Saturday, March 28, 2009

Intriguing MLS Newcomers

There are quite a few interesting players coming into the league this year. Here are a couple to keep an eye on.

Fredy Montero - Forward - Seattle
If I had posted this last week as intended, I would look like a genius right now. Montero is only 21 years old, yet has led the Colombian league in scoring twice. A pure finisher, Montero has already drawn interest from the likes of Real Betis and if his brace on opening day is any indication, his silky skills may be heading for Europe before very long. Enjoy him while you can.

Santiago Hirsig - Midfielder - Kansas City

For their second Argentine player, the Wizards imported Santiago Hirsig. A veteran of over 200 top flight games in his homeland, Hirsig helped San Lorenzo win the 2008 Apertura title. Word on the street is that San Lorenzo wanted Hirsig back, but he left over unpaid wages. Lacking a true playmaker for a number of years, he could be the missing piece of the puzzle on offense for Kansas City.

Osvaldo Alonso - Midfielder - Seattle

Those spoiling for a comparison between the level of USL1 and MLS have their chance with Alonso, who won the USL1 Rookie of the Year award last season. Chivas USA had a chance to sign the Cuban defector last year, but he rejected a low-ball offer from them. If his performance last week is any indication a number of MLS teams are probably kicking themselves for not scooping up the dynamic midfielder last year.

You Come Here Often?

Microsoft shipped a "coffin" for our dead Xbox. It's just a plain white box with some rather ingenious foam pieces and another packing label inside. There are absolutely no markings on it whatsoever. My wife brought it to the UPS store Friday, and as she plopped the box down on the counter, the clerk turned around and said "Sending in your Xbox, huh?"

Mind you, the packing label wasn't facing the clerk...

Think they have seen a few of these?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Xbox Done Died

My Xbox 360 died on Monday. I've had it 15 months... 3 months longer than the warranty. Those of you in the know might say "but there's a three year warranty on them now." That's true, but the three years only applies if you get the fabled "red ring of death" where there are three red lights. Mine only has one. Evidently it's the wrong kind of broken, and now I have to pay $100 to get it fixed.

To be completely honest, this is the third Xbox I've had die. The first one I bought got the red ring after just two months of play, so I brought it back to Target for a new one. When I got that one set up, it wouldn't read any of my games, so I brought that one back and got a refund.

A few months later I heard that Microsoft had fixed the problems with the initial batch of Xboxen, and bought the one that just died. So officially that's three dead consoles in the space of two years. Unbelievable. Meanwhile my 11 year old PS2 keeps chugging along happy as can be. I've owned game systems for the last 30 years and I've never had one of them break. Hell - my Atari 2600 even still works.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We're Number 114!

If you thought the proliferation of pointless post-season competitions was limited to college football bowl games, you're wrong. Fresh on the heels of the prestigious College Basketball Invitational whose storied history reaches back to.... umm... last year... comes the Tournament.

Both the CBI and CIT tournaments include 16 teams which did not get selected for the NCAA or Nobody's Interested Tournament National Invitational Tournament. If you rank these tournaments by longevity, this means that the participants in the CIT tournament are competing to be crowned the 114th best team in the country. Do we really need more than a third of the Division One men's teams competing in a tournament? Are athletic departments really this desperate for cash?

FIFA Gives Marquez the Smackdown

If you watched the recent US-Mexico qualifier, you saw Mexico's Rafa Marquez do his best Chuck Norris impression in spiking US keeper Tim Howard. Marquez drew a straight red card, ensuring he would miss the next World Cup qualifier. Yesterday FIFA decided this blatent attempt to injure Howard was actually worthy of a two-match ban.

If Marquez acting like a big baby and playing hatchet man when losing against the US sounds vaguely familiar, it is. In the 2002 World Cup, Marquez was handed a four-match suspension for a flying headbutt on Cobi Jones in the waning minutes of a 2-0 defeat.

The fun part about this is that one of Mexico's assistant coaches also received a two-match ban for slapping Frankie Hejduk in the tunnel after the game.

For your viewing pleasure, I bring you a reply of Marquez's Mortal Kombat moment against Howard.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

USL1 Instability

The exploits of the Montreal Impact and Puerto Rico Islanders in this year's CONCACAF Champions League have brought a ton of much-needed publicity to the upstart USL1. This has led some posters on various internet message boards to start comparing the leagues and propose that either (a) the USL should try to compete directly with MLS or (b) the two leagues should work together to set up relegation/promotion *sigh*.

What folks tend to forget during these discussions is that the USL1 is about as stable as a house of Jell-o in a hurricane. Over the last five seasons, seven teams have been added, and ten teams have disappeared. This constant turnover of teams makes the league look rinky-dink to many folks even though the top teams are really pretty stable.

Here's the full list of moves since 2004.

Cleveland City StarsSeattle Sounders (moved to MLS)
Austin AztexAtlanta Silverbacks (on hiatus)
noneCalifornia Victory (folded)
California VictoryVirginia Beach Mariners (folded)
Carolina RailhawksToronto Lynx (folded)
Miami FCRichmond Kickers (dropped to USL2)
noneSyracuse Salty Dogs (folded)
Milwaukee Wave (folded)
Edmonton Aviators (folded)
Calgary Mustangs (folded)
Puerto Rico Islandersnone
Edmonton Aviators

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This

From time to time you'll see a strip mall where complimentary businesses have set up shop. For example a florist and a gift shop or a dentist and a doctor's office. In this mindset, I have very low expectations for this restaurant located somewhere along the highway between Disney World and the Orlando International Airport.

You're probably not much better off with the pizzeria or Ponderosa...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Let's Make That 30,000 Fans...

A few days ago I commented that the Seattle Sounders had sold over 20,000 season tickets. They have been so successful that they are changing the soccer configuration of Qwest Field to accommodate 27,700 fans per game, with a cap of 22,000 season tickets.

Sales have been so strong that they have actually opened up more seats for their opening match against the Red Bulls to fit a crowd of expected to be north of 30,000 people.

That's not the only success story this month. The Montreal Impact packed 55,571 fans into Olympic Stadium for their CONCACAF Champions League game against Santos Laguna of Mexico. This is easily the biggest crowd of the tournament thus far.

Note to MLS -- evidently we need more teams near the Canadian border. Portland Timbers, you're on the clock.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Great Galaxy Purge

So how weak was the 2008 Los Angeles Galaxy roster? Bruce Arena certainly doesn't seem to think much of it. So far this offseason he has already waived six players that saw significant minutes last season:

GM Minutes
Ely Allen 12 848
Alvaro Pires 19 1253
Brandon McDonald 16 1036
Mike Randolph 20 1468
Troy Roberts 17 1316
Steve Cronin 22 1935

If you factor in the trade of Ante Jazic, retirements of Greg Vanney and Joey Franchino, and likely transfer of David Beckham, the Galaxy will likely start the year with only five players who appeared in at least half of their games last season. Truly amazing for a non-expansion team.

I Survived

I hate this show.

It's quite difficult for me to find words to express the deep and abounding loathing I have for this television show. For the uninitiated, I Survived is a show on the Biography Channel in which people recount the absolute worst thing that's ever happened to them. Truthfully it should be called The Thing That Scarred Me Forever.

Consisting almost entirely of close up interview footage, people explain truly horrific events in brutal detail. Sometimes it's a story of man against nature, like people caught in a storm, those who had their snowmobiles fall through the ice, etc. Those stories are palatable. The ones that are almost unwatchable feature people that have looked unspeakable evil in the face.

Take for example the story of a woman who was attacked in her own home, terrorized, raped and bound. After that her assailant hit her in the head with a hammer, stabbed her and then tried to pound the knife into her head with the hammer. It's truly horrifying, brutal and gut-churning. If you don't believe in metaphysical evil, you will after watching these stories.

After 10-15 minutes of each story, it ends with the victim saying why they thought they survived. That's right, 10-15 minutes of total nightmare fuel followed up by an afterthought of "Oh, yeah, I didn't die and stuff..."

This isn't to say that these sorts of stories shouldn't be told. On CBS 48 Hours has started a series of episodes called Live to Tell which covers the same ground. I've actually seen the same story on both shows, and the thing that sets the 48 Hours version apart is that only 1/3 of the episode centers on the gory details. The rest talks about how they caught the psycho that did these horrible things and how the person rebuilt their life. By following this larger story arc, it prevents me from wanting to throw myself under a bus at the end of the show - and I thank them for that.