Red Bulls: A New Player?, Kassel to MLS?, and VDB fires RBNY into the new season…

Busy weekend in world soccer and before we get to all that, I figured why not focus on the team that didn’t play a competitive match this weekend.  

– Haven’t seen much in the way of written press on this, but there isn’t anything to refute. During FSC’s broadcast of the MLS openers yesterday, there was talk of Gretna’s demise over in Scotland. 22 players have left the club and apparently captain Chris Innes is on his way to trial with New York. If that’s the case, that’s leadership and depth added in defense as well as a deep midfield role. Innes is 31 years old and was a vital part of Gretna’s quick three tiered rise to the SPL. Since then, things have gone bad and RBNY as well as First Division squad Morton has shown interest. Innes has stated as recent as 3/26 that his goal is to stay within the SPL.

UPenn graduate and rising goalkeeper Danny Cepero has been sent out on loan to USL-2’s Harrisburg City Islanders. The Islanders won the second division last year and Cepero looks to get the starting nod, preparing him for a bright future with RBNY. Harrisburg has yet to confirm it on their website.
– Ives Galarcep has stated that youth academy star Matt Kassel is in preliminary negotiations with RBNY. If signed, he could become the first real product of the newly implemented youth academies. It’s college or pros for the youngster. I still would expect him to head to college. He held his own though when invited to camp in late January, so who knows?

Dave Van den Bergh scored on a rocket to wrap up the Red Bulls’ preseason with a 1-0 win over the Carolina Railhawks. Odd to see Angel and Altidore being snuffed out in almost every preseason game…should RBNY faithful be worried???

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US Open Cup: MLS Recovers…Sort of

Looks like we have an all-Major League Soccer (MLS) final for the Lamar Hunt Kelloggs’ Rice Krispies U.S. Open Cup (LHKRKUSOC) on our hands – though it didn’t look that way till very late with both MLS teams relying on overtime to get through the semifinals.  Moreover, judging by FC Dallas’ win, one could argue the top-flight teams relied a little on a seemingly superior talent for conning the ref for their chief competitive edge.  I’m not talking egregious examples, mind you, but that’s kind of the point; it’s a subtle art and FC Dallas, at least, certainly had it down.

Could that really be the final piece to building a better professional?

I didn’t see the New England Revolution’s (slim) win over the USL-1 Carolina RailHawks and can therefore only pass on what I read: ‘twas a tight game, not unlike Dallas’ (slim) win over the Seattle Sounders…speaking of which…

The notes I took on last night’s game didn’t merit posting – I can’t say whether that’s down to the game or where my head was last night.  On the other hand, I can say the fact that few would mistake this game for a classic came to me around the end of regulation.  Was it close?  Certainly, though that applies to any game settled in overtime.  Hard-fought?  On one side, yes; that would be the Seattle side.  Whether Dallas suffered from fatigue or complacency I never quite pinned down, but they adopted a static, ball-watching approach that amounted to passing the ball to a succession of their players to watch them run at Seattle’s defense (e.g. “Here’s the ball, Juan.  You run at ‘em and we’ll keep an eye on things back here.”  “Here’s the ball, Arturo.  You run at ‘em…” etc.).

Both sides had their chances, though I’d give Seattle the edge in quality and menace over the game’s first 60 minutes.  Leighton O’Brien certainly kept Dallas’ defense busy as did (I think this is his name) Sebastian Le Toux and Taylor Graham (I watched extended stretches without sound, so I’m a bit weak on the names).  Dallas did have their forays toward Seattle’s goal, but it definitely took them a while to either warm to the task or get used to Qwest Field’s turf.  By the end of the game, though, Dallas’ attack gained momentum and urgency, even if the organizational side of things made only rare and feeble appearances.  All the same, the slightest whiff of the inevitable attended Dallas’ first goal.

Two more goals came – one a penalty-kick that simply had to be called, the other pulled back by Seattle too late to make a difference – but the first one decided it.  Hell, one could say Seattle hitting the crossbar once and failing to capitalize on multiple corners decided the game.  Dallas, to their credit, scrambled bodies across the defense when it counted, Sala came up big enough, and the MLS club even offered a half-competent attempt at killing off the game in the overtime period – though it’s here where the ref’s love of theater entered the game.  Dallas players not only made the most of any contact, but conjured a few game-delaying performances where no contact was made.  The online feed came from a Seattle broadcast and the Sounders’ homer announcers howled and laughed through all this.  And it was cynical, to be sure, but it also worked.  So, yeah, welcome to the Big Time, rubes.

Taken together, MLS upheld the top-flight’s reputation, if only just, but at least one of the finalists hardly covered themselves in glory in doing it.  As for Seattle, they argued more forcefully than any club in the country that the gap between the best of the USL and MLS isn’t as big as we might think it is.

And that was with a designated player (Denilson) on the field.

(Dang it.  I did want to mention one possibility here; it occurred to me as I watched that the introduction of Denilson might be at least a partial culprit for the timing and movement issues in the Dallas.  Then again, they looked just plain lazy/tired with fair frequency.  At least Denilson and Toja combined well here and there.)

Daily Sweeper, 09.04: Ticking Clocks; Lotsa Open Cup (+ Blasphemy); Yallop’s Lifeline(?); St. Louis Update…Gasp!

– I’ll lead with a doozy of a concept. A Houston Chronicle article on the local team’s recent staggers pointed out that said local team has only SIX regular season games remaining. Nah, I said. Then I checked the standings. Holy crap. The same applies to Kansas City. It’s crunch-time, people. Good stuff.

– The semifinals for the Lamar Hunt Head-On/Activ-On U.S. Open Cup (LHH-OA-OUSOC) go down tonight – but all y’all knew that, of course, and planned accordingly. I know what I’m doing tonight (unless the wife says otherwise…yes, dear) and will duly prime myself with previews from both games:

FC Dallas v. Seattle Sounders
MLSnet.com
US Open Cup unofficial site
Nice bit from FC Dallas Updates – especially the crack about Seattle humidity

New England Revolution v. Carolina RailHawks
MLSnet.com
US Open Cup unofficial site

By time of posting, the New England/Carolina game should be close to underway – so I’ll be missing that one – but the Seattle/Dallas Super-Epic-o will air online tonight. Huzzah! I would live blog the game, but…well, I’m not sure how it’s done – on a practical level, I mean. That’s to say, I have an approach in mind – e.g. watch the game and write comments, posting them as they come to me – but that seems like such a pain in the ass. Is that how people do live-blogging when they do it?

Anyway, I’ll probably do my usual thing, wife and kids allowing – e.g. “Brain-Dead Blogging,” where I write down a bunch of crap in a whiskey-juiced haze and foist it on all y’all later. Continue reading

Open Cup: Revs Win (Hello Dignity!); The Future

Having missed the game, I can’t speak to anything but the final score with a whole lot of confidence, but, suffice to say, the New England Revolution reached the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (LHUSOC) courtesy  of last night’s win at home over the Harrisburg City Islanders.

The local media for each city doesn’t cite refereeing errors or anything of the sort, so it seems we can chalk this one up to superior play trumping heart.  Or, to paraphrase New England head coach Steve Nicol, taking the evening as a whole, the Revs felt comfortable.

For the record, this marks only the second time in club history that the Revs have reached the LHUSOC (or even the USOC) semifinals; the last time came in 2001…and they made the final that year…where they lost…to Los Angeles…again…  (The official U.S. Open Cup site has nifty records of the MLS era, by the way.)

So…with all the LHUSOC quarterfinals wrapped up, who would you (yes, you, the person reading this right now) dub the tournament favorite?  Is it the upstart Seattle Sounders?  The “upstartier” Carolina Railhawks?  Or do the MLS clubs, faith-abusing FC Dallas or the New England Bridesmaids…er, Revolution, hold the upper hand?

My vote: Seattle.  In all seriousness, I’d be crapping my trousers right now if I were either MLS franchise.  And I’m still waiting word on where the final will be played.

Open Cup: Wrapping It Up (Big Question)

Even if I didn’t pay much attention to it, I feel compelled to mention the remaining quarterfinal in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (LHUSOC): the Carolina Railhawks 1-0 win over the Richmond Kickers.  I know nothing more than what I read in the local papers: the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Cary News.  (TIP: Cary = “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees”; I spent a little time in Raleigh, North Carolina and soaked up a little local lingo.)  Congrats to the Railhawks (if I still lived in NC, hell, I probably would cheer for them).

Since I’ve already noted tonight’s remaining quarterfinal somewhere down below, I’ll end here with a hypothetical leading to a question: so, say, the Seattle Sounders beat FC Dallas in their semifinal tie; and say the New England Revolution wins their next two and, thus, reaches the final; where would they play the LHUSOC final?  Given where I live (Portland, Oregon), and my attachment to New England, my interest in this should be apparent?  Do they play the final at a neutral venue?  What’s the story, here?