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Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


March 30, 2006

OPENING DAY!


by @ 10:08 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

If you’re watching Dallas v Chicago on Saturday (On ABC at 3:00 CENTRAL, not Eastern, as I said in my last post), look for Cid and I. We’ll be behind the goal with the Inferno, singing and chanting, jumping up and down, and quite possibly yelling obscenities at Zach Thornton (well, Cid will, anyway).

If you have a chance, by all means make a trip to Frisco to watch FC Dallas this year. The stadium is a palace. Be sure to come down to Section 116 and say Hi.

March 29, 2006

MLS PREVIEW


by @ 3:44 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

In the spring, a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of . . . soccer.

Duh.

We’re here again; yet another opening day in MLS approaches. Some interesting city/ownership changes in the offseason, a new stadium almost ready for play, and a World Cup to mess up the summertime Win-Loss record of several teams. But would it really be MLS without a little chaos?

So without further eloquence, and in no particular order (except that I saved the best for last), I give you the 2nd Annual DJ’s All-Star Super-Duper Energy-Drink-Powered MLS Preview.


NEW YORK (and perhaps New Jersey) RED BULLS

Red Bull New York are essentially last year’s Metros, but with a twist. In an intriguing and risky strategy, the team has gotten rid of every forward on the roster. A lot of people wouldn’t have played it that way, I think, but hey, I’m no Austrian Beverage Billionaire, so what do I know? [editors note: right before press time, RBNY picked up Edson Buddle from the Crew in exchange for Eddie Gaven; it could be a brilliant deal, or it could be the end of the current front office's tenure. Time will tell.]

Prediction:
After wowing a skeptical fanbase with a style of play that features improved performance, increased concentration and reaction speed, increased endurance, and stimulated metabolism, the Red Bulls will be devastated when the League Office announces the franchise will have to forfeit all games played in 2006. The reason: random drug testing reveals unbelievably high levels of taurine and glucuronolactone in not only every player on the roster, but also in the coaching staff, front office personnel, sales staff, equipment managers, and ball-boys. President and GM Alexi Lalas will be quoted as saying “You know, we really should seen that one coming”.

HOUSTON (not 1836) DYNAMO
If you’re like me, when you think of Houston, you immediately think of soccer, and when you think of Houston Soccer, you immediately associate it with the great Dynamo Moscow teams of the 60’s. Right? Sure you do. So what could be more natural than naming the new(ish) MLS franchise Houston Dynamo. Or is it Dynamo Houston? Or is it Houston Dynamos? Or for that matter, Houston Dynamoes? This is all so confusing. At least they’re not playing at some crappy college football stadium.

What?

Anyway, here’s a team with a style and swagger that immediately brings to mind those great San Jose Earthquake teams of the last few years. In fact, the similarities are so thorough that if one didn’t know better, one would think they were all but identical. I know they can’t be, however, because I looked closely at the roster and didn’t see Landon Donovan. That settles that.

Prediction: Sometime in July, the League will realize they’ve put a team smack dab in the middle of the most humid spot in North America, and will immediately relocate the franchise to Anchorage, Alaska.

LOS ANGELES GALAXY
I can’t even bring myself to spew any vitriol toward the Galaxy just yet. First, they won the damn Cup again, and there’s not much you can make fun of there. Second, I, along with everyone else, am still bummed out over the untimely death of Doug Hamilton.

In its first decade, MLS has been fortunate to consistently attract the kind of person who can not only excel in business, but also in life (see, e.g. Wilt, Peter and Hunt, Lamar) Certainly Doug was a part of that exclusive group as well. He was too young to go, and it’s too soon to stop remembering him fondly.

Oh, sure, I’ll be ragging on the Galaxy later in the season. I don’t want to dishonor Doug’s memory by letting go of a perfectly good rivalry for too long; he wouldn’t appreciate that, I think.

Prediction: The team will slump early, and Dan Loney will take over for Steve Sampson by the end of May. It will be a loss for soccer journalism, but Dan could use the money, so I’m okay with it.

CHICAGO FIRE
Jesse Marsch is gone, but Nate Jaqua and Chris Rolfe are still going to cause a lot of trouble. The Brimstone Cup probably won’t be the cakewalk it’s been the last few years for FC Dallas, but one lives in hope. Zach Thornton is still in goal, which is a plus for them. Chris Armas, despite approaching the mandatory retirement age of 65, is still a valuable presence in the midfield, as well as the locker room.

Normally, I’d talk a little more smack in the first column of the season, but I’m saving all my good material for the post-game column following this Saturday’s home opener with the mighty FC Dallas (Live from Pizza Hut Park, 3:00 pm eastern time, on ABC, in case you didn’t get the memo).

Oh, and just a bit of friendly advice for Dave Sarachan: getting your own stadium won’t necessarily add up to lots of home wins this year, buddy. We know, we checked.

Prediction: To quote the great American philosopher Clubber Lang, my prediction for Chicago this season is . . . “Pain” .

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
New England’s only hope this season is maybe someone at Soccer House to forget to send the entry fee for the World Cup. Otherwise, the Revs could be without Taylor Twellman, Clint Dempsey, and possibly Pat Noonan for a month. Not to mention that Avery John will be playing for Trinidad and Tobago. This is a rare case where wise drafting and tenacious talent development have come back to bite a coach on the butt. Maybe the Revs can apply for membership in the G14, to head off problems in 2010.

On the other hand, Noonan could fall off the bubble, and Clint could get in another fight. Then, only Taylor and Avery would be gone. That wouldn’t be a great situation, but probably enough to keep the Revs’ collective noses above the water; especially if, heaven forfend, we don’t get out of the first round in Germany. I hereby pronounce a pre-emptive “shame on you” to all you New England fans who are going to be quietly rooting against your own country come June.

You don’t want to admit it now, in March, but you know deep down, if you guys are struggling come the game with the Czechs on June 13th, you’ll be bad-mouthing the good ol’ Stars and Stripes in a manner that would embarrass Hugo Chavez. Dirty commies.

Prediction: Playoffs, but no second trip to PHP in November. Sorry guys. I wish you’d have pulled it off last year. You’ll be back, but not this year.

COLUMBUS CREW
So, the Crew lost Chris Henderson, Cornell Glenn, and Simon Elliott; but they gained Sigi Schmid.

It’s a net gain, let’s face it. Not that they won’t miss those three guys, because any team would. But Sigi’s only one of the most successful coaches this country has ever produced, and he’s won wherever he’s been. This makes Columbus a contender. Maybe not this year, or even next, but soon. And it certainly keeps them from retaining their status as Eastern Conference pushovers. If Danny Szetela and Edson Buddle start living up to their enormous potential, these guys are going to be trouble. [editor's note: just before press time, the Crew picked up Eddie Gaven from the Red Bulls in exchange for Edson Buddle. Not a bad deal. Not a season changer, but a good start].

Prediction: The Crew will miss the playoffs, but it will be the last time they miss them for a good long while.

DC UNITED
I know you saw this part coming a mile away, but that won’t stop me from saying it:

I’m so GLAD Dema is GONE!!!!

There. It’s out of my system. I feel better. Though I feel kind of like David Letterman must have felt after Dan Quayle lost the Vice-Presidency. It’s not easy losing a sure-fire source of material all of the sudden like that. But, like the king of latenight, I shall move on. Heck I may even root for United now, I’m so happy they’ve shed that Neanderthal goon.

Okay, let’s not get crazy.

DC this year is all about two things: can Freddy produce, and can Jaime Moreno can once again delay the inescapable effects of gravity and the space-time continuum (translation for Fire fans: he’s gettin’ old) and have another spectacular season? Everything else is much the same.

Did I mention Dema’s gone?

Prediction: More PT for Freddy, but DC still don’t get one for the thumb. This year, anyway.

KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
Getting Eddie Johnson could be a great move for the Wiz, if they can actually get him in any games. Between the World Cup and a not-unlikely transfer to Europe, they need to get all the goals they can from EJ up front. If they can do that, and build a points cushion by June, they could run away with the East by default.

Guys like Davy Arnaud and Jack Jewsbury don’t get a lot of press, but they’re guys that no team wants to have to deal with; all they do is score big goals in close games. Bo Oshoniyi has been in the league forever, and now, in his second season as The Man, he’s going to be among the best keepers in MLS.

Prediction: The Wizards are my pick for the East. I’m kind of glad they’re no longer in the Western Conference, to be honest. FC Dallas have enough problems. And I really hope Eddie does great both in the League and in the World Cup. He’s a good kid.

CHIVAS USA
Once again Chivas have gone and thumbed their nose at MLS rules by importing lots of Mexican players, like Ante Razov, Jesse Marsch, Carlos Llamosa, and draft pick Johnathon Bornstein . . .

Okay, nevermind.

Prediction: Chivas will actually make the playoffs this year, dumping Colorado out of contention. They will also thrash the Galaxy in both Derby matches. Okay, that last one wasn’t a prediction; more like a wish. But it’s my column, so there.

REAL SALT LAKE
They got rid of Clint Mathis, and picked up Chris Klein. One of my favorite players ever, Scotty Garlick, will be in goal. Other than that, not much different going on for the Lakers this season. Yeah, I called them the Lakers; got a problem with that?

So, if you had a choice between having good attendance from a loyal fan base and solid stadium plans on the one hand, and being immediately competitive on the other, which would you, as an exapnsion team owner choose? Yeah, I’m with Dave Checketts on this one too.

Prediction:
No playoffs, but plenty of fun and lots of fans in Salt Lake. Not bad for the second year of existence.

COLORADO RAPIDS
When I think of the Rapids, only one word comes to mind.

Revenge.

How this team knocked us out of the playoffs, I still can’t really comprehend. It was more our fault than it was there good play, but still, to quote the great Jean-Luc Picard when he was in the grips of some sort of Borg mind-control torture deal: “THE PAIN . . . THE PAAAINNN . . . ”

I don’t know what’s new with the Rapids, frankly, and I don’t care. If it weren’t for the fact that I like the folks in their supporters group so much, I might hate Colorado worse than Chicago. But I did hear they picked up Clint Mathis. Shrewd deal, guys.

Prediction: The Rapids will pay for last season’s impertinences with a series of sound thrashings at the hands (okay, feet), of Carlos Ruiz and the MIH (Men in Hoops . . . come on, keep up with me, would you?). The soccer gods will see to it they actually squeak into the playoffs just so Dallas can knock them out in a manner that will humiliate and degrade them worse than if they had their own Reality TV show.

FC DALLAS
I love this team so much I’ve gone and purchased the first season ticket package of my entire life. And I live a good three hour drive from Frisco (no, I don’t mean Irving, either).

On the plus side: Mulrooney is just about ready to play, Ruiz is locked in with a multi-year deal, the defense underwent a huge learning curve last season, Simo and Ronny are still in midfield, and we have three really good goalkeepers fighting for a starting job.

On the minus side: Well, there is no minus side.

Prediction:
My head says Western Conference Champs, but my heart says MLS Cup champs. Since I rarely use my head (as many will attest to), I’m predicting the latter. Especially since we’ll have home field advantage. I’m getting chills just imagining standing with the Inferno this fall.

March 22, 2006

IMPOSTER!


by @ 5:31 pm.
Filed under The International Game, US National Team, World Cup

I don’t know who hacked my blog and wrote that last drivel about the US/Germany game, but he sure doesn’t know anything about soccer.

What?

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST


by @ 10:59 am.
Filed under The International Game, US National Team, World Cup

A full strength Germany will be able to manage nothing better than a draw with the injury depleted USA in today’s friendly. Thus continuing the irreversible downward spiral of German soccer that began in earnest with Italy’s 4-1 thrashing of the 3-time champions last month.

You heard it here first.

March 20, 2006

SPORTSMANSHIP LIVES, AT LEAST IN ITALY


by @ 5:41 pm.
Filed under Miscellany, The International Game

(Channel4.com) Daniele De Rossi’s ‘confession’ has earned praise from the Roma Coach and his teammates, who also give an update on Francesco Totti’s recovery process.

De Rossi had knocked the ball into the net for the Giallorossi’s second goal, but confessed to the referee that he had done so with his hand and asked for the goal to be disallowed.

Simone Perrotta had opened the scoring and also praised his teammate for his honesty in this situation.

“Daniele was absolutely right and we need to start from these gestures if we are to improve football,” said the midfielder.

I’m afraid that Mr. De Rossi’s honorable acts would get him flayed in the American media. I can just see Kornhiser and Wilbon mocking him, calling him a loser and using the incident to reinforce the pathetic stereotypes about soccer in this country.

But you know what? They’d be wrong.

Mr. De Rossi’s act was noble, mature, courageous (given the temperament of Italian soccer fans), and sportsmanlike. If there’s anything lacking in modern professional sports, it’s, well, all those things.

I hope this simple act will shine like a beacon in the hearts and minds of Italian children, and will act as a small seed of change in the culture of sport.

(Top of the cap to another great and honorable soul, Bruce of Du Nord)

March 10, 2006

QUOTE OF THE DAY


by @ 11:39 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

A true gem, from Kristian Dyer’s timely interview with Alexi Lalas, regarding the takeover of Metrostars by Red Bull:

KD:What role will Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer play in the franchise?

AL: Franz has been an advisor to Red Bull Salzburg for some time and I hope he is involved with Red Bull New York. From what I’ve read, Giorgio seems to think that we should fire the front office staff, the players and the coaches, so he can kiss my ass.

Gotta love that Alexi.

Make Kristian’s work a part of your regular soccer reading, by the way. Consistently high quality work.

DOUG HAMILTON, 1963-2006


by @ 8:36 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Very sad news from Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Galaxy President and GM Doug Hamilton died of a heart attack on the flight back from Costa Rica following the Galaxy’s match against Saprissa in the Concacaf Champion’s Cup.

Doug was a young man, only 44, and was one of the bright lights of American Soccer. He helped make Los Angeles one of the elite teams in not only MLS, but in the Concacaf region.

After playing for, and graduating from, UNC-Greensboro (where he one a Division III title in 1985, and was defensive MVP), he coached Greensboro college for three years, worked for Adidas America, was VP and GM of the Miami Fusion, and, of course, was President and GM of the Galaxy.

He is survived by his wife, Paige, and a five-year-old son.

Requiescat in pace.

 

 

March 9, 2006

RANDOM THOUGHTS


by @ 9:20 am.
Filed under Random Thoughts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2, 2006

LET’S HEAR IT FOR CUBAN HEALTH SPAS!


by @ 9:18 am.
Filed under The International Game

Diego Maradona has gone from this:

To this:

in a fairly short time. The second picture was taken yesterday at a charity match in Chile. “El pibe de oro” didn’t score, but played for 40 minutes in the second half. I’d love to see some video of his perfromance. He’s only 45, you know. The man has made more comebacks than Freddie Krueger.

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