities that did bear pointing out. Here’s that little role call: Continue reading

MLS: Remaining Schedules and, Yes, Calling the Final

Well, this is swell.  Ian Plenderleith’s Major League Soccer Week 26 review touches on all the points I intended to make, so I’ll just rip off large portions of his work and enjoy the morning cuppa.  Not only did he provide righteous coverage of everything down to the Rico Clark incident (I posted on this earlier, but feel compelled to link to that post again because the comments it received makes Witness Relocation seem like a good call for Carlos Ruiz), but he pointed to a virtuous trend I don’t generally track:

“The season’s average crowd is now at 16,387, almost 1,000 per game more than last season.  It’s not necessarily a significant increase, given the Beckham push, and it doesn’t reflect actual numbers in the stadium, just the number of tickets sold.  Still, it’s a boost up from the stagnating figures of recent seasons.”

Even though average attendance is just one of those things I typically file and forget, there’s something I have noticed this year above any previous year: the crowds aren’t dying this fall as we head into the playoffs.  Assuming I’m not imagining it, this is the most optimistic indicator I’ve come across in the life of the league as it suggests people committing to MLS as fans.  So, yeah, I hope I’m not dreaming this or that it isn’t artificial.

Getting back to day-to-day realities of the league, though, Plenderleith’s handy and dandy framing of the playoff race paints the big picture:

In the playoffs: DC United, Chivas USA, Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution.
In line behind them: RB New York, FC Dallas
No longer quite so sure: Kansas City Wizards
Edging their way in, tie by tie: Chicago
Slipping out the picture: Columbus, Colorado
Never saying die: LA
Looking towards 2008: Salt Lake, Toronto

Looks about right to me, though “in line behind them” doesn’t speak to the death-spiral into which FC Dallas is spinning; his framing on the status of Columbus, Colorado, and Chicago, well, that’s pure, bankable gold.

If there’s one thing that irks me about Plenderleith’s column, it’s the fact he beat me to the punch on a bold prediction I had been planning since just before Houston thrashed Dallas, thereby confirming my general expectations:

“As for goals, they were hard to come by in some places, but if you were at DC there were four goal of the week candidates out of the five scored.  Houston fired three at Dallas, reflecting the fact that these two in-form sides are still convincing favorites to compete for the MLS Cup in November’s final.”

To state that directly, it is looking an awful lot like DC v. Houston in the final.  What is it about the teams everyone expected to reach the final actually reaching the final that is such a buzzkill?  I don’t know…maybe I’m just freaked out by any hints there is no such thing as free will.  And you bet I’m trying to jinx it.

OK, with Plenderleith’s column essentially reprinted there’s nothing left to do but look forward – and I’ll down that down below.  Here are the standings for context and here’s the key to decipher everyone’s remaining games:

Chicago Fire: CF
Chivas USA: CUSA
Colorado Rapids: CR
Columbus Crew: Crew
DC United: DCU
FC Dallas: FCD
Houston Dynamo: HD
Kansas City Wizards: KC
Los Angeles Galaxy: LA
New England Revolution: NE
Red Bull New York: RBNY
Real Salt Lake: RSL
Toronto FC: TFC

Right…now, here goes: Continue reading