Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Now THAT'S a Nickname

There have been some rumors about Scottish striker Kevin Kyle being brought in by the San Jose Earthquakes. Normally I wouldn't care the least about a journeyman striker with tenuous claims of interest from MLS. In mister Kyle's case however, I must make an exception because of his most excellent nickname. Here's the details, courtesy of the wonders of Wikipedia:
In 2006 Kyle received the dubious nickname of "Scaldin' Balls" from the Daily Mirror, a parody of David Beckham's "golden balls" nickname, after Kyle missed one of Sunderland's matches after scalding his testicles with boiling water

You've got to love the British media. I can only imagine the heated editorial discussion as the Mirror's staff chose between scaldin' balls, boilin' balls and hunka hunka burnin' junk.

MLS and the FIFA Club World Cup

A few days ago, Gamba Osaka of Japan defeated Pachuca of Mexico to claim third place in the FIFA Club World Cup. Interestingly, both teams had one opponent in common this year -- the Houston Dynamo.

Gamba beat Houston 6-1 in the ridiculous Pan-Pacific Championship in February. Houston later defeated Pachuca 2-0 during the Superliga tournament. Does that make Houston the fourth-best team in the world? Of course not, but it's an interesting footnote.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I've been thinking seriously about switching from playing the Pro Evolution Soccer series and giving the long-running FIFA franchise a try. There's a number of things that bug me about PES 2008 -- including the increased grass friction that makes long ground passes difficult and the continued lack of an MLS license.

My biggest gripe is that somewhere between Winning Eleven 9 and PES 2008 the developers changed the shooting controls. In all the previous incarnations of the game you pushed right or left to aim for the right or left side of the goal. Now you push up or down. I spent many, many hours swearing at this game until I figured out what they had done. Why the hell did they do this? Someone at Konami has a smack upside the head coming to them.

I'm willing to give FIFA 09 a try, but one thing is holding me back. It has quite possibly the worst ad in the history of video games.

Why on earth would I want to listen to sixty seconds of someone half-heartedly yelling goal? Lord almighty is that annoying.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How do you say "corked bat" in Swedish?

Seattle Sounders fans can't be too happy right now. Midfielder, Designated Player and former underwear fancier Freddie Ljungberg had hip surgery this week which will knock him out of action for 10-12 weeks. He will thus miss most of training camp and might not be ready for the start of the season.

Sadly some folks must have seen this coming. He's had on-again, off-again hip and ankle problems as far back as 2005 when he played for Arsenal. He also had a bizarre bout of blood poisoning supposedly brought on by one of his large tattoos.

Seattle better hope this is a blip on the radar, otherwise they will end up being the Baltimore Orioles of MLS (minus the cool retro stadium.) In 1998 Baltimore signed Albert Belle to a five-year, $65 million contract. In return the Orioles ended up with one good and one average season followed by three years on the disabled list so an insurance policy could pay his guaranteed salary. So what felled the once mighty Albert Belle... *drum roll* a degenerative hip problem.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Without much fanfare, Jeff Cunningham joined an elite group this past season. In August he scored his 100th goal, making him only the fourth player to do that. The others are:

Jaime Moreno (122)
Ante Razov (114)
Jason Kreis (108)

With his next goal, Taylor Twellman of the Revolution will join this group. If that happens (and the others continue playing) the league could have four active players with at least 100 goals.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

EVERY Kiss???

By now, I'm guessing every life form that's been near a television in the last year has been exposed to this ad campaign for Kay Jewelers...

I have no qualms with the ad itself (other than the fact that if he's serious enough to give her jewelry, he should be serious enough to learn ASL) but every kiss? Anyone who's been to college knows that a large percentage of kisses begin with alcohol...

I suppose it's catchier than "Every kiss begins with Kay... except the ones that begin with Gin."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shooting Mutant Hellbeasts is Fun

A review of House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return for the Nintendo Wii

When I saw that this game had been released for the Wii, I was very excited. These arcade games were some of my favorites, thanks in no small part to the controllers which allowed you to point a gun-like apparatus at the screen and blow legions of horrible undead to kingdom come.

The games are a direct port of the arcade games, with all the primitive graphics and unintentionally hilarious voice acting included. I had a blast fighting my way through the genetic freaks unleashed by scientists who tampered in God's domain.

I did experience one huge problem with the game. In order to reload your gun, you need to point it off screen. There were a number of times when the game didn't seem able to distinguish the edges of the screen from off screen, and the gun would get in a perpetual loop of loading -- even though the cursor was visible on screen and I was pulling the trigger. Occasionally this would even happen when the cursor was in the middle of the screen. At times this made the game almost unplayable.

My verdict -- rent this game and shoot things until your wrist is sore from holding it straight at the screen.

Let's Go Bowling...

Gone are the days when your school qualifying for a college football bowl game actually meaning something. The proliferation of bowl games means everyone with a half-decent record or a large contingent of traveling fans goes to a bowl game. Recent additions include the EagleBank Bowl, San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and my personal favorite, the prestigious Meineke Car Care Bowl. I didn't even make those up -- they are real bowl games.

If we're going to keep adding more bowl games, I respectfully submit these new names that adhere to truth in advertising standards:
  • The Contrived Sponsorship Opportunity Bowl
  • The Excuse For Alumni to Go Somewhere Warm and Drink Bowl
  • The At Least You're Over .500 Bowl
  • The Popular But Mediocre Teams Bowl
  • The Scrounging For Tourism Dollars Bowl

I'd list more, but I can't concentrate. I'm too excited thinking about the upcoming Bowl.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Enter the Devastator

A review of Mercenaries 2: World In Flames for the XBOX 360.

In Mercenaries 2 you play as a mercenary (surprising, I know) who becomes embroiled in the military takeover of Venezuela. It's an open-world game where you take on missions from the various factions trying to control the country (the big oil companies, Maoist guerrillas, etc) and generally cause mayhem and destruction on your path to vengeance upon the people who shot you in the rear.

As I played, I kept getting the sense that I'd seen this all before. Eventually it dawned on me -- this game is Grand Theft Auto... with airstrikes. On the upside, the controls are good, and the destruction you can cause is both huge and beautiful. One of my favorite things is the weapons practice where you shoot marble busts. Mmmm... physics-y gorgeousness.

The game also has a sense of humor. Early in the game you're sent to retrieve an experimental vehicle called "the devastator," which turns out to be the scooter seen below.

My final verdict -- it's fun, but it wasn't fun enough for me to buy. Rent it first and decide whether it's something you want to add to your permanent collection.

Image by Encogen

Monday, December 01, 2008

CCL Result By Country - Group Stage Complete

The group stage is complete, and the "country standings" have changed to reflect what most would have said before the competition started -- the Mexican league is the strongest in CONCACAF.

Mexico 15 5 7 61 25 36 55.6% 1.93
Canada 4 1 3 11 5 6 50.0% 1.88
Honduras 6 3 5 26 15 11 42.9% 1.64
Puerto Rico 3 2 3 12 12 0 37.5% 1.50
Costa Rica 3 3 2 9 12 -3 37.5% 1.38
El Salvador 2 3 3 9 12 -3 25.0% 1.13
Guatemala 2 3 3 13 18 -5 25.0% 1.13
Joe Public 3 5 0 9 16 -7 37.5% 1.13
Panama 4 7 5 21 25 -4 25.0% 1.06
USA 2 9 5 15 31 -16 12.5% 0.69
Nicaragua 0 1 1 0 1 -1 0.0% 0.50
Jamaica 0 1 0 0 3 -3 0.0% 0.00
Belize 0 2 0 0 12 -12 0.0% 0.00

The following countries had teams move on to the knockout round:
Mexico (4) Cruz Azul, Atlante, Pumas, Santos Laguna
Honduras (1) Marathon
USA (1) Houston Dynamo
Canada (1) Montreal
Puerto Rico (1) Puerto Rico Islanders

Sunday, November 30, 2008

2009 MLS Roster Changes

In his 2008 State of the League address, Don Garber announced that in 2009 teams will be able to have between 18 and 20 senior roster spots (today it's 18.) Counteracting this is a reduction of developmental spots from ten to just four, none of which count against the salary cap. He then went on to say:
With fewer developmental players on a given roster, the reserve league has been eliminated, with the savings in salary expected to be applied to other members of the roster, as well as each team's youth academy.

The only problem with this is that developmental players don't count against the current salary cap. So there's really no way to share this money with other members of the roster, unless some of this money somehow ends up in a gym bag in the bottom of someone's locker, you know -- by mistake.

So I guess this means that the reserve league money is being allocated towards the teams' youth setups. This combined with the fact that he said he would hand the MLS Cup trophy to Guillermo Barros Schelotto but gave it to Frankie Hejduk makes me wonder if someone spiked his punch during MLS Cup weekend...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Farewell to Diego Gutierrez

When the season ended, Major League Soccer lost a good player and truly great guy -- Diego Gutierrez. A "fire original" and veteran of 316 games in the league, Diego hung up his boots after 12 seasons. A stalwart with the Chicago Fire, he ended his career with the team fifth in games played, minutes played and assists.

Off the field, Gutierrez was the 2007 MLS Humanitarian of the year, and is heavily involved with Nothing But Nets, which helps purchase and distribute bed nets to curb mosquito-borne malaria in Africa.

For everything, both on and off the field, thank you!

They Wanna Make Me Go To Wii-hab

I'm a fairly avid video game player. I've finished every Resident Evil game. I've finished every Grand Theft Auto game since GTA III. So with all these complicated, violent games in my past, what's my favorite game at the moment? Wii Sports Bowling. I'm horribly addicted. I think I've played every day since we got it nearly two weeks ago. I've already hit pro status, and have a high game of 256.

If fact almost all of the Wii Sports games are fun. There's nothing like smacking a home run, or being knocked out in boxing by your kindergartner. The only game I can't get the hang of is golf, but I've only played it once. There's just no time with so much bowling going on...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

$12 For a Hamburger... You Must Be Crazy...

Gone are the days of the five dollar buffet in Las Vegas. At the strip casinos it's pretty much impossible to find any sort of lunch entree for under $10, and it's even more than that for dinner. Many of the casinos are trying to upscale everything and the proliferation of $12 hamburgers is both impressive and amusing, since exactly the same thing at a regular restaurant will cost you $5 less.

Fortunately there are a couple of pockets of cheap eats on the strip. Casino Royale has a Denny's and Subway inside it, and the little food court between there and Harrah's contains a McDonald's, a Chipotle and a little pizza place with prices like those back home. There's also a McDonald's between the MGM and Planet Hollywood in one of the less-developed parts of the strip. The Fashion Show Mall (yes, that's the real name) across from the Wynn has a food court with various cheap eats as well.

If you enjoy spending $3.75 for a bottle of Mountain Dew, by all means buy one from a kiosk in the Paris. However if you would rather spend your money on video poker and strippers, visit the Walgreen's or CVS between Planet Hollywood and the MGM (they're on opposite sides of the street, so you're set either way) or head down to the ABC Store in the Fashion Show Mall. All three have reasonable souvenirs as well, although the shirts at the ABC store seemed nicer to me.

I'm sure there are other low-priced options that I forgot about. If you know of others, post a comment so others can have a good time without spending an arm and a leg!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Don Garber is My Hero

Jack Bell at the New York Times recently had an excellent Q & A session with Don Garber, Commissioner of Major League Soccer. During the interview Garber basically told the euro-poser community that a couple of things you hear the "traditional" fans complain about will never happen.

On the subject of switching to a European schedule (which would necessitate games in the winter - good luck with that in Toronto) he said:
Basically that decision, if we were to schedule that way, we’d have to fold the league because we couldn’t afford to do it.

He also dismissed the idea of scrapping the playoffs, and more or less dismissed the idea of MLS moving to a single table instead of conferences. With that settled folks can stop creating three of the more annoying threads on Big Soccer. They're just not going to happen.

However, this is my favorite quote from the article:
If the more traditional soccer fan wants us to be like the English Premier League, I’ve got news for them — this is not England and we’re not the E.P.L.; and they remind us of that all the time. We have to manage our business in a way that is about growing the league in the U.S. That’s where we live, that’s where our teams play and that is the core of M.L.S.

Don Garber, you're my hero.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Planet Hollywood Casino

One of the highlights of our Vegas stay was the new Planet Hollywood Casino. Located on the former site of the Aladdin next to the Paris on the strip, the casino has been completely re-done and the Beautiful and Talented Wife and I really enjoyed it. The video poker machines had good pay tables (even some of the penny and nickel machines.) The ventilation was great so you didn't reek of smoke. The new decor was nice, and the cocktail waitresses were snappy with drinks while you were gambling.

Their fun book was very good as well. Fifteen dollars in slot match play (which could also be used on the video poker machines) numerous food and drink deals, and other goodies as well. Joining also gave you the opportunity to take a crack at their gigantic slot machine once each day to win prizes. I happened to win a pair of free tickets to Stomp Out Loud, which was their featured show. I expected to get the Uecker seats, but to my surprise I was about 10 rows from the stage on the aisle.

It also didn't hurt that the cocktail waitresses had some of the best outfits on the strip - boots, fishnets, black shorts or a miniskirt and a red shirt showing as much cleavage as the individual dared... which was quite a bit in some cases.

Image: zuirdj

Oooh That Smell...

Hello again. I just got back from Las Vegas, so I'll be posting a bunch of non-soccer stuff over the next couple of days. One of the oddest experiences I had in Vegas was the horrible odor that assaulted my nose as the Beautiful and Talented Wife and I walked into the Venetian Hotel and Casino.

Immediately upon entering, both of us looked at each other and said "Do you smell that?" After a few steps I realized what it reminded me of. The entire casino smelled like a urinal cake... an overwhelming horrifying urinal cake. It was so bad that we left almost immediately... never to return. We walked past the Venetian another day, and the funk was so bad we could smell it on the sidewalk -- which is roughly 50 yards from the entrance -- over the buses and billions of taxis on Las Vegas Boulevard.

As we continued our tour of casinos on the strip, the Palazzo and the Monte Carlo also smelled like this. I'm not sure if they're all using the same odd-smelling carpet cleaner, but I'm sure these high-end places aren't hoping "men's room" is the lasting impression you have of their property. Ick.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Your 2008 Budweiser Scoring Leader

I realize that this sounds like the person who got the most beer-goggle induced action, but it's a statistic Major League Soccer tracked up until 2004. The league used to award two points for a goal and one point for an assist, and then add these two totals up to declare an overall "scoring winner."

I thought it might be interesting to see who would have won this year. Not surprisingly, Landon Donovan won this by virtue of his 20 goal/9 assist season.

Here's the top ten:

G A total
Donovan 20 9 49
Cooper 18 3 39
Buddle 15 3 33
Schelotto 7 19 33
Angel 14 3 31
Ching 13 5 31
Moreno, J 10 10 30
Emilio 11 5 27
Morales 6 15 27
Barrett, C 9 7 25
Rolfe 9 7 25
Blanco 7 11 25

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Schelotto Stalls at 19 Assists

At the beginning of September, I commented that Guillermo Barros Schelotto had a good chance of becoming just the second MLS player to ever tally 20 assists. While Schelotto had an MVP-caliber season he came up just short, tying Marco Etcheverry, Carlos Valderrama and Steve Ralston for the second highest total in league history.

Player TM GM A Year
1 Carlos Valderrama TB 32 26 2000
2 **Schelotto** CLB 27 19 2008
Marco Etcheverry DC 26 19 1996
Carlos Valderrama TB 20 19 1997
Marco Etcheverry DC 29 19 1998
Steve Ralston NE 27 19 2002
6 Steve Ralston TB 32 18 1999
7 Carlos Valderrama TB 23 17 1996
Preki KC 27 17 1997
Marco Etcheverry DC 22 17 1999
Mauricio Cienfuegos LA 30 17 1999
Steve Ralston TB 30 17 2000
Preki KC 30 17 2003

Schelotto's season also ranks him third in margin of victory for the assists title.

1 Carlos Valderrama 9 2000
2 Preki 6 2003
3 **Schelotto** 4 2008
Jaime Moreno 4 2004
5 Marco Etcheverry 3 1998
Steve Ralston 3 2002
7 Marco Etcheverry 2 1996
Carlos Valderrama 2 1997

What really did him in was the fact that he missed a couple of games down the stretch. In some ways it puts the skill of Carlos Valderrama into perspective. Not only does he top both of these lists, he also averaged 0.95 assists per game in 1997 when he recorded 19 assists in 20 games.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Donovan Joins the 20 Goal Club

With his penalty kick goal against Dario Sala this weekend, Landon Donovan became just the ninth player in MLS history to score 20 or more goals in a season. His 20 goals tied him for the eighth-best season total in history.

Player TM GM G Year
1 Roy Lassiter TB 30 27 1996
2 Stern John CLB 27 26 1998
Mamadou Diallo TB 28 26 2000
4 Carlos Ruiz LA 26 24 2002
5 Taylor Twellman NE 28 23 2002
Raul Diaz Arce DC 28 23 1996
7 Eduardo Hurtado LA 26 21 1996
8 Luciano Emilio DC 29 20 2007
Landon Donovan LA 25 20 2008

A couple of random notes about this feat:
  • Donovan is the first player to do so in a season other than his first in the league.
  • This is the first time the league has had 20-goal scorers in consecutive years, as Luciano Emilio did it last year.

Sadly my guess is that this will be his last season in Major League Soccer. Europe awaits...

Monday, October 20, 2008

MLS Hits the Big Time

Mark it down - 2008 was the year that Major League Soccer became truly major league. Was it due to the influx of major stars like Beckham and Blanco? Of course not. Was it the fact that Forbes analyzed the financial worth of MLS franchises for the first time? Certainly not.

We've finally got ourselves a drug scandal! Red Bulls defender Jeff Parke and goalkeeper Jon Conway were hit with a ten game ban for performance enhancing drugs. I know many folks were shocked, but if you look at Conway's team pictures from the last two years, we really should have seen this coming...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trinidad & Tobago's MLS Players

A number of players on the Trinidad and Tobago roster for tonight's game with the United States have played in Major League Soccer. The most notable is Stern John. Fondly remembered by fans of the Columbus Crew, he scored 52 goals in just 65 appearances for the team.

Other MLS alums on the roster include:
  • Cornell Glen, who played for five teams in just three years. From 2004-2006 he appeared in 45 games, scoring 12 goals.
  • Toronto FC rookie Julius James who has made 12 league appearances for John Carver's side this season.
  • Avery John who played 6,500 minutes in 75 appearances for the New England Revolution.
  • Keyeno Thomas, whose lackluster MLS career consisted of 12 appearances for the Colorado Rapids in 2000.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

XBOX 360 Achievements

Someone involved with the XBOX 360 is a stinking genius. It's certainly not the person that was responsible for the overheating problem that killed a goodly number of the first generation of XBOX 360 hardware. I'm talking about the person who came up with the idea of achievement points.

The achievement points concept brings an entire "game within a game" concept into play, allowing players to chase goals that really have nothing to do with the main thrust of the game. The absolute worst achievement I've collected has to be from The Simpsons Game which rewarded me for pressing the start button. Lame....

My favorite achievement comes from Crackdown which rewarded me for killing five criminals while in mid-air. Normally I wouldn't recommend jumping while using a rocket launcher, but man alive was that fun.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cuban Defectors Redux

Another tournament, another defection. The Washington Post is reporting that two members of the Cuban National Team defected prior to Saturday's World Cup qualifier. That brings this year's grand total to nine.

Seeing as how you could almost field an entire team with this year's defections, it seemed like a good time to give a full list of those who have wandered away from their hotels to try their luck in MLS/USL. Here's the list as I understand it, annotated with where these players ended up.

Full national team: Reinier Alcantara and Pedro Faife

Under-23 team: Yordany Alvarez and Yenier Bermudez signed with Guaynabo Fluminese FC in Puerto Rico. As near as I can tell their teammates Erlys Garcia Baro, Yendry Diaz, Jose Manuel Miranda, Loanni Prieto and Eder Roldan have not signed contracts with any teams.

Lester More and Osvaldo Alonso both signed with the USL1 Charleston Battery. More made 12 appearances for the Battery in 2008, while Alonso scooped up this year's USL1 Rookie of the Year award.

Maykel Galindo walked away from the team during the Gold Cup. I wrote about him in a previous post.

Alberto Delgado and Rey Angel Martinez defected during the 2002 Gold Cup in Los Angeles. Both of them have had pretty decent careers. The pair signed with the Colorado Rapids, making 14 and eight appearances respectively in 2004. Delgado moved on to the USL1 Puerto Rico Islanders where he has featured over 30 times. Martinez latched on with the Rochester Raging Rhinos where he appeared in 60 games before switching to his current team, the USL1 Carolina Railhawks.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Learning About Cuba... and Having Some Food

Being the coach of the Cuban national team comes with an added challenge -- every so often players defect and you never get to select them again. Since 2005 no less than ten players have defected from either the senior or Olympic teams. While it's too soon to know if any of the seven Olympic team members who defected this year will amount to anything, there are two previous defectors that many teams in CONCACAF would love to have.

Osvaldo Alonso defected during the 2007 Gold Cup tournament. After being low-balled by Chivas USA he signed with the Charleston Battery, who also signed defector Lester More. Alonso had a huge year for the Battery, scoring a total of seven goals while patrolling the midfield. His standout play led to him being named a finalist for the USL1 Rookie of the Year award.

Maykel Galindo defected after the 2005 Gold Cup and signed with the Seattle Sounders. After slightly less than two seasons in the land of Starbucks Galindo signed with Chivas USA. Although he's been injured for large swatches of this season, his blistering pace helped him score 12 goals in 28 regular-season matches last year.

Would adding these players back into the Cuban national team make them locks for a World Cup berth? Probably not, but it would certainly make games against them more difficult and add some spice to the qualifying process.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The House That Checketts Built

With Real Salt Lake's brand new Rio Tinto stadium set to open, I was planning on blogging about how teams had fared in their opening game at their new stadiums. However Michael C. Lewis at the Salt Lake Tribune already compiled the list I was going to create. The home teams in inaugural games at their new stadiums are 3-1-2, with the only loss belonging to expansion franchise Toronto FC.

When the game kicks off Thursday, the Red Bulls will become the third franchise to participate in two such games -- the former Metrostars were also the visitors when FC Dallas opened Pizza Hut Park. The other teams to play in more than one inaugural game are New England, who helped open Crew Stadium way back in 1999 and Toyota Park, and Colorado who lost to the Galaxy at the opening of the Home Depot Center before opening their own digs last year.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Houston, We Don't Have a Problem

With their thrilling 4-4 tie against Pumas earlier this week, the Houston Dynamo became the first American team to play an official game in Mexico and not lose... ever.

Congrats! Too bad the rest of the league has been a horrifying cesspool of suck in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Updated CCL Results By Country

Now that the group stage is half-completed (well, aside from the game in Houston that was postponed due to the hurricane) it seems like a good time to update the results table. On the whole USL1 fans must be pretty darn happy with Canada and Puerto Rico's entrants first and second in the charts.

Canada 3 0 2 5 1 4 60.0% 2.20
Puerto Rico 3 0 2 10 6 4 60.0% 2.20
Mexico 8 4 3 33 15 18 53.3% 1.80
Trinidad & Tobago 3 2 0 8 6 2 60.0% 1.80
Panama 4 3 3 14 7 7 40.0% 1.50
Costa Rica 2 2 1 6 8 -2 40.0% 1.40
Honduras 3 3 2 13 10 3 37.5% 1.38
El Salvador 1 2 1 4 7 -3 25.0% 1.00
Guatemala 1 3 1 6 12 -6 20.0% 0.80
Nicaragua 0 1 1 0 1 -1 0.0% 0.50
USA 0 6 3 6 18 -12 0.0% 0.33
Jamaica 0 1 0 0 3 -3 0.0% 0.00
Belize 0 2 0 0 12 -12 0.0% 0.00

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Remaking the San Jose Earthquakes

Before losing this weekend, the San Jose Earthquakes were riding a nine-game unbeaten streak which has them on the verge of leaving the Western Conference basement. The team has turned over a fair percentage of its roster during the season, trading for proven MLS vets such as Arturo Alvarez, Kelly Gray and Scott Sealy.

However the biggest spark has been provided by two foreigners that might not have been on the radar of MLS fans -- Darren Huckerby and Francisco Lima. Acquired within days of each other in July, these two players have put up a total of six goals and six assists in the last nine games, breathing life into a toothless San Jose attack. So just who are these players?

Huckerby is the better known of the two stateside. He spent the last five seasons playing for Norwich City in the English Championship and Premiership, where he made roughly 200 appearances for the Canaries. In May of this year he was named as part of the club's "greatest ever line-up."

Brazilian midfielder Lima came to the 'Quakes from Brescia in the Italian second division. Prior to that he travelled Europe, playing in Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and Italy. During four years with Roma, he played nearly 90 games, including almost 30 appearances between the Champions League and UEFA Cup tournaments.

I guess it just shows that you don't have to bring in big name stars to have a major impact on the quality of your team.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mac Kandji: the next Ching... or the next Tarley?

This evening Macoumba Kandji made his debut with the New York Red Bulls, becoming the latest forward to jump from USL1 to Major League Soccer. Should Red Bulls fans expect a scoring explosion? Recent history suggests not.

A number of forwards have made the jump since 2002. The most successful of these is Brian Ching. Released after a year with the Galaxy, he played with the Seattle Sounders in 2002 and scored 16 goals in 25 games. He jumped back to MLS in 2003 where he has scored 59 goals in 114 appearances. During this time he's also become a member of the national team.

Other USL1 forwards have been less successful:
  • Current Galaxy forward Alan Gordon co-led the A-League (the forerunner of USL1) in scoring in 2004 with 17 goals for the Portland Timbers. In MLS he has scored a grand total of 11 goals in the last three years.
  • Melvin Tarley caught the eye of Real Salt Lake with his strong play in the 2005 US Open Cup, but scored only one goal in 12 MLS appearances.
  • Gavin Glinton notched 11 goals for the Charleston Battery in 2006, good enough for fifth in the league. In MLS he has been a journeyman, scoring six goals in parts of five seasons for three different teams.
  • While playing for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 2003, Thiago Martins led the A-league in scoring with 22 goals, but he scored just six goals in 56 MLS games.

Will Kandji become the next Ching? It's difficult to tell since we are working with a limited sample size... but I would suggest against holding your breath.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Newcastle to be Bought by Nigerians?!?

A number of news outlets are reporting that a consortium of Nigerian businessmen are attempting to buy English side Newcastle United. I don't know about you, but if the letter below is any indication, I find this bid highly suspicious.


I am Mrs. Mariam Abacha, the widow of the late Gen. Sanni Abacha former Nigerian Military Head of State who died mysteriously as a result of Cardiac Arrest. Since after my husband's death, my family is under restriction of movement and our Bank Accounts both here and abroad are being frozen by the Nigerian Civilian Government.

Following the recent discovery of my husband's Bank Account by the Nigerians Government I therefore decided to contact you in confidence that I was above to move out the sum of US$400 Million Dollars, which was secret and is sealed in two Metal Boxes for security reasons.

I personally appeal to you seriously and religiously for your urgent assistance to move this money into Newcastle United Football Club where I believe it will be safe since I cannot leave the country.

You can contact me through my family Lawyer who will arrange with you for face to face meeting. Please do not sell Michael Owen, for he is my favorite player.

Go Toon!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Hexagonal Blog

If you're a stat geek like me, cast an adoring eye at Hexagonal Blog. Howard Hamilton has spent what is likely to be a ridiculous amount of time putting together club and domestic league power coefficients for CONCACAF, similar to those created for UEFA.

Where does MLS rank at the moment -- third, which seems about right to me. Now go over there and check the rest of it out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's RBI People!!!

I am really tired of sportscasters saying that a batter had two (or more) RBIs in a single game. RBI stands for Run Batted In. If a player doubles two runners home, they had two runs batted in. Thus they had two RBI -- NOT two RBIs. They did not have two Runs Batted Ins.

I realize this is a weird plural, like geese or radii, but it's your *@^# job people! I also realize that some dictionaries say it's acceptable to say RBIs. In my mind it's like wearing a Skoal t-shirt and baseball hat to church on Sunday. Just because society has deemed it allowable doesn't mean it's right.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The USL/MLS Overlap II: The Wrath of Khan

In a previous post I had researched the former Major League Soccer players that could be found on three USL1 teams - the Montreal Impact, Charleston Battery and Puerto Rico Islanders. Here's the rest of the league, broken down by team:

Atlanta Silverbacks
Scott Buete 21
David Hayes 18
Jerson Monteiro 5
Blake Camp 3
Justin Moore 2

Minnesota Thunder
Luchi Gonzalez 30
Mark Schulte 19
Melvin Tarley 12
Stephen deRoux 10
Tighe Dombrowski 4

Rochester Rhinos
Tenywa Bonseu 87
Andrew Gregor 23
Tiger Fitzpatrick 18
Alfonso Loera 15
John Ball 11
Luke Kreamalmeyer 6
Steve Guppy 5

Carolina Railhawks
Ronald Cerritos 224
David Stokes 24
Rey Martinez 8
Joey Worthen 3

Seattle Sounders
Taylor Graham 34
Josh Gardner 21
Leighton O'Brien 10
Nikolas Besagno 8
Roger Levesque 4
Danny Jackson 1

Portland Timbers
Chris Brown 208
Jamil Walker 77
Leonard Griffin 18
Byron Alvarez 8
Ray Burse, Jr. 6
Cameron Knowles 4
Chris Bagley 3
Arsene Oka 1
Scot Thompson 1

Vancouver Whitecaps
Nicholas Addlery 11
Justin Moose 8
Jay Nolly 8

Miami FC
Avery John 75
Eric Vasquez 23
Connaly Edozien 9
Willie Sims 9
Bruno Menezes 3
Sam Reynolds 2

Update: Added Luchi Gonzalez to Minnesota. He was listed as "Luis" on the USL site.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MLS Raiding USL2

There were a flurry of moves leading up to the Major League Soccer roster freeze deadline, and a surprisingly large number of them were signings of players from USL2 -- which is essentially the third division of American soccer.

Colorado: Kwame Sarkodie (Cleveland City Stars)
Columbus: Stanley Nyazamba (Richmond Kickers)
Dallas: Jeff Rowland (Wilmington Hammerheads)
DC: Greg Janicki and Thabiso Khumalo (both from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds)
New York: Terry Boss (Charlotte Eagles) and Matt Mbuta (Crystal Palace Baltimore)

Interestingly, Rowland and Khumalo were both drafted by MLS teams but didn't stick.

So why a bunch of players from USL2, rather than USL1? My guess is the classic combination of low asking price and potential upside. I doubt any of them will be major contributors during the MLS stretch run, but it certainly never hurts to look at young talent for the future.

A Tale of Two Strikers

So far this year a certain MLS forward has these statistics:

12 games, 1 goal, 566 minutes

Also this year, a certain forward has the following statistics during World Cup Qualifying:

5 games, 6 goals, 441 minutes

The name of these forwards? Carlos Ruiz and... Carlos Ruiz. That's right, the same player who can't seem to buy a goal for Los Angeles or Toronto this year is a scoring machine for Guatemala.

So what's the difference? Are CONCACAF defenses that much worse than those in Major League Soccer? Does Guatemala's midfield give him that much better service than David Beckham or Amado Guevara have this year in league play? Is he pining for the Hooters he helped open instead of attending the All-Star Game? Only El Pescadito knows for sure.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mass Effect Review

Made by the company behind the fantastic Baldur's Gate role-playing games, Mass Effect is the first sci-fi RPG I've ever played, and it's fantastic.

The main plot line involves a baddie named Saren who wants to wipe out humanity (and everything else) by finding and unleashing a race of intelligent machines called the Reapers. The scope is monumental, the look sleek and futuristic and the soundtrack well composed -- all things you would expect from a game of this type.

However the little things really make this game stand out. There are many subtle nods to actual science such as naming a location after Stephen Hawking and a type of ammo made up of Bose-Einstein condensate. The alien races are truly alien - both in look and behavior. The beefy elcor preface each sentence to non-Elcor with the emotion that is meant to be conveyed because truly understanding their native language requires the listener to be in tune with subtle scent and body posture variations. Are these sorts of details really needed? Of course not, but it certainly helps the immersive feel of the game.

There's lots of action, lots of sleuthing and lots of fun to be had. My verdict: this is a game well worth buying instead of renting, especially if you enjoy a good RPG... or alien ladies in tight-fitting body armor.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stupid Sports Injuries

For those of you who might have missed it, Real Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola managed to injure himself so badly last week that he had to be subbed out of the game and will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a severely sprained ankle. What happened? He did a backflip to celebrate a goal... that was disallowed for offsides.

This made me think of other odd sports injuries. Football fans may remember Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte knocking himself out of a game when he head-butted a wall celebrating a touchdown, or kicker Bill Gramatica who tore up his knee celebrating a more-or-less meaningless field goal.

Baseball is replete with weird injuries - but most of those seem to happen off the field. The Brewers' Matt Wise sliced his hand open on a pair of salad tongs a year or two ago. One of my favorites was that of Royals outfielder Mark Quinn, a former member of my fantasy baseball team who injured himself because he tripped over a table while "playing kung fu" with his brother.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Is it bad that whenever they mention Hurricane Ike on the news I get this image in my mind?

If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to mention my favorite news headline of all time Ike 'Beats' Tina to Death.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Leading MLS in Assists and Goals

If you look closely at the last two posts, you might notice one name that's shared across the lists -- Jaime Moreno. So far he's the only person to lead the league in both assists and goals (albeit not in the same season.)

No player has ever led the league in both categories in the same year, but two players have come close. In 2006 Real Salt Lake's Jeff Cunningham led the league in scoring with 16 goals, and ended tied for second in assists with four other players. One of the players he was tied with was Christian Gomez, who tied Ante Razov for the second most goals at 14.

MLS Scoring Title Margins

In keeping with yesterday's theme, here's a look at the biggest gaps between the MLS Golden Boot winner and the second place goal scorer.

The race for top scorer has been very close most years, with only four seasons where the top scorer beat the man in second by more than two goals. In three seasons (1999, 2003 and 2004) two or more players tied for the lead.

If the season ended today, Landon Donovan would be fifth on the list, as he leads teammate Edson Buddle and Dallas' Kenny Cooper by three goals.

Mamadou Diallo 8 2000
Stern John 7 1998
Roy Lassiter 4 1996
Alex Pineda Chacon 4 2001
Jeff Cunningham 2 2006
Jaime Moreno 1 1997
Carlos Ruiz 1 2002
Taylor Twellman 1 2005
Luciano Emilio 1 2007

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

MLS Assist Title Margins

With Guillermo Barros Schelotto attempting to become just the second MLS player to reach twenty assists this year, I thought it would be interesting to see just how dominant Valderrama's record-setting 2000 season was.

As it turns out, not only did Valderrama set the mark for most assists, but he also set the record for the largest gap between the top assist man and second place, outdistancing Steve Ralston by nine helpers. The only tie occurred in 2001 when Diego Serna and John Wilmar Perez shared the crown.

Carlos Valderrama 9 2000
Preki 6 2003
Jaime Moreno 4 2004
Marco Etcheverry 3 1998
Steve Ralston 3 2002
Marco Etcheverry 2 1996
Carlos Valderrama 2 1997
Steve Ralston 1 1999
Dwayne De Rosario 1 2005
Terry Cooke 1 2006
Steve Ralston 1 2007

If the season ended today, Guillermo Barros Schelotto would place second on this list, as he is currently eight assists ahead of Salt Lake's Javier Morales.

Monday, September 08, 2008

How much more black could it be...?

After watching the last two US world cup qualifiers, it seemed time to update the list of the worst-lit stadiums.

1. Estadio Esteban Hawking, black hole in Sagittarius A*, central Milky Way
2. Estadio Mateo Flores, Guatemala City, Guatemala
3. Estadio Pedro Marrero, Havana, Cuba
4. Ernest Shackleton Stadium, Lake Vostok, Antarctica

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Soup

The Soup can be summed up in one word: snarky. Every week host Joel McHale skewers the worst of television and pop culture, targeting the deplorable (such as A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila) the egomaniacal (Tyra Banks, Janice Dickenson) and the incomprehensible (say Willard Scott or the spaghetti-eating cat that mysteriously showed up on the Mike and Juliet Show.)

The humor ranges from the high-brow to the bargain basement and back again. You're as likely to hear them ridicule MTV's pronouncement of The Hills as this generation's A Tale of Two Cities with actual Dickens jokes as you are that the self-professed "Yank Skank" who slept with Alex Rodriguez was called a "Cub Dumpster" when she lived in Chicago.

All in all, this is one of the most consistently funny shows on television. For more information check out The Soup Blog

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The USL/MLS overlap

With the fantastic results of Montreal and Puerto Rico in the CONCACAF Champions League and the highly entertaining US Open Cup final involving the Charleston Battery, some would argue that the gap between the USL and MLS is narrowing. This may be due (at least in part) to the influx of former MLS players into USL.

There are a number of players on these three teams with MLS experience, including two players with more than 100 appearances. (There are also a number of players that were drafted by MLS teams, but never played. Those players are not listed below)

Here are those players, listed in order of MLS appearances.

Charleston Battery
Nelson Akwari 78
Stephen Armstrong 77
Lazo Alavanja 58
John Wilson 32
Dusty Hudok 12
Marco Reda 8

Montreal Impact
Matt Jordan 117
Pato Aguilera 19
Felix Brillant 19
David Testo 16
Adam Braz 13
Roberto Brown 13

Puerto Rico Islanders
Petter Villegas 117
Fabrice Noel 18
Bill Gaudette 17
Alberto Delgado 14
Osei Telesford 2

(edit -- I missed Stephen Armstrong in the original list. Thanks for pointing that out Mike!)

Friday, September 05, 2008

CCL Results By Country

Now that the preliminary round is if the CONCACAF Champions League is complete, I thought it would be interesting to see the results broken down by country. Mexico is first, in part by virtue of Cruz Azul's pounding of Hankook Verdes. If you're an American fan... avert your eyes. Ugh.

Mexico 3 0 0 15 0 15 100.0% 3.00
Trinidad & Tobago 2 0 0 6 1 5 100.0% 3.00
Puerto Rico 1 0 1 3 2 1 50.0% 2.00
Canada 1 0 1 1 0 1 50.0% 2.00
Panama 2 1 1 8 2 6 50.0% 1.75
Guatemala 1 1 0 1 5 -4 50.0% 1.50
Honduras 0 0 2 4 4 0 0.0% 1.00
Costa Rica 0 1 1 2 3 -1 0.0% 0.50
El Salvador 0 1 1 3 4 -1 0.0% 0.50
Nicaragua 0 1 1 0 1 -1 0.0% 0.50
USA 0 3 1 2 9 -7 0.0% 0.25
Jamaica 0 1 0 0 3 -3 0.0% 0.00
Belize 0 2 0 0 12 -12 0.0% 0.00

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Can Donovan Join the 20 Goal Club?

Landon Donovan's brace against New England last weekend brings his goal total to 16 with eight games left on the Galaxy's schedule. If he manages to knock in four more goals, it would make him the ninth player in MLS history to reach the 20-goal plateau.

Player TM GM G Year
1 Roy Lassiter TB 30 27 1996
2 Stern John CLB 27 26 1998
Mamadou Diallo TB 28 26 2000
3 Carlos Ruiz LA 26 24 2002
4 Taylor Twellman NE 28 23 2002
Raul Diaz Arce DC 28 23 1996
5 Eduardo Hurtado LA 26 21 1996
6 Luciano Emilio DC 29 20 2007

As you can see, no player has ever registered at least 20 goals more than once. When Luciano Emilio did it last season, he was the first to do so in five years. This is Donovan's best goal-scoring year by far with 16 goals in just 18 games played. Can he make it to 20? That's a very interesting question.

Because MLS does not break for international dates, Donovan will likely miss at least two of the Galaxy's remaining eight games while on World Cup qualifying duty. The US plays Cuba on 9/6 and Trinidad and Tobago on 9/10, meaning Donovan will miss the 9/6 game against Salt Lake. The US plays the return legs of those fixtures 10/11 and 10/15, which means he'll likely miss the 10/12 game against Colorado. Factoring in fatigue and injuries from these games, he could also miss 10/18 against Houston and 9/13 against Kansas City.

If he keeps scoring at this rate, he'll finish with 20 goals if he plays at least five more games. Whether he plays that many remains to be seen. If he doesn't, it's yet another in a long line of arguments against MLS playing on FIFA dates.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Schelotto Hunts 20 Assists

Over the weekend the Crew's Guillermo Barros Schelotto notched his fifteenth and sixteenth assists of the year, putting him in prime position to achieve something that has only been done once in the history of Major League Soccer -- tally 20 assists in one season.

Carlos Valderrama set the single-season mark in 2000 with 26 assists in 32 games. How hard is it to get 20 assists? Only two other players have ever reached 19 assists - Marco Etcheverry (who did it twice) and Steve Ralston. In fact if Schelotto's fails to tally another assist, it would already tie him for the fifth best season of all time.

Player TM GM A Year
1 Carlos Valderrama TB 32 26 2000
2 Marco Etcheverry DC 26 19 1996
Carlos Valderrama TB 20 19 1997
Marco Etcheverry DC 29 19 1998
Steve Ralston NE 27 19 2002
3 Steve Ralston TB 32 18 1999
4 Carlos Valderrama TB 23 17 1996
Preki KC 27 17 1997
Marco Etcheverry DC 22 17 1999
Mauricio Cienfuegos LA 30 17 1999
Steve Ralston TB 30 17 2000
Preki KC 30 17 2003
5 **Schelotto** CLB 22 16 2008
Carlos Valderrama COL 27 16 2002
Martin Machon MIA 24 16 2000
Mauricio Cienfuegos LA 30 16 1998

How good are Schelotto's chances? If he continue to provide assists at his current rate, he would end with 21 assists. If he tallies a helper every other game, he'll end with 20. It's not a lock, but the chances look pretty good.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Amy Winehouse Decision Tree

Now you too can determine whether or not you should go to rehab.

113 Miiiiillion Dollars...

So what can you purchase for 113 million dollars? If you're the soccer clubs of Manchester, England, you can buy two players. That's right, just two. On the last day of the European transfer window, Manchester United purchased Dimitar Berbatov from Totteham Hotspur. The price? Roughly $55,00,000.

However that wasn't even the largest transfer of the day. Not to be outdone, Manchester City pulled a fast one and plucked Brazilian winger Robinho out from under the noses of Chelsea for a British record $58.5 million bucks. Isn't Roman Abromavich being outbid for a player the third seal?

Somewhere Dr. Evil wishes he had this kind of money.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blanco/Gomez trade?!?

This is one of the best pieces of satire I've seen in a long time. Dang howdy does it hit the comedy sweet spot. Stop over to the MLS Rumors Rumors web site and show them some love.

Blanco to Rapids for Gomez?

Friday, August 29, 2008

The First 48

My wife and I are addicted to a show called The First 48 which airs on A&E. The basic premise is that the first 48 hours of a homicide investigation are crucial, and if no solid leads develop in that time, solving it is more or less a lost cause.

Each episode follows two actual murder cases, each from a different city. Having watched 30 or so episodes from it's seven seasons, some patterns have appeared. At least in the cities they have visited, the following items are risk factors for being shot:

  • Being involved in the drug trade, or having family/friends who are. A surprisingly large percentage of these cases involve drugs
  • Renting rather than owning the place you live.
  • Being a member of a minority group.
In all seriousness, it's disturbing how callous and stupid many of the perpetrators are. Take for example the woman who wanted to bail her boyfriend out of jail. What was her solution? She called a cab and had the cabbie drive her and some friends into a deserted part of town where they shot him for his fare money. How much money did they get? Less than $100 -- far less than they needed.

On a less somber (and more sophomoric) note, one of the detectives on the show is Officer Lusty. I kid you not. That would be a fantastic stage name for a male stripper. Even better than "Officer Naughty" who advertised in a local paper a few years ago.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

That's Not Jo' Public

While Hankook Verdes is a great sounding name, there is one league in CONCACAF whose team names easily outshine the rest of the region. That league is of course the T&T Pro League of Trinidad and Tobago.

Check out these names:

  • Joe Public (T&T's entry in the CONCACAF Champions League)
  • Defence Force
  • W Connection
Defence Force is made up of players from the Army and Coast Guard. W Connection was founded by the Williams brothers, so that name's origin looks pretty obvious. Joe Public? You've got me...

Adios Verdes

Cruz Azul's 6-0 thrashing of their opponents from Belize all-but eliminated one of my favorite team names from the 2008 CONCACAF Champions League: Hankook Verdes.

I understand the Verdes part (verde = green in Spanish - hence the uniforms,) but where did the Hankook part come from? Googling this was surprisingly unhelpful, although I did learn that they changed their name from Real Verdes Football Club in 2004*. Salt Lake, are you listening?

If anyone knows what inspired the Hankook part, leave me a comment!

*thanks Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I've Got Mad Hits Like I Was Rod Carew

I just finished watching Chivas USA lose 2-0 to Tauro FC of Panama. My question is... what the heck was up with the turf at Estadio Rod Carew?

I've heard of crop circles before, but crop squares? Was the groundskeeper going for the Boston Garden look? With the gradation from dark to light borders it's like an Escher woodcut... except without the fish.
On another note, boy is it painful to see Chicago Fire icon Zach Thornton lumbering around out there. He still holds the career records for wins and saves for my beloved Fire. At his prime he was a brick wall in front of the goal. Now he looks and moves like a brick wall. Ugh.

Gallardo vs Gomez

Before the season started, DC United inked their first Designated Player - Marcello Gallardo. To make room for the crafty Argentinian, DC sent perennial all-star and the barra's favorite drummer Christian Gomez to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for a first round pick in the 2009 Superdraft and the always intriguing "future considerations."

The common logic was that DC needed to blow up the team to win some silverware, and that Gallardo would be the mastermind of the new DC attack. So, with less than a third of the season left, are they on track? Is DC really any better off with Gallardo than they were when Gomez ran the attack?

The stats so far:

Gomez 19 games (1373 min) 3 goals, 6 assists
Gallardo 12 games (995 min) 4 goals, 3 assists

Gallardo has spent a fair amount of time injured this year. He didn't contribute anything to United's run to the US Open Cup final, nor did his presence keep them from being bounced from the CONCACAF Champions Cup. As a neutral fan Colorado looks to be slightly ahead on this deal... but the remaining scenarios make this interesting:

  1. If Colorado wins MLS Cup with Gomez, the Rapids win this hands down.
  2. If DC wins MLS Cup and Gallardo contributes mightily, Kevin Payne will have achieved his objective.
  3. If DC wins the CONCACAF Champions League with Gallardo running the attack, that would also be a significant trophy.
  4. DC still has a well-placed SuperDraft pick to use. If it's still even at the end of the year and DC ends up with a real stud from the draft, the balance of this deal could shift in their favor.

It should be interesting to see how this pans out. I'll revisit this at the end of the year.

In the Beginning

Since this is a new blog, it's time for the obligatory opening statement. So what should you expect to see here?

  • Items relating to Major League Soccer. Hopefully backed up with some sort of factual analysis. However it's likely to devolve into pithy comments.
  • Soccer tidbits from other leagues.
  • Video game stuff. I'm a geek. Deal with it.
  • Things that annoy me to the point that I want to vent my spleen.