Claudio, tell me what you really think…

Michael Lewis of Big Apple Soccer got a story’s worth over in Salzburg as he was over there for Red Bull New York’s training at their sister club’s complex. Apparently, a scrimmage today between the Salzburg reserves and New York got chippy and prompted a normally quiet Claudio Reyna to say this…

“I played in Germany and this is how it is always with Germans and Austrians, diving and cheats,” he said. “It’s how they are. That’s how they always play. It’s a shame.”

Bold statement, but frankly, many would agree. Dane Richards is now injured with a sprained MCL thanks to an errant tackle from one of the Salzburg reserves. If you read the rest of the article you will see that Reyna wasn’t the only one with harsh words to say…

What do you think? February’s BEST XI to come later…

Red Bull New York 2007 Review: An Atypically Typical Year

Red Bull New York
Record (W-L-T): 12-11-7; 47 GF, 45 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
All in all, and perhaps a little sadly, this was a pretty typical year for Major League Soccer’s (MLS) New York franchise: uneven, unsettled, and, as always, unrewarded.  But a couple oddities put a fresh twist or two on the familiar: a start to the season strong enough to convince a few that the team had rounded a corner; the simple, frankly shocking presence of a reliable scoring tandem; finally, the year of the designated player, the Year of the Bruce and how those factors interacted.  In a sense, then, the narrative for 2007 was all wrong in that it offered Red Bull New York something positively foreign: hope and promise.  That they kept that alive until, arguably, August inches a little bit further from the “typical.”  But Red Bull’s season ended as they always do, which means that even if things didn’t quite go to Hell after August, they got close enough to make legible the famous statement about hope posted on the gate.

Now, where does that leave us?  It was a typical year, but it wasn’t?  Damned unsatisfying, that, but it seems accurate.  For instance, in the typical column you had Clint Mathis back with the team and starring in the early going (not to mention getting sent off twice by early June – neat trick for an offensive player).   In the atypical column, the Red Bull roster featured one of the hottest American prospects in Josmer “Jozy” Altidore and one of the league’s deadliest forwards in Juan Pablo Angel.  Back in the typical column, Bruce Arena played the role of high-profile coach, while, almost tragically, Claudio Reyna played the too-familiar, over-priced under-achiever. Continue reading

DS, 10.11: More FCD v. Chivas, DP v. Salary Cap, Pennies From Heaven for LA, and Bachelors

I’ve really got to work on  tightening up my titles, making them more thematic.  Till then, though, expect sprawling lists…

– Naturally, people are following up today on last night’s draw between FC Dallas and Chivas USA, though no one took quite so much offense to Brian Hall as I did…probably on the logic than bad calls from American refs are the norm.  Then again, Ian Plenderleith seized a bit of dudgeon at a blown offside call that nullified a legitimate goal by Francisco Mendoza.  Now, Plenderleith has this right on three critical levels: 1) it was a blown call, 2) that no righteous anger followed, and 3) refs really don’t read the rule correctly.  And he’s correct in pointing out that these calls both cheapen the game and that they somewhat mysteriously roll right off our backs; I mean, I didn’t remember the blown call till this morning.  What did I remember?  That Mendoza later missed a close-range header…that and Arturo Alvarez’s hair’s-breadth miss in injury time.

In other news from last night, Chivas’ Ante Razov left the field wounded, a tough break for Chivas, especially with Galindo operating at less than full strength.  Also, as MLSnet.com’s write-up on the game pointed out, Adrian Serioux doesn’t look so bad in Dallas’ midfield.  You know who doesn’t look so good?  Denilson, as  alluded to in the Fullback Files post-game wrap under the section titled “Send in the clowns.”  More to the point, think of where Dallas looked more effective last night: Arturo Alvarez’s right side or Denilson’s left…or, less euphemistically, the place where promising attacks go to die?  The Brazilian stoops low as the worst DP signing so far.

– Speaking of which, a couple reports suggest that the league is considering adding a second DP slot for each of MLS’s teams (credit (or fault) Luis Bueno for finally getting this issue in my head).  The conversation so far consists of a Jeff Carlisle piece that dubs the rule “a clear success” and a Pat Walsh article that’s is less satisfied and leans against the league doubling down on the rule.  I line up behind Pat Walsh and question the use of “clear success” – at least on the field.  The only designated player I would accept as a clear improvement over the general MLS mob would be Cuauhtemoc Blanco – all the others come with a variety of qualifiers (e.g. Luciano Emilio, a non-DP, stacks up just fine against Juan Pablo Angel; both Claudio Reyna and David Beckham have suffered on-off availability, though Beckham definitely delivered the dinero; Denilson does a poor imitation of Arturo at – what? – five times the cost?).  Basically, most of MLS’s best haven’t been DPs; if I had a vote, I’d say just raise the cap (as Steve Goff says seems likely about 4/5th the way down the page) and hold off on adding another DP slot.

– Looks like LA’s deal with the devil is still working: Toronto FC comes into this weekend’s game with a mix of youngsters, absentees, and gimpy players.  Hmmm…on second thought, change “pennies from heaven” into “Nickels Kissed by Satan.”

– Looks like we have a stupid-good weekend ahede

– I’ll end with a bit of fun.  Hearing about (the now-unemployed) RSL defender Jack Stewart’s inclusion among Cosmo’s 50 Hottest Bachelors, the Chicago Tribune’s Luis Arroyave responded by posting a bachelor profile of his own…one that suggests eerie similarities between his personality and mine (especially the pick-him-up pointer).  Still, differences exist so, in hopes of moving this concept to the amateur soccer ranks, here’s my Cosmo profile (sorry, ladies; profile aside, I’m a taken man):

Name: Jeff “Balding Adonis” Bull

Hometown: Portland, OR

Occupation: Office Pinky at undisclosed location, though not an employee of Dick Cheney.

Personality Profile: Mildly paranoiac, often silent due to the parade of unmentionable thoughts rattling through brain, and I make me laugh, though no one seems to join in.

Girlfriend Must-Have: General and profound stores of patience because the many, many pointless thoughts in my head distract me from the business of daily life; a willingness to endure aforementioned parade of unmentionable thoughts – I recommend a steady diet of drugs and booze to facilitate the latter.

Pick-Him-Up-Pointer: A total absence of ambiguity in communication and courtship.

Favorite Female Body Part: The body, by which I mean the whole woman; I find disembodied parts off-putting.

Turn-Him-On-Tactics: Anything this side of active or passive shunning.

Why Do Women?: I know exactly zero women who do anything that Cosmo purports their readers do.  That’s in spite of having three sisters (and no brothers), one wife, and two daughters.  All of them continually amaze me with their superior talents for functioning on a day-to-day basis.

Daily Sweeper, 09.13: DC v. RSL (links); Red Bull Curses and Reyna

A couple things before getting under way. First, as I’ve said in the past, I understand why Brucio from du Nord runs his site the way he does (having never corresponded with him, I actually don’t, but bear with me); it’s hard to know what to run and what to spike. The point of all that is I’m starting to lose control of the number of subjects I’m posting – very naughty. Will endeavor to do better. Second…was there a second…dammit…all the chemicals…

[Y’know, I had something here and, the more I thought about it, the less it made sense for me to stick my nose into it.  So…I deleted this portion.]

– I don’t do this nearly enough – mainly ’cause I’m lazy – but I really should acknowledge games after they’ve been played. I can’t do this every time, but, dang, I should when I can. As all y’all know, DC United beat Real Salt Lake last night, but it sounds closer than most of us expected. Reports: Deseret News, Washington Times, Washington Post, USSoccerplayers.com – who, by the way, raised some interesting issues about on-field leadership for RSL.

– In an artfully over-the-top piece about the “curse of Caricola,” Clemente Lisi raised an interesting question about what’s happening with Red Bull New York. Specifically, he slips in a line about the team “peaking early.” Without seeking to blow up this point – I think Lisi used the term loosely and certainly didn’t build the essay around it – I don’t know that Red Bull ever peaked, never mind early, but their season has been fascinating. They started strong, to be sure, but I don’t think this was ever an instance of “peaking.” Moreover, if you look back at their results, you’ll see little streaks here and there – the latest of them running from late-ish July to mid-August (and note the opposition). I think it’s fairer to say Bruce Arena simply didn’t build a team up for the grind of an MLS season. If you want a team that peaked too early, I’d say look at they Houston Dynamo.

– Speaking of Red Bull, Ives Galarcep had a fun debate with his readers and message board dwellers about Claudio Reyna. Part One sets the stage and Part Two defends his points. My take: Galarcep has it basically right.

– Finally, if you live anywhere near Dallas, Texas, do make the effort to get to the U.S. Open Cup final. They’re doing some advertising, but, seriously, just go.

MLS Week 23 Power Rankings: Formula MLS

A couple new things to flag this week: first, some major rearranging blew through the Top, um, 9 this week, the result of some sober reconsideration of a couple teams; second, now that we’re clearly in crunch-time I’m going to list the next “Week’s” game(s) for each team after I rank ‘em.  And, as always, last week’s ranking appears immediately after this week’s in parentheses.

So…what’s “Formula MLS”?  It’s pretty straight-forward: build a team that’s simultaneously athletic and hard-to-beat, top it off with a striker or two capable of a telling moment of magic.  This applies to more than one team below; not coincidentally, the teams that work this well hang around the top of the rankings.  Now…on to this week’s rankings:

1. (1) DC United
Back when I followed the Premier League, during those long, dark years when Manchester United couldn’t stop winning, it seemed like they never suffered a single injury and all their players looked fresh and rested every game – all the while, The Plague seemed to have walked off with half your team.  Things seem the same for DC this year, as if nothing can so much as harm them, never mind stop them.
In Week 24: Real Salt Lake (9/12; home)

2. (4) Chivas USA
What can I say?  I’m convinced: a solid team with a good mix of weapons up top spells success – they almost fit Formula MLS, but I detect a dash of something else.  They’ll be a seeded team, which, given their home record, should be enough to take Chivas to the second round of the playoffs.  But they do have to keep plugging away in the meantime.
In Week 24: LA Galaxy (9/13; home); Colorado Rapids (9/16; away)

3. (5) Houston Dynamo
As much as I believe they’ll hold on for one of the Western Conference seeds, these cats don’t convince.  The Dynamo works Formula MLS as well as anyone in the league, especially with Dwayne DeRosario out of sorts and Brad Davis injured.  As such, they rely on a “big body” to make it come together these days, which means they need Nate Jaqua to become/remain productive when Brian Ching is out.
In Week 24: LA Galaxy (9/16; away) Continue reading

Many (Tangential) Talking Points: RBNY v. Chicago

As noted below (no need for pingbacks; just scroll down for the good stuff), I hadn’t intended to post the notes I scrawled through one closed eye while watching New York edge the Chicago Fire 1-0. But since it contained a couple Big Picture, Major League Soccer (MLS)-wide talking point that bubbled up as I watched, it seemed worth passing on to the curious. A personal favorite came in the 35th minute, when I concluded that Cuauhtemoc Blanco is better for the league long-term than David Beckham: he brings this whole pro-wrestling villain vibe to games – just awesome to watch.

There are many more besides, good, conversation/argument-starting talking points (like the one on Osorio coming to coach). Enjoy.

Here goes…and, as always, I’m not promising coherence and anything not lifted from my notes verbatim appears in parentheses: Continue reading

Red Bull Return: Is It Who You Play or How?

No, I didn’t watch the full 90+ minutes in the true, linear sense, so here’s to hoping I saw enough for what appears below to hold up. I’ll be filling in match reports from other outlets as I read them in the space below (and any volunteers should feel free to drop their views in the comments).

MLSnet.com
New Jersey Star-Ledger 
New York Newsday 
Soccer by Ives
Toronto (?) Globe & Mail 

Here’s what I saw:

Red Bull New York won on Sunday and deservedly so; the 3-0 score spoke fairly to dominance of a sort. But would the Red Bull team that soundly beat a battered Toronto FC (TFC) have topped the valiant Columbus Crew side that wilted against FC Dallas? My answer, based on 45 minutes of snapshot viewing, is probably not. And because good enough to beat a gutted Toronto ain’t the same as reviving your fortunes, it’s hard to peg Red Bull in the grand scheme.

Pieces of the team certainly worked well. For instance, Red Bull’s forward pair ably harassed Toronto’ back line; Josmer Altidore, in particular, turned in a buzzing and bright afternoon that should have won him Man of the Match honors (don’t know; didn’t check). They also spent long periods waiting for service. New York did well enough with possession, but too often only between the back four and the deep-lying midfield; too many passes forward from there took the form of long balls down the flanks that strayed out of bounds. The defense, thanks to the fairly feeble efforts of Toronto’s offense, essentially took the game pass/no-pass – and they passed.

Speaking of Toronto, simply naming four of their missing starters – Danny Dichio, Robbie O’Brien, Marvell Wynne, and Jeff Cunningham – says plenty about why they ended the first half without taking a shot. Harsh as it sounds, the understudies fell so far short of being up to the job that Andrea Lombardo’s shot to what looked a lot like Hunter Freeman’s “pills” (that’s “balls,” for the euphemistically challenged) stands as the signal offensive contribution from Major League Soccer’s Canadian contingent – and that was “offensive” on a number of levels (the bill for that is, no doubt, on its way). With unfortunate/clumsy defending accounting for two of Red Bull’s goals, Toronto’s defense hardly covered itself in glory either.

Speaking of goals, and returning to Altidore, his second strike – Red Bull’s third – highlights the difference between simply looking stupid on defense and being made to look stupid. The speed and decisiveness of Altidore’s movement in creating that goal so flustered the lone defender and TFC’s ‘keeper that both of them did, in fact, fall on their bottoms. Against some fairly strong competition, Altidore turned in my vote for goal of the week.

Other random observations: Continue reading