Archive | August, 2009

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Sky Blue shock Sol, capture inaugural WPS championship

Posted on 23 August 2009 by iyeo

Turns out destiny belonged to the team that scrapped its way to the final of Women’s Professional Soccer.

While most WPS teams were reveling in the inaugural season, Sky Blue FC spent its 2009 season embroiled in turmoil, both on and off the pitch. The New York/New Jersey-based franchise waddled near the bottom of the WPS standings for a good part of the season and saw two head coaches leave the organization.

Yet, through it all, Sky Blue FC clawed its way to two road playoff victories, then pulled off the mother of all upsets, as one strike off the foot of Heather O’Reilly coupled with some gritty defense and some timely breaks enabled Sky Blue FC to claim the inaugural WPS championship over the host Los Angeles Sol 1-0 Saturday afternoon at the Home Depot Center.

Check out ASN’s photo gallery from the match and celebration afterwards

“I think it’s an exceptional team we have here with Sky Blue FC. I think it was a great fun for us, battling back to make it into the playoffs and winning three games in eight days,” Defender/head coach Christine Rampone said. “I think we came out strong, the adrenaline was definitely kicking with us and we went after them and had our legs.”

O’Reilly’s strike came in the 16th minute. Sky Blue defender Keeley Dowling threw in a ball into the Sol penalty are, forward Natasha Kai headed the ball to O’Reilly, who then let loose a point-blank bullet that ricocheted off Sol keeper Karina LeBlanc and glanced off the right post before clearing the goal line for the early Sky Blue advantage.

“I think the intangibles won that game for us,” O”Reilly, the WPS final MVP said.

Sky Blue found itself in an even more favorable position in the 27th minute when Kai looked to race past defender Allison Falk for a scoring chance. Falk bumped Kai as she neared the penalty area, forcing her to the ground. The foul might have been severe enough to warrant nothing more than a yellow card warning, but referee Kari Seitz instead issued a straight red card, ending Falk’s afternoon and thus forced the Sol to play a player down the rest of the match.

“I didn’t feel it was a red card, it was a poor decision,” LA Sol head coach Abner Rogers said. “it wasn’t a last defender (call) and there wasn’t a blatant tackle. It was a clumsy tackle and it was a questionable yellow.”

After being out-shot 9-1 in the first half, Los Angeles looked to quickly respond. The Sol looked to have a scoring chance when midfielder Aya Miyama collected a loose ball in the box and ended up being taken down from behind by O’Reilly, but no call was made and play went on, much to the dismay of almost all the 7,218 in attendance. Moments later, midfielder Aly Wagner floated a long ball towards goal. Defender Brittany Bock ran it down and ended up colliding with Sky Blue keeper Jenni Branam while trying to head the ball into goal. The play earned Bock a yellow card.

In the 72nd minute, midfielder Shannon Boxx launched a rocket and Branam had to dive to her left to redirect the shot out of bounds. Boxx had another chance 31 minutes later when Miyama sent a free kick towards her, but she was again denied by Branam, who this time held onto the ball, a critical point considering Lyndsey Patterson was next to Branam in position for a potential rebound.

“I’m so proud of this team. Even when we were down a man, we fought until the end and believed we could win this match,” Boxx said. “We played our hearts out and left everything we had out on the field today. You can’t ask for more from this team. Soccer is a funny game that way and today it just didn’t go our way.”

The victory caps off quite an eventful year for Sky Blue FC. After starting the season 1-4-2, head coach/general manager Ian Sawyers was fired on May 23 after it was reported differences arose between him and ownership as well as some of the players. Sawyers was replaced by assistant Kelly Lindsey, who managed to turn the team around and challenge for a playoff berth until she herself suddenly resigned on July 29 with just two games remaining in Sky Blue’s regular season Rampone was named interim player/coach.

Ironically, Sky Blue needed help from the Los Angeles Sol to defeat the Boston Breakers in the final week of the regular season to get into the playoffs, and the Sol obliged, defeating the Breakers 2-1 on August 9. Even though it celebrated a playoff berth on the sidelines, Sky Blue FC made the most of its opportunity, defeating the Washington Freedom 2-1 in the semifinal match at the Maryland Soccerplex on Aug. 15. Three days later, Sky Blue traveled to St. Louis for a matchup with the Athletica in the Super-Semifinal, and once again, Sky Blue pulled the upset, as a goal from Dowling proved to be the decider in a 1-0 win to seal its trip to Los Angeles for the final. Despite playing it’s third match in a week, Sky Blue managed to maintain the adrenaline that has enabled them to call themselves 2009 WPS championships.

“You never wish that you go through so many ups and downs that went through this season, but I think in the end it’s character building,” O’Reilly said. “I just think the fibers of this team are so close and so thick that nothing was going to break us.”

As for the Sol, it must reload from a disappointing finish to a stellar 2009 season. The Sol spent the entire inaugural WPS season in first place and the gap between them and second place peaked at 17 points. Los Angeles however stumbled at the finish, going 1-2-1 in its final four matches and ended up being outplayed by the underdogs Sky Blue in the final.

“It is disappointing to lose this game, it was our goal all season long to win the championship,” Marta said. “Soccer is a funny game sometimes and you have to deal with that. As team, though, we should be very proud for what we were able to accomplish all season long.”

This will not be the final WPS match of 2009, at least for six players who shared the field at the Home Depot Center on Saturday. Sky Blue’s O’Reilly and Rampone will join the Sol’s Marta, Boxx, Miyama and LeBlanc in the inaugural all-star game in Saint Louis on Aug 30. The WPS all-stars will face Swedish club Umea IK at the Anheuser Busch Soccer Park at 5:30 EST on Fox Soccer Channel.

Match Facts

WPS Championship Game
Aug. 22, 2009 – Carson, Calif. – The Home Depot Center
Los Angeles Sol – Sky Blue FC –0:1 (0:1)

Scoring Summary

16th minute Sky Blue FC: Heather O’Reilly (Natasha Kai)

Misconduct Summary:
LA – Allison Falk (ejection) 27’
LA – Brittany Bock (caution) 52’

Los Angeles Sol: Karina LeBlanc; Manya Makoski, Allison Falk, Brittany Bock, Stephanie Cox; McCall Zerboni (35: Sharolta Nonen), Aly Wagner (62, Katie Larkin), Shannon Boxx ©, Aya Miyama; Han Duan (78, Lyndsey Patterson), Marta.

Sky Blue FC: Jenni Branam; Keeley Dowling©, Jenn Buczkowski, Christie Rampone©, Meghan Schnur; Heather O’Reilly© (83, Noelle Keselica), Francielle, Yael Averbuch, Kacey White; Natasha Kai (67, Kerri Hanks), Rosana (71: Collette McCallum).

Referee: Kari Seitz
SAR: Marlene Duffy
JAR: Veronica Perez
4th Official: Margaret Domka
Attendance: 7,812
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 72 degrees

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Who should the Red Stars save from WPS expansion?

Posted on 23 August 2009 by mwkajdas

Now that the rules for the WPS expansion draft have been decided, it’s time for some wild speculation about which players the Red Stars will protect and which will likely be lost to the two new expansion teams from Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Rule #1 states that existing teams may protect up to 10 players on their roster but must leave at least 6 unprotected. Since the Red Stars currently have 22 players on their roster, they will be allowed to protect the full allotment of 10 players.

So which 10 should they give safekeeping? The Red Stars have several players of marquee status, which should automatically earn them sanctuary.

The most prominent is Megan Rapinoe. The second overall pick in the 2009 WPS draft, she has been a regular starter for the Red Stars as well as an All-Star and USWNT selection. As the darling of both the tweener and LGBT communities, there would be riots outside Toyota Park if she were not protected.

The same could be said for Lindsay Tarpley, likewise a USWNT team member as well as a two-time WPS Player of the Week. She probably also would have been selected to the All-Star squad had she not suffered a torn ACL just before the final game of the regular season. During the inaugural season, Tarpley was the face of the Red Stars, appearing on their billboards, pocket schedules, TV commercials and refrigerator magnets and her popularity among fans has remained high ever since.

Carli Lloyd is another USWNT member who chose to come to the Red Stars as part of the national team allocation process prior to the 2009 draft. Although she may not have performed up to the stellar expectations of many Red Stars fans, her national profile still provides enough market value to the team to keep her in town.

Cristiane was the third-ranked FIFA Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008 and the leading scorer for the Red Stars this season, including the first hat-trick in WPS history. She’s not going anywhere. In fact, I doubt that any of the five players the Red Stars picked up in the international draft will be dangled as expansion bait.

Karen Carney has been absolutely explosive on the wings and, at 22 years of age, promises to keep the Red Stars attack well stoked for many years to come. Caroline Jönsson has been one of the few bright spots in the Red Stars defense, registering more saves than any other keeper in the league and keeping the Red Stars competitive in all but one of their 10 losses. While Heather Garriock missed most of this season with two leg injuries, she played impressively in the last two home games and would add a much-needed spark to the Red Stars central midfield next year. Frida Östberg provides both toughness on defense and a counter-attack in the midfield but, at age 32, she could be vulnerable if the Red Stars strike gold in the next international discovery draft. With teams limited to five international players, Östberg could possibly be the odd woman out if the Red Stars decide to sign another player from overseas.

So with 3 USWNT players and 5 internationals safely ensconced, which of the remaining players should receive the last two safety nets?

Kate Markgraf is returning next year after missing all of the inaugural season while giving birth to twins. She was one of three USWNT players to come to the Red Stars in the national team allocation and she should be protected if only to give the anemic defense a fresh boost next season. By that token, Marian Dalmy, as one of the cornerstones of the defense, should also be safeguarded.

Rule #2 of the expansion draft states that existing teams may protect 2 additional players after losing a first player.

Under the above scenario, I would anticipate either Ella Masar or Brittany Klein to be the first Red Stars pilfered if the expansion teams are shopping for their offense and Jill Oakes or Natalie Spilger if they have defensive needs to fill. As an All-Star player who started every game for the Red Stars this season, Klein is sure to attract the attention of expansion coaches. Likewise, Masar’s status as an experienced WPS forward makes her a rare and valuable commodity to a new team. Oakes and Spilger are both defenders who excel in speed and athleticism and have greatly improved the Red Stars defense in the second half of the season. Regardless of which of the Red Stars gets picked first, I would hope that the next two players protected would come from this pool.

Rule #3 states that existing teams may protect 1 more player after losing a second. But expansion teams can only select a total of 9 players from existing teams and no team may lose more than 3 players. With two expansion teams able to select up to 18 players from seven existing teams, it seems doubtful, if not unlucky, that the Red Stars would lose more than 2 players.

Whatever happens, Red Stars fans will surely feel that somebody dug a hole in their team after all the dust settles. Hopefully, it can quickly be filled with some bright new prospects in the 2010 draft.

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Sky Blue shock Sol to take inaugural WPS championship

Posted on 23 August 2009 by iyeo

Sky Blue FC spent its 2009 season embroiled in turmoil, both on and off the pitch. The New York/New Jersey-based franchise waddled near the bottom of the WPS standings for a good part of the season and saw two head coaches leave the organization. But the club clawed its way to two road playoff victories, then pulled off the mother of all upsets, as one strike off the foot of Heather O’Reilly coupled with some gritty defense and some timely breaks enabled Sky Blue FC to claim the inaugural WPS championship over the host Los Angeles Sol 1-0 Saturday afternoon at the Home Depot Center.

ASN’s Ivan Yeo reports from Carson, Calif.
Photos on the way.

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DC United needs to wing it

Posted on 21 August 2009 by Steve Long

When DC United takes on the LA Galaxy on Saturday at RFK, the action will focus on the wings. The Galaxy has two masterful crossers of the ball in David Beckham and Eddie Lewis. United uses a variety of players in wide midfield, two of whom tend to drift inside and focus the team’s play into a crowded center.

Unless Coach Tom Soehn can train his players to use the entire width of the field consistently, his team will continue to lack punch offensively and allow too easy breakouts to opponents who will counter quickly as they win balls in that center area.

Soccer is all about movement away from the ball with a strong sense of overall team shape. I frequently hear references to shape from players, yet, in the flow of the actual game, the group will often ignore a free teammate on the wing. That player soon enough drifts inside and contributes to the congestion and loss of the ball.

Early season injuries to the skillful Fred and Santino Quaranta allowed rookies Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace to show their elders how to move correctly in flank midfield. They did as they were told and did what was necessary to keep good team shape.

When the heavy hitters returned, they did display greater width in their own games, but soon drifted into old habits. DC United became predictable and thus beatable.

In an MLS that has attained nearly full parity at the player level and a fairly equal understanding of the game at the coaching level, a coaching staff’s ability to train their players so that they will maintain shape consistently is now the great differentiator.

Watching United at Toronto, I was reminded of Casey Stengel’s comment about the early New York Mets, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” Again and again DC players ran directly at, or passed straight into, multiple coverage in the center while wings were neglected.

They slightly improved that pattern in Honduras on Tuesday, only to be done in by a horrible performance by Greg Janicki. The fact that many of the starters were younger players may have benefited team shape.

Only weeks ago, against Real Madrid, a much superior opponent, United’s regulars had maintained shape because Real dictated the form. Both teams played at a higher level and the game was more enjoyable.

The best teams make others play up to their level. More and more MLS teams have begun showing the cohesion that characterizes top clubs and international play. In theory, all squads should now play with good shape, but MLS coaches also know the value of playing to exploit an opponent’s bad habits.

They have decided that the best way to defeat United’s possession game is to collapse defenses into the center, await the inevitable turnover, and counter quickly and with full exploitation of the wings.

DC United once showed the way in MLS as Bruce Arena orchestrated the best collection of talent who moved the ball all over the field and then stuck it in the net. Watching new franchise Seattle and New England play mutually excellent team ball on Thursday night highlighted the quality of coaching that Sigi Schmidt and Steve Nicol have brought to those franchises.

On Saturday, Tom Soehn will face Arena, who is very familiar with United’s tendencies. The Galaxy will allow DC to drift inside and then exploit the wings with Lewis and Beckham. They will find either Landon Donovan or the Galaxy player neglected as DC’s defenders focus on the US Captain. Defensive shape will be a must for DC.

A few years ago, United would assign Josh Gros to run the opposing strong winger into the ground. While the tactic was basically designed to play to his strong engine, it was also fundamentally sound as it supported the greater strategic aim of overall shape. When the threat is widely dispersed, the defense will also be more spread out and less able to resist a rapid strike.

If United is to qualify for the MLS playoffs, win the Open Cup, and advance in the CONCACAF Champions League, they must first use their wings effectively. The talent is available and the vision seems to be held in common by the players. What is lacking is the discipline to make it happen.

When a team loses its rhythm, its stars naturally try to raise their own games to rally the side. In such cases, they tend to fall back on individual strengths. Thus, Jaime Moreno tries to possess, Fred drives inside, Christian Gomez goes at defenders one after another, and all meet in the middle and too often lose the ball.

They need to adopt a sort of Zen approach and come to the attack indirectly. Occasionally both Moreno and Gomez do drift wide to ease pressure on themselves, but they then too quickly revert to the direct attack that was so successful earlier in their careers. Perhaps it is time to put the rookies wide again and play the veteran troops where they are naturally comfortable.

By having Gomez and Fred split the central attacking role by halves, each can give a full effort while keeping something for Toluca on Wednesday. Let Moreno and Emilio Luciano split the attacking role while pairing with Quaranta. Keep the final sub for whatever game flow may dictate.

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Struggling Earthquakes Host Struggling Kansas City

Posted on 21 August 2009 by mdiamond

Unstable Teams Share Similar Woes

For the San Jose Earthquakes, excitement is difficult to maintain these days. It seems that as soon as the team shows reason for optimism, a demoralizing blow is soon to follow. Perhaps San Jose can take solace in welcoming the Kansas City Wizards to Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday. Although the Wizards have four more points than San Jose, the Midwestern franchise is in a mid-season rebuilding phase after a five game winless streak. One could make a reasonable case (but not much of one) that the state of the Kansas City Wizards is worse than that of the San Jose Earthquakes.

That is quite a statement, considering that the Earthquakes are winless on the road and are dead last in the Western Conference with 17 points. For the past two seasons, the city of San Jose has become somewhat of a revolving door for Major League Soccer players. Head coach Frank Yallop and general manager John Doyle make full use of the international transfer window, trying to patch up the team’s glaring holes. However, some international players treat their playing time in MLS as a warm-up for other leagues, and leave at season’s end. Such was the case with midfielder Francisco Lima last year.

In the 2009 campaign, the Quakes have again gained some solid international players. Ramon Sanchez of El Salvador and Andre Luiz of Brazil were brought in to bolster a central midfield void of attacking prowess. And San Jose’s latest move sent chronically injured defender Ryan Cochrane to Houston in exchange for an international slot. The Quakes’ front office then promptly turned around and signed Brazilian defender Fabio Da Silva. There is no doubt that these players can have a positive impact for San Jose, but the question is how long they will be around to contribute.

All offerings from Quakes’ players, new and old, did nothing last match against the Columbus Crew. A week after San Jose flattened Seattle at home, the Crew walked in to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park and brought the Quakes harshly back to reality with a dominating 3-0 performance. Sanchez and Andre Luiz looked competent in attack, but lacked aggressiveness in the midfield. They were slow getting to 50/50 balls and yielded possession all too often to a Crew team that controlled the midfield for a majority of the match. As a team, San Jose’s fitness looked questionable. Add to that the fact that they were outmatched talent-wise, and the Bay Area’s boys in black were doomed from the start.

Kansas City knows a little something about lacking aggression and fitness in matches. Take their loss last week to the Chicago Fire. Although Kansas City played host, Chicago came out as the aggressor and turned the pressure into a goal scored by Chris Rolfe in the 13th minute. To the Wizards’ credit, they did not roll over after trailing. Forward Zoltan Hercegfalvi made his debut for Kansas City in the second half, and showed some attacking promise for a team sorely in need of offense. However, it would prove to be short lived, as the Hungarian was ejected in the 85th. This allowed Chicago to tack on one more in the 89th to seal the victory.

Kansas City was able to take some positives out of that match, but aggression was not one of them. The Wizards have lacked fight for much of the season, especially during this five game winless streak. During that time, the Wizards have only managed one goal—and it was Claudio Lopez’ miracle strike from midfield that is sure to contend for goal of the year. But clearly Kansas City cannot rely on plays like that.

The organization has already made changes in an effort to reverse their fortunes. After suffering the worst loss in team history on August 1st, a 6-0 annihilation at the hands of FC Dallas, Kansas City fired head coach Curt Onalfo. Technical Director Peter Vermes stepped up as interim head coach on August 3rd. Vermes has been trying to promote new ways of playing and more importantly new ways of thinking into his team. His first go was unsuccessful, but a match against the Earthquakes may come at just the right time.

One thing is for sure when looking at the two clubs set to meet at Santa Clara University on Saturday: both feel that there is a chance for redemption this season. It is not clear if redemption means a playoff berth, or simply a spot on the league table a couple of teams up from the bottom. The various personnel moves show that these sides are not quite ready to throw in the towel. Besides, it’s never too soon to ramp up for next year’s campaign.

Vermes and his new attitude will be tested on the road for the first time. Although Zoltan’s suspension is unfortunate, it will certainly be offset by the return of Lopez and fellow midfielder Davy Arnaud from their respective suspensions. The team still has a proven forward in Josh Wolff, and the stalwart veteran Jimmy Conrad in back.

For the Quakes, it is unclear where exactly Da Silva will play. Defenders Jason Hernandez and Bobby Convey will most likely retain their starting positions, which leaves Chris Leitch and Brandon McDonald. Both have looked good at points, but struggle occasionally with marking. Leitch in particular has made some key mistakes that have resulted in goals. His mishandling of the ball against Columbus allowed Robbie Rogers to steal and score the Crew’s second goal. Mistakes like that have been mounting for Leitch, and it just might land him a spot on the bench.

OUT: GK Eric Kronberg (shoulder surgery); DF Chance Myers (fifth metatarsal fracture); MF Kevin Souter (sports hernia surgery)

OUT: DF Aaron Pitchkolan (L groin avulsion)

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Dynamo deal body blow to RSL playoff hopes

Posted on 18 August 2009 by kali

Needing three points to stay on pace with the rest of the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake battled hard but ultimately failed to score Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Despite taking 17 shots, only six were on goal, including one second-half effort from Robbie Findley that bounced off the crossbar.

ASN’s Kali Korbis reports.

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RSL, Dynamo go scoreless at Rio Tinto

Posted on 17 August 2009 by kali

Real Salt Lake’s playoff hopes took a tough blow on Saturday night with a 0-0 home draw against the Houston Dynamo.

Needing three points to stay on pace with the rest of the Western Conference, RSL battled hard but ultimately failed to score.  Despite taking 17 shots, only six were on goal, including one second-half effort from Robbie Findley that bounced off the crossbar.

“We’ve set goals for ourselves at home games — three points — and when we don’t get that we’re disappointed,” said coach Jason Kreis.  “There are a lot of things to take away from that game, a lot of talking points. The work and commitment that our guys showed tonight was very good. From the first whistle to the last whistle the focus was there. Everything was there tonight except the finishing touch.”

Disciplinary problems, which have plagued the team all season, affected RSL once again.  After gaining a man advantage on Houston after Andrew Hainault’s second yellow card 35 minutes into the match, the opportunity was squandered when Clint Mathis was sent off just before halftime, also for a second yellow card offense.  Mathis’ ejection, which came after he threw the ball on the ground in frustration with the officiating, marked the fifth time an RSL player has been sent off in 2009, often for what Kreis has deemed to be unnecessary infractions.  In addition, four Real players went into the game on yellow-card warning; Jamison Olave’s booking will keep him out of next week’s match at New England.

While RSL was frustrated with the result, Kreis was glad to get both Robbie Russell and Yura Movsisyan, who have been recovering from injuries, back into action.  Russell started in place of Chris Wingert, who was suffering from illness and dehydration, and played 82 minutes, while Movsisyan came on in the second half for Fabian Espindola.  Those minutes are likely to pay off next weekend, since both will likely see more playing time in Mathis’ and Olave’s absences.

On the defensive side of the ball, RSL was extremely effective, limiting the Dynamo to just four shots, none of which were on goal.  Brian Ching and Stuart Holden, both of whom played for the US national team in Mexico on Wednesday, were kept at bay by a tenacious Real effort and failed to give Nick Rimando much trouble.

However, Houston did its best to frustrate Real in its own defensive end, clearing six corner kicks and blocking several free kicks.  Coach Dominic Kinnear noted of his team’s defensive effort, “It was pretty good. We had the post to thank in the second half.  It was nice to have Ryan Cochrane back as an option.  Overall, we kept our shape and made it difficult for them.”

Certainly, the match had all the hallmarks of a tough defensive battle, with a flurry of fouls and a riled-up Salt Lake crowd booing the referees at the end of each half.

We’re proud of the point we earned, and we feel like we had to earn it,” said Kinnear.

Likewise, it was RSL’s second consecutive shutout.  Ultimately, however, the result may prove costly for a side that has only nine more games to climb its way into a playoff spot.

Match Facts:

Real Salt Lake 0, Houston Dynamo 0

August 15, 2009 — Rio Tinto Stadium

Real Salt Lake:  Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell (Chris Wingert 83′), Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran (Pablo Campos 86′), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Clint Mathis, Fabian Espindola (Yura Movsisyan 65′), Robbie Findley.

Substitutes Not Used:  Andy Williams, Ned Grabavoy, Chris Seitz, Rachid El Khalifi.

Houston Dynamo:  Pat Onstad, Andrew Hainault, Ryan Cochrane (Craig Waibel 90′), Bobby Boswell, Wade Barrett, Kai Kamara, Stuart Holden, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis (Mike Chabala 83′), Corey Ashe (Brian Mullan 69′), Brian Ching.

Substitutes Not Used:  Dominic Oduro, Ade Akinbiyi, Danny Cruz, Tally Hall.

RSL Player Assessments:

Nick Rimando:  Had a fairly quiet evening, but made the plays he needed to and kept things organized in the back for RSL.

Tony Beltran:  Thwarted Dom Kinnear’s attempts to exploit his relative inexperience by switching his wingers in the second half with some key tackles, showed more confidence going forward, and nearly scored on a long-distance shot.

Nat Borchers:  Borchers has really come into his own in the last few matches, making intelligent plays and providing critical leadership in the back.

Jamison Olave:  He and Borchers teamed up well to effectively neutralize Brian Ching, and even made a few runs up the field late in the match, trying to spur his teammates forward.

Robbie Russell:  Had a solid but somewhat quiet game.  Russell didn’t make as many of his usual forays into the attack, but that’s not unexpected for his first game back.

Kyle Beckerman:  Fairly typical effort for Beckerman defensively, but the team could have used a bit more attacking spark last night.

Javier Morales:  Continued the improved defensive effort he showed last week, but struggled to connect with the strikers.

Will Johnson:  The effort was there, and he threatened Houston’s goal with some long-range shots, but still seems a little “off”.

Clint Mathis:  Not only did he miss on an excellent chance at the beginning of the match, but he let his temper get the best of him for the second week in a row.   This time, the consequences were devastating, though.

Robbie Findley:  Had his chances to score, but got pulled out of position frequently as well.  His physical abilities are obvious, but needs to work on his tactical awareness a bit.

Fabian Espindola:  Much improved from last week.  He was better on the ball and beat Houston in one-on-one situations, but still isn’t threatening opponents’ goals with frequency.


Yura Movsisyan:  Looked very energetic when he first came on, but his impact waned as the game went on.

Chris Wingert:  Came on late as a substitute due to illness and didn’t have much time to make an impression.

Pablo Campos:  Also came on late and didn’t get much of the ball.  Like last week, not enough time to warrant a judgment.

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FC Dallas falls to Columbus Crew, 2-0

Posted on 17 August 2009 by pwoodruff

After two straight wins at home closing the gap on a possible playoff position to 4 points, FC Dallas reverted back to their road woes in Columbus losing 2-0 to the Crew. Dallas is now 15-15-6 all-time versus Columbus but only 4-10-5 in Ohio. The loss dropped the north Texas boys to 1-7-2 on the road this year and five of the last nine games in the 2009 MLS regular season are away from the friendlier confines of Pizza Hut Park. For the season FC Dallas is now 6-10-5 for 23 points, a full 7 points away from the 8th and final spot in the MLS end of season tournament with 3 and possibly 4 teams (depending on KC’s Sunday home game versus Chicago) in front of them on the outside looking in.

FC Dallas did not start out well as in the 10th minute Crew defender Chad Marshall easily out-jumped a clueless Attiba Harris and powerfully headed in a Robbie Rogers corner kick from 6 yards out, beating FCD keeper Dario Sala inside the right post. Dallas’ coaching staff was not surprised. FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said, “Marshall’s bread and butter game is everything in the air. He scored a great goal. We knew exactly what Marshall was going to do when he did score on that corner. We put one of our better headers on the ball. Compliments to him how well he handled it.”

The lead almost got doubled in the 22nd when Emmanuel Ekpo badly beat Dallas defender Daniel Torres then made a nice pass from the right side across the top of the goal mouth that barely alluded Alejandro Moreno’s sliding attempt to tap it in. Other than that not a whole lot of action happened in the first half.

Or really all the way until the 72nd minute. That was when Dallas’ midfielder Dax McCarty sent a long free kick from the far side to the back post that Dallas forward Jeff Cunningham headed from point blank range but Columbus keeper Will Hesmer somehow blocked over the crossbar, thus preserving his 3rd consecutive shutout. Jeff Cunningham said, “I didn’t think I got enough power on it but it was on target. Most of the time it goes in. The keeper made another big save and three points for the team. The Crew played good team football tonight, very organized. Chad (Marshall) and the back four did a great job tonight and limited my chances. I had two good looks. The ‘keeper made a good save on one of them,” he said. “This was a good test for us. It’s a little disappointment. We talked about some things but we didn’t execute. We didn’t play our best.”

The game was finally sealed away in the 87th minute when second half Crew substitute Eddie Gaven dribbled pretty much uncontested from the Crew side of the center circle, got around and past a few Dallas defenders then fired a left footed shot from just inside the 18 yard box past Sala into the left side of the net to make it 2-0 and ensure that FCD was to be shut out for the fifth time this season. Dallas was pushing forward desperately trying to steal a late point on the road but to no avail. What was weird about this game was FCD never really was out of it or completely overmatched. But you just knew thought that Columbus was the better team and would figure out a way to win.

FCD gaffer Schellas Hyndman on the game said, “I didn’t think we created enough. It’s hard to beat the two centerbacks with their size and strength. We weren’t able to hold the ball, lot of compliments to Columbus’ style of play. They didn’t mess around, they got it forward quickly. The two guys on the flanks were killers, Marshall’s bread and butter game winning everything in the air and the excellent goal. The second goal we had a better chance to stop, but we didn’t create enough.”

FC Dallas’ next game is on the road again against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, August 23 up in Giants Stadium. On the other side the Crew moved their MLS home unbeaten streak to 20 games in the regular season at 14-0-6. Columbus’ next league match is Aug. 30 at New York but play a CONCACAF Champions League game on Tuesday by hosting the USL-1 Puerto Rico Islanders.

Game Grades:

Cunningham 6 after the recent scoring outburst, this was a letdown

Ferreira 5 except for one real big game against KC, not much of an impact once again

van den Bergh 5 seems to be tiring lately, maybe should sit all next week to get 2 full weeks of rest as FCD is off the next week

Harris 4 how do you lose thier best threat on a corner?

Shea 5 played like the young player he really is

McCarty 7 looks likely to win team MVP this year

Moor 6 kept Rogers at bay for the most part

Davies 6 should be full time starter the way he’s looking

Torres 4 became pretzel boy once and generally is just not starting quality

Benitez 4 been a real good acquistion but tonight he was Ekpo’s biatch

Sala 4 one save and two against, umm no


Rocha 3 does he try to run that slow?

Marosevic 3 forgot he actually played 15+ minutes

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Galaxy hope to continue hot streak vs. Sounders

Posted on 14 August 2009 by iyeo

It’s been a trend that has been developing around the Los Angeles Galaxy for around a month now.

The Galaxy have entered a match on a hot streak or as the team looking to build on momentum while it’s opponent have been the team looking to snap out of a funk.

That trend will be no different this coming Saturday night, as the Galaxy will look to continue its climb atop the Western Conference standings while Seattle Sounders FC will look to get its season back on track as the two teams meet at the Home Depot Center in a match that carries huge implications in the Western Conference standings.

The Galaxy (7-3-10, 31 points) are currently on an six-match unbeaten streak. Its current run of form has enabled them to climb up to second place in the conference and are seven points behind the Houston Dynamo for first place. Los Angeles defeated the New England Revolution 2-0 at Gillette Stadium last Saturday. Landon Donovan opened up the scoring in the 21st minute with a wonder goal, as he unleashed a left-footed volley from the right side that curled perfectly into the net, beating Matt Reis to the left net. Jovan Kirovski added the Galaxy’s second goal in the 52nd minute, Los Angeles gave a goal back, as it surrendered a penalty shot to Steve Ralston in the 83rd minute, but the Galaxy held on for its fifth win in six matches.

Donovan’s brilliant strike was his ninth goal of the season, pulling him into a three-way tie for third place alongside Seattle’s Freddy Montero and FC Dallas’ Jeff Cunningham in the Golden Boot chase. Colorado’s Conor Casey currently leads the Golden Boot race with 11 goals and Columbus’ Guillermo Barros Schelotto has 10 goals.

One of the teams the Galaxy have overtaken the last month, Seattle Sounders FC (7-5-8, 29 points) has had a rough go as of late. After a promising start in which it won its first three matches and spending most of the first part of the season in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, the first year club have hit a wall, going 0-2-1 in its last three matches. Seattle lost its most recent match 1-0 to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The Sounders’ slide have dropped them to fourth in the conference, one point behind the Colorado Rapids and two behind the Galaxy. Worse yet for Seattle, while it has been almost unbeatable at home with a 6-1-4 record, the same cannot be said for its performance on the road, as it is only 1-4-4 away from Qwest Field.

The two teams met for the first time back on May 10 at Qwest Field. The Sounders’ Sebastian LeToux opened up the scoring in the 22nd minute, but the Galaxy drew level in the 35th minute as Alan Gordon headed in a Mike Magee pass into the back net. Both teams eventually split the points in a 1-1 draw.

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Another test against the top for RSL

Posted on 14 August 2009 by Patrick McShane

It’s another Western Conference showdown for Real Salt Lake as they tackle top-of-the-table foe, Houston Dynamo, this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. It appears that there is no rest for the weary as RSL will be thrust into another crucial battle after securing the full three points at home against the Seattle Sounders last week. Sitting only five points out of second place but currently on the outside of the playoffs, it’s a crucial time for RSL as they try to repeat the success of last season.

While multiple Dynamo players and coaches made a friendly visit to Salt Lake City just a couple of weeks ago for the MLS All-Star game, this visit should be far more hostile. After dropping a disappointing midweek match versus in-state rivals FC Dallas last week, the Dynamo returned home to manhandle the Chicago Fire 3-2. It was a deserved result for a Dynamo squad that, despite a recent difficult run, truly remains the class of the MLS.

RSL, on the other hand, hope to build a strong run of form at home over the end of the season with only 10 matches remaining. The 1-0 result over Seattle last week was a positive step in that direction, as the team exorcised the demons from a disappointing loss in the first match of season to the Sounders and put forth a complete defensive effort for the full 90. Second year defender Jamison Olave was particularly impressive throughout the evening as he frustrated attacking stars Freddie Ljungberg and Freddy Montero. Olave’s presence will be needed more than ever this week as he renews a heated rivalry with Brian Ching while hoping to make amends for his red card dismissal against the Dynamo earlier this year.

Buoyed by the return of left back Wade Barrett from nearly a two month absence, the Dynamo seem to have enough firepower among their healthy players to compensate for the recent loss of defender Richard Mulrooney for the rest of the season. RSL appear to also be on the positive end of the injury front with defender Robbie Russell likely to return from a hip flexor strain he picked up three weeks ago. It is unclear whether striker Yura Movsisyan will have recovered enough from a rotator cuff injury to be included in the match day squad, though he did make a return to light practice this week. Neither team will be missing players or coaches due to suspension.

Expect striker Robbie Findley to continue his hot form as a central striker after scoring his 20th goal for RSL and taking over as the club’s all-time leader for goals scored last week. The overall lineup for RSL should remain the same as last week, with only defender Chris Wingert appearing to be in danger of losing his starting job if Russell is fit and ready to go the full 90. It will be the hope of fans and coaches alike that despite their continuity in formation and lineup, RSL will be able to break free from a recent trend of slow first-half performances and find a way to dominate the entire match.

Noted Kreis after last week’s win: ‘I’m going to drive myself crazy figuring out how we can get our team to play in the first half as well. It would be really nice to see our team play 90 minutes.”

The match will kick off at 7:00 p.m. MT and can be seen on Fox Soccer Channel.

• It was confirmed yesterday that RSL had completed the loan acquisition of 20-year-old midfielder/forward Nelson González from Argentine side Quilmes Atlético Club. While the majority of the press surrounding González tabs him as a long-term prospect, he continues to impress in training and will be eligible to make his MLS debut this Saturday.

• Adding to the speculation that Robbie Russell should be ready to return from injury, RSL renewed defender David Horst’s loan with USL-1’s Austin Aztex on Tuesday. Originally loaned to the Aztex on July 21 in what was supposed to last the remainder of the season, Horst was recalled by RSL only four days later following the injury to Russell.

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