Archive | March, 2009

Yanks hope to regain footing vs. Trinidad

Posted on 31 March 2009 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Four days after its epic rally against El Salvador, the U.S. Men’s National Team is back at it Wednesday night, hosting Trinidad & Tobago at Nashville, Tenn., in the third matchday of the “hex” stage of World Cup qualifying. Bob Bradley’s team will be seeking to reestablish itself as the preeminent CONCACAF power after looking surprisingly vulnerable at San Salvador Saturday night. Trailing 2-0 in the 72nd minute, the U.S. was nevertheless able to rally for a 2-2 draw. Thanks to the point, the U.S. claims first place ahead of Mexico and Costa Rica, who are tied for second on three points apiece.

The game against Trinidad should be easier than the one against El Salvador seeing as it is a) a home game and b) one where U.S. fans might even represent a majority of the crowd (not always the case when the U.S. hosts teams from Latin America). Expect the U.S. to play better at home than it did in a hostile atmosphere on the road. Everybody does. But on paper, Trinidad appears to be the better team. The Soca Warriors qualified for the 2006 World Cup and have several players in top divisions in England and Scotland (and in one case Hungary), while El Salvador’s all play for local clubs. The Cuscatlecos have not qualified for a World Cup since 1982.

All of which makes the U.S. performance on Saturday that much more unsettling. But it shouldn’t, really. The fact is that defensively, this team has issues. These became painfully apparent not only in El Salvador but also against Mexico on Feb. 11, where defensive errors nearly (and for all intents and purposes should have) cost the U.S. a goal in the opening minutes. Bob Bradley’s lineup lacks a left back after Heath Pearce proved almost completely ineffectual those two games. Carlos Bocanegra is proving to be a liability in central defense and Danny Califf does not exactly bring to mind Paulo Maldini either. If Oguchi Onyewu is healthy (as is expected) it will be one major upgrade over the lineup from El Salvador.

Another will be Tim Howard, who returns after a yellow card suspension. Either Jonathan Bornstein or Jonathan Spector will get the start at left back. It may be time for Spector, who has been plying his trade in the Premiership since 2006, to get his chance.

And Boca? The U.S. captain isn’t going anywhere, even though at 29 his best days may already be behind him. If the U.S. is going to progress past the first round of next year’s World Cup, it will likely need major upgrades at two defensive positions. Of course that is another issue for another day. It needs to win a few more games in the Hex first.

Just how problematic should that be? Not very. Other than its defense, the U.S. does not really have any glaring weaknesses. It has several budding stars at key positions, all of whom should hit their stride in the months ahead: Michael Bradley is becoming a creative force in central midfield (something the U.S. has long lacked), Landon Donovan remains a dangerous attacking threat and Damarcus Beasley can cause all kinds of problems on the left wing (unfortunately, in El Salvador most of those were for his own team). Let’s not forget Tim Howard, a veritable world class goalkeeper.

After dodging the proverbial bullet at El Salvador, expect a tighter performance from the USMNT Wednesday night. With the crowd behind it, the U.S. should play inspired attacking football, something Trinidad will not have any answers for.

ASN Prediction: U.S. 3, Trinidad 0

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RSL at Seattle gallery

Posted on 31 March 2009 by ASN Staff

RSL’s season opener did not exactly go as planned, as Jason Kreis’ squad was outplayed by the upstarts from Seattle, ultimately losing the game 2-0. ASN’s Julia Fizer was there to provide photographic evidence. Check it out.

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One year ago in American Soccer News

Posted on 31 March 2009 by ASN Staff

Liverpool FC co-owner George Gillett linked up with with Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Montreal. Besides his ties to soccer through Liverpool, Gillett also has ties to the area as majority owner of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.

Montreal was one of seven candidate cities announced last fall, and seen as an early favorite, before becoming the first city to drop out of the bidding (depending on whom you ask. MLS says they dropped out. Montreal said they were forced). Gillett’s exact role in the bid’s failure remains unclear, but earlier this month the Racine, Wisc., native put the Canadiens and other sports holdings up for sale.

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Quakes New-Look Offense to be Wizard Tested

Posted on 31 March 2009 by mdiamond

Coming off their first victory of the season against the Houston Dynamo, the San Jose Earthquakes look to make it two in a row when they travel to Kansas City to take on the Wizards on Sunday afternoon. The Wizards have had an inauspicious start dropping their first two efforts against Toronto FC and Colorado. KC is the only team in the East without points.

The Wizards are suffering a spate of early injuries forcing them to juggle their lineup. Josh Wolff, who can be a dangerous striker but has had an injury-plagued career, will likely miss the match. Davy Arnaud, who scored both KC goals in the loss to Toronto, is probable with a neck strain.

In general, the Wizards are short on experience. They have former Quake Jimmy Conrad at defense, and Jack Jewsbury and Herculez Gomez in the middle. Forward Claudio Lopez has 58 caps with the Argentine national team including two World Cups. Veteran goalie Kevin Hartman’s two saves against Colorado made him the MLS’s all-time saves leader. Beyond that Kansas City has to fill the rest of the spots with players who have less than two years of MLS exposure.

San Jose, too, is a team in transition. The Quakes offensive strategy so far this year has been a departure from last year. The addition of 6-4 Cam Weaver along with Ryan Johnson at 6-1 has added height to the attacking line. Without that height last year, San Jose relied on more midfield ball control and developing attacks. With the addition of Darren Huckerby midseason, the Quakes got a much-needed boost at left winger resulting in goals that had eluded them at the beginning of the season. While not completely absent this season, the attacking midfield has taken a back seat to putting the ball up and having Weaver or Johnson win the header.

Ryan Johnson acknowledged the shift. “With our size we can be so much more versatile compared to last year. We can play that direct ball. More than fifty percent of the time we’re going to win it. Last year that wasn’t the case because we only had one big guy up there [Johnson]. This year we can take a lot of pressure off the defense, and play that direct ball. It’s been helping us out a lot.”

That confidence may be a bit premature. None of the three goals against the Dynamo came from a forward winning the long ball. Weaver and Johnson got manhandled on 50-50 balls making it very hard to drop off to teammates let alone win it in the first place.

Central midfielder and team captain Ramiro Corrales was more judicious about the offensive approach. “It was one of those games where we played a lot of long balls to the big guys direct. At times I think we should play the ball more through the midfield. It was up and down, and [the midfielders] didn’t get the ball that much.”

Alluding to the first week’s 1-0 loss to New England when the Quakes had more chances but couldn’t break through, Corrales said, “Last week we did a good job and played well, better than this week.”

Many eyes have been on recent acquisition Bobby Convey who played several years with the English side Reading. His experience in the Premier and Champions leagues creates high expectations for the American. Convey has 45 caps with the US National Team, but so far his contribution to the Quakes is muted.

“It was a bit of a track meet out there,” Convey said about the Dynamo game. “It was good to see the guys up there scoring. We played a good team, and they played very well. We sustained the pressure. It was something to build on.”

When asked how it felt to shift from left winger to central midfield, Convey said, “It’s all right. You don’t touch it as much in the middle. Ramiro and I stayed in more and played it out wide. It’s only the second game. I don’t want to use that as an excuse. We want to keep getting better and better. Everybody’s a lot happier when we win, and we just need to keep building on this.”

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Perhaps Quakes’ coach Frank Yallop is giving Convey time to adjust to the new climate, but Bobby has enough time on the pitch to handle himself. By going up top, San Jose avoids involving the midfielders, but they won’t have a chance to develop the necessary teamwork to take the pressure off the stand-up forwards. With the focus on getting the ball directly to the attackers, defenses are mugging them, and so far Weaver and Johnson have been unable to consistently fend them off. Brian Ching is an example of a forward who can fight and keep defenders at bay while looking for a teammate to pour in. The Quakes aren’t there yet, and would benefit by mixing it up a bit more in the midfield to keep defenses guessing. With an effective middle and controlling forwards, the Quakes are capable of making great strides.

Injury report

Wizards: Probable – MF Davy Arnaud – neck strain; Out – FW Adam Cristman – fifth metatarsal fracture; GK Eric Kronber – shoulder surgery; DF Chance Myers- fifth metatarsal fracture; MF Kevin Souter – adductor strain; FW Josh Wolff – hamstring strain

Quakes: Probable – DF Chris Leitch – ankle sprain; Out – DF Jason Hernandez – calf strain

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Sounders 2, RSL 0 image gallery

Posted on 31 March 2009 by ASN Staff

Matchday Two at Qwest Field was no less successful than the season opener, with a passionate crowd once more urging their heroes on to victory. This time, Real Salt Lake were the victims. You read the match report. Now check out the photos, courtesy of ASN’s Julia Fizer.

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FC Dallas goes from disappointing to frustrating

Posted on 30 March 2009 by pwoodruff

In their first 13 years of existence FC Dallas usually gets off to a quick start only to have a summer swoon in trying to secure the coveted Supporters Shield or even get to the MLS Cup. With this 2-0 loss to Chivas USA at Pizza Hut Park in front of a very small crowd of 6,524, the Hoops appear to be trying reverse psychology. Last season, FC Dallas won just five times at home, equaling a club low. Now, after this debacle and last weeks 3-1 loss to the Chicago Fire, FCD now sit at 0-2-0 and have started the year with two defeats for the first time in their history. The most frustrating part for FCD has to be the fact that Chivas USA were without as many as 9 players who could be considered starters, including whom many would say is their best player, Sacha Kljestan who was away on World Cup Qualifying duty.

Somehow FCD lost despite outshooting their Western Conference foe by a 13-8 margin with six of Dallas’ shots on frame compared to just three for the visitors from California. Although that is an improvement over the one shot on goal from last week, the home side was unable to find the back of the net in this loss.

“A frustrating game. Disappointing, but I think the first half we created enough opportunities to score a goal,” FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman said. “Second half, we were supposed to come out and play a little bit harder and try to take the game to them. We make a mistake and all I see is the ball in the back of the net.”

For Coach Hyndman, the similar nature of both Chivas USA goals was disappointing to say the least. Both goals started as balls played over the top of the FCD defense. “First goal is just out of positioning,” he said. “Eduardo Lillingston hit a shot off balance and scored. Second goal, Bojan Stepanovic had just come on the field, just came into the league and he dribbled in the box and scored. Just a very frustrating, disappointing result. I think we’re a better team than what we showed, but the players need to start picking it up and playing with a little bit more enthusiasm, pride, or whatever it might be.”

FCD goalkeeper Ray Burse, who started for the injured number one keeer Dario Sala, agreed that the balls played over the top of the Dallas defense were a big factor in the loss. “I think the ball over the top of our defense was what really caught us off guard today,” he said. “I thought Chivas exploited us in that area. I guess it was three or four times (they did that). They took advantage of those opportunities and that’s just the game.”

Despite the return of FCD captain and holding midfielder Pablo Ricchetti, who missed the season opener on suspension, the Hoops beleaguered FCD back line was very ineffective, especially on those balls over the top. FCD defender Drew Moor said, “We have to deal with it. We have big, strong guys in the back and too many balls are bouncing around. They were able to get to too many first, second and third balls. When you’re under pressure like that, they’re going to get in behind you. We just need to be better to the first ball and better to the second ball. We just weren’t today.”

At halftime, Hyndman was especially unhappy with the play of left back Blake Wagner. So at the break, he brought on Aaron Pitchkolan for Wagner and moved center back Danny Torres to Wagner’s spot out on the flank. Asked why the change was made, Hyndman said, “I think he might have gotten injured, but I really thought Blake turned a lot of balls over in the first half. That concerned me because they were really dangerous off the counterattack and the transition. We decided to make a change, taking Blake off and putting Danny Torres out wide to get a little bit better distribution from the outside. It didn’t work out the way we hoped it did. But at the same time, these guys are all professional players and they all have to do their jobs.”

Chivas’ first goal was scored in the 56th minute by Eduardo Lillingston on an over the top pass from Gerson Mayen who was making his MLS debut. Lillington raced after it beating Pitchkolan and his left footed shot made it inside the right post for his first MLS goal. Then in the 75th minute, Bojan Stepanovic a 70th minute substitute who also was making his MLS debut and who had only been signed the day before by the Goats, grabbed a loose ball and raced down the right side and past FCD defender Daniel Torres and slotted one inside the far left post beating an out of position Burse. 

FCD now heads onto the road for two games and coach was asked about any possible lineup changes. He said he won’t rule out some changes to his first 11. “I think the first thing we’ve got to do is look at a player’s health and see where we are with that,” he said. “I think when you don’t get results it’s something you’ve got to consider. Are you playing players in the right position? Are we getting the best out of our players? Will another player help by being on the field? I think it’s something that we definitely have to talk about” 

Game Grades:

Ray Burse – 4 only made 1 save, should have made at least one more and coach questioned his communication after the game

Drew Moor – 6 had some good balls in the box and one late shot go high

Steve Purdy – 4 not so good again

Daniel Torres – 4 at times the middle of Daniel and Steve looked like the Keystone Kops

Blake Wagner – 5 was first one subbed, at the half no less but it was scoreless with him on

Pablo Richetti – 6 the Captain was missed week 1 but he spent to much time helping the middle backs to be truly effective

Dax McCarty – 5 not bad, he was a little better last week but his replacement did nothing

David Ferreira – 4 to be the #10 you have to play like one, FCD is way better off going wide and less touches for Dah-veed the better so far

Dave van den Bergh – 6 I said it last week, the offense must go thru him if they want to win but he was better last week

Jeff Cunningham – 6 barely missed one header chance and he really needs to get on one of his scoring binges

Kenny Cooper – 6 no 60 yarder this time but Zach Thorton did deny him on a great chance

Subs:

Aaron Pitchkolan – 2 he figured in both goals and when the other team is scoring them, that’s not good

Andre Rocha – 3 played 25 minutes, contributed about 2.5 of them

Peri Marosevic – 2 made debut, played 10 minutes, nothing else to say

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Quote of the week: Jim Gabarra

Posted on 30 March 2009 by ASN Staff

“From my experience, the level of play was better than that of the WUSA inaugural game.”–Washington Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra on the Women’s Professional Soccer inaugural, played Sunday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The Los Angeles Sol defeated Washington 2-0.

Gabarra should know about the subject, having coached the prior incarnation of the Freedom in the 2001 WUSA opener. Those Freedom won that game, 1-0 over the Bay Area CyberRays in front of 34,148 at Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium. Hopefully that’s a good sign for the nascent WPS.

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FCD: From disappointing to frustrating

Posted on 30 March 2009 by ASN Staff

Empty stands, lethargic players, disheveled coaches. Many questions but no answers. After two games FC Dallas already have the look of a last placed club. These are the sentiments after Dallas 2-0 home loss to Chivas USA in MLS’ Sunday showcase. “A frustrating game,” said FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman.

ASN’s Philip Woodruff reports from Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Tex.

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Sol top Freedom in entertaining opener

Posted on 30 March 2009 by iyeo

It was a festive atmosphere for the start of Women’s Professional Soccer.

14,832 fans made their way to the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., to take a look at the inaugural match for WPS. It certainly had the feel of a major event, with WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci in attendance and women’s soccer legend Mia Hamm delivering the inaugural game ball to the field. The flags of the nations represented by WPS on the field were paraded out prior to the match.

“Today is an historic day for soccer and women’s sports in the U.S. and the world,” Antonucci said in a statement. “We have kicked off a new league that can stake its claim as the world’s premiere soccer league based on the talent our teams have assembled.”

The two teams featured in the match, the Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom, brought plenty of star power, with the hosts featuring three-time FIFA world player of the year Marta Vieira da Silva (or Marta) and standout midfielder Shannon Boxx, to name a few. The Freedom countered with forward Abby Wambach, who was making her return to the pitch while recovering from a broken leg suffered prior to last year’s Olympic Games.

The play on the pitch was more than enough to delight the audience, as the Sol attacked early and often and broke the ice on WPS’ inaugural season with a 2-0 win over the Freedom.

“We are really happy with the victory. To open up the inaugural season and come out with a victory is very pleasing,” Sol head coach Abner Rogers said.

It only took six minutes for the first ever WPS goal to be recorded. Sol midfielder Aya Miyama sent a free kick into the box to midfielder Allison Falk, who then headed the ball past a charging keeper Brianna Scurry into the net at the far right post, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

“It was a great ball from Aya,” Falk said. “I just went for it – I didn’t think I was going to get it, but I did and it went in. It was a very surreal experience… very exciting.”

It took a while for the Sol to find that second goal, but it finally came with three minutes left in the match, as Marta broke for goal and quickly fed a quick pass to midfielder Camille Abily just inside the box. Abily then launched a point-blank shot over Scurry into the net at the far post.

“There were times when we played very well, but fitness was a bit of an issue for both teams, as you could see,” Rogers said. “It is only going to get better. I was definitely happy. We dodged a few bullets; even though we came out with a good victory, it was very beneficial.”

Despite being shutout, the Freedom did its best to avoid such a fate. Its first chance to score came in the 24th minute, when Abby Wambach tracked down a long ball and broke for goal, Wambach made it to the box, but her shot was denied by goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. The Freedom almost equalized in the 64th minute, when a shot by midfielder Lori Lindsey bounced off the left post. LeBlanc had to make just one more save on a lob shot by midfielder Homare Sawa in the same sequence.

“The game deserved more goals. We deserved a goal or two, but that’s the game of soccer,” Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra said. “We felt that in the second half, we possessed the ball better and had more scoring opportunities. What I take out of it is something to build on.”

All in all, it was pretty much the kind of atmosphere that WPS had hope to deliver, with the crowd large and into the match, and both teams providing some quality play on the field.

“It was great; obviously a world class stadium,” Gabarra said regarding the Home Depot Center. “I was very pleased with the product on the field. From my experience, the level of play was better than that of the WUSA inaugural game.”

Marta also did her best to find the back of the net, as she displayed the sort of skill that has made her amongst the best in the world on several possessions, such as a dribbling between her legs early in the first half and evading two Freedom defenders while just barely keeping the ball inside the endline before flicking a quick pass to Miyama, whose shot just sailed over goal.

“I was very excited to be out there today,” Marta said. “The atmosphere was phenomenal, and that always gives you a boost as a player. We got the result we wanted and are very happy with that. “

The Sol will look top build on its momentum from its season-opening win, as it travels to New Jersey for a matchup with Sky Blue FC, while the Freedom prepares for a match against the University of Virginia as part of its KICKS against Breast Cancer match on April 4. The Freedom will then host its WPS home opener against the Chicago Red Stars a week later.

Match Facts

Los Angeles Sol vs. Washington Freedom, March 29, 2009
The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
Kickoff: 3PM PT
Attendance: 14,832

Scoring Summary:

LA – Allison Falk (Aya Miyama) 6th minute
LA – Camille Abily (Marta) 87th minute

Lineups:
LA: 23-Karina LeBlanc (GK), 2- Kendall Fletcher (18-Katie Larkin, 46), 3-Allison Falk, 7-Shannon Boxx (Captain), 14-Stephanie Cox, 8-Aya Miyama, 11-Brittany Bock, 20-Camille Abily, 22-Manya Makoski, 9-Han Duan (13-Christie Welsh, 84), 10-Marta.
Subs not used: 1-Val Henderson (GK), 0-Brittney Cameron (GK), 4-Aly Wagner, 5-Greer Barnes, 6-McCall Zerboni, 12-Lisa Sari, 21-Johanna Frisk
Head Coach: Abner Rogers

WSH: 1-Briana Scurry (GK), 4-Cat Whitehill, 11-Emily Janss, 21-Alex Singer, 22-Becky Sauerbrunn, 6-Lori Lindsey (3-Jill Gilbeau, 72), 8-Sonia Bompastor, 9-Allie Long, 10-Homare Sawa, 20-Abby Wambach (Captain), 25-Claire Zimmeck (17-Lisa De Vanna, 43).
Subs not used: 61-Kati Jo Spisak (GK), 15-Kristin DeDycker, 19-Rebecca Moros.
Head Coach: Jim Gabarra

Statistical Summary:
LA / WSH
Shots: 14 / 12
Saves: 3 / 6
Corner Kicks: 3 / 4
Fouls: 7 / 9
Offside: 2 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
None.

Officials:
Referee: Kari Seitz
Assistant: Referee: Veronica Perez
Assistant: Referee: Marlene Duffy
Fourth Official: Jennifer Bennett

What were your thoughts on the game? Share them below!

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Trillium Cup off to a flyer

Posted on 30 March 2009 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC drew kicked off the 2009 Trillium Cup in Columbus on Saturday, playing to a 1-1 draw in front of a large contingent travelling fans at Crew Stadium.

Having won 3-2 in Kansas City last week, John Carver’s Toronto side were looking to carry that momentum into a trip to the defending league and cup champions. The match represented the first of the 2009 Trillium Cup, a trophy awarded to the team with the most points from the regular-season meetings between the clubs and won by the Crew last season with a win and two draws against TFC.

What is quickly becoming an early-season ritual for Toronto fans saw more than 1500 pilgrims travel to Columbus again this season. The south end at Crew Stadium was covered in red for a second straight home opener, with the defending champions looking to repeat the 2-0 win that saw them start last year’s campaign in style.

Columbus were pressuring early on and won a penalty at the half hour mark, league and MLS Cup MVP Guillermo Barros-Schelotto playing a cross off the arm of Kevin Harmse in the area. The Argentine stepped up and sent the resulting penalty past a diving Stefan Frei and down the middle to take the lead.

Frei was on his toes to keep the lead at one through the rest of the first half, and pulled off a spectacular save from an Emmanuel Ekpo strike just minutes after seeing the post deny Eddie Gaven.

Greg Sutton replaced the Swiss keeper at halftime in what appeared to be a pre-planned switch by Carver, who had named two keepers on the substitutes bench with Brian Edwards staying on the sideline. Frei was diagnosed with a slight back problem at half time but club officials have since indicated it is not a serious injury.

Sutton managed to keep Columbus at bay in the second half until Dwayne De Rosario had a chance to whip in a free kick for the away side with 10 minutes remaining. With the Toronto fans lighting flares and setting off smoke in the south end, De Ro sent in a dipping ball that Gino Padula attempted to head out of danger and inadvertently sent past a diving Will Hesmer and into his own net.

Columbus had several late chances with Jason Garey particularly troubling the Toronto defense, but the Reds were able to hold on to claim a point at the defending champions.

Asked for his take on his side’s failure to maintain their lead, Columbus goalkeeper Hesmer was unequivocal.

“At the end of the game, you’ve got to close it out,” he told assembled media after the match. “Just pumping balls out, and throwing them into their half, and hoping that that is going to get the job done, just doesn’t cut it. We need a little bit more experience and [to] learn to finish the game and keep better possession.”

Columbus are in Salt Lake on Thursday night, while Toronto host Seattle on Saturday in the Canadian side’s home opener. The expansion side have won two home games of their own to lead the Western Conference early in their maiden MLS campaign.

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