BY ESPN soccernet
Sweeping up after the MLS weekend party (Week 19 edition), here are 10 things I found lying around:1. For instant starter, just add water. For clubs battling through injury or feeling their way through congested schedules, nothing beats the versatile steady Eddie, the fellow who can hold the line at two or three spots, maybe even be a difference-maker at one of them.
Stop and study what unheralded rookie Geoff Cameron is doing right now for Houston, which suddenly has its stuff together and has carved out a four-game winning streak, including a 5-1-4 mark in its past 10 games (in both MLS and the SuperLiga).
Cameron was finishing classes at the University of Rhode Island this time last year, soon to become the 42nd-overall MLS draft pick, the final selection of Round 3 -- a province that rarely portends future MLS starter status.
But the 6-foot-3 former midfielder has started six MLS matches and all four Dynamo SuperLiga contests. More impressively, he has lined up as a forward, an outside midfielder and lately as Bobby Boswell's partner in the middle of the league champ's depleted back line. And Cameron looks right at home there.
Houston needs a few players, unsung and otherwise, rising to the moment. The Dynamo just finished their 29th competitive match this year (with half of 'em in the South Texas sauna). We hear about fixture congestion around the world. Well, a few MLS teams could speak on the subject now; Houston, for instance, could easily reach the 50-game plateau this year.
Rookie Geoff Cameron has been a huge surprise for the Dynamo.
2. Just because we haven't done this in a while, and because it's so much fun. MLS matches that don't involve the Galaxy average 2.4 goals through Week 19. Matches involving the offensively charged and defensively challenged Galaxy average 4.1 goals, including Sunday's 3-2 loss at San Jose.
3. More fun with stats. Here's the home record for the four clubs that play their matches on artificial turf (Red Bull, New England, Toronto and Real Salt Lake): 19-4-14.
And one more: Average attendance in five weekend matches, which included no high-wattage doubleheaders or evenings tricked up with huge concerts or fancy firework shows: a solid 20,182.
4. That guy's still playing? I'm not sure what it says about the state of MLS goalkeeping when Zach Thornton, 34 years old and looking at least 34 pounds overweight, can land on a roster and immediately start for a team in the middle of the Western muddle.
Look around the league and see how many starting goalkeepers make you go, "eh." There's Zach Wells at D.C., Jon Conway at Red Bull New York, Greg Sutton at Toronto, Steve Cronin at L.A., Dario Sala at Dallas, Bouna Coundoul at Colorado and now, apparently, Thornton at Chivas USA.
Zach Thornton is now playing for Chivas USA
5. The right stuff? And a bit more about Wells, who flirted with calamity on a couple of occasions Saturday, once while dealing with a fairly routine cross: United always fancies itself a title contender. And, indeed, Tom Soehn's team sometimes seems to have the stuff. But you've got to wonder if Wells is a guy that United can win a title behind?
6. The elephant in the Chicago Fire locker room. Might the team from Toyota Park play better without Cuauhtemoc Blanco right now?
That's probably a stretch -- but you just know a few folks in and around Bridgeview have wondered so.
If they don't play better, they certainly play differently, moving the ball faster sans their suspended playmaker -- who hasn't been making plays for almost two months now. Blanco has neither scored nor assisted since June 7.
Let that sink in for a second.
Blanco was out for Saturday's 1-0 win over Chivas USA due yellow card accumulation. In the end, resting Blanco is probably the best thing that could happen to Denis Hamlett's club, which won for only the second time in its last eight MLS matches.
7. Return on the DP dollar. Who can blame top Wizard Curt Onalfo for trying anything now as the desperate hunt for goals slogs on in the heartland? Currently, pricey Argentine striker Claudio Lopez is playing out wide in midfield.
With Lopez in the midfield, K.C. lacks sophistication in the runs and combo play up top. Again, sitting with just 17 goals in 18 matches, Onalfo is correct to get creative.
Still, if you go sign a goal-scoring DP and you pay him DP money to score goals, at some point, well, you get it.
Saturday, midfielder Davey Arnaud played at striker while Lopez probed from behind. Lopez never looks particularly bad. It's just that the numbers don't lie. Three goals in 18 games is hardly good return on the DP dollar.
8. Indigestion from Tex-Mex. FCD defender Drew Moor was spot-on Sunday at BMO, commanding the defense in place of the injured Duilio Davino, who has looked like a mismatch or an outright mistake from Day 1. And Moor did so for less than a fifth of Davino's salary.
The other interesting note from Dallas' 2-0 win Sunday at BMO: the frustration is mounting in Amado Guevara, a toxic locker room threat when things aren't going swimmingly. He clearly can't find the game as a central partner in a 4-4-2, where he's had to play during Maurice Edu's absence. Then, to be ejected late Sunday and effectively kill any TFC rally chances, that's another huge red flag in terms of character -- and it's just not smart.
9. Dodging a Giants mistake. Every night, when Fire defender Wilman Conde addresses his maker, he should say a little "Thanks, Big Guy" for keeping him at Chicago and out of the mess at Giants Stadium.
FYI: the best center back pairing in MLS right now is a toss-up between Chicago's Conde and Bakary Soumare or RSL's tandem of Nat Borchers and the increasingly imposing Jamison Olave.
All of Chicago's issues have to do with scoring goals, not with defense.
10. Sudden thought. As all these globe-trotting high performers pass through MLS territory at this time of year (Barcelona, Everton and several Mexican sides were here just in the last few days, for example), the big earners get asked the same question, "Would you like to play in MLS someday?" Well, it's a bit pointless, isn't it? Has anybody ever said, "No way!"
Will they ever? Of course not. So why bother?
And yet, we all take the bait and write about it anyway. I'm just sayin' ...
Revolution Down Dynamo In SuperLiga
The Revolution triumphed in the SuperLiga 6-5 on penalties
FOXBORO, Mass. -- The second edition of the SuperLiga had a peaceful conclusion late Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium. Maybe too peaceful.
All-out brawls marked the postgame events of the semifinals. But the final became as much a bonding experience for the players as an occasion for the New England Revolution to take vengeance on the Houston Dynamo. New England triumphed 6-5 in a penalty shootout after extra time ended with both teams tied, 2-2.
The Revolution and Dynamo set the tone for the final celebration by deciding before the match to split their 15 percent share of the $1.5 million prize money awarded to the first- and second-place finishers.
And the teams carried over that spirit of camaraderie following the Revolution's victory over the Dynamo.
Revolution captain Steve Ralston could not have been much more subdued as he collected the SuperLiga trophy. Ralston and his teammates, plus Revolution owner Robert Kraft, did get into the spirit long enough to parade the trophy in front of The Fort section behind the goal.
But the victory party had a low-key feel, as both the Revolution and Dynamo were interested in making a statement about their dissatisfaction with the prize money distribution, symbolized by the teams exchanging jerseys immediately after the match.
"It was a show of unity," Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad said of the shirt exchange. "We believe our CBA [collective bargaining agreement] rights were violated, and it was set up that we were playing for $1 million, when that was not the case. We are a little disappointed about how it was handled."
The conflict between MLS and the MLS Players Association over the SuperLiga payoffs might be the first of many leading up to negotiations when the CBA expires after the 2009 season. Or, if anything is learned from the experience, communication between the two sides could improve by then.
"We've been through quite a bit," said Revolution player union representative Jay Heaps, who was suspended for the final. "But we solidified as a group. We wanted to get to the point where we could discuss it but we never had that chance."
The roots of the players' dissatisfaction relate to the fact the players of the Mexican clubs in the event will receive a greater percentage of the prize money. Pachuca players apparently told MLS players they split the full $1 million payday for winning the first edition of the SuperLiga. MLS officials contend the Pachuca players split $300,000, about 30 percent of the total. Even so, MLS players felt deceived, the contract for the SuperLiga having been unilaterally negotiated by the league.
The Dynamo players hoped to meet with ownership to decide their share and have filed a grievance that will be heard in October.
In any case, MLS teams showed they are the equals of their southern neighbors on the field.
The Revolution were especially impressive in knocking off three of the last four Mexican league champions, then rallying against the two-time defending MLS Cup winners.
Though the final was conceived in the spirit of cooperation, it was a highly competitive match, more open than the last two MLS Cups.
The Revolution have been transformed with the addition of forwards Kheli Dube and Kenny Mansally, plus Sainey Nyassi, whose play on the right wing was a key to the team's success against the Dynamo. The Revolution had three 19-year-olds (Amaechi Igwe, Mansally and Nyassi) in the starting lineup against the Dynamo, symbolizing the team's new look. The newcomers provide a break from the past and the collective memory of three successive MLS Cup defeats.
Of course, it helps to have Shalrie Joseph, who established himself as a major threat on set pieces, scoring three times off Ralston free kicks in the SuperLiga. Joseph's header tied the score in the 102nd minute and demonstrated the Revolution are more resourceful than they were last November, when they appeared down and out after falling behind against the Dynamo in the MLS Cup.
Revolution coach Steve Nicol has kept some of the foundation of the team since his first full season as head coach in 2003. Heaps, Joseph, Ralston, goalkeeper Matt Reis (who made two penalty kick saves during the penalty shootout in the final) and Taylor Twellman had key roles in the SuperLiga. But the Revolution have a remarkable streak going -- they are 11-1-5 in all competitions since May 3 -- because young, previously low-profile players have made a strong impact.
"That was hardest-fought game of the year," Heaps said of the final. "It was one of the best games I've seen.
"The SuperLiga is an awesome tournament. The biggest statement we made was shutting out three Mexican teams."
Frank Dell'Apa is a soccer columnist for The Boston Globe and ESPN.
Barcelona hammers six past Red Bulls
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Samuel Eto'o scored two goals and Xavi Hernandez added a goal and two assists to lead FC Barcelona to a 6-2 win over the New York Red Bulls in an international friendly on Wednesday night.
Samuel Eto'o scored twice as FC Barcelona cruised to a 6-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls in a friendly on Wednesday.
FC Barcelona won the match handily despite playing without star Lionel Messi.
The match came several hours after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Barcelona could keep Messi from playing for his native Argentina in the upcoming Olympics.
Barcelona officials declined to comment on the situation before the match.
The situation didn't distract FC Barcelona, which took command early and led 4-1 at the half.
Hernandez opened the scoring in the 17th minute when he beat Red Bulls goalie Jon Conway with a header off a cross from Daniel Alves.
Twenty seconds later, Eto'o got his first goal of the match when he got past the Red Bulls defense, took a pass from Hernandez on stride and beat Conway.
The lead grew to 3-0 when Rafael Alverz Marquez deflected a cross from Hernandez with his head, and the misdirected shot sailed past Conway in the 24th minute.
New York got on the board in the 30th minute, when Seth Stammler scored an unassisted goal. But Barcelona answered in the 43rd minute when Eto'o took a give-and-go from Alexander Hleb, then maneuvered his way past two defenders and beat Conway.
Barcelona replaced six of its 11 starters as the second half began, but the Red Bulls did not fare much better against the replacements.
New York narrowed the lead to 4-2 when Jorge Rojas scored on a rebound off a crossing shot by Jeff Parke in the 60th minute.
Barcelona closed out the scoring with goals by Jeffren Suarez in the 80th minute and Pedro in the 86th minute against Red Bulls backup goalie Caleb Patterson-Sewell.
Major League Soccer League Table
WEEk # 19Eastern Conference GPWLTPtsGFGA New England171043332519 Columbus19964312927 Chicago18855292514 DC United17881253028
Toronto FC18684222024 Kansas City18567221723 New York18567221927 Western Conference GPWLTPtsGFGA Real Salt Lake19766272220 Houston18648262119 FC Dallas19667252724 Los Angeles19685233840 Chivas USA17674222222 Colorado18693212725 San Jose1949618
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Toronto FC @ Colorado
Chicago @ New England
Chivas USA @ Kansas City
Sunday, August 10, 2008
DC United @ New York Red Bulls
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Los Angeles @ Chivas USA