Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Rivalry for Some, A Revival for Others

Seven years ago the US pulled an upset which turned Mexican football on its head. In a matter of 90 minutes, talk of revenge against the Germans that knocked Mexico from France ’98 turned into talk of Mexico’s most painful World Cup elimination.

Seven years later, Javier Aguirre, the man in charge that day, gets another opportunity to face the last team he faced as head coach of the Mexican Team during his first term. For Aguirre, the Gold Cup Final is an opportunity to shake off personal demons; for the team, it’s a chance to finally turn the page on a decade-long dark chapter.

For the United States, the match is a matter of bragging rights, but perhaps little else. Between the Confederations Cup, the Riot Squad versus David Beckham, and the team’s arrival at the finals, the summer of 2009 has become the Summer of Soccer in America. With a so called “C” team, the match may not have as much weight as it does for El Tri.

Mexico, on the other hand, stands to gain more than appears on the surface. The amount of symbolism, starting with the head coach anecdote, and possible momentum is perhaps lost in the hype of the rivalry.

When the US beat Mexico in 2002, they accomplished two key things: First, they tarnished an entire generation of players. A generation which “lost their balls” that day and, after presenting the worst Mexican performance in a World Cup since 1978, a generation which Mexico has stubbornly retained.

On the other hand, the US wrote a manual that day. A handbook of sorts, a formula, which broke down and detailed the way Mexican sides approached the game, and what it took to defeat them. A recipe that the US has followed religiously since, perfecting the art of the 2-0, and which has spread throughout the region, exhibited by all teams from Costa Rica, to El Salvador, to Panama.

Aguirre on Sunday has the opportunity to continue what Hugo Sanchez began a year ago. The “B” team which Mexico presents is really more of a first team in training. A group of youngsters, whose process with El Tri began under Sanchez but was interrupted with the foolish appointment of Eriksson, and now have to resume that process with the pressure of World Cup Qualification upon their shoulders.

More importantly, unlike the previous generation among which many players had never beaten the US on American soil, this is a group of Mexican players who have never lost to the States. And should Mexico win, it will be a generation of players whose National Team careers will have begun by breaking the “curse” that has haunted Mexican football for a decade.

On the surface, the match appears to be a match between younger, less experienced sides, and for the United States it very well may be. For Mexico, however, the game represents a golden opportunity which El Tri may not see again until after South Africa 2010.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week 17 Preview : Galaxy @ Chivas USA

To the last, I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.
– Herman Melville

Los Angeles Galaxy @ CD Chivas USA
Saturday, July 11th, 2009 – 8:00pm
The Home Depot Center

There are games played for points, there are games played for qualification, there are games played to avoid relegation and those games to win championships. Then there are games that you play for pride. There are those games played with love and hate unified as a single motivating force. Chivas hosts Galaxy (in Galaxy’s home) this Saturday in the second chapter of the 2009 Los Angeles Derby. For Chivas, an opportunity to get over the early departure from the SuperLiga and the Open Cup; for Galaxy, a chance to make it three straight and put a foot into playoff position.

Quick Hits

Los Angeles Galaxy
Points: 21
League Position: 9th (+2)
Conference Position: 5th (+1)
Form: W-L-L-W-W
Last Match: 1-0 vs. New England Revolution
Next Match: @ New York Red Bulls

Chivas USA
Points: 27
League Position: 2nd
Conference Position: 2nd
Form: D-L-W-L-L
Last Match: 1-2 vs. Columbus Crew
Next Match: @ New England Revolution

Last Meetings:
08/14/08 – Chivas USA 2-2 Los Angeles
04/11/09 – Los Angeles 0-0 Chivas USA


To talk about any game and start with “Landon Donovan is coming back from National Team duty” would be news worthy enough to prompt optimism from all involved.
To make things sweeter though, when you combine Landon’s return to Los Angeles with a match against the one team in the league that seems to get him going more than any other, it’s hard to keep from smiling at the thought.

Landon Donovan, with 9 goals against Chivas USA in all competitions, was scheduled to return to action and rejoin Galaxy in this weekend’s match against New England. Unfortunately, Landon “called in sick” for training on Friday, which forced him to miss Saturday’s game, and all things considered, created an opportune delay to have Landon’s return coincide with the Derby.

Galaxy’s Maestro comes back from the US’s improbable run in the FIFA South Africa Confederations Cup to find a side that is far more balanced than the one he left behind a month ago.

When Landon left the side, the concern was that the Mexicutioner was the sole goal man for the team. He not only scored goals, he also set them up. The problem was that it was Landon and Landon alone.

Somewhat surprisingly, life has gone on without Landon in Los Angeles. Then the mediocre king of the draw, Galaxy won three of the five games they played without number 10, improving the point per game average to 1.31 and inching dangerously close to playoff position.

With Landon in tow, Galaxy now have the opportunity to cut Chivas’ lead of 15 points at the time of his departure down to just 3 points. Simultaneously, a win would put the team on the right path toward its fourth Honda SuperClasico out of the five that have been disputed to date.


It was said at one point that Bruce Arena was putting the band back together for 2006. Cobi Jones was assistant coach, and Landon Donovan, Gregg Berhalter, Eddie Lewis, Chris Klein, and Jovan Kirovski were all on the roster. Combine that with early rumors of Beasley’s possible return to MLS and we could cue Bruce Arena’s United States National Team.

And perhaps it may be true, and perhaps there is method to Bruce Arena’s madness. The similarities, especially in playing style, to that which Bruce Arena implanted into the US Men’s National Team are too obvious not to notice.

Galaxy is now an orderly side that keeps a somewhat stoic expression through matches without particular regard to the score line. This in stark contrast to last year’s emotional, explosive, high octane Galaxy that scored tons of goals but conceded them by the bucket.

And while this particular brand of football isn’t necessarily attractive, and it is often labeled as the “anti-football” for a team that was overdue a rebuilding year since 2003, these tactics are ideal.

And yes, there will be slip-ups like there were against RSL and the Earthquakes, but overall the team seems to be marching steadily in the right direction. The level of order and discipline has become such that rivals are becoming increasingly frustrated when facing Los Angeles. So much so, even, that in each of the past two games we’ve seen bickering initiated by the rivals, and even Sanchez-esque displays from Pat Onstad and Matt Reis.

In both matches Galaxy has grabbed a goal first and forced the opposition to make their move. The only thing lacking for the team has been a speedy and lethal forward to lead the charge in counterattack (somebody like say, Landon Donovan) in search of the incredibly frustrating dos-a-cero.


Like a storyline taken directly from the desk of one Vince McMahon. A member of the villain’s group surprisingly switches allegiances and finds himself face to face with his old crew.

Alecko Eskandarian gets a chance to play for the role of the hero this weekend and wash away whatever stench of goat is left on his person. In what will be only his second match as a blonde*, Alecko will play his second Los Angeles Derby this year for as many teams.

Eskandarian was a key part of that game, as both teams, playing with 10 men, were eager to grab the three points. Alecko then caught Gregg Berhalter’s sleepy pass and made a break for goal, forcing the Galaxy defender to commit the foul and take the red card.

From that point on, Galaxy set the gears in reverse, and held Chivas USA off for the remainder of the match to hold on to the 0-0 draw during the last 10 minutes of the match.

This time, Eskandarian will play for Los Angeles and will likely be called upon, maybe even from the start if his goal-scoring debut was enough, to put his former team on their heels.

*Yes, it’s a bad reference to the wigs, get over it.


= TBD =



Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Value of Patience

It's a bit funny, though completely understandable, to see Galaxy fans pull their hair out through this season. After all, we are carrying the painful memory of three years without playoffs.

Even more comical though, are the early calls for "more of the same" from those who are already foolishly asking for Bruce Arena's head and asking that Jurgen Klinsman come in and take over the team.

And I say foolishly because the attitudes represented herein are powerfully reminiscent of those same attitudes exhibited by Federacion Mexicana de Futbol directives who, faced with a generous playoff system, have abandoned all long term planning in favor of continuous, repetitive, and obnoxiously frequent transfer-window shuffles and bi-yearly coaching changes.

However, this year's playoffs in Mexico reflected perhaps a change in that paradigm is finally on the horizon. The top teams in Mexico with the sole exception of Monterrey (who were promptly booted out in the first round of the playoffs) were all sides that had given their coaches continuity.

Pachuca had enjoyed it's most successful spell ever under Meza for three years. UNAM on the other hand had put up with struggles, hardships, and rebuilding with Ricardo "El Tuca" Ferrito who finally led them to the league title.

Toluca has had Jose Manuel De La Torre as manager since the start of the 2008-2009 cycle and have agreed to keep him on for the Fall 2009 season.

Puebla, the "I know I can, I know I can" team that fought out of relegation only to fall in the semifinals has had their manager Jose Luis "Chelis" Sanchez Sola for three years, and the other Cinderella team Ciudad Juarez have had the same manager since the start of the 2008-2009 season.

And it's spreading... Club America, the biggest offender in this regard in the past year or so with 5 managers in the past two years (Romano, Brailowsky, Luna, Diaz and Ramirez) have finally allowed Jesus Ramirez continuity despite his inability to get the team into the playoffs yet again.

The team formerly known as Tecos UAG (now Estudiantes Tecos), one of the teams who historically have been managerial revolving doors, have also allowed their head coach Miguel Herrera to continue into next season.

Mexican sides seem to have finally started learning the lesson.

And it's not that you have to obstinately hang on to a manager that isn't working out. Pachuca officials warned Meza before the season, after having failed to reach the Club World Cup Final, and having crashed out of the Copa Libertadores in qualifying, that if he did not obtain the championship, his cycle as a Tuzo would come to an end.

Meza managed to keep the Tuzos in first place through most of the season, and finished the year off in the top spot, but his inability to win the Tuzos' 6th title (losing the final to Pumas) cost him his job. (Perhaps this may seem fully illogical to some, but Pachuca's aspirations are others and Pachuca, even without Meza, will continue to be a headliner in Mexico, much to the dismay of some).

The point here is working in cycles, and in MLS that's much easier to do considering there is no relegation. A Championship team cannot be built in one year, and a clear example of that is Sigi Schmid.

When Sigi first signed with Columbus everybody expected him to turn the team around, and that he did, but in due time, and not without having finished in the basement of the Eastern Conference twice.

Bruce Arena is building the team rather quickly, quicker even than I would have imagined, but in all likelihood, Los Angeles will not be MLS Cup Champions this year. Even so, standing at the face of progress, it's absolutely barbaric and idiotic to be calling for yet another manager's head.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MLS... Let Them Speak

John Carver resigned from TFC last week. Now we get this article talking about how Carver was upset over the league's "meddling" and how he's had "restraints" on him all along.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the straw that broke the camel's back was the fine he received for criticizing the refs after the horrible officiating from Tim Weyland (who also butchered the reffing at the Chivas USA vs. Los Angeles match a week prior to TFC's meeting with FC Dallas).

In my book, MLS needs to back up. It's no secret that refereeing in MLS is questionable from time to time, and it seems rather foolish that the league tries to impose an NFL style clamp on public criticism of officials. I don't see what possible evil can come from letting the participants say what all of us can see.

Now this policy is driving away a coach that spent a year and a half working hard at a club that really needs to start rewarding its fans with wins sooner rather than later. How many others are going to have to decided to pass on MLS before the league decides to ease up on this silly policy?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's Going On.... With Landon Donovan?

Let me open by saying: Yes, I'm aware that Landon Donovan has been involved in all of LA's goals.

But what's going on with Landon Donovan?

He's been largely absent through long stretches of most matches so far, and unlike a "droughting" player that does everything right but can't find the net, Landon seems to be doing little right despite his scoring.

This year's Landon, 5 games in, has not been the same 20 goal / 19 assist Landon we saw last season, not even a half of that. And while, yes, Landon has been involved in all of LA's goals, the team also has only 5 goals in as many games, and 3 of those games have had 1 goal or less.

Perhaps Landon is under more pressure without Buddle and Beckham to help lift markers off of LA's #10, but something is certainly going on with Landon that has essentially turned him from constant threat and difference maker to goal poacher.

Personally, I'm a big fan of Landon Donovan and I can't wait for him to break out of this slump (which I do think he'll do sooner rather than later) but I'm also somewhat concerned about his play.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Half Court Offense

Am I the only one that thinks that a good team in modern football needs a good "half-court" offense?

Defending has become king in the sport (some of the "better" quality matches in European play are often 1-0 matches) and that's because of the way teams are able to fall back into defending.

It's no longer the back 4 with support from the midfield, we now see systems where the back four open up gaps for midfielders to step into. This essentially generates 7 man defensive units ready to counterattack.

What's kind of upsetting about this system is: It works! Especially when you've got a goal in your account, this system works. Even so, it seems that nobody has the answer and nobody has figured out the formula to break down the 7 man defensive line.

Most teams try to touch the ball from side to side, but often too slowly, and even so, with 7 men, it's kind of hard to be spread out enough to be hurt. When that doesn't work a few players will try to crack it from the outside with mixed results.

A good long distance shot seems to be the answer, especially if it's released by the keeper, deflected into play, or if it cracks one of the posts. That slowly pulls the midfielders out when they realize they need to step up to the shooter, and starts creating chaos as players scramble to reestablish their positions.

The problem(s)? Good shooters are hard enough to find, great shooters are even more rare. Coaches are also unlikely to give long-rage shooting a priority, especially when the "fundamentals" of the game continue to be so "fundamental". Moving the ball around and "creating space" is hugely important in the way the modern game is approached, but maybe that approach needs to change...

Is the game evolving so that passing + finishing are now going to take a backseat to long distance shooting?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Week 6 : Galaxy @ Colorado Rapids

Los Angeles Galaxy @ Colorado Rapids
Saturday, April 25th , 2008 – 6:30pm
Dicks Sporting Goods Park
TV: DK, FS-W, Match Center

Quick Hits

Los Angeles Galaxy
Conference Position: 8th (-1)
League Position: 14th (-2)
Form: D-L-D-D
Last Match: 1-1 @ San Jose
Next Match: vs. New York (Victoria Street)

Colorado Rapids
Conference Position: 3rd
League Position:
Form: L W W D L
Last Match: 0-1 vs. Houston Dynamo
Next Match: vs. Real Salt Lake (DSG Park)

Last Meeting: 04/04/09 – Los Angeles 2-3 Colorado Rapids (Victoria Street)

The Rapids have historically been somewhat of a bogey team for Los Angeles and they’ve been sure to get their shots in lately. Heading into week 6 and Galaxy’s 5th game of the season, it certainly does not help things that Galaxy’s last regular season victory in Colorado came in 2002. Since then, it has been 11 games without a win in as many visits, including seven straight losses for Los Angeles. On the other hand, with a full squad seemingly in the cards, it may be high time to kick the habit and it may be D-day for LA.

Doing Things Right

“We're doing almost everything right. We've got to stop spotting teams a goal early. (San Jose) didn't have a lot of chances and it's unfortunate that we gave them such an easy one. Our play, in the run of play was good. We were very good defensively, we were good on set pieces. We keep going, and the wins are going to come.”

Landon Donovan is one of only two Galaxy players who can say that they have “seen it all” with this club. As a result, his comments on matches, situations and the overall state of the team always seem to reflect a bigger picture approach than the youngsters who are ‘happy to be here’ and the reinforcements who are ‘just glad to help’.

After having conceded 5 goals in the first two matches, Galaxy has tightened up the screws at home and managed its first clean sheet since June of 2003 and has only allowed 1 goal in the last two games.

More importantly, for the first time in three years, the team does not seem to have huge glaring gaps on any full line. There are still certain positions where the team could use help, but there is at least some level of cover in those spots.

When Rudd Gullit left the team last season, the biggest need was for a competent backline unit that could limit the number of shots on goal that Steve Cronin, Josh Wicks or Josh Saunders had to face, as well as a backline unit that did not actually create chances for the opposition. The issue has been largely addressed with Tony Sanneh, Omar Gonzalez, and Gregg Berhalter.

In midfield, Galaxy played a dangerous game of musical chairs all last season. Franchino, McDonald, Pires, Tudela, and even Greg Vanney all had to pitch in from time to time, with the end product being a porous midfield that failed to deny the opposition’s approaches before they reached the team’s own third.

So far this season, Dema Kovalenko has been the constant in that position, and if he can keep out of red card trouble, the Ukrainian will be the anchor whether Bruce opts for a 4-4-2 formation, a wider 5-3-2/3-5-2 or a “diamond” 4-1-2-1-2 set-up.

The attack has been relatively anemic, but this weekend could finally mark the end of that want going forward. Edson Buddle has been inching closer and closer to returning, and his eventual reappearance could help in two ways: One, adding the finishing that this team has needed, and two, helping lift some defenders off of a bogged-down Landon Donovan.

Donovan’s is quite right in his assessment of the team’s performance over the first four games. The team is, indeed, doing “almost everything right”. The key word in that statement being “almost”

Full Strength?

Less than a minute before Bryan Jordan knocked in the game-tying goal on Saturday night, the television cameras captured Todd Dunivant on the sidelines, ready to come in, receiving instructions from Bruce Arena. Dunivant’s long expected return, combined with the team’s ability to stay on the right side of the tracks in terms of red cards and injuries, Galaxy may be ready, for the first time in quite some time, to be at full strength this Saturday.

Also available for selection will be Gregg Berhalter, and Alan Gordon, who were both sent off in the LA derby vs. Chivas USA last weekend. Berhalter stabilized the Los Angeles backline during the match, and had a solid showing until he was forced to take a red card for stopping a clear goal scoring opportunity for Alecko Eskanderian.

Prior to that, his play seemed to also help calm down and direct rookie Omar Gonzalez, whose talent will require a mentor if he would like to aspire to being the second consecutive Los Angeles ‘Rookie of the Year.’

Alan Gordon, after having been molested most of the game by Chivas USA defenders, finally lost his cool and foolishly earned two yellows in three minutes for dissent and aggression. Gordon’s absence was certainly felt in the first half of the match in San Jose, with Donovan having two men on him at all times, Galaxy struggled to have any sort of presence going forward. Gordon’s return however, should be substantially complemented by the return of Edson Buddle.

Buddle is a better starting complement to Landon Donovan. A threat of his own, Edson helps to knock the ball in when needed, and the rest of the time, makes himself enough of a nuisance to defenders who can’t help but give Landon more space to work. Last season, Gordon’s best performances came in matches where defenses had already been struggling to account for Donovan and Buddle, so #21 was able to come in and take advantage of the extra space.

The end product of a full formula puts Galaxy in a good position heading into Saturday’s match; a position in which the team had not been in for quite some time. However, it also heaps some pressure onto the team, as the winless streak looms over their heads, and a full strength squad makes the ‘excuses’ and ‘justifications’ less palatable both for themselves and for the fans.

A Little Something on the Side

Depth is a key element for any team hoping to make an impact on any league. Your starting cast will often be good, but will, more often than not, need help coming from the bench in order to find constant success.

Unfortunately, for a team that’s struggled as much as Galaxy lately, back-up players who put together one solid game or two are often, by necessity, thrown into the starting XI and often struggle to live up to expectations.

This weekend, Galaxy struggled early going forward. The team moved the ball forward enough, but without any real threat to Cannon. Fortunately, the team showed something again that they have shown already in three of their four matches: A little something on the side.
Bruce Arena went to the bench, and both Chris Klein and Bryan Jordan helped kick start Galaxy’s offense, turning their repeatedly blunted attacks much sharper. In the end, it was Bryan Jordan who finally knocked in the much deserved match tying goal.

Previously, in the match against United, it was Kyle Patterson, Alan Gordon and Bryan Jordan who provided that spark for Los Angeles coming off the bench. Gordon almost managed to get the game tying goal himself, minutes before Donovan got the job done off a Patterson cross, by beating a leaping Josh Wicks with his head and sending it just wide.

Formerly, when Galaxy managers went to the bench, the action was accompanied with a collective sigh from the fans. So far, it seems like Jordan, Gordon, Klein, Patterson and company may be ready to show the league that Los Angeles always carries an ace, or three, in the hole.

Galaxy Injury Report


Caasi's Expected Starting XI


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Doing Things Right

Today's post San Jose vs. Los Angeles game article from has a lot of interesting quotes from the Galaxy standpoint.

I've been reading the post-game pressers and interviews lately and I think the one guy who seems to "get it" is Landon Donovan.

Often, with so many rookies, you get the feeling that a good number of them have a hard time assessing the team's situation, and are just happy to be here.

From new "reinforcement" type players, you'll often get the "we want to do our part and contribute" quotes.

I think this is generally true of most teams. With Alan Gordon and Landon Donovan though, you tend to get more 'bigger picture' comments. I believe that has to do 100% with the fact that they have been around since 2005 and have seen the team go from Champions to the mess we've been seeing recently. In short, they've really "seen it all" with this club.

Gordon doesn't get interviewed as often, so Donovan's usually the one that's delivering these gems, which in turn, make Donovan's "soccer IQ" seem quite high.

Today's quote from Landon:

"We're doing almost everything right. We've got to stop spotting teams a goal early. (San Jose) didn't have a lot of chances and it's unfortunate that we gave them such an easy one. Our play, in the run of play was good. We were very good defensively, we were good on set pieces. We keep going, and the wins are going to come."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

At Last!! Our Left Back is Complete Again!

If you've read my rant on Frank Yallop and how he dismantled the 2005 Championship team (all his trades coming BEFORE we signed David Beckham, for all my friends from San Jose) then you'll understand why I'm being irrational and superstitious about our goal coming approximately a minute after the FS-West cameramen showed Todd Dunivant ready to take the field for Los Angeles.

With Dunivant back, the team only needs to recover Greg Berhalter, Alan Gordon and Edson Buddle for next week's match and we should get ready to get the team rolling toward a successful mid-table season, a return to the playoffs, hopefully a good run, but most importantly, a foundation for long-term stability and a return to Galaxy's rightful place in MLS.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thoughts on the Hex

Javier Aguirre arrived today in Mexico to be presented for his second go-around as head coach of the Mexican National Team.

Aguirre's job, this time, is much easier. In 2002, he had 5 games left, only half a round to deal with and a miserable 4 points. Today, he has 7 games left, and the hardest first legs of the round have already been played.

I've always thought that the Hex was a bit of an oddity and should be replaced by a more challenging group. After all, when 4 out of 6 teams get a ticket (or at least half a ticket) it's not so much a race to be the best as much as it is a slow walk to avoid the tail end of the group.

It seems CONCACAF gets really competitive in the early group stages only letting 1 team survive from 1v1 knockouts in the first two rounds, then 2 out of 4 in the third round, and when it really matters CONCACAF allows 4 out of 6 to go through.

With all that in mind, would the last round of qualifying not be much more competitive and a lot more fun if it were 10 teams rather than 6?

It seems, after all, unfair that the reason why a nation that had been showing promise in recent years like Panama is already eliminated from World Cup contention is only because CONCACAF didn't have the foresight to pair them up against... oh... the Cayman Islands rather than El Salvador.

And what's to be said of Guatemala, who had to toil in a group with the US and Trinidad & Tobago while El Salvador, with all due respect, enjoyed matches vs. Haiti and Surinam.

There's also former world cup side Jamaica to consider and a growing Canada that's enjoyed having players in Europe for years and is now expanding their domestic pool thanks to MLS.

There's 40 members of CONCACAF. 10 groups of 4 in the first round. 2 go through. That leaves 20.

5 groups of 4 in the second round. 2 go through. That leaves 10.

Final round... 10 teams, CONMEBOL style.

USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Canada and Panama.

Makes that final spot that much harder to get a hold of doesn't it?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Frank Yallop Dismantled Los Angeles

In 2005 Los Angeles Galaxy were MLS Cup Champions, and US Open Cup Champions. Even so, the team had only managed to sneak into the playoffs and Steve Sampson knew it better than anybody else.

Heading into 2006 LA suffered one of the most painful losses in club history, the unfortunate passing of team President Doug Hamilton. Without Hamilton behind him, Steve Sampson was unable to make the necessary changes to stabilize the team and Sampson was soon without a job.

Lalas did not make many direct mistakes as the General Manager for LA Galaxy, however, he did make one crucial mistake, and he made it early on: Replacing Steve Sampson with Frank Yallop.

Yallop’s job was simple, tighten a nut here, screw a bolt there and get the team scoring. Galaxy’s biggest problems were in the attack. John Wolyniec, Thiago de Souza, and Cornell Glen were all ineffective answers to the team’s scoring problem.

So what was Yallop’s asnwer to get the team moving? Trading away the team’s cornerstone left-back and releasing holding midfielder Marcelo Saragosa.

The team’s defense went on to be one of the best in the league, allowing only 37 goals, but Yallop had yet to address the scoring situation, something which he was expected to address in the offseason leading up to 2007.

Yallop’s answer? To trade away fan favorites Kevin Hartman, Ugo Ihemelu and Herculez Gomez in different trades in order to make room for former San Jose goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

In the next couple of months Frank Yallop brought in Edson Buddle from Toronto FC in exchange for center back Tyrone Marshall.

A simple nut-tightening, bolt-screwing job turned into a complete dismantling of the core group from 2005. A year and a half later, only 3 players from the team’s championship run remained with the team.

Yallop soon found that rebuilding a team by subtracting 3 and adding 1 player at a time often fouls up team chemistry and leaves you with gaps in key spaces, and at the end of 2007 Yallop was the second manager in as many years to be released of coaching responsibilities in Los Angeles.

Frank Yallop took a simple rebuilding job which required upgrades at left midfield and at the forward position and left the team needing upgrades in every position. Galaxy did not just lose key players during the Frank Yallop era, the team also lost its identity, leaving Galaxy with 9 out of 11 starters that had been with the club less than a season when Yallop was finally sacked.

In 2009, Galaxy is still seeking to recover both a core competitive group and its identity. Alan Gordon and Landon Donovan, who were the new kids on the block in the team's 2005 title run are now the longest serving players with the club.

Galaxy’s core in winning the double in 2006:

Hartman, Albright, Marshall, Ihemelu, Dunivant, Nagamura, Saragosa, Ramirez, Jones, Gomez, Donovan

Galaxy’s core a year and a half later:

Cannon, Albright, Harden, Xavier, Jazic, Harmse, Martino, Jones, Donovan, Buddle, Jaqua

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Week 5: Galaxy @ San Jose [The California Clasico]

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Saturday, April 18th , 2008 – 7:30pm
Oakland Coliseum
TV: DK, FS-W, Match Center

Quick Hits

Los Angeles Galaxy
Conference Position: 7th (-1)
League Position: 12th (--)
Form: D-L-D
Last Match: 0-0 vs. Chivas USA
Next Match: at Colorado Rapids (DSG Park)

San Jose Earthquakes
2008 Conference Position: 6th
2008 League Position: 10th
Form: L-W-L-D
Last Match: 3-3 vs. Chicago Fire
Next Match: vs. Seattle Sounders FC (Qwest Field)

Last Meeting: 08/14/08 – 08/03/08 – San Jose 3-2 LA Galaxy (Oakland Coliseum)

The good news about facing off against the San Jose Earthquakes is that the first two times Galaxy played them in 2008 were the only two shutouts the team had all season. The bad news is that the last time the two sides met, the Earthquakes left Galaxy without a manager. Bruce Arena will once again have to make some changes due to suspension in facing a much better San Jose group than the one Ruud Gullit faced early last season. Galaxy need three points and they need them sooner rather than later to keep the leaders from getting away.

Keeping the Sheets Clean

This week, despite remaining winless in all competitions and having been eliminated from the US Open Cup in penalty kicks, Galaxy managed something they had not done in quite some time. The team put together back-to-back shutouts.

Galaxy’s last league shutout took place almost a year ago when the Angelinos visited the San Jose Earthquakes. The last time Galaxy put together back to back clean sheets in official matches was during August/September of 2006. Galaxy followed a 2-0 victory over Cinderella side Dallas Roma in the Us Open Cup with a 1-0 victory visiting the Houston Dynamo.

That season, Galaxy surprisingly enjoyed the second best defensive unit in the league, finishing with 37 goals allowed, thanks in part to a 5 game streak without a goal allowed. Galaxy ended up missing the playoffs by 2 points, thanks in part to the third worst offense in the league which went, at one point, an entire month without scoring.

Frank Yallop’s answer was, incomprehensively, to ship off Kevin Hartman, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant and Ugo Ihemelu in order to bring in Joe Cannon.

Not surprisingly, the team has been an absolute mess in the back end since then. Galaxy has had one of the worst defensive units in the league for two years straight, and the inability to keep clean sheets for more than one game at a time, or more than twice a season, has been a huge obstacle that’s kept the team from the playoffs.

Heading into San Jose, Galaxy has a chance to make it three straight and start to get a taste of what it’s like to defend well. Unfortunately, Gregg Berhalter, the man who anchored the backline in both clean-sheet efforts will be suspended for this match after having been sent off in the second half of the LA Derby.

San Jose has not been particularly strong in front of goal so far. They’ve been kept scoreless twice already, but they have dangerous weapons up front and Galaxy’s backline will have to pay special attention if they hope to make it three clean sheets in a row.

Movable Type

It may seem early in the season, too early, to be dealing with personnel issues, but Galaxy is already having to make do with changes here, there and everywhere.

First off, Bruce Arena has had to send out 3 different line-ups for its three league games. Three games into the season, and Galaxy’s already making use of almost all the players it has available. Both goalkeepers have already taken the field; six of the nine defenders have done the same. In midfield, the only player that hasn’t played a game is in Italy, and five of the team’s seven listed forwards have gotten their chances on the field.

On the one hand, the roster movement is encouraging. Naturally, some players have better performances than others and it is easy to see why they are considered “starters” over those that aren’t. For the most part, however, the team has not yet been completely broken down by an opponent.

Bruce Arena has worked very diligently in making sure that this team has ‘movable parts’ and that everybody know the system and that one absence does not disassemble the whole.

This week will be yet another test to Bruce Arena’s ‘movable type’ format. The manager will have his hand forced in making moves, partly due to suspension, and partly due to players who may finally be ready to return from injury.

Alan Gordon and Gregg Berhalter will be watching the game on TV like the rest of us this time, serving suspension for their respective ejections in the match against Chivas USA.

Dema Kovalenko, meanwhile, will be returning to action having served a suspension of his own for a red card received in the Week 3 matchup against Colorado.

On the other hand, Edson Buddle and Todd Dunivant seem to be nearing return, and the match against San Jose may be the best time to get the remaining pieces fitted into the puzzle.

Galaxy Injury Report

OUT - Leonard Griffin (Sports Hernia Surgery - Disabled List)
QUESTIONABLE - Edson Buddle (Right Quad - Strain), Todd Dunivant (Right Ankle - Post Surgery)
PROBABLE - Mike Magee (Right Foot - Bruise), Donovan Ricketts (Right Groin - Strain)

Caasi's Expected Starting XI


The Ever Classy Legion 1908

This morning's quote from former Galaxy player Pete Vagenas, now suiting up for Seattle Sounders FC, comes as no surprise to those of us who have been unfortunate enough to see Legion 1908 in action.

This group of idiots is only around looking for a fight (be it with Galaxy fans, San Jose fans or even their own fans. See: Union Ultras) and one day they're going to get it.

I just hope MLS anticipates this and does away with the Legion as a whole before we have a wonderful casualty to add to the great PR that soccer already gets in America.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dema Was Innocent

At the Week 3 game vs. the Colorado Rapids I had a great line of sight on the tackle that cost Dema Kovalenko ejection from the match. I clearly saw Medhi Ballouchy step on the ball and Kovalenko getting to the ball first on the tackle, which automatically makes the tackle legitimate.

Unfortunately, the camera angles were not in favor of my argument and everybody concluded that Dema was an irresponsible idiot who got himself sent off on a bad tackle.

Browsing YouTube, I found this little gem. A clear HQ shot of Dema Kovalenko at the precise moment of impact on that tackle. The shot shows three things:

a) Dema going into the tackle with ONE leg, not two.
b) Ballouchy stepping on the ball at the moment of impact.
c) Dema making contact with the ball first, not the man.

I call this shot: DEMA WAS INNOCENT

Chivas USA: The Ugly Duckling: 2 Years Later

Chivas USA is on top of the table, deep in playoff position. Galaxy is near the bottom, out of playoff position again. Chivas USA is undefeated after four games. Galaxy is winless after three.

And despite all this, the “other” LA team is woefully squandering away its position as a 2nd Los Angeles franchise and stubbornly holding on to the ‘Chivas’ moniker that has kept the stands empty and driven away so many potential fans.

5 years in, the experiment is still not working.

In any early marketing course, Chivas USA would be taken as the model to follow in terms of marketing efforts. Since Shawn Hunter arrived, the club has thrown everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to increase attendance and build support.

Even so, the club still finds little need to remove the trashcans that block access to the stadium’s upper level for any game not involving LA Galaxy or Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

In a more advanced marketing course, Chivas USA would certainly be taken as a model when considering why good marketing efforts fail: It’s the product.

And, no, it’s not the product on the field; it’s the product on the jersey.

For all intents and purposes, Chivas USA may very well be a high-end power tool, but when you look at their crest, you still see Black & Decker and not DeWalt.

Chivas USA’s case is also being made for them by Galaxy’s current form, AEG’s follies and the shining examples on how to get expansion right from teams like Toronto and Seattle.

The “Euro” look to the new expansion franchises has garnered strong attention from fans across the league, many hoping that their team could “get things right like them.”

A lot of LA fans, disappointed by Galaxy’s performance in the league and more so by AEG’s woeful customer service, are often left looking for an alternative: a team that gets things right. Unfortunately, for them, and for Chivas USA they are almost automatically stopped at the door by the seal of the city of Guadalajara on the other team’s crest.

And it’s not just the disillusioned Galaxy faithful that would be open to, and perhaps even tempted by a new team that embraced Los Angeles as a whole. It’s also Chivas USA’s faithful, the ones who have done their best to be like mothers to this team, and love them despite their inherent ugliness.

Take this quote from a Chivas USA fan for example:

i started following CUSA their first year (like most others) and the whole "mexican-inspired roster project" was pretty interesting until it failed miserably. 4 years later, im wishing it never happened. i hate the fact that we'll never really be able to develop a true history since we'll always be labeled as the "little brothers" or reserve team for chivas guadalajara.the truth is, we have no unique identity and thus cant really build a history or a tradition.

The truth is, the longer Chivas USA wait to make the switch, the harder it will be to do so later on.

Galaxy is slowly showing signs of life, and once that happens, the temptation to switch allegiances will be gone. AEG will bring in another big name player to bring back the crowds (possibly a Mexican, who would harm Chivas USA’s appeal among their original target market) and Chivas USA will be left still relying on everything-but-the-kitchen-sink marketing to keep announced attendance above 12,000 on a Saturday night.

Archive: The Ugly Duckling Part 1

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stop the League, Goal of the Year

Take a good look at this!

Landin started off with a promising career at Pachuca, but early success went to his head and his production went downward.

He's very young though, and his move from Morelia to Cruz Azul (somebody get me his agent's number) has brought him back to life. He's still the victim of heavy criticism and many have written off his entire career based on his inability to finish simple chances at the 2008 Olympic game qualifiers a year ago, but he's starting to turn things around, and is right in the thick of things, competing for the golden boot in Mexico.

A few more of these should do the trick.

... and referees ruin them!

Last night's derby ended up in an enjoyable, though troubling (at least for Galaxy faithful) game which could have been much better were it not for referee Tim Weyland and his questionable refereeing.

In the end, Weyland ended up making errors both ways, but hurt Galaxy much more by his inconsistent refereeing.

In the first half, already sitting on one yellow, Shavar Thomas took a piggy back ride from Landon Donovan and Weyland called the foul but swallowed the card.

Minutes later, Sacha Kljestan, also sitting on his first caution takes a dive, which was acknowledged and castigated by the ref, but no second yellow to speak of. Followed by a strong late tackle by Sacha which prompted a nice civil "take it easy" speech from the ref, but still no card.

In the second half, the ref becomes trigger happy with the ejections and both Gordon and Berhalter are sent off (both cards completely warranted) and the ref essentially turns into a Galaxy 8-man backline.

Sometimes I consider putting the referee's names on the previews as soon as they have been assigned. Unfortunately, that seems rather pointless as there's hardly a competent ref to be had in MLS.

Before all that though, the game was very enjoyable and fitting of a derby.

Galaxy is showing slow progress, but progress nonetheless. Greg Berhalter is good addition and showed what you would expect from an aging defender. Good positioning, good communication, and goo leadership.

Omar Gonzalez is a stone wall. Sacha simply could not handle Omar.

Todd Dunivant's return (if he's on form) should change the face of this team. Bruce is having to make a lot of shifts in unexpected places to make the back line work, but I think Todd, Greg, Omar + Franklin will give this team much needed stability. I'm also very high on De La Garza at the moment, but he needs to be more scrappy.

Midfield was muddy yesterday. Miglioranzi isn't showing much at the moment. We already knew he was going to be a downgrade from Kovalenko on ball recovery, but his passing needs to be more accurate. Tudela's doing a lot of dirty work, and I can appreciate that. He's nowhere near ready to handling that on his own, but he should learn well under Dema.

Alan Gordon is getting a lot of criticism up top, but under the current system, until Buddle gets back, he's our go-to-guy. Gordon works very hard, and helps in holding up the ball and pulling the team forward, but please, Gordo, put the ball away when you get a chance.

I still maintain that Gordon is a strong THIRD option, which means he's best off the bench when he can use his physical style of play and his hustle to outpower and outlast tired defenders. Buddle is needed to establish a rhythm and set play right before a guy like Gordon is allowed to come in.

Progress is a slow process, but progress is being made, and that makes me happy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Open Cup, Heads Remain Low

In the end, I guess when Bruce Arena and Gary Smith sent out their reserves to the field for an Open Cup Play-In Match the odds were married to a coin toss.

Whenever a manager sends in reserves to a match, it's obviously a match that he considers expendable. The US Open Cup, to soccer nerds like myself, is a fun little tournament because of history, the "intimate" feel that those games provide, and ultimately the opportunity to play a final at home.

However, for practical intents, there's little to be won from the Open Cup. At best, it provides one ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League; at worst, unnecessary stretching of the now extraordinarily thin rosters, and added travel and fatigue, often during the worst part of the season.

Even so, all excuses now having been dispensed of, it remains somewhat troubling that Galaxy was unable to come away from the Open Cup without a win, especially considering that the Rapids played a man down for most of the game thanks to Greg Dalby’s red card.

Somebody in the Riot Squad boards recently said that for a team in Galaxy's current state, it didn't matter what type of game it was, games were to be won. I agree.

If you've ever played, losing hurts. If you've never played, if you think it hurts as a fan, it hurts even worse as a player. Even if it's a completely meaningless pick-up game, losing takes an emotional toll on you.

When Arena took over the helm at Galaxy he stated that one of Galaxy's problems was that a losing mentality. Galaxy had been (at that point) the worst team in MLS. In a recent broadcast of the LA Clippers, a commentator stated that in sports, losing is an illness, and no matter how you build your team, you must cure that illness before you aspire to anything.

Galaxy outshot Colorado (24 to 6), had more off sides (6 to 0) and more corner kicks (8 to 2) which speaks to a more offensive effort than the rivals. In the end though, Galaxy did not convert and in the end lost the match in penalties. I could be wrong, but this speaks volumes to me about another casualty of the "losing" mentality.

Until that is addressed and the team starts to believe that they can WIN games, it's going to be hard to right the ship. You can't always win 2-0 or 3-0 in football. Sometimes; very often, matches are close. Matches are decided by a single goal, often late on, which requires not only that you be able to find that winning goal but also that you manage to keep the opposition at bay.

Recently, Ben7 of the Riot Squad pointed out that one of the team’s usual behaviors is "giving up very early/late goals or just after we scored one."

That speaks to a team that doesn't know how to win. For LA, it’s time to remember how to win.


To emphasize this "win-less" mentality, a simple look back at the team's last 41 games (last season + this season) and the team has only managed 9 wins. Less than 25%. Compare that to the team's 20 losses in that same time period. Yikes!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Week 4: Galaxy vs. Chivas USA [The Los Angeles Derby]

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Chivas USA
Saturday, April 11th, 2008 – 7:30pm
Victoria Street
TV: Deportes, ESPN2

Quick Hits

Los Angeles Galaxy
Conference Position: 6th (-2)
League Position: 12th (-2)
Form: D-L
Last Match: 2-3 vs. Colorado
Next Match: at San Jose Earthquakes (Oakland Coliseum)

Chivas USA
2008 Conference Position: 1st
2008 League Position: 2nd
Form: W-W-W
Last Match: 2-1 vs. Columbus Crew
Next Match: vs. Seattle Sounders FC (Home Depot Center)

Last Meeting: 08/14/08 – Chivas USA 2-2 LA Galaxy (Home Depot Center)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

If Charles Dickens will forgive me, the first edition of the 2009 LA Derby is nothing if not a “Tale of Two Cities.” Galaxy has started out the season slowly, and is haunted by the ghost of three playoffs past. Meanwhile, Chivas USA is enjoying the best start of their existence. For one side, the Battle of Los Angeles represents an opportunity to provide an early boost to a strong start and reach four games without knowing defeat, for the other, a chance to shake off early pressures and inject a hurting team with a much needed surge of energy.

2009 LA Derby v. 1.0

For Galaxy fans, the derby could not have come at a worse time in the season. The team, still hurting from the last three years, has started off the season on the wrong foot: Two home games, a bye week, and a single point to show for their efforts. On top of that, the same first in scoring, last in defending, recipe for disaster from last year seems to be the standard operating procedure in Los Angeles.

On the other hand, Chivas USA has stumbled out of the gate but in the right direction. The goats have not looked particularly impressive, they do not look strong, and despite many still hesitant to throw them to the top of the power rankings, they have managed three consecutive 2-1 victories.

Even so, Galaxy has had Chivas USA’s number since the expansion team first showed up in 2005. The all-time record for this match is heavily tilted in favor of the MLS Originals with 16 matches played in all competitions, 9 victories for LA, 4 draws, and only 3 wins for Chivas USA. Overall, 50 goals have been scored between the two sides, and Galaxy has outscored Chivas USA 31 to 19. And to top that all off, Galaxy has claimed three of the four Honda Superclasico trophies contested to date.

If Bruce is looking for a motivational speech to shake the rust and get the backfiring team finally running then there is perhaps no better way than with a victory in a full house (cross your fingers), against a local rival with a perfect record so far.

If the team should succeed against Chivas, the the team gets another chance at a motivational speech next week versus another Galaxy hated foe, the San Jose Earthquakes and Frank “Knackered” Yallop in Oakland Coliseum.

The Carniceros Club

In world football there are heroes to be found everywhere. There are players who score game-winners, players who lead leagues in scoring, players who save their sides from relegation and players who score beautiful and improbable goals. For fans however, some of the biggest heroes are the players than can constantly punish your biggest rival.

31 goals have been scored from the Galaxy camp versus Chivas USA in both MLS play and USOC play. The Carniceros Club – made up of all Galaxy players current, and former who have scored a goal against Chivas USA is currently made up of 12 members.

Of these twelve, half have scored only one goal against the goats, and the others have scored two or more. Only four of the twelve players are currently with the club. Only one player has scored on Chivas USA at least once in each of the 4 years of the rivalry.

A very honorable mention goes out to Cornell Glen and his two improbable goals as the clock died out to keep Galaxy’s then unbeaten streak vs. Chivas USA alive in 2006, however, because 5 is an easier number to work with than 6, here’s a look at the:

Carniceros Club Top 5

5th – Peter Vagenas (3 goals)

The former LA Captain managed two goals in 2005 and followed it up with another in 2006 to round off his tally.

4th – Cobi Jones (3 goals)
Not only did Cobi Jones score the first goal in Galaxy history, he also scored the first ever goal of the LA Derby for either side, 14 minutes into the first match. Jones scored again in 2005 and added his final goal against Chivas in 2007.

3rd – Herculez Gomez (4 goals)
Herc was a standout player for Galaxy in 2005 and a fan favorite for a reason. He notched 3 goals against Chivas that year, memorably running the length of the field and leaping into the arms of the Chiva girl laden Riot Squad to celebrate one of the goals. The next season, he added a fourth.

2nd – Alan Gordon (4 goals)
Flash had a career-high 5 goals in 2008. Three of those five came against Chivas USA. Twice early in the season to help wrap up a convincing 5-2 victory and once more at the final derby of the year to tie the game in stoppage time at 2 and give Galaxy its third Honda SuperClasico. Before that, Gordon had scored one other goal in 2006.

1st – Landon Donovan (9 goals)
It’s certainly no surprise that Donovan tops the Carniceros Club. Landon seems to see tints of green between the red and white stripes, and something about those three colors just make the Captain go! Landon has managed at least one goal against Chivas each season. He knocked in four in 2008, two in 2007, one in 2006 and two in 2005.

Not surprisingly, the “Mexicutioner” only started in one of the three games that Chivas has put in their win column. He was in Germany for the World Cup in the 1-2 defeat that was played just one day before the start of the tournament in 2006, and he played 69 minutes for the US a night before coming off the bench late for the Galaxy in a 0-3 loss in 2007.

Injury Report

OUT - Leonard Griffin (Sports Hernia Surgery)
QUESTIONABLE - Edson Buddle (Right Quad - Strain), Todd Dunivant (Right Ankle - Post Surgery), Mike Magee (Right Foot - Bruise), Donovan Ricketts (Right Groin - Strain)
PROBABLE - Eddie Lewis (Left Hamstring - Strain)

Caasi's Expected Starting XI for the Pre-season


Finally, if I may paraphrase Mr. Charles Dickens once more and complete the unfinished quote I used to open this preview:

…we were all going direct to heaven; they are all going direct the other way.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pachuca and the Super Chaco

Pachuca managed a 2-2 draw from Santos' Estadio Corona today. That leaves Pachuca at 7 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses. The only troubling factor is Pachuca's lack of performance on the road. Only 2 wins on the road this season and the last one in early February.

That sets Pachuca up for next week: Perhaps an early preview of this year's final, pitting CF Pachuca vs. CD Toluca. Toluca is currently in first, undefeated, and leading the league with 26 points. Pachuca trails closely behind with 24 points and the top offense in the league.

Pachuca's biggest weapon? Christian "El Chaco" Gimenez. Gimenez has been a stand-out performer for a long time, enjoying good showings at Veracruz before his brief spell at Club America, and again becoming a star with Pachuca. This season, however, he's the top scorer in the league, having netted 5 goals in the past two games (yes, todays were penalty kicks, but still). Gimenez is dreaming of an Argentine call-up and with Riquelme's recent rocky exit... you never know...

For now, enjoy Chaco's goals so far this season...

#1 (Week 4 vs. Club America)

#2 (Week 6 vs. Puebla)

#3-4 (Week 9 vs. Tecos)

#5-7 (Week 11 vs. Necaxa)

#8-9(Week 12 vs. Santos)

It's a Hard Sell

According to some reports, MLS was on pace to match its 2008 Season Ticket sales this year. If those reports are to be believed, then early on it's been the walk-up and single game sales that are taking a toll.

Just around 16,000 at Home Depot Center last night. That's the 2nd time (the 1st time was two weekends ago) that Galaxy has had a crowd of less than 20,000 since 2006. Admittedly, Galaxy is working with 3 years of negative results, ticket price increases, ditching Beckhams, and a few examples from "Alienating Customers Through Crap Service 101" but a similar pattern is evident elsewhere in MLS.

Unless your name is Toronto FC or Seattle Sounders FC, everybody is hurting. Dallas reported approx. 6,000 last weekend while San Jose, a day before, failed to record a sell-out in their 10,000 people shoe-box.

Nowadays, soccer's got to be a hard sell. The league isn't "quite there" yet, and if Major League Baseball is worried about attendances for THEIR league, where does that leave MLS?

Despite what you may read, I think the league will be fine, but there will be some hardships coming at least for this season.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

MLS Week 3: Galaxy 2-3 Colorado

The defensive breakdowns were bad enough, but I think that's understandable with a very young defense. Gonzalez did well 90% of the time, unfortunately, the other 10% was when we gave up 3 goals. Even so, I like Omar.

The real problem in my book was midfield. Not a single pass beyond the 2/3rds mark. Dema and Tudela are doing a good job of winning the ball, but neither one of them has been distributing particularly effectively. Today, not at all.

If Galaxy are going to play this 4-4-2, which essentially turns into a 4-2-4 when we attack, then Klein and Lewis* are going to have to pinch in a lot more and not play as wide to provide easy outlets for Dema-Josh, rather than relying on the overhead pass to the corners.

Even so, some basic passing drills are in order for the midfield. Next week is going to be hell if Galaxy come out looking the way they did tonight.

*Another point, if Lewis was ready to go, he should have started at left mid and AJ De La Garza should have started at left back. Eddie Lewis shouldn't play left back, our back-line is slow enough as is.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Some of My Favorite Goals

As a football fan, I'm somewhat peculiar. I've never been one to flock to the "best" and the most "famous" players because... well, I don't really have a reason, it's just not my style.

The same thing applies to goals. I'm not a huge fan of the "big name" players that the world has to offer quite simply because most of them don't play for any of my teams. I'm impressed as any other football fan by Messi's Maradona-esque goal last season, but I won't include that goal, or others like it, in this list as they meant nothing to me.

To me, a special goals will (often) involve one of my favorite teams. Goals won't necessarily be judged by their aesthetic beauty, but by other traits. For a goal to be special in my book, it has to be a goal that means something. A player's breakout, a goal in the dying minutes, a coach's profecy. etc. etc. etc.

With that said, here are some of my recent favorite goals.

5. DeNigris -- Mexico vs. Brazil

4. Alan Gordon -- Galaxy vs. Chivas USA

3. Nery Castillo -- Mexico vs. Brazil

2. Chris Klein -- Galaxy vs. Pachuca

1. Aquivaldo Mosquera - Pachuca vs. Guadalajara
(My all-time favorite football moment-- so good, that the whole 10 mins. deserve to be seen)

Eddie Munster / Aguirre's Demands

Resilient Tudela Finally Getting Noticed

There's a pretty cool piece on Josh Tudela at The kid (I guess not so much of a kid if you consider that he's already 25) has stuck around for 3 seasons and is apparently ready to break through.

Tudela is a very physical player, and I can see why he'd be an ideal understudy of sorts to Dema Kovalenko (though with a 2 man holding midfield, that "understudy" role includes playing time.)

Tudela may prove to be a heck of a ball winner but he's going to have to become a good distributor too if he hopes to earn a long-term spot in this team or another. After a good tackle, his eyes should be scanning the field primarily, for Donovan, Lewis or Klein, and if none of those are available, Buddle or Gordon.

I get the feeling that he's not guaranteed the spot though. From what I've seen and heard, Tudela will have to contend with another pesky "Get me the ball Brian" (obsure 'The Replacements' reference) type player in Bryan Jordan who has apparently made the move from forward to midfielder. With that level of hustle, I can't blame Bruce.

Aguirre Making His Demands

Yesterday, a number of rumors began to circulate regarding Javier Aguirre and his list of demands to join the national team. In ESPNDeportes' Futbol Picante, Jose Ramon Fernandez criticized Aguirre and attributed a million demands to El Vasco, but given JoseRa's recent spat with Pachuca President Jesus Martinez, it's hard to differentiate between objective and yellow journalism.

What seems to be true enough though is Aguirre's desire to have greater control of all things national team. He wants Mario Carrillo as his assistant to replace the plant that FMF had imposed on Sven, Paco Ramirez, and he wants Ignacio Ambriz, his assistant in Spain, to take over coaching of the youth sides.

Color me optimistic, but I get the feeling that Aguirre is making sure that he sets camp at FMF for a long tenure. I would be absolutely ecstatic if Aguirre took the job, took the team to the WC, and (unless there was an unforeseen tragedy) continued his work after the World Cup heading toward 2014.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mexico Wasted Valuable Time With Sven

When a national team turns in its least productive World Cup since ‘78 after a four-year uninterrupted process it's time for a change. A change which should not only remove a manager and bring in another, but also rejuvenate the player pool and enables a natural transition between generations.

After struggling through the 2007 Gold Cup, Hugo Sanchez began this transition adequately. Pardo, Osorio, Salcido and Borgetti were removed from the roster for the 2007 Copa America and replaced by Jaime Correa, Fausto Pinto, Israel Castro, and Juan Carlos Cacho.

The results were self-evident. Coming from a disappointing 1-2 defeat to the United States in the final game of the Gold Cup, Mexico opened up Copa America with a resounding 2-0 victory over Brazil.

The team continued to play attractive football and players like Castillo, Ochoa, Guardado and Landin seemingly became the new torch-bearers for Mexico. Despite the 0-3 defeat vs. Argentina that kept Mexico at the semifinal round, El Tri went on to claim the 3rd place spot in the competition.

In the following months, Sanchez continued the transition process. Salcido, Pardo, Marquez, Borgetti, and Osorio were overlooked in call-ups and despite their European employers, were generally regarded as part of the old guard. In their place, Sanchez continued to include a new group of, young and not so young, players who were eager to earn their first shot with the national team.

The objective was clear under Hugol: Establish a new group of players within the national team, ready to be the core for the next World Cup period leading up to 2010, and when appropriate, look to the old group for reinforcements in players who kept their form, maintained their level, and won their way back to the team.

But while Hugo, the most egomaniacal character in Mexican football, was hard at work building El Tri for the next four years, behind closed doors, Jorge Vergara, the most megalomaniacal character in Mexican football, was hard at work politicking for greater power within the Mexican Federation.

Vergara began launching criticism after criticism toward Hugo Sanchez at every misstep and eventually became the spokesperson for all those who opposed Sanchez’ tenure.

When Sanchez was sacked in 2008, Vergara headlined the campaign to bring in a ‘renown’ European manager to lead the team..

Fifty-percent star struck, and fifty-percent “malinchista” the Federation agreed to hire Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Once Sven was in charge, the doors that had previously been closed on aging veterans were blown wide open. Sven’s limited knowledge of the Mexican game (combined with the questionable advisors that were appointed to him) limited opportunities for younger players and forced an over reliance on aging “heroes” like Pardo, Oswaldo, and Marquez.

Now that Sven has lost his job, the next manager will have the task of continuing the transition process that Hugo Sanchez had begun and effectively identify which Mexican players will take the torch from the generation of the 2000s that can be categorized as nothing other than a failure.