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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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