Monday, July 27, 2009

How Will MLS Fare in the Prelims?

There are three MLS teams competing in the Preliminary Round of the Champions League. Sadly these opening games look like ripe for more MLS failure.

DC United takes on LA Firpo of El Salvador. This year's DC side seems deeper than last year's edition, and MLS changed things around a bit so they weren't competing in both this tournament and the Superliga. Firpo is a good team, but I expect DC to slip past them into the group stage.

Wednesday sees Toronto FC open their series against the Puerto Rico Islanders. While Toronto is a decent side, but they still suffer from a lack of reliable goal scoring from their forwards. Unfortunately they have drawn a talented Islanders side that showed last year that they have the goods to make a deep run into the tournament. Unless Ali Gerba immediately meshes with his new teammates, this looks like a win for the boys in orange from Puerto Rico.

This brings us to the sad, sad spectacle of the New York Red Bulls. On pace for the worst season ever in MLS, they take on Trinidad and Tobago's W Connection. I give NY very little hope in this matchup even though they have one of the weakest opponents in the opening rounds. Truthfully I kind of hope they lose this series... otherwise we'll have to watch them suck it up for six games in the group stage against much tougher competition.

The 2009 CONCACAF Champions League Field

The 2009/2010 CONCACAF Champions League kicks off tomorrow, and I'm very excited to see its return. Half of the 24 team field are repeats from last year's tournament:
  • DC United and Houston Dynamo (USA)
  • Cruz Azul and Pumas (Mexico)
  • Saprissa (Costa Rica)
  • Isidro Metapan and Luis Angel Firpo (El Salvador)
  • Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico... duh!)
  • Olimpia and CD Marathon (Honduras)
  • CD Jalapa (Guatemala)
  • San Francisco (Panama)
Since the qualifying is based on country rather than league, there are actually five MLS teams in this year's field. The American contingent is rounded out by the Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls, while the fifth team is Canada's entry - Toronto FC.

There was some... strangeness regarding qualification this year. Belize lost its spot in the competition due to a lack of stadiums that met the tournament's requirements. The same thing happened to Nicaragua when it was determined that Real Esteli's stadium did not pass inspection. Things got even stranger when El Salvador's Chalatenango never filed their paperwork to accept their place in the competition.

The rest of the field is as follows:
  • Pachuca and Toluca (Mexico)
  • Liberia and Herediano (Costa Rica)
  • Real Espana (Honduras)
  • Communicaciones (Guatemala)
  • Arabe Unido (Panama)
  • W Connection and San Juan Jabloteh (Trinidad and Tobago)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

MLS Alumni on the Move

A couple of MLS alums have found new teams. After regaining his scoring touch in Paraguay, Carlos Ruiz has moved from Apertura champs Olimpia to Mexican club Puebla. One of the best strikers in league history, Ruiz still ranks 8th on the all-time MLS goal scoring list.

Puebla recently lost another former FC Dallas player when Ramon Nunez moved to Cruz Azul. Nunez logged almost 4,500 minutes in MLS, scoring 14 goals and 12 assists in 79 appearances between 2004 and 2007.

On another continent, former Minnesota Thunder, New York Red Bulls and DC United player Francis "Grandpa" Doe has signed on with Egyptian powers Al Ahly. Doe scored four goals in 23 appearances spread over three seasons in MLS.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The USL/MLS Overlap - 2009 Edition

Last year I put together a listing of the USL1 players that had appeared in MLS games. With the lower number of roster spots available in MLS this season, I expected there to be quite a few more MLS alums in USl1, but that's not the case - in fact there is one fewer.

This year's leaders -- the Carolina Railhawks and Puerto Rico Islanders with eight former MLS players apiece.

Austin Aztex

Kyle Brown 24
Sam Reynolds 2
David Winner 23

Carolina Railhawks
John Cunliffe 27
Gavin Glinton 67
Luke Kreamalmeyer 6
Amir Lowery 2
Daniel Paladini 8
Brian Plotkin 23
Mark Schulte 19
Jack Stewart 39

Charleston Battery
Nelson Akwari 78
Stephen Armstrong 77
Tyler Hemming 7
Dusty Hudok 12
Jamie Watson 39
John Wilson 32

Cleveland City Stars
Pato Aguilera 19
Ibrahim Kante 2
Arsene Oka 1
Troy Roberts 61
Israel Sesay 3 (on loan)

Miami FC
Connaly Edozien 9
Facundo Erpen 87
Diego Serna 124

Minnesota Thunder
Rod Dyachecnko 42
Julius James 15
Quavas Kirk 43
Andrew Peterson 2
Melvin Tarley 12

Montreal Impact
Adam Braz 13
Roberto Brown 13
Felix Brillant 19
Stephen deRoux 10
Srdjan Djekanovic 8
Matt Jordan 117
David Testo 16

Puerto Rico Islanders
Nicholas Addlery 11
Bill Gaudette 17
Dan Gargan 49
Domenic Mediate 37
Fabrice Noel 18
Osei Telesford 2
Kyle Veris 18
Petter Villegas 117

Rochester Rhinos
John Ball 11
Andrew Gregor 23
Tiger Fitzpatrick 18
Ty Harden 28
Scott Vallow 4

Portland Timbers
Steve Cronin 28
David Hayes 18
Stephen Keel 10
Cameron Knowles 4
Ryan Pore 58
Keith Savage 6
Scot Thompson 1

Vancouver Whitecaps
Justin Moose 8
Jay Nolly 8
Jeff Parke 132
Marco Reda 8

If you're interested in last year's list, you can view it here and here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

US Oopsie Cup

The Major League Soccer sides played their first games in this year's US Open Cup this week, and half of them got knocked off by lower-level opponents. One of the most unlikely was the New England Revolution being beaten by the USL-2 Harrisburg City Islanders.

In a burst of insanity (or apathy) New England coach Steve Nicol made all three of his allowed subs at halftime. This came back to burn him big time as Kheli Dube went down with an ankle injury with almost a half hour left in the game. Twenty minutes later the Revs suffered another injury, forcing them to play the rest of regulation and all of extra time with just nine players.

You've got to feel for the Revs, but what the heck was he thinking leaving himself with no subs?

Why Must Modern Lyrics Suck?

I was listening to some Duke Ellington the other day, and was struck by just how low our standards for song lyrics are these days. Take this lyric from Come to Baby, Do!
So pucker up my sweet
and meet your Waterloo
Come to baby, do!
How many people writing songs these days even know what Waterloo is? Now we get to listen to the ever-nuanced Gwen Stefani repeat That's my sh*t over and over again.

Even songs about boot-knockin' were much better. Take this other Ellington example where after informing her man that he must kiss her Long Strong and Consecutive, the singer adds:
When I want a chicken, I don't want the gizzard
When I go a-fishin' a minnow won't do
You must be a standout, a whirlwind a wizard,
got to be the champ, or else you're through.
It's a long, sad road from this to "I don't want no short d*ck man." *sigh*

Got My Mind on My Money, and My Money on the Mob

A review of 1 vs 100 Live for the XBOX 360

My dream of playing NTN Trivia from the comfort of my living room has finally come true... kind of. Microsoft is currently beta testing a massively multiplayer version of the television game show 1 vs 100. In addition to live games where "the one" and "the mob" are chosen from the thousands of people logged into the game, there are Extended Play sessions where the entire crowd competes on the same 37 questions.

In my opinion, the Extended Play sessions are more fun as they give you real chance to test your mettle against the masses. The contestants on the live show rarely make it more than a half dozen questions, which make competing from the crowd more of a buzzer-racing contest than a true test of knowledge.

As a true geek, I have some qualms with the questions. There have been numerous questions that were wrong because of poor editing. For example -- there is no Major League Soccer team called the Colorado Rockies -- it's the Colorado Rapids. Another is the repetition of questions. Now that I've been playing for a while, it's common for 10-20% of the questions to be repeats. For those who play more frequently, the percentage is probably higher. A third is that there's no sort of provision the keeps very similar questions from being in the same set. I once saw two questions about Scottish soccer and two about the musical Rent in the same round of extended play.

Hopefully Microsoft can get some of these issues resolved, and they don't get greedy by trying to charge for the game even though they show you in-game ads and you have to ante up for a gold membership to play in the first place. If this is true, I'll be wasting ridiculous amounts of time playing this for the foreseeable future.

Confederations Cup Rewind

By now any fan of the US Men's National Team already knows that the boys followed up their miracle escape from the group stage by snapping Spain's record unbeaten streak and going up 2-0 on Brazil before coming back to earth. Rather then opine on how historic these results might be, I'd like to present some things we may have learned about this team.

It's a Whole Lot Easier to Play With 11 Men
Everyone's head exploded when the US got their lunch handed to them in the first two games. What folks seemed to overlook is that the US played 90 out of 180 minutes of those games a man down. You won't find many teams who will handle Brazil and Italy well 10 v 11.

Charlie Davies is Legit
When Davies left Boston College early and jumped straight to Hammarby in Sweden I thought it was a mistake. Many others that have opted to spurn MLS and go straight Europe have slunk back home after a year or two of riding the pine. Davies has bucked the trend, and has teams from larger leagues looking into acquiring him. If his goal versus Egypt and well worked counter with Donovan against Brazil are any indication, he may be the speed option the US has lacked up top for a while now.

Donovan is a Midfielder
This tournament may be the best performance Donovan has ever put in as a Nat. He was all over the field and stole the show. In the thick of the action, he's a warrior, but as a forward he seems to lose focus and drift out of the game. Hopefully this will keep Bob Bradley from deploying him up top any more.