Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday Morning Odds and Sods, Volume 2

MLS Rookie of the Year Jonathan Bornstein's MCL injury is a bummer for Chivas USA, and coupled with Bobby Convey's recent setback, the US Men's National Team is now so vulnerable on the left that a campaign to draft Al Gore for spot duty is gaining momentum.

MLS Underground handicaps the more realistic replacements, including Citeh's DaMarcus Beasley, Chicago's Justin Mapp and Red Bull Todd Dunivant. Two other Americans in fine form are Jonathan Spector with the Hammers and Jay DeMerit of Watford. Braving the frenetic pace, crackling emotions and superlative skills of the EPL, surely they deserve a look from Bob Bradley. Plus, in a pinch, Jay can play goalkeeper. Check out SI.com's photo essay. Good stuff.

  • God has spoken: "I even saw a move to the USA mentioned, but I honestly haven't even thought about anything like that yet." As always, the Gospel According to Robbie Fowler is open to interpretation. The Evangelical Robbie to MLS Crowd will emphasize the word "yet." If Robbie is definitely not considering Major League Soccer, why add the qualifier "yet" to his denial? The Doubters will note the lifelong Scouser spends most Sunday's praying at posh, English racetracks and is unlikely to chase a paycheck across the Atlantic.
    UPDATE, FEB 28: Revs' Steve Nicol Says Robbie May Come

  • Thomas Gravesen is being linked with the LA Galaxy. Head Coach Frank Yallop is quoted as interested in the player, which may mean he's operating under the same misconception that Real Madrid and the belligerent Dane's current club, Glasgow Celtic did. Point One: While Gravesen looks the part of a bone-crunching midfield marauder in the Roy Keane or Pablo Mastroeni mold, he's actually more of an offensive minded player whose rare forays into the physical side of the game often result in his being whistled for rash, ill-timed tackles. Point Two: Gravesen also wore out his welcome at Real by fighting with his teammates, bitching to the press and generally behaving like a spoiled brat. Now he can't crack the Celtic lineup and is pulling the same crap. Beware, LA, Beware.

  • Speaking of Celtic, Rocker Rod Stewart, a huge fan of the Scottish club, in search of a proper venue to watch the Hoops take on AC Milan in the Champions League last week, chose the Irish-American Club in Kearny, New Jersey, hometown of former US National Team and MLS stars John Harkes, Tony Meola and Tab Ramos.
  • Monday, February 26, 2007

    FIFA Boots Red Bull, Delgado Ban Stands

    Ecuadoran wild man/striker Agustin Delgado will not be filling the Red Bull's second designated player slot this season as FIFA stood firm on the year-long suspension dealt out to El Tin for his part in a nasty postgame brawl. Check out the video link on YouTube and decide for yourself if FIFA should've looked the other way just so the Red Bull could sign a 32-year-old, injury-prone player with an -- ahem -- colorful off-field reputation including financial disputes with an ex-wife (don't you hate when that happens?), and legal troubles concerning another melee on New Year's Eve 2007.

    This could be a blessing in disguise for the Red Bull, as a Big Splash International Stud Signing coinciding with the team's move into brand-spanking-new, soccer-specific Red Bull Park in Harrison, New Jersey next season is much better business -- on and off the field -- than taking a risk on El Tin miraculously becoming an altar boy upon reaching Major League Soccer.

    Big Apple Soccer is all over the still vacant second Designated Player (or Beckham Player or Toss-Out-The-Budget-This-Guy-May-Sell-Tickets Player, if you prefer) Allocation story, with both Gianni Versace lookalike Red Bull Owner Dietrich Mateschitz and Sporting Director, Head Coach Bruce Arena doubtful an additional DP signing -- Claudia Reyna holds one slot -- will be happening anytime soon.

    Friday, February 23, 2007

    Nicky, We Hardly Knew Ye

    The Nick Rimando Era with the Red Bull was short. Really short. Tom Cruise spectacularly dwarfed by newest Stepford Wife Katie Holmes short. Which is funny, except that it makes MLS look bad.

    Name one other professional sports league in the world where Team A acquires Player X from Team B and then two weeks later trades Player X back to Team B. Keep thinking, but you have a better chance of getting Scarlett Johansson over to your house dressed like Catwoman than you do of coming up with one. Know why? Because there are no Givesy-Backseys in professional sports! Sure, guys move around all the time, and many return to their former teams, but 14 days later? It's a joke.

    Big Apple Soccer has the specifics, which include Scott Garlick abruptly retiring from Real Salt Lake and Jon Conway's reported trip from Red Bull to Toronto FC now postponed, if not torpedoed altogether.

    Unfortunately, this farcical Goalkeeper Carousel, where netminders are being swapped and shifted from team to team like horses being traded on the Deadwood Thoroughfare, is unsightly, unbecoming, and frankly, unacceptable.

    Major League Soccer's current economic and player dispersal model is what it is. The people ponying up the dough for MLS have decided this is the best way for the league to grow and prosper. Fair enough. But there has to be some mechanism in place to prevent ridiculous situations like Nick Rimando's Excellent Salt Lake To New York And Back to Salt Lake Two-Week Adventure.

    Around the Globe With A Coupla Links:

  • Soccer365: Bobby Convey Injured Again

  • Soccernet: DC Win, Dynamo Fall in CONCACAF Champs Cup
  • Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Czech Out The Latest Rumors

    The MLS offseason is Silly Time, where Ronaldo is either 1) fat, washed up and beneath Major League Soccer or 2) a potent striker and international icon capable of scoring two goals in his first start since returning to Serie A. Where Beckham is either 1) over-rated, over-paid and over-heated or 2) Man of the Match in a classic Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich European Champions League showdown and a great signing for the LA Galaxy and MLS.

    Well, Red Bull Rising is not immune to the allure of Silly Time and our latest contribution to the rumor mill is this juicy tidbit from our friends at Football 365 (and by friends, we mean we often peruse their terrific website): Czech star Patrik Berger is considering MLS.

    Berger is a 33-year-old offensive-minded midfielder with a silky-smooth left foot, a feisty on-field personality and a flair for the dramatic. The downside is, he has been hurt or indifferent the past few seasons, after a very solid tenure at Liverpool FC where his skills were greatly appreciated.

    The demographically-minded, fanny-in-the-seats types will note that both the greater Houston and Chicago areas have very high concentrations of Czech-Americans. Would Patty agree to a Windy City or Southeast Texas move? Or is he just angling for either an extension with Martin O'Neill and Aston Villa or perhaps signaling for another squad on The Continent to make him an offer?

  • In other Liverpool related news, Robbie Fowler is being linked with fellow Anfield veteran Steve Nicol and the New England Revolution. Unlike the Berger story, no Fowler quotes are attached to this rumor. Due to Robbie's now chronic injury problems, his rather -- ahem -- notorious nightlife habits and his passion for the ponies....it's doubtful God will grace the Land of the Puritans.
  • Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Tuesday Morning Odds and Sods, Volume 1

  • Steven Goff, apparently the only guy at the WaPo not obsessed with defending Scooter Libby, has been all over the Zinedine Zidane to MLS saga. According to Goff, the Fire have folded, but the Red Bull may indeed call. Big Apple Soccer's excellent interview with reclusive, mysterious, creepily tanned and well-coiffed Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz suggests Zizou, or any other Big International Star, won't be arriving until Red Bull Park opens in 2008.

  • The Red Bull completed the Florida preseason slate with a 3-1-1 record after drawing 1-1 with Real Salt Lake. Dutchman Dave van den Bergh scored his third preseason goal for the Red Bull against Mitt Romney's favorite MLS club.

  • The other Real, have issued the first of what will be many Fabio Ain't Fired Yet announcements. C'mon Madrid, we all know Fredo's goin' fishin'.

  • Who needs pitchers and catchers? A Cuban defector has signed with an MLS club. All we need now is Jason Kreis testing positive for steroids and we can become America's National Pastime!
  • Saturday, February 17, 2007

    MLS Champs Snap Red Bull Win Streak,
    Trialist Ansu Toure Making a Strong Case

    The Red Bull's three-game win streak turned into a pumpkin at Disney's Wide World of Sports on Friday night as the Houston Dynamo recorded a 3-1 victory. Trialist Ansu Toure (not to be confused with brilliant Arsenal and Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure) scored the lone Red Bull tally. Ansu's bid to jump from the USL First Division's Minnesota Thunder to Red Bull New York of Major League Soccer gained momentum with his second goal of the preseason, the first coming in the Valentine's Day win over DC United.

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    Small Victories and the Big Picture

    Winning three straight preseason games down in Bradenton Fla, against the Kiddie Korps US National Team U-17's, the punchless Wizards and the rival United of DC is not that big a deal. But these small victories do provide a sneak preview into Bruce Arena's plans for Red Bull New York, in this, his first full season directing the squad.

  • The Nick Rimando signing on top of the Ronald Waterreus acquisition makes Jon Conway surplus to requirements. Rumor has it that Conway may be headed to Toronto FC, where Mo Johnston can reciprocate with something useful for his former club.

  • While precocious youngster Jozy Altidore continues to impress down by the Gulf Coast, the Agustin Delgado Watch refuses to go away. The Ecuadoran hothead is a proven, if brittle, goalscorer, but can the Meadowlands endure yet another aging, tempermental striker with suspect motives for joining Major League Soccer? Maybe Arena intends to blood Altidore and sign Delgado, not as his primary source of goals, but as an insurance policy against Jozy's inevitable growing pains. Or is it vice-versa?

  • So far, it looks like Arena is toying with a veteran midfield featuring Claudio Reyna, 33, Markus Schopp, 33, Dave van den Bergh, 31 and Dema Kovalenko, 30, while fielding talented, but green, youngsters like Altidore, 17, and Marvell Wynne, 20, up top and in the back, respectively. With Waterreus between the sticks, the Red Bulls seem content choosing from Wynne, Todd Dunivant, Seth Stammler, Jeffe Parke, and Carlos Mendes in defense, but center fullback may be a weak spot with this current group of players.
  • Sunday, February 11, 2007

    Becks Scores, The Land of Coors

    It was inevitable David Beckham would celebrate his return from exile and Capello's comic capitulation by finding the back of the net. So what now? Well, a few things.

    1) The chances of speeding up Beckham's arrival in LA via buyout are now slimmer than Nicole Ritchie. Real took a much deserved public relations hit by benching and verbally slamming one of their most valuable assets and went into the tank on the field to boot. With the Primera Division still up for grabs and Real's last domestic match scheduled for June 17, the Galacticos will hang onto Becks for the duration.

    2) Major League Soccer will now go into Ixnay on the EckhamBay Mode. The league can't allow the whole first half of the 2007 season to be held hostage to When Will He Come? What New Hairstyle Will He Have? and What Will Posh Wear? stories, especially after the 2006 campaign was overshadowed by the World Cup.

    3) Capello is history. It's one thing for Guti to speak up, but when Raul, who never wanted Becks at the Bernabeu in the first place and barely tolerates him now, publicy embraced the former England captain, Fabio immediately became Fredo. The only question is, when will the Real bosses take him fishing?

    Speaking of fishing, let's discuss the Colorado Rapids (How's that for a cornball segue?). Rumor had it the MLS franchise nestled in the Rocky Mountains was not only going to sell its soul to Arsene Wenger and the Gooners, but that they were going to adopt the name of their new patrons and call themselves the Colorado Arsenal. Or Arsenal Colorado. Whatever. Either way, what actually happened was the Rapids announced new branding and colors (oddly mimicking Aston Villa and West Ham and nothing at all like Thierry Henry's kit) and a partnership deal with Arsenal concerning player development and preseason tours.

    Some folks got hot and bothered about the potential name change, while others thought it was a great idea. The thinking here is that the Colorado Rapids is a fine name, bringing up thoughts of icy cold water which is used (if you believe the commercials) to make watered down Lite Beer in a cool silver can. Plus, changing the name to Arsenal could've been another Houston 1836 fiasco and MLS doesn't need to shoot itself in the foot again. How so? One word: Columbine.

    Thursday, February 8, 2007

    BREAKING NEWS: Sun Comes Up,
    Team USA beats Mexico...Again

    Excellent roundup of the U.S. Men's National Team's 2-nil victory over Mexico last night at Soccer by Ives. The childish behavior of the Hugo Sanchezettes and Landon Donovan's understandably perturbed reaction is particularly good stuff.

    In Red Bull-related news, Bruce Arena did a nice job on the ESPN2 broadcast, unlike Dave O'Brien, the Chief Wiggum of soccer broadcasters. "Nothing to see here," he says, "Not alot of action," as Bornstein, Albright, Conrad and Bocanegra scrape and scramble for every ball played into the US third of the pitch, out-muscle or out-hustle the Mexican attack, and play the ball up the field. Sigh. According to Chief Wiggum, if a goal isn't scored every five minutes or so, the game is crap.

    But O'Brien does have the pipes for a TV broadcast, which brings us back to Arena, who does not. Bruce has a nasally delivery which borders on whiny, but that in no way diminishes his strong analysis of the game. How refreshing was it to hear a Soccer Talking Head blast the twitchy, eye-bulging ref for the unnecessary yellows about 10 minutes into the match? And whenever Wynalda veered into It's Been Five Minutes I Need To Gratituitously Slam The US Strikers Land, Bruce gently threw his mercurial colleague -- and more importantly the viewers -- a lifeline, replying, "Well, actually, we should probably give the Mexican defense credit there, they defended that play well as a group." Pertinent, intelligent commentary trumps silky-smooth, but vapid, claptrap any day of the week. Just like the US tops Mexico any day of the week.

    Wednesday, February 7, 2007

    Beckham US Tour Dates Released

    Back in the day, recently departed Old School TV broadcast stylist Jim Karvallas would respond to Seamus Mallon's astute color commentary of a particularly nifty play -- say a neat Bogie through-ball to Chinaglia (Karvallas pronunciation: KEEEEY-nalia) -- with an emphatic, "That’s good soccer, Seamus." And so today, we present Major League Soccer with the first-ever That's Good Soccer, Seamus Award, for the clever scheduling which guarantees the LA Galaxy -– or Team Beckham, if you prefer -– will play at least one road game in every single MLS city from July to the end of the season. Not coincidentally, Beckham’s current contract with Real Madrid expires on June 30.

    Oh, how Capello and that odious Calderon at Real Madrid must love the timing. Since Beckham will indeed be visiting each MLS stadium in 2007, despite Real's predatory intransigence, AEG and MLS can now negotiate his liberation from the stands at the Bernabeu, a pointless, wasteful exile even his teammates lament, fully aware that, worst-case, Becks arrives on Independence Day and plays out the rest of the season. (Provided he stays healthy, which will be addressed in a future post). Best-case, Real get real, make a fair deal, and Beckham joins Donovan and Company at the Home Depot Center for start of season. Win-win for MLS and its fans. That's good soccer, Seamus.

    Beckham and the Galaxy face the Red Bulls on Saturday night, August 18. Should be quite a show. Get tickets now.

    Tuesday, February 6, 2007

    In the beginning....

    In the beginning there was Cosmos, prodigious, spectacular and star-crossed

    Then darkness fell upon us, as Metros, dull and chaotic, entered the void

    And the spirit of Pele said, "Behold, The Beautiful Game"

    And the Red Bull rose in New Jersey, and it was good