Well, it was a grind if I ever saw one, but the Revs escaped with three points today in Frisco, TX. Taylor Twellman's first half volley sealed the deal and then the Revs bunkered down somewhat to finish out their first win in Texas in just under two years.
The game was somewhat even, with FC Dallas creating few opportunities to even up. The much scrutinized and undersized New England back three stifled the home side's attack throughout the afternoon. Micheal Parkhurst played the full 90 minutes and picked up right where he left off. For those not in the know, Parkhurst is developing into a spitting image of Gareth Southgate in the way he compensates for his slightly undersized frame with near perfect positioning and composure. I'd say he'd be the next to go to Europe if he didn't go about his business so quietly. Dallas's size advantage was supposed to take it to the Revs today, but the backline trio of Parky, Jay Heaps, and Avery John (and then Riley for John) stood their ground admirably.
Khano Smith again looked sloppy and Wells Thompson failed to impress when he came on in the second half. Pat Noonan seemed out of sync at times and Dorman, too, had difficulty with the combination play. This doesn't bode well for a Revolution team that will be in DC this Thursday to face a pointless DC United side. The consensus preseason conference favorite is bound to snap out of their funk and the Revs will have trouble managing a draw in their current form.
The game offered little excitement for the neutral observer, but so goes life in the MLS's Eastern Conference. The Revs join Columbus, Chicago, and NY as teams that will be very tough to score on this year. Get ready for a summer filled with 1-1 draws.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Well, it was a grind if I ever saw one, but the Revs escaped with three points today in Frisco, TX. Taylor Twellman's first half volley sealed the deal and then the Revs bunkered down somewhat to finish out their first win in Texas in just under two years.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
After an exciting Saturday morning of football from across the pond and the Sox heating up, my only request to the Revolution is don't bring me down.
The assertion that there is a jinx for the Revs at Pizza Hut Park is quite ludicrous. We beat them less than two years ago. The people suggesting that should know the jinx word wasn't even an original thought in New England until after the 1975 Series, so they should know better. However, the pitch can't bring back a heck of a lot of fond memories from Twellman & company. After all, a 4-0 spanking from the home side was sandwiched between two MLS Cup losses in extra time and on penalties respectively.
The Revs come into this one fresh with Pat Noonan looking to make his first start of the season. Micheal Parkhurst is also back to full strength. The warm afternoon game time will have it's toll on the two players yet to gain their legs, so I wouldn't expect 90 minutes from that duo. Jay Heaps is looking to start after sustaining a concussion ten days earlier in Columbus. If Parkhurst does come on, I'd expect Riley to move into the right back spot for Heaps.
Dallas will be playing their sixth game of the season and their third in a week. The Revs need to press their advantage early and test their will. New England played the possession game to perfection in 2005 and look to regain that form. The problem is, they don't have Clint Dempsey drawing fouls to help maintain control of the ball anymore. The likely successor to Dempsey in the pest role is Wells Thompson, but Khano Smith appears to be the first choice at left midfield. Khano looked bad in the last outing and Thompson needs to step up if he wants that job.
FC Dallas poses a mismatch for the Revs with large striker Kenny Cooper playing up top or slightly withdrawn to the right. The good news is our normal left defender, Avery John, is also our most physical and can match him. The bad news is Cooper has been known to roam and could be a problem for James Riley in the middle. Ramon Nunez has been hot as of late at attacking mid and Carlos Ruiz is always dangerous.
So the Revs have their work cut out for them. Dallas is coming off a dreadfully boring loss on Thursday night and will be looking to break out like they did in their 2-1 defeat of Colorado last Sunday. Hopefully this is a high scoring affair, but I have a bad feeling it'll be a grind.
Probable Revs Lineup:
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Andy Herron received his punishment for giving Jay Heaps an intentional elbow in the game last week. He will be suspended for 4 regular season games and was fined $3000. For our UK readers, that's almost 2% of his salary so it's no chump change.
The fine was pretty much what I expected. I had figured 2 or 3 games before it was announced that Heaps played a concussion the entire second half as a result of the incident:
As you can see, it was a pretty harsh foul and quite intentional. Heaps was playing a very physical game for most of the first half. He had taken the ball away from Herron minutes earlier with a hard slide tackle, so it was pretty clear Andy was retaliating. Heaps was also marking him closely and I guess he had enough. Oh, and way to tell Heaps after the game that you didn't mean it.
Shalrie Joseph received a $500 fine for "disrespecting the game" by shoving Herron in the face shortly after. I'm glad someone stood up like that. Given his contract situation, it's nice to see Shalrie standing up for his teammate like that.
I do feel bad for the Chicago Fire organization, though. This whole incident just reinforces the stereotype that everyone who has ever played for Chicago is a waste of sperm. Way to set your people back another ten years, Andy.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Pretty tough week for my MFLS side. The assumptions I made last week were almost all wrong. Two of my players were carded, Houston didn't come to play in NY, and a last minute penalty cost my keeper four points. After all that, I only managed to drop five places in my divisional standings. That's why I'm not too upset about the Revs letting the game slip away late, although a number of sans Revolution teams did leapfrog Chowda United in the standings.
Just to analyze a bit more so we can all learn from my mistakes, I bet heavily that Houston would have a breakout performance in New York. All looked well when Clint Mathis was yellow carded in the 36th minute. Then again, one of my forwards (Brian Ching) wasn't playing and should have been. I guess he's worried about injuring himself on the fieldturf. That's something to remember in the future.
I also thought Amado Guevara would start racking up points like he did in 2004. Much to my chagrin, he plays a holding midfielder in the Jaimie Carrick distributor mold for Chivas USA. I've decided to dump him and his huge salary and spend it on two starters. Amado would have been good for a minimum one goal, one assist in a 4-0 game during seasons past. He had nothing on Saturday.
I also said the Dallas-Colorado match would be a high scoring affair. It was 2-1 and I got two assists out of the game. However, I picked up two Rapids midfielders and one of them was cautioned. It was a week with only five games, so I was was trapped and guessed wrong there.
Looking ahead to this week's matches, Kansas City plays Toronto twice. I'm not sure they can beat them both times, though. They will have a tough time beating them at home on Wednesday and then again on Saturday for Toronto's first ever home match. I think they have a good shot at shutting out the expansion side at least once, so I'm going to keep Harrington at defense. I'm also going to go with a KC midfielder because I believe they will get the better of the two games, hopefully blowing them out once.
FC Dallas also has two games. I'm sticking with Cooper up top because I feel they will have the revenge factor on Thursday night at home to NY. He should be good for at least one goal either in that game or on Sunday against the Revs.
Speaking of the Revs, they will be taking on a team in Dallas that will be playing it's third game of the week. The Revs are coming off ten days of rest. Therefore, I'm definitely keeping Twellman and Dorman. All goals go through one of those two and hopefully the team bounces back from a poor performance.
I'm also hoping Emilio keeps scoring for DC and Donovan gets his act together in the Honda Superclassico, or as I like to call it: "the biggest game known to mankind". I still think the official name sounds more ridiculous.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
You can't say this round of MLS fixtures was easy on the eyes. Sloppy play and cards galore was the norm over the five games. Here's some random thoughts:
* 11, 8, 7, 11, 10. That's the total amount of shots on net in the games this round. I'm 100% against altering any rules to make soccer more exciting. However, I'm absolutely in favor of teams developing some offensive competency.
* Brian Ching started the game in New York on the bench. It had something to do with making sure the fieldturf didn't aggravate any longstanding injury concerns. If the Revs play Houston in the first round of the payoffs, I want to play the first leg at home. Houston managed only three shots on net despite a man advantage from the 36th minute. Yikes.
* Chicago, New York, and Dallas sit atop the table with seven points apiece. None of those teams scare me. However, I doubt many teams are scared of the Revs. This may be shaping up to be another year like 2004 where there was no clear "best team" and the flow of the season was quite mundane.
* Nico Colaluca has yet to see action in Colorado and the same can be said for Jose Cancela (although Pepe just joined the team ahead of week 2). It's way too early for a final verdict, but Steve Nicol could have been right with his evaluations on the two players after all.
I'll be back shortly with part 2 of my stadium series and Fantasy Soccer Bootroom.
Friday, April 20, 2007
After washing away the sour taste left in my mouth from last night's performance, I decided to get working on the first installment on something I had had planned for the relatively long break the Revs have until their next game: the prospect of a new stadium. I'm not sure how many parts this will have. I plan on covering the various location types, the kind of stadiums that would be right from the various locations, and the pros and cons dealing with the different options. Part 1 will be an overview of the Revolution's situation and the various reasons why they are dragging their feet compared with other MLS franchises.
The New England Revolution are owned by Robert Kraft and are secondary tenants at Gillette Stadium, the home of the NFL's New England Patriots. After failing to secure a location for a new stadium to replace the antiquated Foxboro Stadium in Boston or Rhode Island, Mr. Kraft was very close to moving the Patriots to Hartford, CT. The NFL intervened and convinced him to build a new stadium next to the old one in Foxboro. The total cost of the facility, when it opened in 2002, was in the neighborhood of $325 million dollars. The town of Foxboro would shoulder close to $70 million dollars for infrastructural upgrades, while the rest of the cost was privately financed by the Kraft family and investors. The Krafts also agreed to pay $1 million a year to the town for easement.
The stadium is close to perfect by NFL standards. However, the large stadium isn't conducive to what MLS wants their teams playing in. The league wants all their teams in smaller, soccer dedicated facilities. The designers may have claimed Gillette Stadium was designed with soccer in mind, but other than allowing sufficient space for a pitch, it's hardly ideal for an MLS team. The Revs gameday crowd is only allowed on one side to save costs, any sound generated quickly dissipates in the vast openness, and let's not forget the fieldturf installation that the NFL forced last November. These are just some of the reasons the experience is less than ideal at Gillette and would lead the team and the league towards considering a new home.
Soccer specific stadium (SSS) construction has been the major focus of the league over the last 5+ years. New stadiums in Columbus, LA, Chicago, and Colorado have given those franchises much more control over revenue streams than when they were renting at large football stadiums. These moves have established a stronger economic backbone necessary to grow the league on the field.
The Revs don't have to worry about rent, so a move away from Gillette isn't as urgent. However, 12,000 fans in a close to 70,000 seat stadium isn't the image the league wants to project. So, even though the team isn't bleeding money like the Red Bulls are in New York, there is no immediate pressure being placed on the Krafts to move. In fact, several plans to build stadiums in places like DC, Houston, San Jose, Salt Lake City, and New York keep getting pushed back or scrapped. This is one of the reasons the Revs will be taking a very methodical approach.
There is another reason the Revs are apprehensive to rush in on a stadium deal. The Krafts just began construction of the Patriots Place project next to the stadium in Foxboro.
When completed, it will feature commercial and office space and will include over a dozen restaurants. The new "man mall" will attempt to make the land around the stadium a destination spot of sorts. Before the Revs even think about moving out of Foxboro, the economic impact the soccer gameday crowd has on the new businesses will have to be evaluated. Although that amount of traffic may seem insignificant, it may be the difference in making a profit or going out of business for some of the establishments. Although they sent out feelers to various cities and towns to gage interest last summer, it would take an almost too good to be true situation to get them to move in the short term. The odds of that happening in this area are slim to none.
So what can the team do in the near term to improve the situation at Gillette? Well, one thing they can do is take the current seating arrangement:
And do something similar to what they do at Rice-Eccles in Salt Lake City to actually make a "stadium within a stadium" like this:
The reason why they keep one side closed is twofold. First, they save money because they don't have to staff it or have to clean it up after games. The second is that just opening up the other side would scatter the crowd even more which doesn't help atmosphere. For instance, the crowd for the Celtic friendly last July was over 16,000. However, the entire lower bowl was open and only looked about half full. A crowd of 10,000 would look much worse than it already does.
With the arrangement I have in that second chart, the top 10-15 rows in the Cat I and II sections would be covered with tarps. The normal SSS's have a little over 20 rows. Gillette Stadium has 38 rows. This would improve the atmosphere by concentrating the fans in the bottom 20-25 rows and would give everyone a better sightline. It would also potentially satisfy MLS for the time being if they ever decided to put serious pressure on the team to build a SSS.
This would increase stadium operating costs, but not by a lot if they were smart about it. I'm not a security expert, but they wouldn't have to add twice the security, especially since the total number of seats would only be going up by a few hundred. They would need to have additional eyes and a few more aisle attendants, but the force shouldn't come close to doubling. For concessions, they could keep the built-in stands open and move the smaller stand-alone kiosks to the other side. The additional operating costs could be offset if they sell advertising space on the smaller tarps, especially on the TV side. The non-TV side could have the tarp removed for games they are expecting a large crowd. The ticket cost structure could also be altered with the Cat III seats getting an slight upgrade and they could even create another price range for the midfield seats. This would also allow the groups to be concentrated in corners away from whatever corner they would have the standing section.
This would be a decent solution for the current atmosphere problems. It would also provide better sightlines for most which could raise the number of repeat customers.
That's it for part 1. Future installments will consider possible locations for a new stadium and the kind of features I would like to see in a possible stadium.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Well, the result tonight was probably just, but the Revs have to be disappointed to have given up a 86th minute goal to the Columbus Crew. Here's some quick thoughts:
* Joseph dominated the midfield, but the Crew controlled the wings.
* Twellman had a great chance to put the game away in the second half after a nice feed from Pat Noonan. He'll be hitting himself when he sees the replay.
* Khano Smith has returned to his summer 2006 form. That isn't a good thing.
* The Revs were sitting on their lead for most of the second half. They really could ave pushed harder for another goal. This was our problem last year. This lack of urgency will come come back to bite them with the way the playoff spots are deermined from now on.
I'll be running a Revs stadium fluff series over the ten day break. If you're into that kind of thing, check back often for the first installment.
Well, the Revs should consider themselves fortunate to be leading 2-1 at the half in Columbus. The Crew seem to have a slight edge in the run of play:
* Both keepers were unlucky to have been scored apon with those two early goals by Grabavoy and Dorman respectively.
* Twellman's goal late in the half was as much of a result of a brilliant shot as it was due to a lapse in defense. Good to see Taylor hitting the mark for a second straight week, though.
* The end of the half was very chippy. Heaps needs to watch out or he'll get a second yellow.
* Both Andy Herron and Shalrie Joseph may receive fines and/or suspensions for their actions in the closing minutes of the half. Herron for his elbow on Heaps and Joseph for the subsequent shove in the face.
* I'm a little nervous the Revs will blow the lead. They have looked shaky at times.
COME ON YOU REVS! TAKE ALL THREE!
The last time the Revolution visited Columbus, they played their last bad game of 2006. Coach Steve Nicol and company don't want to have their first bad game of 2007 when they play there again tonight. The 7:30 est game on ESPN2 will be the first nationally televised game for either team this year. Columbus gaffer Sigi Schmidt has more new talent to showcase to the country, whose soccer community is all too familiar with most of the Revolution lineup.
The first major change from last year is the addition of a proven MLS goal scorer in Andy Herron. He led the Chicago Fire in scoring last season and was the team's MVP. The Crew will also start unknown goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who has posted two clean sheets to start the season, albeit during two scoreless draws.
Something that may worry New England is the probable return of Ricardo Virtuoso, who tore up the Revolution in their meeting last summer. The speedy left-sided Brazilian is an unknown in many MLS circles, but he certainly made me a believer when I watched him participate in all three goals during that dreary match at Crew Stadium.
One big question for New England is who will start as the second forward next to Taylor Twellman? Pat Noonan played at the end of both regular season games, plus he was good for 70+ minutes in the reserve game last Sunday. Adam Cristman has played competently, but Noonan should be the first choice starter when ready. The gaffer is of the opinion Noonan is 100% healed from his sports hernia surgery and it's just a matter of regaining fitness. We'll have to wait until tonight to see.
New England: Reis, Heaps, Riley, John, Ralston, Larentowicz, Joseph, Smith, Dorman, Twellman, Cristman
Columbus: Gruenebaum, Hejduk, Hendrickson, Gonzalez, Pierce, Ngwenya, O'Rourke, Grabavoy, Gavin, Herron, Garey
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
That's right. According to the Soccer New England, Shalrie Joseph may consider sitting games out until he either gets the contract he and his agent are demanding or he is traded:
The figure offered by New England, continued Waxman, fell $10,000 under Joseph’s wage demands and that, coupled with further disagreement over potential bonuses, led to Joseph requesting a trade in March. Almost one month later, and with no sign that a solution to the dispute is imminent, Joseph admits he is facing a difficult decision about whether to play or not:
“It’s really hard; I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that point at all but they leave no other choice and I have just got to do what it best for me at this point in time.”
Well Shalrie, take a look at how well the Krafts respond to this tactic from players on their NFL side. The owners have no problem with players holding out if they feel their demands are too high.
Now, Kraft & Son probably aren't too hands on in these deals. That aspect appears to be the job of Mike Burns and Sunil Gulati. The problem with Joseph is the league owns all player contracts. A trade wouldn't guarantee him a raise. Coach Steve Nicol, who has most of the say in acquiring and letting go players, has said he won't trade him.
So Joseph and the Revs are at an impasse. The team says they are still working on the contract negotiations. Joseph and his agent says they made a final offer. Well, which one is it? This situation was just upgraded from tricky to messy and has the potential to screw with team chemistry. Not good.
In other news, Frank Dell'Apa is under the impression the Revs are shopping around for international talent. I'll believe that when I see it.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
"John Mayes is a loser. I'm going to punch him in the face to show him how big a loser he is."
Pretty strong words, huh? Sounds like I'm pissed off, eh? Well, how about now:
"(Jokingly) John Mayes is a loser. I'm going to punch him in the face to show him how big a loser he is."
Big difference, wouldn't you say? No, I'm not some dirty old man that has a crush on Jessica Simpson who can't spell her boyfriend's name. Well, maybe I am, but that's not the point. The point is that when you write words, those words stand on their own. That's something the writer of the now infamous "Beers With Wynalda" interview didn't understand, and his partner seems clueless about even after the fact as evidenced here. This is my favorite part:
Truthfully, the only good thing to come out of that comment is the national attention the interview got as a result of it.) Rome knows Wynalda, and Rome knew, or should have known, that Wynalda was speaking in jest; it was a tongue in cheek comment that would not be taken literally by anyone, except perhaps by someone with insecurities. Rome, in his usual way, kicked Wynalda when he knew ESPN had Wynalda by the balls. But I beg my fellow soccer fans, do not let this sideshow for the other 80% get in the way of the rest of this epic interview.
At this point, I would like to address a couple of things. First, I am truly sorry that ESPN chose to suspend and fine Eric when he stood up to Rome. I wish it never happened. Actually, I’m even sorrier that ESPN doesn’t pay the same “respect” to Rome as they did to Wynalda. We all know Rome deserves it, but this is for another article. Suffice it to say that in this corporate world, ESPN did what other single-minded corporations do…bow to the “almighty dollar.”
No, Rome didn't know Wynalda was speaking in jest. He had no way of knowing. Adding "(jokingly)" or "(in jest)" is what you do to convey to your reader that the person being interviewed wasn't being serious. This is a technique used everywhere from the NY Times to Maxim Magazine. Acknowledging the fact that Wynalda was in fact joking now makes the situation worse. The interviewer came out and said everything was 100% on the record:
Nothing was fabricated within this sit down on March 24 in Tampa. In fact, the interview was recorded. Wynalda has been known to share his boisterous opinions on the air as was witnessed firsthand by many Americans during his coverage for ABC during the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
When FFCinPCB sat down with Wynalda, it was unknown what direction the interview would take. However, questions were asked and answers were given in an honest straight-forward manner by Wynalda which lead the interview in the direction it ultimately went.
Now, if this is the case, Wynalda went on the record [in his comments] about Jim Rome and was serious about it. The friend of the interviewer says he was joking. If that's the case, then it needs to be specified.
So why wasn't it? The reason is American soccer fans take what Jim Rome says about the sport very personally. The interviewer took what Wynalda said in jest and thought "Hell Yah!". He then ran with it. Insinuating the comment was anything less than a complete slam on Rome would have diminished it's effect. The author just didn't take into account what that would mean to Wynalda if it ever got out beyond the tight-knit US soccer community.
It's too bad. The "Beers With" idea was a good concept. Good luck getting anyone important to ever do another one. This is what separates journalists from bloggers like myself. Granted, this blog may evolve and I may be doing interviews myself someday. If that ever were to happen, I would have a lot more to consider before I put digital pen to digital paper when publishing comments.
Odds and ends:
* Wells Thompson won the "best debut" poll by a landslide. There's a new poll up, so go vote.
* I'm redesigning my T-shirt shop to be more associated with this blog. I hope to have it back up and running this week.
* Juan Pablo Angel appears to be on his way to Red Bull New York. There's one more DP slot being used up. I believe a prerequisite for any Revolution DP signing is all the slots being filled on the teams with deep pockets so the Revs can't be outbidded. I'm hoping Man U win the league this year so Giggs and Scholes don't feel obligated to return and then they give MLS a shot. Both can still motor around the pitch.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Well, I had a very good week with 30 points. I am now up to 143 out of 2200+ overall. Even though I had the 26th highest overall point tally, Chowda United actually moved down in my division to 11th due to the great performance by the Revolution on Saturday. Although, the gap between my team and the top of the table was cut in two. Here's what I went with for week 2:
As you can see, I had a pretty solid week, but it could have been much better. Last week, I gave you my reason for starting two Red Bull players in the back. That seemed to work out perfectly because, just as I suspected, FC Dallas wouldn't be up for the game after the short break and cross-country trip. The monsoon didn't help, either. The problem is, Marvell Wynne didn't start and I have to find out why. I thought he was lock. If he isn't, I need to transfer him now. I lost 5 points with him sitting on the bench.
Although I wanted them to lose or tie from a sporting perspective, I felt very confident in the Chicago Fire from a fantasy perspective when they went a man up in the sixth minute in Colorado last night. Then they began to sleepwalk their way to two shots on net in the first seventy minutes. I still have faith in Justin Mapp, but he looked very sluggish.
I went with Fred instead of Olsen. I thought DC United would win their home opener. If you have been using Perkins as your keeper, I feel sorry for you. Teams do compensate, and I may be looking to get a DC defender a few weeks down the line and play them against the weaker teams.
Taylor Twellman was my top point-getter. He's a lock in my lineup unless the Revs have a bye or he's off on national team duty. Speaking of which, three teams don't have games this week. This will start separating the people who do this for fun and those who are serious about winning.
I'm definitely dropping Fred for now. There are a few players in his salary range that are guaranteed starters, and DC will probably be using a more defensive setup in the near future. I'll also likely be dropping Wynne. I have spotted a few cheap defenders. I'll let you in on one of them: Jeff Larentowicz. He plays a great holding mid with Shalrie Joseph in the game. He's listed as a defender, may be good for an assist here and there, and has a salary of 80. Just watch out for the yellows. There's a few others, but you will have to wait for next week to find out who.
As for team strategy, I'm going to have to take some chances if I want to move up the ladder in week 3. New England plays in Columbus on Thursday night. I'm going to bet the Revs win with my fantasy lineup. If they lose I may be in some trouble, but I don't think I'll be dropping too much in my Revs division. I'm also hedging that the Chicago-KC game will be low scoring. That may seem odd given KC's four goals this week. However, Chicago went into Colorado expecting to defend all night. They seemed out of place when they went a man up and had to carry the play. They will also be up for the task after that disappointing tie. I predict one team will get shut out, so I'm keeping Pickens and looking at lining up a KC defender to hedge that bet.
The other risk I will be taking is I think Houston will win in New York. New York may have an issue as to who their keeper will be and Houston is due for a breakout. I'm not positive on this one, but the key to taking risks is to not have the rewards cancel out when they pay off.
Chivas host Salt Lake and Colorado is in Dallas to round out the week. I'm keeping Guevara because he's due for some scoring. That Dallas-Colorado game looks to be a shootout by popular consensus, which probably means it will go scoreless. Regardless, I'm looking at those two teams for some possible attacking player acquisitions.
Remember: DC, Toronto, and LA are all off this week. For you fellow Revs fans out there, we have a week off next week, so don't box yourself into a corner.
PSC United had the best overall week with an astounding 55 points. They used three Revolution players and they all paid out big. Halmstad Swedes leads my Revs division after another solid week. That manager takes a more well-rounded approach. He's one of the few teams at the top of that table who didn't have Twellman, the top performing player on the week (12 points).
That's it for this week. I tried to join another league last week, but there were technical issues. It's scoring system is even more in depth than MFLS, so I hope to review that next week.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Well, no team has won their first two games. Granted, Kansas City has a chance next week when they face Chicago. However, few could have predicted the way the 2007 MLS season began.
* DC United are 0-2 after allowing a stunning four goals at home to KC. Their back line needs major work and they may have to adopt a "defense first" philosophy at least in the short term.
* Chicago was a man up from the sixth minute, yet they didn't make the Colorado keeper make a second save until deep into the second half. Pathetic. I may have been wrong in thinking Barrett, Mapp, and Rolfe would make a jump in form similar to several young Revolution players did in 2005. We'll see. They may begin to click just in time for Blanco to join the team and screw it all up. One can dream, can't he?
* Don't buy into any Red Bull hype until after another few nice results. FC Dallas finished a game in LA at midnight Thrursday night, had to fly cross-country, and then played in a cold monsoon this afternoon. Credit Arena for getting his club to play, but they were the only team who wanted to be there.
* Columbus looks much better already and Herron hasn't even settled in yet.
* Very impressed with Kansas City's performance, especially with the play of Sasha Victorine.
* Houston put Chivas back in their place. The Revs also showed their 2-0 victory over Toronto last week wasn't such a big deal.
That's it for now. I'll be back tomorrow with another installment of Fantasy Soccer Bootroom.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Well, it wasn't tough to figure out who were the expansion side tonight. The New England Revolution easily handled Toronto FC in the home opener 4-0. The Revolution were in sync all night, but the visitors from the north had trouble stringing passes effectively going forward. That didn't stop them from fouling aggressively, though. They had four well deserved yellow cards and could of had more.
As expected, Shalrie Joseph was money in the center of the pitch making everyone around him better. Rookie Adam Cristman should have scored off of a sweet through ball from Jeff Larentowicz. However, the rook rightfully earned a penalty shortly afterwards resulting in Joseph opening his 2007 account. Khano Smith possibly played his best and most consistant game in a Revolution jersey tonight. He got the better of his Toronto counterparts on numerous occasions, while creating scoring opportunities.
Andy Dorman scored the 500th goal in Revolution history via a late run and a great feed from Steve Ralston. The Defense was solid, Taylor Twellman had a brace, and Matt Reis had no poblems with the new fieldturf.
I can't think of anything to complain about. I'll think of something and post it here tomorrow.
Well done lads!
Well, the Revs came out gunning in the home opener. Taylor Twellman scored two goals inside of twenty minutes and should have had a hat trick.
* Cristman is doing well in Noonan's place. He assisted on the first goal and has looked competent.
* I'm glad Noonan is taking most of the game off so he can be fit for Thursday.
* Revs are dominating in the midfield. Larentowicz is a great holding mid when he has Joseph there to support him.
* Toronto has looked bad. Playoff spots may come down to the eastern teams playing them one additional time.
* Kenny Smith looks a million times better than when he came offof his long injury layoff last year.
* It's cool so many Canadians made the trip. However, most of them have mullets. Way to set your people back a decade Gord, Fritz, and Pierre.
We aren't out of the woodwork yet. Toronto has ha a few chances. They find their luck and we could be in trouble. More after the game.
According to Frank Dell'Apa in the Boston Globe, Kenny Smith and Shalrie Joseph should be ready for action in the home opener tonight.
This is fantastic news for the team and it's fans. The first choice duo will be replacing rookies Wells Thompson and Gary Flood in the lineup. Thompson could be used on the right side as a substitute for captain Stevie Ralston, who doesn't figure to have a lot of 90 minute games this season with his aging legs.
Noonan will also be starting over rookie Adam Cristman. Cristman had a great preseason, but a quiet debut last week in Chicago. He may also come off the bench at some point in the game.
Once again, great news and I can't wait for tonight.
COME ON YOU REVS!!
Well, I didn't get up early enough to watch the Chinese league, but I did catch the second half of a Russian league match. Here's a quick rundown of what's going on in my football world this fine Saturday morning:
* Watched Zenit St. Petersburg hand Dinamo Moscow their asses. The crowd packed about a 30,000 seat stadium. The St. Pete ultras were amazing. Remember those songs with the deep pitch that used to be the soundtrack of everything communist during the 80's? That's what they sounded like. They could have been singing the Russian version of "The Greasy Chip Butty Song", but it still frightened me a bit.
* Hammarby will be playing at around 10:00 local time on P2P if anyone wants to see if local native, and BC alum, Charlie Davies gets a run out. Remember, he would have been the #1 pick in the MLS draft if they met his pay demands and he could have played for the Revs. There's a better chance of me pulling the universal lever for the Green Party on election day than MLS meeting those demands.
* Man U would be in trouble if they were playing any other Prem team in he FA Cup semis today. They are coming off their most glorious moment since 1999. Heck, that victory was right is so many ways it isn't funny. Neither is wearing a shirt advertising the stabbings you plan on committing while wielding a knife out of Old Trafford like the Roma fans did. Then again, I did get a chuckle watching the looks on the Roma Ultras' faces.
* For full disclosure, my footie allegiance hierarchy goes something like this: Revolution >>> Rangers >> Manchester United >>>>> everyone else >>>>>>>>>>>>> Chicago Fire. Translation for New Englanders: The Revs are wicked awesome, Gers are wicked pissah, Man U are wicked good, the Fiyah rot.
* I just got added to SoccerBlogs.net. Check it out. It's a good resource.
* I guess I have to respond to a reaction piece to my Shep Messing take this week from Injury Time. I say "I guess" because it wasn't anything more than a fanboy reaction. The only attempt at basing his/her response on any intellectual merit was in reference to the color commentator from the movie "Major League". Well, the whole joke behind that guy was he didn't have anything to say. Shep Messing has way too much to say, and it usually has nothing to do with the action currently taking place on the field. Once again, I dig Shep Messing's commentary, just not during the game. When MLS studio analysts become as important as they are in other sports, Shep should ply his trade there. I would respond to his/her cracks if they weren't so weak. Don't worry, they'll get their just smack the week before a Revs-Vodka Chaser match.
* I'm genuinely pumped for the Revs match tonight. Last week, I was a little nervous starting off against such a heated rival. However, we started so many rookies which took some of the edge off.
* I wonder why this old photo in that story only appear on the league's website after Joseph started demanding more money? Nevermind, answered my own question.
That's all for now. Get the drinks in and COME ON YOU REVS!
Friday, April 13, 2007
The Revolution released New Zealand international Tony Lochhead and signed third round draft pick Bryan Byrne according to Soccer New England.
Byrne will have to hold a senior roster spot due to his age and nationality (Irish), so roster space had to be cleared. Lochhead seemed to be out of favor since early last season and didn't come into camp in form according to sources. Ironically, Lochhead was highly rated coming out of UCSB, but was selected in the third round by the Revs due to his nationality, age, and intention to try and play in Europe. Byrne resembles the first two characteristics, as well as alma mata, but he's keen to give MLS a go before thinking about playing across the pond.
Byrne is an energenic, speedy midfielder with exceptional passing ability for someone coming out of the college system. Although some feel Wells Thompson would be the long term replacement for Steve Ralston, I thought Byrne could fill that roll when he was first drafted. We'll have to see.
Tomorrow's the day when the New England Revolution raise the curtain on another season of soccer at Gillette Stadium. In their first doubleheader since 2005, our game is preceeded by a US Womens friendly against Mexico. Couple that with this game being part of the initial Beckham 4-pack, and there could be a good crowd cheering on the Revs.
This will be the first ever meeting between the Revs and Toronto FC. Toronto dropped their opener in LA last week 2-0 against Chivas USA. Although they looked good at times in the first half, they lacked the consistency on defense and the continuity on offense to win. Even with the possibility of #1 pick Maurice Edu coming off of injury and making his debut, the newcomers shouldn't pose much of a threat to a healthy Revolution side.
The problem is, the Revs wouldn't be what you would call healthy. There's a very real possibility that Pat Noonan won't be starting and Shalrie Joseph will join Kenny Smith in sitting out another game due to muscle injury. Micheal Parkhurst and Daniel Hernandez are definite no-go's as it is. To be honest, the Revs are in real danger of dropping all three points in this one if we trot out the same eleven we did last week.
Toronto has two forwards Revs know very well: Alecko Eskandarian and Edson Buddle. Both had remarkable years in 2004 and have had trouble re-establishing that form ever since. Alecko still held a grudge against Matt Reis for ending his season in 2005 as late as last season, so you have to wonder if he still has hard feelings. He had poor shot selection and made some questionable fouls against Revs players when he played against us last year, so he may still be preoccupied with getting his revenge.
The biggest weakness with Toronto is their defense. Coach Mo Johnston plays a wide open style which leaves their three defenders on an island more often than not. If Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan are worth their paychecks and Andy Dorman is as good as we think he is, the Revs shouldn't have too much of a problem finding the back of the net. However, if Joseph is missing, Dorman will have to provide much more defensive coverage which will effect his offensive input.
New England: Matt Reis, Jay Heaps, James Riley, Avery John, Steve Ralston, Gary Flood, Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson, Andy Dorman, Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan
Toronto FC: Greg Sutton, Miguel Canizalez, Andrew Boyens, Jim Brennan, Marco Reda, Paulo Nagamura, Carl Robinson, Andy Welsh, Richard Mulrooney, Alecko Eskandarian, Edson Buddle
Well, last night's LA - Dallas game pretty much shot the hell out of my last post's thesis. In an entertaining game by MLS standards, with the LA supporters providing a good backdrop, the announcing triad of Dave O'Brien, Eric Wynalda, and Alan Hopkins tried way too hard to impress the audience. Here's some random thoughts:
* When did LA become this superior MLS side? They didn't make the playoffs last year, upgraded from a top 6 MLS keeper to a top 3 MLS keeper, lost some of their depth at forward and defense, and picked up a target forward who hasn't racked up a lot of goals in his MLS career. The announcers kept heralding them as this unstoppable team. I just don't see why.
* Frank Yallop rates his fellow countymen way too highly. He just signed one and had him on the field a few hours later. There's a reason Canada's national team sucks, Frankie.
* I did like that rookie, Findley. He's quick and headed in LA's first goal of the season last night. However, he may appear to have a crap touch.
* When did the 2006 FC Dallas team turn into the 2005 Philadelphia Eagles? The announcers droned on and on about how they were a team in turmoil last year. Didn't they have the second best record and just have a bad series against Colorado?
* I loved the parts where they cut away from the game when Hopkins did an interview. If I could see through heads, I could have followed what was going on during one of them. Seriously, if they can show 2003 MLS Cup highlihts in a small screen, they can do it for the sideline interviews.
* Speaking of those 2003 MLS highlights, put it in a corner! It was covering up the damn ball!
* One time, they didn't cut away but asked for Alan's input. He talked for 45 seconds straight. During that time, each team had a chance on net.
* Someone needed to hand O'Brien a note that told him FC Dallas won a game in that building in 2005 against Chivas USA. It's one thing to keep repeating the same thing in a valiant attempt to prevent three seconds of dead air time. It's another thing to keep repeating an incorrect statement.
* The crowd sounded good. Granted, the announcers filled every once of dead airtime they could, so the audience couldn't appreciate them.
* In regards to MLS fibbing on attendance numbers, LA went into the Twilight Zone last night. There were zero fans in the upper deck, the endlines were abour 2/3 full, the TV side was about 1/2 full and the non-TV side was at best 3/4 full. Announced attendance: 23,596. You can tell me that you sold every ticket and half of them just didn't show up. I can't prove you wrong (just like a lot doubt there are actually 27k seats at the HDC), but you can't tell me you sold any seats in the upper deck. I'm totally befuddled by that.
* Eric Wynalda seems like a guy who generally "gets it", but man is he ever a jingoist when it comes to foreign soccer players. He never praised Carlos Ruiz for the way he uses his body to trap defenders into fouling him or giving up space. Just wait for Blanco, Waldo will be in classic form then.
* Dave O'Brien's "you just don't see that in too many soccer matches" when Ruiz started standing 10 yards in front of Landon for corner kicks goes to show how little soccer Dave O'Brien has watched. By the way, he didn't "read" the corner kick that hit him in the head. Why couldn't someone take the time to briefly explain the tactical reason for him standing there?
All in all, I felt like I was watching one big science experiment last night. The ESPN team was busy trying out new angles and features to see if they work. I just hope they ask people who know the game for their feedback.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
On Tuesday's edition of In The Net, host, and Revolution announcer, Brad Feldman commented on some of the issues he faces while calling Revs games. One of the things he pointed out is that the American broadcasts typically have to provide much more commentary than they do in Europe because the atmosphere keeps the game compelling while the announcers let the game speak for itself.
Talking over the game is a pet peeve of mine and is shared by many American soccer fans who know the sport. We don't want to listen to someone droning on and on about a broad range of subjects from how bad someone is playing (Wynalda) to the flight time from London to Munich (O'Brien), all the while scoring opportunities are being created. The problem is if announcers limit their commentary to saying what player has the ball, there would be a lot of dead airtime due to the lack of atmosphere in the stadium.
During In The Net, Feldman gave credit to the Chicago fans who allowed him and his broadcast partner, Greg Lalas, to have more breaks in their running dialog due to the atmosphere they were creating. There has been some animosity between Revs and Fire fans since last season, but I'll give credit to Section 8 et al, they were out in full force on Saturday. I'm out of the area right now, so I watched the Chicago broadcast which also picked up some of the chants from the Revolution fans who made the trip, so kudos to them, too.
I thought Julie Foudy did a fine job filling in for Eric Wynalda on Saturday and Dave O'Brien wasn't spouting off superfluous facts every ten seconds. However, when they let the game call itself, all you could usually hear was a few plastic horns bellowing in the cold mountain air. I'm not saying the stadium wasn't electric by MLS standards for the opener, I'm just saying there wasn't enough constant singing and chanting from the supporters section.
So, in essence, it's up to the supporters at the stadium to provide the atmosphere which will enable the commentators to call the game like they should. ESPN Sports executives will quickly find ways to fill that empty airtime if we let them. Do we really need more sideline reports from Alan Hopkins while someone takes a shot on net? The same goes for FSC and the locals. I'm not too worried about Telefutura. They'll go nuts for 90 minutes if they were calling a foosball game.
I've mentioned Chicago, but DC United also does a great job in creating atmosphere. I won't go into the other teams, but I think their various groups know where they stand.
As for the Revolution, the supporters section at Gillette Stadium is known as "The Fort". The Fort has seen a resurgence in recent years. Once one of the top draws in MLS's first five years, the Revs saw a steady decline in fan turnout shorty thereafter. This was brought about through the scaling back of marketing and ticket giveaways as well as several other non-fan friendly measures. (This coincided with the league's future being questioned. Bob Kraft was one of three owners who saved MLS, but he lacks the resources the other two possess.) As a result, the numbers in the supporters section also dwindled. A good number of initial fans also left when they realized MLS wasn't up to the standard of play and went on watching their superior European sides.
Attendance has bottomed out and leveled off around 12-13k over the last four seasons (last year's mark was 11,700, but there were no double-headers to bump that number up to the typical level). However, during this time The Fort has grown in numbers and volume. The number of supporters from the Midnight Riders and Rev Army continue to build in large part due to the infectious nature of participating in the various songs and chants sung during the game.
This is a good thing, but there are several obstacles to overcome before we begin providing the kind of sound which will make the game more enjoyable for the TV viewer. First and foremost is overcoming the architectural handicaps of Gillette Stadium. The Fort is located in a huge open air NFL stadium which provides no roof or overhang to trap the sound. To make matters worse, the lower bowl isn't a closed loop and The Fort is right next to a large opening. This can be overcome, but it takes a lot more people in The Fort to generate a given volume level than at RFK or Bridgeview.
The other big obstacle is the fact that TV producers are apprehensive about placing a microphone anywhere near The Fort due to the obscene nature of some of our chants. Even when they mic'd us last season, the volume was lowered after the first "wings of a sparrow". This is controversial among some of us. Personally, I'm into swearing at games. For that reason, I'll be situated much higher up in The Fort than I was last season. I invite others to do the same. The worst thing that can happen is someone yelling out an F-bomb right into the microphone and then all sound being cutoff from our end of the stadium in future broadcasts.
This Saturday marks the first home game of the season. If you are a Revs fans, get to the game. If you want to participate, buy your tickets to section 143 and bring your voice. If you don't know any of the songs, I compiled a few of them along with their tunes here. In my opinion, the best way to participate is to be a part of one of the supporter groups, which have links in the right sidebar.
So get out to Gillette and have some fun supporting the Revs. The state of the US game will benefit from your fun.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Both gaffer Steve Nicol and his assistant, Paul Mariner, made recent comments in the media saying two of the team's first choice midfielders might not be ready for Saturday. Nicol's comments appeared in Soccer New England:
Finishing drills were a feature of Tuesday’s training session, which saw a return to action of two absentees from last weekend: Shalrie Joseph and Khano Smith. Nicol said that he hoped that both men would be available for selection against Toronto on Saturday, though much would depend on ‘what happens during the rest of the week’.
Mariner's comments occured on yesterday's edition of "In The Net" (There's a link to the podcast in the right sidebar of this blog). He alluded they were leaning towards sitting the duo due to the nature of their injuries (muscular) and the cold weather forecast for the game.
If Khano Smith can't start at left midfield, the Revs will miss that "X factor" he brings with his quick movements and the ability to make up ground quickly with his long strides. That can be overcome. I'm guessing Wells Thompson would get the nod again in the wake of his modestly impressive debut.
If Shalrie Joseph is out, that effects the entire form of the team. Guys like Dorman and Ralston have to provide much more coverage on the defensive end which effects the team's attack in an adverse fashion. The Revs really don't have anyone to replace him. If Gary Flood starts, expect Toronto's attack to have a field day with New England's defense in the middle of the field.
Not the way Revolution fans expected the season to start.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Shep Messing dropped a doozy during the broadcast of the Columbus-New York match on Saturday when he admonished the Crew fans for not showing up en mass to the opener. One could argue that the team Mr. Messing covers lives in a glass house and he shouldn't throw stones, but what makes his comments even more astonishing is the fact Messing wasn't even at the stadium. You see, he called the game from a studio in New York, not the fridged confines of the Crew Stadium press box.
So why am I writing about Shep Messing? Well, for the better part of the previous four seasons, I lived in an area of New York which carried Metrostars/Red Bull home games. I've definently had my fill of the New York broadcast team. One thing I like about Shep Messing is his mind for the game. He was a keeper with the Cosmos, Minutemen, as well as spending the waning years of his career playing indoors. He's been around the block and then some when it comes to the US soccer scene.
The problem I have is he belongs in the studio, not the announcers booth. His comments are usually way too distracting when he rambles on while there is legitimate action on the field that needs to be called. I would have loved to know who the left defender is for the Crew when he gets a touch here and there, but such information gets omitted for Shep's "color commentary". I'll put Eric Wynalda in that same category. I didn't miss Waldo getting upset with players and telling us how bad they were playing on Saturday. Foudy took some heat on the messageboards, but she didn't overwhelm the broadcast like Messing or Wynalda are known to do. I would love to see Messing and Wynalda in a three man setup similar to the way ESPN covers other sports. They'd be allowed to elaborate and throw bombs to their hearts content without spoiling the calling of the games.
Getting back to his comment about the attendance in Columbus, there were so many classier ways to get a point like that across. The problem is, I've watched broadcasts he has done when there were literally 1/3 that size at Giants Stadium, and that's in the most population dense region in the country. Shep didn't have anything to say then, so he should have kept his mouth shut about another team's issues.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Welcome to the first installment of Fantasy Soccer Bootroom, a (hopefully) weekly rundown of analysis of fantasy soccer leagues for MLS. The two main leagues are MFLS and MLS Fantasy Challenge on foxsoccer.com. In both of these leagues, I am participating in divisions for Revolution fans. This is the first year that I am taking the league seriously, and I look forward to sharing my experience throughout the season.
As a primer, MFLS is a deeper system with salaries that don't change, transfer fees which change based on demand, and bench players. The format on foxsoccer.com has a much more restrictive salary cap, no subs, and no transfer fees. I believe they are using a similar system to the EPL challenge I participated in a few years back, but with the addition of assists. If true, player salaries will vary throughout the season, which could get interesting. I'll mostly be focusing on MFLS, but I'll also give a nod to the fantasy challenge each week depending on my interest.
Both of my teams are called "Chowda United". My MFLS team had a very good first week with a respectable 20 points. I sit tied for 5 of 65+ in my division's table, and 295th out of 2000+ overall. I put in a good effort getting my starting lineup for week 1. Here is what it looked like and the results:
You only get points for players who start each week and for the coach. If you look at my team, the number in brackets next to each player is the total they had for the week. The two numbers below that are salary and transfer fee respectively.
Points are obtained for soring goals and assists, as well as just being on the field when your team scores. Deductions occur for things like yellow cards and giving u goals. Defenders and keepers are rewarded for shutting out opponents for halves, etc... As you may gather, individual performance is important, but team performance can be just as important.
For instance, take my defender selection. I have two Red Bull players back there. Both players aren't going to score many goals or rack up assists, but Bruce Arena's team hasn't been bleeding goals after "The Bruce" took the job. They also were playing Columbus last week and play a Dallas team that has to fly cross-country after their Thursday game to make their Sunday afternoon contest. Arena may actually elect to play a 4-5-1 at times this year, so the goal counts will be low. As a bonus, Seth Stammler counts as a defender, while actually lining up as a midfielder in real life. This opens the door for assists and goals. However, I do have to watch out for yellow cards, as he is a hard tackler.
I took Pickens as my GK, because he's the best value. Chicago has a rough defense which will keep his GAA low and his salary allowed me to upgrade my attacking players. I'm actually surprised so few people have him. He's now very popular after the shutout, but I can't afford to let him and his low pay grade go.
At midfield, I have three players who should rack up major points. However, I did struggle with the decision to start Ben Olsen. I originally had Fred. DC will score a lot of goals. They can, but most importantly they will have to with their weak defense. Fred led the A-League in goals, and we'll see how he does in MLS. I didn't go with Fred because he wasn't starting in Colorado. I went with Olsen because I thought DC would win. I was wrong there, and Olsen also was yellow-carded. Ouch! I also took a hard look at Sacha Kljestan who wound up scoring the most individual points this week with nine. I didn't go with him because I felt Toronto would have scored.
My three forwards should do fine. Although only one of them scored, I'm not worried about Ching and Twellman. I also have decent coverage with Barrett and Cristman who should start for their MLS sides when Ching and Twellman are off on USMNT duty this summer.
The thing that worries me is my lack of depth at defense. I have to find out which rookie defenders are going to crack their respective lineups and pick them up. I want to have 5-6 defenders, who start for their teams, to have flexibility based on that week's MLS schedule. I also have to plan on any bye weeks for teams. KC had a bye, but I picked up Arnaud for future coverage.
My bench looks a little different right now. I actually made a few swaps to generate a transfer fee slush fund. I needed the funds to dump Olsen and I wanted the money for future considerations.
Well, that was how I planned out the linup for Chowda United. Looking at the MFLS tables, Alpine Dream topped the charts with 43 points. The team is heavy on Colorado Rapids, so he hit the jackpot. As for the Revs division, Pip United is in first with 32 points. All of his forwards racked up points and his major performers were Chivas USA players Guzan and Kljestan. From what I gather, 20-25 points is a good week and anything over 30 points is money.
Well, that's it for the first installment of Fantasy Soccer Bootroom. I'll get into the other league somewhere down the line. Look for future installments at the start of each week.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Dropping three points to the Chicago Fire wasn't the best way to start the season. However, it wasn't all bad. The Revs did out-shoot their opponents 18-11, but only 5 of the team's shots were on net. Four Revolution players made their first team debut, but aside from some neat footwork from Wells Thompson, there wasn't much to talk about from the newcomers. New England may have controlled play for stretches, but I can't think of the last time the Revs actually controlled play when they had the lead so I have a hard time crediting them for creating half-chances while behind.
The only two Revs who seemed to shine at all were Andy Dorman and Pat Noonan, who finally made his return to the lineup after off-season hernia surgery. When Noonan came off the bench, the team's passing was crisper, and the offense started creating real chances on a consistent basis. Andy Dorman showed signs that 2006 wasn't a fluke season for the Wales native. Both players have to stay healthy for the Revs to be successful this year.
On the subject of health, Shalrie Joseph has to get healthy. The same goes for Smith and Hernandez. Thompson did a respectable job wide left, but he's right-footed and would be better suited subbing in for Ralston each week and gaining his MLS legs that way. Speaking of Ralston, Stevie was pretty unspectacular last night. He was required to pick up a lot of the defensive slack with an inexperienced Gary Flood at DM. I'm happy the gaffer has faith in my fellow Hofstra attendee, but he looked out of place in the midfield. I'm hoping he can be a starting defender down the line, but I want him nowhere near the center of the pitch ever again.
On the attack, Twellman faced the usually amount of abuse from the Fire and Adam Cristman went missing for long stretches. Arsene Oka also made his debut in an attempt to add an offensive spark, but Chicago did a pretty good job in killing the game off.
The good news is that we are only 3 points back from Chicago who sit atop the Eastern Conference after matchday 1. I'm also happy we face them at home in a month. The Fire didn't impress me last night as much as I thought they would. It's good to get another crack at them before they have time to gain some form, or before Blanco arrives. The bad news is the playoff participants are now determined by single table, so even though teams like DC and Toronto lost, some Western Conference teams won and we are competing with them for postseason spots now.
Here's my player grades for the game:
1 - Matt Reis.........6
4 - Avery John........6
6 - Jay Heaps.........5
7 - Adam Cristman.....4
13 - Jeff Larentowicz..5
14 - Steve Ralston.....4
16 - James Riley.......6
17 - Gary Flood........3
20 - Taylor Twellman...5
25 - Andy Dorman.......8
27 - Wells Thompson....7
11 - Pat Noonan........7
32 - Arsene Oka........5
* My grading system is a work in progress.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
The Revs fell behind 1-0 to Chicago on a very early Logan Pause goal. That wasn't as scary as our lineup, though:
Defenders: Heaps, Riley, John
Midfield: Thompson, Larentowicz, Flood, Ralston, Dorman
Forwards: Twellman, Cristman
Starting three rookies is no way to win the first game of the season. To paraphrase Chicago native Jim Belushi as a high school chess coach in 80's SNL: "Why don't you just give'em the king, Stevie! Give it to 'em!"
The Revs have managed to create just as many good chances as their opponents. The animosity between the teams has also seemed to die down a bit.
I'm watching the game on MLSlive, and I do have to say that the Fire broadcst team have been perfect neutral announcers. The team works well together and they have been complementary to both sides. Some opposing fans complain of Feldman's homerism and you definently see it with Shep Messing on MSG, but these guys have been a pleasant surprise.
COME ON YOU REVS! LEVEL IT UP!
Don't get spoiled with this blog activity. I'm just trying to get my writing chops back. Also, aside from the repeat in the header picture and the footer color issue, this will be the template for the blog. Once again, I'm you want a link to your site or blog, post a comment or to my e-mail when I get the link up.
Here's some quick toughts with 2.5 games down in the 2007 MLS season:
* DC United looked sluggish in their opener, dropping a 2-1 decision to Colorado. The new stadium sold out, but about 20% of the people seemed to stay home and keep warm. Although Emilio scored by a header, he was completely unmarked and that was his only real scoring threat.
* Julie Foudy did fine filling in for Eric Wynalda. I didn't miss Eric's press box soccer dadding one bit.
* FC Dallas stole one in Salt Lake. Into their their year, Real is still drawing good crowds.
* Shep Messing is scolding Columbus for a lack of fan support. Pot-kettle Shep, pot-kettle.
* Altidore had a sweet turn towards net in the first half and he was unlucky not to score. He'll be "Out-the-door" in one, two years tops.
* I'll have more after the Revs game. I have my doubts with Joseph out. Any points is a victory in this one.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Announced as part of their "Game First" initiative, MLS promised there would be an MLS anthem played before each game with the players lined up like they do in the EPL. National anthems are usually sung before the players even come onto the field at Gillette. In fact, this process will probably eliminate the Revs players being announced and running out onto the field to whatever stadium rock song they deem chic. Teams will now line up in the tunnel and walk out in line, probably with the kiddies walking alongside. Not a horrible idea, but I found it funny how they put this in the same press release as Superliga and playoff qualification guidelines.
Here's the article and a sample
One thing I would love to see done, is someone come up with a techno version of the song to be played during highlight shows on FSC or ESPN. They have that for the EPL anthem and it's pretty catchy.
ESPN/ABC has apparently suspended Eric Wynalda for his comments in that soccer blog. His replacement is Julie Foudy.
The thing I like about Julie Foudy is she's attuned to the world game and it's culture. The thing I don't like is that the other commentators kept asking her what was going on in players' heads during the World Cup because she played in several. As Ozzie Guillen would say: pfffff please. I just hope they don't keep asking her about her pro soccer experience. The sad truth is, she knows better. Whether or not her partner does is another question all together.
I really don't mind her being a female, either. I got over that bias when the Andrea Kremers of the world started bringing their game. That doesn't mean I like them all. I'm looking at you, Brandi Chastain.
It had been two years since UNAM Pumas blew DC United out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup, until the two leagues squared off again in a first team competitive match. Actually, two MLS teams made it to the semi-finals of that competition and just like in 2005, the Mexican sides prevailed. However, this year showcased how far the league has come in recent years in improving the quality of it's teams.
On Tuesday, DC United played in Guadalajara against Chivas. Since I've started watching FMF games again, I've been quite fond of that team's attacking style. On Tuesday night, they used their wits more than their legs in a 2-1 win. DC scored first to take a 2-1 aggregate lead the home and home series through a beautiful goal by Jaime Moreno. However, Chivas took the game by the scruff scoring two goals seemingly at will. Then they did what they usually do: send only two players forward and frustrate their opponents. Although they created an opportunity nearly every time they sent more on the attack, they decided to sit back and prevent DC from any chance of tieing the series up.
Last night, Houston Dynamos went into Pachuca with a 2-0 lead. I wasn't really watching the clock, but I think the home side equalized in seventeen seconds. One goal from a brilliant set piece opportunity, and one from a penalty that the referee called due to foul after a delayed penalty a few seconds earlier. Houston didn't give up, though. They went on to take the series lead two more times even though they were outclassed on the night, much more than DC was two nights earlier. Pachuca went on to win in extra time for a 5-4 total goals win.
It is important to point out that the Mexican league has also been improving in recent years. Several south american players have been featuring for top teams as of late. Argentine Christian Giménez, who played a prominent role in Pachuca's attack last night, is a prime example of this. So, with Mexico moving forward, MLS has to be proud that their league may be accelerating at a faster rate.
One thing I have noticed about the differences between the two leagues is that MLS defenders rely far too much on their upper body. The Mexican players exploited this by out-finessing their MLS counterparts on way too many occasions. Houston, especially, also went in far too hard with their slide tackles. I believe this is bred with the unlimited substitution college system where there's always someone fresh to run at the attacker with reckless abandon.
Superliga kicks off it's inaugural season this summer and will feature four MLS and four FMF sides played exclusively in the US. This should be a more even matchup because the MLS teams will take this a little more seriously than the Mexican clubs. Although it's invitation only, the top four MLS teams in 2007 will qualify for this competition in 2008. At the very least, this provides another benchmark for measuring the success of an MLS season. Hopefully Superliga can gain esteem and be a meaningful cup competition further down the line.
As for the CONCACAF competition, word has it they'll be expanding to group stages in a few years. After this week's games, I have to say this is a good thing. Playing in those tough environments provide valuable experience to the American players. The Revs are filled with promising young talent who could have benefited from that kind of experience. Let's just hope the team makes a concerted effort to qualify for these competitions.
Shalrie Joseph, listed as questionable earlier this week, will not be available for the season opener on saturday according to an article in the Boston Globe.
This makes a huge dent in the Revs' chances in taking three points in Chicago. Joseph suffered a minor calf injury during the final warmup match in New Orleans, and coach Steve Nicol doesn't want to take any chances. Steve Ralston moved over to central midfield during that game, and Wells Thompson played out wide in Ralston's position. Will saturday be the first test for the first round pick Nicol traded up to get?
With Micheal Parkhurst and Daniel Hernandez also out, the Revolution's defense will have a tough time preventing Chicago from attacking up the middle.
I'll keep you posted as more information becomes known.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
There's been a lot of made out of Eric Wynalda's interview with FulhamUSA.com from a bar, specifically his lewd and threatening remarks about Jim Rome. Here's the interview if you need to catch up. As it turns out, Wynalda's apology seems a little sketchy with the source confirming his remarks were on the record. My take on the whole situation is that Wynalda needs to be more careful where he allows himself to be quoted on the record. A bar should never be such a place.
For full disclosure, I am a big Jim Rome fan. I am in total disagreement with his opinion of the sport of soccer, but I find myself laughing out loud to most of his takes on the game. To him, the sport is exclusive to the two extremes: the rioting ultra extreme and the orange slice, soccer mom extreme. Both of those aspects of the game I can do without, and I don't mind them being the butt of his jocularity. However, his takes do come from an ignorant point of view, so they aren't nearly as entertaining as the other issues his show tackles.
Eric Wynalda is actually the only soccer guy that Jim Rome respects. He goes on the show about once a year. Whenever Rome slips in a crack, Wynalda's always quick to make a steroid or deadbeat dad reference about the "major" US sports. Personally, I like Wynalda's brash takes on the sport and his willingness to take on the powers that be. I also believe that 90% of his editorializing have no place during a game broadcast, but that's another story for another day.
The fact is, Eric Wynalda's a network analyst working for a company that just signed a broadcast rights deal with MLS. The league can ill afford to have one of their lead analysts saying stuff like that in the press about a colleague. Especially one that is also an employee of ESPN. The league can't have that kind of embarrassment as they begin another push towards legitimacy on the american sports scene. I'll be curious as to what action the league and/or network takes against Eric.
It's too bad. Wynalda said a lot of great stuff in that interview, exposing the problems with the sport's governing bodies in the US. It's just too bad all that is getting overwhelmed by negative publicity.
If you happened to enjoy Wynalda's comments about Jim Rome, here's a shirt for ya:
There's also an uncensored shirt in the shop, if you like walking around in public with expletives on your chest.
Here we go again.
The New England Revolution and Chicago Fire have developed quite a heated rivalry. From rough on-field play to accusations of Fire coach Dave Sarachan successfully lobbying for Revolution players to be suspended on multiple occasions, the matchup had reached a boiling point heading into their final meeting last October. It ended with the Revolution ending the Chicago side's season for the third consecutive year at Gillette Stadium. Needless to say, with the lineups virtually unchanged from that encounter, the Fire are looking for a little payback.
The Revs come into the game with several players questionable to make the lineup. Slight knocks to Shalrie Joseph, Khano Smith, along with slightly more serious injuries to Micheal Parkhurst, Daniel Hernandez, and Pat Noonan makes predicting the starting XI a little less cut and dry than it ought to be.
The Chicago Fire come into the season on the back of their signing of Blanco. However, he won't be able to play for the club in the first two of three games versus the Revs. Even though they lost two forwards, in Nate Jaqua and Andy Herron, the young Fire attack is one year older and could come into their own ahead of their superstar's arrival. The Revs attack came into the 2005 season much unchanged, having several players in the US camp during the winter. The difference season over season was spectacular in our case. If the same jump in form occurs with the Fire attack, look out.
Defensive midfielder Chris Armas starts the season (which will be his last) healthy for a change. Chicago has stifled the Revs attack over their last eight meetings, save a few goal-scoring outbursts here and there. They play physical and know how to disrupt New England's rhythm. Granted, they have used such tactics as vicious hacking and walking away with the ball to prevent a restart. However, you can't argue with their success.
Look for the typical Revs-Fire ugly slashfest we have grown to know and loath on saturday.
New England: (3-5-2): GK-Matt Reis, D-Jay Heaps, D-James Riley, D-Avery John, M-Steve Ralston, M-Jeff Larentowicz, M-Shalrie Joseph, M-Khano Smith, M-Andy Dorman, F-Taylor Twellman, F-Adam Cristman
Chicago: (3-5-2): GK-Matt Pickens, D-Gonzalo Segares, D-Diego Gutierrez, D-C.J. Brown, M-Ivan Guerrero, M-Thiago, M-Chris Armas, M-Justin Mapp, M-Logan Pause, F-Chris Rolfe, F-Chad Barrett.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
According to the pro wrestling rags, WWE announcer Todd Grisham will be part of the Fox Soccer Channel's MLS team this season. This shouldn't be a story, because all he has to do is ask Bobby McMahon what he thinks. The thing that worries me is Bobby McMahon isn't listed as part of the team in that press release. Yikes.
I just wish they had chosen one of the heel announcers. However, John Bradshaw Layfield is busy covering the Bundesliga.
Yesterday was media day for the Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Many in the local media gathered for a smorgasbord of player, coach, and bigwig interviews. Correctly staged on an off day for the Red Sox, a good turnout was reported (would the media ever labeled their own turnout as bad?).
One of the speakers was Brian Bilello, the Revolution's chief operating officer (never to be confused with a chief operations officer). He spoke on a wide range of issues that played lip service to some of the recent MLS initiatives, upcoming double-headers, and of course, David Beckham. However, it was some of the answers he gave about the long term plans for the franchise that was interesting. Although he was overly vague in his answers, he actually answered a few of the great mysteries on how the Revs front office actually works.
In his comments about the search for a soccer specific stadium, Mr. Bilello stated the team was meeting with multiple cities and towns about several sites, but gave no specific reference to where and who. In regards to a designated player for the team, he mentioned how the player had to be right for the team on and off the field. That's a no brainer and already known, but remember it's Bilello making these statements.
Brian Bilello was hired initially to consult on the efficient operation of Gillette Stadium. He was hired in 2006 as the Revs COO. Many believed it to be another sign the Krafts were tightening the proverbial tourniquet around this franchise's money wound. Some of that may be true, but Bilello is a soccer guy who played at MIT and is a former season ticket holder. Putting him front and center on media day, updating the stadium situation and the organization's stance on signing a big name player at the very least showed us fans that 1.) a stadium is in the team's long range plans and 2.) Brian Bilello will be a big part of that process.
Some may say that the stadium talk was a reactionary measure after that editorial in the Globe a few weeks back. Maybe. Maybe not. It was bound to be brought up by the press. In fact, stadium talk was all the rage at Meet The Revs a few days prior. It's a positive sign that the organization is allowing stadium expectations to be part of their culture. Don't let that mislead you. It'll be at least 4-5 years before the Revs get their own digs, and it may wind up right next to Gillette. A smaller stadium would be better suited for a wider range of events than the football stadium, and the Krafts want traffic to the new Patriots Place development being constructed in the near future.
I guess the best part in all of this is that we won't have to rely on either of the Krafts to be the sole drivers in a stadium push. We'll see if Brian Bilello keeps us updated on a greater than annual basis. For the time being, though, I'm glad the team let us know where they stand for a change.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
The New England Revolution are coming off a down year in the goal scoring department. Couple that with the departure of Clint Dempsey, and the Revs have their hands full. The good news is Pat Noonan should be healthy for more of the season, Taylor Twellman doesn't have the distractions he dealt with in 2006, and Steve Nicol calls this new crop of rookies the strongest such group he has ever coached. Here's a player by player breakdown of the Revolution offensive threats:
Taylor Twellman: Twellman has 77 goals in 137 competitive games for the Revs. Having signed a lucrative contract in the off-season and the World Cup snub way behind him, Taylor looks to get back on track after only 11 regular season goals last year. Now more than ever, he is the face of the franchise and the fans will demand he returns to the form he displayed in his MVP season in 2005.
Pat Noonan: Questionable to start the opener after recovering from another hernia surgery. Really now, does that german doctor love getting all up in him that much that she keeps botching the job? When healthy, Noonan is the creative yin to Twellman's smash mouth yang. They always seem to be on the same page, and the team's +/- with them in the game has been remarkable. Noonan's health may make the difference between a great year and a mediocre year for the team.
Adam Cristman: Drafted late, Cristman has been proving his worth all preseason. He may get the start in the opener and that's when the real test begins. His ability to put away half chances in the box has been his strength. Possessing a large frame compared to most forwards, Cristman could present a different look to befuddle opponents.
Willie Sims: With the emergence of Cristman, Sims may have lost the opportunity to start the season as the #3 forward. Holding Generation Adidas status, Sims is in no danger of being dropped. This could be a make or break year to see if he belongs in the league. He brought a spark when he came off the bench in his few appearances in '06, but resulted in no first team goals.
Chris Loftus: This 6'5" monster out of Duke may be a project for the team. I doubt he'll see any first team action. However, I do look forward in seeing how he's utilized during reserve games.
Steve Ralston: Coming off a sluggish year in '06, Stevie puts on the armband or the opener. A natural leader who I'm glad to see finally getting a chance captaining the team. Although he's aging, Ralston still has decent pace and uses his superior soccer IQ to pull goals out of nowhere.
Shalrie Joseph: Last year, Joseph was forced to carry much of the defensive load and couldn't get forward as much as he had in the past. Still a thread from distance, and in the air on set pieces, look for Shalrie to hit the onionbag more in '07.
Andy Dorman: It was a breakout year for Dorman. His six Goals and ten assists were the one huge bright spot for the team offensively. The Midnight Riders Man of the Year will need to avoid a letdown if the Revs are to be an elite team this year.
Khano Smith: Tall, lanky, yet fast, Smith took awhile getting his form back in '06 after a long injury spell. Being his first healthy off-season with the team, hopefully he worked on his individual skills and conditioning. He looks to start from the get go, and the team can ill afford to have the left side of the midfield our weakness again.
Marshall Leonard: Leonard missed the entire 2006 season. When healthy in 2005, he was a first choice starter at LM. He's probably the most offensively competent LM we've had over the last few year. However, that's not saying a lot.
Arsene Oka: Oka's a youth international from Nigeria the Revs picked up last summer. He showed some signs the signing will pay off with a strong preseason.
Wells Thompson: The first player drafted by the Revs, Nicol sees something in him that most don't. He's being groomed as the long term replacement for Steve Ralston.
Ryan Solle: Picked in the second round, the fourth Wake Forest player on the team. Could see some action at AM. Possesses great footwork and passing skills.
Amaechi Igwe: Although he may be training at LD, he played forward during his one season in college. He could see some playing time up front in the future
Miguel Gonzalez: Another summer signing for the Revs, Miguel is looking to make the US U-20 team for the upcoming Youth World Cup in Canada.
Well, that's it for the preview. We'll see how well this group has prepared on saturday. Expect my match preview shortly.
Monday, April 02, 2007
The Chicago Fire announced yesterday that they have agreed to terms with mexican forward/midfielder Cuauhtémoc Blanco. From my point of view, there hasn't been a marriage of such evil entities in the history of MLS.
The Fire get the attacking player they desperately need in the short term and Blanco gets a multi-year deal which will pay him a very good salary, something he wouldn't get in mexico at his age. Chicago also gets a player who could tap into the latino market to help their attendance, which was slightly disappointing during Bridgeview's inaugural year. Other MLS teams get a possible attraction when the Fire come to town. The Revolution get a much maligned El Tri playing for a heated rival.
Blanco has been a fixture on the mexican national team for several world cups. When the US-Mexico rivalry was hitting it's zenith in 2002, Blanco was one of their best, and dirtiest, players. It'll be interesting to see what kind of reaction he gets from opposing crowds. We'll have to wait until June 30th when his contract with Club America runs out.
In the meantime, better get that battery-throwing arm in shape and checkout this T-Shirt:
Blue Blooded Hooligans