Saturday, September 09, 2006

Major League Soccer Chatter

MLS Coaches

Ives Galarcep's column over at Soccernet touches on an interesting subject. Whatever happened to Octavio Zambrano? If you had asked me this last week, especially after I've had 3 beers, I would've kept a straight face and told you he was coaching in Moldova. I would've been trying to pull your leg but I joke around a lot about Moldova lately. Just the other day I was saying I wish some team in Moldova would come up with some cash and buy Jovan Kirovski from the Colorado Rapids. Funny enough that is where Zambrano is these days. Apparently he's coaching at Tiligul in the Moldovan First Division.

I'm not a fan of a league constantly turning to the same coaches over and over and over again. Brazil is a good example of this. It's one of the reasons their domestic league is a mess. They produce great players but that's in spite of the obstacles they face. They're a huge country that is mad about soccer.

The MLS has only been around for 11 years. I can't say that their teams have been turning to the same coaches over and over and again. But they've been flirting with it. Reading about Zambrano reminded me of that. Last year their were 2 expansion teams. Chivas USA chose to sign Thomas Rongen. Rongen had been with a couple clubs already. Worse, you could look at his tenure at DC United and see how he literally turned the best team into the league, at that it's most storied franchise in it's short life, into the worst team in the league. Why did they choose Rongen over a successful coach like Zambrano? It could just be a bad choice. But this isn't the the first time Zambrano had been ignored by teams in the league. Colorado chose Fernando Clavijo. This is a guy who as an assistant at NY during their worst ever season and had been fired by New England after having mediocre results.

Zambrano isn't superman. And a team choosing him again would add to the league seeming to inch toward recycling the same old coaches. But one does have to wonder how some of the coaches that have gotten jobs recently got theirs over Zambrano.

Family Friendly

I mentioned before a comment by Real Salt Lake head coach John Ellinger made a comment about his team not having big enough balls.

Apparently he made this comment the last time DC United and Real Salt Lake met at RES in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake coach John Ellinger was cited by the league for comments he made to the sideline official after United scored the opening goal.

It was reported that Ellinger told the official, "I don't know what [United president] Kevin Payne has on you guys. ... It must be dirty pictures."

He was fined by the league for this. As far as we know Checketts didn't do anything about either of these non-friendly comments.

Culture of Excuses?

Also note the article went on to point out something that I've mentioned before. They mention the pre-season incident where Ellinger & Co. accused DC United's coach Peter Nowak of making a racist comment during a pre-season match. In reference to this incident the Washington Times says “The controversy has become a trend for Real Salt Lake this year. “ Real Salt Lake is looking more and more like they very well may have a culture of excuses. The team fell apart as their inaugural season going on. It's not just that they closed out the season 0-10-1. They just weren't playing as well as they had earlier in the season. They weren't exactly playing great earlier in the season, either. That was written off as them being an expansion team. That Ellinger made a bunch of poor draft picks and mid-season player changes was written off as Ellinger being a rookie head coach. But then there was the “hospital” incident, Williams allegation and now this. At some point one has to wonder if the organization is more concerned with excuses than results.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Week Winding Down


It's been a slow week for me posting soccer events. There were some internationals going on including qualifiers for Euro08. The most interesting results from those are Northern Ireland's win over Spain and Italy, the current World Cup winners, only managing a tie against Lithuania and then losing to France

US Open Cup

The Chicago Fire and Los Angeles Galaxy won their semi-final matches to advance to the US Open Cup final. If the Los Angeles Galaxy win the USOC, they will be the first team to win it back to back since the early 1980s. It would also be the first piece of silverware for Yallop at Los Angeles. The Chicago Fire have one the USOC every 2 or 3 years since they came into the league (1998, 2000, 2003). This would be their 4th US Open Cup title.


Last Kick mentions that both of Bolton's two new faces, the Iranian Teimourian and the infamous Frenchman Nicolas Anelka, are set to make their debuts against Watford. Last Kick thinks Teimourian will be put straight in given the extent of injuries in Bolton's squad.

Oh Canada

FC Toronto, the MLS's 2007 expansion team, has signed their first player.

They signed Jim Brennan. He did a decent job with Southampton last year in England's Championship (div 2). He turns 30 next May so he's not over the hill. He won't be the best player in the history of the MLS or great goal scorer. But he should be one of the better players on the team. It'll be interesting to see how Mo plays him. He can play as a wingback, fullback, center back, or even in the midfield. I'm wondering if Mo Johnston will utilize him as a defensive midfielder. We'll find out next year.

US Men's National Team

Now that Bruce Arena's reign is over with the US Men, USSF is looking to hire a new coach. The fan favorite has been the German Jurgen Klinnsman. Klinnsman actually lives in Southern California and has an American wife. We'll see if that happens. Right now the rumor is that they're in talks with Jose Pekermann.

Pablo's Antics

Say what you will about the post game antics of the Colorado Rapids in their game last Saturday in Slat Lake City against Real Salt Lake but the MLS didn't find anything wrong. MLS's commissioner Garber is playing the role of a parent who has to step in and calm the kids down when one of them feels wronged. Nothing bad happened so no one's grounded. But he's going to sit down and talk with them so both the kid that feels wronged at least feels somewhat vindicated but more so just to remind them that he's in charge and keeping an eye on them.

You can read Garber's Statement here .

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

MLS Controversy And EPL Controversy

Major League Soccer

The Rocky Mountain News looks at the controversy from Saturday's Real Salt Lake – Colorado Rapids match. They spend a lot of time explaining why Real Salt Lake feels wronged.

Real Salt Lake and

Speaking of Real Salt Lake, it looks like many of Real Salt Lake Fans are still bitter after their loss.

You would think they would've got used to losing after their previous 33 loses. Many of them seem to be in step with their organization's culture. RSL's culture seems to have become one of making excuses. This has been pointed out in previous blogs that they've had other major complaints this year. When it starts to look like a pattern, it starts to look like whining. What's worse is that some of the RSL fans seem to think that because they feel wrong, it's okay to make wise cracks over JonBenet's death. Please don't drag the tragic death of a little girl into this.

English Premier League

West Ham

Blog FC looks at the possible takeover of English club West Ham by MSI. There are quite a few fishy things going on there. Is the English game headed for a big scandal? Everton

Sara muses on the close of the transfer window and how Everton faired.

Other Major League Soccer (MLS) Blogs

I'm looking for good blogs that cover Major League Soccer. Do you know of any? Please post their URL in the comments.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Playoffs In The East and Trouble In Salt Lake City

MLS Eastern Conference DC United has secured a playoff spot in the East. They have a 15 point lead over 2nd place with 21 points, 7 games, left to play for. If they win their next game at RFK against Real Salt Lake and Chicago looses at the Columbus Crew it will be an 18 point gap with only 18 points left to play for. Columbus is nearly mathematically out of the playoffs. There is a 14 point gap between them and 4th place. They only have 18 possible points, 6 games, left to play for. It's likely that DC will wrap up 1st place in the East within a few more games while Columbus is out of the playoff race. Major League Soccer Tid-Bits 2 teams in the East look to be competing for the title of worst attendance for 2006. The numbers are a couple weeks old but Kansas City has averaged 10,313 and New England 10,644. Who's going to be worse? 6 of Nico Hernandez's 7 goals this year have been game winning goals. I haven't confirmed this yet but it appears that Colorado has more 1-0 wins this year than any other team in the MLS. FC Dallas's Simo Valakari is on track to be the league's biggest hack this year with 70 fouls committed in 25 games. For all the talk about Dwayne DeRosario yet again this year, I've often felt as though Houston's most valuable player has been Alejandro Moreno. If measuring a player's worth is proportional to the number of fouls suffered by a player, Alejandro is not only Houston's but the MLS' MVP. He's suffered 92 in 25 games. Anyone know what the record is for a season? RSL has been shutout more times at home, 5, this year than any other team in the MLS. Rocky Mountain Cup It's Labor Day today so the league offices are not officially open. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the league this week in regards to Dave Checketts complaints. The complaints have some merit. But how much in light of RSL's players antics and their fans (throwing stuff onto the field after both Nico's goal and the game) is questionable. In fact, the whole thing is a gray area. There are no hard and fast rules for what is acceptable and not either by the league or from Real Salt Lake. For example, a few weeks ago nothing much was made of Jeff Cunningham's faux machine gunning down of Colorado supporters by Real Salt Lake. The Rapids actions may have been in bad taste but it's not clear if they did anything wrong. As Real Salt Lake midfielder Chris Klein said, "They deserved to celebrate". Send Him Back To Hospital Dave Checketts comments also seem to be in line with an organization bent on filing complaints. During spring training they alleged that DC United's coach made a racist remark. Awhile after that incident Andy Williams accused Amado Guevara of making racists comments during a match. These things may all be legitimate complaints. But at what point does it go from being wronged to an organization that is more focused on how they're being wronged than how they're going to win games? And don't miss Jimmy Conrad's Grillz!!! JC @ Soccernet

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rocky Mountain Cup Rapids – RSL

Rapids – RSL Saturday Night

Last night the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake played in the 4ht and final meeting in the MLS this year. If the Rapids won, they won the Rocky Mountain Cup. If RSL won or tied, they won the Rocky Mountain Cup. Between this and the playoffs looming the game showed that these two teams have quite the rivalry brewing.

Ellinger Tinkers and Tinkers

Fans of the Rapids give their coach Fernando Clavijo a lot of stick over the player choices he makes. They like to say the ways of Fernando are an enigma. The fans of Real Salt Lake should be saying the same thing about John Ellinger. He can't seem to make up his mind on what to do with Ballouchy and Williams. Sometimes ones on the bench, sometimes ones on the left, and sometimes in the center. With the season nearly over he should have already figured out who he wants in the center.

The controversy in this game seems to first revolve around the Rapids goal. To be frank if confuses me. Ballouchy, stuck out left for this match, sticks his right leg out early for a tackle. He neither goes down for a sliding tackle nor stays up right and the Rapids player has no where to go and collides into Ballouchy. In watching replays of it if anything it would seem Ballouchy would be the one called for the foul if anyone. Ballouchy ends up staying down and Colorado makes 2 more passes and score the game winning goal.

I don't see the a case for anything wrong here. What I did see happen that was wrong was someone, most likely Scott Garlick, from RSL tried to strike Niko with the ball after the goal. They did hit another Rapids player with it. Whomever did that deserved a red card. Niko was on the sideline and they were clearly not sending the ball back to the center circle. Scott Garlick also pulled a Portugese Ronaldo and sprinted 25 yards to complain to the referee and also seemingly try to start a fight with Thiago Martins.

Dave Checketts : Sour Grapes Or Cleaning Things Up?

After the game there were more heated words after the game including Pablo Mastroeni and Dave Checketts squaring off. We're not clear on exactly what happened but the Rapids players may have been pointing at their crotches. Checketts seemed to be upset that the Rapids were excessively celebrating.

Checkets had this to say after the game :

"We at Real Salt Lake have spent nearly two years building a soccer culture here in Utah, one that characterizes the sport as a unifier of all cultures and holds sportsmanship and respect for the game in the highest regard," reads the opening of Checketts' statement. - from

The thing is, he doesn't seem to have cared that it was his organization that started the ball rolling down that slope.

"There's something that goes in a jock strap; I guess you've got to have that in order to play this game," Ellinger said. "Anyone that's been to both games, and most of you have been to both games, know that we should have four points minimum from the last two games."

Maybe it's not so bad when it's the coach commenting his own team needs to find some balls. But where does Dave Checketts think comments like this are going to lead to? It doesn't excuse Colorado's behavior but it does raise a bit of question in regards to Checketts complaints.

Past Real Salt Lake Antics

More interesting is what Checketts did last year after rather crude behavior by one of his own players. During the US Open Cup (USOC) match at Minnesota, Clint Mathis bent over and spread his butt checks in a gesture aimed directly at the Minnesota Thunder supporters. And as you can see with this and other news, nothing was done by Checketts, Pastorino or Ellinger in regards to this behavior. MLS article here.

Again, it doesn't excuse the Rapids actions. But if Checketts wants to see better behavior by the players, he should be demanding this from his own from the start. It's well within his right to complain about the Rapids behavior. But when he hasn't cracked down on it in the past, is seemingly unwilling to discipline his own players for their behavior during the game, it leaves people wondering what his true motivations are. Maybe he's trying to clean things up and just doesn't understand that striking a player with the ball should have been a red card for someone on his own team. Maybe his doesn't understand how he's not cracked down on this behavior by his own team in the past. Then again, maybe he's only complaining because his team lost.

Head To Head

In head to head games in league play, Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids have now played 8 times. The Rapids are 5-2-1. Including US Open Cup play, the Rapids are 6-2-1 against Real Salt Lake. Will the Rapids be able to conitnue this against Real Salt Lake Next Year?