Archive | March, 2009

First road trip of ’09 takes Wizards a mile high

Posted on 27 March 2009 by khowell

Wizards hit the road for first time in 09

The young Major League Soccer season presses on this weekend as the Kansas City Wizards travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids. The match marks the Wizards’ first trip away from CommunityAmerica Ballpark in the 2009 season as well as an opportunity for the club to get back on track. Kansas City lost their season opener at home last week, 3-2 to Toronto FC, and recent road results do not bode well as the Wizards posted a 2-8-5 record away from home last year. The Rapids, meanwhile, fared no better last weekend, surrendering a 0-1 lead to Chivas USA, who outlasted Colorado, 2-1 in Carson, Calif. The Rapids finished 2008 out of the playoffs and return to Dicks Sporting Goods Park looking to wipe the slate clean of their past disappointments.

Despite the 3-2 loss, the Wizards flashed moments of lucidity against FC last weekend, pressuring on defense and creating some opportunities for themselves. Davy Arnaud seems to have picked up where he left off last season offensively, scoring against Toronto on two long range blasts. Santiago Hirsig, this year’s Argentine midfielder of note in Kansas City, subbed into the game in the second half and provided the set up ball for Arnaud’s second goal. Hirsig is not yet considered match fit and will likely continue in his substitute role at Colorado but his interplay with Arnaud and the rest of the Wizards should be cause for optimism in Kansas City.

On the other side of things, however, the Wizards’ young defense appears suspect after last Saturday’s performance. While Kansas City prefers to pressure opponents in their attacking third, FC repeatedly caught the Wizards with too many men forward. Twice in the first half, Forward Chad Barrett found himself with space to run behind the KC back line and but for some poor finishing could have easily put the Wizards away before halftime. When John Brennan scored FC’s first goal of the night, he received the pass in nearly the exact location vacated moments before by KC defender Jonathan Leathers, who was up-field overlapping Graham Zusi in attack. If the Rapids catch KC off guard as often as Toronto did, it could spell doom for the Wizards.

Of course, exploiting any lack of awareness in the Wizards’ backline is exactly what Colorado intends to do and they likely have the weapons to do so. Colorado’s goal against Chivas last week came largely from goalkeeper Zach Thornton’s mishandling of the ball but the buildup up to that strike was no fluke. Forward Omar Cummings positioned himself well to score the Rapids’ lone goal and received decent service from Colorado’s midfield for much of the night. Meanwhile, Connor Casey spent much of last Saturday tying Chivas’ defense in knots and had at least one solid effort turned away by the goal post. The Rapids unloaded 17 shots on Chivas USA last week and, while only four of those were on target, that sort of barrage might be too much for the Wizard’s shaky defense. If Casey or Cummings or Colin Clarke or even Mehdi Ballouchy gets in the head of KC’s backline, it could be a long night for the Wizards.

The Wizards aren’t the only team with defensive deficiencies taking the field at DSG Park, however. Colorado’s back line imploded in the second half against Chivas, allowing Paulo Nagamura to score twice in four minutes with one goal coming off a poor clearance by Kosuke Kimura. Kansas City can take advantage of those slips as well as anyone, with experienced strikers and midfielders ready to bury any defensive slip ups or surprise Thornton from long range.

With teams as young and dynamic as the Rapids and Wizards, however, the outcome of this game may fall to something more intangible. Historically, the Rapids hold a serious advantage over the Wizards at home with a 13-4-5 record in the rocky mountain air. On the other hand, the Wizards will not want to go home on Saturday with two losses on the season and might take inspiration from such circumstances. So early in the season, it might be too early to tell who will control a matchup like this one. Regardless, both teams will want to take points from this game or else risk starting their 09 season in a serious hole.

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Stakes are high in last Giants Stadium home opener

Posted on 27 March 2009 by arozsa

When the stress of life gets to be too much, there’s nothing like a little home cooking to make the troubles melt away. You know the drill: stay at mom’s house for a few days, sleep in your old room, have the crust cut off your bread.

Perhaps, if the mood strikes you, even invite 10 to 13 thousand of your old friends to come over to your musky relic of a home and drink as many 8 dollar light domestics as they can in 90 minutes. You know, for old times’ sake.

Let me cut out the glibness and give it to you straight: The Red Bulls looked awful last week. Only one of their 10 regular season victories came on the road last year and they showed everybody why. They will welcome a depleted New England side to the Swamp for their first home game of the year on Saturday, and if they can’t manage a victory, away fixtures against Chicago and Houston in the next two weeks make an 0-4 start seem quite possible.

Suddenly, this home opener starts to carry a bit more weight. Still without his full complement of players, here’s what to expect from Juan Carlos Osorio and his boys this weekend.

Danny Cepero has three more games to prove why he’s #1. (Is it too sophomoric to say he looked like #2 last week? I’ll pass, then).

Kevin Goldthwaite is rumored to have sprained an ankle in training and is questionable for this weekend. To be honest, he was questionable last week too. Danleigh Borman played left back in the semi-reserve match against Portland last weekend, and will bring much needed speed and crossing ability to the backline until Alfredo Pacheco is available.

Mike Petke retains his spot, and should partner with Carlos Mendes. Why? Because Andy Boyens is halfway across the world with the New Zealand squad. That should probably be enough to keep him out next week too.

Jeremy Hall will look to build upon an encouraging debut at his brand new position, and will get the chance while Carlos Johnson is away with Costa Rica.

Khano Smith will make his Red Bulls debut on the left, and should make an immediate impact. Macoumba Kandji looked much more comfortable up front than out left last week, and will certainly see time there if NY needs a goal.

Luke Sassano takes Juan Pietravallo’s spot in only slightly shorter time than it took Osorio to figure it out last year. It’s called learning curve, folks. Sinisa Ubiparipovich should get the nod alongside him, unless Seth Stammler is fit for 90. Cross your fingers (No disrespect to Sinisa here, it’s just that Stammler is the backbone of this team.)

Dane Richards will retain his place, but will have to get used to being a marked man this year.

I’m not sure anyone else out there thinks this is going to happen, but I fully expect to see John Wolyniec alongside Juan Pablo Angel on Saturday. He’ll do all the dirty work and will be another big target in the box, as this lineup will no doubt produce dozens of crosses and little else.

Meanwhile, Steve Nichol’s boys make the trip down the coast looking nothing like the Revs that used to torment New York in the Eastern Conference playoffs year after year. Taylor Twellman is not available because of neck pain, which is quite a scary thing to read off the injury report. Midfielder Mauricio Castro is also out, and veterans Steve Ralston, Chris Albright are questionable. However, any team with Shalrie Joseph as the anchor won’t break easily, as San Jose found out last week.

Prediction: 2-0 Red Bull.

Surprised? I was a bit shocked at my own conclusion. But it all comes down to match-ups. The strength of the Revs lies with Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz locking down the middle of the park. The Red Bulls (provided Osorio takes these tactics) will keep it wide all game long and get service in to Angel. Add this to the Red Bulls clear preference for their own haunts, and the memories of the Seattle debacle should fade away rather quickly.

If not, then it could be a long season.

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For New York, stakes are high in last home opener at The Swamp

Posted on 27 March 2009 by ASN Staff

osoriolead

The Red Bulls looked awful last week. Only one of their 10 regular season victories last season came on the road and they showed everybody why. They welcome a depleted New England side to the Swamp Saturday, but if they can’t manage a victory, away fixtures against Chicago and Houston in the next two weeks make an 0-4 start quite possible. ASN’s Adam Rozsa tells us what to expect from Juan Carlos Osorio and his boys this weekend.

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Wizards, Rapids hope to avoid 0-2 starts

Posted on 27 March 2009 by ASN Staff

The Colorado Rapids host the Kansas City Wizards in their home opener Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.. with both clubs anxious to avoid 0-2 starts to the season. Despite being in different MLS conferences for the past few seasons, the two sides are traditional regional rivals with little affection for each other. (At left, Conor Casey holds off Jimmy Conrad in one of their meetings last season). Both teams will be looking to avoid 0-2 starts. Though they ultimately came up short on opening day, the Wizards showed promise against Toronto FC. But against a potent Colorado offense, the young Wizards defense will need to avoid compromising itself the way it did in the TFC game. Failure to do so could see the team in a 0-2 hole. Keith Howell previews the game from the Wizards perspective.

As for the Rapids, the hosts will look to play attacking football on their home ground under new gaffer Gary Smith. Since opening Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in 2007, the Rapids have won both home openers by a 6-1 aggregate score. With a win on Saturday, the Rapids would set a franchise record for consecutive wins in season home openers. Jeff Cann tells us what they need to do to pull it off.

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It’s Quakes vs. Quakes in Game 2

Posted on 26 March 2009 by dbuckholt

The Houston Dynamo head to San Jose to play the Earthquakes on Saturday night, leaving behind confusing new developments in their struggle to build a new downtown stadium, and possibly looking to add a new forward before the second game of this road trip, against DC United on April 4.

Tuesday, Dynamo president Oliver Luck announced the team had secured a $20 million bank loan as an advance on the future contributions of the city of Houston and Harris County toward the new stadium, which will be paid from a tax increment district covering the stadium site. But by that evening, the two members of Harris County Commissioners Court whose districts include the stadium site said they were nowhere near placing the tax district on the agenda of Commissioners Court. (See the ASN Dynamo Twitter feed for links to articles on this week’s developments.)

Meanwhile, chief operating officer Chris Canetti confirmed rumors initially posted on English sites last week that Houston was interested in veteran Nigerian forward Adi Akinbiyi, most recently of Burnley in the English Coca-Cola Championship. The 34-year-old Akinbayi will be taking a physical in Houston on Friday while the team flies to San Jose.

Houston has had Swedish striker John Pelu, currently of Norway’s Rosenborg, on a 10-day trial since last week, and coach Dominic Kinnear said a decision on signing Pelu is coming in the next day or so.

Defender Andre Hainault, who trained with the Dynamo in the preseason, has reportedly been signed, but is not yet on the roster because of paperwork issues in his transfer from his former club in the Czech Republic. He would be the 19th senior player on the roster, meaning that the Dynamo could not sign both Akinbiyi and Pelu without waiving a player.

The situation facing Houston in Saturday’s game shows why the Dynamo have been looking for help at forward. Brian Ching is gone with the US national team, and Kei Kamara is serving the last game of a two-game suspension, leaving Chris Wondolowski as the only true forward available against the Quakes. Right midfielder Brian Mullan has done spot duty at forward in the past, and seems likely to start next to Wondolowski, though he wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the prospect.

“Not my favorite place, but whatever I can do to help the team,” Mullan said.

This will lead to shuffling in midfield and defense, as Geoff Cameron would probably fill Mullan’s spot at right midfield, and Julius James could get the start at central defense, where Cameron played in the season opener against Columbus.

Houston lost once and drew once at Buck Shaw Stadium last year, in a return to San Jose for many Dynamo players who were members of the previous iteration of the Earthquakes. There should not be the same emotional impact for the players this season, and the Dynamo have a more pressing concern this game – where will the goals come from?

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Rapids host Wizards

Posted on 26 March 2009 by Jeff Cann

Both Colorado and Kansas City opened the 2009 MLS season with losses. Colorado lost 2-1 at Chivas and Kansas City lost 3-2 to Toronto FC at home. Despite being in different MLS conferences for the past few seasons, the Rapids and the Wizards are traditional regional rivals with little affection between the two sides. The Rapids are 16-19-8 against the Wizards and the home team dominates the series – the Wizards with 15 home wins and the Rapids with 13 home wins.

Kansas City will look to break a five game winless streak at Colorado, losing 4 of 5 games in the past 5 seasons. The Rapids will look to play attacking football on their home ground under new gaffer Gary Smith. Since opening Dick’s Sporting Goods Park [DGSP] in 2007, the Rapids have won both home openers by a 6-1 aggregate score. With a win on Saturday, the Rapids would set a franchise record for consecutive wins in season home openers.

The Rapids captain, Pablo Mastroeni and Wizards midfielder Roger Espinoza will miss this game due to international duty.

After Seattle Sounders FC opened the season with an impressive 3-0 win, the MLS Western Conference looks to be even more competitive in 2009.  There are 8 teams playing for 2 guaranteed positions in the MLS Cup tournament.

The Rapids will need to attack the Wizards to establish early possession dominance. The Wizards can escape with a tie if they can withstand the one-two punch from Rapids strikers Connor Casey and Omar Cummings who played well in the preseason. In the Chivas game, they had several chances, along with left winger Colin Clark. The absence of Pablo Mastroeni will affect the Rapids midfield. Jacob Peterson is expected to fill Mastroeni’s position.

Commerce City received over a foot of snow on Thursday and more snow is expected on Friday. So the weather will definitely affect this game as temperatures are forecast in the low 40s.  I expect this game to be a defensive battle with a low score.

Prediction:  Rapids 1-0

INJURY REPORT

Colorado Rapids
OUT: None
DOUBTFUL: None
QUESTIONABLE: None
PROBABLE: DF Ty Harden (groin)

Kansas City Wizards
OUT: FW Adam Cristman (fifth metatarsal fracture); GK Eric Kronberg (shoulder surgery); DF Chance Myers (fifth metatarsal fracture); MF Kevin Souter (adductor strain)
DOUBTFUL: None
QUESTIONABLE: None
PROBABLE: None

SUSPENDED
COL- None
KCW- None

ON CAUTION WARNING
COL- None
KCW- None

NATIONAL TEAM CALL-UPS
COL- MF Pablo Mastroeni
KCW- Roger Espinoza

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RSL hopes to rain on Seattle’s parade

Posted on 26 March 2009 by kali

Real Salt Lake travels to Seattle on Saturday to officially kick off its 2009 MLS season and, its fans hope, send the Sounders back to earth. After Seattle’s season-opening victory over the New York Red Bulls on national TV last week, Sigi Schmid’s team has been the toast of the league.

Colombian striker Fredy Montero scored two goals and assisted on another, propelling the Sounders past a New York team that played in MLS Cup just last season.

The raucous Seattle atmosphere won’t be the only challenge facing Jason Kreis’ team on Saturday, however.  Defender Ian Joy and striker Luis Miguel Escalada both sustained injuries in RSL’s final preseason match against the Austin Aztex last weekend and will not be available.  Joy is expected to miss at least a month with a hamstring strain, while Escalada’s ankle injury is believed to be less serious.  Robbie Russell, who underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason, has been cleared by the doctor but is unlikely to see much action on Saturday.

With Joy out, Kreis may opt to move Chris Wingert to Joy’s usual left-sided position and bring Tony Beltran in to play on the right.  The rest of the starting lineup should be familiar to RSL fans, as Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Wingert, Will Johnson, Clint Mathis, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Robbie Findley, and Yura Movsisyan all started last week against Austin.

Meanwhile, the Sounders should get an injury boost, as designated player Freddie Ljungberg is likely to make his first appearance for the club after missing last week’s opener as he recovered from a hip injury.  Seattle midfielder Peter Vagenas and defender Taylor Graham, however, will be missing the match due to long-term injuries.

RSL returns most of the players that appeared in last year’s Western Conference finals, however, and Kreis believes that his team’s resoluteness will be a huge advantage this season.  He told The Salt Lake Tribune recently, “The difference really, for me, is confidence.  And confidence in the psychology of professional sports is gigantic. Huge. So I think we have a lot of that already in our pocket, and we also have the team understanding.”

The match kicks off at 7:30 local time (8:30 MT) at Qwest Field and can be seen in Utah on KUTV Channel 2.

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RSL hopes to rain on Seattle’s parade

Posted on 26 March 2009 by kali

RSL’s off-season has been a week longer than every other team’s, but is now finally due to conclude. The setting, appropriately enough, is the same one that hosted the league’s opening night last Thursday. Kyle Beckerman and his teammates hope to fare better than the first team that visited Qwest Field for an MLS match, as the Red Bulls were trounced 3-0 in their season opener.

Kali Korbis reports from Salt Lake City.

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Trillium Cup, Round 1

Posted on 26 March 2009 by cgrzan

The Columbus Crew begin the home portion of their schedule against Toronto FC on Saturday at Crew Stadium.

The Crew enter Saturday’s match after playing to a 1-1 draw against Houston Dynamo last Saturday. In continuance of a motif established last year, the Crew tied the game after trailing for most of the match. Guillermo Barros Schelotto, last year’s Major League Soccer MVP, found the back of the net in the 82nd minute.

Toronto FC travels to Columbus after winning its first match against the Kansas City Wizards. Amado Guevara tallied two goals and defender Jim Brennan scored the other. Trailing 3-1, the Wizards cut the Toronto lead to 3-2, but failed to level the score before the match ended.

Columbus went undefeated against Toronto FC last season, compiling a record of 1-0-2 against John Carver’s club and capturing the inaugural Trillium Cup. The cup is awarded to the winner of the series between the two clubs.

The Crew will be without two of their best starters, defender Frankie Hejduk and forward Alejandro Moreno. Hejduk will play for the United States national team in matches against El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago, while Moreno will play for Venezuela against Argentina and Colombia.

After a disappointing season last year, Toronto FC will look to earn two valuable points and gain an early advantage in the Eastern Conference, while the Crew hopes to tie Toronto in the standings and prove they are once again among the elite in MLS.

Crew fans, what do you expect of this match?

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One year ago in American Soccer News

Posted on 25 March 2009 by ASN Staff

In one of the marquee matchups of First Kick 2008, the Colorado Rapids defeating the visiting L.A. Galaxy by 4-0. David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Carlos Ruiz were neutralized by the Rapids defenders, with Kosuke Kimura doing particularly well marking Donovan. Ironically, a play by Kimura cost the Rapids the losing goal in this year’s opener at Chivas USA.

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