Monday, August 8, 2011

MLS Notes: Aug. 8

With the season more than half over the gap between play-off team and play-off dreamer is getting bigger. Chivas USA continues to hold the 10th play-off spot on 29 points, just one in front of Houston and a few teams sit behind them. However, we can already put the nail in the coffins of both Canadian clubs, Chicago Fire and most likely New England Revolution.

After a slip up against Portland last time out, LA Galaxy reasserted their dominance with a big win over FC Dallas. Sporting KC's unbeaten run was ended by Seattle as we saw a diabolical two-footed tackle by DP Omar Bravo; followed by an embarrassing display following Bravo's sending off.

In DC, Dwayne De Rosario continued to haunt his former club scoring a hat-trick and getting DC the draw against Toronto FC. This match featured some dubious officiating which led to two goals in the match. Andy Iro has proved to be a terrible signing for TFC. He has shown nothing but clumsiness and has given away penalties in the last few matches. He has faired just slightly worse than the man he replaced Nana Attakora.

It's a shame MLS added two extra teams to the play-offs. The obvious that a team with a below .500 record could win the MLS Cup is ridiculous. Instead of four teams fighting it out for the last play-off place, we would see six teams. This would then lead to games that mean that much more throughout the league. As we continue down the stretch I don't feel the added play-off places will matter as much as MLS believed as the gap continues to widens as most teams have just over 10-games to play.

New York continues to under perform, and we have seen the De Rosario-Dax McCarty trade has benefitted DC, and DC only. At the beginning of the season every pundit, including myself, used all the hyperbole they could think of to praise McCarty. But perhaps McCarty benefitted from the FCD system as he hasn't performed well this season. Many times he has been non-existent in matches.

Finally, Kevin Hartman holds numerous records in MLS for goalkeeping. He has been a great 'keeper in MLS throughout his career. But this a man that throughout his career has been error prone. In every match there are moments in which the ball comes into the box and fans hold their breath when Hartman goes near the ball. Hartman had two gaffs over the weekend allowing two goals from LA in FCD's 3-1 loss at the Home Depot Center.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Season's half over... What does the table look like?

With every MLS team now over the halfway mark in the 34-game season I thought it would be good to look at the overall table. Currently, most MLS teams are playing ridiculous friendlies that and the media like to think are more important than MLS Cup, US Open Cup or CONCACAF Champions League. Usually, we see some teams tail off after this point in the season due to fatigue, heat and loss of form and I'm sure one or two teams will do the same this year as well. Match congestion should play a massive part in this season with most teams playing worthless summer friendlies and five of those teams playing Champions League football.

Overall table as of 7/25/2011

1. LA Galaxy 42
2. FC Dallas 39
3. Seattle Sounders FC 38
4. Real Salt Lake 33
5. Philadelphia Union 31
6. Columbus Crew 31
7. Colorado Rapids 31
8. New York Red Bulls 29
9. Chivas USA 26
10. Sporting KC 26
11. Houston Dynamo 24
12. San Jose Earthquakes 24
13. DC United 23
14. Portland Timbers 21
15. New England Revolution 20
16. Chicago Fire 18
17. Toronto FC 18
18. Vancouver Whitecaps 15

Currently, Sporting and Chivas USA sit in the final playoff spots on 26 points and Vancouver looks to be the only team out of the play-off picture. TFC and Chicago will need something special in the second half to reach the post season. The Fire, however, are in the semi-final of the US Open Cup and may focus on that competition. MLS had the initial idea of making more play-off spots to make the league more competitive down to the end of the season. However, as the season wears on I think we'll see the league turn out similarly to the past few seasons. Now with the added bonus of two more undeserving teams having chance to win the MLS Cup.

Sporting KC has been on a 12- match unbeaten run in which they have amassed 22 points. This has gotten them right in the hunt for the play-offs after a disasterous start. However, KC supporters should slow down a little bit. Of the the 12 teams they have played, only five of them are currently in the play-offs as of now; and of those five, Sporting only managed one win while drawing the other four. That win came against FC Dallas, and was an unexpected result at 4-1. Other than that result, KC has played just as well as the other play-off teams around them, but rarely better; and were lucky to escape with draws against the likes of Philadelphia, Chivas, Houston and Colorado. Meanwhile, Sporting's four wins other than at FCD have come against teams currently below 11th place: San Jose, Vancouver, Portland and TFC. Despite being on a roll at the moment, lets see where Sporting KC is at the end of August after they play RSL, Seattle and FCD. Arguably, the other hot teams in the league right now.

The two teams that I feel most sorry for (if you can feel sorry) are LA Galaxy and New York Red Bull, for two different reasons. LA is the best team in the league hands down, but again this team will most likely fall in a one-off play-off match come the autumn. With all the fixtures of MLS, Champions League and ridiculous friendlies that this team has added to it's full schedule I cannot see this team keeping up come play-off time. The Red Bulls on the other hand have spent money and tried so hard to get to the next level. But despite all the spending and tinkering they just aren't as good as they should be. Tim Ream especially has looked vulenrable as of late, and the defense has been extremely shakey. The upside for the Red Bulls is they could enter the play-offs like Colorado and RSL in years past and make a solid run to the cup final.

The more this season goes on the more it looks like seasons past. Teams beat up on each other, a few run away teams and a play-off that gives underachieving teams the chance at a trophy. Yes, it keeps the league interesting. How many people would go out and watch a New England or Chivas game if they weren't in the hunt for the play-offs? It's unfortunate the league believes to make people care they must hold meaningless friendlies and have over half the teams in the league make the play-offs. MLS keeps the soccer mom culture
going in a country that doesn't want it anymore. If the league tried to breed the culture they sell during the meaningless World Football Challenge they would attract the fans they have always targeted. But alas that's another story.

Monday, July 4, 2011

To Add quality and Depth or Not, that 'Tis the Question

We have reached the halfway point in the MLS season and the transfer window opens in 11 days. Many MLS teams are already looking abroad to strength their teams, but there is talent within the league that could be up for grabs. The gap between the last playoff spot (Houston Dynamo on 20 points) and the last place in the league (Vancouver on 14 points) is only six points. Based on points no team is out of the playoff picture and we have to hand it to MLS, because this should make the second half of the season extremely exciting. Especially, coming in what could be MLS's biggest year to date due to both the NFL and NBA possibly having a lockout. Though we could yet again see an undeserving underachieving team win the MLS Cup this season.

We've already seen one of the biggest names in MLS move for a second time this season when Dwayne De Rosario was shipped to DC United last week. I don't anticipate too many high profile names moving, but what about the role players or players who have had a fantastic first half of the season that could help propel his new club into the playoffs or beyond in MLS, US Open Cup and Champions League play. I've compiled a short list of players from non-playoff teams at the midseason point that could help the upper half of the league.

1. Dominic Oduro
I have been blown away with what this forward has done this season. Prior to this year he looked like another throw away striker when Houston traded him to Chicago for Calen Car (terrible player and terrible trade). However, Oduro has found a home scoring five goals so far this season. He has scored a quarter of his career goals in 2011, and has been Chicago's best player by far. As a matter of fact he has scored a quarter of Chicago's goals this term. Currently, the Fire sit on 18 points, so they're hanging around the playoffs. We have seen throughout MLS's history that all teams can be tempted with a trade, and I think Chicago could be tempted to move Oduro for another midfielder. They have the cover at the striker position and their defense is returning to the steady hard to beat core that they were prior to Carlos de los Cobos's ruining of the team.

Who he'd be perfect for: I think Oduro would be perfect for Seattle. He would add much needed pace to Seattle he could take the pressure off of Montero. Adding his pace to Seattle's team would do wonders in opening up space for Montero. I've said repeatedly I believe Seattle has the best midfield in the league on paper. Oduro has the ability to run on to balls the midfield plays in the channels. He is also the opposite of Montero and can give a defense a different set of problems.

2. Paulo Nagamura
Chivas's central midfielder has had a stellar career in the league and at only 28 has more years in his legs. He has only featured seven times thus far for Chivas and would be a fantastic addition to any midfield in need of some bite. He is a player able to make a tackle and distribute the ball as well. Nagamura was the linchpin in Chivas's team during their successful Preki years. Chivas is in need of an identity and talent. Possibly some allocation money or draft picks could pry Nagamura away.

Who he'd be perfect for: Sporting KC could use some depth in midfield as well as add a player who can add bite and passing ability. Currently, they have used Julio Cesar there and he has done a decent job though he cannot pass and is error prone. Nagamura would fit in well sitting in front of an improved SKC backline who is unbeaten in eight matches. A return to LA Galaxy would also be a postive for both involved. LA loves to play on the counter and the addition of Nagamura to break up the play and distribute to Donovan and Juninho to start the attack could push LA over the edge this time around.

3. Sainey Nyassi
Nyassi burst on to the MLS scene in his first full season in 2008 and since then has been a steady midfielder for the New England Revolution. He is a speed guy that can add a lot to the wing, though his final ball has always been lacking, he can work hard down the sides. This is his fourth full season in MLS and maybe it is time for him to move on to another team to continue his development as a player. New England currently sits in last place, and really could use quality around the pitch sans a few positions. They don't have an outright scorer and their defense is decent, but nothing special. It also seems time they removed the old man that plays in goal and brought in someone who is more mobile. New England is notoriously thrifty and could part with Nyassi for draft picks, some cash or maybe even a set of footballs. Oh, that's not soccer/footballs that's footballs for Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Who he'd be perfect for: Columbus Crew. The Crew don't have much speed on their roster despite having crafty midfielders ala Eddie Gaven. Nyassi could add that speed to get down the wing and provide the service to Andres Mendoza who finally looks like a DP.

4. Adam Moffat
Another player that burst on to the MLS scene that has seen his career go south since suffering a knee injury in 2008. Moffat was predicted to be the next big thing in Columbus until that injury, however, this season he was deemed excess goods and let go in the expansion draft. Since arriving in Portland Moffat has only played four matches all as a substitute. Moffat could add depth to a number of teams and with the right coaching could find the form he showed for the Crew a few years ago.

Who he'd be good for: Houston once had an American international with Scottish roots that was one of the best players in MLS before he went off to Bolton Wanderers. I think Moffat could be their next Stuart Holden. Though they have a crowded midfield Moffat is a more skillful player than the likes of Lovel Palmer or Corey Ashe and would add more to the team than either of those players.

5. Nana Attakora
Frozen out in Toronto, Attakora has only appeared in six MLS matches and has not played since June 4. Attakora's failure to sign a new deal in Toronto has put him in the doghouse though he is of better quality than some of those around him. Still in his early-20's, he is a player that a defense could be molded with if paired with the right central defense partner. TFC is looking for defenders and I don't think Attakora would come cheap right now. I won't be surprised if he sits out the remainder of his contract and is in the re-allocation draft next fall.

Who he'd be good for: Colorado could use some defensive cover to shore up their squad. Colorado has given up 21-goals halfway through the season and though it's middle of the table the team could turn a few of those draws into wins with some steady defense. Often this season Colorado's defenders have looked slow on the pitch chasing after attacking players. Some fresh blood to a team that won the MLS Cup last season wouldn't hurt a team that is massively underachieving.

6. Chris Pontius
Finally injury free Pontius is fulfilling the expectations DC United had for him when he was selected in the first round of the MLS Superdraft in 2009. Pontius has started all 16-matches for DC thus far in the league and has scored five goals; a career best so far and second best on the team this season. Overall, DC is a young team and some experience at the back could pry Pontius away. The team already has Charlie Davies, Josh Wolff, Joesph Ngwenya and now Dwayne De Rosario; they have got a lot of attacking talent. They could use defensive players whether that is at the back or in midfield if they hope to push for the playoffs, and Pontius could be used as bait. DC recently hired Soony Silooy as assistant to Ben Olsen. I don't see this as a straight up move, rather I see this as the man to take over for Olsen whether it be this season or next if DC continue to draw or lose matches. Possibly one of Olsen's guys is traded to bring in a Silooy player.

Who he'd be good for: Houston again could use a player of Pontius's quality. They need someone to step up and score goals. Mr. Dynamo Brian Ching only has one goal this season. Cam Weaver and Will Bruin have eight of their 21-goals. Ching is on his last legs and DP Koke failed within a month of signing. Pontius is a player they could hang their hat on for the near future. Unfortunately, Houston's roster doesn't yield much quality in return.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sunderland Spending Their Bent Money

In January of this year Sunderland sold Darren Bent to Aston Villa for a fee near $38 million and then did just enough to stay in the Premier League. Following Bent's sale the team went into a downward spiral that was led by the inconsistant second half of the season by Asamoah Gyan. This has been a team many thought would go down, while at the beginning of the '10-'11 season others expected the Black Cats to push for a European place.

Earlier this summer they cashed in on Jordan Henderson selling him for $25 million to Liverpool; a foolish move in my opinon on Liverpool's part. The club has now used part of that $63 million kitty to bring in quality Premier League performers and a promising young talent.

With the summer signings already made by Sunderland I believe they will push for Europe next year. Craig Gardner and Sebastion Larsson have been signed from Birmingham and should add quality in the midfield the club lacked last season. Goalkeeper Kieran Westwood should push incumbent Craig Gordan for the number one shirt, while Korean Ji Dong-Won arrives from Korean side Chunnamn Dragons. Dong-Won impressed the Premier League side last winter during the Asian Cup when he recorded four goals and two assists in six matches. The wild card of Sunderland's signings has definately got to be Conor Wickham. At only 18 he has played the past two seasons at Ipswich Town in the Championship where he has found the back of the net 13 times in 63 outings. At only 18-years old he is a player that will be worked in slowly to this Black Cat team and most likely play as the fourth striker behind Gyan, Fraizer Campbell and Dong-Won.

Don't be surprised to see one or two more quality players arrive before the end of August. This team should find themselves well away from the trap door to the Championship next season and solidify themselves with another year of Premier League football.

Koevermans and Fringes

Today, Toronto FC signed former Werder Bremen captain and German international Torsten Fringes and formr PSV Eindhoven striker Danny Koevermans. These two signings just pose more questions, rather than give answers to a team that is struggling in the league and with the system of first year manager Aron Winter.

Koevermans has had a stellar career in the Dutch Eredivisie scoring boat loads of goals; he has scored 136 goals to be exact in a 10-year career that has spanned three clubs. Koevermans is familiar with the 4-3-3 formation as that is the preferred formation in Holland, and recently played the central striker role for PSV. Currently, PSV is in serious financial problems and not only have released quality players, sold their biggest star Balazs Dzsudzsak, but they have asked their city council for nearly $55 million as a bailout. If Koevermans is in it for the pay day then TFC won't improve, and with the contract/money structure of MLS I wouldn't be surprised.

Fringes on the other hand is past his prime. As a supporter of German side Werder Bremen I was able to watch a terrible, terrible Bremen team lose week in and week out. Fortunately, the club did just enough to avoid relegation and it could be said Fringes was the best midfield player throughout the season despite his age, but he didn't have much help in the area. Bremen played most of last season with Fringes holding in an attacking 4-3-1-2 that gave attacking midfielder Marko Marin a free role to exploit defenses. In TFC's
4-3-3, I don't believe Fringes has the legs to cover as much ground as he will be required to do. No doubt he has been a great player over the years and it is a shame to see him leave Bremen. However, TFC may have bought a player that is past his sell-by date.

I would love to see these players help TFC become a playoff contender. But it seems TFC is continuing to put the pieces of a different puzzle down hoping they will fit and no one will realize the pieces don't match. Better than Mista, but they don't have the core still.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Roster Ideas for Sporting KC This Summer

After starting the season as the worst team in MLS Sporting KC has temporarily turned things around and have gone unbeaten in their last seven matches. Obviously, the main thing to credit in this turn around is KC's change from the 4-3-3 to 4-5-1 formations (something I preached from the beginning as the 4-3-3 doesn't work in MLS. TFC could be decent if they also made the change as their back four, like KC's earlier this season, is being ripped apart due to the lack of midfielders to protect them). But over this unbeaten run KC has still looked vulnerable for large parts of games. Philadelphia would have taken all three points if they had had some better finishing on the night, and Vancouver controlled much of the second half and were slightly unlucky not to get a draw.

I have been very critical of the Vermes regime and the team he has put together. There are some positions that definately need strengthening, but with MLS's tight salary controls it can make it very difficult for a team like Sporting to add quality. The transfer window will open on July 15, and surely Sporting has their feelers out looking for players to add to the existing squad. But there are players within MLS the team could make a move for, as well as cashing in on some under performing players.

The two areas that Sporting need to address are the defense and midfield, meanwhile the striker position is filled with the fantastic C.J. Sapong, the overrated Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara and DP Omar Bravo; and this group can also include Birahim Diop. But could one of these men, excluding Bravo and (presummably) Sapong be used as bait to bring in a defender or midfielder to either the starting XI or to add depth. Throughout Vermes time in KC he has put his trust in some unfashionable players such as Diop, so I don't expect him to be on the move. Meanwhile, Bunbury's potential out weights the possibility for a move. Who then can KC move out?

First on my list is Roger Espinoza who has underperformed all season no matter where he has played on the pitch. His performances against Chicago, in which Marco Pappa beat him on the dribble twice in the same sequence, and Espinoza's ridiculous outing against LA Galaxy prove my point that he isn't developing as a player and is not of the quality the team currently needs. Personally, I've never seen the attractiveness in Espinoza's play and though he can play both in defense and midfield I think it's time to move him on. Moving Espinoza would also free up an international slot if the team is looking at bringing in another player from abroad. With the free-signing of Seth Sinovic, who has made the leftback position his own, Espinoza is surplus to requirements in my view.

Stephane Auvary is the next on my chopping block. Much of the time this season Auvary has seemed like another body just making up the numbers on the pitch. His passing is horrid and his play is negative. In the match versus the Union he killed two consecutive KC attacks late in the game with passes from the attacking third back to the half-way line. Auvary gives an appearance of a hardman in midfield, but lacks the tenacity of Craig Rocastle or the workmanship of Luke Sassano. Sassano another unfancied player picked up in the re-allocation draft has shone this season for Sporting.

KC has finally settled on a centerback pairing that works in Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin. This pairing now has both the overpaid Julio Cesar and equally overpaid Shavar Thomas looking in from the outside. Vermes does have an infatuation on Cesar and still gives him plenty of minutes on the pitch. However, according to my stats Thomas has only been on the pitch for 37 minutes this season. Obviously, not enough time to warrent such a high salary. Unfortunately, Thomas is 30-years old and his best days are in the rearview mirror now (according to a KC podcast Thomas salary maybe half or full paid by Philly). KC most likely won't get much value from within the league, but could atleast open up a roster spot and acquire a draft pick for next season if they move Thomas. Being that Thomas is Jamaican I believe it would open up another international slot; he has lived in America for quite some time and could actually hold a green card that I am not aware of.

Of course there are fringe players such as Korede Aiyegbusi that should and could be moved. However, Aiyegbusi seems to have fans within the organization including Vermes. Aiyegbusi holds both British and Nigerian citizenship and moving him would open yet another international slot to bring in a player from abroad.

Even if Sporting is able or even willing to part company with these players to freshen up the squad who is available? Earlier this season it was rumored KC was interested in acquiring Toronto's Nana Attakora. Attakora has been frozen out in Toronto after failing to agree a new contract. KC could definately use another defender and Attakora is young at only 22. However, TFC would most likely want an attacking player in exchange and despite playing a 4-5-1 (now) I can't imagine Vermes moving Kamara or Diop for a young promising defender.

Another player who seems to be on the outs with his current club is DC United's Santino Quaranta who could add some skill and class to KC's current midfield. Quaranta was United's captain last season, but hasn't seen much of the pitch this season. To my knowledge hasn't played since May 14
*** (Unfortunately, after writing this paragraph the news broke that Quaranta is currently out due to a concussion he has sustained.) ***. If he is not hurt this obviously means he and manager Ben Olsen are not seeing eye to eye. Quaranta could play on either flank and help ease tired legs as the season progresses.

Vancouver's John Thorrington  and Portland's Adam Moffat are two other players that KC could consider to fill out the midfield. Thorrington currently has a calf strain, but is a player with an excellent passing ability and could add depth behind captain Davy Arnaud. He has fought injury much of this season and has only appeared once in the league for the Whitecaps as a substitute. However, during his time in Chicago he was a valuable member to a team that had some good seasons during the Blanco era. Moffat on the other hand is a player who has never rekindled the form he showed early on in Columbus after injuring his knee. He has only appeared four times for Portland and probably won't get much playing time as the season continues. A draft pick or allocation money could pry him away from Portland and help Sporting solidify their midfield.

Finally, Sporting could go overseas to land an American plying his trade abroad. One such player on my radar is American Lee Nguyen who, due to being paid a higher salary, plies his trade in the Vietnamese V-League. Nguyen has made attempts to return to the US and play in MLS, but it has yet to happen. Nguyen can play in midfield or even up top and like Quaranta could add some class to the KC midfield. The downside to Nguyen is he has been playing in the V-League and though not completely inferior to MLS it is still a step or two below. The big question is can he make the step up to MLS?

This summer's MLS transfer window could be the biggest we've seen. The world economy is still in the doldrums and many teams from abroad could attempt to raid MLS for cheaper talent. Meanwhile, MLS's stock has risen over the past 18-months and we could see better talent continue to flow into the league.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I decided to give MLS Extra Time podcast a second chance today after a few months away. Just wanted to thank the guys who host the show for their over reactions and inability to talk tactics or anything important. Props also for spending most of  their time talking about meaningless aspects of games, teams and players. Cheers!


Earlier this week I wrote briefly about the MLS MVP race and my two picks so far Brek Shea and Jack Jewsbury. Well, it seems some people are agreeing with me as an article on posted after I wrote my piece is listing both men as the fourth and fifth candidates for the award.

But it is the person on top of many people's list that I do not agree with, and that is Landon Donovan. Donovan is having another good season by his standards. He is tied with Thierry Henry for the league lead in goals with eight in 11-games and he also has one assist. LA Galaxy as a team has scored 28 goals over the course of the year. By my calculations, which are rarely right, he has score around a third of LA's goals. The Galaxy, however, have proved time and again this season they haven't missed Donovan when he has been out of the line-up; whether due to the Gold Cup or injury. Compared to Portland's Jewsbury who has scored or assisted on half of Portland's goals I think Donovan isn't quite as valuable. Take into account Donovan has excellent players around him in David Beckham, Juan Pablo Angel, Juninho and a fantastic defense. The Galaxy would be sitting a top or near the top even without Donovan. On the other hand we would not see Portland pushing for a playoff spot in their first MLS year without their captain and true leader on the pitch. Jewsbury's experience and leadership has been the calm in the storm for this club, and he has popped up when it has truly counted. The MVP shouldn't go to the player from the best team who has had a better season than his teammates. Rather it should been given to the player who is the most valuable person to his team, and I do not feel that it is Donovan.

There is also talk of Thierry Henry winning this award which seems utterly ridiculous as well. Henry is tied with Donovan for league lead in goals. The Red Bulls, however, have continued to spit and sputter this season and are unable to find any consistent form. Luke Rodgers has five goals on the season and could be considered just as valuable when he has been in the line-up for the club. Brek Shea's breakout season since David Ferriera was injuried has dwarfed Henry's in my opinion. His play, also since moving from the failed experiment as a defender, has been the catalyst to FC Dallas moving from the foot of the West Conference to the top. He has turned me into a believer this season after looking overrated for the past two season. Now the focal point of the attack Shea is shining bright in Dallas.

Unfortunately, the MLS believes stars sell tickets and not good entertaining football. I don't expect Jewsbury or Shea to win this award regardless of what they help their respective teams accomplish this season. MLS can continue to brag on the stars of the league and the importance of the DP if either Donovan or Henry wins the trophy. This also helps MLS's desire for a LA/New York rivalry, which is an entirely different story.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quick football thoughts...

- MLS is heating up this season and I've selected my early season MVP favorites. Now, I already know neither of these two will win as I'm sure every MLS writer hacks will select Landon Donovan or the next obvious person. I've noticed over the years the voters tend to not dig to far to find the league's MVP. But my two picks thus far as FC Dallas' Brek Shea who has had a breakout season following his failed move to central defender and the injury to David Ferriera, and Portland's Jack Jewsbury.

Shea has six goals and one assist in 15 matches, and (maybe) half of those matches he was in defense. Since moving back to the wide position for FCD he has really broken out and been a vital part to the resurgence of FCD. Helping them climb to second in the west after a terrible start. I still this he would be an excellent target striker.

My second MLS MVP pick is Portland's Jack Jewsbury. Through 14-matches Jewsbury has scored four goals and assisted on four more. He has had his hand in eight of the teams 16-goals. Not a bad stat and he is an important reason the Timbers are fighting for a playoff spot. I still feel he was the wrong player for Sporting KC to trade, but a brilliant job of scouting by the Timbers.

Neither of these men will win the MVP, though Shea has a better shot than Jewsbury since he is on the cusp of the national team. These two are definately the most important players to their teams, and are the reason their teams are contending. Without them neither of these teams are the same.

- In non-MLS news, finally, it seems Udinese's Alexis Sanchez will sign for Barcelona for around $50 million. A fantastic young player, but I'm confused to where and how he will fit into the team. He plays a similar role to that of Lionel Messi, and I can see this being a similar move to what Barca did with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2009-2010. Barca has been looking for cover for their stars and Sanchez could be just that; but he seems like an expensive cover player. Barca already has Javier Mascherano, Ibrahim Affalley and Bojan who cannot get regular football. Is this an embarassment of riches or a team that is spending too much money on squad players?

- I've read a lot of reports about the USA doing well and having a fighting spirit, etc and so forth during the current Gold Cup. But excuse me, but this is the USA the second best (or first) team in CONCACAF. I expect this team to roll over anyone and everyone that is not Mexico in this group. I'm not sure why we're giving Bob Bradley and this squad a pass as they should be expected to be in the final against Mexico regardless of the team that is put in front of them. I'm in favor of replacing Bradley as well. Not because I dislike him,  but I don't feel one coach should get two World Cup cycles. It keeps the players fresh and brings in new ideas. I'm in favor of one Dominic Kinnear actually, but that's just me.

Sporting KC Two Wins in Row?

After beginning the season in such dire form and sitting bottom of the overall table in MLS for much of the first third of the season Sporting KC now sits... ummmmm... Bottom of the table. However, they sit bottom with a brilliant chance of catching not only the last automatic playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they could very well catch the struggling Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls who are only nine points better off.

Since the beginning of the season I was adamant about two things: Peter Vermes needed to go and/or Sporting KC needed to change their 4-3-3 into a formation with four midfielders to protect the backline. Well, it was the later that occurred and since doing so Sporting has reeled off two consecutive wins. They're undefeated in their last five, and haven't been beaten since traveling to Seattle where they were beaten by an injury-time goal.

Since changing formations into a 4-5-1 the club has relied more on their midfield and defense than the misfiring Teal Bunbury or Omar Bravo. The unheralded Graham Zusi and C.J. Sapong have been the true leaders over the past few matches. Both are equal on league goals with the DP Bravo and one behind Bunbury, who most people thought would have a break out season and take the MLS Golden Boot. Which could still happen. Though he hasn't scored since week three in Vancouver.

The amazing thing is (and I admit Vermes may have gotten it right) that these two draftees have been the real deal as of late. Though both have a lot of growing to do still. We're also starting to see the improvements a healthy Chance Myers has made. He has succeeded in the reserve division thus far, and is now proving to be a good MLS quality fullback. Throw in Luke Sassano and these are the true leaders of Sporting currently and not Bravo or Bunbury. Many would say Bravo has been good so far this year, but I'm not convinced Kei Kamara or someone else couldn't play the current role that is occupied by Bravo. Bravo hasn't scored since opening day and has missed good chances ever since. Not to mention been injuried and suspended.

This team has a long way to go, and could just as easily go cold and still end the season in last place. Right now this club is in a fragile state. We are being teased. One or two more results and this team could take off, but a loss next match against Philadelphia and it could all go back to where Sporting was two weeks ago. It has been an unbelievable surprise of late and I'm sure there are more in store. I must give Vermes credit for being slightly proactive and giving into a formation change. It's nice to see Sporting make headlines for what's on the pitch and not Ochocinco, free subs or a name change that has been derided throughout the league. They're finaling getting results. Atleast for now.

11 Players Banned for Life

A few weeks ago I wrote about a betting scandal that has set the Korean K-League on its ear. Since then 11 players have been found guilty of match fixing and will serve life bans. Of these players one is currently serving his mandatory military term (two years) and plays for Sangmu Sangju Phoenix; because of this he has been tried by a military court. Daejon Citizens Football Club has been worse hit by this match fixing scandal and will lose eight players due to it.

Already we have seen the suicides of two players due to the scandal.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

33% of the season is over

Last season and during the off-season there were a plethora of blogs dedicated to MLS becoming a single table league (amongst other things). But MLS went a great distance in squashing that idea as well as doing away with the MLS playoffs. There's no question that MLS needs the dual conference structure to keep casual fans and markets interested in the league. If MLS was in a single table only two teams from the Eastern Conference would currently make the playoffs; Philadelphia and New York. The entire midway and midwest of America, sans Dallas, would miss out on the MLS post-season. Financially this would be a massive blow for the league. Not to mention alienating fans from areas of the country who only have a passing interest in the league as a whole anyway. I believe the It's Called Football podcast summed it up best when they said Toronto isn't a MLS town, it's a TFC town. To go one step further North America isn't a MLS country, but fans are interested in their city or regions team. Most USA soccer fans don't go out of their way to watch a MLS match that doesn't involve their team. That is one reason ESPN's MLS ratings are regularly low.

Unfortunately, it does make sense to have a league with two conferences and a play-off format. Promotion and relegation are another topic and this won't happen for the two biggest reason: The casual American fan will lose interest if the team can't compete for the league title and there's too much money at stake.

However, the reason I wrote this was to look at where MLS stands as of the minute. Roughly one-third of the 36-game season has been played thus far. LA Galaxy has played the most matches with 16 while Sporting KC has played the least with 10. This is how the league looks with 33% of the season finished already:

1. LA Galaxy- 30
2. FC Dallas- 25
3. Philadelphia Union- 21
4. Seattle Sounders- 21
5. Real Salt Lake- 20
6. New York Red Bulls - 19
7. Colorado Rapids- 19
8. Chivas USA- 17
9. Portland- 17
10. San Jose- 16
11. DC United- 16
12. Houston- 15
13. Columbus- 15
14. New England- 13
15. Toronto FC- 13
16. Chicago Fire- 10
17. Vancouver- 10
18. Sporting KC- 6

Looking at this table it's easy to see a gap between the top teams in the league and the worst team(s). When seperated into two conferences perhaps it doesn't look as bad for Sporting KC to only have six points thus far. However, in a single table we see they are 24-points off first place, though they only need to be good enough to be 10th overall in the league. This team has a very good shot a stringing together some results and making the playoffs still. But looking at the table like this I believe it would be an injustice not only for them to make the playoffs, but an injustice to the LA Galaxy who are proving yet again they are the best team in MLS. Play-offs are a North American tradition if you will, but LA's season will be meaningless if they go without rewards for being the top team only to lose a match in the play-offs. There are two-thirds of the season still to play, and it will be interesting to see if this gap from top to bottom widens. MLS contains 18 teams this season (Montreal joins in 2012), and we are seeing a difference top to bottom we didn't see in the past.

I feel the true travesty of this situation is LA Galaxy maybe the best team over 36-games, but may have nothing to show for it due to a one off play-off match.

** on a side note I advocate the Supporters' Shield winner (worthless title) automatically being placed in the MLS Cup Final and the other play-off teams battle it out to play them. Currently, the Korean K-League does something similar and I believe rewards the top teams in doing so. ***

Monday, May 30, 2011

Korea's K-League Under Match Fixing Review

As regular readers of this site may know I currently live and work in Seoul, Korea. Over the past few weeks there have been rumors of match fixing in the Korean K-League that have finally boiled to the surface. Rumblings began in early May after Incheon United's goalkeeper Ki-Won Yoon was found dead in his car from a possible suicide. Unfortunately, South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the developed world and many police cases are treated as such. But now that match fixing has come to light many are believing something more sinster maybe afoot. According to news reports, three players from Daejon Citizens were arrested on Sunday in connection with match fixing. These players are said to have taken between $90,000 and $110,000 to fix a league match against Pohang Steelers this season.

Another player, this time from Gwangju FC, has also been arrest for supposedly taking a bribe of $91,000 to fix a cup match. However, he didn't appear in the match, because he gave up five goals in a previous cup tie that was also supposedly fixed. His club released him shortly after this.

Being a football fan I know this happens all over the world. I also believe FIFA and leagues around Europe routinely fix matches for a preferred winner. For an example, look back at Chelsea v. Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League semi-final. There is no reason Barcelona should have been in the position to score the tie winning goal at the end of that match. The reason for Barca to go through was simply UEFA and FIFA didn't want a Chelsea v. Manchester United final two years in a row. Not to mention United and Barca are the two biggest draws in world football.

Being a fan of football and the K-League I am upset. I am a season ticket holder to FC Seoul and I have spent many fantastic Saturdays and Sundays at Seoul World Cup Stadium. I'm afraid this is just the tip of the iceberg, however, and more players will be named soon.

As of writing this, one of Jeonbuk FC's players who has been caught up in match fixing has been found dead due to an apparent suicide today.

Sporting Get a Point

How bad was Sporting KC's Aurelien Collin last weekend for the club? One terrible back pass that allowed Conor Casey to score and a terrible pass from the back that should have been the winner for Colorado. Fortunately for KC the Rapids have been awful as of late. I did expect KC to get atleast a point from this match following their momentum building Open Cup win against New England in the middle of last week. The Sporting defence was again under pressure much of the match and with some better finishing Colorado would have taken all three points. It was different to see KC occasionally playing on the counter from their 4-3-3 formation, as we all know they can't keep position of the ball. There were three players that impressed me in this match. First and foremost was Ryan Smith who scored the KC goal and almost set up Teal Bunbury, who was poor all night. Graham Zusi and Chance Myers were also bright spots for KC on the night. Omar Bravo, like Bunbury, wasn't much of a threat all night. He had one excellent chance that he should have put away, but Matt Pickens was up to the challenge.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jack Jewsbury

I just wanted to say what a breath of fresh air it has been to see Jack Jewsbury reborn in MLS courtesy of the Portland Timbers. Jewsbury was player that looked like he would be finishing his career as a bit part player, but the Timbers scouted him brilliantly and have gotten the best we've seen from Jewsbury in some time.

Sporting KC's Slump Continues

I know the week's half over, but I've finally had the time to write a little about the Seattle v. Sporting KC match from last weekend. First off, Peter Vermes said this was the best 90 minutes of the season from the team; which  isn't saying much, and too bad they switched off at the 90 minute mark instead of playing out stoppage time. Sporting did look a great deal better on the defensive side of the ball. Which is where they were most of the game. Other than a good chance by Ryan Smith early on Sporting had few and far between chances and attacks. It was nice to see nine and ten players behind the ball defending for most of the match and not the usual attacking player not tracking back. Jeff Parke's winner doesn't come down to Seattle out playing Sporting as many would think. This Sporting loss was completely mental and the losing mentality that has been created within the team is continuing to thrive by not seeing out a match. Sure we can question why there wasn't someone on the back post to clear the ball. If you watch the highlights Matt Besler is standing just inside the six-yard box and he runs out to head the ball away only to be beaten to it by Parke. If Besler stays he maybe in position to clear the ball, but it still may have gotten by him.

I was quite impressed with the Aurelien Collin-Matt Besler combination at centerback. A lot has been said about Julio Cesar not being quick enough or tough enough. Which is correct. Despite coming off of a long term injury Cesar has spent his career playing in leagues that base more on tactics and wit than on strength and speed. A terrible signing.

Despite liking the centerback pairing I am dumbfounded that Vermes played Omar Bravo as a midfielder. What a waste of DP money. Bravo spent 76 minutes doing practically nothing. If you're going to pay Bravo as much money as we believe he is getting (as the Union's paylist seemed off) than you shouldn't be playing him out of position. This goes back to my dislike for Vermes and his inability to put a team together in his time at Sporting as both technical director and manager over the past five season. He has over loaded this team with attacking players such as Bravo, Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong, Ryan Smith and he has neglected midfield players who can pass the ball and keep possession.

Again, I believe this 4-3-3 formation is the biggest problem the team is having. I understand Vermes wants a system and that's great. But his scouting and his basic idea of coaching this system seems to be way off base. He doesn't have the players to play in this system. Bunbury isn't able to be left on his own up top, and the midfield three are being isolated and losing the ball. Much of the time the back four are bypassing the midfield and knocking long balls up top for Bunbury and co. to lose; all because the midfield isn't up to the task.

MLS is a league that is difficult to build a set system that carries over year to year. Toronto is trying to do this, and unfortunately I believe it will fail. With the financial structure and player allocation and draft MLS has it is difficult to get the correct parts for these 4-3-3 attacking systems. Sporting cannot draft and sign players each year to fit into this system. Vermes needs to scrap the formation and put at least one more man in the midfield in an attempt to break up play and hold possession  .

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It is the summer rumor time and the boards are lit with tidbits and morsels of transfer news. One I'm surprised no one has triggered yet is the Robbie Keane to MLS move. This would be a perfect time for the Irishmen to move to MLS after his loan club West Ham were relegated from the Premier League. Not to mention that his parent club Tottenham Hotspur would love to get rid of him. I'm not sure he would fit in with too many teams currently, especially coming off the last season in which he couldn't score a goal to save his life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

(Possibly) The Next Eddie Johnson

This past offseason many Sporting KC and USMNT fans were half hoping and half expecting a break out season from Teal Bunbury. In his rookie year Bunbury netted five goals in 25 appearances for the club as Peter Vermes broke him in slowly; this led many to believe Bunbury would lead Sporting to lofty heights this season. What truly added fuel to the fire was Bunbury's offseason in which he shunned Canada, who his father had played for, and scored a goal against Chile for the USMNT. Bunbury also joined Stoke City for an extended period of training which included scoring a goal against Wigan in a reserve match.

Despite breaking his wrist early in the season Bunbury looked to be fully recovered after netting twice in Vancouver with two fantastic finishes and once in Chicago, thanks to a diabolical back pass on the part of the Fire. But lets pump the breaks a little. It has now been a month since we last saw Bunbury score for Sporting. Though not many others are scoring for Sporting either. We can debate all day long what the true problem is for this team, and why Bunbury hasn't scored as of late; but there's no denying he has been over hyped. Lets look back to January 2011 at the Home Depot Center when Bunbury recorded his first international goal. Oh, how people made a fuss. No one seemed to realize it was from the penalty spot and not from open play. Though the USMNT played well with Bunbury up front they were still as anemic as they were at last summer's World Cup where Jozy Altidore and company couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. As a matter of fact part of Bunbury's offseason hype could also be attributed to commentator Pablo Ramirez who coined the ridiculous Boon-Boo-Ree following Bunbury's penalty kick goal.

Word this week was Bunbury has several clubs looking at him, and sure why not. He's young, has a lot of athletic ability and like many US players if he is in the right situation he could do well. But he is already reminding me of a former Kansas City Wizards player who had his sights set on Europe only to be kicked around on loan for the best part of four years.

Eddie Johnson was once a bright upcoming soccer player in the USA. Signed at the age of 17 to the Dallas Burn (FC Dallas), Johnson was thought to be the future of MLS and possibly the USMNT. During his time with Dallas, Johnson would give the club a good return scoring 24 in 84 matches over four seasons. During this time Johnson shined at the youth levels of the national team which included him winning the Golden Boot at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championships. Johnson even had a chance for a big money move to Europe only to reject a reported $5 million move to Benfica. Of course we know they would later shell out $2 million for Freddy Adu.

With Dallas in need of salary cap space they traded Johnson to KC during the 2006 offseason giving many KC fans hope that Johnson could lead the Wizards back to the top of MLS; during a time the team was unsure it would still be in KC. Johnson would give mixed results looking top class one moment only to look like your average MLS player the next. After training abroad and turning down deals, all the while not leading KC to the promise land, Johnson moved to the English Premier League hoping to emulate fellow Americans Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride who were already on Fulham's books.

Since leaving for Fulham, Johnson has made 18 appearances and has scored zero times. Most recently he played with the club at the beginning of 2010 before going out on-loan to Preston North End. PNE was relegated this season to League 1 with Johnson scoring no goals and drawing the ire of Preston's supporters. Since leaving for Europe it has been a bag of mixed results for Johnson. Two other loan deals to Cardiff City and Aris Thessaloniki have yielded better results, but the fact remains Johnson has failed to live up to expectations. Since 2006 he has also stood on the periphpery of the USMNT, and was a shock inclusion to Bob Bradley's pre-World Cup roster only to be cut before the tournament. With his Fulham contract set to end this summer don't be surprised to see Eddie Johnson return to MLS to revamp his faltering career.

Bunbury, like Johnson was, is a bright prospect still raw and unpolished. So many expectations have been laid at the feet of young US attacking players: Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson, only for these players to fall far below expectations for one reason or another. Teal Bunbury could be the next and mostly remembered for Boon-Boo-Ree.

(So far this season Bunbury has scored three goals for a bi-polar Sporting attack and hasn't scored in his last 420 minutes.)

DC United v. Ajax

I have been a proponent of the Cups Not Friendlies movement over the past year or two. Perhaps before the name was given to it. Yesterday, DC United proved once again why it is ridiculous for MLS teams to host midseason friendlies. No offence to Ajax, but in this day and age they are middle level club and their drawing power is not very high. I can understand MLS teams playing the likes of United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona and now possibly Manchester City as the league continues to look for exposure and clubs look to cash in. Only 10,728 fans came out yesterday to see DC lose 2-1. Many teams say it's a gift to the fans to hold such prestigious friendlies, but in truth like always it is a money grab. DC would have benefited more from some time off from matches in preparation for a play-off run come later this season rather than putting out a squad for a meaningless friendly. MLS will already be losing many players this summer for the Gold Cup and a few less could possibly be lost to the Copa America. Why pile on the fixtures. I'm sure many of the 10,000 plus in attendance will look back and think fondly of yesterday. But in the end what will matter in October? A late-May friendly against Ajax or making the play-offs after being one of the worst teams in MLS over the past two seasons. I know which I'd prefer. DC will play another friendly against Everton in July to conclude their frienly schedule.

MLS Tickets

I was having a look in my spam mailbox this morning and came across an email from a person in the Sporting KC ticket office. It was an informal email asking if I would be interested in receiving info on KC's ticket plans. I wasn't sure what to think of this. Yes, it was nice to have someone email me and ask if I'd like to hear the sales pitch, but I also felt it was a little minor league. I know it is practice in MLS to cold call people and try and sell them tickets to matches which is an innovative marketing strategy. Though it is controversial. I am massively turned off by someone sending me an email (or calling) in hopes I come out to see the club this season, or any club for that matter.

 This is the first time I've been contacted by the ticketing department, and I wonder if they're having trouble moving single-game and small package ticket plans now that the season isn't going as well as predicted/hoped. I wasn't even contacted for season ticket sales. Sitting in last place doesn't attract the casual fan and even some hardcore fans every week despite a $180million new stadium.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seven down, Three to Go

Being a fan of Sporting KC I tend to vent my thoughts on the club here. My biggest argument over the past two months is the removal of manager Peter Vermes. This week I am happy to see some other bloggers warming up slightly to what I've been on about. Though, it is still lukewarm comparatively speaking. There was a half quote this week attributed to Vermes from 2009. He was (semi) quoted as saying he would need (at least) two years to build ''his'' team. I found this a little hard to believe. First, Vermes has been with the club since '06 as the technical director. His job was to help find players for then manager Curt Onalfo. Therefore, he has had say in the players who have come into the club. Secondly, during his time at the club many of the players that have come in have all failed to make the grade in MLS or were trade/released only to do better with another club/environment. Players like Santiago Hirsig, Ivan Trujillo and Carlos Marinelli were players that were brought in with high expectations and never fulfilled them. Meanwhile, the team traded quality players such as Luis Gil, Yura Movsisyan and Herculez Gomez. Yes, Movsisyan and Gomez under performed for the club, but perhaps we should be looking at the manager and technical director for these failings as both players have gone on to some success. Vermes has also had mixed results in the draft as well.

The unfortunate aspect is that Sporting will give Vermes at least until the end of the season or until the play-offs are out of reach. It's plain to see, however, that many of these players are just not playing for him right now. Compared to other sports, in soccer when players want a coach out they don't play as hard as they normally would. I think it's hard for American sports fans to get their heads around it, but it does happen.

Being a fan I was never a supporter of Vermes getting the job permanently and since then nothing has changed my mind. I have the same feeling of Vermes as I do Alexi Lalas: They were good players for the US and MLS at a time when US soccer was struggling on the world stage and barely had a professional league. Perhaps today they wouldn't even get a look from the national team and possibly might be over looked by MLS. They did well in a time when the game wasn't much in the US. In Lalas' case he tried his hand at being a GM for New York and the LA. Both with poor results, other than the David Beckham to LA move, and to be fair he had nothing to do with getting D-Beck to LA. Now it seems Vermes is out of his depth similar to Lalas. On a side note Lalas shows his lack of soccer understand with his piss poor commentary that dumbs down the soccer fans of America.

Like I've said prior I want this team to do well and hell they may turn it around.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Indian Soccer League With New Ideas

For decades India's soccer teams and players have had to live in the shadow of the country's first sport cricket. Much like the USA where soccer is second, third and sometimes fourth best to other sports, the game has struggled to find a foothold in the world's second most populous country. However, new investors are looking to put India's soccer players and teams on the map with a new league.

Currently, the I-League is the premier division in the country boasting 14 teams playing a 26 game six month season (December to May); with the champion playing in the Asian Football Confederation's Champions League. But this top flight will have a new competitor in January 2012. Enter the launch of Premier League Soccer in India which will take cues from the country's top sport cricket and the world's top cricket league the IPL.

The inaugural season will be contested by six clubs from Kolkata, Howrah, Barasat, Asansol, Midnapore and Siliguri. The league will only play from January until March in an attempt to take fans from the existing league and wet the appetites of soccer fans in West Bengal followed by the entire country. So what will make this league so different than the current I-League? Similar to the I-League and other Asian countries (Japan, Korea, China) each team will be owned by a company and in some cases carry the company's name as part of the team's name. The differentiating aspects are money, talent based and most importantly to build a new soccer infrastructure and help develop India's soccer fans into domestic fans and players.

One of the biggest and possibly most ridiculous ideas regarding the new league is based around the players they hope to attract and the league's allocating of each player. Firstly, the league doesn't have plans to bring India's top players to the league. The likes on Sunil Chettri and Denzil Franco will not be sought out and paid large sums, at least not at the moment. Sources say, the league will look to develop talent and most importantly bring in professionals who in all opinions are past their prime. Names such as Denilson, who failed miserably as FC Dallas' first ever designated player, is rumored to be a signing; as well as the again retired Edgar Davids. It seems the powers that be are looking at over the hill stars in an attempt to ignite the flames of soccer passion in the country. This sounds a bit of a bad idea if you ask me, bringing in players in their mid-30s to early-40s. If any big name pro is to be attracted it sounds like a pure money grab by the player involved.

However, this is not the most interesting aspect of the league. The most interest part will be the yearly allocation of players which the new league will take from Indian's Premier Cricket League. At the beginning of each season each player will be placed in a lottery and auctioned off to the highest bidding team. A novel idea that seems to work in cricket, but could it work in the world's number one game? No player will be contract to a team for more than one season and will be able to move around the league if the money is right.

In a bid to develop soccer talent in the country the new league will only allow three overseas players plus one extra foreign player of Asia origin (like Korea's K-League), and each team must have a minimum number of players from the region the team is from. Also to enable the game to grow and players to develop only overseas managers, at the moment, with FIFA/UEFA licenses will be hired. All these ideas show the appropriate signs of a league wanting to develop quality homegrown players.

With the exporting of soccer from Europe reaching all corners of the world it is difficult for developing countries, such as India, to find a market within their own country. Currently, while living in South Korea I am seeing a slight boom in the domestic K-League 10 years after the country co-hosted the World Cup. There are already many who are talking about this new Indian league, and there will be a lot of interested over the next year. The true test will be if this league is still being talked about in five years, and whether or not the Indian National Team will become competitive in the Asian region.

***for more information on this topic please download the BBC's World Football podcast***

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Giving Props

Being that I am a huge detractor of Chivas USA's Justin Braun, I have to give credit when it's due following his hat-trick against New York Red Bulls. Three well taken goals by the Chivas striker which lands him firmerly at the feet of player of the week. It would be nice to see some consistency from him, however.

More importantly, what has happened to Chivas USA? They currently sit 11th overall in the league and have been on quite a tear as of late getting a result in six of their last seven matches and sit at 3-3-3. The big question for Chivas is can they continue this form over the remainder of the season. There's still a lot that can happen with 25 matches remaining.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vermes out, please (and Heineman while you're at it)

Sporting KC dropped yet another match over the weekend, 4-1 to LA Galaxy. It was KC's fifth loss out of seven matches already this season. Vancouver has equalled the same amount of losses, however, they have also played four more matches this season. Going into the season many had high hopes for Sporting KC. There was a new name, new kit and colours, a new designated players and above all a new stadium. Unfortunately, that new stadium hasn't opened yet and won't until June 9 (and that is if there aren't any unforeseen problems over the next month). Sporting is in the final stretch of a 10-game (regular season) swing that will finally end soon.

Looking back I hope the suites at Sporting KC realize what a ridiculous idea it has been to start on the road for first three months of the season; and it has definitely shown in the results of a team that is comprised of some quality attacking options, but few options in the midfield or defence. The architects of this squad are two people that seem to get a pass from many of Sporting's faithful fans. Robb Heineman has been the team's president since 2006 and has given most of the ruling power to Peter Vermes as both manager and technical director during this time. Vermes has been with the club for the same amount of time, first solely in the TD role, but since the latter part of 2009 has also filled the role as manager. But during his five plus years with KC/Sporting this club has rarely put out a team worthy of contending. Since taking over as manager in 2009 Vermes' KC has failed to make the play-offs and has an overall record of 15-25-9 (W-L-T). Not sparkling form  by any means. The man Vermes took over for, Curt Onalfo, in comparision went 25-24-28 during his two plus years in charge. That included two play-off appearances making it to the semi-finals and quarter finals in 2007 and 2008 respectively with very weak teams (going out with a wimper at these points). Both seem to have very similar records, but atleast Onalfo made the play-offs with two teams with less attacking abilities than Vermes' current team(s).

Since taking over for Onalfo, Vermes has tried to implement an attack minded 4-3-3 formation that has at best shown mixed results. He also seems to be a manager that is unfamilar with the old adage that you build your team from the back and up the middle. He has decided to do the opposite and build from the front; and one can only assume he believes his team can out score every opponent they face. Seattle's manager Sigi Schmid, who has done it all in North American soccer, has been quoted to saying the 4-3-3 cannot work in MLS. Looking at Sporting's disjoined version of it it's hard to disagree. Anyone with some soccer knowledge could see the many fundamental mistakes that this team is making on the pitch from not tracking back, following runs and not closing down opponents. Those are simple soccer aspects that all players must do, but what the 4-3-3 is doing every game is leaving large gaps between the back four and the midfield and attackers. Often the midfield three are pushed too far forward and the team has been beaten on the counter attack as a result. Watch the matches against Vancouver, New England and most recently LA to see this for yourself. With such weak centerbacks this team needs a player to sit in front of the back four to protect them. In their current 4-3-3 they should have someone like Stephane Auvray or Craig Rocastle to sit there and break up the play in the midfield, but we don't see that from this team.

With the product on the field I'm not sure where this team is headed. Sporting hasn't signed a player from abroad of significance since Claudio Lopez (though many disagree with that) and the juries still out on Omar Bravo in my opinion. They've also had mixed results in the draft; not to mention the trade of Luis Gil a young moldable attacking player to Salt Lake last season. Though they have done better with the drafts of Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong. I know Kansas City isn't a luxurious destination, but if Dallas and Salt Lake can find quality in South America and abroad than why can't KC? Either KC's scouting is that bad or people would rather live in Utah than Kansas City (no offense to Utah).

I've been an advocate of Vermes and Heineman's removal for sometime. But would that make this team any better? Probably only for a short time. I appreciate the accessibility of Heineman, that's great to see, but having a genuine soccer mind assisting Vermes in the GM/TD role could help immensely with some new perspective (I'm willing to apply). The biggest thing that would help this team is some change and flexibility in Vermes' formation and tactics. Watching from the stadium or on TV it's becoming obvious that you can see the players aren't wanting to play for this team. And who would want to when they're rock bottom and going no where fast.

But as I've read the hardcore Sporting forum writers keep saying, in MLS a few wins and they'll be in the play-offs. Well, I really hope they're cool heads prove me wrong in October.

Baldo, really?

Just wanted to say how impressed I was that Baldomero Toledo didn't give a red card in the LA Galaxy v. Sporting KC match this past weekend. I was a little worried when KC's Roger Espinoza karate kicked David Beckham in the box (the 18-yard box that is) that we'd see a red; but to his credit Toledo gave a penalty and the game resumed with two full sides.

Other than that moment there really wasn't any altercations that could have provoked the man with the red right hand. Props to Toledo or to MLS for telling him to stop influencing matches.

On a similar thought, I being the Europhile that I am and lover of the German Bundesliga (the highest attended league in the world), I caught the Hoffenheim v. Wolfsburg match on Saturday. Wolfsburg needed three points to be sure of preserving their top-flight statis for next season. Late in the match the referee for the contest used great judgement in not giving a yellow or red card to Mario Mandzukic following his winning goal that kept Wolfsburg in the division for next season. Following the goal Mandzukic proceed to run to the Wolfsburg supporters and partially climb the fencing to celebrate with the fans. A great display on the final day of the season. MLS refs should take notes from the Bundesliga, and in general MLS needs to take notes from the Bundesliga regarding fan and club interaction and support.

*** I've been to a several matches across Europe, and without a doubt the best atmosphere, price and fan friendly clubs and stadia I've been to is in Germany. Even the picture on our main page comes for Bundesliga 2's side Dusseldorf's ultra modern stadia where you'll get plenty of German punk rock and lovely Dusseldorf Altbier to go with your footy.***

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

World Football Exploitation

This went completely under my radar: Major League Soccer has announced the dissolving of the Superliga tournament. Though a good idea at the time to cash in on the USA v. Mexico rivalry the tournament seemed to fizzle over the past few years in attendance, especially with the non-Hispanic fan in the USA. You can check my old blogs to see how I truly feel about the tournament.

However, MLS has decided to go a different way to make money off of the casual and hardcore soccer fan in America. They will revive the World Football Challenge. The first WFC took place in 2009 with Chelsea, AC Milan, Internazionale and Club America competing in a pre-season tournament. For one, I am completely against MLS teams playing mid-season friendlies; but it's another cancer of the game in the US when teams from abroad come to America to cash in on the American sports fan. Yes, it's great for the game in America. But as an American soccer fan it is also a slap in the face that people won't/don't come out to watch MLS matches when they have the opportunity at a fraction of the price.

In my opinion MLS is hurting itself by playing this types of mid-season friendlies. It basically tells the casual fan that our league is inferior so don't come out to a league game, but do come out and watch when we play a team from Europe. At the end of the day money talks, and despite what happens to the state of the league, MLS and it's "richest" clubs will continue to follow the practice of cashing in on the soccer fans of America.

Here is an updated version of this summer's friendlies:

May 2011
May 22: D.C. United v Ajax
May 25: Portland Timbers v Ajax

July 2011
July 13: New England Revolution v Manchester United

July 16: LA Galaxy v Real Madrid
July 18: Vancouver Whitecaps v Manchester City
July 20: Houston Dynamo v Bolton Wanderers
July 20: Philadelphia Union v Everton
July 20: Seattle Sounders v Man United
July 20: Sporting Kansas City v Newcastle United
July 23: D.C. United v Everton
July 23: Chicago Fire v Manchester United
July 26: Columbus Crew v Newcastle United
July 27: MLS All-Stars v Manchester United at Red Bull Arena NJ
July 30: Barcelona v Manchester United in Washington D.C.

August 2011
August 3: Barcelona v Chivas Guadalajara in Miami, FL

August 6: Barcelona v Club America in Dallas TX.

Rivalries and Derbies

I was perusing and had a read over some of the Cascadia Rivalry articles. It dawned on me that MLS has always used the word rival or rivalry rather than the universal soccer term derby (darby is the British pronounciation) for a heated match/grudge match. Though, numerous announcers especially the British invasion has used the traditional term. In a way being that I am pro use of American terms and people for announcing MLS matches I find it a very calculated move by MLS to use this term.

Yes, derby isn't a common word in the American vernacular unless we are talking about horse racing, ala the Kentucky Derby. However, in that case we use the American pronounciation for this word (being an English teacher who teachs outside the USA I find this fascinating).

Yet, the true reason I believe MLS uses the word rival or rivalry is because of the negative connotation the word could have in the soccer world. MLS has always been about family friendly entertainment, and by replacing the word derby with rivalry it gives it a slightly friendlier connotation. A connotation in which the teams play a hard match on the pitch, but at the end of the day shake hands and everything is okay. Say the name derby, however, and the people who have experienced it will know the difference in the feeling and atmosphere that is experienced on a derby day.

I have no problem (for once) with MLS writers and the league using the word rivalry in place of derby for those US fans that are unfamilar with the term. However, that one word can create so much emotion and passion in a true football fan; and by using the universal soccer/football terms so many can be educated on the ettiquette of the greatest game in the world

Monday, May 2, 2011

Be original

There two things that have begun to bother me about MLS announcers. Yes, I bitch a lot but isn't that what blogs are for? The first is the influx of British announcers to MLS. Sporting KC has Callum Williams, Robbie Earle has joined Portland (though I quite like his work), Adrian Healey has taken over on ESPN and there are others from the British isles that grace the league with their voices. Being that I love the English game, have lived in England and have an English wife I do greatly enjoy the British announcers. On the other hand I am against the constant outsourcing of soccer that America and MLS does. I know there are some terrible USA soccer announcers like Rob Stone and Christian Miles and analysts in such as the idiot Alexi Lalas and most of the people who work for Fox Soccer; but instead of outsourcing these positions why not try and find the next JP Dellacamera who is the best America has to offer. Perhaps MLS or the clubs could send some of the rising announcers to England to learn from the English announcers. A study abroad if you will.

The second thing that is bothering me is's frequent use of the word golazo. Yes, I get the meaning and I understand where it came from, but come on guys find your own catch phrases. I find MLS to be very good a using other countries' catch phrases and even team names (Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake), and I'd love to see something more original. Starting with the removal of this damn catch phrase.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Preserve Defence

Colorado's Brian Mullan has been suspended an additional nine matches and fined $5000 for his two footed slide tackle that broke Steve Zakuani's leg. This is outrageous and shows MLS continuing to remove defence from the league. Yes, it was a horrible tackle and worthy of both a straight red and the three match ban. However, every match 1000 tackles take place and we rarely see something like this happen. Not every tackle is a rush of the blood tackle like Mullan's had last week, but not every tackle is innocent either. Everyone wonders how Zakuani will recover and if his career will continue to rise as it has been. I on the other hand believe it will be Mullan's career that will take the dive. He now has nine matches off to think about breaking another man's leg. I highly doubt Mullan will play to the standard he has in the past and I'm afraid his career maybe the one that fades and not Zakuani's. He will be a marked man every time he attempts a tackle.

Again let me say this was a terrible incident, but soccer is a full contact sport and these things happen. In the NFL players repeatedly run into each other to inflict pain, and rare it is when the NFL suspends someone for injurying another player. It's only in recent year for NFL players to be punished for off field problems. This is an incident that happens in sports, and if the tackle had happened a second sooner or later we wouldn't be talking about it.

The bigger problem I think this uncovers is the league taking defensive football and tackling out of the league. This season already we have seen a copious amount of red cards for light tackles, and ridiculous decisions by referees are becoming the norm in the league. I feel there is a concerted effort by the league to inform their referees that not only will goal celebrations be unacceptable, tackles and physical play be unallowed but also the referees most help to keep parity alive with their ridiculous calls. Lets face it, if the league wasn't happy with the refereeing they'd do something about it. Yes, they've brought in some fresh referees the past week or two; but those newbies have called the matches in the same inconsistent way. The league wants to look like they're stepping into help, but in truth they're happy to stay the course. MLS resembles the WWE more than professional football making the referee to be the villian in the match.

Many critics of the refereeing this season say US based refs call it in a Latin style. But the truth is there is no style. Too many times this season we've seen referees call a match inconsisentantly giving a yellow card to a player only to give a warning to another player for the same foul; or to give a red card when a warning would suffice.

To continue my consirpacy theory, MLS has plenty of reasons to want defensive football out of the game. First of all, they have already stated the referees need to protect the playmakers and attackers of the league. But most importantly defensive football is being taken away from us, because it doesn't sell to American casual fans and even to American hardcore fans. The common complaint of Americans is soccer is boring. MLS is rectifying this, however, by allowing the referees to make dodgy decisions that enable teams to play with an extra man. Conventional thinking is the game would then become open and more flowing with one team scoring a load of goals. This does happen, for example Colorado 4-1 DC United, DC had a player sent off in the first 15 mins for a soft tackle. But typically, teams play more defensive as in Vancouver's 1-1 draw with New England when three players were sent off. Two of which for questionable, soft fouls that were more hard play than reckless abandon.

The league is taking football out of football. It is a physically demanding game on all fronts. It was a horrible tackle, there's no doubt, but football is football and these things happen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

RSL Making it Matter

Last night RSL picked up a last gasp draw against Monterrey in the Champions League Final first leg. I've been surprised to see and other blog sites talking up this final and RSL. However, still many are critical of this competition and their team's involvment in it. I am not sure I understand the fans who feel meaningless midseason friendlies are a good idea compared to playing meaningful international cup matches. A good run in the CCL can catapult an MLS side into the Club World Cup (which is a competition teams from everywhere other than England actually do take pride in, check your history) where they could play a big European or South American team in a truly meaningful game. Many critics question whether people would truly accept RSL as Club World Cup champions. But in the USA and Canada where play-offs are the norm it shouldn't be questioned whether a team can go through a knockout play-off to become the undisputed champion. As Americans and Canadians we learn that anything can happen in the play-offs regardless of who the truly better team is.

If there's one thing that North American sports fans could hopefully grasp after RSL's cup run is that there is soccer and other sports for that matter outside of the continent. Throughout the history of North America people have played sports that are typical North American sports where the best players reside and is considered to be home to the best basketball, baseball, ice hockey and American football players; though the game is only sparsely played outside the continent. There has rarely been a desire to play teams from other countries as North America already sees itself as the best in these fields. The NFL tried to get a World Football League to take root in Europe, but there was no interest as these countries don't have American football teams in their schools and grow up playing proper football instead. (It has come down to the NFL sending its own teams to London every year to play for Americans living abroad and Europeans who only attend because they see the NFL as a spectacle {one Englishman describe it as being similar to UFC.}. More McDonaldization of the world)

 However, throughout the rest of the world there is a desire to play teams from other countries and to see who is the best of the best. Perhaps it's because of the vast size of North America that we don't play other countries in sports unless it is the Olypmics, World Cup or the two competition old World Baseball Cup (which features the typical baseball powers in North and Central American, Asia and most recently Australia). Maybe it is Americans, especially, that have a perception that they are the best at everything and if they're not they won't participate; being from the "strongest" country in the world many don't want to be beaten by the minnows and look bad. We are taught from an early age, as most countries are, that our country is the best and most influential. As part of this there has been a thinking in the history of MLS (despite two CONCACAF Cup winners) that MLS is the most important league and playing outside the league is worthless. Why waste energy for something that people won't understand anyway. But people do understand and aren't as nieve as some think.

I'm sure Rio Tinto will be in full force next week for the second leg in which RSL hold the away goals lead at the moment. This will be massive for a city with only one other professional sports team in the Utah Jazz. A team that has had limited success in its history. RSL already has one more league title than the Jazz, and with an international trophy to their credit it could make demand even higher for the hottest ticket in town.

Hopefully, when the 2011-2012 CONCACAF competition kicks off Colorado, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders will take the tournament seriously. However, the Galaxy and Seattle have not played to their full potential in the competition in recent times. Not to mention three of the four teams are extremely undermanned at the moment. Colorado when healthy does have a team that could compete at a high level in the competition. However, I don't expect any of these teams to make it past the group stage. The upswing is that MLS now allows 10-teams in the play-offs and that could influence these teams to try harder in the Champions League. Don't expect another MLS team to make a cup run like RSL next season. This won't be an every year occurrance, and if RSL do win the competition it will be a shame if they aren't allowed to defend their title.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New England Pick Up Option on Feilhaber

News has just come out that New England has picked up the allocation rights to Benny Feilhaber. Now it is up to them to sign the player or trade him for other options. I wouldn't be surprised either way. By signing him they add quality to the midfield. The Revolution is notoriously cheap and should have plenty of cap space. On the other hand they may trade away Feilhaber for some attacking options. I'm not sure what team would be interested in moving two or three players to New England for Feilhaber. I would assume New England is where he'll stay.

Sporting KC does have the attacking options to trade, but do they really need Feilhaber at this moment? I think not. Houston could likely trade for him, but they don't have much talent to move in the other direction. DC United does have the likes of Santino Quaranta, Steven King or even Branko Boskovic who could be deemed as excess to needs. On paper DC United seems to have the most pieces to move for Feilhaber. But again this would seem unlikely with the off-season signing of Dax McCarty and both teams being rivals in the Eastern Conference. No other team seems to have the pieces to add Feilhaber to its roster.

If he does sign with the Revs I am not sure this make the Revs that much better. Yes, they have a good defence and their midfield was already adequate; but they don't of goal scorers. As I wrote in an earlier post they have signed Rajko Lekic which should ease the teams goal scoring woes.

Chivas USA Decides not to Ruin Benny Feilhaber's Career

Chivas USA has passed on the chance to sign USA international Benny Feilhaber. Feilhaber signed with Major League Soccer last week after the league paid a transfer fee to his former club AGF Aarhus who currently play in the Danish second division following relegation last season. Feilhaber's contract was up after this season, and Aarhus cashed in on arguably their prized asset.

Until moving to Aarhus Feilhaber had an indifferent club career playing a hand full of matches for SV Hamberg's first team in Germany and Derby County in England's Premier League. It was his national team form that made Feilhaber a "household name" as far as USMNT players are concerned. He burst on to the scene with a fantastic volley against Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup. Since then he has played well for the national team, and was an integral part at the 2010 World Cup when the USA dropped a holding midfielder and became more attacking late in matches.

With Chivas USA passing on Feilhaber this gives him the chance to play for a team that will not be rooted at the bottom of the league all year. Instead of helping his career, a move to Chivas could have hindered it with the lack of talent he would have around him. It would have also been a sideways move leaving the Danish second division for the worst team in MLS. It's worth considering that MLS may have worked out a deal with Chivas to pass on one of the stars of the USMNT much like they did with Brian McBride. McBride was allocated to Toronto FC, but he wanted to play for Chicago and after some MLS intervention was granted a trade to the Windy City.

The Philadelphia Union is on the clock, but all reports have the club passing on Feilhaber. This makes sense with the good young talent and cap space the Union currently have. Feilhaber's contract will eat up a large chunk of salary cap space. It is said he will earn around $350,000 which is the maximum salary for a non-Designated Player. I would love to see Feilhaber end up in Philadelphia, and I think the team could use his creativity in the midfield. They haven't created many goals this season. Carlos Ruiz's goal against Vancouver has been the only goal the team has actually created from open play this season (goal mouth scrambles and errors by by defenders would not count as a created goal). Perhaps Feilhaber's vision in midfield would allow the attackers around him to express themselves more.

The current allocation order looks like this:

1. Chivas USA (By passing Chivas USA still hold the top spot)
2. Philadelphia Union
3. New England Revolution
4. Houston Dynamo
5. Toronto FC
6. Chicago Fire
7. Sporting Kansas City
8. Seattle Sounders FC
9. Columbus Crew
10. New York Red Bulls
11. Real Salt Lake
12. San Jose Earthquakes
13. Los Angeles Galaxy
14. FC Dallas
15. Colorado Rapids
16. Vancouver Whitecaps
17. Portland Timbers
18. D.C. United

New England has just signed striker Rajko Lekic and being the cheapest team in the league may not want to spend on Feilhaber. They've also continued to talk about signing a DP this summer, but I'll believe it when I see it. Houston Dynamo has just signed Koke from Aris in Greece, and is playing well. They may not want to add to the squad at the moment. TFC may have the cap space to sign Feilhaber after the Dwayne De Rosario trade. Feilhaber would work well with Julian De Guzman as the attacker in the midfield. But TFC's 4-3-3 may not suit Feilhaber who may prefer a 4-4-2 formation. Also, will MLS want a key USMNT player playing in Canada after Jay De Merit signed for Vancouver? Chicago has a good shout at getting him and should have the cap space. They could use someone that can boss the midfield after their poor showing in Portland. Sporting KC maybe interested, but do they really need anymore attacking players? This team needs defence. Columbus could spend big and add him to the fantastic pair that is Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers. This addition would all of a sudden upgrade the Crew's midfield from good to excellent. New York and LA Galaxy don't have the money to afford Feilhaber, Colorado should be set in their midfield, FC Dallas could have their Dax McCarty replacement (but will he want to play for FCD). I would love to see Feilhaber end up in Salt Lake, but they already have Javier Morales. If  Feilhaber makes it past Columbus I see him signing with San Jose. He would be fantastic playing next to Simon Dawkins or playing off Chris Wondolowski as the second striker. Seattle may have the space, but they seem to have a full midfield already.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

MLS Week 5 Power Rankings: April 18, 2011

Parity is continuing to play havoc in MLS. Only a hand full of teams have been able to gain some continued form while others have been all over the place.

1. Real Salt Lake (2)
RSL got a late winner in the Rocky Mountain Derby. RSL is undefeated in all competitions so far this season and is preparing for the CONCACAF Champions League Final first leg against Mexico's Monterrey this week. Will the wheels come off if they suffer a bad result in the final?

2. Philadelphia Union (8)
I thought the Union was punching above its weight. But they continue to get the job done. A win against New York (though fortunate thanks to a terrible pass from Tim Ream) and a draw against Seattle Sounders is proving they belong on top of the East (for now). This team isn't creating goals, however, and can't rely on the defence to hold out every week.

3. LA Galaxy (4)
LA is having trouble putting teams away on the road. A questionable penalty in DC lead to a 1-1 draw followed by a 0-0 in Toronto. Landon Donovan's body is finally fighting back after continually playing over the past two years. They'll need his vision and leadership back to push on.

4. New York Red Bulls (3)
After some stuttering New York finally played to their potential against San Jose. Luke Rodgers got off the mark with two well taken goals. Thierry Henry showed up this week and added an assist and a goal. If they can get some consistency this team could be the best in the league.

5. Columbus Crew (13)
The Crew aren't flashy. They don't score a lot of goals. However, they seem to have ironed out their defensive problems from week 1 and they have a midfield that has bossed their last few games. Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers have been brilliant and the back four are doing enough.

6. Houston Dynamo (15)
Like the Crew Houston isn't flashy and they're not over powering, but eight points from five matches is impressive from a team without much talent. Dominic Kinear is a fantastic manager and he has this team doing just enough each week. Houston should at least pick up three of the next six available points. They have a bright young goalkeeper in Tally Hall who should get a USMNT look with the way he has played thus far. If they can get a goal scorer this team will be hard to beat as the defence is already in place.

7. Colorado Rapids (1)
After three straight wins the Rapids have dropped games in Dallas and Salt Lake. The first was a drubbing that they didn't show up for. The second was a heartbreaking late goal in a derby. It doesn't get any easier as they host Seattle at home on Friday. They need to get their high powered attack going again before they drop anymore points. They are still without Conor Casey, but do still have enough to take apart most teams in the league.

8. Seattle Sounders FC (11)
Seattle has gotten it going over the last few matches. They were fortunate to get a late equaliser againsts Philadelphia in a monsoon at PPL. They have all the talent, but seem to sputter with Fredy Montero up top as the focus of the team. He has no goals and one assist in five matches this season. More should expect from the team's marquee player. Freddie Ljundberg was run out of town last season for similar play. Fortunately for Montero, Sounders' fans seem to give Montero a pass.

9. DC United (14)
I said at the beginning of the season Charlie Davis would win the Golden Boot award. Through five matches he has five goals, though a few have been from the spot and not from open play. Thus far the team has been all over the place. Beating a disappointing Columbus, losing to New England (thanks to Baldomero Toledo), getting hammered by Colorado, drawing with LA Galaxy and thumping Toronto has shown us to expect the unexpected from this team. They haven't shown consistent form this season, but if they find it they will be difficult to beat. One thing's for sure: They are better than last season.

10. Portland Timbers (16)
The Timbers have come from nowhere to break the top 10! They have been led by captain Jack Jewsbury, who would be a perfect calming influence to Sporting KC right now,  and are getting contributions from other areas of the pitch. The scenes have been electric at JELD-WEN field, but can this team win away from home? They be difficult to beat at home as their home stadium is a massive advantage and they are definitely the future of MLS.

11. Vancouver Whitecaps (9)
Six points from six games is a massive positive for a first year MLS club. Much like Portland they've failed to find consistent form, despite having a more talented side than other teams around them. The Whitecaps have had the opportunity to take maximum points against less talented squads in Houston and Chivas USA, but have failed to do so. The fixtures get more difficult now and they will need Eric Hasseli to stay on the pitch and not be suspended if they are to take points from these upcoming fixtures.

12. Toronto FC (12)
Despite being embarrassed by DC United last week I don't think TFC is all that bad. Everyone continues to say they're in a re-building year. But that means they've had something to begin with. This team is building, and they have some excellent pieces in place. Some player continuity and manager continuity will do wonders for this club, and I don't think the play-offs are unrealistic looking at the teams around them.

13. San Jose Earthquakes (7)
After playing so well in their opening four matches the Earthquakes were out classed and out played by New York last weekend. Nothing was working for San Jose, and despite the torrential down pour should have put up a fight. I was surprised by their early form, but always thought last week's performance was more like the San Jose we would see this season.

14. New England Revolution (5)
Another team that has crashed down to Earth after a solid start. A draw and two losses in their last three have New England limping into a home encounter with an equally poor Sporting KC team. New England's defence continues to be solid, but there's no attack. They went down without a whimper to an RSL side with more reserves than first teamers in it and then gave up a late goal to the Dynamo. They need someone to score some goals and take the pressure off the defence.

15. Sporting KC (10)
The good news is Sporting KC only gave up one goal last week. They have given up nine goals in four matches. The bad news is their super sonic attack was non-existent. They have scored eight goals in four matches. It was a poor showing from a Sporting team that never truly looked like scoring. Sure Kei Kamara was put in on goal, but the angle was always against him. Sporting's unbalanced assembly is causing havoc with their stlye of play and I don't think Omar Bravo's absence is the cause of their current form. The midfield needs more bite and a move to a four man midfield would reduce the pressure on the back four. As in the clubs Open Cup win over Houston, last week's match shows what happens when Sporting's attack isn't firing. This team needs to give up some of its attack and grind out results with a staunch midfield.

16. Chicago Fire (6)
Chicago's bright start has burnt out. The good news is that their next three league games will be against similar teams in the table. The Fire can be forgiven for losing to Seattle, but they were completely taken out of last week's match against the Timbers by the home field advantage Portland has. They're scoring goals, but unfortunately they are conceding more goals.

17. FC Dallas (18)
Recently, FCD manager Schellas Hyndman was quoted as saying the team hadn't found a replacement to Dax McCarty in midfield. This shocked me as they had plenty of time to find one following his trade in the expansion draft. Hell, they didn't have to trade him at all. This is definitely not the team it was last season. They have slipped back to the mediocre state they previously occupied before last year. If they can get a couple of wins they will be right back in it, however, I still don't see anything special in this team.

18. Chivas USA (17)
Jesus Christ, I wish MLS had relegation. This team is bad. They have made slight defensive improvements since the beginning of the season. Chivas has been able to grind out three consecutive draws for their only points thus far. Three incredibly boring draws. What should be extremely worrying is this team has only three goals on the season. Two were by defenders and one was by striker Alejandro Moreno. If you want to see how not to be a striker watch Justin Braun's ridiculously comical attempt at finishing in their match against TFC from three weeks ago. I can't express how bad of an attacker this kids is; he isn't a kid anymore actually, he is 24-years old. His terrible play has done me a solid, however, and shut up all those crying out for him to be included with the USMNT. Unfortunately I'm sure he'll be in the team for this summer's Gold Cup. What is more worrying for the USMNT, however, is Benny Feilhaber maybe joining this band of misfits thanks to MLS' allocating player system. If Feilhaber is forced to sign with Chivas USA don't expect this team to get better or Feilhaber's career to sky rocket. There aren't the players on this team to enable Feilhaber to succeed.