Conde and Juan Carlos…serious man-love…

The (for-now) Chicago Fire’s Wilman Conde going public about wanting to ditch Chicago to follow Juan Carlos Osorio to Red Bull New York is, quite simply, fascinating. A couple reliable sources report the very open airing of this…well, cry for help…where one would think no such cry is needed. (Another less reliable, but highly intrepid, site flagged this as well…and, in the blink of an eye, took the speculation just that special little bit farther.)

Chicago fans, already suffering a bitter off-season, must feel something between spittle-flecked rage and the profoundest despondency on reading the news.

I don’t know how this one will end. I only suspect that it can’t end well. The hard thing, though, it’s been said now. Can’t really be unsaid, now can it?

UPDATE: ..and just minutes later. Luis Arroyave, banging away on his Red Card blog, weighs Chicago’s options. This is mainly a man thinking out loud…and there’s nothing wrong with that. If there was, I wouldn’t be here.

UPDATE: More informed thinking out loud.  (Whoops.  That’s not as in “more informed” as in he’s smarter and gooder than Arroyvave, but “more informed” as in there’s more of it and this cat is informed as well.  And it only occurs to me now that I’ve already linked to this article…this is what happens when I “post in my pajamas.”)

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Coming to NYC (or Thereabouts): Osorio-Ball!

And what’s that, exactly?  Consider this (from a nice, informative Q & A with the man; interesting stuff on tactics in there by the way):

USSoccerPlayers: How were you able to turn things around so quickly in Chicago last season?”

“Osorio: We defended very well.  It’s not a coincidence that in the last ten games of the regular season, we conceded only eight goals.   It’s hard to lose games when you give up such a small amount of goals.  What we did was defend properly as a team and scored one or two goals, which was just enough to win games.  Teams like Chelsea have been doing that for years and with much success.”

So, yeah, get excited Red Bulls fans.  Woo-hoo.  Hmm…maybe the Rapids won’t be the hardest team to watch next season…

2007: A Look Back on the Domestic (e.g. U.S.) Scene

The long-promised look back at 2007 in U.S. soccer unfolds below. The talking points – 15 in all (what? you wanted a Top 10? I’m nothing like that disciplined; see, I slipped to 17) – come in, at best, half-random order; put another way, I ranked these things a certain way, but it has as much to do with themes intelligible only to me, as opposed to significance. They also came to me after only 15 minutes (or so) thought, so odds are I missed a thing or two; feel free to add any omissions in the comments.

Right. Here goes…

1. David Beckham. May as well start with the elephant in the room (propped up handsomely next to his wife with the weird tits). Beckham garnered (OK, sucked up) enough attention to transcend even the rule that bears his name – that will come in a separate section – which is perhaps why his arrival sits on our collective stoop like some kind of wet turd the neighborhood kids were too lazy to set on fire. He came, we obsessed, he went down injured, and, with an exception here or there, his team did better without him on the field. Sure, he made the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Major League Soccer (MLS) as a whole, a chunk of change, but the whiff of an injured, conceivably over-the-hill player that attached to him also revived the Ghosts of the NASL. Better luck next year, Tiger (with stuffed shorts).

2 . MLS Overview: My belief that, in 2007, MLS actually felt “Major League” for the first time in its existence doesn’t strike me as a lonely one. It’s not so much that the league has arrived in terms of media exposure, money, etc., and it’s not as if problems don’t exist (refereeing, gridlines, playoff format, small rosters, payment structure, the Colorado Rapids, etc.) than things seem to be headed in the right direction, complete with a “Big Mo” tailwind. On-field play looks better than ever, stadiums are popping up at a steady clip, the scouting system looks more established, and we have yet to see what kind of talent the league’s nascent youth academies will turn out. Hell, the league could even be making more money than ever…not that we’d ever know that given how firmly they hold shut the books. So, yeah, good trends, people. Let’s keep ’em up. Continue reading

MLS Daily Sweeper 12.19: Draws, Rules, Commentary…HUZZAH!

Here I am, bringing up the rear once again, but that makes some sense with the “sweeper” theme. A lot of the below is hours old, so here’s to hoping I’m bringing some fresh perspective to the discussion…even where I am transparently not…for instance, when I’m quoting others’ work.

– Let’s start with the easy thing: the powers-that-be conducted the draws for the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the 2008 Olympic qualifying rounds yesterday. Steve Goff’s Soccer Insider gave the most thorough presentation of both draws (e.g. he got to both of them – and first) while MLS Rumors provided the best layout for the CONCACAF draw. That noted, here’s what you, dear reader, need to know: the Houston Dynamo will face Guatemala’s Municipal while DC United drew Jamaica’s Harbour View FC. Turning to the Olympics, we’re part of an eight-team tourney and our specific group throws us in with Cuba, Honduras, and Panama; for the record, I think we done good. But the most important thing in all this? As you’ll immediately see upon looking at the schedules for both competitions, March is going to be a busy month.

– Turning now to more complicated matters, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced a couple rule changes yesterday; Steve Goff knocked out a good, lengthy post on the changes and their apparent and reported inspirations. My first reaction – posted as a comment on WVHooligan’s write-up – hasn’t changed much, even if I missed a fairly significant change in the first several readings. But, bottom line, there’s not a whole lot to see here, folks. While I am gladdened by the end the evil, player-hating rule about a given MLS club retaining the rights to a player they waived – that’s simple justice, man – even the change I missed doesn’t amount to much. That change? The “asset” status of the foreign player slots, which allows them to be traded. It sounds neat-o, but as Yahoo! News’ Martin Rogers pointed out, the big-picture economics deflate this change quite a bit (and Soccer By Ives fleshes it out a bit more): 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

Daily Sweeper, 12.10.07: Et tu, Osorio?

As of today, I’m planning on running the Daily Sweeper feature at the end of the day. The odds of this changing are very, very low. But it makes sense, right? I’ll be “sweeping up” all the news from a given day, so it only makes sense that I wait till the day is over. Right?

– I suppose Ives Galarcep provides the big story of the day with his Soccer by Ives exclusive that has the Chicago Fire’s 2007 head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, moving East to coach Red Bull New York. I’ll throw out the ESPN write-up he did, but the exclusive he posted in his “special place” contains the largely same information, only more of it. And the final paragraph of the exclusive contains a significant teaser as well:

“So who will coach Chicago now? Very good question…Assistant coach Denis Hamlett is deserving of an opportunity, as are several other MLS assistants such as Richie Williams, Paul Mariner and John Spencer.”

I find every last one of those names enticing on one level or another. Should be fun seeing who gets the job.

Getting back to Osorio’s move to Red Bull – and my provocative title – there is something a little sleazy about the whole affair, isn’t there? I’m all for employment mobility, but to jump to a rival and on such short notice? I suppose the first thing I want to know is how Chicago fans are reacting (don’t have time to visit BigSoccer, or I’d just tell you). I’d check in on Chicago’s players next – and hope that Luis Arroyave will fill in some blanks fairly soon. I only know one thing for sure: I expect a duller New York side next season. More successful…mmm, probably. Just make sure to bring amphetamines to the games with you; the combination of Osorio’s tactics and beer should be approximtely equivalent to downing a half-dozen doses of Ambien.

– I would link to something about Mo Johnston killing rumors about his stepping away from the head coach’s role and into the Toronto FC front office, but, seeing as I don’t think it will change anything….whoops. In all seriousness, I may not rate Johnston too highly as a coach right now, but will also admit he’s had some damned tough jobs. Maybe next year, right?

– For his ESPN gig (does he have another one?), Jeff Carlisle threw out five names for U.S. National Team coach Bob Bradley to consider. I like ’em all except that darn Eddie Robinson…just kidding, Martek! He names some names I’d like to see, but, given our left-side injury issues, I’d include another one: Brad Davis.

Goal.com’s Kyle McCarthy compiled a Top Ten List for 2008’s biggest busts. Was there ever any question about #1?

– And, finally, WVHooligan does a brave thing and makes some early predictions for the 2008 season. Yeah, one of ’em went sideways already (see the first entry above), and I think he’s placing way too much faith in the New England Revolution’s operation, but the rest hold up to reason pretty well. That includes his ominous prediction for a Houston Dynamo three-peat. I know I keep coming up empty when I try to think who will beat ’em…maybe someone will sign the right ace. (As a side-note, just watch: now that I’ve ditched ’em, 2008 will be the year Bob Kraft finally reaches the end of his stingy, little rope and goes big to build the team. Just watch.)

Chicago Fire 2007 Review: Lazarus Rises, Plays Stubborn D…and…

Chicago Fire
Record (W-L-T): 10-10-10; 31 GF, 36 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
Do you remember, kids, just how goddamn awful the Chicago Fire seemed in May? It wasn’t so much that they handed Toronto FC their first win in franchise history, but the utterly supine crouch from which they did it. That was only one of several lopsided losses (ouch!, ouch!, ouch!) – e.g. any game in which a team gives up three goals and loses by at least two – from the first half of the season: May featured three such losses and the Fire added one in June, as well as a 4-0 collapse to the Houston Dynamo in July.

As MLSnet.com’s review of the Fire’s 2007 points out, that big ol’ loss to Houston also happened to be Juan Carlos Osorio’s debut as a coach in Major League Soccer (MLS); he took over from former coach Dave Sarachan in early July. Given what the rest of their season looked like perhaps it’s fairer, then, to credit that loss to the Sarachan hangover – a period characterized by what looked like racking self-doubt among Chicago’s players. But those lopsided games left after that loss to Houston, never to return for the rest of the year. There’s no question that Chicago turned around their season under Osorio, but the extent to which they did so, as well as how they did so, bears noting.

Looking from the outside in, I assume 2007 was hell on Chicago fans. Sure, they started well, but when they went down – holy shit – did they go down. It played out on the field like some kind of unspoken campaign in support of relegation in the American game. Their late-ish summer rally (August, September) only looked impressive against what came before; that the teams they beat – Toronto, the Columbus Crew, and the Kansas City Wizards – impressed fewer than most always left open the question of whether Chicago was for real. No less significantly, they followed this with a string of ties – four straight, in fact – that, at the time, might have been mistaken for little more than slow steps toward respectability. Continue reading