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Early Thursday Kickaround

*Would you believe the Puerto Rico Islanders have advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals? The second-tier club won at Marathon, 1-0, to claim the series on a 3-1 aggregate. Former D.C. United forward Nicholas Addlery scored in the closing minutes, his second goal in two matches against the Honduran side. They'll join Mexican clubs Atlante and Cruz Azul, and, um, no MLS teams in the next stage. On Thursday night, another USL representative, the Montreal Impact, will take a two-goal advantage to Santos Laguna in an effort to join the Islanders.

The lengthy video includes scuffling coaches/staff and the goal:

*A few weeks back, we heard Galaxy executive Tim Leiweke refer to the David Beckham situation as a "circus" and a "zoo." Now Coach Bruce Arena chimes in by referencing "a mental hospital.'' What's next? Assistant coach Dave Sarachan dropping "Legoland" on us? For the love of Stoitchkov, when will it all end?

*Might we hear an official announcement Thursday about Valencia being the MLS All-Star Game opponent?

*Soccer on TV:
Copa Libertadores, Libertad-San Lorenzo 5 p.m. Fox Sports Espanol
Copa Libertadores, San Martin-River Plate 7 p.m. Fox Sports Espanol
Copa Libertadores, America Cali-Sao Paulo 9:30 p.m. Fox Sports Espanol
CONCACAF Champions League, Santos-Montreal 10 p.m. Fox Soccer Channel, Galavision

*Copa Italia semifinal, first leg: Sampdoria 3, Inter Milan 0. Three first-half goals and Mario Balotelli's collision with a goal post:


By Steve Goff  |  March 5, 2009; 12:35 AM ET
Categories:  CONCACAF , Italy , MLS , TV , USL  
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Next: Ronaldo's Postgame Injury

Comments

First.

I think I sprained my Hristo....

Posted by: fischy | March 5, 2009 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Every time there are questions in the posts, I wonder if I should answer them. Then I realized the questions are what drive this blog or "voices" page.

Alas...

Yes.
Cobi Jones referencing UC Berkley.
Next week.
Yes, we might.

Posted by: sitruc | March 5, 2009 1:46 AM | Report abuse

If Montreal do get the result today then it's going to be very hard to call the MLS the top division of US football without shame.

Posted by: RedDevil1 | March 5, 2009 1:52 AM | Report abuse

Again, were Houston and/or DC in the same Groups that Montreal or PR were, they would both be at least this far.

Posted by: alecw81 | March 5, 2009 1:57 AM | Report abuse

Alecw81, deal with it bro. Both Houston and DC would still loose b/c they would find a way to loose these games. its time to give credit were credit is due USL teams can flat out play.

Posted by: degerron | March 5, 2009 3:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm on both sides of the "top flight" debate:

USL teams can flat out play, no denying that.

But MLS teams are better. Judging the leagues based on performance in a cup format is asking for trouble. The FA Cup has lower division teams advancing far every year, both because the premiership teams don't take it as seriously and because anything can happen in a knockout round. That's why in most of the world, the league championship is more important than the cup championship (and why I value the supporters shield more than an MLS cup).

Posted by: troy6 | March 5, 2009 4:25 AM | Report abuse

troy6, I kind of agree with you, but this is not the FA CUP nor is this a straight knock out tournament. Those USL teams went through the qualification tournament to make it into the qualiicantion round to make into the group stage to make it into the quarterfinals. So I believe its a bit unfair to compare them to FA Cup minows and big clubs not caring as much. It clear MLS and SOME Mexican clubs don't care as much. But Santos brought pretty much their full squad and lost in Montreal. Marathon clearly wanted to win. Now if you would have used that analogy on the US Open Cup I would be in total agreement with you.

The problem is ppl don't respect MLS as it is and you would think MLS would eager to prove itself in Champions Legaue since it always trying to draw Latin fans to its games and broadcast. USL now might gain the attention of that audience as its teams have gone in those countries and beaten their teams. I wouldn't be surprise that in the future Spanish media gives USL a bit more coverage.

Posted by: degerron | March 5, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

ISSSLLLAAAAANNNDEEERRSSS!!!!! Bye Bye !!! Maraton!!!!!! USL teams can kick some butt.

Posted by: fedster | March 5, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

DC United got el groupo de muerto (the group of death) but P. Rico beat Marithon 2-0 agg. United lost 2-6 agg in the group stage. Hats off to Puerto Rico. VAMOS UNITED!!!!

Posted by: 9Nine9 | March 5, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I forgot...THANK YOU P. Rico for avenging our loss to Marithon...and the assistant coach for Marithon should be banned for a year. Muy pathetico!!!!

Posted by: 9Nine9 | March 5, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations are due to the Islanders -- but. They bunkered, they booted the ball upfield and had maybe two or three real chances to score during the entire game. Marathon had many more chances, but failed to finish. Towards the end of the game, I remember Marathon had two! unmarked players in the box who couldn't put in a cross. The Islanders played smart, but they were lucky as well. Remember "2 goal" Addlery scored all of one goal for DCU in his time here. He plays better in a punt and run scheme than a possession scheme because he really has no touch to speak of, so the Islanders probably are a better fit for him.

Posted by: griffin1108 | March 5, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

The key to PRI's win last night was holding possession when they needed to. They absorbed pressure, won the ball, and (especially late) played beautiful one-touch keepaway. That kind of soccer is how you hold on to leads when you play the second leg away, and MLS teams simply don't do it well.

Let me say that DC from 1997 to 1999 was very good at playing that kind of possession game, but haven't done it effectively since.

I have no idea why a second division team controls the pace of a game better than MLS teams, but it's a fact, guys. Puerto Rico knocked the ball around last night like they were a great German team. It was mind-boggling.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 5, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I still go with - the CCL, USOC, Poulan Weedeater Bowl - that these competitions show that MLS is top and bottom heavy on the average roster. To carry the requisite talent at the top of the foodchain in MLS' price bracket, your depth has to come from a cheaper source. If you hit injuries, suspensions, or even just the dip in form, you're toast. Boom Roasted!

The USL is making a living off of MLS cast aways. Guys cut because their progress hasn't moved them into a salary bracket that makes them worth keeping around.

If you follow the wise old saying that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, well, MLS as a whole has seen it's share of links come through and put on shirts in the name of cap space only.

I realize that the next CBA will likely include a decent increase to help attract guys at the top, but I also feel like MLS should at least investigate a more progressive cap in order to shore up rosters league wide. Cap the TOP 16 or 18 guys. Take these developmental spots and make them the true bottom, but bring up the bottom to 60-70K and adjust the scale so that the top can still be above the bottom increase, but that the increase will see guys take an MLS offer over a USL offer.

You can't have "professional" athletes in major North American cities plying their trade for minimum wage.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | March 5, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Did the MArathon coach really try to drop kick the Islander coach? Classy...

Posted by: mcn107 | March 5, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

VBB, looks good on paper, where does all that money come from when they're losing money paying current wages? Are MacFarlane/Chang supposed to provide charity?

Posted by: OWNTF | March 5, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

MLS will never be taken seriously in our region until MLS coaches can go all Argy Bargy on TV....

Posted by: JkR- | March 5, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Again, were Houston and/or DC in the same Groups that Montreal or PR were, they would both be at least this far.

Posted by: alecw81 | March 5, 2009 1:57 AM
-------------------------------------------
Again, DC's group was the most difficult. That I think everyone agrees with.

Houston's group was not any better than Islanders' group. You can argue the same for Montreal.

Do draws play a roll? Of course they do.

New England and Chivas went out like bustas did nothing in the round prior to the group stage. Islanders got past freaking Alajuela to make it to the group stage.

Yes, the draw matters.

Islanders had a tougher draw than the Rev and Goats. We got better results against the clubs that they faced both before and after in the tournament.

In the end, you got to get a result.

Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

The Islanders played smart, but they were lucky as well.
Posted by: griffin1108 | March 5, 2009 8:25 AM
-------------------------------------------
griff, Marathon was lucky not to be down by 2 more after the leg in Bayamon. They used more reserves and look at the stats--Islanders dominated them and squandered about 4 quality scoring chances.

Between the two legs, both visiting teams were dominated in possession and chances.

I forget who the quote "sometimes you need luck in football" is attributed to.

Thanks a lot for the congrats.

Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"Would you believe the Puerto Rico Islanders have advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals?"
-the Great Goffinho

Yep. Coz I knew that they could do it. Hard work, favorable draw, the direction of General Clark and a bit of luck.

Ole' yanki-yank called it. :)

Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

All over the world, small teams make long runs in cup tournaments.

That's pretty much why they exist. Of course they seldom win, but when they do, they become legends.

It's a nice story. But, they played 30 games in 2008. The MLS clubs that bombed out were all playing 45-50 games, and couldn't keep up. The rosters can't withstand it.

Posted by: JkR- | March 5, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I couldn't be happier for Puerto Rico. Seriously, put all the crap aside, because the USL, flat out, has some quality teams, period. The league always has but they get lost in the shadow of MLS. I wish MLS sides would have given more emphasis and more heart in the CCL. I don't think MLS teams, "dogged" it per se but they didn't have the same attitude displayed by Puerto Rico and Montreal. The USL clubs didn't bowed down to their opponent. The Islanders in particular took some punches from Marathon but dug deep and ultimately prevailed. MLS sides should take notice. I wish be rooting like hell for Puerto Rico in the semis and for Montreal tonight. They both have earned it. We should given them their due respect.

Posted by: MichaelVann7 | March 5, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Good for Addlery. It's nice to see success for a guy whose career trajectory has taken him from the islands to Vietnam to a cup of coffee with DC United to USL teams in Canada and Puerto Rico.

A big, fast strong guy with marginal skills that will probably never earn lots of money playing soccer. But scoring occasional goals in front of paying crowds in random places around the world may make it all worthwhile...

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | March 5, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Actually PR played 7 games in the Caribbean qualifying tournament, 24 USL regular season games, 5 USL playoff games, 2 CCL qualifying games and 6 CCL group games.

That's 44 games in 2008 for a team with a much smaller payroll than any MLS team.

The travel is worse on them also. 17 games in 48 days at one point across 6 time zones.

Enough with MLS excuses already! Is MLS better than USL: of course it is. But I have maintained for years that the A-League now USL-1 is better than the average second division compared to it's top division because of the MLS salary cap.

What the Islanders, Impact etc get are alot of solid squad type players that get squeezed by MLS clubs. To simply assume the 18 now 20 senior roster players are the best 20 eligible for an MLS team is foolish.

USL gets a lot of the mid salary guys: 7 to 12 on the rosters. 35k to 60k guys who add up under the cap.

I've thought for years because of this some of the USL teams have actually been better as teams than MLS sides. They lack the flair and individual star power but I thought if you throw them into a legitimate international competition they may do better than MLS since MLS teams have to rely on so many developmental guys and 18k salary players when injuries hit.

Well, we have our answer now. You can say PR was lucky and yes they were in a weak group, but they absolutely played the toughest team in the qualifying round so they almost earned their way into an easier group.

But beating Marathon on the road is an accomplishment of epic proportions. MLS' yes men may want to minimize making the usual excuses, but no excuses can be applied here. It was an impressive statement by Colin Clarke's team.

Posted by: kkfla7371 | March 5, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Good..lucky...group of death...group of life...what does it matter. The Islanders took advantage of their opportunities and are in the semi-finals. Everything else is just internet blather.

Congrats Puerto Rico Islanders.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 5, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

"Puerto Rico knocked the ball around last night like they were a great German team. It was mind-boggling."

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan

----------

Really?! No offense, and congrats to PR and USL, but it looked to me like they were hanging on by a prayer. Sure, they killed a little time passing towards the end, but overall the match was ugly with sloppy turnovers, reckless tackles and missed opportunities. Puerto Rico didn't win; Marathon lost.

3 points is 3 points -- full credit to the Islanders (and Montreal). I love seeing a scrappy underdog come up with a good win. Especially over Mexico.

But for the good of US soccer, I'd much rather see an MLS side representing in these tournaments. MLS teams look so much more respectable on the international stage (even when they lose).

Posted by: jealousmuse | March 5, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

The effort put into denying credit to Puerto Rico among Insider Nation is disgusting.

It seems to me that it's all based on a couple axioms:

DC United > the rest of MLS
MLS > USL

And the logic flows out of that: by the above beliefs, Puerto Rico aren't as good as DC, so they just must be lucky, played fewer games, had a good draw, etc.

Guys, they played as a team and looked damn good doing it. They don't have a single player that would be among the top four or five on any MLS team, or maybe even the top six on DC, but their players all seem composed, have solid basics, and play as a team. That's how you freakin' win in these competitions, as Bruce Arena could have told you a decade ago.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 5, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

@OWNTF,

In a way - yes. If all the owners/MLS get to write off the losses on their taxes each year - whether corporate or perosnal, then losing money isn't that painful.

I'm not asking for the cap to be $10 mil per team. But the end of the bench should be incentivized to tough it out there unless the player is willing to take a pay cut for more time in USL and thus breaking into the higher pay bracket/more PT in MLS a year or two later.

I think a cap of $3 or 4 million would do it.

But I too think there's too much being read into it. Houston and DC played THE most brutal schedule in MLS history last year. And this year's Houston team is changing pieces with Jacqua and DeRo gone. The 2008-09 Champions League is probably not a good statement on the development of MLS in international competition.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | March 5, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Agree with MJ they looked good as a team. Ugly game, Marathon were punks from coaches on down, PRI did what their coach asks of them (except the left wing), and it looks like coach knows what it takes to win. There's no "beautiful game" when you're playing thugs in a hostile environment with an aggregate lead. They were patient, pinged it around amongst reckless dangerous malicious challenges, waited for their chance and capitalized on it. Ballsy and disciplined.

Be the last match I watch in that competition though. Each game seems to be more thuggery than the last. Wish FSC had some world highlights or something.

Posted by: OWNTF | March 5, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

It's a nice story. But, they played 30 games in 2008. The MLS clubs that bombed out were all playing 45-50 games, and couldn't keep up. The rosters can't withstand it.

Posted by: JkR- | March 5, 2009 9:43 AM

kkfla's numbers were a bit off but my man got to the heart of what my response was going to be: We significantly played more
than 30.

JkR-MLS rosters carried more than USL sides. In the case of the Islanders, our guys travel accomodations are drastically inferior to MLS clubs due to budget constraints. I'm talking airport layovers that would make your head spin. The flights that our travel coordinators book--I've been in the Front Office war room--you got to save money when you have less to being with and when success means that you have to find more money in order to compete.

Enough already. USL clubs did more with a hell of a lot less. Try playing 3 games in 5 days in 3 different countries and climates, travelling "second" class.

You are right that it is a great story.

It's moment in time that I think reflects well on the heart and resourcefulness of both Montreal and Puerto Rico and is a tribute to the USL.



Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

"then losing money isn't that painful"

=========================

That's very progressive of you. Suspect MacFarlane and Chang might not agree though.

Posted by: OWNTF | March 5, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Were we holding on. Sure? We dominated them in Bayamon. Check the stats. Look at the corners.

I will be the first to say that we played excatly the sort of game that I had predicted (only with some DREADFUL marking in our defensive end).

It wasn't pretty. It was sloppy. We looked better possesion wise from about the 65 minute on.

We beat them on the aggreagate. We won at both places. Results move you on in tournaments. We did what we were charged with. Get results. When we play USL competetion, we were more about playing pretty (and we get results). When you play better clubs, clubs with better talent or when you play a make or break game, our approach is get the result.

This isn't a freaking beauty contest.
There's no extra points for style.

Yeah it was ugly. We are capable of playing better. We still got a result against another team that many of the uniformed and the haters said would rout us.

I knew that we could do it.

Cruz Azul. That will require a miracle. But miracles still happen.

Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

And in a year nobody will care/remember when the Mexican team wins the final again. I saw Montreal play, they couldn't hold posession, booted the ball upfield and got a couple fortunate bounces and lucky goals. Doesn't make them a world beater or even a MLS Playoff team.

Posted by: DCU_VW | March 5, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Happy for PR and hopefully MTL. MLS/USL comparisons are valid but DCUtd management simply tanked it in last year's Concacaf. That was clear from management (and fan) comments about "choosing" the playoff race over CCCup. Shameful. The players (nearly all reserves) selected to play in CCC tried but results were foregone, by (upper?) management decision. Results nothing to do with the quality of MLS play, except problems caused by the roster/salary cap limitations mentioned earlier. I think VBB's idea about the salary cap only being applyied to the top 18 senior players is good. Let clubs work their own - one year at a time - development or reserve deals outside the guaranteed pay structure. No roster limits.

Posted by: oz4dcu | March 5, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Lat's not get all Argy Bargy in here. Yankiboy, PRI should be congratulated, they've overcome a lot.

I nominate you to fix the PRI wiki page, which shows 30 games. :)


My point was more about why the MLS teams couldn't and less about why PRI could. The structure of MLS teams is not conducive to the schedules asked of them last year. They will not do well in this format playing development players in cup games, whether by choice or by injury.

Posted by: JkR- | March 5, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

And in a year nobody will care/remember when the Mexican team wins the final again. I saw Montreal play, they couldn't hold posession, booted the ball upfield and got a couple fortunate bounces and lucky goals. Doesn't make them a world beater or even a MLS Playoff team.

Posted by: DCU_VW | March 5, 2009 10:48 AM
Speak for yourself

No, You and some other people won't care.

For Puerto Rico Islanders and Montreal, the exsposure is helping to raise the exposure of the clubs which will help the bottom line.

In the case of Puerto Rico, ESPN Deportes (radio and tv) and other outlets are covering the games. I flip on the radio and there is discussion. There more people in PR and outside of PR who are aware of the club. It has been a big marketing help.

People actually stop me when they see me walk around in my Islanders stuff now because they never heard of the club before this tournament. Some people ask me how to get a jersey. Even if it is out of curiosisty, a jersey is a fe more bucks revenue.

The club get more press requests. The website is better than it was now.

The sponsor hotel is upgraded over where it was before.

The Islanders managed to get DCU to go down and train there and play the friendly. The elite franchise of MLS actually gave them the time of day.

So, increased attention from this tournament has been a big help that will continue to have residual dividends for a while.

After all, Mason lost in the Final Four a couple years back. Try telling them the university, whose enrollment and sponsorship interest has increased that no one cares because they didn't win it all.

As far as how Montreal played, we'll just agree to disagree.

Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

jkr--Your congratulations are appreciated and well received. Thanks a lot.

I'm so incredibly lazy that not only do I not conrtibute to that page, I don't think that I've seen it for about a year.

I'm just happy that our team's offical website is progressing. Little by little.

Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

@OWNTF,

True - but carrying loses and avoiding taxes helps the bottom line just as much as profits do.

Again - I'm not trying to avoid complimenting Montreal and PRI. In fact, they deserve a heck of a pat on the back. They played the complete games and took advantage of chances necessary to advance in a competition like this. If it were so easy, we'd never hold our breath the way we do when United goes to Mexico or any other MLS teams plays beyond the borders of the league.

I am saying - like Sheik Mansour......something at Man City - I want our benches deep and we should pay for that.

Craig Thompson should never have had a DCU shirt. But Craig Thompson played for peanuts. His got a big heart and stepped in when called upon and didn't back down. Nothing to slight his person. But in how I would LIKE to construct any MLS roster is to have my bench be of solid contributors rather than some of the names holding shirts and small paychecks.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | March 5, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Goffer -- Can your tech boys install a filter to screen out any future posts using the term "argy bargy"?

Posted by: fischy | March 5, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Nobody get it tiwsted. I'm not mad at anybody. I have never been happier to be a PR Islanders fan. This has been all incredibly exciting. I remember being at RFK (it might have been when I was still a card carrying Eagle, lol) and some guy was just amazed when he overheard me talking A-league (at that time) with a friend. He didn't even know PR had a team.

"Dude, you actually follow the A-league too? Are you kidding me? Wow. I don't know anybody who follows that league who doesn't actually live in an A-League city or something".

The time that people in Puerto Rico, outside of Puerto Rico, wherever looked at me like I'm on crack "what, there is a professional soccer team in Puerto Rico?"

(fyi--now there is actually a new league)

Now, United fans, fans in Mexico and Canada and Central America know about my Southern club.

My feelings aren't hurt.

I grew up supporting US National Team soccer. I like DC United and MLS. I'm used to be people telling how bad the clubs or unimportant the clubs I support are, it doesn't really faze me. It's especially funny when they come form someplace that doesn;t have any better (no names will be mentioned)

Must be my punk rock/hip hop roots. It just makes me love them more...

I just think it is funny when some people who follow MLS or the US wanna marginalize another product and then want to complain about soccersnobs.

Like we say here in the PG-It's all gravy y'all. It's all gravy...

Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Enough with MLS excuses already! Is MLS better than USL: of course it is...

What the Islanders, Impact etc get are alot of solid squad type players that get squeezed by MLS clubs...

I've thought for years because of this some of the USL teams have actually been better as teams than MLS sides...MLS teams have to rely on so many developmental guys and 18k salary players when injuries hit.

Posted by: kkfla7371 | March 5, 2009 9:53 AM

First, congratulations to PRI.

I wanted to second several of kkfla7371's points. I think he is right on about this mid-level talent leak from MLS to USL. Isn't this another facet to the similar leak to Scandinavian leagues?

The other point to note here is that a USL team can end up with the same talent problem in the case of injury, etc. If a USL team has the resources to gather a good group of starters, and they stay healthy, they are likely better than a depleted MLS team. But a USL team that has to go to the bench is not too good either.

Anyway, this issue of holding on to the 12th, 13th, 14th etc. players on an MLS team is something the league could deal with by adjusting the cap. Not increasing it, just adjusting the distribution of money within the cap.

Posted by: CDRHoek | March 5, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the Valencia item, I'd love to see that matchup, but will there be anyone worthy left on their team? Would it be lucrative enough for them to make the travel to the US when their debt is out of control?

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=624904&sec=europe&cc=5901

It's a shame what has been happening to them with their quick descent, as they're probably my 2nd favorite La Liga side behind Barca.

Posted by: vandivere13 | March 5, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Volere e potere.

Posted by: Charisma_Man | March 5, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

MLS management has got to be scratching their heads about the USL1 success in this tournament. I personally think that its a sign that second division level professional clubs in the U.S. are improving and that the "gap" between them and MLS continues to close. Houston was punished by Atlante and the MLS sreak of going winless in Mexico continues.

Posted by: sbg1 | March 5, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"DCUtd management simply tanked it in last year's Concacaf. That was clear from management (and fan) comments about 'choosing' the playoff race over CCCup."

Parsed: we were only bad because we CHOSE to play badly-- we're actually great.

Give it a freaking rest.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 5, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I hope MLS is embarrassed that USL teams are doing better than they are and put a real effort into making a decent run in these tournaments. I think increased competition will only make soccer in the US/North America better.

Bottom line, MLS did not care about the CCL, and USL did. Maybe MLS teams will change its outlook and emphasis this year.

Posted by: therealfootball | March 5, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

@yankiboy: You weren't the only one:

"One of the two should win. I'd lean towards Puerto Rico at Marathon...though Santos could win 1-0 and still lose the aggregate. (First post in thread "So Long Houston") :) I still think Santos Laguna will win 1-0 tonight, but they'll still lose on aggregate, 2-1.

As for Fisch, c'mon man...no need to get all argy-bargy over the term "argy bargy." Besides, I bet JkR is just chomping at the bit to drop that over on Comic Riffs. :)

Posted by: SportzNut21 | March 5, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Since no one has talked about it at all, I'll lead off with thoughts on Cruz Azul-Pumas:

Losing 2-0 on aggregate is frankly way too kind on Pumas. don't believe they created a single decent chance in the 2nd leg, after being similarly outplayed in the 1st. The one good thing about Pumas is that they were a great example of how formations do not indicate attacking or defensive intent. Many people would tell you that a team playing 343 is so committed to attacking as to be reckless (Christian Miles, amongst his many sins, mentions something along these lines any times he sees a team with 3 in the back). Pumas, however, played backwards and sideways so often that you'd think they were trying to kill the game off rather than find an equalizer.

Cruz Azul did a great job forcing Chiapas into a neutral passing game, while Alex Diego never even bothered to look forward. Meanwhile, the wide midfielders for Pumas were too busy defending Cruz Azul's wingers to join the attack. Pumas was left trying to attack with just 3 players for the vast majority of the game, while Cruz Azul was routinely able to get 6 or more back to defend.

They were my pick to win it all out of the quarterfinals, and now I think Cruz Azul is capable of winning it all without even stretching themselves. Galindo seems very adept at discerning his opponent's weaknesses and forcing them to attack through players that don't normally contribute (this was also noticeable against DCU and Saprissa, if memory serves), and he has a good overall unit both defensively and going forward. Add in their ability to defeat teams by possessing and scoring rather than hanging on for dear life and the fact that they're the only Mexico City team left (making their home legs particularly awful for visitors), and I'd be stunned to see them go out.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | March 5, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Particularly awful for visitors is right, that stupid train horn is ridiculous. Doesn't FIFA have anything to say about that thing? Could a club ask that it not be used during games?

Posted by: DadRyan | March 5, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Now, as for Puerto Rico knocking out Marathon, I'd like to consider why the Islanders did well against them while DC (a team that should regularly beat Puerto Rico on a neutral field) did poorly.

First, even the most ardent Puerto Rico fan will admit an element of luck (as yankiboy did). Marathon hit the post twice, and couldn't connect the final ball to open players inside the 6 yard box a couple more times. However, I think the biggest stroke of luck for PR was Marathon's first half injuries and subsequent reshuffle. They stayed in a 442, but half their starting midfield ended up in defense (Garcia moved from DM to CB and Berrios moved from LM to LB). DCU had some trouble with Berrios (who stayed at LM against us), but he wasn't able to change positions last night and have any real impact on the game. Garcia, meanwhile, was their only midfield ball winner; his move back gave the Islanders an opportunity to play for possession that would have been much more difficult with a natural defensive midfielder in their way. Against DC, Marathon had no such problems and could maintain their original gameplan with ease. You can't blame the Islanders for any of this, but you can't leave it out of the equation either.

The biggest thing DCU struggled with against Marathon was that Marathon had speed in a lot of places. Unfortunately, speed can kill a team that is a) slow in the back and b) playing a short passing game that requires the defense to stay close to the midfield. Puerto Rico went completely direct, which meant that their back four could drop off and negate Marathon's speed. Marathon, as a result, couldn't use possession to find the gap and break through (since possession meant stringing passes in and around 8 or 9 Islanders players) or use passes over the top (such a ball, to get over defense but not end up as easy pickings for Gaudette, was nearly impossible due to how deep PR had their line). It helps Puerto Rico that they actually have some guys with some speed in the back, but their defensive success was down to a team-wide commitment to not giving up goals first and foremost. MLS teams should hopefully learn a lesson from this.

Ultimately, Puerto Rico won because Clarke outcoached Keossian and because in the key moments where games are won and lost, they either came up big or caught a break. Full credit to them; even with Marcelin's poor showing and some loose marking, they found a way to keep the shutout. The teams in Group A (which Marathon won) seemed to assume that their superior talent alone would brush Marathon aside. Clarke, meanwhile, knew that the talent gap would need to be bridged through smart tactical decisions.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | March 5, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

congrats to the Islanders, a cup run is always a gorgeous thing to watch. no need to get back into the MLS/USL argument, we've hashed it out too many times. let's just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Posted by: joshuaostevens | March 5, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

For anyone who knows about these things: why did Gaudette fall down every time he caught the ball? I only saw the last 15', but it seemed to me that he over-dramatized his saves. Was that a stalling tactic?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 5, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

For anyone who knows about these things: why did Gaudette fall down every time he caught the ball...but it seemed to me that he over-dramatized his saves. Was that a stalling tactic?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 5, 2009 2:21 PM
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Yep. He stalls like crazy.

Posted by: yankiboy | March 5, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Let's hope the two USL teams make it to the final.

Posted by: peridigm | March 5, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

If USL teams were really as good as some are claiming here, why is it no USL squad has won the Open Cup since Rochester in 99?

Posted by: alecw81 | March 5, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Alec, MLS is a better league so logic dictates that a better league should dominate a cup competition.

What I'm claiming is that an elite or very good USL club can beat a not so great or sleeping MLS club on any given day. Heck, Carolina Railhawks struggled in USL a couple years ago and they took out the Chicago Fire and that team featured som of the starters--it was not an exclusively reserve side like the USL2 clubs that faced when they knocked off MLS sides in the last couple years.

Club competitions, as someone has repeatedly mentioned so brilliantly here--open the door to that possibility.

Look at what USL sides have done in USOC competition the last few years and Nutrilite competition.

It is the same priciple as why Cardiff made it so far or why other lower division clubs make it so far.

Charleston Battery gave DC United a good game in the USOC Championship. They played a lot better than some of our very arrogant and clueless DC United supporting brethren would have ever imagined.

I don't understand why the concept that USL sides have more talent than a lot of MLS and fans of other leagues in CONCACAF give them credit for is so hard to grasp for people who have access to look at some of the results when the teams face each other or similar competition from outside of the MLS and USL.

I don't know if that answers your question or not. My only assertion is that USL have more quality than many (often uninformed or underexposed) give it credit for.

There is some talent in lower divisions all over the globe. We have tiers for many reasons. One of the main reasons is talent.

Posted by: yankiboy | March 6, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

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