Monday, November 19, 2007

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

The Unprotected

Here's a case by case look at each of the players L.A. left unprotected for the 2007 MLS Expansion Draft for the San Jose Earthquakes, including my predictions of what the likelyhood of each of these lads being drafted by Frank Yallop & Co.

Cronin, Steve -- There are more attractive options at keeper on the other lists. Expect Yallop to pass on Cronin. Low.

Caso, Mike -- Didn't even get as much playing time as Randolph or Tudela. Unless this kid has a secret that only he and Yallop know about, I don't see him going anywhere. Low.

Friesz, Lance -- See above. Low.

Glinton, Gavin -- He kept the team in the fight with goals in critical moments last year. I'm surprised to see him on the list and not Edson Buddle. I'm certain Yallop will look at his name a few times before making a decision. High.

Gordon, Alan -- Highly doubtful that Frank Yallop will take Gordon. See above. Low.

Gray, Kelly -- It's hard to tell exactly who it was thea brought Kelly Gray into the team. Grey never really gained regularity with the team, and a couple of nice runs aside didn't do much to draw attention to himself. I'd say Yallop might be tempted to take him, but will look for other options, especially at that position. Medium.

Harmse, Kevin -- If I had to guess, I'd say this is who Yallop will want. Harmse came to this team because of Yallop. High.

Martino, Kyle -- Martino is good, but not that good. Whether he goes or stays, I expect him to be warming some bench next season. Nevertheless, it is an attractive option for Yallop. Medium.

Mathis, Clint -- Could this be the reason why Clint Mathis was brought in? I doubt it, but we'll have to wait and see. ???

Tudela, Josh -- Turned out to be a daring little midfielder, but I don't think Yallop will pick him when there are other options at defensive midfielder from this Galaxy lot. Low

Vagenas, Peter -- Can't imagine Pete playing for the archrivals, but I can imagine Yallop picking him anyway. Yallop trusted Pete with a lot of starts in midfield, and Pete is one of those guys who seems to get along well with coaches and do all that they ask. Medium.

Veris, Kyle -- Looked promising early in '06, but when he was thrown into the fire later in that year and during the '07 campaign, he's been disappointing. Low

Xavier, Abel -- Probably thrown in this list because he's the type of guy who will say "LA or bust" and choose to return to Europe should he be selected. Low

The Cup Comes Home in 2008

MLS just announced that the 2008 MLS Cup Final will be played in Carson, California on the beautiful Victoria Street Stadium. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for both Los Angeles based clubs to reach the finals and play for the highest honor in US Soccer in front of their home crowds.


FMF Quarterfinals Set

Weds & Saturday
Cruz Azul - Atlante
San Luis - Guadalajara

Thurs & Sunday
Morelia - Santos
UNAM - Toluca

Mathis Returns to L.A.


The LA Galaxy today acquired forward Clint Mathis from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for the club's natural third round pick in the upcoming 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Mathis, who was originally drafted by the Galaxy in the 1998 SuperDraft, is the 16th leading scorer in MLS history with 59 goals in his nine-year MLS career. He will join his new Galaxy teammates in Los Angeles this week before heading to Australia with the club on Friday.

Mathis, who will turn 31 on Sunday, was drafted by the Galaxy in the first round (sixth overall) of the 1998 MLS College Draft and went on to appear in 65 games for the club, scoring 15 goals and adding 17 assists. Midway through the 2000 season, Mathis was traded to the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) as part of the Galaxy's acquisition of Luis Hernandez. He played the next three and a half years in New York, where he is now the club's all-time leading scorer in all competitions, and with whom he was a finalist for the 2000 MLS Honda MVP Award and was named to the 2000 MLS Best XI.

After a year in the German Bundesliga with Hannover 96, Mathis returned to MLS, joining expansion club Real Salt Lake in 2005 before being traded to Colorado for the 2006 season and then on to the Red Bulls in 2007, with whom he scored six goals and added two assists in 26 games. In the Red Bulls 5-4 win over LA in August, Mathis tallied a goal and an assist, with the goal giving him a team-record 45 in all competitions during his career with the club.

A member of the U.S. National Team, Mathis has collected 46 caps and scored 12 goals since debuting with the National Team in 1998. He was a member of the U.S. squad that reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup scoring the American's only goal in the 1-1 draw with the host nation Korea Republic.
The way I see it this could either be Pavon's replacement. The FO may be looking to bring in an experienced striker to anchor down the front rather than risk bringing in another foreigner [like Pavon] who struggles simply adapting to the league.
Either that, or Alexi Lalas & Co. may be working on putting together a trade-bait package to seek the 2nd DP spot now that the pressure is off.
Expect more movement from the Galaxy camp within the next couple of weeks to give an indication of what Galaxy's plans for Cletus are.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's Houston! See You In 08

So after a very interesting season, it's the Houston Dynamo that walks away with MLS Cup 2007.

A long offseason awaits us, and seemingly endless possibilities in terms of new names and faces, new venues awaiting, and the hope that next year WILL be the year for fans across the league.
You've got to feel bad for New England, but the biggest loser here is San Jose. This Houston team was their team. It should've been them. Oh well, I guess they can try to rebuild starting next year.

Friday, November 16, 2007

CONCACAF Champions League

Nick Green said in his blog that in the latest CONCACAF meeting, the suits decided to replace the current CONCACAF competition that takes place in January with a Champions League that would begin in August of 09.

From the starting date, I think it's safe to assume that CONCACAF is going to make this competition a group stage + knock out, home-and-home type deal similar to the European version.

3 quick problems:

1) It would screw Mexico over, as they would probably mandate that the champions play in this rather than the SuperLiga as Mexican clubs are already screwed out of the Libertadores because they have to play CONCACAF Champions Cup.

2) If it's running from August to May[?] it will obviously clash with MLS' calendar, and you'll see a single competition be played across 2 seasons of MLS and a single MLS Season will contain both the end of one year's cup and the start of the following year's. This would also make a team qualify to a tournament that would not be played until a year later.

3) Looking beyond these obvious obstacles that CONCACAF has obviously ignored, 24 teams? Are you kidding me? Where the hell are we going to get 24 teams from?

If we play pretend for a second, I can see an expansion of the SuperLiga working with 16 teams.

Category A
4 FMF Clubs - Champions and Runners Up for both the fall and spring tournaments
4 MLS Clubs - Champion, 3 highest point totals

Category B
2 Honduran Clubs - Champion + Runner Up
2 Costa Rican Clubs - Champion + Runner Up

Category C
1 Jamaican Club - Champion
1 T&T Club - Champion
1 Guatemalan Club - Champion
1 Salvadorean Club - Champion

Then you split the groups into quartets including: 1 Mexican, 1 American, 1 Category B, and 1 Category C

Obviously, the question then becomes, what will clubs get out of this competition other than just a chance to participate in an international competition?

Yes, there's the ticket to the World Club Cup, but what will the financial rewards be, etc. etc. etc.

Seems like yet another bad idea from CONCACAF [albeit with good intentions]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Copa Suda-Mexi-Cana

For the 3rd consecutive in a row, a Mexican club has reached the final of the second most important international club tournament in South America.

2005 - UNAM (Lost to Boca Jrs. in PKs)
2006 - CF Pachuca (Won 2-1 against Colo Colo)
2007 - Club America

America must wait until tomorrow to find out who its opponent will be. The only guarantee is that it'll be an Argentine side. Legendary side River Plate hosts the second leg of the semifinals against a surprising Arsenal de Sarandi.

Arsenal already has a Mexican head above its mantle, having knocked out CD Guadalajara in the quarterfinals.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Mexican Playoff Puzzle

Week 17 of the 'Opening 2008' Season has been completed and this is how the teams are set:

- Direct Entry -
1. Santos
2. Toluca
3. Atlante
4. Guadalajara
5. San Luis

- Wildcard -
6. Club America
7. Cruz Azul
9. CF Pachuca
10. Morelia

- Wildcard Stage -

Club America vs. Morelia [Thurs & Sun]
Cruz Azul vs. CF Pachuca [Weds & Sat]

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shades of Blue & White

In Martin Roger's column for Yahoo! sports, he talks about Tim Leiweke's vision for this club. Leiweke's attitude is perhaps best summarized in one line:

"I want everyone in the league to be envious of us, on and off the pitch"

Thinking about this quote, and looking at what Galaxy have done, I began thinking about the other team of historically loveable losers that I support. CF Pachuca.

In 1995, the current President and ownership group took control of the team.
In 1999, the team [having come from the 2nd division] wins its first title in history.
In 2001, the team wins its second title [from the 8th place position]
In 2003, the team wins its THIRD title.

Between 2003 and 2006 though, the team launched an impressive marketing campaign that would be the delight of most marketing professors. It wasn't just advertising. It was remodeling the stadium, opening the first Football University, opening the Tuzo Plaza shopping mall, etc. etc. etc.

But during those 3 years, Pachuca's results on the field suffered, at one point even finishing dead last on the table by a wide margin. Had it not been for Mexico's strange relegation system, the Tuzos would have surely returned to the promotion division.

At that point, Jesus Martinez [President] and Andres Fassi [Director of Football] both said 'enough' and decided it was time to put the Tuzos back on track. Having completed their ambitions projects, they set out to accomplish that which a football team is supposed to do: Win.

Since 2006, the Tuzos have won: 2 Domestic titles, 1 CONCACAF Champions Cup, and 1 [very painful] SuperLiga

Interestingly enough, AEG has followed a similar timeline.

In 1998, AEG bought Galaxy.
In 2002, the team accomplished its first MLS Cup title.
In 2005, the team won another [from the 8th place position]

After two years, Leiweke and company are apparently ready to return to the field.

Could it be?

Friday, November 9, 2007

The 2008 Galaxy Draft

It was brought to my attention this morning that with Frank Yallop's buyout by the San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles has managed to amass a grand total of 9 draft picks for the 4 rounds of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft.

This perhaps is the best tool Ruud Gullit and Cobi Jones have as they start to look into the 2008 Season as it perhaps holds the key to doing that which seemed impossible: Keeping Landon Donovan without dismantling the team.

I had originally expect Galaxy to lose a 3 man package in order to keep Landon. Either Randolph, Martino and Albright, or Randolph, Harmse and Jazic [if we traded with TFC].

But why trade players we have if we can trade players that we don't have. When trading away players, most teams are willing to accept a draft pick for a draft that'll take place one or two years down the line. Here's where LA has some real strength. We're not talking about draft picks for 09, or 2010. We're talking about draft picks for January of 08.

LA should be able to make either one big trade giving away 4 or 5 draft picks in exchange for a DP spot, or a number of trades to put together a package of players that won't affect the team's core and will be attractive enough for other teams to bite.

I still fully expect us to keep and use at least 4 of those draft picks. In last year's draft LA picked up Robbie Findley, Ty Harden and Josh Tudela who have all proven to be good players with a lot of potential. Finding young guys is going to be critical in strengthening this team not just for the upcoming season, but in the long run.

Ruud Gullit!!!

Galaxy's New Boss... (more to come)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

No, really... I can.

As a fan of the Mexican league, I knew 3 years ago that the concept of Chivas USA was, by name more suitable for your local AYSO leagues in latino areas. There, you'll find:

Cementeros USA [Cruz Azul], Monarcas USA [Morelia], Atlas USA [Atlas] and if we get fancy, we'll also find Juventus USA, Real Madrid USA, etc. etc. etc.

After 3 years of a steadily decreasing attendance, steadily increasing on-field product, and steadily increasing efforts to convince us otherwise by giving away free tickets match-day and offering tickets left and right at 25%, or 50% off, it's safe to say: "I was right."

That leaves us with a problem. Los Angeles is still the best market for soccer in America, and by far the only market that could support two teams. However, despite what MLS tells you, derby nights aside, there's only one team in L.A.

On the night of a derby, you may find a full house and the Chivas FO will have an oversized flag on hand, but on most night, Chivas USA's announced attendance of 13,000 really means that there are about 9,000 people in the stands. Let’s not even get into how many of those are there on a fully paid admission ticket.

With people like Landon Donovan, Alexi Lalas, David Beckham, and Cobi Jones, this city is oozing with your typical "haters." There are thousands of soccer fans in Los Angeles who would love to have any team that rivaled Galaxy... except for Chivas USA.

And while the on-field product continues to improve, you can't help but wonder what the stands would look like if rather than using the seal of the city of Guadalajara for a Los Angeles based team, they had used the seal of the City of Los Angeles and named the team something like City of Los Angeles F.C.

Maybe then they could attract more people of different backgrounds in Los Angeles, rather than the 10,000 [inflated attendance] that they average when they’re not playing teams that feature the likes of David Beckham, or Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

This season's success may have bought the team some time, but in order for this brand to be successful, it needs to appeal to all of the people of Los Angeles. CD Guadalajara supporters have their team already, and as Legion showed us in August, when there's a conflict of interest, the Chiva faithful would rather take a roadtrip north to San Jose to see the real team play in a meaningless friendly, than to watch their daughter team play in an official match. They won’t switch loyalties, and while some may back the sister team, I find it hard to believe that they'd be willing to buy full season tickets for a product they consider 'inferior.'

Vergara and Cue are sitting on a winnig loterry ticket by having taken hold of a Los Angeles based franchise early on, and are squandering it on a team with an AYSO image.

It's Gullit

I could join the he-said-she-said that seems to be drugging the Galaxy faithful lately, but I'd rather not. Instead, I'll just list my 5 expectations for newly appointed Galaxy manager, Ruud Gullit:

1. Sexy Football -- Sorry Ruud, your phrase, not mine. I expect Galaxy to win [duh!] but hopefully we can win playing offensive football that'll have the home support at the edge of their seats. Nothing wrong with going on a long win streak a-la Frank Yallop before choking in Chicago, but winning by 1-0 off a PK, and with less than 5 shots total [1 or 2 on target] isn't really much fun.

2. No Excuses -- I hate hearing managers groan about things that are bugging them AFTER games. Yallop waited until after they were losing the games on hand to complain about the backloaded schedule which we ALL saw coming. If you have an issue with something, speak out right away or take it like a man.

3. Challenge the Team -- I've played FIFA 08, I know it says Jazic and Pavon are starters. I think it's safe to say most know that Randolph and Gordon [or a new forward] would be better options. Make the players win their spots.... each and every week.

4. A Little Heart -- And by a little, I mean a lot. Nothing kills me more than seeing a coach who stands at the sidelines cross armed through a goal for or a goal against as if they're indifferent to the whole mess. Everytime I looked at Yallop on the bench, I felt sorry for the guy, as if his mother had just passed away... after having passed away last weekend, and the weekend before that. Just take some pride in your work.

5. Trade Pete -- Pete is the nicest guy in the world, seems like a humble down to earth type, but he's been steadily getting worse with each season. I'm still having a hard time figuring out how his nickname in certain circles went from Pistol Pete to Passback Pete.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Yallop Resigns

I find it troubling that Frank Yallop walked away from the job after, as far as I understand, he had been given the green light to continue with the team.

As good a coach as Yallop has proven to be in the past, it seems fairly certain now that the gig as the Galaxy head coach was too big for him. Time after time during his brief stay here in L.A. he put forth excuse after excuse.

Last season he focused on the USOC, probably thinking we had lost too many games under Sampson to make up and get to the playoffs. He loses in THAT final, and then he tries to push for the playoffs. He misses the playoffs, then blames the USOC by saying something along the lines of "We won a couple of games in the USOC, if those would've been league games we would've been in the playoffs."

This year he focuses on the SuperLiga realizing we've lost too many points to get to the playoffs. He loses in THAT final, and then tries to push for the playoffs.

He takes the team to the final game versus Chicago, and says that despite having a couple of guys back from injury, he's going to stick with the one that brought him and play the same 11. After the loss, he says that those guys were tired -- question, Frank: If they're tired, why would you start them again?

I'm glad Frank Yallop is gone, and am eagerly awaiting the announcement regarding who will replace him.

The Ugly Duckling -- Pt. 1

When you look at the immediate impact Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC [2nd and 4th in league attendance], David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco have had, you begin to analyze MLS's other “promises” more closely.

Obviously both Kansas City and Columbus are in need of help. But both teams can blame historically poor performances. Both missed the playoffs in the past 2 seasons and their attendances dropped from 15k to 9k, and from 16k to 12k respectively.

The opposite is true with the team from Carson. As Chivas turns into a more competitive side, their "fan base" has vanished.

Chivas USA's home attendance averages 13,013 per game. But if derby attendance versus Los Angeles Galaxy is excluded, the average drops to 10,000, just above Kansas City.
And while La Legion 1908 scrambles to pull the largest banner in MLS over its members, the seats around them remain abandoned.

For a team that promised to tap into the vast Mexican-American market, and promised to be the biggest draw in MLS, it is baffling that they have only been able to reach a 20k home attendance once for any game that does not involve Galaxy. So far this season, the top deck has only been used for the game versus Galaxy.

Perhaps the problem is that Chivas USA is, by name, contradictory to Club Deportivo Guadalajara’s traditions.

During the 1950s-1960s era of Chivas dominance in the Mexican league, the Sacred Flock gathered supporters thanks to their winning ways and their nationalistic, Mexicans-only policy.
When Television mogul Emilio Azcarraga bought Club America, he immediately aimed to turn his team into the villains of Mexican football, and nemesis to the CD Guadalajara side that was beloved by all.

His method of choice?

Azcarraga put money on the table and sought expensive foreigners; a perfect antithesis to Guadalajara’s model.[Ironically, since Azcarraga’s overhaul, Club America’s titles outnumber Guadalajara’s 9 to 3]

Guadalajara’s supporters only ever support players of one nationality: Mexican. They will support Mexicans playing for Guadalajara, abroad, or for the national team, but never a foreign player.

And if there’s a particular group Guadalajara supporters are specifically opposed to, it’s Americans, even Mexican-Americans. In 1998, Gerardo MascareƱo played 10 games with Guadalajara before controversy regarding his American birth left him off the team.

It is an Oxymoron to put the words Chivas and USA together and expect Guadalajara supporters to embrace this image. Because doing so would require them to support foreign players from various nationalities, including Americans. That is something that Guadalajara fans are unlikely to do. Guadalajara’s traditions will keep Guadalajara’s supporters, and others of different backgrounds in the Los Angeles area from adopting Chivas USA.

If the organization wishes to grow with the team’s recent on-field success, they must abandon the City of Guadalajara badge, drop the Chivas USA moniker and re-brand into the alternative to Los Angeles Galaxy, like Club America did with them in 1959. Otherwise, they must cope with low attendances and the decreased sponsorships that will follow.