May 1, 2008 

The Best Game On TV Was A Soccer Game


Couch potatoes across the country mostly watched the exhaustive roll call known as the NFL Draft. Others watched the NBA playoffs, while a select few watch the Stanley Cup hidden on their channel guide.

Of all those sporting choices the best game on television was a soccer game.

The Los Angeles Galaxy/Chivas USA Super Clasico on the Fox Soccer Channel was not technically the best soccer MLS has to offer. The run of play was sometimes sloppy and both backlines played junior college-level defense, but the end product is exactly what non-soccer loving Americans say the game doesn't possess-offense.

David Beckham and Landon Donovan put on a frenetic offensive performance unrivaled in the history of MLS. The second half was a litany of torrid rushes against a Chivas defense lost amidst the accurate crosses of Beckham and the tenacious sniping ability of a reborn Donovan.

Not to be outdone, Chivas kept the momentum quite equal that made the 5-2 result far closer than the box score would indicate.

What other excuses do Americans have not to embrace MLS other than "nobody scores" after the back of the net hit seven stylish times?

Labels: , , ,

Apr 30, 2008 

Talkin' Shep, Part II: Khano Smith

Red Bulls New York color commentator, Shep Messing, is known for his gruff and poignant remarks. He also isn't one to shy away from speaking his mind. Here's an example:

"Cry baby! I've never liked his attitude."

As New England Revolution midfielder, Khano Smith, was substituted during a game against the Red Bulls April 20, he made an unhappy gesture towards his coach.

Labels: , ,

Apr 29, 2008 

Quakes Fail To Grab Points In The Big Apple


At East Rutherford, N.J.

NY -- Mike Magee 1 (penalty kick) 79
NY -- Jozy Altidore 2 (John Wolyniec 1) 95

SJ -- Jason Hernandez (caution; Reckless Foul) 36
SJ -- Ramiro Corrales (caution; Professional Foul) 61
SJ -- Nick Garcia (caution; Pushing, Holding) 87

6 GK Joe Cannon-Not much action; nearly had hand on PK
6 D Jason Hernandez-Continues to play well on def. and off.
5 D Ryan Cochrane-Penalty on Altidore iffy, but a good foul
7 D Nick Garcia-Two big time saves; pestered Altidore all day
5 D James Riley-Improved play; got involved offensively.
6 M Ronnie O'Brien-Wasn't able to find space on the flank
5 M Ned Grabavoy-RBNY shutdown midfield for him, early sub.
5 M Ramiro Corrales-Couldn't string together a pass to box.
6 M Ivan Guerrero-Good performance, seemed a tad out of place
5 F Kei Kamara-This time around, didn't have any opp.
4 F Gavin Glinton-Ineffective; slowly make room for Peguero?
5 M Joe Vide (46)-Good sub that just didn't work out.
4 F Jean Peguero (67)-Inauspicious start; hardly got a touch
5 M Shea Salinas (81)-Hardly knew he was on the field.

5 GK Jon Conway-Wasn't tested; nice tip on floating header.
6 D Jeff Parke-Open header in box set up scoring opp.
5 D Kevin Goldthwaite-Gave SJ a bit of their own med.-pestered
6 D Chris Leitch-Good reason last 1/3 of field had no space
6 D Seth Stammler-Quiet, but strong performance in the back
5 M Sinisa Ubiparipovich-Bosnian played ineffectually
6 M Dave van den Bergh-Looked poised to break open right side
6 M Luke Sassano-Rookie has started every game; talent shows
5 M Claudio Reyna-"El capitan de America" doesn't care anymore
6 F Jozy Altidore-Whiny performance; beautiful touh on goal
6 F John Wolyniec-Journeyman always shows up and contributes
5 M Mike Magee (46)-Nailed PK and put pressure on SJ with speed
5 M Danleigh Borman (72)-Sub hassled tired SJ backline.
5 D Carlos Mendes (75)-Helped keep pressure on Quakes offense

Labels: ,

Apr 26, 2008 

Talkin' Shep, Part I

Red Bulls New York color commentator, Shep Messing, is known for his gruff and poignant remarks. He also isn't one to shy away from speaking his mind. Here's an example:

"That's where the similarities end"

Messing commenting on FC Dallas' Brazilian midfielder, Ricardinho,who idolizes the great Ronaldinho so much that he emulates the star with the diminutive form of his own name, wears golden boots and number 10 jersey on his back.

Labels: ,

Apr 20, 2008 

San Jose Finally Puts Biscuit In The Basket

San Jose's Ronnie O'Brien scores the first goal of the season

Labels: , ,


Quakes Parlay Tough Loss Into First Victory


At Commerce City, CO

SJ -- Ronnie O'Brien 1 (unassisted) 43
SJ -- Kei Kamara 1 (Ned Grabavoy 1, Ronnie O'Brien 1) 61

SJ -- Nick Garcia (caution; Persistent Infringement) 42
SJ -- Joe Cannon (caution; Delaying a Restart) 73

6 GK Joe Cannon-Clean sheet; steady, came up big on Gomez's blistering volley in 2nd
7 D Nick Garcia-Steady job; Rapids attack never materialized with him at center back
6 D James Riley-Best game thus far; did well when he dribbled towards top of box
6 D Ryan Cochrane-Vet played typically steady team defense
6 D Jason Hernandez-Speed was still evident late; tracked Clark wonderfully
6 M Ivan Guerrero-Work rate was high; defense early in 2nd held off Rapids brief run
7 M Ronnie O'Brien-At times, owned the right side of the attack; tenacious goal
7 M Ned Grabavoy-Catalyst for Kamara's goal
6 M Ramiro Corrales-Played like his impressive pre-season games
6 F Kei Kamara-Finally score! Was able to find open space on the ground for 1st time
5 F Gavin Glinton-Still not putting away chances, but looks ready to breakout
5 D Joe Vide-Couldn't be found, but his job was to hold the lead and they did
5 F Shea Salinas-Speed was highly effective with Rapids defense on the ropes
5 M Ryan Johnson-Late game sub didn't make a mark in short time

6 GK Bouna Coundoul (GK)-Not as good as week 3, but defense also left him hanging
5 D Facundo Erpen-Kept getting turned around; let Kamara blow by him on goal
5 D Jose Burciaga-Quakes limited his offensive runs well
5 D John DiRaimondo-Best of iffy defensive effort
5 D Stephen Keel-Could have defended O'Brien goal; out of position a few times
6 M Christian Gomez-Like Blanco a week ago, attacking MF was handcuffed all game
6 M Terry Cooke-Led early 2nd half comeback, but wasn't able to penetrate the box
6 M Nick LaBrocca-Surprise player plays hard-nosed defense
5 M Kosuke Kimura-Ineffective, pulled early in second
4 F Omar Cummings-Ineffective striker gets pulled early
6 F Colin Clark-Showed frenetic pace, if not, out of control
5 M Tom McManus (69)-Ineffective; made one run unimpressive run late
6 M Rafael Gomes-Good first touches all night, but never connected with anyone
5 F Herculez Gomez-Showed good pace, but never got a good opp. on goal

Labels: ,


Landy Cakes Says The F-Word

Speaking of Donovan. Anger and Landy-Cakes have rarely been mentioned in the same sentence. After Houston defender Patrick Ianni gave Landon a shiver to the turf, the girlish Galaxy forward cursed him out and stomped up the field. Minutes later he delivered a flying header in the net with Ianni covering him. Instead of celebrating, Donovan hovered over Ianni and berated the younster reminiscent of the famous photo of Muhammed Ali standing over Sonny Liston. I'm sure if you could hear the audio of Landon's exchange with Ianni, the high-pitched squeking wouln't have seemed so tough.


Apr 19, 2008 

Altidore Lashes Out At His Elders

First, it was Landon Donovan who was anointed the man to take the U.S. national team to the next level. Then it was Freddy Adu and to some degree, Eddie Johnson was to be the go-to-guy for the United States. Start thinking about 19-year-old Red Bulls phenom, Jozy Altidore, as the most viable candidate in years.

There's something different about Altidore. For instance, within a two minute span early in the first half of the New England/New York game, the running bull tore through the Revolution defense 1 v. 4 and enleashed a rocket for the game's first goal.

More importantly, two minutes later, Altidore tussled with the Revolution's Shalrie Joseph, one of the club's veteran defenders, in addition, to being 10 years his senior. That sort of grittiness and talent in one American striker is rare, if not, unknown in this country.

Labels: ,

Apr 16, 2008 

The Shot Of Shea Salinas' Nightmares

Young San Jose midfielder Shea Salinas is probably still having nightmares over this missed opened net in the 93rd minute of their match against Chicago.

Watching the replay, it seems the Genesis of the shot being lifted over the net begin with Salinas' approach. His angle to the ball is the reason he only see the near side of the net above goalkeeper Jon Busch, instead of the entirely open far side of the net. Of course, youthful overexuberance is a very good reason.

Chad Barrett's goal off a rebound from Joe Cannon

Labels: ,

Apr 15, 2008 

Earthquakes/Fire Game Ratings


At Oakland, Calif. (A-20,038)

CHI--Chad Barrett 2 (unassisted) 19th.

CHI -- Bakary Soumare (caution; Reckless Foul) 55
SJ -- Ryan Cochrane (caution; Reckless Foul) 65
SJ -- James Riley (caution; Pushing, Holding) 94

GK 5 Joe Cannon-Not many chances; allowed the crucial rebound on the game-winner
D 6 Jason Hernandez-Another under-the-radar performance
D 6 Nick Garcia-Had a string of nice open field defensive stop, especially in the air
D 5 James Riley-Unwilling to advance ball on left side; still, improved over week one
D 6 Ryan Cochrane-Led a a strong team defense vs. Fire; got in yellow card trouble
M 6 Ramiro Corrales-Neutralized Blanco; still can't distribute the ball in close space
M 6 Ivan Guerrero-Like Corrales, was sticking to Blanco on every touch
M 6 Ned Grabavoy-Some excellent chances on goal; looks poised to put one in net
M 6 Ronnie O'Brien-He's getting more comfortable after injury-riddled season.
F 5 Gavin Glinton-Brought some life to attack; seems more confident than Kamara
F 4 Kei Kamara-Can't say he's not getting chances; needs a decisive shot on goal
F 5 Shea Salinas (59)-Still looks like a young doe; open net miss may linger
M 4 Ryan Johnson (79)-Hasn't shown much in two substitutions.
M n/a John Cunliffe (85)

GK 6 Jon Busch-Peppered by surprising SJ attack; always in the right spot
D 5 Wilman Conde-Showed some aggressiveness; best of weak D effort
D 5 Gonzalo Segares-Was run ragged by constant attack; did not bend, though
D 5 Bakary Soumare- Just adequate; showed nice teamwork sticking up for Blanco
D 5 Dasan Robinson-Late entry for injured Prideaux, played well on short notice
M 6 Justin Mapp-Disappeared at times, but still showed amazing creativity
M 5 Logan Pause-Performed well early on goal; disappeared thereafter
M 6 Stephen King-Very quick and active; needs time to gel with Blanco, though
M 5 Cuahetemoc Blanco-Agitated on every touch; Quakes neutralized him
F 6 Chad Barrett-Excellent finishing on goal; playing like a true sniper
F 6 Tomasz Frankowski-Delivered fantastic balls in box; surprising distributor
F 5 Calen Carr (61)-Spindly player brought some energy late during a warm day
F 4 John Thorrington (73)-In a defensive stance, went unnoticed
D 5 Daniel Woolard (79)-Sub brought some flexibility back to exhausted backline

Labels: ,


Week 3 Best XI



Apr 13, 2008 

Ubiparipovich! Beckham And Is Everybody a 'Patron'?


The Red Bull New York midfielder, Sinisa Ubiparipovich, has to be the most fun name for an announcer to pronounce in MLS. The Bosnian is in his first season after a stint at the University of Akron and, according to the Red Bulls website, enjoys watching Seinfeld and listening to Coldplay. Let's not hold that against him. Everybody!

Ooo-bee-para-PO-vich! Ooo-bee-para-PO-vich! Ooo-bee-para-PO-vich!

If you don't have Landon Donovan on your fantasy team, get him soon before he costs too much. In their first two matches, it's becoming very obvious that David Beckham can pick out the diminutive Landy Cakes at will. Keep in mind, though, that Becks has unleashed pinpoint volley's against the past two expansion teams, but it's going to be exceedingly difficult to ask MLS defenders to stop four or five breakaways that start with a Beckham long ball and come away with a victory as Toronto accomplished Sunday.

About that L.A./Toronto FC game that shows up as "Futbol MLS" on my TiVo. If you no habla espanol, then you've witnessed, but not understood, the most entertaining game of each of the first three weeks. If a Spanish audio feed is available on your television's SAP function for many televised sporting events, then why can't an English feed be available for a match on Telefutura?

Another thing: while covering the Earthquakes/Fire home opener Saturday afternoon in Oakland, I couldn't help but notice that the Spanish language contingent of journalist and TV/radio reporters greet each other by saying, "Eh, patron!"

Labels: ,


Messing Doesn't Mince Words With MLS All-Star Game

Red Bull New York color man, Shep Messing is anything but shy. During the days Pele and the New York Cosmos, Messing--then a goalkeeper--once posed nude for Playgirl, so it's no surprise that he would rip the MLS All-Star Game featuring English Premier League side West Ham United in Toronto this summer.

"It's a joke," Messing said during Saturday's FC Dallas/Red Bulls game on the MSG Network, "If it wasn't in Toronto, who would care about West Ham?"

The Hammers currently sit in tenth place--dead center in the EPL standings--a gaudy 36 points behind first place Manchester United.

So which came first? Did MLS prefer to have the game in the Toronto to thank the league's most rabid fan base or are Toronto FC fans being used to fill the stadium  because the league could only line up a totally irrelevant English side for its showcase match?

Two years ago, the same could have been said about Fulham traveling to the United States, but that side had Americans Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra to promote. This year? An aging Freddie Ljungberg?

Labels: , , ,

Apr 8, 2008 

Week 2 Best XI



Apr 5, 2008 

Quakes Look Like MLS Debutantes In Loss To L.A.


At Carson, Calif.
LA -- David Beckham 1 (Landon Donovan 1) 9
LA -- Landon Donovan 1 (David Beckham 1, Alan Gordon 1) 37

GK 6-Joe Cannon-Despite two goals against, came up big at time to keep game close
D 4-James Riley-Looked completely lost early on; improved enough to stay in the game
D 5-Ryan Cochrane-Defensive gaffes cost Quakes two goals and the game
D 5-Nick Garcia-Captain needed to be more involved in L.A.'s off. build up
D 7-Hernandez-Consistently steady; surprisingly effective moving up in the attack
M 6-Ned Grabavoy-Vet held down his side of pitchr4
M 5-Ramiro Corrales-Unable to distribute the ball in the midfield
M 6-Ronnie O'Brien-Played on the wings, but got little help all night
M 6-Ivan Guerrero-Underrated. Stopped L.A.'s buildup the last 60 minutes
F 4-Shea Salinas-Non-existent. Showed zero chemistry with Kamara
F 5-Kei Kamara-Repeatedly unable to break free on long balls; good pace, though
F 5-Gavin Glinton (57 min)-Uneffective after initial burst of energy
F 5-John Cuncliffe (69)-Displayed only energy all night, but could not get a touch
M n/a-Ryan Johnson (85)

GK 6-Steve Cronin-never tested
D 5-Brandon McDonald-Starting for Abel Xavier, showed possible depth
D 6-GregVanney-Steady play throughout; shutdown already anemic SJ attack
D 7-Chris Klein-New position. Played quickly, smart and dominant on LA right side
D 5-Jay Randolph-Speed was sorely lacking; SJ was unable to exploit it
D 6-Ely Allen-Rookie played much better than SJ veterans in midfield
M 7-David Beckham-Healthy. Able to get wide open offensively; netted slick goal
M 5-Sean Franklin-Shaky. Could have been exploited by more talented attack
M 6-Landon Donovan-As usually disappeared. Nice touch on Beck's goal
M 6-Alvaro Pires-Clumsy. Should have stuck Beckham's blazing free kick
F 6-Alan Gordon-Able to roam all over the box. Best match in a while
D n/a-Michael Gavin (86)

Labels: ,

Mar 29, 2008 

Week 1 Best XI




Rapids Fail To Make A Splash After Another Poor Season

Long-time Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni may lose his temper during a likely lackluster season


2006 Record: 9-13-8, 35 points (4th place in Western Conference).
Head coach: Fernando Clavijo.
In: Christian Gomez, Jose Burciaga, Jr., Tim Ward.
Out: Nicolas Hernandez, Jose Cancela, Zach Thornton, Tony Sanneh.

Starting Lineup: Bouna Coundoul; Tim Ward, Mike Petke, Jose Burciaga, Jr.; Pablo Mastroeni, Terry Cooke, Colin Clark, Mehdi Ballouchy, Christian Gomez, Herculez Gomez,

Strengths: Former MLS MVP Christian Gomez should improve everyone around him. Terry Cooke and whomever is manning the front will get far more chances than last year's squad.

Weaknesses: The defense and goaltending will misadventures on many occasions last season and the club did nothing to patch up the problem areas. Coundoul showed that he can compete, but not without, scaring the heck out of fans at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Who is going to put the ball into the other net? Herculez Gomez and Jovan Kirovski could improve on their poor totals, but still leave the team grasping for victories.

Outlook: This is the most disjointed side in MLS. A few teams should be worse than the Rapids, but they have significant upside; Colorado has very little hope for the future and now, with the Christian Gomez trade, they don't have a designated player slot. If you're betting on which coach gets the first pink slip of 2008, laid down a C-note on Clavijo not making it to the All-Star break.

Prediction: 5th in Western Conference.

Labels: ,


D.C. Is Ready To Return To Its Title-Winning Pedigree

D.C. United forward and reigning MLS MVP Luciano Emilio aims to lead the Red-and-Black to the top


2006 Record: 16-7-7, 55 points (1st in Eastern Conference)
Head coach: Tom Soehn
In: Marcelo Gallardo, Jose Carvallo, Gonzalo Peralta, Gonzalo Martinez, Franco Niell.
Out: Christian Gomez (COL), Bobby Boswell (HOU), Greg Vanney (LA), Brian Carroll (CLB), Troy Perkins.

Starting Lineup: Zach Wells; Bryan Namoff, Gonzalo Peralta, Marc Burch, Gonzalo Martinez; Ben Olsen, Clyde Simms, Marcelo Gallardo, Fred; Jaime Moreno, Luciano Emilio.

Strengths: More than any other club, D.C.'s aim is CONCACAF dominance. They put their money where their ambitions lie. A year after picking up sterling forward Emilio, the club one-upped itself with the league's most impressive acquisition in Gallardo. The Argentine's propensity for finding the open man wherever that person is camped, should make this team free-wheeling and excitiement. Even before Gallardo, D.C.'s attack was apt to control the ball and pace at a high quality and should only get better.

Weaknesses: Zach Wells in goal is only a weakness because he hasn't been given the opportunity to showcase his talents in two previous stops. He may not get many shots on goal with D.C. ball possession prowess. While the newest contingent of South Americans in D.C. looks impressive, such a influx of foreign talent needs to watched.

Outlook: After winning the last two supporters shields, D.C. is ready to take the reins of the East from New England. The front office is clearly focused on not just winning the MLS Cup, but every other title in the Northern Hemisphere. Forget Blanco, forget Beckham, Gallardo is the high-priced designated player that will wow the league.

Prediction: 1st in Eastern Conference; MLS Cup champions.

Labels: ,

Mar 28, 2008 

Chicago Is Ready To Rise From The Ashes Of '07

Mexican midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco should again entertain Chicago Fire fans this season


2006 Record: 10-10-10, 40 points, (4th place in Eastern Conference).
Head coach: Denis Hamlett.
In: Tomasz Frankowski, Andy Herron, Dominic Cervi.
Out: Chris Armas (ret.), Matt Pickens, Ivan Guerrero (SJ), Jim Curtin (CHV), Tiago.

Starting Lineup: Jon Busch; C.J. Brown, Gonzalo Segares, Dasan Robinson; Diego Gutierrez, Justin Mapp, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Logan Pause, Bakery Soumare; Tomasz Frankowski, Chris Rolfe.

Strengths: Having five solid options at forward counts as a huge strength that could be parlayed into help in the back or midfield. With Blanco, Chicago has something no other team has, including Beckham's Galaxy--a firebrand performer who can truly change games with his tenacity.

Weaknesses: There's a certain X-factor with Chicago and it's upheaval last season that must be crossed before this team can contend for the title. Goaltender Busch is just holding the position for rookie Cervi, but shakiness is goal could also light the match that starts trouble again in Chicagoland.

Outlook: Hamlett is the first African-American head coach in MLS history and he couldn't have inherited a more trying situation. The upside, though, of this side is enormous and should entertain the fans at Toyota Park all summer. Despite second-tier status, the Fire will again be a team that nobody will relish playing in a short playoff series.

Prediction: 3rd in Eastern Conference.

Labels: ,


Revs Take A Step Back After Second Straight Cup Defeat

Sniper Taylor Twellman will have to pick up the goal-scoring slack for a re-tooled New England


2006 Record: 14-8-8, 50 points (1st place in Eastern Conference, lost MLS Cup; U.S. Open Cup champions).
Head coach: Steve Nicol
In: Mauricio Castro, Argenis Fernandez, Chris Albright,
Out: Andy Dorman, Pat Noonan, Avery John, James Riley (SJ).

Starting Lineup: Matt Reis; Jay Heaps, Chris Albright, Michael Parkhurst, Shalrie Joseph; Steve Ralston, Wells Thompson, Joe Franchino, Jeff Larentowicz, Khano Smith, Adam Cristman, Taylor Twellman.

Strengths: Just like Houston, their nemesis', the Revs are steeped in continuity which still makes this a playoff side, despite major offensive defections to Europe. The backline is, by far, the elite of MLS and should pick the team up when opponents focus defensively on Twellman.

Weaknesses: Can Twellman carry the offensive load? Ralston will also be out of position by playing a more central midfield role.

Outlook: It's a shame that the Revolution have not been rewarded with an MLS title. They have continually produced some of the country's best prospects and have only heartache to show for it. The loss of Noonan and Dorman is going to have a huge impact on this team's effectiveness in the short term. We might be looking at a down year for the club before it returns to the level of play most assume from New England. Despite Twellman's insistence that he'll still produce despite being disheartened by not playing in the English Premier League, chances are he'll sulk.

Prediction: 4th in Eastern Conference.

Labels: ,


Crew's Patience Will Be Rewarded...Just Not This Season

Columbus will depend on Argentine midfielder Guillermo Barros Schelotto to take them to the playoffs


2006 Record: 9-11-10, 37 points (6th in Eastern Conference).
Head Coach: Sigi Schmid.
In: Nicolas Hernandez, Gino Padula, Brian Carroll (SJ), Andy Iro.
Out: Marcos Gonzalez, Kei Kamara (SJ), Jacob Thomas, Andy Herron, Tim Ward, Ned Grabavoy (SJ).

Starting Lineup: Will Hesmer; Frankie Hejduk, Danny O'Rourke, Chad Marshall, Gino Padula; Duncan Oughton, Eddie Gaven, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Robbie Rogers; Alejandro Moreno, Nicolas Hernandez.

Strengths: The Crew midfield could become the league's best really soon. Gaven has been around awhile, but is still only 21, and Robbie Rogers shows glimpse of talent unheard of in this league.

Weaknesses: There really isn't a glaring weakness on this side, but nearly every position other than the midfield is barely average. If something happens to a very serviceable Alejandro Moreno, the Crew's brilliant midfield is going to have problems moving play towards the net.

Outlook: Unlike other situations, the Crew have a plan and Schmid is lucky management has been patient. With Rogers, Gaven and Nicolas Hernandez, things may pay off soon, but not likely this season. Too much is predicated on a few players like Schelotto and Moreno staying healthy and playing well, along with a high amount of flux due to U-23 defections, for Columbus to return to the playoffs.

Prediction: 6th in the Eastern Conference.

Labels: ,


Despite Defections, It's Pretty Much The Same 'Ol Dynamo

Go-to-guy midfielder Dwayne De Rosario should lead the defending champs to the MLS Cup


2006 Record: 15-8-7, 52 points (2nd in Western Conference); MLS Cup Champions.
Head Coach: Dominic Kinnear.
In: Franco Caraccio, Tony Caig, Bobby Boswell.
Out: Nate Jaqua, Joseph Ngwenya, Ryan Cochrane (SJ), Paul Dalglish.

Starting Lineup: Pat Onstad; Wade Barrett, Eddie Robinson, Bobby Boswell, Craig Waibel; Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, Dwayne De Rosario, Brian Mullan; Brian Ching, Chris Wondolowski.

Strengths: What can you say about the 2-time defending champs. They shun high-profile and costly players and still outshine the rest of the league for the last five years. Kinnear has built upon Frank Yallop's considerable success in San Jose and improved upon it. Goaltender Pat Onstad, despite his age, is still solid in net and benefits with a consistent backline.

Weaknesses: The forward position could become a problem with two defections to Austria and an unknown quantity in Wondolowski. Ching could also be missing from action periodically for World Cup qualifiers. This could put pressure on the Dynamo's most intriguing pickup, Argentine Caraccio, to perform quite early in the season.

Outlook: Houston's roster is so versatile with veterans at almost all positions and have role players like De Rosario, Mulrooney and Davis that envisioning a downfall from their form of the last two years is highly improbable. Watch out for Stuart Holden. He just may the breakout player of MLS this season, even while spending time in Beijing for the Olympics.

Prediction: 1st in Western Conference; Supporter's Shield winner.

Labels: ,


Beckham's Crosses Lead L.A. Back To Playoffs

L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham starts his first full season in MLS.


2006 Record: 9-14-7, 34 points (5th in Western Conference).
Head Coach: Ruud Gullit.
In: Carlos Ruiz, Alvaro Pires, Greg Vanney.
Out: Cobi Jones (ret.), Joe Cannon (SJ), Chris Albright (NE), Ty Harden, Gavin Glinton (SJ).

Starting Lineup: Steve Cronin; Chris Klein, Abel Xavier, Greg Vanney, Michael Gavin; David Beckham, Alvaro Pires, Josh Tudela, Landon Donovan; Carlos Ruiz, Alan Gordon.

Strengths: Star power. Besides Beckham's considerable galaxy, Donovan and Ruiz also make L.A. formidable on and off the field. Watch out for a full season of Beck's crosses breaking free Landon and finding Ruiz in the box.

Weaknesses: L.A. let Joe Cannon go to San Jose and GM Alexi Lalas didn't find a replacement. Former Quakes draft choice, Cronin, is going to have to play well, of course, but also because his back-up is even less tested than the starter's four starts.

Outlook: The addition of Vanney to the backline will improve a still deficient defense, but the load of goals the Galaxy will score will make them playoff worthy.

Prediction: 2nd place in Western Conference.

Labels: , ,


Young Stars have Toronto Looking To Future

Toronto FC's Carl Robinson and Danny Dichio hope to excite Ontario's rabid fans


2006 Record: 6-17-7, 25 points (7th in East)
Head Coach: John Carver
In: Kevin Harmse, Julian James, Marco Velez.
Out: Ronnie O'Brien (SJ), Chris Pozniak (SJ), Adam Braz, Kenny Stamatopoulos.

Starting Lineup: Greg Sutton; Todd Dunivant, Tyrone Marshall, Andrew Boyens, Marvell Wynne; Jim Brennan, Kevin Harmse, Carl Robinson, Maurice Edu; Danny Dichio, Jeff Cunningham.

Strengths: In just their second season, the Reds have assembled a host of highly-skilled young players like Maurice Edu and Marvell Wynne. Top draft pick, Julian James, could be the next piece and odds-on favorite for Toronto's second straight Rookie of the Year.

Weaknesses: Greg Sutton in goal is a stop-gap for a position without any viable back-ups. Scoring might be difficult with aging stars Danny Dichio and Jeff Cunningham. Just four goals away from reaching 100 MLS goals, Cunningham needs to be rejuvenated from last season's hernia injury for this team to even reach .500.

Outlook: Mo Johnston has this franchise moving in the right direction. With the most ravenous fans in MLS and some of the best young talent in the game, Toronto is still a goalkeeper and sniper away from seriously contending in the East.

Prediciton: 7th place in the East.

Labels: ,


Real Salt Lake Still Spinning Its Wheels

Real's Robbie Findley will have to juggle MLS duty with the Beijing Olympics this season


2006 Record: 6-15-9, 27 points (6th in Western Conference).
Head Coach: Jason Kreis.
In: Matias Cordoba, Dema Kovalenko, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Ian Joy, Jamison Olave, Kenny Deuchar.
Out: Chris Brown, Kyle Brown, Eddie Pope (ret.), Alecko Eskandarian, Atiba Harris, Jamie Watson, Jean-Martial Kipre, Ritchie Kotschau

Starting Lineup: Nick Rimando; Matias Mantilla, Ian Joy, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert; Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Dema Kovalenko, Nate Sturgis; Robbie Findlay, Kenny Deuchar.

Strengths: Few teams have a better tandem in goal than Real Salt Lake. With Rimando and U-23 netminder, Chris Seitz, Real is set for years. If the newly-minted midfield can distribute the ball to their forwards, Findley and Dr. Goal, Deucher, Salt Lake should greatly improve on one goal per game average of last year.

Weaknesses: Another season in Utah equals yet another overhaul of the roster. Is Kreis and GM Garth Lagerway just making changes for change sake? It's going to take some time for this latest edition of Real Salt Lake to make any sense.

Outlook: The sense is that Real Salt Lake is still spinning its wheels. There's a lot of bits and pieces within the team's personnel that leads one to believe Real Salt Lake is nothing more than a hodge-podge of soccer talent. Once Seitz returns from Olympic duty, trading Rimando for another piece of puzzle might be wise. Aside from his intriguing nickname and story, Dr. Goal, at 6-4 should be a popular fantasy choice.

Prediction: 6th place in Western Conference.

Labels: ,

Mar 19, 2008 

San Jose Edges Charleston; Wins Carolina Cup


At Charleston, SC

San Jose 1 1 - 2
Charleston 1 0 -1

First Half-1, Charleston, Spicer; 5th minute, 2, San Jose, Corrales (Grabavoy); 26th minute,

Second Half-3, San Jose, Kamara (Corrales), 70th minute.

Yellow cards-San Jose, Cochrane (16th). Charleston, Rita (20th).

Lineups-San Jose, Preston Burpo; Nick Garcia, Ryan Cochrane, Jason Hernandez, James Riley (45); Ronnie O'Brien, Joe Vide, Shea Salinas(), Ramiro Corrales, Ned Grabavoy, Ivan Guerrero (45); Kei Kamara, Gavin Glinton, Jamil Walker (35).

Charleston, Keith Wiggans; Tim Velton, Marco Rita, Jack Stewart, John Wilson, Luke Kreamalmeyer, David Kenga (63), Pato Aguilera, Mike Richardson, Osvaldo Alonzo; Darren Spicer, Aaron King, Kendall Jadeosingh (71).


Mar 17, 2008 

Americans Help Fulham Overrun Everton


All five of Fulham's Yankees played in their 1-0 victory over Everton Sunday on a Brian McBride goal. Read EPL match report here.

Fulman may be next to last in the English Premier League, just four points out of the regulation zone, but with half the side looking like Bob Bradley's U.S. men's national team, this is just another milestone in the growth of American soccer.

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller and forwards Eddie Johnson and McBride were in the starting lineup.

Defender Carlos Bocanegra and midfielder Clint Dempsey entered the game as late-game substitutes.

Everton also had a taste of good ol' American pie by starting former MetroStar Tim Howard in goal.

If Fulham fails to stay afloat in the Premiership next season, it's possible that Major League Soccer might be the beneficiary of, at least, three young stars still in their prime playing back in the states.

Labels: ,

Mar 15, 2008 

Quakes Win Storm-Shortened Carolina Cup Opener


Mother Nature was on the the Earthquakes' side as thunderstorms over Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston Saturday halted the opener of the Carolina Challenge Cup in the 76th minute preserving a 1-0 win over Toronto FC.

Former Chivas USA defender Jason Hernandez headed in Ronnie O'Brien's corner kick in the 21st minute for the game's lone goal.

Toronto FC, who was missing rookie of the year Maurice Edu and former number one draft pick Marvell Wynne to the under-23 championship, looked disinterested for most of game, failing to put Quakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon to the test.

During the first half, the Quakes showed flashes of coach Frank Yallop's old San Jose side with long periods of crisp passing and pace.

The newly signed top draft choice, Shea Salinas, who Yallop inserted as a substitution at the half at forward, showed his enormous potential with a sterling shot on goal in the 52nd minute that was blocked by the sliding tackle by veteran defender, Tyrone Marshall.

At Charleston, SC

Toronto FC 0 0 - 0
San Jose 1 0 - 1

First Half- 1, San Jose, Hernandez 1 (O'Brien), 21st minute.

Second half-none.

Yellow Cards-San Jose, Cochrane (65th minute).

Referee-Paul Ward.

Toronto-Greg Sutton; Todd Dunivant, Julius James, Jim Brennan, Kevin Harmes (45), Tyrone Marshall; Carl Robinson, Pacheco, Velez, Martin Britain; Jeff Cunningham, Danny Dichio, Collin Samuel (45).

San Jose-Joe Cannon; James Riley, Ryan Cochrane, Nick Garcia, Jason Hernandez; Ronnie O'Brien, Joe Vide (71st) Ned Grabavoy, Ivan Guerrero, Ramiro Corrales; Gavin Glinton, Shea Salinas (45th), Kei Kamara.


Mar 14, 2008 

Quakes' Carolina Challenge Cup Games On The Web

Fans can get their first look at the new San Jose Earthquakes this week at the USL website.

Here's the Earthquakes' games available on the web from the Carolina Challenge Cup:

Saturday, March 15 - Earthquakes vs. Toronto FC at 3:00 p.m. PT
Wednesday, March 19 - Earthquakes vs. Charleston at 5:15 p.m. PT
Saturday, March 22 - Earthquakes vs. Red Bulls at 5:15 p.m. PT

In addition, he L.A. Galaxy/FC Dallas match with David Beckham will be televised on, Sat., Mar. 15, 4:30 p.m. PT.



Quakes Season Ticket Sales Rank Seventh In MLS


You could argue Major League Soccer's long-term health is derived from the growing number of soccer-specific stadiums that are sprouting seemingly every year. The short-term health, however, can be viewed through season ticket sales.

It's clear fans in Toronto are as rabid with their team as they are spending loonies on tickets. Los Angeles with David Beckham and D.C. United is strong by MLS standards, while Real Salt Lake is surprisingly adept at hawking season ticket packages.

Armed with new blood in ownership, Kansas City's numbers increased a whopping 232 1,539. Big deal. Most alarmingly, Chivas USA, possibly the best team in the west, can count only 837 willing participants.

Los Terramotos placed a strong seventh at nearly 4,000. Just about the same spot when they picked up and left for Houston.

1. Toronto FC - 16,641 (+34%)
2. Los Angeles Galaxy - 7,915 (-15%)
3. D.C. United - 5,976 (+27%)
4. Real Salt Lake - 4,632 (+5%)
5. Houston Dynamo - 4,116 (+87%)
6. New England Revolution - 4,001 (+14%)
7. San Jose Earthquakes - 3,822
8. Columbus Crew - 3,227 (+1%)
9. New York Red Bulls - 3,170 (+33)
10. FC Dallas - 3,002 (-4%)
11. Colorado Rapids - 2,968 (+59%)
12. Chicago Fire - 2,759 (+8%)
13. Kansas City Wizards - 1,539 (+232%)
14. Chivas USA - 837 (-2%)

Source: SportsBusiness Journal.

Labels: , , ,

Jan 5, 2008 

Bolts Need To Overcome History, Rivers And Norv


Tennessee is in poor health going into wildcard weekend. Their franchise QB Vince Young is a game-time call and they lost two wideouts this week. 

They beat Indianapolis last week to win the last playoff spot, but struggled against two halves of Jim Sorgi and Indy's second-stringers. To be honest, Cleveland versus San Diego looked far more exciting for an early January Sunday afternoon than the 10-6 Titans.

San Diego is the anti-Tampa of these playoffs. Their marquee screams the names of some of the biggest stars in football. Shawne Merriman and LaDainian Tomlinson. But, are we to guess that their overrated coach, Norv Turner, will be the man who gets San Diego over the playoff hump. They haven't won one since their Super Bowl run of 1994.

If Young can't start or reinjures his leg, backup Kerry Collins isn't such a bad thing. Many times backups are able to confound experts when they enter the game in relief because the opponents hasn't spent practice time on that player.

This is going to be a hard fought game because of numerous errors. San Diego's Philip Rivers does not warm the confident hearts of Charger fans and he might sink even farther in their minds.

Even with Rivers bungling the operation and the Chargers jinx coupled with the coaching of good ol' Norval, the Chargers still have Tomlinson's acute nose for the endzone and should comeback late in the game to win just as they did earlier in the season. CHARGERS 31-26


The Titans are seriously banged up at wide receiver and their starting QB Vince Young is day-to-day.

The Middle Tennessee newspaper takes the pity angle as the Titans are nine-point underdogs

Tennessee haven't won in seven games west of the Rockies since 2002, including five straight in California. San Diego is in Southern California. How unfortunate.


Tomlinson a Titanic defensive obstacle, San Diego Union-Tribune
Tennessee's Keith Bulluck discounted the fear the Titans have in San Diego QB Philip Rivers, but remember LaDainian Tomlinson's 146 yards against them, Dec. 9.

"His stock with Chargers fans selling most days somewhere between Ryan Leaf and Craig Whelihan", that pretty much illustrates the inconsistent play of Philip Rivers. He might not win the game by himself, but he could possibly lose it.

The Dec. 9 battle between these two teams was torrid affair. San Diego came back in the fourth quarter to beat Tennessee 23-17 in overtime. But a hit by Shawne Merriman on Vince Young is still being discussed.

Labels: , ,


N.Y. Linemen Hold The Key To Beating The Bucs


Forget that the Buccaneers took the last game and a half off and finished 9-7 to get healthy. Tampa is the weakest team in the NFC playoffs. The team isn't built with stars, so the health and cohesion of this team is very important. 

There quarterback has a bad back, they have a running back nobody's ever heard about and their defense is undersized, or, to be nice; "speedy".

Tampa couldn't have picked a worst team, matchup-wise, than the Giants. It's hard to beat a team that is superior on both the offensive and defensive lines. 

On top of that, New York's Brandon Jacobs looms large in whether this game is a cake walk or a nail-biter. It's hard to imagine the hulking Jacobs not wearing down a Tampa defensive line that features a pair of linemen tipping the scales at less than 300 pounds.

Jon Gruden should have known better than to let up during the last two games of the season. There's something called momentum that a team under-experienced and lacking amazing talent needs in the postseason.

Undoubtedly, the Florida press is going to skewer Gruden for this decision after they fall in the playoffs. GIANTS 31-19.


Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will be coaching in his first playoff game. His unit is ranked seventh in the NFL and the players love him.

Not every quarterback can be like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. It took Peyton Manning four tries to win his first playoff game and papa Archie never made the postseason, so lay off Peyton's baby brother.

Jacobs is Bucs' worst nightmare, New Jersey Star-Ledger
The undersized Tampa defensive line could have major problems with the grinding running back Brandon Jacobs. As the article points out big back whittle small defensive down by the fourth quarter.


Bucs QB Jeff Garcia has beaten the Giants in two previous playoff matchups, including the momumental meltdown the G-Men endured against San Francisco in 2003.

Bucs Take Risky Approach in Build-Up to Playoffs, Miami Herald
Will Jon Gruden's Bucs suffer from resting regulars and losing the last two games of the regular season? Will there be a Giants letdown from fighting hard against New England in week 17?

Giant Threat, Bradenton Herald
New York's defensive line is strong and creative. Of there 53 sacks this season, 37 came from the front line. Can the young Tampa offensive line protect Jeff Garcia and make space for Earnest Graham.

Labels: , ,

Jan 4, 2008 

Steelers Look To Return The Jags Favor


The boutique upset pick is Jacksonville over Pittsburgh. Is it really an upset? Las Vegas doesn't think so. It has the Jags by two points on the road.

The Steelers can't feature the run as they usually do this time of the year, but they can still get production from Najeh Davenport or whomever is left standing.

Can Ben Roethlisberger find Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. Ward is clutch and there is no reason to believe he won't figure in some back-breaking first down late in the game.

The Jaguars have reason to be feared by the rest of the AFC. There defense is ferocious and as quick as their namesake, but can the offense led by David Garrard lift this team to the next round? The answer is less than a sure thing.

That Garrard threw only three interceptions a result of pin-point accuracy and decision-making or a deliberately safe offensive gameplan. What happens if the Jags are trailing by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter? Will he put the ball up for grabs or lead a comeback. It's a lot to ask of a quarterback who is steady, but virtually a system quarterback.

Boutique picks usually falter and the Steelers should avenge a poor performance against Jacksonville last month with a tough fought victory at chilly Heinz Field. STEELERS 17-9.


A bit presumtious since they still have to beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. Jacksonville's running game seems to be the main reason why so many think they can beat New England, but Pittsburgh was effective in stopping the run in the regular season.

Recasting the Rematch, Florida Times-Union
What will be different from last month's thrashing of the Steelers by the Jags? The weather will be better, but still cold. Steelers defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, will have a second try at stopping the Jags and Pitt has never lost two games at home to any team, ever.

New Role: Fear Factor, Florida Times-Union
Two years ago, the Jags were 12-4 and playoff punching bags. This year they're favored on the road in Pittsburgh and the team everyone wants to avoid. How did they get there? Better players, of course.


Meet the third-string tackle entrusted to protect Ben Roethlisberger's blind side against Jacksonville. Coach Mike Tomlin will "schematically" help Trai Essex. Sounds like trouble.

Steelers fill gaps on run defense, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The league's number one defense has given up 494 rushing yards during the past three games. Is it just a lack of "gap integrity" or a harbinger of bad things to come Saturday night?

Don't forget Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh is the bastion of physical running football, but this time around Big Ben and Hines Ward might have to lead them to the divisional round.

Labels: , ,


Which Wildcard Will Emerge in Seattle?


The Seattle Times called the Seahawks chances as truly a wildcard, but this entire match-up is one.

Do you go with Washington and pin your chances on a journeyman comeback that seemingly sold his soul to the Devil and a team that's own strong safety is presumably in Heaven?

And which Seahawks team can we expect in the wintry and deafening Northwest? One looking to go all Air Coryell on the Redskins or one that surprises everyone and reverts to a power running game with Shaun Alexander?

Many loathe any inclusion of the 12th Man scenario, but sadly, this game may hinge on the raucous Qwest Field crowd making things difficult for Redskins QB Todd Collins. There's also a 13th Man involved--the weather, making a strong rushing game a priority.

The Skins had the league's fourth-best defense against the run and that should help them. These are the playoffs, though, and unless there a stronger factors than pure emotion and two even clubs, take the team with the overwhelming home-field advantage. SEAHAWKS 24-21.

The Skins may be riding the hot hand of Todd Collins, but the death of Sean Taylor solidified this team down the stretch.

Collins's Perfect Timing, Washington Post
He's been amazing off then bench for a coach famous for winning Super Bowl rings with second-stringers. But, c'mon. He's just like Peyton Manning? Really, Santana Moss! Also, speculation that injured QB Jason Campbell could play later in the playoff could be useful.

Substraction by Division, Washington Post
The great Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post is definitely writing with hometown 'Skins pompoms on, but he makes some interesting points. One, the Seahawks haven't played .500 team since week one. Second, they play in a weak division.


After dropping to 4-4 with a loss against Cleveland, Mike Holmgren said, "I'm going back to my roots." That meant throwing the ball at will. They made the playoffs, but don't discount that the lack of a running game made the switch necessary.

Despite what everyone says about the pass-first Seahawks they actually utilized their ground game statistically more than their opponents.

The Seahawks as an enigma. Columnist Jerry Brewer offers a less than glowing preview of Seattle's chances. At least, they're in playoffs?

Labels: , ,

Dec 13, 2007 


Paul Bunyan didn't use steroids, but Jack Cust does.

Make that seven current or former Athletics named in the Mitchell Report.

A's designated hitter, Jack Cust, was named in connection to former Baltimore outfielder Larry Bigbie. According to the report, Cust told Bigbie he already a steroid supplier.
At the beginning of the 2003 season, Cust and Larry Bigbie were both playing for Baltimore’s class AAA affiliate in Ottawa. Bigbie’s locker was next to Cust’s. Cust eventually asked Bigbie if he had ever tried steroids. Bigbie acknowledged he had, and Cust said that he, too, had tried steroids. Cust told Bigbie that he had a source who could procure anything he
wanted, but Bigbie informed him he already had a friend who could supply him.
I suppose if Billy Beane wanted Barry Bonds as his DH in 2008, he now knows he already had a user at the position.

Labels: , ,




ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, Mitchell Report in tow, quickly perused the documents and briefly named the recently traded Astros' shortstop Miguel Tejada as a steroid user.

In the appendix, according to Schaap, checks written by Tejada are pictured.

The story here is whether the Houston Astros knew that Tejada would be named before consummating yesterday's blockbuster trade?

Did they ask him? Did Baltimore know before trading Tejada?

If Houston knew, they certainly didn't get a discount in the six-player trade.

In this brave new world of baseball, could Houston void the trade on the same basis when a team trades a player whose injuries were not disclosed  before the transaction?

On the local front, the naming of Tejada now includes six players with ties to the Oakland Athletics: Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Randy Velarde, Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi and three American League Most Valuable Players.

Labels: ,


STEROIDPALOOZA: Clemens & Pettitte Fingered


Once likely Hall of Famer Roger Clemens and his scripture-spouting rotation-mate, Andy Pettitte will be named in the Mitchell Report.

Clemens' inclusion in the soon-to-be infamous report on steroids in Major League Baseball comes as no surprise to readers of Tailgater.

His alleged steroid use has been mentioned as far back as 2006 and specifically in this post from Feb. 6, 2007 which posed the question of whether Clemens' annual ritual of ditching spring training was due to March testing of the drugs.
When has there ever been an athlete in any sport that has been enabled to be held hostage by Clemens? The media doesn't pose this question because their in awe of his persona. They've also failed to ask Clemens whether the last half of his career might be an abberation in the era of steriods.
Nobody listened until today.

What follows could be a template for many of the players named in the Mitchell Report today. Clemens' clear down years in the early 90s followed by a conspicous rise in play.
If Barry Bonds and others are queried for miraculous comebacks late in the careers when others have historically begun the physically breakdown why hasn't Clemens be fingered? After faltering for three years in Boston his career seemed done when he was traded to Toronto in 1997. Suddenly, he was fit and throwing as hard as ever. He won the Cy Young that year and has been the same type of pitcher well into his 40s. Clemens' return the top of baseball follows the same steep trajectory as Bonds's.
If you use this template, it begs to speculate whether Cincinnati outfielder, Ken Griffey, Jr. is named in this report.

If the word hypocrite comes to mind regarding Andy Pettitte's being named in the Mitchell Report, it does in my mind, also.

Pettitte, who possesses a low-key manner personality, but also liked to tell you how his pious Christian lifestyle is better than yours. 

When it comes to using illicit drugs, apparently "What Would Jesus Do?" never came to Pettitte's mind.

Labels: , ,

Nov 6, 2007 

Say It Ain't So, Matty; Three Stars Leaked In Drug Probe


Steroid crusaders finally have someone of consequence to stomp on thanks to the journalistic superheroes at the San Francisco Chronicle and their ubiquitous unnamed sources.

C'mon, Neifi Perez is not going to satiate us.

Jose Guillen, Matt Williams and Ismael Valdez, now join Cleveland's Paul Byrd in a Federal sting of a Florida anti-aging clinic.

Despite unnamed sources, Guillen's surprise release by the Seattle Mariners should have alerted many that something was in the air. In September, the Mariners seemed happy with his production and aimed to bring him back for 2008. After hitting .290 with 22 homers and 99 RBIs, there would be little reason not to resign Guillen, unless the team was alerted of his impending steroid charge.

In hindsight, Guillen seemed to exhibit many characteristics of a player using performance-enhancing drugs. While with Pittsburgh, he was a hot shot prospect with a rocket for a right arm. His star quickly faded and he moved on to Tampa Bay, Arizona and Cincinnati.

According to the Chronicle report, he began using performance-enhancing drugs in 2002, incidentally, that was also his breakout season when he batted .311/31/86.

Guillen has always been known for his explosive temper. His hot head has led to defections from Oakland and Anaheim where he argued with manager Mike Scioscia in the Angels dugout. Might this have been a symptom of 'Roid Rage?

Matt Williams' inclusion in this list is quite saddening. Retired since 2003 and now a Arizona Diamondbacks announcer, the bald pate and quite determination of Williams were hallmarks of those Giants teams that featured Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and, later, Barry Bonds.

Williams, according to the article, he was forthcoming about his use in 2002, saying it was recommended to heal a badly injured ankle.

In the coming weeks and months, this sort of answer might be common place for players with enough integrity to admit their errors in judgement because the use of steroids and performance-enhancers is really a quick way of healing the body during a long, arduous season.

Others like Barry Bonds and numerous athletes in track & field, cycling and other Olympic sports will use the tried and true, "my supplements were tainted" mantra, but even that line is nearing critical mass.

San Diego Padres outfielder, Mike Cameron, already used it last week, but added the caveat that whatever he used it wasn't steroids, but some other illegal drug.

If players like Matt Williams begin to surface as steroid offenders, stories far more shocking than Alex Rodriguez signing $350 million contracts will dominate the off season.

The question that could arise is if the majority of steroid offender revealed in the Mitchell report turn out to be retireed players, will the game really be able to resort to the Draconian measure that are truly needed to clean up the game?

Anything short of a big name star crashing to earth like a Ken Griffey, Jr. or Roger Clemens Major League Baseball will surely portray this scandal as a thing of the past and revert to business as usual.

Baseball players juicing up for inflated multi-million dollar contract would love that, but the public won't.

Labels: , , ,

Oct 24, 2007 

I like the Red Sox In Seven

I like the fact that Colorado's Kaz Matsui has found some redemption in these playoffs. Isn't this the same guy who was trashed in New York for not being the other Matsui in the Big Apple? He was faulted for not hitting enough with the Mets and his range at second was suspect. I don't think the Phillies think he isn't clutch.

I like Josh Beckett (who doesn't?). Take a look at the 1988 World Series when the Dodgers upset the A's. That was the year of Orel Hershider 59 straight shutout innings. Hershiser won two games against the series, including the clincher, but his presence seemed to spook the A's in the other three games and allowed bit players like Mickey Hatcher to beat them.

I like the home teams in this series. As an A's fan, I know that Fenway Park can be a very intimidating setting. Things go horribly wrong at times and the rabid Red Sox Nation will let you know about it. Coors Field reveals disadvantages in the Red Sox defense at left and first. There's a lot of acreage out there for Manny Ramirez to flub a flyball and, because of the DH, David Ortiz will play first until it becomes necessity to put Kevin Youkilis back there. The necessity being the Sox trailing three games to two.

I like Matt Holliday being one of the guys who could get the Rockies off to a good start in Game 1. He's 6-for-14 against Beckett, including 2-for-3 with a homer this year. The best player should be the guy to lead and he's quietly hit four homers in this year's postseason.

I like the Rockies showing no ill-effects from their nine day layoff. They're are white-hot right now, but haven't really stolen a win, except for the one-game playoff. Colorado has played consistent baseball throughout the past month. You don't forget how to play excellent baseball in over a week.

I like Boston getting into the Colorado bullpen. The Rockies should not what befell Rafael Betancourt in Game 7 of the ALCS. He, like the red-hot Rockies bullpen, was untouchable until he allowed the clincher to get out of hand.

I like that Red Sox are becoming the new Yankees. They were always the Yankees. They played up the underdog storyline despite spending just about as much as the "evil empire".

I like the Red Sox winning their second World Series in four years only because they play four games at Fenway.

I like Jonathan Papelbon saving four games and winning the MVP.

Labels: , ,

Oct 23, 2007 

Jesus Bats Clean Up For The Rockies


The Red Sox slayed the personification of evil, the New York Yankees, on the way to their first title in 86 years. Now, according to the New York Times, they will need to defeat Jesus Christ to do it again.
The role of religion within the Rockies’ organization first entered the public sphere in May 2006, when an article published in USA Today described the organization as adhering to a 'Christian-based code of conduct' and the clubhouse as a place where Bibles were read and men’s magazines, like Maxim or Playboy, were banned
General Manager Dan O'Dowd, a benefactor himself of the Rockies kindness by not firing him after an abysmal record, tries to sidestep the question of the Rockies religious bent, but not with much effort.
'Do we like players with character? There is absolutely no doubt about that,' O’Dowd said during a recent interview in his Coors Field office. 'If people want to interpret character as a religious-based issue because it appears many times in the Bible, that’s their decision. I believe that character is an innate part of developing an organization, and to me, it is nothing more than doing the right thing at the right time when nobody’s looking. Nothing more complicated than that'
It's interesting to read the small factoids the media reports when an unknown, western-based team with very little history to speak of becomes a national story.

Labels: , , ,


The Rush To Discredit The Mitchell Report Before It's Released


Fox's Ken Rosenthal does a lot of presupposition in his article today questioning the impartiality of former Sen. George Mitchell and his impending steroid report.

Rosenthal is not a former player, but a highly respected sports journalist who wrote the baseball beat for The Sporting News for many years.

But, by blasting the messengers, whether it's the San Francisco Chronicle's Lance Williams and Mark Fainara-Wada or Mitchell, it begs the question of who really is impartial--the journalist entrusted with reported the facts, but questions the timing of the report or the former Senate majority leader who sits on the board of the Boston Red Sox?
If Mitchell had no prior knowledge of these allegations, then you have to wonder just how well his investigation is going. But the perception of bias might be an even bigger problem.
Why is Rosenthal leading the nascent charge to protect the players? Every former major leaguer, now talking head on ESPN already plays that role. A baseball player could be harboring Osama bin Laden in his locker and John Kruk would still make excuses for him.

Should the early race to discredit the Mitchell Report, which is due sometime after the World Series, be a harbinger to a highly explosive document? Mitchell and his surrogates were unequivocal last week when they should big names would be exposed, apparently far glitzier than the mundane Paul Byrd.

How exactly do you throw 80 mph using human growth hormone? Did he throw in the high 60s before?

Instead of being a shill for the player's association, Rosenthal should wait until the report is released before he create scenarios involving Red Sox players given preferential treatment over other teams.

Let's work on one conspiracy at time, shall we?

Labels: , , ,

Oct 12, 2007 

I Like The Indians Over The Sox


I like hometown boy C.C Sabathia in this series. It seems like he's been around forever, but he's only 27 and it's time for the national spotlight to shine on the large lefty.

I like Josh Beckett, too. After three straight shutouts in the playoffs, you have to begin to look at him through a historical lens. Dominant pitching in the playoffs is rarefied air, but doing continuing it four seasons after winning the World Series with Florida equals big-time consistency.

I like Cleveland in Game 1, though. I sense the marquee pitching matchups won't make the final storyline. To win, the Tribe will need to make a statement. Usually, this comes from an unlikely source. How about Asdrubal Cabrera? The Cleveland rookie secondbaseman hit just .176 against New York in the Division Series, but hit .283 during the regular season.

I like the Indians stopping Kevin Youkilis. The Sox have Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, but Youkilis is indispensible offensively and, notably, defensively at first base. Crush his exhuberance and Boston's hopes will rest on powerful, one-dimensional superstars whose performance could go either way in short seven game series.

I like this series going seven games because of Cleveland's closer, Joe Borowski. Despite converting a sterling 45 of 53 save opportunities, he retired the side in order just 16 times and a robust 5.07 ERA. He got away withit in the regular season, but in the playoffs when tensions are higher and the opponent's tenacity is sky high problems are likely. The Indians probably won't score enough against Boston's pitching to moot this point and suffer a game or two because of it. INDIANS IN SEVEN.

I don't like the idea of a Cleveland/Colorado World Series, but that's what we will have and believe me, FOX won't like it, either.

Labels: , ,

Oct 11, 2007 

High Dose of 'Mojo' Leads Rockies Over D'Backs


That fast moving locomotive from Denver blew past me last week. In truth, I had no intention of ever jumping on that bandwagon, but now, it's a different story.

Move over! Here comes the latest bandwagon-jumper to the Colorado Rockies. Incorrectly predicting that the Phillies would sweep the Rockies instead of the other way around has proven to be one of my greatest misreads ever. I mean, I had the series called except the wrong team. I'm not going to make that same mistake twice, even if continuing a 17-1 streak seems like a tall order.

I'm reserving my World Series pick for later, but the American League champ best book a hotel in Denver in 13 days time.

It's not that Rockies have a leg up at every position except maybe the manager and the big ace Brandon Webb, but because during the wildcard playoff era a certain thing called momentum has proven more potent than three excellent starting pitchers and the best collection of hitters. Every World Series champion from 2001 on has been the benefactor of that certain mysterious substance called "mojo".

It could be many factors including parity or more succinctly because the dreaded Yankees have stumbled every year during this period. Whatever the reason, the Rockies have it starting Game 1 of the NLCS against Arizona.

I agree with everyone who says the key for the Diamondbacks is to get Webb to shutdown the Rockies tonight and in Game 4 and Game 7 on short rest if needed. Isn't this the same logic that many had for the Phillies to beat Colorado? Two Herculean efforts by Cole Hamels and the Phils advance? It didn't work out that way and assumptions like that rarely happen in baseball where anything can happen anytime.

Ironically, the most impressive part of the Rockies late-season run hasn't been their potent offense, but the excellent delineation of pitching roles. Starter Jeff Francis was impressive for six inning in the Division Series, but that wasn't a surprise he won 17 during the season. Having rookie Ubaldo Jimenez shine was, but you don't have to superstars in the rotation in a short series because there's precedent.

The 1987 Minnesota Twins, an unheralded postseason squad like Colorado, won the World Series ostensibly with one great pitcher (Frank Viola), an over-the-hill curveballer (Bert Blyleven) and a guy nobody heard from before or after the those playoffs (Les Straker). That team got the game to the late innings and brought in three excellent relievers--Joe Klink as the lefty, and Juan Berenguer setting up the closer, Jeff Reardon.

The Rockies are doing the same thing 20 years later with Matt Herges in the seventh, followed by Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas as the closer. None of them are household name but they were the key to kicking the air out of the Phillies' balloon.

Even though the Diamondbacks have Bob Melvin, who has been pushing all the right buttons all year for this young team, I still believe as I did in the Cubs series that this team could be prone to breakdown during the pressure of the NLCS. They're too young and a team led by the often times kooky Eric Byrnes is a bit disconcerting.

Labels: , ,

Oct 8, 2007 

Torre Should Quit Either Way


A man who has won four World Series, six pennants, and 12 division titles in 13 years doesn't deserve a win or see you later ultimatum.

But, that's what George Steinbrenner did to Yanks manager Joe Torre after the Bombers lost the first two games of the AL Division Series to Cleveland. The Yankees saved Torre's job Sunday by beating the Tribe 8-4, but that isn't the point and the psychological ploy "The Boss" unleashed on the team's clubhouse barely showed a ripple.

Most know Steinbrenner as Pattonian purely in his own eyes. He fancies himself as the maverick general using every motivational tool to keep the troops moving forward. It's an act New York hasn't seen in a couple years because of his failing health and if successful Steinbrenner will take ownership of more than the team but of the success. The only thing is that Yankees are not going to comeback and beat the Indians not because of the ploy, the coach or the opponent, but because the Yankees are in a transition period that is not in line with winning and making money in the Big Apple.

The truth is Torre should go, but not in such a thankless and rude manner. To his credit he knows what working for Steinbrenner is like by saying, "But the fact of the matter is, it’s what goes with the territory. It’s really not a lot of difference than in the past. If I get caught up in that, I’m really going to have a tough time doing my job, and I don’t think that’s right."

The Yankees have not won the World Series since 2000 not because of Torre's managerial skills, but of a reliance and loyalty to older (expensive) players who were either in their prime during the title years or free-agent signing meant to cover deficiencies in the farm system.

Resigning Roger Clemens this year is not the way doing business if you want to win over the long haul. Pitchers like Mike Mussina make too much and retain too high a presence in the rotation when their value is rated by the past and not the present. Doubling up on star players who play the same position as was the case last year when Gary Sheffield was brought aboard when they already had Bobby Abreu waste money and cause animosity in the clubhouse.

The future is not bleak for the Yankees, but it's not rooted in the Yankees of old. General Manager Brian Cashman while paying unwise contracts to underperforming stars has also pumped life into the farm system and the logical next step for most team's is to begin rebuilding with that new crop of pinstrippers starting with a new manager.

In the past two seasons, they have developed Melky Cabrera, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes with other prime prospects poised to make it to Gotham. Whether they stay with it or revert to picking up the Sheffield's of the baseball world is another story.

Many forecast Don Mattingly becoming Torre's successor, but winning in the future lies surer in the hands of former Florida manager Joe Girardi. Most of the conjecture around Mattingly's ascent is attributed to Steinbrenner's hand in bringing in the popular first-sacker from the 1980s, but it's unclear if Steinbrenner's clout still rules over the ownership group. Girardi has already proven very successful with winning with young talent in Florida. Then again, he also lost his job after winning Manager of the Year when he clashed with the owner. If you can't get along with Jeffrey Loria how can you live with Steinbrenner?

Nonetheless, Girardi is a former Yankee catcher and protege of Torre far more proven than the sweet-swinging Mattingly whose coaching resume consists of leading a Yankee offense that's tops in the league in hitting. But, really, how hard is that to do when you have Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and, well, I could name the entire lineup.

Either way, today could be the last game for Joe Torre in New York. If you're a Yankee-hater you should root against the hiring of Girardi or risk ruining the next four or five October's watching them in the World Series.

Labels: , , , ,