Archive | October, 2008

MLS Playoff scenarios before final match day (updated)

Posted on 24 October 2008 by ASN Staff

First the simple: Five of the eight playoff births have been clinched. Supporters’ Shield and Eastern Conference winners Columbus Crew, Western Conference champs Houston Dynamo, Chicago Fire, New England Revolution, Chivas USA are all in. FC Dallas, Toronto FC, the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes have been eliminated.

Oct. 24 update: With the Red Bulls’ Thursday night loss to Chicago, Kansas City has qualified for the playoffs.

That leaves five four teams fighting for the remaining three spots: New York Red Bulls, Kansas City Wizards, DC United, Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids. What are the scenarios like for each? Let’s take a look:

  • Kansas City
  • The Wizards are in the playoffs. The only question is if they will be a #4 seed in the West or the East. If they win or tie Saturday or DC lose or tie, it will be the East.

  • New York
  • Despite their embarrassing performance Thursday, the Red Bulls are still alive for the playoffs. But New York will not enter as an Eastern Conference team (that will be Kansas City or DC). Their only hope is to qualify as the final wild card team and be placed in the Western Conference bracket. And the only way for that to happen is for DC to lose or tie Sunday’s game with Columbus.

  • DC United
  • Tom Soehn’s side do not now control their own destiny. If they win Sunday’s game at Columbus, DC can get fourth place in the East if New York loses or ties and Kansas City loses. If Kansas City ties, DC cannot get fourth place in the East (KC holds the head-to-head tiebreaker) but would make it as the second wild card team in the Western Conference tier with a win.

  • Real Salt Lake
  • If RSL win or tie the season finale with Colorado Saturday they clinch third place in the Western Conference and a date with Chivas USA in the first round. (RSL cannot displace Chivas for second as Chivas holds the head-to-head tiebreaker). If RSL lose to Colorado they are out regardless of what happens in the Eastern Conference (both Kansas City and New York hold head-to-head tiebreakers over RSL).

  • Colorado Rapids
  • The Rapids simply must beat Real Salt Lake Saturday to clinch third place in the West. That is their only hope of making the playoffs.

Any questions?

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Should this man step down?

Posted on 24 October 2008 by ASN Staff

Juan Carlos Osorio was brought in to replace the ornery Bruce Arena as head coach of the New York Red Bulls with a simple mandate from then-GM Marc de Grandpre: MLS Cup or bust. While this goal might have been a tad optimistic (to put it mildly) for a team that had only once in 13 years advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs, the Red Bulls are now faced with missing out on the postseason altogether. This is the reality caused by an extremely disappointing performance in the regular season finale at rainy Toyota Park Thursday night. Needing a victory to claim a playoff spot, New York ended up losing 5-2 to the Chicago Fire. The Red Bulls still have a chance of making the playoffs; if the Columbus Crew defeat DC United Sunday, Osorio’s team advance to the Western Conference bracket as the eighth and final playoff team. But that is almost besides the point. No fan or observer of the team can rightfully feel the Red Bulls are a playoff team at this time.

The team’s performance, uninspiring as it was, may have been doomed by some questionable coaching decisions. Why was Gabriel Cichero, who had demonstrated little other than incompetence in his other starts, in the starting 11? Why were Macoumba Kandji, Matthew Mbuta and Dane Richards on the bench? Why was Luke Sassano, who has played very sparingly this season and is mainly a defensive midfielder, brought in at halftime of a game the Red Bulls were losing 3-1 (and needed to win)?

To be sure, the team’s problems are not all of Osorio’s making. The front office took far too long to bring in the transfers he sought and the players who were on the field made several boneheaded mistakes at key times (none of which can really be blamed on coaching). Still, it bears noting that New York gave up 20 goals in its last six games. And Osorio prides himself as a defensive coach.

But what do you, the fan think? Should Osorio resign after this debacle in Chicago? Vote in the poll and let us know your thoughts.

n

{democracy:25}

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RSL’s last chance to make history

Posted on 24 October 2008 by Patrick McShane

For the winner, looms the spoils...

Real Salt Lake (10-10-9, 39 pts.) storm into Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Saturday to face their Rocky Mountain rivals, the Colorado Rapids, with a chance to make history. Not only will RSL and Colorado (11-14-4, 37 pts.) battle for the honor of owning the Rocky Mountain Cup, but both teams will also be fighting for the third, and final, guaranteed Western Conference playoff spot.

It’s almost as if the MLS knew that the postseason future of both teams would come down to this traditionally heated match when they were creating each team’s season schedule. If RSL win or draw, they claim the Cup and will prepare for their franchise-first playoff match. Colorado, on the other hand, must win if they look to make a surprise trip to the playoffs after fighting through a turbulent season marred with the departure of their head coach and a number of key players.

While this match creates the drama that the MLS and most fans would like to see, RSL were hoping it didn’t have to come to this. Having dispatched of FC Dallas 3-1 last week, it was then up to Colorado to decide whether this match would be a contest or a formality as they needed a win against Chivas USA on the road. Unfortunately for RSL, Colorado did just that as they defeated Chivas 2-1 and earned the right of this season ending show down.

For the first time this season, RSL will have their entire team to select from for the game-day roster. Only striker Fabian Espindola is listed as questionable, despite making the roster for last week’s match against Dallas. Defender Nat Borchers appears to be ready to make a seamless transition back into the backline after missing his first match of the season due to a neck injury as well as a case of food poisoning. On the other side of the pitch, Colorado will most likely be without defender Greg Dalby as well as late-season addition Cory Gibbs as they are both battling nagging injuries.

After completing a major transformation from their previous seasons in the MLS, one can’t help but feel that RSL will count anything less than the playoffs as a failure. With a full season ahead at their new stadium, RSL will hope that the playoffs will be a stepping-stone to attracting new players who can increase their level of play and make this season more than a fluke. One can’t help but feel that both squads will carry even more emotions than usual into Saturday’s match as the loser goes home.

Kick off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MT and can be seen exclusively on HDNet.

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Rocky Mountain Cup, playoffs on the line at DSGP

Posted on 23 October 2008 by ASN Staff

For the winner, looms the spoils...

Real Salt Lake (10-10-9, 39 pts.) storm into Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Saturday to face their Rocky Mountain rivals, the Colorado Rapids (11-14-4, 37 pts.) Saturday night. The teams will be battling not only for the Rocky Mountain Cup, but also for the third, and final Western Conference playoff spot.

It’s almost as if the MLS knew that the postseason future of both teams would come down to this traditionally heated match when they were creating each team’s season schedule. If RSL win or draw, they claim the Cup and will prepare for their franchise-first playoff match. Colorado, on the other hand, must win if they look to make a surprise trip to the playoffs after fighting through a turbulent season marred with the departure of their head coach and a number of key players.

Read the match preview from ASN’s Salt Lake correspondent
.

Colorado preview on the way.

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Pumas devour Houston in CCL match

Posted on 23 October 2008 by dbuckholt

UNAM Pumas used a dangerous counterattack to cruise to a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo in a CONCACAF Champions League match Wednesday night at Robertson Stadium.

Pumas was threatening on the break from the opening minutes of the match, and struck through first half goals from Juan Carlos Cacho and Fernando Espinoza, before an own goal by Marco Antonio Palacios cut the lead before the half. Palacios made up for his mistake with a beautiful back heel goal in the 69th minute.

“They were the more alert team tonight. We were second best at everything tonight,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said.

The Dynamo (1-1-2) fell to third place in Group B after CD Luis Angel Firpo’s 3-2 win last night at San Francisco FC in Panama. Houston will now need a win and a tie from their last two group matches against Firpo to advance. Pumas (2-0-3) clinched advancing to next spring’s quarterfinals.

Houston and Pumas played a thrilling 4-4 draw in Mexico City last month, and both teams again had reserve-laden lineups, as the coaches put their emphasis on domestic play. Houston did not dress Brian Ching, Brian Mullan or Bobby Boswell.

“Our number one goal, whenever we walk in the locker room in preseason, is always to try to win MLS Cup, and that’s our number one priority,” Kinnear said.

Pumas coach Tuca Ferretti, while happy with the play of his younger players, was upset with Trinidadian referee Neal Brizan, who issued five yellow cards to UNAM and one to Houston.

Thunderstorms that flooded streets all around Houston delayed the kickoff for 45 minutes, and the first half was played in a light rain.

UNAM’s Martin Bravo had chances early on left wing, but the breakthrough came on a through ball on the right from Cacho to Ismael Iniguez, who was pushed down from behind by Pat Ianni as he crossed into the box, and Brizan pointed to the penalty spot. Cacho shot to the right post after Houston keeper Pat Onstad had guessed left.

“The penalty is a penalty. It’s a bad play by us, a good play by them,” Kinnear said.

The Dynamo’s best chance in the first half hour came from a Pumas error, when Marco Antonio Palacios’ back pass in the 28th minute deflected off his brother, keeper Alejandro Palacios, toward the goal, but Luis Fuentes cleared the threat.

Houston was then caught upfield in the 30th minute after a free kick, leading to a three on one break. Orlando Pineda slipped the ball from left wing to Espinoza at the right side of goal for a shot across a desperately sliding Onstad.

“The second one, we got caught forward on a set piece, going for the ball when we maybe should have taken a more conservative approach,” Kinnear said.

Houston finally awoke from their slumber at this point, challenging the packed in Pumas defense. A bad goal kick from Alejandro Palacios went straight to Geoff Cameron, who moved in on right wing for a cross that skipped past both Nate Jaqua and Alejandro Palacios and deflected into the net off Marco Antonio Palacios’ shin.

Jaqua came close to tying the game three minutes later when he turned from outside the box and lashed a shot that skimmed the top of the crossbar.

Kinnear took hope at the break from only being a goal down despite Houston’s lackluster play through much of the half.

“I thought the momentum was swinging a little bit. We told the guys we need to be a little more alert, more assertive. We did it in spurts (in the second half). I don’t think we did it consistently enough to trouble them,” Kinnear said.

Kinnear rested Ricardo Clark after 45 minutes, as he had on Saturday night against Los Angeles, bringing in Richard Mulrooney at defensive midfield.

There had already been some pushing and shoving after foul calls in the first half, and Houston’s Eddie Robinson was probably lucky to stay on the field in the 50th minute, when it appeared that he tried to head butt a Pumas player, but Brizan issued no cards to either side in that particular melee.

Stuart Holden also could have seen red in the 60th minute when he was late on a tackle while already carrying a yellow. Dwayne DeRosario came in for Holden in the 63rd minute, perhaps as much to protect Holden as to provide a spark to Houston’s offense.

“Emotions get out of control (in games between US and Mexican teams). They’re hotly contested games. I told the guys, let’s keep our emotions in check. I think they do things to bother us and we do things to bother them,” Kinnear said.

Pumas killed off the game in the 69th minute, when Marco Antonio Palacios came across the box to meet an Iniguez corner at the near post with a pretty back-heeled flick into the net.

“They really didn’t have a lot of opportunities, but they took advantage of their chances,” Kinnear said.

Scoring Summary:
Pumas – Juan Carlos Cacho (PK) 19
Pumas – Fernando Espinoza (Orlando Pineda) 30
Hou – Marco Antonio Palacios (OG) 38
Pumas – Marco Antonio Palacios (Ismael Iniguez) 69

Misconduct Summary:
Pumas – David Cabrera (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 24
Pumas – Ismael Iniguez (caution; Reckless Foul) 33
Hou – Stuart Holden (caution; Tactical Foul) 43
Pumas – Luis Fuentes (caution; Tactical Foul) 71
Pumas – Martin Bravo (caution; Delaying a Restart) 72
Pumas – Marco Antonio Palacios (caution; Tactical Foul) 81

Lineups:
Houston
G – Pat Onstad
D – Craig Waibel, Pat Ianni (Brad Davis 70), Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett (c)
M – Geoff Cameron, Ricardo Clark (Richard Mulrooney 46), Stuart Holden (Dwayne DeRosario 62), Corey Ashe
F – Nate Jaqua, Kei Kamara

Substitutes not used: Tony Caig, Mike Chabala, Guy-Roland Kpene, Chris Wondolowski

UNAM Pumas
G – Alejandro Palacios
D – Marco Antonio Palacios, David Cabrera, Luis Fuentes
M – Fernando Espinoza, Fernando Santana, Ismael Iniguez, Jehu Chiapas, Orlando Pineda
F – Martin Bravo (Javier Cortes 89), Juan Carlos Cacho (c)

Substitutes not used: Odin Patino, Luis Rosas, Salvador Medina, Juan Ramirez, Eduardo Herrera

Shots: Houston 5, Pumas 9. Shots on goal: Houston 2, Pumas 5. Fouls: Houston 20, Pumas 14. Corners: Houston 5, Pumas 3. Saves: Houston 2, Pumas 2.

Att. – 8,741

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Dynamo CCL fortunes in peril after home loss to Pumas

Posted on 23 October 2008 by dbuckholt

UNAM Pumas used a dangerous counterattack to cruise to a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo in a CONCACAF Champions League match Wednesday night at Robertson Stadium.

Pumas was threatening on the break from the opening minutes of the match, and struck through first half goals from Juan Carlos Cacho and Fernando Espinoza, before an own goal by Marco Antonio Palacios cut the lead before the half. Palacios made up for his mistake with a beautiful back heel goal in the 69th minute.

“They were the more alert team tonight. We were second best at everything tonight,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said.

The Dynamo (1-1-2) fell to third place in Group B after CD Luis Angel Firpo’s 3-2 win last night at San Francisco FC in Panama. Houston will now need a win and a tie from their last two group matches against Firpo to advance. Pumas (2-0-3) clinched advancing to next spring’s quarterfinals.

Read the full report
.

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Kiwi teenager to summer with Red Bulls?

Posted on 23 October 2008 by ASN Staff

Seventeen-year old New Zealand prodigy Jeremy Linton was contacted by the New York Red Bulls and could spend next summer training with the team, according to The Timaru Herald.

Linton,a central midfielder, was part of the New Zealand Pulse Premier Soccer side on a privately organized tour of the U.K. that included a victory over Fulham FC, the Herald reports. Red Bull strength and conditioning coach Ralf Hennig reached out to Linton’s family, it adds.

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Cellar Dwellers Tilt in Season Finale

Posted on 23 October 2008 by mdiamond

The two last place teams from each conference play each other in their final game of the season Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium. Neither the San Jose Earthquakes nor Toronto FC have anything to play for except pride, in this case expansion pride. Last year in their first MLS season, Toronto had six wins and 25 points for the entire season. The Earthquakes have seven wins and 30 points in their 2008 expansion season making them the winningest MLS expansion team of the decade with one more chance to increase their totals. A reason to up the ante of a meaningless game? Why not?

The head coaches Frank Yallop and John Carver may take the opportunity to look at the reserve players to evaluate possible off-season transactions.

“It’s also about making assessments for next season” Carver said, “because we’re still making decisions about whether certain players will be coming back. I’m also thinking about which players will be protected in the expansion draft and there are still decisions to be made on that. Obviously, the final list of players that we protect will also depend on which players we expect to bring to the club.”

In reality that process never stops. Toronto picked up the always dangerous Carlos Ruiz from the Galaxy in August, and Carver has given each of his front line players— Ruiz, Chad Barrett, Danny Dichio, and Abdus Ibrahim significant minutes. Still Carver says he intends to start his A team against the Quakes.

“I want to finish off on a high because it’s important to leave positive thoughts in people’s minds. We did that on Saturday for our home fans [in Toronto’s 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire], but I want to finish it off properly by getting three points at San Jose. I’ll be putting out my strongest team because I want to finish as high up the league as we can and that’s all I’ve got my mind on. I’m a winner and I want to win every game that we play.”

Despite his desire to field a strong side, Carver’s squad has only three away wins this season. Taking three points from the hosts would be a sweet ending to an underwhelming second season.

On the other hand, San Jose is the only MLS team this year not to have a winning record at home, going 5-5-4. A victory Saturday would give the Quakes a morale boost going into next season.

Early in the campaign Toronto had six wins over a ten game stretch including three in a row, but coming out of the mid-season All-Star break, the Reds lost six out of nine and effectively fell out of the race. Nevertheless, Toronto is trying to end on an upswing and is riding a four game undefeated streak that they’d like to extend to five.

“We wanted to make the playoffs for ourselves, the fans and the club,” said Toronto team captain Jim Brennan, “but now we just have to make sure that we carry the momentum over to next year. This year has been a big improvement. John Carver has come in and done a great job, and next year he will get us going again and we will be up there for sure.”

Toronto midfielders Amado Guevara and Rohan Ricketts each have four goals and four assists on the season and anchor the center. Ricketts netted a brace and Guevara scored one in last week’s win over the Fire.

In their only previous match-up this season, San Jose and Toronto reached a nil-nil draw BMO Field. Quakes keeper Joe Cannon preserved the point when he blocked a PK from Guevara in the 68th minute.

The game was the first with the Quakes for Francisco Lima, Scott Sealy and Darren Huckerby, all acquisitions over a four-day stretch in mid-July. With the pick-up of Arturo Alvarez a couple of weeks later, the Quakes effectively remade their team. The tie at Toronto was the second of a nine-game undefeated streak for the Quakes and gave the team confidence that they were a legitimate contender and a brief respite from last place.

The mid-season optimism gave way to a hard reality check down the stretch to the playoffs. The Quakes have lost their last three in a row and haven’t won in six games. San Jose desperately needs a positive result to tide them over until next year.

Injury report:
San Jose
OUT: FW Gavin Glinton (adductor release surgery); DOUBTFUL: MF Ramiro Corrales (MCL sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Ryan Johnson (hamstring strain)

Toronto
OUT: DF Todd Dunivant (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: MF Jarrod Smith (calf); DF Marvell Wynne (concussion)

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Quakes discussions

Posted on 22 October 2008 by ASN Staff

Welcome to the newest feature on ASN, as we seek to further integration of the world’s soccer community (look out BigSoccer). These discussions are specific to the San Jose Earthquakes. For general topics go here.

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Galaxy Gabb

Posted on 22 October 2008 by ASN Staff

Welcome to the newest feature on ASN, as we seek to further integration of the world’s soccer community (look out BigSoccer). These discussions are specific to the LA Galaxy. For general topics go here.

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