MLS Rumors Watch, 1-1 (2-1 soon?) + Today’s Latest

Even though the ink is not yet dry on the trade that will send Alecko Eskandarian to Chivas USA, the content of Steve Goff’s direct communication with the forward makes me feel comfortable enough to say they got that one right. That takes them to 1-1 – and Esky sounds happy. Huzzah!

In other news, they’re “90% certain” to go 2-1 on the Claudio Lopez to MLS rumor.

To move this thing forward, I came across a late post yesterday: Toronto FC is after/working on signing some Argentinian dude with dodgy facial hair named Roger; they didn’t rate this one, but I’m going to call it live. This seems to be part of the grand, hush-hush project of making MLS the Argentine League Norte.

Anyway, I’ll post more of today’s rumors in this space as the day progresses…after this sentence.

UPDATE: Tricky, tricky, tricky, so much so that scuttling this Rumor Watch project is tempting. For instance, what to do with the Clint Mathis to Greece thing? For starters, they don’t really treat it like a rumor – it’s more of a report – and multiple sites are reporting it as such (which I’ll be doing myself shortly). So, that won’t count.

I get the same feeling about the Clarence Goodson to some Scandinavian team with a made-up name (IK Start? Ah, bullshit. That’s like IK Let’s Go! C’mon, tell me the real name). Mmm…maybe it’s not so hard. 3rd Degree’s report link to Soccer by Ives ran on something more solid than “making a run” at a job in Norway; then again, Ives’ headline reads pretty firm, “Goodson Says Goodbye.” So, all right, I’ll call this one live – and they’re rating it as a 5…and I’m guessing this will be an easy W for MLS Rumors.

For the record, I’m passing on the expansion city post and the one about Denis Hamlett refusing the first offer from Chicago (though, if he did, good for him). So, for today, I’m only clocking the Clarence Goodson and Roger rumors…plus the ones leftover from yesterday…getting confusing…

UPDATE: Because MLS Rumors tagged it with a 3, the Kenny Cooper to Houston rumor doesn’t rate; damn shame, ’cause that’s a really nifty li’l rumor.  And, because I thought it already happened, and because it seems inevitable, I’m going to spike (e.g. not count) the rumor that has Carlos Pavon out of LA.  This one, however, does rate:

– Joseph Ngwenya to some Austrian joint (rated: 4).

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TRANSFERS: Klinsmann to Bayern, Anelka signs for Chelsea

JURGEN KLINSMANN: The former German national team coach has come out of hiding and spurned speculation that he would take over for Rafa Benitez at Liverpool. Instead, starting in July – Klinsmann will focus his efforts on returning Bayern Munich to dominance in the Bundesliga and Europe. Ottmar Hitzfeld is set to step down at season’s end.  Munich is at the top with company – Werder Bremen keeping pace and HSV 4 points behind.

NICOLAS ANELKA: $30 million is what it took in the end as Bolton’s French striker and leading scorer is out the door to Stamford Bridge. It is Avram Grant’s first signing in charge of Chelsea and there’s no doubt this will be a good one – Anelka seems to have found his old stride (Arsenal days) after bouncing about for a good 10 years. Maybe the years have tempered him. Either way, Anelka should provide support for Shevchenko in the goalscoring department and his signing was almost a necessity for Grant as Chelsea are nursing stars John Terry and Frank Lampard, missing four in Kalou, Drogba, Mikel and Essien to the African Nations Cup, and dealing with a somewhat suspect backline. Anelka’s department of scoring goals – if efficient – could jumpstart Chelsea to a second-half run. Chelsea currently sit in 3rd – six points behind the leaders.

Other key transfers so far today: Liverpool finalized the signing of Slovakian defender Martin Skrtel for $9 million; Derby captured it’s fourth in Tottenham wantaway midfielder Hossam Ghaly (on loan)

And yes, we have heard that Clint Mathis is on his way to Ergotelis of the Greek SuperLeague on top of Clarence Goodson to IK Start in the Norwegian second division (Adeccoligean). I’m sure my colleague Jeff will have something to say about that. Eddie Johnson’s transfer prospects have taken a hit as well with Peter Vermes saying that no new bids have been tabled for the striker since Derby last summer.

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

Expansion Draft: Yallop v. Me

Well, MLSnet.com finally posted the list of players Frank Yallop picked up for the New Model San Jose Earthquakes in today’s expansion draft (and thanks to all the good people out there who forwarded the list while I was blab, blab, blabbing away in another post). Here’s that list:

1. Ryan Cochrane (Houston Dynamo)
2. Clarence Goodson (FC Dallas)
3. Ned Grabavoy (Columbus Crew)
4. James Riley (New England Revolution)
5. Joseph Vide (New York Red Bulls)
6. Ivan Guerrero (Chicago Fire)
7. Brian Carroll (D.C. United)
8. Jason Hernandez (Chivas USA)
9. Gavin Glinton (LA Galaxy)
10. Chris Pozniak (Toronto FC
)

Now, let’s compare that to the list of players I selected yesterday (the picks we shared are in red):

1. Kevin Hartman: good veteran in goal.
2. Ryan Cochrane: only because he’s younger than Waibel.
3. Ned Grabavoy: What can I say? I’m a fan.
4. Abe Thompson: good depth at forward, instantly granted.
5. Willis Forko: He seemed useful.
6. Kelly Gray: hard, but instant depth tops Glinton’s super-sub upside.
7. Ivan Guerrero: unless the recent injury is serious.
8. Andy Dorman: I’ll take a flyer here and hope for a rebirth.
9. D. Mediate/J. Moose: flip a coin; this is getting hard.
10. John Wolyniec…on principle.

Now…to discuss…with myself…Frank left the building (actually, he was never in it).

RP, who commented on my original post, pointed out the biggest hole in Yallop’s picks: where are the forwards? Sure, there’s Gavin Glinton, but he’s a depth forward in my book. Even among the midfielders Yallop selected, one doesn’t see much in the way of attacking mids. This makes me think two things: 1) Yallop is building from the back; 2) he’s looking elsewhere for attacking talent. On one level, that’s a heck of a gamble.

On another, though, there were few of what I’d dub a lot of top-quality attacking players in the mix, at least not reliable, or reliably healthy, ones (see: Casey, Conor). Another thing on the credit side of Yallop’s picks comes with the fact that he essentially picked up a starting defense (Goodson, Cochrane, Riley, and Hernandez), entirely credible options at holding mid (Grabavoy, Carroll), plus a nifty player in Guerrero, while leaving plenty of money available for those attacking players he’ll find elsewhere. A quick check of each player’s 2007 guaranteed pay (and a little rounding) puts Yallop’s current total at $622,617. After accounting for a designated player (or two) and assuming a $2.3 or so salary cap, it looks like Frank got the New Model ‘Quakes off to a respectable start on the field and has some room to spend.

MLS: Week of Good, Week of Evil and the Schedule Ahead

The part of Week 27 that mattered ended with Los Angeles rolling to another win (psst…Colorado beat Toronto…no, I don’t care either).  That damnable pack of revenants keeps shuffling and scratching on some unholy quest to, once again, mock the regular season.  If a simple demonstration of the stupidity of it all WAS the mission, I could get behind it.  But we all know it’s a simple selfish quest for undeserved glory and, seeing as we’re dealing with the undead, probably brains.  I keep telling these fucking twits, the head!  Shoot for the goddamn head!  That’s the only way to bring them down.

I didn’t see that game, in any case…stupid Telefutura…only reminds me of my linguistic limitations…

No, I witnessed other games – among them, an indirect, rear-guard sally to stave off the walking dead (maybe the plan is to corral them into a valley and raze it with fire; hadn’t considered that).  Even with my love for New England returning to its steady psychotic girlfriend/controlling boyfriend state, too much good comes from the Chicago Fire’s win over them for me to care.  On the downside, other teams just might take note of the way, first, Chad Barrett, then Cuauhtemoc Blanco kept finding space wide of the Revs’ back three; a better player than Barrett, or one less tanked than Blanco, could have helped that 2-1 win into a bloody rout, but Barrett was good enough for man of the match honors and the blows landed all the same.  Even allowing for fatigue and acknowledging a hard-fought game from both sides, if I had to face one of them just now, it would be New England. Continue reading

FC Dallas 1-1 Chicago: Good Game*…um…Offside Equalizer?

(* This asterisk is meant to indicate I caught only about 25 minutes of the second half, but I’m assured by trustworthy parties that this was a good game.)

(UPDATE: Future readers of this post should check the comments.  Hats off to Tim for suggesting a method of checking for offside.  The present position of this page: Carlos Ruiz was, in fact, on side.)

The bomb of a goal Chris Rolfe produced to give the Chicago Fire the lead over FC Dallas will probably be what most people remember about last night’s game; it truly was something.

But having watched the video clip currently pasted on MLSnet.com’s front page about six times now, count me very surprised that another talking point is, at time of writing, nowhere to be seen. (Memo to readers from the future: that front page highlights will, no doubt, be long gone by Saturday, so you’ll have to pop over to the archived video; P.S. do you have flying cars yet? Do you eat food from tubes?). That talking point: um, wasn’t Carlos Ruiz offside when Clarence Goodson knocked on his assist? Apart from watching the video six times, I have repeatedly frozen the image at the crucial moment (right around the, um, “latter half” of the 20th second of that front-page video clip) and feel pretty comfortable saying Ruiz looked more than a step or two offside. In fact, if you listen closely to the audio I think you can hear Eric Wynalda start to say something, only to drowned out by Glenn Davis’ excited shouting.

Then again, I would feel pretty comfortable in thinking Ruiz was offside if it weren’t for the fact that none of the reports I’ve read so far makes any mention of it (LINK, LINK, LINK). I’m checking players’ quotes and I focused on the Chicago media, on the theory they’d be the more aggrieved, but I’m just getting disappointment at the tie – from both teams, for the record. I’m about to wander to Chicago’s corner of BigSoccer, an act that can only mean I’m desperate for some kind of confirmation of what I saw…or, rather, what I think I saw….dang it. Well, here’s the place I expected to see something and…nope. Nothing. It’s not an easy call by any means, but it’s something you can see in slow-motion – Ruiz is out front and the defense keeps running back with the ball – but, dang, he really looks offside.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong: I prefer the outcome as is: it keeps Columbus in it (my pity-crush) and I have that soft spot for Dallas. And, yeah, it was a good game, good pace, lots to like about this one. Looking forward to the weekend.

FCD Over Columbus: Good Day to Be Goodson

Other reports:

MLSnet.com
Columbus Dispatch 

Columbus Crew Offside
Star-Telegram 
Dallas Morning News 
FC Dallas Updates

When two teams you, as a fan, like about equally play one another, the best you can hope for is a great game. Happily, the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas obliged (me, at least) this Saturday by turning in one of the games of 2007. Crisp and intelligent movement produced countless threatening moments for both sides, which makes it somewhat ironic that all but one of the games five goals came on set plays…and that goal was just weird…not ugly, just weird…

While casting this as a heavyweight bout runs to type, a middleweight contest better describes the far-from-plodding give-and-take of this game. Columbus came out flying, forcing Dallas on the back foot up to, and beyond the point when Marcos Gonzalez opened the scoring for the Crew. Dallas steadied itself and, bit by bit, met to the Crew’s intensity. Not too far into the second half, Dallas equalized when Arturo Alvarez ended a penalty-area melee with a goal so physically awkward that I’m still sorting out the physics (leaning over striking leg…which faces toward the goal…he scoops it across the goalmouth to the far post netting…with that kind of velocity?). It’s here where the game really lifted.

Just as Columbus starts wilting, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Frankie Hejduk combine to conjure a penalty, which Andy Herron tucks away: 2-1 Columbus. Between the effort exerted and the broiling heat, it was hard to imagine Dallas pulling back one, never mind, two goals. But, incredibly, the pace of the game barely relented through the 20 minutes that followed, a period that ends, nearly simultaneously, with Dallas again leveling the score through Carlos Ruiz (remember him?) and getting reduced to ten men when Marcelo Saragosa got sent off.

With Dallas down to ten and a draw looking likely the Crew’s fatigue – a subtle thing until Schelotto’s legs couldn’t carry him to one more pass into space – suddenly became apparent. And as the game’s final ten minutes count down, with a draw still on the cards even with Dallas largely owning possession and aggression, what seemed like a series of corners end with Clarence Goodson – 2006’s Own-Goal King – slamming home the last-gasp winner.

That Goodson netted the winner wraps up this game nicely, because he’s a big part of why FC Dallas looks like a contender this year. Dallas’ backline has matured as a whole, but Goodson’s hitting full stride: his steady, smooth, at times even silky, defending at the back kept a very impressive Crew attack at bay till the sickening heat finished the job. And if you look across the back four, the same phenomenon applies, if to varying degrees. Better still, from Dallas’ point of view, is the depth in defense: when Adrian Serioux went down, Aaron Pitchkolan not only replaced him, but improved on his performance. If Drew Moor goes down, there’s Bobby Rhine – and Alex Yi is out there as well. But Goodson is the best of the bunch, the player who has found finally got past finding his feet and is now raising his game. And it’s not going unnoticed: if you lurk around FC Dallas sites, you’ll see this notion in some form or another.

But one man, or even one piece of the team, doesn’t make a contender: it’s the depth and versatility all over the field that makes this quite probably the best Dallas team I’ve ever seen. On Saturday, when Abe Thompson’s muscle didn’t work, Dallas coach Steve Morrow had both Dominic Oduro and Ricardinho to change up the pace and methods of attack. Even the most conspicuous absence – Juan Toja – amounted to very little thanks to a solid central pairing that matched Dax McCarty’s effusive energy and Pablo Richetti’s tenacity.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this game was the impression that any other team – and, possibly, any other conditions – and Columbus would have walked away with at least a point; all three wouldn’t have surprised me. The thing is, the Crew look good; put another way, I don’t think anyone wants to face them. But the fact that Dallas was better on the day says a lot.

Other observations: Continue reading