Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MLS All-Star Game/Summer Friendlies

This week MLS and several MLS teams announced summer friendlies and the MLS All-Star fixture. The All-Stars will once again take on Manchester United who will also play friendlies against Chicago and Seattle as well. Even my team Sporting KC will get in on the act with a friendly against Newcastle United. Which I think is going to be a hard sell to the casual soccer fan. First, Newcastle isn't safe from relegation yet and could drop to the Championship with a few bad results. Second, they don't have a big name draw like last season's friendly opponent Manchester United, who is also the biggest club draw in the world. Finally, this game will be played on a Wednesday night and I find it hard to believe the casual fan will come out for the match as MLS midweek matches are traditionally a hard sell. I always say 90% of US soccer fans and MLS fans in America are casual fans. The US is the home of the casual fan and the "what have you done for me lately" fan.

On the subject of friendlies, I am against MLS teams playing these matches. It is in the middle of the MLS season for one thing and each team should be concentrating on the task at hand, i.e. the MLS season, Open Cup, playoffs, etc. However, this is a huge pay day for both teams and a way for the foreign team to promote themselves abroad. But that is what I'm truly against. So many teams come to America on a summer tour looking to cash in on the casual soccer fan. Typically, this is the fan who hates MLS or has a slight interest in MLS, but would rather pay to see a game when the "big boys" come to town. Yes, the MLS team's supporter section is there and bragging rights are at stake. But in the case of Sporting KC versus Manchester United last season the game means nothing to the non-MLS team and their supporters. I lived in England last season and this result wasn't even widely regarded as unusual. Look at the seasons both teams have had as a result. United is on top of the Premier League while SKC couldn't even make the playoffs last season. I know Sporting had an increase in ticket sales, merch, etc after the match against Manchester United last summer. But my argument is these fans aren't the fans that will come out week after week, month after month or year after year. Rather, these are the fans that see something that has peaked their interest or they've heard about and they want to check it out. Again the casual fan. The upside to this is at least a MLS team is participating in the friendly. Too often two teams from Europe or other parts of the world play friendlies in the States cashing in on the soccer fan. I find this to be both an exploitation of the American soccer fan and ignorance by the American fan.
Too many people, and many have said this to me, say MLS is a terrible league, it's boring and there's no talent. These people aren't true fans, they don't want to find out why the league has quality. They want to be told what to like and they want to like what people tell them to like. I hope in the future these friendlies will continue to decrease as MLS is too good a league to allow teams from around the world to make a name at the expense of MLS.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week 2 Notes

Well, the good news is Juan Agudelo score again this week. The bad news is he did it for the USMNT against Argentina and not for the New York Red Bulls. New York definitely missed Agudelo and Thierry Henry in this 0-0 draw that had plenty of chances; plenty of chances for Columbus. In the end they were evenly matched on a rainy Ohio day. Luke Rodgers never really seemed in the match for Red Bull and it took some very good goalkeeping from both sides to keep it level. Many said New York would suffer without centreback combo Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez, and they did to an extent. Many times getting caught with too high a line at the back. Fortunately, for New York Columbus couldn't capitalize on the day.

I said this week that Sporting KC and Chicago would play a high scoring attacking match. They didn't disappoint. Five goals shared with Chicago taking the points, but just like in New England-DC United there was some ridiculous officiating. Chicago was given a penalty early on as the attacker seemed to fall over due to momentum, rather than a push from Omar Bravo. Diego Chaves blasted the penalty in, 1-0. Following the penalty Chicago took the Sporting defence apart for their second goal. I said the defence wasn't tested last week against Chivas, and at times in that match lost the Chivas attackers too easily. Gaston Puerari got the second after slipping through the Sporting defence to make it 2-0. Matt Besler would pull one back for Sporting following some poor Fire marking on a corner. However, Marco Pappa would pull out some brillance in Chicago's third goal dribbling through four Sporting would-be defenders. Sporting would get a late Teal Bunbury goal, but Chicago held on in the end. I've been quite surprised with Chicago in their first two matches, however, Chicago has traditionally gotten off to hot starts (no pun intended) only to burn out during the middle of the season (pun intended). Looking back over week 1and 2 I'm not sure how good Sporting is. Yes, they were missing Kei Kamara from the starting 11, but they didn't play particularly well against Chivas defensively. They need to shore up that backline fast as they won't outscore every team every week. In Sporting's two games this season a total of 10 goals have been scored.

First off, I'm a bit confused with Philadelphia wearing a new white kit for home. I loved this team's home and away kits last year, though I don't hate the white, I thought their away gold kits last season were classy. This game didn't really get going until Vancouver had striker Eric Hassli sent off in the second half. Hassli let some frustration boil over and was yellow carded for two petulent fouls on Union defenders. Despite being a man down the Whitecaps put up a fight and should have gotten a point from this game, however, a questionable no-call allowed the Union all three points. From replays it would appear Carlos Ruiz never got back on side following the initial ball that was played through. Nevertheless, the Union sit on top of the East with six points and will be a hard team to beat with the fervent support at PPL.

Toronto FC got their first points of the season, and looked good doing it defeating Portland Timbers 2-0. Portland did have chances but Stefan Frei was fantastic for TFC. But the man of the match was Javier Martina who scored both goals and had a fantastic finish for his second.

The game of the week between Salt Lake and LA Galaxy turned into a non-event as the best team in the league hammered LA 4-1. The Galaxy looked dismal and are picking up where they left off last season. RSL is continuing to show they are the best team in North America. Javier Morales ran this match and LA Galaxy looked confused, old and slow throughout.

San Jose looked good against a poor FC Dallas team and Chris Wondolowski scored two fantastic goals in this one. I wrote last week that FCD hasn't replaced the players they allowed to leave and it has showed in both games this season.

So far this year I think the teams in East look stronger than the West. Yes, it is early but Dallas, Seattle, Portland and Chivas have underwhelmed thus far.

New England 2 -DC United 1

If week 1 was about terrible defence then week 2 was about awful referring in the New England-DC United match. Though New England controlled the game in the first half both their goals were awarded due to questionable calls. The first came on a blantant handball by Zack Schilawski before he poked it home for the first New England goal. Referee Baldomero Toledo, like he normal does, influenced this match and it's outcome. Funnily enough, in Europe and Asia most people would think he is in on the fix. Honestly, with people outside of America able to bet on MLS matches I don't see why that would be inconceivable.

New England would get their second goal following another bad call by Mr. Toledo. As the ball dropped to Dax McCarty in the 18-yard box he readied himself to clear it. But as he did Rev player Pat Phelan came running in and jumped into McCarty. Normally this would be a foul on Phelan for jumping into McCarty, but not to Mr. Toledo. An immediate penalty was given and converted by Shalrie Joesph, 2-0 Revs.

DC United finally got into the game in the second half and their two liveliest players were Chris Pontius and Fred. Both combining on a few occasions, but in the end shooting over the bar. Late in the match it would be DC's turn for a questionable call. A free kick outside of the box was given to United. As the ball was played in a New England defender and DC United player came together with hands on each and feet tangled up. As soon as both players went down the whistle was blown and Mr. Toledo again pointed to the spot; where Charlie Davies would convert and score his third goal in two. But Mr. Toledo wasn't done there. As the game winded through stoppage-time an incident between Dejan Jakovic, Matt Reis and Ryan Cochrane ended with Jakovic seeing red. This was a ridiculous way to end a ridiculously refereed match. This was all handbags and nothing malicious. Just some frustration boiling over.

In the end Mr. Toledo did his usual take charge decide the outcome-I'm the most important one here job. The true is this match should have ended 0-0 with neither team doing much as all three goals came from bad officiating. Because of the officiating this game didn't look like top-flight football, rather it looked like something you'd see in the high school game.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Seattle v. Houston

If last week's theme was bad defending this game's theme was bad bounces. Both goals in the 1-1 draw came from fortunate bounces in front of goal. Both teams got their first goal of the season and first point of the year as well.

Seattle was the better team throughout the game and held most of the possession in the second half. But much like their two previous matches they couldn't do anything in the final third. Through out much of the match Seattle's game plan was to hoof the ball down field from the back or the midfield for Fredy Montero or O'Brian White to chase. Neither player has the ability in the air or hold up play ability for this strategy, and Houston's defence routinely cleared any danger that might have come from it. True to form Montero slipped in and out of the match. White on the other hand was never in the match and added nothing to the Sounders attack. The Houston defence did a fantastic job on the night and kept Seattle from shooting inside the 18-yard box which has to worry Seattle. The Sounders took too many shots outside of the area and only once looked dangerous on such a shot. Goalkeeper Tally Hall wasn't bothered on the night and only had his goal threatened on the Sounders one goal.

Seattle did create a lot of crosses from the wings. Steve Zakuani and Erik Friberg were regularly able to put crosses of varying degrees into the box. But the problem was the lack of Seattle attackers in the box and the lack of height to get to the cross. Only once was Montero near a cross and he headed well over the bar. White never even got near a cross and was lifted on 60 minutes. Nate Jaqua's 6ft 3in frame should have been able to convert a cross, however, when Jaqua came on Seattle went from playing on the wing and crossing the ball to playing down the middle with the ball on the floor. A point shared was the correct result in this one.

Three things stood out in my mind in this match. First, both teams played at a very high pace in this match. It was up and down and the ball was being moved around very quickly; especially by Houston when they got position. Secondly, Seattle's midfield looked good, and could be the best midfield in the league. Mauro Rosales, Alvaro Fernandez, Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani and Erik Friberg is a midfield that should control every game. Unfortunately, Seattle just doesn't have the quality at the striker position. We've learned that Montero needs someone to play with just behind him. Freddie Ljundberg was that man in year one and last season Blaise N'Kufo took the pressure off Montero in the second half of the season. Friberg was excellent combining with Montero against New York in week 1, and Seattle needs more of that. Third, Seattle hasn't gotten that much better since their opening MLS campaign. The back four doesn't strike fear into the heart of opposing attacks, and the Seattle attack has gone backwards since Sebastion Le Toux was allowed to leave and with N'Kofu's release/retirement this season. Seattle will need their midfield to play well if they're going to do anything this season.

This just won't go away

It seems Chad Johnson will have his trial extended with Sporting KC until Monday. This gives the SKC coaching staff the opportunity to see Johnson in a MLS reserve game. I feel like I'm the only person who is staunchly against this. I've said before that it undermines and demeans what the rest of the team and rest of MLS/soccer players in America do. I feel it's a slap in the face that a 33-year old American football player who hasn't played competitive soccer in over 15-years can get this much attention. I also think it shows the lack of soccer knowledge and awareness when MLS fans are crying out for him to be signed. On what basis should he be signed over an actual soccer player who has spent his life devoted to the game? Is it because of his name? The fact four or five more people may show up, but still not give a shit? Give me a break. Yes, I understand the PR move. But again I feel he is demeaning the sport I love. This isn't dribbling a soccer ball slowly for 10-yards or doing some keepy-ups on the sidelines in an NFL stadium. Lets not forget he does this for the attention. This is a fast paced sport that is more methodical and thought out than the sport in which he comes from. There are no breaks after five seconds and players are leaner and lighter. There's no sprinting down the field catching a ball and falling down. There's no celebrating menial basic plays that you're suppose to do (i.e. make a tackle or run for a first down). The MLS Super Draft shows us every year that athletic/low skill players come to MLS and typically go bust in pre-season or after one or two years sitting on the bench in MLS. The only difference here is the name, and he'll only play in a match (if signed) for PR purposes.

A big question I have is if you're going to sign 33-year old Chad Johnson and be serious about the team, why didn't Sporting sign Juan Pablo Angel in the off-season; or another mid-30's SOCCER player that was available? I'm almost positive Sporting will sign Johnson for the PR move. I'm sure they're printing up the stupid shirts already. It would be the big splash they want to make opening their new stadium. Sure why not have the supporters' section clad in blue 85 shirts for a guy who will sit on the bench for a majority of the season.

Prior to the Kansas City Wizards changing their name/identity to Sporting KC I said I wasn't sure if I'd continue to support the club, because I didn't like the way they were treating the supporters who have been with the team since the beginning. Though, I kept supporting. However, I'm so dumbfounded in this PR stunt/trial/signing that I am truly becoming disillusioned with this team. I hope for soccer's sake this won't happen. It makes soccer in America look like anyone can be a professional in the league which is a ridiculous notion to put out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

MLS Week 2

After a bright week 1 in MLS can Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake keep the moment going in week 2? Will Seattle turn it around after two loses in the opening week of the season? Let’s see what’s to come. I’m hopefully, this week we’ll see better defensive performances across the league.

Seattle Sounders FC v. Houston Dynamo
Seattle kicks off MLS week 2 on Friday night hosting Houston Dynamo. Seattle comes in to their third match following a home loss to LA Galaxy and a road loss to New York Red Bulls. Seattle should have at least taken a point from New York, but Freddy Montero’s finishing was diabolical. Seattle has no one that can pick up the slack when Montero is misfiring now that Blaise N’Kofu has been let go. Houston lost their opening match to Philadelphia Union in a drab 1-0 match thanks to a goal-mouth scramble goal by Union defender Danny Califf. Houston doesn’t have much up top and should struggle this season for goals. Seattle should take all three points at home. Seattle’s midfield has more quality and Alvaro Fernandez combined well with Montero last week in New York. This should be a break out game for Seattle and Houston will continue to be scoreless on the season.

Toronto FC v. Portland Timbers
Both teams come into week 2 on the back of defeats. TFC, though controlling position, looked awful and displayed some of the worst defending you’ll ever see in MLS; though they did have two lovely goals from Dwayne De Rosario and Maicon Santos. Many are pointing to TFC’s control of position, but position does nothing for you if you don’t do anything with it; or defend against the counter attack. Too many people are excited over their position and think TFC have turned the corner, I don’t think so, however. Portland was hammered by MLS champions Colorado Rapids. Portland was just over matched in the encounter looking like a traditional expansion team. This should be a good match of two teams trying to find their feet early in the season. Neither team plays particularly good defence, but we should see some goals in this one ending 2-2.

Columbus v. New York
Columbus looked terrible in week 1 against DC United. They’ve looked terrible in all but one Champions League match prior to the MLS season. Their fullbacks aren’t quick enough and across the backline they’ve made mistake after mistake. The Crew look idea-less in attack and facing a stronger defence this week won’t get a lot of shots on goal. New York will be without Juan Agudelo, who got the winner last weekend, Rafa Marquez, Tim Ream and maybe without Thierry Henry who has picked up a knock. Luke Rodgers could be deputised to fill the void, and he brings a different style to the front line. Rodgers is a more physical striker and should be able to hold the ball up and bring the Red Bull midfield into the game. Mehdi Ballochy and Dane Richards were impressive against Seattle, but Joel Lindpere drifted in and out of the match. New York has enough talent to put the Crew away. But without their starting centre back pairing of Ream and Marquez they’ll be a different team at the back. Columbus should be able to get at goal unlike Seattle did last weekend, if Columbus can get better finishing this week I think they can at least get a point from the Red Bulls.

Philadelphia Union v. Vancouver Whitecaps
Both teams come in with opening week wins, but only one will leave with a full six points out of six. Vancouver should take the spoils after showcasing a deadly counter attack. The team features the underrated Eric Hassli who scored two against TFC last week. David Chiumiento and Terry Dunfield were fantastic in taking on TFC defenders and distributing the ball; but it looks like Chiumiento may miss out due to injury, however. The defence maybe shorthanded as well with a few knocks sustained last week and Jay De Merit will be missing on USMNT duty. Many of Vancouver’s players played with the team last season in division two, and you could see the chemistry between the players in week 1. The Union were ineffective in attack last week, and they will have to get Sebastion La Toux more service to have a chance in this match. Vancouver will see more of the position in this match, and if the midfielders can get the Union’s defenders in one on one situations I like the Whitecaps to surprise everyone and move to 2-0-0.

Chicago v. Sporting KC
Chicago looked good against FC Dallas last Saturday, and if it wasn’t for a Milton Rodriguez wonder goal Chicago would have notched the victory. Sporting KC defeated Chivas USA with some slick attacking, despite showing some poor defending in the second half. Chicago didn’t look like the team of last season, however, it took most of the first half for manager Carlos De Los Cobos to realise his 3-5-2 formation doesn’t work and revert to a more traditional 4-4-2. Sporting will be without several key players: Shavar Thomas will be away on international duty, Teal Bunbury hasn’t been confirmed after his elbow injury, Craig Rocastle limped off last week, Jimmy Smith is still recovering from off season surgery and from what I’ve read Kei Kamara will be away on international duty with Sierra Leone. Sporting aren’t in as bad shape as it would appear. C.J. Sapong was fantastic in week 1 and proved why SKC selected him first in this year’s Super Draft. If Sapong and Omar Bravo can put pressure on the Chicago back four it should lead to an exciting game. Unfortunately, SKC’s defence was caught napping twice by Chivas and looked shaky at times. If Chivas had a true goal scorer they’d have at least snatched a point. I see this being a high scoring affair and ending in a draw (3-3).

New England v. DC United
One of the bigger rivalries in MLS continues this weekend when DC venture north to Foxborough. DC looked good in their opener, and showed their depth by bringing Charlie Davies off the bench scoring two and putting that match away. They didn’t even use last season’s team captain Santino Quaranta who sat this match out on the bench. DC United is definitely the stronger of the two teams and I believe will push New York this season for the Eastern Conference crown. New England picked up a hard earned point against LA Galaxy with a Shalrie Joseph goal. They’ll need more from other parts of the team to get anything from this match. But I think DC United has too much fire power and will continue to build momentum in the early part of the season.

FC Dallas v. San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose should have taken a point from Real Salt Lake last Saturday. Unfortunately, poor finishing from Chris Wondolowski and company doomed the ‘Quakes. They didn’t look bad in week 1 and were the better team for much of the match. Dallas comes in after taking a point of Chicago in which they were second best throughout. Milton Rodriguez needs more help up front as FCD looked anaemic in front of goal. I don’t think they’ve replaced the players they allowed to leave in the off season, and it will continue to hurt the team. Dallas was fantastic last season at home and their home form should at least get them a point, and if San Jose can’t finish it’ll be a long day in Dallas. However, this should end 1-1 with some decent attacking football and the goalkeepers coming up big to earn both teams a point.

Real Salt Lake v. LA Galaxy- Match of the Week!
LA comes in already having played two matches and gaining four points from a possible six. They should have done better last Sunday at home to New England. Salt Lake is already four games into their season after playing three Champions League matches and one MLS league game. They’ve looked good in nearly all their games. Though, they did look tired in a rain soaked Buck Shaw Stadium last weekend and were saved by a Kyle Beckerman goal and some man of the match goal keeping by Nick Rimando. Sorry Omar Bravo, but Rimando was my man of the week. RSL’s all-around game is superior to the Galaxy’s, and I feel will take this one. They’ve gotten some rest this week and will be taking their amazing home record into the game. LA Galaxy has relied on Juninho too much in their first two matches. He has scored both LA Galaxy goals. Chad Barrett has done little and Juan Pablo Angel has been fighting fitness. LA needs Angel to play and show the fantastic form he always displayed for New York. Donovan is set for US Men’s National Team duty, and without him I think the Galaxy will suffer. RSL will have Beckerman marking Juninho in the midfield and should keep the Brazilian quiet in this one. RSL should get on track and will take this 2-0.

Chivas USA v. Colorado Rapids
Chivas was all around terrible last week. Zarek Valentine and Jimmy Conrad routinely lost the man they were marking and looked second best throughout. Alejandro Moreno barely had a sniff of the ball and Justin Braun can’t complete a pass. This says more about the ineffective Chivas attack than the Sporting defence. This week they will be going against the most physical attack in the league. Colorado hammered a poor Portland team (Poor-land?). The attack looked great with Jamie Smith, Jeff Larentowicz and Omar Cummings scoring. Conor Casey and Cummings will be too much for Chivas’s defence. Sporting’s attack is a fast paced three man front while the Rapids play a 4-4-2 formation and like to cross the ball for Casey to knock down for Cummings. The Rapids’ midfield will over run their counterparts and Chivas’s attack featuring the terrible/overrated Braun will have no answer to the Rapids. The Rapids should make easy work of this on the road 3-0.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MLS trade news

The biggest of the trades after week 1 in MLS has been conducted by Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo. Chicago sends Calen Carr, now in his sixth season, to Houston for the well travelled Dominic Oduro who has had stints with FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls and I believe briefly with Kansas City (I believe he was traded to Houston from KC for Kei Kamara, please help me out on that one).

In my look at the Eastern Conference I wrote that I was surprised that Calen Carr is still in the league. He has scored nine goals in 82 games despite being a top 10 draft pick in 2006. Chicago seems to have difficulty in developing the strikers they draft as Patrick Nyarko is heading down Carr's path. Carr is now 28, the winding down period of most soccer careers, and he'll need to come up with something special on a bad Houston team or he will be playing USL soccer next season. Though players like Carr do benefit from the expansion of the league as more talent is needed to fill out MLS team rosters.

Oduro comes in with a similar MLS past only scoring 15 goals in 117 matches. The upside to Oduro is definitely his speed and being only 25 should have a year or two more in his legs than Carr. Oduro's finishing seems to be his achilles heel as he missed a sitter in last week's opener that would have salvaged a point for Houston.

I see this as a like for like move, but I think Chicago comes out on top with Oduro's pace. Both players, I would think, are on a similar salary and that shouldn't have factored.

Chicago also acquired Yamith Cuesta from Chivas USA. Cuesta was released by Chivas in pre-season, and Chicago has added the young central defender to help shore up the backline. Chicago looked impressive in the season opener and were unlucky to draw 1-1 with FC Dallas.

It's already too much

I know Chad Johnson's trial with Sporting KC has just begun, but I'm sooooo sick of it already. In several pictures posted by MLS on Facebook Johnson is seen at a local KC BBQ joint. Not really a good way to work on his fitness if you ask me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A look back before we look ahead

Now that MLS week 1 is in the books I thought it would be a good time to look back on the week's action. The most notable thing about week 1 was the terribly comical defending. In over half the games teams scored meaningful goals thanks to awful defending: Sporting KC, Chivas USA, Vancouver, Colorado and DC United were all gifted goals by poor defensive performances. However, when you watch a team's local broadcast they always credit these goals to attacking team as if they've done something fantastic.This happened in the Chivas USA broadcast in which Zarek Valentine and Jimmy Conrad looked amateur. Conrad looked extremely slow in both marking and on the ball. SKC's C.J. Sapong (who in my opinion was just as influential on the match as Omar Bravo) continually had Conrad on the back foot and guessing to where the rookie would be next. Valentine on the other hand had the pace to keep up with Kei Kamara, however, his inexperience in positioning cost Chivas. They definitely missed Jonathon Bornstein in this one.

Back to Sporting, I have said that Colorado has the best attack in the league, and I know SKC played Chivas USA. But if SKC can get Teal Bunbury and Jimmy Smith healthy they could have the best and most exciting attack in the league. Again, they won't be playing Chivas's poor defense every week. Sporting also needs to figure their backline out as well. If they plan to out score everyone this season they're going to have to come up with a plan B for the likes of Salt Lake and LA Galaxy. SKC's defence looked fragile on set pieces, and against a better attack may have given up another goal or two.

Vancouver's Eric Hassli was excellent in his team's 4-2 win against Toronto FC, who will give Chivas a run for the worst defence in MLS. Hassli has been much maligned since arriving in MLS. My hope is that he can prove to MLS teams, pundits/bloggers and fans that you don't have to bring in players from Central and South American countries, rather, there is a wealth of talent in the lower leagues of Europe. This weekend we may see the New York Red Bulls debut of Luke Rodgers with Juan Agudelo away on USMNT duty. I'm rooting for Rodgers to succeed and more English lower league players to be persued by MLS teams.

Finally, it was great seeing the large crowds out at MLS stadiums over the weekend. From the highlights on it seemed the lowest attended matches were those of FC Dallas and San Jose. Earthquakes' fans are excused do to the torrential downpour that settled over the area. I hope this will last the season and in some markets will as the returning hope of opening day brings out large crowds. But I've said it so many times that to keep these people in attendance teams have to win. Designated players other than David Beckham are not going to make significant upturns in attendance. The Chicago Fire did have more people in attendance during the days of Blanco, but don't forget that during that time Chicago was challenging for top honours in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls are drawing based on their lovely stadium and the quality of their team. Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez are just bonuses in truth. I'm not a big fan of the DP, but if he is able to significantly account for a teams winning then that justifies the player's wage. I don't think Beckham has justified his wage on the field of play and numerous other DPs have been the same. Though I wasn't a big fan of the signing in the offseason and I still think he'll level out, I felt Omar Bravo was worth his wage in week 1.


Last season Stuart Holden broke his leg in the USA's friendly against Holland in the lead up to the World Cup Finals, and in the lead up to Bolton's FA Cup Semi-Final against Stoke City the American international has been sidelined for six months.

Holden has been one of the best midfielders in England's Premier League this season. Receiving praise from all over the country in his first full season with Boltan Wanderers; and until his injury had put bigger clubs on notice of his abilities in the center of the park. He has been the best American export this season along with Maurice Edu for Rangers and Steve Cherundelo at Hannover 96. This is yet another set back in his young career. Many my recall Holden's pre-Houston Dynamo days when he played for Sunderland in England. Following a match Holden was beaten up out side a pub/night club and hospitalized. This is a kid who has over come a lot in his career, and hopefully he can do it yet again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Things I've noticed after the first Saturday in MLS

The major theme this weekend was awful, awful defending. Most goals seemed to come from poor defending and average attacking play.

-The Vancouver supporters were fantastic and in great voice for their season opener. If Toronto could defend they would have taken a point from this game. Some of the worst school-boy defending I've seen in a long time with two of the Whitecaps goals from bad marking, bad clearances or just not marking a runner.

- On the theme of terrible defending Chivas tried their best to be the worst defensive team on the day. Sporting KC's three goals were simply down to awful defending and opportunistic attacking. However, Chivas got themselves back into the match by some shoddy set piece marking followed by a second Chivas goal thanks to more bad SKC marking. I wrote SKC's backline was untested in the first half and they looked shakey in the second. Chivas didn't have anyone to put the ball away and SKC escaped, in the end, with all three points.

- Salt Lake escaped San Jose with all three points in unconvincing fashion. The combination of wind, rain and RSL fatigue due to their exploits in the CONCACAF Champions League looked to zap the energy from the team. Fortunately for RSL Nick Rimando put in a man of the match performance.

- I'm not sure who counted the heads as they came through the gate, but it was annouced FC Dallas' Pizza Hut Park was sold out for opening day. I guess a sell out in Texas is different than in most other cities as there were massive gaps in the stands and loads of empty seats. I was a bit unaware Break Shea would be moving to centreback in this one, and he looked out of place miscontrolling a pass then getting sent off for pulling down a Chicago attacker. I thought Chicago looked the better team in this one, except for the magic goal that Dallas' Milton Rodrigez pulled out of nowhere.

- Great to see Colorado getting off to a great start and their attack looked electric, most notably Omar Cummings. Portland was never in this match. Rodney Wallace was poor and proved again he isn't an MLS level defender. It was also great to see a full house at Dick Sporting Goods Park.

- Nothing special between Houston and Philadelphia Union. The winner coming on a scamble in front of goal that was buried by centreback Danny Califf.

- New York and Seattle played perhaps the best match of the weekend. Seattle already played during the week and lost to LA 1-0. They looked better in this and if it wouldn't have been for Greg Sutton Seattle would have been up early. However, NY's Juan Agudelo won an early penalty only for the spot kick from Thierry Henry to be saved by Kasey Keller. Alvaro Fernadez and Freddy Montero were excellent linking up together in this one. But Seattle had no one else joining the attack and NY put the game away with an excellent goal from Agudelo. Henry it must be noted faded in the second half for the Red Bulls after starting brightly.

- Not sure how to judege DC United after they defeated a poor Columbus team. Josh Wolff got the opening goal and the man I said would lead the leauge in scoring and resurrect his career, Charlie Davies, got two. One from the spot and the other from open play. His second was fantastic individual effort and the quality that he showed against the Columbus defence was head and shoulders above. I've said previously Columbus has terrible fullbacks and a bad defence and it looks like it could be a long season for them. Great to see a big hungry DC crowd out looking for a rebound from last season. It's interesting to note DC's captain last season Santino Quaranta and Branco Boskovic started on the bench and were both unused subs.

- If the season goes according to opening day we're going to see a load of goals, some terrible defending and some fantastic forwards in the league this season. I'm already earmarking a couple managers to be sacked this year with the first being Columbus' Robert Warzycha.

Western Confernce

The Western Conference is considered this season’s dominate half of the league. Many already assume that four teams will qualify for the newly expanded playoffs via the wildcard. Meaning, the teams that finish 4, 5, 6, 7 in the West will make the playoffs. This is how I see the West turning out.

1. LA Galaxy
Forget David Beckham. This will be his last season in LA and MLS unless something occurs over the course of the season (ex. Injury) that keeps him from moving back to Europe for one last ride into the sunset. I think this team is still the best in the league despite being the oldest, and they have gotten even older this season. Frankie Hejduk signed from Columbus and should see a lot of time at the right back spot. This signing should also give LA some depth at the back going into the 2011/12 Champions League tournament. Many feel the Galaxy haven’t adequately replaced Edson Buddle, which is ridiculous to say as they’ve brought in Juan Pablo Angel; who is a proven goal score and will go down as one of the best strikers in MLS history. The club has also brought in Chad Barrett who will see a lot of action and I think could finally have a break out season. If Angel and Barrett play up top this could give either Beckham or Landon Donovan the chance to play the number 10 role or out wide with Juniho slotting into the central midfield. Though LA faded at the end of last season they’re still the best team in MLS. They’ll have some rough spots during this season, but they’ll win the Supporters’ Shield yet again. The Open Cup, MLS Cup and Champions League are another story.

2. Real Salt Lake
RSL is the toughest team to beat in MLS especially at home. This team is still riding the wave they embarked on when they made the playoffs on the last day of the season in ‘09 before going on to win the MLS Cup. They have nearly all the same pieces in place and have signed Alvaro Saborio to a DP contract to keep him content. Javier Morales is the heart beat of this team and if he can continue his stellar play RSL may have a shot at all the trophies they compete for this season. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few teams in Europe came sniffing around in August if he continues his great play. Though RSL have him tied down a move could be forced through. If RSL win the Champions League this spring that could set the tone for a dominating MLS season. I think they’ll come up just short in the Supporters’ Shield, but they’re my favourites to lift the MLS Cup and Open Cup. I would like to see them bring in a couple of re-enforcements this season to help what will be a tired squad, and I’d love to see them blood young Luis Gil.

3. Colorado Rapids
In ‘09 Salt Lake won an unlikely MLS Cup, and since then have become one of the top sides this side of the US/Mexico border. Last season, Colorado made a similar timely run through the playoffs capping it off with their first MLS Cup. This will help Colorado express themselves as a team this season finishing in an automatic playoff spot. The team boasts the best attack with Conor Casey, Omar Cummings and Macoumba Kandji. They’ve added depth and pace in Sanna Nyassi to go with the cultured wing play of Jamie Smith. Though Julian Baudet has moved on the Rapids have replaced him with Tyrone Marshall; though a journeymen MLS player, Marshall will play a big part in the Rapids’ defence. The key to Colorado’s success will be in captain Pablo Mastroeni’s ability to stay fit. I don’t rate him as a great MLS player, but he and Jeff Larentowicz are the engine of this team. If they and the wide players Smith and Nyassi can get the strikers service this team will be hard to beat. Though they have plenty of fire power I still think they are third best in both the West and MLS this season.

4. FC Dallas
FCD had a break out season in 2010, and many feel should have won the MLS Cup if it were not for an own goal in extra time. But, that’s football. Many feel Dallas will push for top honours in the league this season, but I don’t believe that will happen. However, I do think the team will settle into the upper half of the league. At times this team punched above their weight last season as they went on their epic undefeated streak. The team has lost four big contributors to last season’s MLS Cup run in Dax McCarty (who seems to get better and better as we talk about his trade to DC), Jeff Cunningham, Heath Pearce and Atiba Harris. Each weighed in in their own way to help Dallas during the course of ‘10. I’m not sure how these four players have been replaced, and looking at Dallas’ roster I don’t see a striker that jumps out at me. David Ferreira is still one of the top five players in the league, but he’ll need to conjure something special for this Dallas team to eclipse last season. Heath Pearce has been moved on, and though he may not be a big lose the team will feel it in the depth department. The team could also be without the talented Break Shea during the summer as he may receive a call up to the USMNT for the Gold Cup. I don’t think this team is better than they were last season, and with the loss of four players not adequately replaced I think they’ve slightly regressed.

5. Seattle Sounders FC
The team that everyone loves to hate. Say what you will about the Sounders, but they’ve done fantastic things for MLS since joining the league from the USL. It goes to show what a team and city can do for the league when a team with some roots join the league. We should see the same in Portland and Vancouver this season and Montreal next season; and I would love to see Charleston join the league in the future. Seattle, however, as a team doesn’t appear to have done a great deal to improve on the squad they ended their inaugural MLS season with. They have added Erik Freiberg and it will be interesting to see where he slots in. Steve Zakuani is still electric down the wing, but he still needs to improve on his final ball. Alvaro Fernandez was a bright spot last season after signing as a DP. He improved the Sounders down the stretch and should help the team over the long haul of the season. But this team’s biggest question marks are in the final third and the attacking third. The back line is suspect, and James Riley is more of a right sided midfielder than right back. Tyrone Marshall is gone and Patrick Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado will need to be at their best to keep the pressure off aging goalkeeper Casey Keller. Up front all eyes are on DP Freddy Montero who can be the most exciting and most frustrating player in all of MLS. Besides being perpetually unhappy in Seattle he tends to disappear in matches; especially big games. Many times he has been marked out of games by opposing teams when defended against physically. He will have to do more on his own this season as Blaise N’Kofu has been released. Word is Seattle has over spent and it’s no doubt with having three designated players. Seattle will rely on Montero far too much again and there’s no one else on their roster who can put in the goals with the frequency of Montero and N’Kofu. Especially not Nate Jaqua. This team will need someone during the summer transfer window. I think it’ll be an up hill battle to make the playoffs, and could be a disappointing season.

6. Vancouver Whitecaps
Most pundits have already written this club off before MLS opening day. However, I believe the Whitecaps will be in the playoff hunt until the end of the season. They’ve worked hard and done their homework in the offseason. They’ve signed quite a few former division two players, and most pundits have slammed them for this. I say it all the time, but MLS and D2 are not as far off as people believe. Bringing in players the club is already familiar with will help the team bed-in to MLS unlike other expansion teams. Many of these players are unheard of by MLS followers including myself, but I love the way they’ve done it their way and I believe it will pay off. If the Whitecaps can get their DP Eric Hassli off to a strong start it maybe the best signing of the offseason.
7. Chivas USA
Chivas could be a dark horse in the West. They took their time, but finally named Robin Fraser as manager. But most importantly they’ve nearly gotten rid of any player from Preki’s time with the club. They’ve added enough good MLS players that they should have a fighting chance for a playoff spot. The acquisition of Alejandro Moreno should help with the Goats’ offence. Though he doesn’t score a load of goals his high work rate is invaluable. Heath Pearce and Andrew Boyens should help to replace the highly underrated Jonathon Bornstein. Tristen Bowen, once the coveted youth prospect of LA Galaxy, was acquired in the off season could get a lot of playing time for the Goats. I’ve never been too high on Justin Braun and going into his fourth MLS season I need to see more from him if he is to live up to what many MLS pundits already claim him to be. Chivas was able to re-sign Paulo Nagamura midway through last season, and he’ll be able to protect that back four. Nagamura is a fantastic talent and would fit into any team in MLS. They’ll need him to take the pressure off of Ante Jazic and the over the hill Jimmy Conrad. Zarek Valentin is a US U20 and we’ll see if he can make the jump from college to professional. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs this season and the East will be better than most people think.
8. Portland Timbers
The Timbers come into MLS off a pre-season of solid signings. Kenny Cooper joins from 1860 Munich, and is a proven goal score in the league. They’ve also signed number one draft pick Darling ton Nagbe and he could factor heavily in the teams debut season. Portland has also made a solid acquisition in Jack Jewsbury who is a fantastic MLS veteran that can play across the midfield or as a fullback. He has worn the armband in the pres-season and could do the same during the regular season. The Timbers also have a former goalkeeper of the year in Troy Perkins who will hope to rebound from last season disappointment with DC. This team should challenge for a playoff spot up until the end of the season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they get in.

9. San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose was able to make it into the playoffs last season on the back of a career year by Chris Wondolowski. He won’t do that again. Wondolowski is coming into his seventh year in the league and it wasn’t until last season that he had scored more than four goals in a season. Last year he benefited from Bobby Convey’s return to form and the inabilities of other San Jose strikers. He isn’t the type of striker to have consistent scoring seasons and with his fall off it will keep San Jose at the bottom of the West. They do have some decent players such as Sam Cronin, but overall this team is poor. Goalkeeping is their strength, but with a porous defence and no major acquisitions in the offseason I don’t expect much.

Halftime: Chivas USA v. Sporting KC

Well I've said Jimmy Conrad was over the hill and if you've watched the first 45 minutes of this game you'd be stupid not to agree. Conrad and Zarek Valentine have looked off the pace and non-MLS quality in this one. SKC's C.J. Sapong has dominated this match early on up front. He has been every where and SKC's most dangerous player. However, Chivas are only down 2-0, because of some of the worse defending you'll see all season. Terrible passing at the back and the inability to mark an opposing player are killing Chivas. Sporting have scored two on two shots on target and there's no defending in front of Zach Thorton. Though they've been the better team the scoreline does flatter Sporting at the break.

After the first goal, scored by Sapong following a Chivas player passing the ball right to him- though it was excellent control and a cool finish, Chivas started to assert themselves in the match, however, SKC weathered a weak storm and have doubled their lead through a classy little chip from Omar Bravo. Chivas should have dealt with this as the defenders gave Thorton no chance. Thorton's weight also gave him no chance to race back and make the save. SKC has dominated all phases in this one, but the backline is still untested as Chivas haven't mounted a sustained attack. I've said it a million times and disagreed with the MLS expert pundits, but Justin Braun is not that good. He seems to be farmed out on the right tonight and hasn't factored into the match. He has had pass after pass go off target as well. As a matter of fact both teams have been guilty of poor passing. I'd like to see SKC get the ball down on the floor, rather than so many long balls. They're the better team and have proved it over the first half. But Chivas haven't shown up tonight and not every match will be this easy for Sporting. Milos Stojcev has been solid in the midfield. He hasn't had to do too much and has threaded some lovely passes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Growing Media Interest

As some may know from reading my blog I currently live in Seoul, South Korea. This week I found it very interesting and very telling of where MLS is as a league by two articles written in the Korean Herald (The top English language newspaper here). The first article was a piece written about the Cascadia Derby and the three MLS teams from the region. It focused on Seattle and the way they've helped to influence the league. Today, there is an article that was picked up from a South Carolina newspaper about the return of Charlie Davies and his shot at redemption in football.

Being on the other side of the world it's interesting to note MLS getting some print space as this newspaper could write about any of the European leagues in which Korean players play. It can also write about the Korean K-League or the high quality Japan J-League. This shows just where MLS is right now, and in my opinion David Beckham is not needed for this publicity; just good football and good supporters.

Friday, March 18, 2011

MLS continues to frustrate me

I know I bitch alot about the MLS, but I feel there's so much they can do to make the league better. Today, my problem is with and MLS's inability to allow people like myself who are outside of North America to subscribe to in order to watch MLS matches. In 2007, when I first moved abroad was able to get the Direct Kick subscription via MLS's website. However, since then they have not allowed subscriptions outside of the US, atleast in the countries I've lived in. I understand if they have a deal in place with TV networks in other countries. However, during my time living in South Korea, England and South Korea again there (to my knowledge) is no deal in place to show the games on TV. I do, however, pick up the games on illegal feeds. Wouldn't it be in MLS's best interest to take my money for a subscription rather than having people like myself watch the game illegally? There are plenty of people abroad both American and non-Americans who would subscribe.

Though I am not able to watch any games in England or South Korea, though this past season's MLS Cup final was carried on Sky in England I believe, I was able to watch one game a week while I lived in Budapest, Hungary last summer and fall. Unfortunately, the deal must have been made on the back of David Beckham's signing to MLS; as LA Galaxy were typically the featured team.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What a crock of shit!

This morning as I checked the MLS news sites in my office, as I live/work in Seoul, Korea so I'm sleeping when some of the MLS news is being reported on, I found out that Chad Johnson or Chad Ochocinco is on trial with Sporting KC. I can't even express my anger and frustration at the team I support (mostly by default as I'm orignally from Missouri).

This is simply a PR move by a team that is trying to get their (new) name out to the public. Despite playing as a youth this is a person who hasn't played soccer at any level since he was a kid; and he's 33 now. The age most professional soccer players end their careers. This is simply an American football player who has used his "love" of soccer to promote himself and his massive ego. He has had to use his outlandish acts to make a name for himself throughout his career as his abilities, though plentiful, wouldn't have made him stand out in the NFL. Johnson's NFL contract is more than the entire SKC roster make and that includes SKC DP Omar Bravo. Is he really going to take league minimum or below DP salary if SKC is stupid enough to sign him, which I can definitely see as a PR move. I can definitely see him playing at least a summer friendly and I can see him causing a division in the locker room. Even if he doesn't have the soccer ability he says he has, there's no doubting he has atheletic ability. However, numerous college draft picks every season come into the league with atheletic ability and don't last most than a season or two; if that.

SKC has already achieved their goal, because myself and other bloggers are writing about them. Kudos for them on that, but if they are to continue with this it demeans them as a club even more. I've said for a long time that the OnGoal company that runs this team is clueless in the game and I think this makes them look on par. Too many SKC pundits give them a lot of credit as an ownership group. Which I think stems from OnGoal keeping the Wizards in Kansas City and not relocating the team. In my opinion this trial also makes the league look like a Mickey Mouse operation. Who's next Kobe Bryant? Lebron? Mike Tyson?

Fine, he may have or had some soccer abilities, but he isn't a soccer player at this level. Lets not make the same showboat mistake the NASL made, and lets improve on the quality of play on the pitch. Not the names on the pitch. That is the only way this league will be respected in the eye of the world and people continually come out to watch good teams. Even Beckham and Henry don't have the same pull they once had. And are people going to come out to see SKC just because of a egomanic NFL player? I highly doubt many people will come out solely because of it.

Finally, is Johnson aware that he wears the number 85? I say this becaus he changed his name to Ochocinco which means 8, 5. The number 85 is actually ochenta y cinco, but hey most Bud Light swigging NFL fans wouldn't know that.

I can't imagine Johnson being able to play to this level and I honestly think he'll be found out early on. Dribbling a soccer ball by yourself and doing keepy-ups is fine when you're on your own; but when you have a professional who has played most of their youth and adult life marking you it is much different. I would love this charade to be over, but I know better than that. I can see SKC signing Johnson, and I wouldn't be surprised if the league urged them to do so for the publicity.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Eastern Conference Predictions for 2011

After much time away I have return with my predictions for the 2011 MLS season. It has been a long off season, but finally we have MLS opening day (I will never say first kick, what a terrible phrase)! Being on the other side of the world I still have a good 20 hours until kick-off, so I thought it was time I posted my thoughts and predictions on how the season will turn out. As we all know 10 teams (out of 18) will make the play-offs, so with the added expansion I still feel a .500 record will get you in the play-offs; similar to the past three season when we saw the Red Bulls, Salt Lake and Colorado all make the playoffs and the final. Two of which went on to win the final as we all know. Here is how I think the league will look by the end of the season:

Eastern Conference:

1. Red Bull New York
There's no denying the East is the weaker of the two conferences. New York isn't exacty my run away favorites in the East, but I think they'll do that little extra. Marquez and Ream were solid for New York last season and they form the bedrock of this team. Henry didn't set the league on fire, or put too many fans in the stands upon his arrival. However, he is finally rested and could be the catalyst to New York's season. It's still not confirmed that Juan Agudelo will play a major part, but the Red Bulls need someone to fill the void left by Juan Pablo Angel's move to LA. Joel Lindpere was an underrated player last season and for the Red Bulls to
succeed they will need him to have another stellar year in the midfield. I think Angel's goals will be sorely missed as the seasons wears on especially if the Red Bulls find themselves going deep in the Open Cup as well.

2. DC United
I will say it now: Charlie Davies will score more than 20 goals and he will dominate MLS before moving back to Sochaux in France. Davies was in his prime before his car accident, and if he can conjure up some of what made him part of the USMNT he will be on a different level than all other MLS strikers. DC also has a solid midfield with Quaranta, Najar, McCarty, Sims, Morsink, Boskovic and King. I think this is the best midfield in the league with four solid starters and cover for each. However, the problem with DC is the back line and the uncertainity in goal. Will it be Onstad or Hamid or will someone else take control between the posts. DC has made some fantastic additions and some not so great ones (Josh Wolff), but they're better now than at
this point last season. I think they're the dark horse in the East and I wouldn't be surprised if they over take NY for the top spot. However, if DC get off to a bad start I don't expect Ben Olsen to make it past May. I still believe the DC front office is waiting for Mr. DCU to fall, and allow the front office to say, "I told you so," to all of United's supporters.

3. Philadelphia Union
If the Union have solved their goalkeeping problems then they'll be tough to beat. They've signed Faryd Mondragon on a free from FC Koln and despite being in his late 30s he should be an upgrade over Chris Seitz. Sebastion Le Toux showed why he was such a coveted signing for the Union. He was one of the best players in the league last season and if he would have been on a better team he would have gotten more recognition for it. He should have more help from Danny Mwanga who is beginning his second
season and has a lot to prove after being snubbed for last seaon's rookie of the year. This is a good workmen like team that embodies the Philadelphia mentality and they will make the play-offs by holding off the rest of the conference with that workmen like grit.

4. Columbus Crew
Columbus is still finding themselves after winning MLS Cup in '08. This club is a shell of that team, but has gotten younger this season by letting the likes of Frankie Hejduk and Barros-Scheletto leave. I still think the attacking key for this team is Eddie Gaven. A truly underrated MLS veteran still in his early 20s, that when played centrally can hold the key to unlocking defenses. I've never been too impressed by Robbie Rogers: Often injuried and often disappears in matches. I'm not impressed by Mendoza up front either and though
he did score for the Crew upon arrival last season I felt he looked wasteful and in it for himself during the Crew's Champions League matches against Salt Lake. I believe Jeff Cunningham could find a purple patch, however, and if he can chip in with atleast five goals Columbus will avoid the bottom half of the conference. The fullbacks looked weak in the Champions League affair with SLC, and if they can be exploited with pace during the season will be Columbus' undoing.

5. Sporting Kansas City
A lot has happened in the offseason for KC. They've changed their name, signed DP Omar Bravo and released former KC icon Jimmy Conrad. Releasing Conrad was a good move as his best days are behind him, and though he was a good player for the team I'm not quite sure why so many KC supporters have put him on a pedastal. There are high hopes for Bravo, but KC fans don't seem to realize he isn't the scorer he once was. Those days have been behind him since his move to Spain's Deportivo La Coruna. He should atleast chip in with five goals. Unfortunately, he is a DP center forward and more should be expected from him. KC does have an exciting 4-3-3 formation, but with last season's most exciting player Jimmy Smith still recovering from offseason surgery KC will lack pace and creativity on the wing. The backline hasn't improved vastly over last season, and I still don't feel Jimmy Nielsen was much of an upgrade over Kevin Hartman. I think this team is moving in the right direction under Peter Vermes despite some players needing to be moved on like Davy Arnaud, though the team recently moved Jack Jewsbury to Portland. The reason why SKC won't finish in the top half of the conference isn't to do with talent as I think they're just as good if not better than Columbus and Philadelphia. It is their massive road schedule to begin the season. The team will play much of the first half of the season on the road as they wait for their new stadium to open. I feel this will be the team's down fall, and once they open their stadium they will be too far back to contend for a playoff spot.

6. Chicago Fire
Chicago is still paying the price for letting Denis Hamlett go. Which in my opinion was one of the worst pieces of business an MLS team has done in the past few seasons. With that change went Chicago's defensive mentality and in came a team that couldn't prevent goals nor could they score them. I can't see Chicago bouncing back from last season's poor showing. They have found a replacement for Jon Busch in Sean Johnson though it took half the season to find him. But most importantly who's going to score their goals? Brian McBride has retired, Collins John didn't work out and Patrick Nyarko has regressed; not to mention Calen Carr has never lived up to expections and it defies logic he is still in the league. Chicago will continue to struggle and I can't see them improving under their current boss Carlos De Lobos.

7. Toronto FC
This club has been going backwards since the firing/resignation of John Carter. TFC will begin a new season with a new manager, new staff and new players yet again. Fortunately, the club will also begin the season without the clueless Mo Johnston. TFC also has lockerroom unrest to deal with over contract desputes with Adrian Cann and Dwayne De Rosario. Besides DeRo I'm not sure where TFC will get their goals this season. I think Maicon Santos was a brilliant signing, but the recently acquired Alan Gordan will not score many as he has proven in the past. He won't create his own goals and there isn't the service to allow him chances. He will give Santos much needed rest as the season gets into full swing. There's still questions surrounding Julian De Guzman's fitness following offseason surgery and will he contribute to the cause this season or continue to be a passenger on the field. Again there are too many off the field problems for TFC to compete and the playoffs will continue to elude them. Lets not forget Aaron Winter's implemeting of the "Total Football" Dutch system, which in my opinion is not capable of being run by many MLS teams. This isn't a system that can be master in one season, and by the time it starts to look good I think TFC will have had enough of the Dutch experiment.

8. Houston Dynamo
Many feel Houston will have an easy route to the playoffs now that they reside in the Eastern Conference. I'm not sure what team they've been watching over the past two seasons, but this isn't the Dynamo that won back-to-back MLS Cups. There's no more Stuart Holden, De Ro or Ricardo Clark and Brian Ching is one long term injury away from hanging up his boots. Dominic Kinnear is a fantastic manager, but this team is sorely lacking talent; and Bobby Boswell and Geoff Cameron (if he's fit) cannot carry this team. I feel this will be Kinnear's last season in charge of Houston and a rebuidling will be in order as they look to open their new stadium in thenot to distant future.

9. New England Revolution
What can I say about New England? One of the best managers in MLS, Steve Nicol, has done wonders for this team. I honestly can't believe he has stuck with this sinking ship for this long. New England are under funded by the Kraft Family and look ridiculous on the field. Some years ago MLS contemplated contracting this team, and I'm sure Robert Kraft is wishing they would have. They're no closer to their own stadium nor are they closer to having a team that can compete for honors. Yes, they've done well in the Open Cup and
Superliga; but they've struggled mightily in MLS play and look like a second class team. Shalrie Joesph missed much of last season, and is now 32. There's not much left in those legs. Many of his best season were next to the underrated Jeff Larentowicz who did the dirty work and allowed Joesph the freedom to cover more ground on the pitch, much like what Larentowicz did for Pablo Mastroeni last season. There's just not enough quality on this team and if they are able to finish in the top of the conference it shows how good Steve Nicol is as a manager.

Western Conference coming soon...