Archive | October, 2008

Wizards open playoffs against Crew

Posted on 31 October 2008 by Nate Brinson

A month and a half ago, the Kansas City Wizards appeared to be decided underdogs to qualify for the MLS playoffs. Plagued by inconsistency and struggling to find an identity, the team languished in last place of the Eastern Conference in mid-September and seemed destined to miss the postseason for the third time in four seasons. However, thanks to a few player acquisitions, a change in tactics, and a large number of home games, Kansas City finished strong, winning five of their last seven, even clinching a playoff spot before their final game of the season.

Their reward is a home and home series against the Columbus Crew, the runaway winners of the Supporter’s Shield, and with such a deep and balanced roster, it is not hard to see why. Veteran Frankie Hejduk and Chad Marshall, a favorite to win both defender and comeback player of the year awards, anchor the back line. Brian Carroll’s steady performances in central midfield allow Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven to push forward on the flanks, and Alejandro Moreno’s always delivers a yeoman-like work up top. The club is so deep that coach Sigi Schmid has the luxury to bring Pat Noonan and Emmanuel Ekpo off the bench.

Despite the Crew’s embarrassment of riches, Guillermo Barros Schelotto is the true engine of this team. Operating in a free role in front of the midfield four, the former Boca Juniors legend has delivered an MVP-type performance for the Crew with seven goals and a league-leading nineteen assists and is a threat from both set pieces and open play. With Schelotto pulling the strings, the Crew finished second in the league with fifty goals even though no Columbus player turned in a ten goal season, a testament to Schelotto’s talent’s and the Crew’s incredible balance.

This season, Columbus dominated the Wizards, including a 3-0 drubbing at Community America Ballpark in June, one of only two games Kansas City lost at home in 2008. However, all three of those games took place before the All-Star Game, and the Wizards have made many changes since they have faced Columbus. Herculez Gomez and Abe Thompson were both acquired early in September, and both have contributed to Kansas City’ late season resurgence. Thompson has become an Alejandro Moreno-type forward for Kansas City whose hard work helps open up the game for other players. Gomez, meanwhile, has been a constant presence on the right side of the Wizards midfield, and he scored perhaps the biggest goal of the season for Kansas City with a last second game winner against San Jose in the team’s penultimate regular season game.

Head coach Curt Onalfo also made a key change in his midfield by pairing Davy Arnaud and Jack Jewsbury in central midfield. Both are industrious players in the middle of the park, but unlike previous Wizards central midfield partnerships, both are also capable of scoring goals as well. The Wizards have also received more production from their forwards since September. Josh Wolff celebrated his return to Kansas City with a goal in his debut in the 3-3 draw against the Crew, and the American international accumulated three goals and three assists in twelve games. Wolff suffered an injury before the match against San Jose, but Wolff’s absence has opened the door for the reemergence of Claudio Lopez. The Argentine’s play dropped precipitously by midseason, and he was actually benched for several games in September and October. However, Lopez seemed rejuvenated in his return to the starting lineup with two goals and three assists in the final two games of the regular season.

If the Wizards have one clear advantage over the Crew, it could be in goal. Kansas City’s Kevin Hartman has won two MLS Cups in his career, and the veteran’s play this season has at times kept his team in the game. Meanwhile, for the Crew, Will Hesmer will be playing in his first postseason.
The Wizards know they can rely on Hartman to make a big stop in key situations, but despite Hesmer’s solid play this season, there will be questions about his reaction to the spotlight of the playoffs.

The Wizards may be hot entering the playoffs, and the MLS post-season has seen its share of major upsets. However, they still face a daunting task. The Crew are well-coached and possess several players capable of turning a game. As cliche as it may sound, every player for Kansas City must turn in a superlative effort in order to win this series.

Comments (0)

Snore draw in playoff opener

Posted on 30 October 2008 by jtobin

Advertisers and media buyers, along with 24 players from two lacklustre teams, may be questioning exactly what happened on Thursday evening as two professional teams within the sport of soccer agreed to wait until the Nov. 6 to give their full effort.

The once resurgent Chicago Fire visited the personnel depleted New England Revolution and traded hard yet not ruthless fouls for approximately 93 minutes to earn a 0-0 result.

Neither team really threatened each others goals for most of the match as safe and tactical (ie gutless) play plagued both teams.

Read on here.

Comments Off on Snore draw in playoff opener

What is the biggest rivalry in MLS?

Posted on 30 October 2008 by ASN Staff

What is the biggest rivalry in Major League Soccer? Besides the choices below, there are other, less obvious ones that may qualify (Houston-New England? Toronto-Columbus? San Jose-LA?) You tell us one you think is biggest. Don’t forget to defend your vote by posting a comment.

n

n

{democracy:4}

Comments (10)

Revs hold Fire to scoreless draw in playoff opener

Posted on 30 October 2008 by ASN Staff

Larentowicz and the Revs D were rough and tough

The New England Revolution and Chicago Fire kicked off the Major Soccer League playoffs with a tightly-contested scoreless draw at Gillette Stadium Thursday night. The match was not great entertainment but soccer purists were able to get their fill with some of the tactical aspects of the game that were on display. Mostly, though the match was physical; Referee Alex Prus let a lot go but still handed out five yellow cards.

Neither team was willing to risk much on offense. The underdog Revs seemed content to let Chicago dominate possession but did not give the Fire enough space to establish a creative flow. Denis Hamlett’s team for its part was happy to let the game play out in midfield, while making sure the Revs did not hit them with any quick counters.

The predictable result was a battle for attrition where both teams took jabs at their opponents in the hope that a defensive error would give way to a scoring chance. But that was not to be, as the game saw very few unforced errors, despite the cold weather and plastic turf. A testament to the improving skills of MLS players, perhaps? Only toward the end of the game, as players began to wear down did things open up a bit.

The game’s best chances for a goal came in the waning minutes. Around minute 82, the Fire’s Brian McBride headed a cross past Matt Reis but the goal was whistled offsides. McBride and his teammates didn’t like the call but replays showed it was on the money. Finally, in stoppage time the Revolution decided to throw some numbers into attack and it paid off with two solid scoring chances. On the first, Sainey Nyassi blew by Fire defender Wilman Conde only to get tackled by Bakary Soumare right before he was about to pull the trigger from close range. Moments later, Kenny Mansally drove in from the right wing but his shot was deflected over the end line. The ensuing corner bounced to Nyassi at the edge of the penalty area but his shot was saved with ease by Jon Busch.

In the end, both teams accomplished their primary mission, to not yield a goal. But with Chicago home in the return leg (and the crowd expected to be more numerous than tonight’s 5,221), the Fire will like their chances. On the other hand, Steve Nicol may just have a trump card or two up his sleeve. Injuries or not, don’t expect the Revs to go quietly. The return leg, on Thursday, Nov. 6, should at the very least be worth watching.

ASN’s Chicago correspondent with a more outspoken take on tonight’s action (or severe lack thereof).

Match Facts

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference semifinals, first leg
October 30, 2008 — Gillette Stadium

Scoring Summary:
None

Lineups:

Chicago Fire — Jon Busch, Brandon Prideaux, Wilman Conde, Bakary Soumare, Gonzalo Segares, Chris Rolfe (Mike Banner 85), Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Justin Mapp, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian McBride,

Substitutes Not Used: Diego Gutierrez, Stephen King, Nick Noble, Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa, Dasan Robinson

New England Revolution — Matt Reis, Chris Albright, Michael Parkhurst, Jay Heaps, Chris Tierney, Sainey Nyassi, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, Mauricio Castro (Wells Thompson 86), Kenny Mansally, Kheli Dube.

Substitutes Not Used: Gary Flood, Joe Germanese, Amaechi Igwe, Brad Knighton, Pat Phelan, Rob Valentino

Statistical Summary:
New England Revolution / Chicago Fire
total shots: 13 (Mauricio Castro 4) / 9 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 3)
shots on goal: 4 (Mauricio Castro 2) / 5 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 2)
fouls: 12 (Chris Albright 3) / 10 (4 tied with 2)
offsides: 1 (Kheli Dube 1) /2 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 1, Brian McBride 1)
corner kicks: 6 (Mauricio Castro 5) / 4 (Justin Mapp 3)
saves: 5 (Matt Reis 5) / 4 (Jon Busch 4)

Misconduct Summary:
CHI — Bakary Soumare (caution; Reckless Foul) 16
NE — Kenny Mansally (caution; Reckless Foul) 42
CHI — Logan Pause (caution; Reckless Tackle) 59
CHI — Cuauhtemoc Blanco (caution; Dissent) 69
NE — Mauricio Castro (caution; Reckless Tackle) 73

referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: Craig Lowry; Michael Salyers
4th official: Jorge Gonzalez
time of game: 1:45
attendance: 5,221
weather: Cloudy -and- 37 degrees


Hey Revs fans, how do you feel about your team’s chances for the return leg? Go here to vote on it and discuss with your brethren.


Fire fans, don’t forget to get your correspondent’s view here.

Comments (0)

Revs freeze Fire in opener, but will it be enough?

Posted on 30 October 2008 by ASN Staff

Larentowicz and the Revs D were rough and tough

The New England Revolution and Chicago Fire kicked off the Major Soccer League playoffs with a tightly-contested scoreless draw at Gillette Stadium Thursday night. The match was not great entertainment but soccer purists were able to get their fill with some of the tactical aspects of the game that were on display. Mostly, though the match was physical; Referee Alex Prus let a lot go but still handed out five yellow cards.

Neither team was willing to risk much on offense. The underdog Revs seemed content to let Chicago dominate possession but did not give the Fire enough space to establish a creative flow. Denis Hamlett’s team for its part was happy to let the game play out in midfield, while making sure the Revs did not hit them with any quick counters.

The predictable result was a battle for attrition where both teams took jabs at their opponents in the hope that a defensive error would give way to a scoring chance. But that was not to be, as the game saw very few unforced errors, despite the cold weather and plastic turf. A testament to the improving skills of MLS players, perhaps? Only toward the end of the game, as players began to wear down did things open up a bit.

The game’s best chances for a goal came in the waning minutes. Around minute 82, the Fire’s Brian McBride headed a cross past Matt Reis but the goal was whistled offsides. McBride and his teammates didn’t like the call but replays showed it was on the money. Finally, in stoppage time the Revolution decided to throw some numbers into attack and it paid off with two solid scoring chances. On the first, Sainey Nyassi blew by Fire defender Wilman Conde only to get tackled by Bakary Soumare right before he was about to pull the trigger from close range. Moments later, Kenny Mansally drove in from the right wing but his shot was deflected over the end line. The ensuing corner bounced to Nyassi at the edge of the penalty area but his shot was saved with ease by Jon Busch.

In the end, both teams accomplished their primary mission, to not yield a goal. But with Chicago home in the return leg (and the crowd expected to be more numerous than tonight’s 5,221), the Fire will like their chances. On the other hand, Steve Nicol may just have a trump card or two up his sleeve. Injuries or not, don’t expect the Revs to go quietly. The return leg, on Thursday, Nov. 6, should at the very least be worth watching.

Match Facts

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference semifinals, first leg
October 30, 2008 — Gillette Stadium

Scoring Summary:
None

Lineups:

Chicago Fire — Jon Busch, Brandon Prideaux, Wilman Conde, Bakary Soumare, Gonzalo Segares, Chris Rolfe (Mike Banner 85), Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Justin Mapp, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian McBride,

Substitutes Not Used: Diego Gutierrez, Stephen King, Nick Noble, Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa, Dasan Robinson

New England Revolution — Matt Reis, Chris Albright, Michael Parkhurst, Jay Heaps, Chris Tierney, Sainey Nyassi, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, Mauricio Castro (Wells Thompson 86), Kenny Mansally, Kheli Dube.

Substitutes Not Used: Gary Flood, Joe Germanese, Amaechi Igwe, Brad Knighton, Pat Phelan, Rob Valentino

Statistical Summary:
New England Revolution / Chicago Fire
total shots: 13 (Mauricio Castro 4) / 9 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 3)
shots on goal: 4 (Mauricio Castro 2) / 5 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 2)
fouls: 12 (Chris Albright 3) / 10 (4 tied with 2)
offsides: 1 (Kheli Dube 1) /2 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 1, Brian McBride 1)
corner kicks: 6 (Mauricio Castro 5) / 4 (Justin Mapp 3)
saves: 5 (Matt Reis 5) / 4 (Jon Busch 4)

Misconduct Summary:
CHI — Bakary Soumare (caution; Reckless Foul) 16
NE — Kenny Mansally (caution; Reckless Foul) 42
CHI — Logan Pause (caution; Reckless Tackle) 59
CHI — Cuauhtemoc Blanco (caution; Dissent) 69
NE — Mauricio Castro (caution; Reckless Tackle) 73

referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: Craig Lowry; Michael Salyers
4th official: Jorge Gonzalez
time of game: 1:45
attendance: 5,221
weather: Cloudy -and- 37 degrees

Revs fans, how do you feel about your team’s chances for the return leg? Vote in the poll and sound off below.

n

n

{democracy:22}

Comments (0)

Night of firsts at Estadio Rio Tinto

Posted on 30 October 2008 by kali

Real Salt Lake hopes to make history once again when it faces Chivas USA on Saturday afternoon.  Not only will the match mark RSL’s first-ever playoff appearance, but the team will also be looking for its first playoff win at Rio Tinto Stadium.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber will be in attendance for the match, which features both of the teams which joined the league in 2005.  The two teams share more than their inaugural season, though — Chivas’ Alecko Eskandarian, Atiba Harris, and Carey Talley all played for Real last season, and Justin Braun is a Salt Lake City native.

On paper, Chivas appears to hold an advantage going into the playoff matchup; the Goats are making their third playoff appearance and have an 8-3-3 advantage over Real in the all-time series.  However, RSL managed their first road win against Chivas earlier this season, giving the coaches and players reason to believe that they can advance beyond the first round.

“We all believe that something special can happen,” said Real midfielder Kyle Beckerman at a media event on Tuesday.

To that end, coach Jason Kreis should have a nearly-full roster from which to choose his starting lineup, as RSL’s injury situation has cleared up considerably over the last several weeks.  The only worry is that of Fabian Espíndola, who remains questionable with a right ankle sprain.

The Goats have struggled with injuries all season long, and Saturday will be no exception.  Maykel Galindo recently had sports hernia surgery and will not be available, joining several Lawson Vaughn and Raphael Wicky on the season-ending injury list.  Midfielder Sasha Victorine is also questionable with a knee sprain.

In addition, Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy received a red card in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo and will be suspended on Saturday.  Backup Zach Thornton, who joined the team in August after Brad Guzan’s transfer, will take Kennedy’s place.  Thornton has played only a handful of matches with the Goats but has a great deal of playoff experience, having won MLS Cup ’98 with the Chicago Fire.

Chivas coach Preki has managed his team well despite missing key players throughout the season, however, meaning that RSL cannot take the Goats lightly.

“They play a good passing game,” Beckerman told Soccer365. “They work hard and are coached well by Preki. You’ve got to put them in difficult situations.”

The match will be broadcast live at 4 pm MT on Fox Soccer Channel.

Comments (0)

Rev-enge on the mind…

Posted on 30 October 2008 by jtobin

Jon Busch and the Fire have reasons to hope for revenge against their Eastern Conference foes

The New England Revolution have broken the hearts of the Chicago Fire and their fans the last few seasons. The 2008 playoffs look to have been penned by a different scriptwriter, as the obstacles have been stacked against the Revs to make it out of the first round against their Eastern Conference foes.

From a Revolution perspective, this looks bleak.

Taylor Twellman has been ruled out this season due to injuries related to a concussion sustained a few weeks ago. The tough-as-nails forward appears to have put his body through the grinder one too many times and has now paid the price. Playmaker Steve Ralston is out with a broken leg, Khano Smith and Gabriel Badilla are sitting out due to red cards earned in their last match and Adam Cristman is out due to toe surgery.

The Fire have a wealth of talent, have everyone healthy and routed the Red Bulls one week ago 5-2. They have outscored their Thursday night opponents 15-5 this season and swept the three game series with the Revolution scoring nine and allowing one goal.

Continue reading the three keys to a Fire victory from ASN’s Chicago correspondent.

Comments (5)

Donovan captures Golden Boot in 2-2 tie with Dallas

Posted on 30 October 2008 by iyeo

The Los Angeles Galaxy and FC Dallas ended their respective 2008 campaigns against each other at the Home Depot Center on Sunday afternoon. Even though both teams will be watching the 2008 MLS playoffs on their television sets, the two teams still left everything out on the field, which ended in a 2-2 draw.

The match did feature the league’s top two goal scorers; Landon Donovan of the Galaxy and FC Dallas’ Kenny Cooper. Donovan was one ahead of Cooper in the golden boot race with 19 goals heading into Sunday’s match.

Donovan came out the winner, as he notched up his 20th goal of the season on a penalty kick in the 78th minute. Eddie Lewis was fouled harshly by goalkeeper Dario Sala while chasing down a David Beckham pass. Referee Tim Weyland awarded the penalty kick and Donovan successfully buried the shot to the far right post.

Read the rest of the story here.

Comments (0)

Despite Last Place Finish, Quakes Exceed Expectations

Posted on 30 October 2008 by mdiamond

When the San Jose Earthquakes left the Bay Area for Houston in 2005, they left behind the team name and colors, but they took what mattered most—the players and coaches.

When the Quakes reformed for the 2008 season under new ownership, they had to start over as an expansion team, drafting unprotected players from other MLS teams. Right off the bat, the roster was filled primarily by reserves from other teams, so what kind of expectations should there have been for the new squad? What would constitute a successful campaign in 2008?

While the management was limited to the caliber of player available, they weren’t so restricted for drafting coaches. In November of last year the Los Angeles Galaxy’s head coach Frank Yallop resigned to sign a three-year contract with the new Quakes.

Yallop had coached San Jose to two MLS Cups in 2001 and 2003 and spent two years coaching the Canadian National Team before returning to MLS to coach the Galaxy, joining them mid-season in 2006. Despite his former coaching success with the Quakes, Yallop was unable to take the Galaxy to the playoffs in his two seasons with them.

The Galaxy’s loss was San Jose’s gain, and Yallop lost no time in focusing on defense in the expansion draft that took place just weeks after his arrival in the Bay Area. Yallop’s focus on the backs comes from his career as a defender in England’s First Division, three years in MLS with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, and 52 caps with the Canadian National Team.

One of the bright spots for the 2008 Earthquakes was they gave up only 38 goals this season, finishing fourth in the league in goals allowed. On the road, the Quakes allowed 19 goals. Only two teams allowed fewer road goals, Chicago (16) and Houston (18).

Led by team captain Nick Garcia, the defense kept games reasonably close while the team struggled to score in the beginning of the campaign. The offense scored only 11 goals in the first 17 games going into the All-Star break, by far the lowest output in the league.

Predictably the Quakes struggled at first winning only three games by the All-Star break. Then in a flurry of wheeling and dealing during the last two weeks of July San Jose acquired Darren Huckerby from Norwich City by way of Toronto FC, Scott Sealy from Kansas City, Francisco Lima from the Italian Serie leagues, and Arturo Alvarez from FC Dallas. All four immediately took starting roles and the Quakes’ fortunes swung dramatically.

Huckerby in particular gave defenses fits. As the left wing, he used his speed, skill, and confidence to turn and befuddle outside midfielders and defenders. He forced central defenders to get involved enabling his teammates to find room in the box. In September he was named MLS Player of the Month and was announced as San Jose’s season MVP before the team’s final game against Toronto FC.

With two draws going into the All-Star break, the Quakes proceeded to add seven more games to a MLS season’s best nine undefeated games and the second longest unbeaten run ever by an expansion team. The Chicago Fire had an 11-game unbeaten run as an expansion team in 1998. The streak was the third-longest unbeaten streak in Earthquake team history.

The streak was comprised of four wins and five ties. Having started the run with a large deficit in points, it wasn’t until the middle of September that San Jose briefly moved out of the Western Conference cellar, stepping past the Galaxy into sixth place.

Ironically as the offense gained potency, the defense began to struggle, or at least have moments of impotency. Going into the October playoff stretch, the Quakes dropped four of their last seven games relegating them back to the bottom of the conference. In two of the losses, San Jose gave up game-winning goals to the Dynamo and the Wizards in stoppage time.

In several games the vaunted Quakes defense got plain out beat by bigger, faster forwards. Real’s Yura Movsisyan and Chivas’ Justin Braun challenged San Jose’s back line and scored critical goals that ultimately put the Quakes out of playoff contention.

Summarizing the year Yallop said, “We had a good run in the middle part of the season, but we couldn’t finish the season out. We played the same lineup week after week and it caught up with a little bit. We didn’t sustain our play like we needed to get into the playoffs. I think we built a solid team this year though.”

Nevertheless, with a 2-0 win over Toronto FC to finish their season, the Earthquakes had the best season by an expansion team this decade. The Quakes finished the year with wins (8) and points (33). They also scored more goals (32) and allowed fewer goals (38) than any of the four expansion teams this decade. In 2005, Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake earned four and five wins, respectively, while Chivas picked up 18 points and RSL 20 points. Last season, Toronto FC had six wins and 25 points for the entire season.

Put into perspective, San Jose had a terrific season despite finishing last. Credit goes to Yallop and the front office for making the savvy midseason trades to bolster the offense.

Huckerby recognized the Quake’s achievement. “It was a great first season. We excelled from the position we were in and almost reached the playoffs. We had a bad stretch of three or four games that hurt us. It is a shame that we didn’t reach the playoffs, but I think we had a good run.”

What lies ahead for San Jose after their solid 2008 start? Clearly holding onto team MVP Darren Huckerby has got to be top priority. So far he sounds positive about his future in the Bay Area.

“I am looking forward to joining the team in preseason and building something,” he said. “This year it was tough to come in midseason, but next year, we will have a preseason to prepare and we will be ready come the start of the season.”

In fact the Quakes are overloaded at the outside midfielder position with Ronnie O’Brien playing opposite of Huckerby on the right and contributing big this season as well leading the team with six assists. Finally, Shea Salinas has come off the bench in the second half and shown deft ball skills while making runs at opposing defenses. Salinas shows great promise if he can garner more playing time.

The situation in the central midfield is less clear. Ramiro Corrales was hampered for much of the second half of the season with a sprained left knee. In his ninth year in MLS, he’s getting a little long in the tooth. With 142 appearances, Corrales is now tied for third on the Earthquakes all-time appearances list with Wade Barrett. Newcomer Francisco Lima and the scrappy Ned Grabavoy played solidly for a side that hadn’t had much time together, but the midfield did have games where they seemed disorganized and out of sync. Whether more experience and interaction can raise the midfield game or new blood is needed will depend on what is available when the coaching staff goes to draft and trade.

Similarly the forwards displayed occasional glimmers of brilliance, but closing the deal for the strikers was at best inconsistent. Scott Sealy and Arturo Alvarez, each with three goals and three assists, were a vast improvement over the season’s initial starters, Kei Kamara and Gavin Glinton, but there’s still a long way to go. Ryan Johnson was a consistent second half sub and made his presence felt. Playing in 28 games but getting only 1535 minutes, he still managed to score five goals, second best after Huckerby’s six. With more experience and vision he could move into a starting spot.

Netminder Joe Cannon was the only Quakes player to play every minute of the season. Despite his nine years in the league, there’s no reason to believe Joe is going anywhere. He ended the year third all-time in MLS in appearances (246), third in minutes (22,155), third all-time in saves (1026), second all-time in shutouts (65), fifth all-time in wins (92) and tied for seventh all-time in goals against average (1.30).

Finally, there’s the defense. You have to feel for soccer defenders. They don’t get the glory of scoring goals, but they take the heat for allowing them. They occasionally get a nod for shutting down offenses, but such achievements don’t reflect in their personal statistics. They get a higher percentage of fouls committed and cautions. OK, caveats over.

Team captain Nick Garcia has had a sterling career mostly with the Kansas City Wizards, but in his ninth year, he has lost a step. It’s especially noticeable against the fast young strikers who gave him a run for his money this season. Eric Denton on the outside struggled at times as well. Ryan Cochrane and Jason Hernandez in the middle still have plenty to contribute, and James Riley has the speed to take on wingers into the corners.

As always, the coaches and office staff will be looking for bigger, faster defenders to solidify the back line.

In its second year Toronto FC still languished in last place in the East. Real Salt Lake is in the playoffs for the first time this year since its 2005 debut. On the other hand Chivas made the playoffs in its second year after a miserable rookie season. The Quakes outperformed all three of these teams in their expansion season giving Bay Area fans reason to believe that Frank Yallop is in an excellent position to weave the same magic that resulted in MLS Cups in San Jose in 2001 and 2003.

Comments (0)

Tags:

The Red Bulls' playoff campaign: DOA?

Posted on 29 October 2008 by arozsa

The team before its last regular season home game

If you asked me a question about the New York Red Bulls hopes for the playoffs last Thursday night, how would I have responded? Perhaps an old friend of mine could sum it up for me.

The Red Bulls went 2-5-1 in their last eight games, giving up 18 goals in the process. Their starting goalkeeper, in fact the only goalkeeper on the roster with any MLS experience at all, is suspended until sometime around Memorial Day, 2009. Jeff Parke, oftentimes the only effective defender on this squad, joins him on his sojourn to the methadone clinic.

Jozy Altidore left for Spain midseason. Claudio Reyna is gone as well, and if he was checking his iphone for scores after checking his bank balance he would have noted his former club getting stomped by Chicago (again) in a nationally televised game.

Playoffs? Are you kidding me?

Indeed, thanks to the magic of rule tinkering, the Red Bulls and their 39 points take the place of the Colorado Rapids the Western Conference Playoffs, and get to extend their season with a home and home series against the MLS cup holders Houston Dynamo. Put the Red Bulls’ current form against the Texans 9-game unbeaten streak, and a first round exit seems nearly certain. That would leave New York with a nearly identical season to the one that got Bruce Arena canned.

If, at this point, you’d like to have a discussion on whether or not Bruce Arena got fired for unacceptable results, or because he was an arrogant jerk, by all means do so. Talk amongst yourselves. While you’re at it why not debate if Juan Carlos Osorio should suffer the same fate?

But before I get too carried away with my season obituary, it should be pointed out the Red Bulls have yet to actually be put out of their misery. Yes, the odds are stacked against them, but one only need look back to August 24th to find a 3-0 home trouncing of the defending champs. Dane Richards and Juan Pablo Angel, players Osorio actually still has at his disposal if he cares to use them, both found the back of the net as the Red Bulls jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it. Add Macoumba Kandji and the in-form Dave van den Bergh to the mix, and New York has the capacity to score some goals and make things interesting.

Obviously, the other end of the field is a different story. Danny Cepreo has only played a couple more games than I have in an MLS net. The backline issues are clear, especially when you consider that Toronto FC castoff Andrew Boyens has actually been the best defensive addition this season. Juan Pietravallo, who has been flying into tackles about as late as I’ve been showing up to the office lately, has inexplicably displaced Seth Stammler as the backline shield.

So is there really hope? As an adopted New Yorker, I’ve come to embrace the rather caustic approach to the sports teams of the area. Rest assured, now that they’ve seemingly lost the plot entirely, they will begin to play well again. But only long enough to make sure that it hurts a little bit more when they let you down.

ASN PREDICTION

The Red Bulls come out with some offensive punch, but defensive lapses kill the momentum. 2-2 in their home leg. Houston predictably dominates in Texas, finishes off the series with a 3-0 win.

Comments (1)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here