Archive | July, 2009

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W Connection draws W Connection 2-2, RBNY benefits

Posted on 31 July 2009 by ASN Staff

The New York Red Bulls were able to take advantage of a pair of own goals by Trinidad and Tobago’s W Connection to escape the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League qualifier with a 2-2 draw. The result spares the Red Bulls another embarrassing loss and leaves the team in an advantageous position going into the return leg at Giants Stadium on Wednesday. But that’s about it, as far as positives go.

Rojas did a lot of this, again.

New York was once again without ideas in midfield, its attack lethargic at best, its defense porous and mistake prone (and unable to protect a late one goal lead) and its goalkeeping shoddy. In other words, exactly what the team has being doing in MLS competition these past three months. The only difference was that W Connection are even worse than MLS clubs and the Red Bulls got lucky. The two own goals in particular were really all that kept the scenario we first envisioned from playing out.

Nor did we really see any of the “rally” that one blogger cited, or renewed resolve after the team went down 1-0. It was really more of the same. Ernst Oebster did not impress either. Most of the time he seemed to be running around rather cluelessly (in fairness to him, this is somewhat to be expected from a first game with a new team). The veterans, led by Jorge Rojas, were their usual bumbling selves. Juan Pablo Angel still looks to be in a deep slump. Dane Richards had a nice run or two and even managed a serviceable cross, but remains the same limited player he has been since coming into the league two years ago. On the whole, it was the same stuff we’ve seen all year: short passes in the defensive midfield, which if they weren’t turned over culminated in long balls to the forwards that invariably went nowhere. Hardly the type of thing you want to build on. So yeah, color us skeptics on this one.

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All-Star festivities behind it, RSL travels to Chicago

Posted on 31 July 2009 by kali

It’s back to reality for Real Salt Lake.

After hosting the 2009 MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, RSL is set to travel to Chicago for what promises to be a tough road match against the Fire on Saturday.  The Fire currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference after a 0-0 draw last weekend at Seattle and will be looking to regain the top spot with three points against Real.  Meanwhile, RSL had to overcome a sub-par first-half effort to defeat FC Dallas 4-2 in a thriller last weekend, buoyed by Yura Movsisyan’s Player of the Week-winning performance in the second half.

On paper, the two teams appear to have a lot of star power in common ahead of Saturday’s match.  Chicago’s Wilman Conde, Bakary Soumare, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco all played in the MLS All-Star game on Wednesday against Real’s Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Will Johnson.  However, with all of the travel and All Star-related obligations, those six players may be a bit fatigued.

Luckily for RSL coach Jason Kreis, he’ll have plenty of options in the midfield.  With Beckerman back with Real for the first time after the Gold Cup and Johnson in excellent form after his own Gold Cup experience, Kreis will be able to augment the core Morales-Clint Mathis-Ned Grabavoy midfield that has seen significant playing time in the last few weeks.

Real may not have the newest weapon in its arsenal against the Fire, however.  Rachid El Khalifi arrived in Utah earlier this week and had been expected to travel with the team to Chicago, although recent reports have him staying in Salt Lake to work on his fitness.  El Khalifi, a Rotterdam native who had played for Dutch Eerste side SC Cambuur-Leewarden for the past two seasons, is familiar with RSL’s new 4-3-3 system but is still in preseason form.

General manager Garth Lagerwey said of El Khalifi, “We liked Rachid in preseason and he fit in well with our group, but we weren’t sure he was the perfect match as a tucked in midfielder in a diamond system. With our switch to a 4-3-3 formation we needed wide players, and Rachid has played in this system his entire career. Adding him for our stretch run gives us a reliable, committed, and veteran player who has excelled in big games.”

Robbie Russell is out with a hip flexor injury sustained last week against Dallas, while Clint Mathis, Yura Movsisyan, and Jamison Olave all have minor injuries but should be available.  David Horst was recalled from what was intended to be a season-long loan to the USL Austin Aztex to bolster the ranks after Russell’s injury; Jean Alexandre will play with Austin this weekend instead.

Fire coach Denis Hamlett will welcome Logan Pause back from the Gold Cup; however, midfielder John Thorrington will be suspended after receiving a red card last week in Seattle. Chicago’s only injury is to Brian McBride, who is expected to be out for the rest of the season after shoulder surgery.

The match will kick off at 7:30 local time (6:30 MT) and can be seen in Utah on KUTV 2.2/Comcast 111.

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Crew come to Colorado

Posted on 31 July 2009 by pshea

Leading the MLS East with 30 points, the reigning champion Columbus Crew will take on the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. kickoff). Both teams enjoyed victories this past weekend and have relatively healthy rosters. Guillermo Barros Schelotto is out with a left hamstring strain, but the rest of the Crew are reportedly available. Other than the six-week loss of Julien Baudet, the Rapids have a full roster too.

Colorado head coach Gary Smith also has two new players to bring on as substitutes. Argentinian forward Facundo Diz played the final minutes of last week’s Red Bull blowout, and Smith said Colorado’s fans will likely see Diz close the game again. Golden boot leader Conor Casey put in a lot of tough work during the MLS Allstar game on Wednesday, and Diz put in a solid hour in a reserve game this week. Newly acquired Scottish midfielder Jamie Smith also performed well for an hour in the reserve game and might make his debut as a substitute. In coach Smith’s estimation, his new midfielder is more physically prepared to contribute on Saturday night.

“It’s always a big concern when you bring in new players,” noted coach Smith. “They might not fit with what you’re trying to do, and their personalities might clash with others. But I have to say that Julien, Jamie, Facundo, and Pat have been great. Pat’s been terrific. He knows a lot of the players. But for the other three, it’s extremely tough. They’re coming from abroad from different cultures, but they’ve been wonderful. We’ve got a good group. The stars blessed us with the players we have. They’re all looking to achieve.”

The group chemistry of the Colorado team is very positive. When former Rapids defender Mike Petke came out of the Red Bulls locker room after getting blown out last Saturday night, it was like a family reunion with the wives and children of his former teammates.

“It’s a terrific team spirit,” coach Smith said of his players, noting how positive team spirit “is always an ingredient of success.”

Looking at the Crew roster, coach Smith said, “They have creative players, athletic and quick players, and also good strength and discipline. These are nice qualities to have. These are the sort of games that our players don’t need any motivation for. Without a doubt, they’ll be ready.”

Regarding his top striker’s form, coach Smith sid, “Conor’s a little bit tired from Wednesday. He played well. He put a lot of effort into the game.” Smith noted how Casey orchestrated the goal and “had some really terrific plays during the game. I thought he played ever so well.”

Baudet update
Coach Smith said his new French defender will be out about six weeks. He had a plate inserted to stabilize the fractured ulna and radius in his left arm this week, which Smith said, “should speed his recovery. In about three weeks, if possible, he can put a soft cast on and start running. When all’s said and done, you can pull your hamstring and be out for longer.”

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All-Star festivities behind it, RSL travels to Chicago

Posted on 31 July 2009 by kali

After hosting the 2009 MLS All-Star Game Wednesday, Real Salt Lake travels to Chicago for what promises to be a tough road match against the Fire on Saturday. Chicago currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference after a 0-0 draw last weekend at Seattle and will be looking to regain the top spot with three points against Jason Kreis‘ men.

Kali Korbis previews the match from Salt Lake City.

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Quakes try to slow Sounders playoff push

Posted on 31 July 2009 by mdiamond

At the end of the 2008 MLS season, the San Jose Earthquakes were dead last in the Western table. As it was an expansion season for the newly reformed team, that was tolerable. Indeed, they performed better than the other two expansion sides in this decade gaining eight wins and 33 points.

The newest expansion team, Seattle FC, has thrown out the book that says the expansion side should play poorly in its first year. Over halfway through the campaign, Seattle stands in second place, only three points out of first and has shown no signs of a rookie letdown.

The Sounders visit the Quakes on Sunday for an early noon kickoff.

The Quakes have lost both previous matches against Seattle this season both at Qwest Field. On April 25 the Sounders gained a 2-0 decision on goals by Freddie Ljungberg and and Fredy Montero. The men in green took the Quakes on June 13, 2-1, with Seattle goals framing halftime again coming from Ljungberg and Montero . Darren Huckerby got his first goal of the season in the 68th minute for the Quakes, but it was too little, too late.

Montero is second among MLS goal-scoring leaders with nine. His six assists give him 24 points, a MLS best.
Seattle is tied for the fewest losses in MLS with four other teams. The side hasn’t lost since the first week of June. Two of their three losses have come on the road at the hands of Chivas USA. The defense has produced nine clean sheets, and only thrice have opponents notched multiple goals in a game against them. The stingy defense is led by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, an All-Star selection who played about 25 minutes against Everton Wednesday.

Also representing the Sounder’s in Wednesday’s All-Star game were Ljungberg, Montero, and Kasey Keller in goal. The Quakes, in contrast, had no players represented at the game.

Keller has 0.8 goals-against average, good for second best in the league. Besides Hurtado, the rest of the back line shares defensive credit. Along with veteran Tyrone Marshall, James Riley has shut down opponents’ offenses. Riley has the most playing time of any Sounder. A member of the bottom-dwelling Quakes last year, Riley was plucked away from San Jose by Seattle in the expansion draft. Imagine his feelings at getting picked two consecutive years by newly formed teams. From one losing situation to another, he must have thought. But fortune has smiled on Riley and Seattle as his squad controls its own destiny into the playoffs. Short of a complete meltdown, Seattle might be the first MLS expansion team to make the playoffs in its inaugural season in this millenium.

Sunday against the Chicago Fire the Sounders couldn’t break through resulting in a 0-0 draw. The twist on the game is that each side had a send off within five minutes of each other. First, the Fire’s John Thorrington earned his second yellow card in the 54th minute. Then five minutes later Ljungberg got booked for diving. He became irate and got sent off for arguing.

In retrospect Ljungberg’s behavior was costly. For five minutes Seattle was a man up for the first time this season compared to being a man down four previous times. Losing Ljungberg might have nullified the Sounders chances of earning three points against Chicago, which would have lifted them to within a point of the top club Houston. He will also be missed in the upcoming tilt against San Jose. His skills as a playmaker are especially valuable on the smaller Buck Shaw Stadium pitch, home of the Earthquakes. On the other hand, it allowed Freddie to play the entire All-Star game knowing he would have the following weekend off.

Seattle catches a small break with the return of Brad Evans from Gold Cup competition, offsetting Ljungberg’s loss at midfield.

Meanwhile the Quakes remain mired in last place in the Western table. Occasional glimpses of success that hint at a breakout are too infrequent. Coming from behind 2-0 last Saturday against DC United showed excellent determination, but it wasn’t enough to get the three points.

The Quakes have undoubtedly observed the strategy of other clubs against the Sounders. Montero and Ljungberg are among the most fouled players. Seattle media have called it hack-a-Fred and decried the practice, but the Quakes may join the trend in order to hamper the Sounders’ attack.

San Jose continues to churn talent looking for the right combination to achieve wins. Gone are Eric Denton, Kelly Gray, and Pablo Campos. Joining the squad are Antonio Ribeiro and Salvadoran national team captain Ramon Sanchez. In his first match with the Quakes, Sanchez was relatively quiet in central midfield against DC United. With more time to train with the team will Sanchez and Ribeiro be able to control the center of the pitch and shore up the core? Quakes’ coaches and fans are hoping so.

Injury Report
Earthquakes
OUT: DF Aaron Pitchkolan (L groin avulsion); DOUBTFUL: MF Arturo Alvarez (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Ramiro Corrales (R ankle sprain); FW Ryan Johnson (L AC joint sprain); PROBABLE: DF Ryan Cochrane (L ankle surgery)
Sounders
OUT: GK Chris Eylander (L medial knee bone bruise); DF Taylor Graham (R metatarsal fracture); MF Michael Fucito (R foot sesamoiditis)

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Everton edge MLS All-Stars on penalties

Posted on 30 July 2009 by Patrick McShane

It took a monstrous performance from American keeper Tim Howard as Everton FC outlasted the MLS All-Stars Wednesday to win 4-3 on penalty kicks after the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Howard deservedly received MVP honors for his performance, where he made stunning save after save both during the match as well as during the penalty shootout. This is the first time the MLS All-Stars have lost to a foreign opponent and their first loss since 2005.

What turned out to be a surprisingly even affair didn’t appear to be closely aligned in the early minutes of the match, with Everton dominating the run of play. Striker Louis Saha was particularly dangerous in attack with towering midfielder Marouane Fellaini casually working the ball through a lethargic MLS backline. Despite their prowess on attack, it was actually a sloppy back pass by MLS starlet Stuart Holden that led to Everton’s goal in the 12th minute. It was an easy strike for Saha who, despite a range of injury concerns over his career, is still considered an elite striker.

Fortunately for the 20,124 fans in attendance the MLS seemed to come to life and began to create a number of chances. This build up finally led to a breakthrough in the 26th minute when Holden made up for his earlier error and cradled a Conor Casey pass to an onrushing Brad Davis for an easy shot on the left side of goal. The MLS continued to create more opportunities for the remainder of the half, but Howard was up to the task on a number of close range shots.

Though the second half produced the typical mass substitutions one expects from an All-Star game, the qualify of play didn’t drop off and almost appeared to elevate. Landon Donovan looked particularly impressive on attack, nearly delivering the breakthrough goal when he carelessly slammed a wide open opportunity 5 yards in front of goal off of the side bar. After three minutes of added time, the match moved to a penalty kick scenario.

While Everton’s first two kick-takers, James Vaughan and Jo, delivered two horrific misses, the MLS couldn’t take advantage and had their own problems with the spot kicks Only host Real Salt Lake’s own Will Johnson and Donovan delivered clean shots on goal, with Howard contesting nearly every shot headed his direction. The deadlock on penalties was finally broken when Seattle midfielder and former English Premier League regular, Freddie Ljungberg, tried to chip the ball past Howard only for the Everton keeper to casually knock the ball down after initially diving to the right.

Despite the defeat, the overall match was entertaining and the fans seemed to enjoy the atmosphere that Rio Tinto Stadium delivered. With news arriving earlier this week that Houston will be hosting the 2010 All-Star game, one can only anticipate another compelling affair next year.

Notable Performances:

Keller – Probably played longer than he anticipated due to Thornton’s injury. Overall played a great match and didn’t make a lot of mistakes while stepping up his play during the penalty kicks.

Holden – Would have been in contention for MVP if one of his assists wasn’t for the other team. That taken into consideration, he played admirably considering this match was less than a week after his stellar Gold Cup performance.

Beckerman – Was far more withdrawn in Kinnear’s formation than one typically finds Kyle in an RSL kit. While he was outmuscled by Fellaini, he was tenacious and aggressive.

Ljungberg – He was going to be my vote for MVP until the 80th minute came along and he ran out of gas. (His attempt at Zidane status with the chipped penalty kick was also a horrible idea). That said, he was the motor on attack the majority of the night and was one of the better passers on the team.

Casey – I just wasn’t as impressed with Casey’s performance as some people on Twitter were last night. He was consistently offside on breaks and seemed dodgy on attack. His only close call was the snap header off of Holden’s cross that challenged Howard late in the first half. He was decent if someone (like Donovan) set up the attack, but was lost on his own.

Blanco – I expected more from Blanco and he just didn’t deliver. Maybe it was the late-night partying at the MLS W.O.R.K.S. All-Star event on Tuesday, or maybe he just didn’t want to get hurt. He seemed indecisive at the top of the box, which isn’t what I typically consider a Blanco trait.

Johnson – Prior to Wednesday I was shocked by Johnson’s selection to the squad. After watching his second-half performance, I feel like I need to recant my sentiment of doubt. Johnson appeared very comfortable in his central midfield role and was quick with his decision making. Hopefully this leads to a strong second half of the season for him in MLS play.

Morales – The best thing Morales did all night was honor teammate Andy Williams by wearing his traditional jersey number, 77. Outside of that, he seemed lost throughout the match and appeared to pick up a late injury that could hurt his chances of playing for Real Salt Lake this weekend.

Donovan – If Donovan was fit to play the entire match, I think we would have seen a different result and potentially a different MVP. I thought Donovan was pure class throughout the second half despite his late folly in front of goal. He was one step ahead of Everton’s defense and brilliant at getting his teammates involved.

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Red Stars order the filet à Sol

Posted on 30 July 2009 by mwkajdas

You probably wouldn’t expect many fireworks when a team with nothing to lose plays against another with nothing to gain. That will be the scenario this Sunday at Toyota Park when the Chicago Red Stars, whose playoff hopes were vanquished last weekend, host the Los Angeles Sol, who have already clinched a spot in the WPS Championship game scheduled for Aug. 22nd. But to suggest that the Red Stars have nothing left to play for sets off fireworks of an entirely different kind.

“We don’t want to compromise winning,” Red Stars coach Emma Hayes attested after her team received its coup de grâce at the hands (and feet) of the Washington Freedom. She emphatically spurned the notion that she might experiment now with her starting lineup to give playing time to squad members who have watched most of this season from the bench. “These players are professionals and I expect them to conduct themselves as such,” Ms. Hayes reiterated. So the Sol should expect to receive no quarter from the Red Stars come Sunday evening.

This will be the first and only visit the Sol make to Bridgeview this season. In the first of their two prior matches in Carson, California, the Red Stars came agonizingly close to beating the Sol when Cristiane headed a pass from Ella Masar past Karina LeBlanc, breaking a scoreless game at the 88-minute mark. But before Red Star fans could even sit back in their seats, Camile Abily had leveled the score in extra time, sending everyone home with bittersweet tastes in their mouths.

But that bitter sweetness turned into bile for Red Stars fans when the Sol embarrassed their team 4-0 in their second game, tying Chicago for the worst loss in WPS history. So tell Jimmy it’s on! The Red Stars still have two things to play for this Sunday after all. First is to avenge the historic humiliation of their long-suffering fans. Second is to prove to Emma Hayes and the rest of the league that they have what it takes to beat a championship team.

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Howard shines in Everton defeat of MLS All-Stars

Posted on 30 July 2009 by ASN Staff

Past and present USMNT keepers

It took a monstrous performance from American keeper Tim Howard as Everton FC outlasted the MLS All-Stars Wednesday to win 4-3 on penalty kicks after the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Howard deservedly received MVP honors for his performance, where he made stunning save after save both during the match as well as during the penalty shootout.

Get ASN’s match report and be sure to read the about the notable performances in the match.

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Gerba, TFC go down in CCL debut

Posted on 30 July 2009 by ASN Staff

Toronto FC entered Wednesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League qualification match with the Puerto Rico Islanders missing several key players due to injuries. In the end it was doubtful these absences would have made much of a difference, as the Ontario side had few solid chances and just an offside goal by Ali Gerba to its credit. The 1-0 loss puts TFC in a difficult spot in the return leg at Puerto Rico next week.

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TFC fall in CCL debut

Posted on 30 July 2009 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

Toronto FC entered Wednesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League qualification match with the Puerto Rico Islanders missing several key players due to injuries. In the end it was doubtful these absences would have made much of a difference, as the Ontario side went down 1-0 to the Islanders and will face an extremely difficult task in the return leg.

As a result of the injuries, TFC’s starting lineup was different than it had been in previous matches.

Keeper: Stefan Frei
Defenders: Marvell Wynne, Emmanuel Gomez, Nick Garcia, Jim Brennan
Midfielders: Dwayne De Rosario, Sam Cronin, Carl Robinson, Pablo Vitti
Forwards: Chad Barrett, Ali Gerba

The first half began dull and lacking excitement and opportunities. Puerto Rico started strong and fast, winning a few set pieces in dangerous areas that kept the TFC defense on its toes. Toronto was able to take at least a modicum of control later in the half, ending with the better chances and more possession of the ball.

The second half continued to favor Toronto who maintained possession and kept their chances coming. But luck was not on their side, as the scoring opportunities finished short. The only chance that culminated in a goal was disallowed for offside. The Puerto Rico Islanders took advantage of Toronto FC on a set piece to get the only goal of the match.

The most memorable quote of the night came from TFC head coach Chris Cummins on Emmanuel Gomez’s performance: “I thought he was the best player on the field,” Cummins said of the 18-year old defender. Cummins was indeed outstanding in his first start in a competitive match. The young player will give Cummins options in the heavy packed weeks to come.

The game was one sided for the most part with only two shots on target against Toronto–one being the goal.

Final score: Toronto FC 0, Puerto Rico Islanders 1

Toronto will now head to face the New England Revolution on Saturday before the return leg in Puerto Rico Tuesday. TFC will then return home for their friendly against Real Madrid.

Ratings for players from 1 (low) to 10 (high), ranked by position:

Toronto FC

Stefan Frei: 6
He had little to do and was not tested greatly. When called upon he committed himself to the ball which led to the open net and the goal.

Marvell Wynne: 7
He had decent game, sometimes looked out of position but did well to be there when needed.

Emmanuel Gomez: 8
He got the start over Velez, and as noted did very well in his position. He was very calm with the ball and cleared it effectively. By far the best player on the field.

Nick Garcia: 7
Slow compared to the Puerto Rico Islanders players but did well to keep them away from the net.

Jim Brennan: 6.5
An average game on his behalf, his crosses lacked danger and accuracy.

Carl Robinson: 6.5
A few sloppy passes in the middle of the park gave Toronto a scare.

Sam Cronin: 7
His first game for Toronto in a while, but did well and created some chances.

Pablo Vitti: 6.5
Back to his old disappointing performances, he could have done better and reacted faster with the ball.

Dwayne De Rosario: 7.5
Seemed off to start the match but then became more involved. Would probably love to have the chance he had in the first half again. Over all well played game creating some plays and chances.

Chad Barrett: 6.5
He seems nervous playing, takes too much time with the ball, but did create some danger and chances.

Ali Gerba: 6.5
Was unable to break the defense in dangerous spaces. Unfortunate to be slightly offside on his best chance of the night.

Subs Used:
Danny Dichio: 7.5
Came on for Robinson, and did very well in the short period of time on. He had a few chances that were denied by the keeper but did create plenty of danger.

O’Brian White: N/A
Came on for Barrett, but did not create much danger. Still seems scared to hurt his knee again.

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