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MLS Newsstand - August 26, 2011

on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 16:48

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Select MLS Clips—August 26, 2011

·         FC Dallas and Galaxy pickup victories in Champions League group stage (SportsCentre—TSN)

·         Dynamo to play Monterrey in September 4th friendly (KRIV—FOX, Houston)

·         Omar Salgado talks about life as number one pick for Whitecaps (CHAN—Vancouver)

·         Timbers edge Chivas USA 1-0, prepare for D.C. United (KATU—ABC, Portland)

·         Timbers cling to playoff hopes, defeat Chivas USA (Northwest News Overnight—NWCN, Seattle)

·         Whitecaps searching for winning formula going into the weekend (CIVT—Vancouver)

·         Toronto FC’s Champions League game moved to Thursday due to inclement weather (CFTO—Toronto)

·          Sounders notch historic victory south of border against Monterrey (KOMO—ABC, Seattle)


MLS Newsstand – August 26, 2011

8. Union facing a tough path to MLS playoffs (Philadelphia Inquirer)

10. Union's youth has not been served (Philadelphia Daily News)

11. SKC's Bunbury back on national team (Kansas City Star)

12. Crew Stadium issue must be addressed (Columbus Dispatch)

18. Kasper discusses McDonald signing (


CONCACAF Champions League News



(Additional articles for consideration can be submitted directly to Lauren Brophy of MLS Communications at


1. MLS postpones Saturday's D.C.-Portland game


Sporting News—August 26, 2011


MLS officials, citing concern for the safety of its fans in the wake of Hurricane Irene, on Friday postponed Portland Timbers-D.C. United game that was to be played Saturday afternoon at RFK Stadium.


A makeup date will be announced next week, league officials said.


This is the third MLS game to be postponed this weekend as the East Coast is bracing for the impact of Hurricane Irene. On Thursday night, league officials moved Sunday's L.A. Galaxy-New York Red Bulls game to Oct. 4 and Sunday's Philadelphia Union-New England Red Bulls game to Sept. 7.


Irene is expected to weaken as it hits landfall, but it will bring severe weather as it arrives. Of the three host cities, Washington will be first to feel its effects followed by New York and then Boston.


“We expect that Hurricane Irene will likely cause hazardous travel and unplayable conditions throughout the Northeast,” MLS vice president Nelson Rodriguez said in a statement. "We appreciate our fans’ understanding of these decisions and the media’s assistance in communicating the message.”



2. Colorado Rapids enjoy success with different lineup


By John Meyer

Denver Post—August 26, 2011


Rapids coach Gary Smith took a pretty big gamble with his team's first international road trip in the CONCACAF Champions League, and it turned out well. It almost turned out really well.


Starting only four regulars Tuesday night against Real España in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the Rapids got a first- half goal from Jeff Larento- wicz and came within three minutes of stealing a big win. With Steward Ceus in goal for the Rapids (he hasn't appeared in an MLS match in his three seasons as a backup for Matt Pickens), Real España scored with three minutes left in the contest for a 1-1 draw.


The Rapids left Dick's Sporting Goods Park at 5:45 a.m. Monday, had a five-hour layover in Miami en route to Central America and didn't get to Honduras until around 8 p.m. They had a similar return journey Wednesday.


The Rapids were a little lucky — Real España hit the crossbar twice — but Ceus also made some fantastic saves. In fact, rather than faulting him for the late equalizer, Ceus deserves credit for keeping his team in the game.


"I thought he was immense," Smith said. "He's a man mountain who's starting to really show the sort of qualities that we all knew he had. He made two wonderful saves in the first period — everyone will probably forget about them because of the action toward the end. But they had a couple of breakaways that he stood strong, he got his body in the way, and he gave all the other guys a wonderful foundation to keep working."


The way Ceus rose to the challenge highlights a benefit of playing in the Champions League tournament: Seldom- used players gain valuable experience against quality teams in a highly competitive environment.


"It was exciting," said defender Mike Holody, who made his first Rapids start in a game that mattered. "The crowd was really behind their team and it kind of made it a little bit hostile for us. ... I thought it was a good time to come out here and play in front of a good crowd that was into the game."


Larentowicz called up.


New U.S. national team coach Juergen Klinsmann has named Larentowicz to the roster that will play friendlies against Costa Rica (Sept. 2 in Carson, Calif.) and against Belgium in Brussels (Sept. 6).


Back to MLS.


Pablo Mastroeni, Marvell Wynne and Pickens remained home when the team went to Honduras. The only regulars who started were Larentowicz, Kosuke Kimura, Wells Thompson and Omar Cummings. Quincy Amarikwa came on for Cummings in the 72nd minute, Drew Moor replaced Scott Palguta in the 70th and regular Sanna Nyassi played the last nine minutes.


Having flown more than 5,000 miles round trip to Honduras, the Rapids travel today to Chicago for an MLS game Saturday against the Fire, a bad team with an almost ridiculous record — 3-7-15. The next Champions League game is Sept. 13 when the Rapids host Santos Laguna of Mexico.



3. Midfielder Rosales has earned payday from Sounders


By Joshua Mayers

Seattle Times—August 25, 2011


A leap of faith.


That's what Sounders FC needed from Mauro Rosales as the MLS team struggled to manage the salary cap before the 2011 season.


Seattle hoped to sign Rosales, a talented Argentine midfielder with top club and international experience, but at the time could only offer a league-minimum $42,000 salary.


General manager Adrian Hanauer remembers that preseason conversation.


"We said, 'We like you. We'd like you to be here. If you do well, we'll take care of you in the future,' " Hanauer recalled.


Rosales has more than done well with four goals and a team-high seven assists, but his impact has extended far beyond the production. The charismatic 30-year-old has been a perfect locker-room fit from Day 1 and provides an excellent example for teammates to follow on and off the field.


Now it's time to be taken care of, and Rosales, his agent, Dario Sala, and the Sounders are negotiating a contract extension to keep the MLS Newcomer of the Year candidate in Seattle.


"Once you know Mauro, it's not hard to see the kind of person he is — his good nature, his love of life, his love of football and wanting to be a team guy," Hanauer said. "I just want to make sure that we reward his faith in us, and that's what we're going to try to do."


Through an email, Sala said negotiations have been very amicable and that both sides are motivated to get a deal done.


"It's simply a matter of finding a fair number for both sides," he wrote.


Rosales' success has garnered contract offers from clubs in Mexico and Argentina, but he's eager to stay a Sounder.


"I really am enjoying being here with the guys, with the team, with the people and the city," said Rosales, who wasn't bothered by having to wait for a better contract.


Goalkeeper and captain Kasey Keller called Rosales "a huge addition" to the team. Coach Sigi Schmid said the dynamic midfielder has been "fantastic."


"He's taken the game by the scruff of the neck in some key moments, for sure," Schmid said. "He's just a player that you know when you need something, when the chips are down, he's someone you know you can count on."


Rosales was just grateful for the chance. Having played at some renowned clubs — Ajax in the Netherlands and River Plate in Argentina — Rosales' career hit a snag when a deal fell through with Mexican club Queretaro.


Sala, a former MLS player who knew Seattle's technical director, Chris Henderson, suggested he try out with the Sounders and it was instantly a perfect fit — at any price.


"In the first year I was thinking just to play, not about the money," Rosales said. "I knew that it was less money than anyone in the team, but when I arrived here I'm just in the mind to enjoy, to play ... and I'm really happy to be here."




• Steve Zakuani continues to recover well from a broken leg suffered in April, but while encouraged, Schmid said he doesn't think the midfielder will be able to play again this season.



4. Defensive anchors team up for first time

Injuries have kept Jay DeMerit and Alain Rochat apart in area they matter most


By Marc Weber

The Province—August 26, 2011


The whole idea was to build this team from the back.


Jay DeMerit, a central defender who started for the U.S. at the World Cup, was the Vancouver Whitecaps' first official signing.


Alain Rochat, a versatile defender with UEFA Champions League experience, was ostensibly their first signing; he agreed to a deal last summer, then was loaned back to Zurich.


Alain Rochat is returning to theVancouver squad following agroin injury.


Twenty-five games into their first MLS season, the Whitecaps have leaked 42 goals. Only Toronto (48) has a worse mark.


But, for a variety of reasons - mostly injury - DeMerit, 31, and Rochat, 28, the supposed anchors of this squad, have yet to partner in the heart of defence.


It's a combination that interim coach Tommy Soehn is likely to test out Saturday as the Caps host the Houston Dynamo at Empire Field.


"It's our most experienced pairing and something we haven't had a chance to put together at all," Soehn said. "It will be a good learning experience for guys around them."


DeMerit returned from his most recent groin-hip setback two weeks ago, right when Rochat's groin gave out. Both trained hard Thursday, and DeMerit continued his extra- curricular sessions with physiotherapy guru Rick Celebrini, brought on board recently as a consultant.


"It's been musical chairs back there," DeMerit said of the Caps' centre -back situation. "Any time you can play with someone of Alain's calibre and hopefully hold down the centre and be a bit more solid, that's a good thing.


"Obviously the chemistry's not going to be there 100 per cent. You can't really find that until you've played together a certain amount of time, but experience allows you to read the game and hopefully get there quicker."


That the Whitecaps have been so easy to break down is certainly not solely down to the defence.

Soehn has, at times, implored his forwards to work harder defensively, and mistakes in the midfield, like Gershon Koffie's turnover in Portland, have allowed teams to counter-attack the Caps with pace and space.


Sorting out the spine of this team, though, is a crucial step.


"We have to try and cancel our mistakes," said Rochat, who has been on the field with DeMerit eight times - seven at left back and once in central midfield - though not in two months. "And the stuff we did not too bad, we have to do even better.


"We've played a lot with young players and I think if we can have a good mix between experienced guys and young guys it will be good. But we count on everybody."


Defending set pieces has also been a sore spot for the Whitecaps, and the Dynamo come to town with a great set-piece taker and passer in winger Brad Davis. He had three assists in Houston's 3-1 win over Vancouver back on April 10.


The Dynamo's climb to third in the Eastern Conference also coincides with the late-June return of forward Brian Ching from injury. In 10 starts, the U.S. international has five goals.


"Brad's got a fantastic delivery and they've got big bodies so it's going to be another physical battle like [Portland]," DeMerit said. "We need to be more prepared for that, be willing to battle and compete and stay with their runners in midfield, who are very active."



5. Whitecaps on track to be MLS’s biggest losers

‘The fact that we're sitting at the bottom weighs on everybody’


By Bruce Constantineau

Vancouver Sun—August 25, 2011


VANCOUVER — The 1962 New York Mets became the laughingstock of baseball after losing 120 games.


The 2008 Detroit Lions made NFL history for all the wrong reasons by compiling a record of no wins and 16 losses.


The 2011 Vancouver Whitecaps can avoid a similar futility fate by winning a couple of games of the nine remaining in their challenging debut Major League Soccer season.


The last-place Caps have just three wins this season and would set a league record for fewest wins if they don't get one more victory.


The expansion side also hasn't won on the road yet and has just three away games left to avoid becoming the fourth team in MLS history to go winless away from home all season. Houston and Toronto are also threatening to grab that dubious distinction this year.


Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn said the team doesn't obsess over statistics now, but the losing takes a toll.


“There's pride amongst ourselves to push ourselves up the standings and move ahead of somebody,” he said. “Everybody here is a proud professional and the fact that we're sitting at the bottom weighs on everybody.”


The Whitecaps tied an MLS single-season record earlier this season when they went 14 games without winning.


Caps defender Alain Rochat doesn't care about record losing streaks but cares very much about the team's last-place standing right now.


“We have to correct this to go up,” he said. “Statistics [like that] are just here for the media. We concentrate ourselves on the pitch and we're going to change it.”


Whitecaps midfielder Peter Vagenas was part of the 2003 Los Angeles Galaxy squad that became the first team in MLS history to go winless on the road all season. But that team's strong home record allowed it to sneak into the playoffs before losing in the first round.


Vagenas said it should be a huge incentive for Whitecaps players to finish strongly this season and avoid setting new league futility records.


“That's maybe painful to say because it's not where you envisioned yourself being when the season started and it stings on so many levels,” he said. “But at this point, I would trade every trophy I've ever won to get a win [against Houston] on Saturday.”


Vagenas won MLS Cups with the Galaxy in 2002 and 2005 and considers himself a winner. He said players that win have long careers while players who don't win have short careers.


“If that's not understood within this group, it should be,” Vagenas said.


Houston hasn't won a road game this season and Vagenas feels the Caps can and should win the match at Empire Field.


“We're not in a privileged position to look down our noses at anybody at this point,” he said. “We need to embrace that and play on that edge and in that desperation mode because teams are dangerous that way. I've been in this league long enough to know that things can turn around just like that.”



6. Timbers’ reserves make a case for playing time

Coaches use different approach based on each player’s status


By Stephen Alexander

Portland Tribune—August 25, 2011


Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson lay on the ground in complete anguish after giving up a goal in the 75th minute against the Vancouver Whitecaps in a reserve match Sunday afternoon.


Then, there was the triumph radiating through the entire Timbers club when, in stoppage time, Portland scored an equalizer and a moment later, scored the match winner. The players jumped up and down. Reserve coach Amos Magee pumped his fist.


Even though Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Whitecaps at Jeld-Wen Field drew an unprecedented announced crowd of 10,077, reserve matches are usually overlooked by fans. But for the players, the 90-minute games are as important as any MLS matches.


“We’re always here to win,” midfielder Rodrigo Lopez says. “We’re always here to try to impress the coaches and try to get some minutes in for the guys who don’t play. Most importantly, we’re trying to win this league.”


Magee takes coaching the reserves in two steps. His priority before the match is to talk with Timbers head coach John Spencer and decide how to use players in a way that will benefit the first team. Once the whistle blows, Magee is intent on winning.


“We’ll sit down as a staff, and John and I go over individual players,” Magee says. “For some players, it’s getting them match fitness because we’re going to expect to call on them in the next week or two with the first team. With some, it’s getting them back from injury. And for our young players, it’s about getting them experience playing against like minded players on other teams. So each player has a different target and goal.


“Once the game starts, but for managing the clock and time (for players) –which I have to do –it comes down to trying to win. John gives me a lot of freedom in terms of trying to win games as long as the overall health of the club and the first team is first.”


The reserve matches are played with free substitutions. Other players who play in reserve league matches are those who have fallen out of the MLS club’s starting lineup or those who have been suspended for a match because of a red card or accumulated yellow cards.



Lopez, who played for the Timbers’ United Soccer Leagues Division-2 club last season, says the reserve league matches are filled with more talent than he saw from clubs last season.


“You’ve got 20 guys, 30 guys on a roster that are MLS material,” Lopez says. “If they’re not playing with the first team and they come out here, you’re going to get some quality guys. If not, they would be somewhere else. They would be playing USL, they would be playing NASL. So this is a much more competitive league.”


Lopez looks at the reserve matches as a way to prove that he is worthy of MLS minutes in the future.


“We come out here and try to win ourselves a spot,” he says. “It just pressures the coaches into playing some of the new guys. Some of the guys who haven’t been playing much, this is our time to shine.”


Striker Bright Dike is working his way into MLS matches after missing the majority of the season because of a ruptured Achilles’ tendon he suffered in the preseason. The reserve matches are critical for him to improve his skills and fitness.


“It’s there for me to get my touches, get my fitness, work hard and get that strength and that game experience back so that when I get my minutes with the first team it looks fresh and I’m contributing,” Dike says.


With attendance usually low, the reserve players have to learn how to compete from self-motivation, rather than relying on a fan base to lift them up.


“I’ve played in front of three people for most of my life,” Gleeson says. “So that desire to pick myself up and keep motivating myself has always been there. You can’t let that go even if you’re playing in front of 20,000 people, or you find yourself relying on it too much. I’m always able to pick myself up and try to concentrate.”


Several players on the Timbers’ reserve side have been making a case for themselves to get first-team playing time this season, or in the future.


“(Midfielder) Freddy Braun has played very well in exhibition games,” Magee says. “Roro (Lopez) has been hit and miss in exhibition games. (Striker) Brian Umony is starting to get first-team minutes based on the work he’s put in with the reserves. (Defender) Chris Taylor is a young guy who we think the world of. Also we have Jake Gleeson, who has played first-team minutes.


“We have a good core of young players, and what I see as my job is to try to get them ready so they can play first-team minutes, hopefully with us and, if not, maybe elsewhere.”


After the win over the Whitecaps, the Timbers reserves have a record of 4-2-1 (13 points), with three matches left to play. When the regular season ends on Oct. 3, there will be reserve league playoffs and a championship match.


Making the playoffs and winning the league championship means as much to the Timbers reserve side as doing the same thing at the MLS level means to the first team.


“(A reserve league championship) is what the club wants, and that’s what we desire,” Gleeson says. “It would mean a lot to the club. It would mean a lot to the reserve players. We’ve put in a lot of effort and we’ve played well this season, so it would mean just as much to us as winning the MLS championship.


“For the people who aren’t playing, that’s our MLS championship. You have to put it toe to toe, because that’s what keeps you sharp and that’s what keeps you wanting to play.”



7. Midfielder Davis having MVP-type season for Dynamo


By Jose de Jesus Ortiz

Houston Chronicle—August 26, 2011


In some circles, Brad Davis is being called Major League Soccer's left-footed David Beckham, and even a non-soccer fan would know that's a compliment for the Dynamo midfielder.


You'd be hard-pressed to find an MLS player more dangerous or accurate from the left side on set pieces than Davis.


With eight matches to go, the two-time Dynamo Most Valuable Player is making a case for MLS MVP.


Davis has a career-high and league-leading 13 assists, including four multi-assist games. In a season in which the Dynamo have gone long stretches without all-time franchise scoring leader Brian Ching, Davis is one of the reasons Dominic Kinnear's club is third in the Eastern Conference.


"He's leading the league with 13 assists, and that's huge for us," All-Star goalkeeper Tally Hall said of Davis. "Every assist leads to a goal. You can't say that he scored 13 goals, but he's been a big part of our attack."


National duty


Davis, 29, has added three goals. He has been playing so well this year that many fans of the U.S. national team hope coach Jürgen Klinsmann gives the St. Louis native a longer look than Bob Bradley gave him.


The four-time All-Star hasn't picked up a cap with the national team since he exited with a hamstring injury Feb. 24, 2010, against El Salvador. Since debuting with the national team against Panama at the 2005 Gold Cup, Davis has earned four caps.


But he was not called up for a 10-day camp ahead of matches against Costa Rica and Belgium.


Dynamo call-ups


Dynamo forward Carlo Costly of Honduras, Andre Hainault of Canada, and Je-Vaughn Watson and Jermaine Taylor of Jamaica all received call-ups. To play in their national teams' Sept. 2-6 matches, Costly, Hainault, Taylor and Watson will miss the Dynamo's friendly against Mexican League club Monterrey on Sept. 4 at Robertson Stadium.


Hainault's Canada will host St. Lucia on Sept. 2 and visit Puerto Rico on Sept. 6 for World Cup qualifiers. Costly, who scored two goals in his last match with Honduras against Venezuela this month, will face Colombia on Sept. 2 and Paraguay on Sept. 6. Jamaica will visit Ecuador on Sept. 2.


Davis, who has made it his mission to honor at least one member of the U.S. armed forces at every Dynamo home game and a thousand service members at one game a year, would love for Klinsmann to bring him back into the U.S. national team pool.


"I would love to represent my country," he said. "People ask me that all the time. There's no doubt that I think anybody in this country would want to have the opportunity to represent their country in one way or another. I definitely hope that day comes. Until it does, I'm going to be here working hard and helping this team."


Davis has displayed an ability to compete against the best in the world. At the 2009 All-Star Game, he scored against Everton of the English Premier League. At the 2010 All-Star Game, he hit the post against Manchester United. A year later, he was one of the MLS All-Stars' most menacing players in the rematch against the Red Devils, testing Manchester United with three shots on goal.


Assists machine


Davis helped create 84 scoring chances this season, according to official MLS stats provider Opta, which says the second-leading player in the league at creating scoring chances has 51.


"You're a player, and you take pride in how you do," Davis said. "You want people to recognize the things you do. Most importantly you want to help your team win. That's what you're out there to do. It's not necessarily I'm going out here to play to wow everybody. You're going out there to do what you need to do to help your team win and get three points. If people notice that, that's fantastic."



8. Union facing a tough path to MLS playoffs


By Marc Narducci

Philadelphia Inquirer—August 26, 2011


The Union still are on course to qualify for the postseason in their second Major League Soccer season, but it's no longer the slam dunk it once appeared to be.


And there don't appear to be many gimmes in the final 10 games of the regular season.


That is why the Sept. 7 game at PPL Park in Chester against the New England Revolution - rescheduled from Sunday due to Hurricane Irene - is so crucial.


New England is the last MLS team the Union beat, 3-0 on the road at Gillette Stadium on July 17. Since then, the Union are 0-2-3 in their last five MLS games.


And even though New England is 4-11-11, the Revolution are coming off consecutive ties against two teams also in the playoff race, the Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls.


The playoff system isn't complicated but needs some explaining.


The top three teams in the Eastern and Western Conference earn automatic berths and first-round byes. Then the next four teams, regardless of division, earn wild-card berths.


Entering Thursday, the Union were fourth in the Eastern Conference and ninth overall with 34 points.


The Columbus Crew (40 points) were first in the East, followed by Sporting Kansas City (36) and Houston (35). The Union have a game in hand on both Columbus and Kansas City and two on Houston, again making the Revolution matchup that much more important.


Of the 10 remaining games, four are against teams ahead of the Union in points: at Real Salt Lake (36) and the Seattle Sounders (45), and home against Columbus (40) and Kansas City (36).


In addition, the season finale is at the Red Bulls, who entered Thursday in the 10th and final spot, two points behind the Union but having played two more games.


The schedule also features games against teams just below the Union in points: home against Portland (32 points) and improved D.C. United (31), and in Los Angeles against Chivas USA (31).


The Union also have a home game against Toronto (23 points in 27 games), a team the Union have beaten, 6-2.


So even if one would concede the Union the Toronto game - and with their inconsistent play of late, nothing should be assured - this is one difficult schedule.


Team manager Peter Nowak has blamed the uncertainty of the Carlos Ruiz situation as a reason the Union went into a tailspin.


Ruiz finally was sold to Mexico's Veracruz earlier this month.


While it said here that the team is better off for the move, the fact remains that since Nowak announced that the Ruiz move was pending following a 2-1 home loss to the Colorado Rapids, the Union are 0-2-3 without the striker, including that game against Colorado.


Regardless, Ruiz, who played only 14 games for the Union, is still the team's leading goal-scorer with six, which indicates how inconsistent the offense has been.


The rest of the schedule has five games at home, where the Union are 5-1-6, and five on the road, where they are 3-5-4.


Three of the final four games in October are on the road.


It's not wrong to say that every game from here on in will be like a playoff encounter for the Union.



9. Oduro’s big season could have been even bigger


By Orrin Schwarz

Daily Herald—August 25, 2011


Dominic Oduro could have spent a little extra time in the hot tub after last week’s 1-1 draw vs. D.C. United.


He could have washed away the feeling of missing four golden chances to score in an extra-long shower.


He could have found a reason to hide in the trainer’s room at Toyota Park.


Instead he stood in front of his locker as the media walked over and he patiently answered questions, admitting his frustration over his performance that night.


And on Sunday Oduro scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in a 2-0 Fire win over Toronto FC. Two more and Oduro can become the first Fire player since Damani Ralph in 2004 to score in double figures.


Without Oduro scoring those 8 goals, the Fire’s record might be even worse than the current 3-7-15. But if he had finished some of the golden chances he’s had much of the season, like the chances he missed against United, the Fire’s record also would be better than 3-7-15.


That’s the conundrum with Oduro, who had never scored more than 5 goals in a season. He’s having a career year, but just imagine how good it might have been.


“You’re going to have guys that hate you, guys who love you. No matter what you do, somebody’s going to like you, somebody’s going to not like you,” Oduro said Tuesday.


“I’m a forward. It’s bound for me to miss chances and create chances and score goals. It’s up to me to go out there and prove it to them. The last game against D.C. was a little bit frustrating for me. I could’ve buried a couple of chances, but I did all the right things. One hit the post, the goalie made some saves. ... It wasn’t like it was all bad. I was right there. I was doing all the right things. I just have to keep going.”


Oduro was a steal in the trade that brought him to Chicago this spring for forward Calen Carr, but Fire fans also are seeing why the 26-year-old Ghanaian didn’t stick in New York, Dallas and Houston. It wasn’t because he didn’t fit into the locker room.


“I’m here to help the team out,” Oduro said. “I’m here to help the team and go 110 percent.”


His speed will amaze you, his first touch can disappoint you.


It’s worth the price of admission just to see him race the length of the field on a counterattack, with or without the ball, but he needs to improve what he does at the end of that run.


“It’s a tool. It’s a weapon that I have, it’s a talent that I have,” Oduro said of his fast feet. “You can’t teach somebody how to run that fast. It has to be a talent, and I thank God for that. As you can see it has helped me, and it’s still helping me right now on the field. Opponents have to think twice when they try to step up. It’s something that I’m really proud to have.”


Love him or hate him, possibly both, Oduro might finally have found a MLS home.



10. Union's youth has not been served


By Kerith Gabriel

Philadelphia Daily News—August 26, 2011


It’s rare that a coach finds himself frustrated for his team and not because of his team.


Just ask and Union boss Peter Nowak will readily tell you that his club has already defied the unsaid assumptions of what makes a franchise a success in Major League Soccer.


For him, it never will be shelling out dollars for a high-priced superstar or aging stalwart - well, except for names like Veljko Paunovic and Carlos Ruiz, the latter who bounced like a thief in the night, preferring the beaches of Mexico to the scenic Chester waterfront.


For Nowak, building a franchise around young, impressionable, but skilled, talent has paid dividends in just the club's second year. For nearly a third of the season, the Union shared the best record in MLS' Eastern Conference. Currently, its leading goal scorer is 20 years old (Danny Mwanga). The team has one loss all season at home (5-1-6). Its defense is one the best in the league and was arguably cream of the crop earlier this season with the nucleus of Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes holding down central defense and Sheanon Williams and Jordan Harvey securing the flanks. Rookie Gabriel Farfan is solid as Harvey's replacement, but it's evident he's still learning the ropes.


But Nowak's young-man ideology also brings with it a lot of inexperience, a lot of poor decisions and a lot of moments where despite being professionals, many of his players are still trying to figure out what that really means. The Union hasn't won an MLS match since the last time it played New England on July 17. The two were supposed to meet Sunday at PPL Park, but the impending smack the region will receive from Hurricane Irene forced a Sept. 7 reschedule date (8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).


Furthermore, the Union has only pulled three points out of its last five matches and has dropped from guaranteed playoff land into wild-card contention as the fourth-best team in the East.


Not because chances to beat the opposition aren't arriving, the Union just isn't capitalizing.


"The frustrating part for me is that the boys work very hard to be in this position, but now the easiest part isn't coming - finishing," Nowak said matter-of-factly. "It's not fair. I'm not frustrated at them, I'm frustrated as a coach to say we didn't come to any [positive conclusions] from making good decisions. There is only so many times you can say, 'We competed, the back line was good, we put ourselves in position to score' and then come away with a loss or a point.


"At some point, you look at it and you are like, 'Come on man, we need to fix this stuff; we need to put the ball in the back of the net.' "


A mere 10 games remain - five at PPL Park - for the Union to return to the top three in the East and not have to fear being among the bottom four. The beauty is that the Union hold games in hand over the current top three in Columbus, Sporting Kansas City (a game each) and Houston (two).


"They all try so hard, and sometimes I think maybe too hard," said Nowak regarding his roster. "Sometimes I think these guys need to relax; you can't play the game all [hyped up] . . . it's all about concentration, focus and putting the ball where it needs to be. That's what we work on with these guys in training. They have the skills, for a lot of them it's a mental they have to work on."


Nowak's mental in terms of his club's playoff fortunes?


"The last thing you want with 10 games to go is to look at the standings and try to figure out how many points you need and go play accordingly," he continued. "To play that way you are only setting yourself up for heartbreak and disappointment . . . I think in our second year, we are still a very young and inexperienced team and to be where we are shows you how hard these guys work. When you put too much emphasis and pressure on guys that are this young, some of them can take it, some of them can't. It's important for us as a coaching staff not to look forward, but to prepare one game at a time.


"I tell our guys, I don't want to hear anything about what any other team is doing or where they are in the standings, all I care about is getting us there and to do that you have to focus on right now, not the future."


Odds and endlines


Union supporters group the Illegitimates of Section 133 have again teamed up with defender Sheanon Williams' charity Miles4MJ. The group, with the help of Kildare's Irish Pub, plan to hold a charity tailgate on Sept. 10 in the Teber parking lot across from PPL Park. The tailgate begins at 2 p.m. and will conclude an hour before the match against the Portland Timbers. Tickets are $20 and kids are free. The event is to help defeat Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors . . . Midfielder Kyle Nakazawa doubled as a runway model last night for Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino's second-annual Celebrity Fashion Night at the Union League (Broad and Sansom) . . . Maybe Peter Nowak and Sebastien Le Toux recently joining Twitter has something to do with it, but according to a report from SportsBusiness Daily, MLS saw a 30 percent spike in online viewers and mobile users downloading its MLS Match Day app in July. The report claims more than 3 million unique viewers visited . . . Former Union defender Michael Orozco Fiscal was named to Jurgen Klinsmann's 24-man U.S. men's national team roster for upcoming September friendlies against Costa Rica (Sept. 2) and Belgium (Sept. 6).



11. SKC's Bunbury back on national team


By Terez A. Paylor

Kansas City Star—August 25, 2011


Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury is back on the U.S. Men’s National Team.


Bunbury, who was surprisingly left off the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster this summer by former U.S. coach Bob Bradley, was named to the team by new coach Jurgen Klinsmann for upcoming exhibitions against Panama and Costa Rica.


“They’re going try a lot of different people in the coming months, so it’s good for him that he’s getting call back,” said Sporting coach Peter Vermes.


Bunbury, 21, has had an up-and-down season for Sporting. He appeared primed for a breakout season after an excellent debut with the national team last winter – his first with the club – but suffered a dislocated elbow in preseason training last February and was forced to miss almost a month of action.


He returned in time for the second game of the season, on March 11, against Chicago and scored a goal. He followed that up with a two-goal outing against Vancouver the next week.


But Bunbury soon fell into a deep slump, as he went 15 consecutive appearances without scoring a goal, blowing a number of scoring chances along the way.


Bunbury, however, has started to come out of it recently. He broke his scoreless streak with a game-tying goal against New England in late July, then followed that up with a goal in Sporting’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Aug. 8.


“It was going to take some time for him to get back in the swing of things,” Vermes said. “But he’s pushed through it and he’s definitely on the other side of it and continuing to move forward.”


Bunbury, who has five goals and two assists this season, is expected to play in Sporting’s game Saturday against FC Dallas, but will likely miss Sporting’s next game, a Sept. 5 showdown against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Forward Kei Kamara, who will join Sierra Leone for a African Cup of Nations game against Egypt on Sept 3, will also miss the Galaxy game for a second-place Sporting team that’s already banged up and will surely miss Kamara and Bunbury’s presence.


“It’s a shame to have all those guys leave, but that’s the way it goes,” Vermes said. “Guys have stepped in and done a good job before, and they’ll have to do it this time, as well.”


Espinosa will stay


Like Bunbury and Kamara, midfielder Roger Espinosa was expected to be gone next weekend for national team duty, as well. However, after some dialog between Vermes, Espinosa and Honduras’ coach Luis Suarez, Espinosa decided to remain with Sporting.


“His games aren’t qualification matches, and he’s already been in the World Cup,” Vermes said. “If he doesn’t need to go in for those games, we need him here. We talked to his coach about it and he said no problem.”


Little-used defender Shavar Thomas will go on national team duty, as he has been selected to join Jamaica for a friendly against Ecuador on Sept. 2. Thomas, however, isn’t expected to miss any games.



12. Crew Stadium issue must be addressed


By Bob Hunter

Columbus Dispatch—August 26, 2011


A report that residential housing could be coming to the west end of Nationwide Boulevard may have finally scuttled any plans the Crew had of building a stadium in the Arena District. But it seems this news is harder for me to accept than it is for team officials.


I have a small stake in this. I was once credited by a former Crew general manager for finding the site of Crew Stadium in a column I wrote about alternatives to building in the suburbs. Friends who have heard the story chortle over the fact the credit that used to come my way now looks more like blame.


Outside of people who love easy parking, no one I know thinks Crew Stadium is in a great location, framed as it is by I-71 and parking for the state fairgrounds.


People like the option of walking to restaurants and bars before and after games, and those so inclined at Crew Stadium should probably bring a canteen, some freeze-dried food and a pair of hiking shoes. To those who lament not being able to find a night spot after a Crew game, this bargain-priced stadium-site consultant can only say, “Sorry.”


The Arena District seemed like the perfect place to build a new Crew stadium. It would have provided a nice synergy to have all of the city’s professional sports teams in the same vicinity, and it seemed like the perfect way to complete the district.


Crew officials were always interested, but the location at the far west end of Nationwide Boulevard, beyond Huntington Park, didn’t thrill them. General manager Mark McCullers said that while the team was interested in that location, “there were a lot of issues with that site” and “ there might be better options elsewhere.”


For now, there is also no pressing need. McCullers said he will probably have to confront the stadium issue in five to 10 years. He also sees stadium building and/or remodeling as a public-private partnership, and on that count, he will probably get more sympathy than support.


The public won’t vote to fund a stadium or arena — it has voted down Crew stadium issues twice — and in an era of falling revenue, the city would probably have to discover a boxcar full of $10,000 bills behind City Hall before it would throw money at a new soccer stadium.


Whether one is even needed is another topic, although there is no denying the current structure, built in 1999 with team owner Lamar Hunt’s own money, doesn’t measure up to many of the stadiums popping up around the league.


At some point the Crew is probably going to have to have a new stadium, or at least an extensive redo of the current one, to keep the franchise here. The team’s attendance problems say that may come sooner rather than later.


Kansas City showed how a new stadium and local ownership can revive a franchise. The team used to be owned by the Hunt family, and new owners committed to keeping the team in the area secured a deal with the Kansas Department of Commerce in 2009 that offered $144.5 million in bond assistance and $85 million in tax credits to finance a $200 million stadium and office development if the team would move out of Missouri.


Unfortunately, there are no state lines running through Columbus and no guarantee anyone could come up with that kind of revenue if there were. The city is also eyeball-deep in discussions with the Blue Jackets over their financial problems at Nationwide Arena, and that is a more pressing matter.


This is still worthy of discussion, though. Like the Blue Jackets, the Crew is a valuable asset for this community, and making sure it stays and succeeds here should always be on the public agenda.


The time may come when the only choices are bad ones. With the passing of Arena District options, I hope we aren’t already there.



13. Brek Shea's breakout season


By Leander Schaerlaeckens—August 26, 2011


Try getting Brek Shea to say something -- anything. It can be an exercise in futility. The FC Dallas player doesn't prefer to communicate with words. But give him a ball at his feet or a paint brush in his hand and Shea will speak volumes. The playing field becomes his canvas; the canvas his playing field.


Brek Shea, ball artist


This season, Shea has fueled the 2010 MLS Cup finalist to the second-best record in the league after it won just one of its first five games and saw last year's Most Valuable Player, Colombian playmaker David Ferreira, go down with a broken leg in April. The spindly 6-foot-3 left winger has a regal air out on the field, but without aversion from handing out a thump here and there. He drifts around, letting his ability out of the hat sparsely. But when he does burst into action, he is unfailingly spectacular. Shea is highly creative, the sort of player who commands only a few moments per game, but can tilt the run of play in those fragments of time.


"He's really stepped up big for us this year," said defender Ugo Ihemelu. "A lot of people had expectations, but I doubt that they expected him to do as well as he's been doing. With David falling off with the injury, he's stepping in there and really picked it up for us."


Ask Shea about his dominant season, and he'll mumble something barely audible about "having some success here and there."


In late July, I caught up with Shea. He was sitting on a chair in the visitors' locker room at Red Bull Arena after a game against New York, staring at the ground. The few wet strands of blond hair that survived the latest round of buzzing and coloring hung between his blue eyes. "I don't like to be ordinary," said Shea. "I kind of just do whatever comes to my mind. I don't really think of what people are going to say about it." The most frequent victim to his whims is his hair, which he has worn in styles ranging from a faux hawk to cornrows.


Shea also expresses himself through his tattoos. There's the Bible verse on his right ribcage, and the ones that read "free bird" on his left forearm in Sanskrit and "Believe" on his left leg. An angel is inked across his back, and on his left bicep the words "Play each day as if the world is watching" command your attention.


But if Shea won't say much about his own dominance, his numbers and other people will. And they'll tell you he's a front-runner to succeed Ferreira as MVP. With 10 goals (third in the league) and five game-winners (best in MLS), it's hard to refute the argument.


"When you look at the number of goals he's scored, you say, 'Yeah, he's your MVP,'" said Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman.


"He's phenomenal," said defender George John. "Whenever we need a big-time goal he comes through, and it seems like we've gotten a lot of victories off his back."


"The guy is amazing right now," New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry told reporters.


And if Shea isn't at least a most valuable player in the league, at the very least he's the most versatile. Missing just one of his team's 26 games because of a suspension, he has started six games as a center back, left back or right back, making his goal tally, which trails Henry's league-lead by just two, all the more startling. Shea has started the rest of his games as a central midfielder, left midfielder or forward.


"I tried to put him in a goal and he said, 'No,'" joked Hyndman. "When he does that we'll talk about how versatile he is."


"He's somebody that has the physical assets," said goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. "He's just a freak of an athlete. He's able to make up for some of his misreads on plays with his speed when he's in the back."


The genes come from a father who played football at Virginia Tech and is now a professor in kinesiology at Texas A&M and a mother who teaches yoga and kickboxing there, and who was desperately disappointed when Shea decided to skip college and head straight for MLS when he was drafted second overall by Dallas in 2008 as a 17-year-old. (With his Generation adidas contract expiring after the season, FC Dallas recently inked Shea to a four-year extension, tying him to the club through 2015.)


As a freshman in high school, Shea quit the football team in favor of U.S. U-17 residency in Bradenton, Fla. His football coach told him he'd never make it in soccer. Three years later, he was a professional, living across the street from Pizza Hut Park and riding his moped to practice. Before his rookie year was out, he'd been called into the senior national team for a World Cup qualifier against Barbados. In Oct. 2010, he made his playing debut, still in time to become the first player born in the 1990s to represent the U.S. He appeared scared stiff; still, he got a second cap against Chile last January. In Jurgen Klinsmann's first game in charge of the U.S. on Aug. 10, Shea played again. This time he helped turn the game, serving Robbie Rogers the equalizer on a platter.


Brek Shea, artist


All the above is good and well, but it isn't what makes Dane Brekken Shea remarkable. It's what he leaves behind on a different kind of canvas -- white, rather than green. It's with his hands that he's most impressive, not his feet.


A year and a half ago, Shea took up painting. "I just bought some canvasses and some paint and started doing random stuff in the garage," he said.


"He's a lefty, and those lefties tend to be pretty creative," said Ihemelu. "He comes up with some pretty cool stuff."


Shea started out by making still paintings of flowers. He moved on to abstract art. Today, he mostly paints in pleasing splotches, in colors as bright as the shoes he dons on and off the field. You can see Shea's work here, at


People took note. Shea's agent suggested he donate some of his works to FC Dallas's charity to auction off. Ten of his pieces fetched nearly $10,000. "I didn't think it would do that good," said Shea.


Others did. "You can see by his demeanor, in the way he dresses, his hair -- you can see he's a little bit different," said Hyndman. "So it didn't surprise me."


Shea recently moved into a bigger abode. "I've been over to his house quite a few times and there's paint everywhere, all over the garage, his paintings all over the walls," John said.


Few hang there for very long. "As people come over and family visits and auctions take place, they slowly disappear," Shea said. "I need to get back in there and refill the walls."


Shea can command good money for his paintings, even if the money doesn't do it for him. "If I could and the supplies were free, I would just paint them and give them away," he said. "Obviously, the supplies don't pay for themselves, so I've had to sell them. I've not made any profit. Most of them have gone to charity." Although the club's owners have purchased a few originals, he won't let teammates buy paintings. He says he'll make them one special for free, but the waiting list is getting long.


Hyndman doesn't own one either. "No," he cracked. "They're too expensive."


Brek Shea, soccer-playing artist


Shea's creative outlets, soccer and art, converge. And it perhaps isn't a coincidence that his rapid development on the field has coincided with his artistic awakening. "It gives you a way to forget about other things and relax and do whatever and then it comes out through painting," Shea said. "I think it's bad if you focus on soccer all the time. It definitely helps me get away from soccer and express myself in a different way."


Painting, he says, has helped his soccer. "I like to express myself on the field, but being able to [paint] and just relax and there's no right or wrong, it helps me on the field to play soccer, and be serious because I've relaxed in my free time."


More specifically, the creative outlet has allowed him to pin down how he performs best: by taking his mind off the task at hand, a sort of focus through absent-mindedness. "When I paint, I'm not really paying attention to what I'm doing and then when it's finished I look at it and think, 'Wow, I just did that,'" Shea said. "And in soccer, I play my best when I don't think about it. You're playing good soccer when your mind is free of what you're doing."


As an example, Shea brings up the goal against Toronto. "I don't remember what I did," he said. "I went back [and watched it] and thought, 'Wow, I did that?'"


He said all these things to himself, of course, as he does most things. Shea has figured out how to tap into his innermost creativity, both on the field and off, using his limbs as communicators and his mouth merely for essential tasks.



14. U.S., Canada Name Rosters for International Matches


By Jack Bell—August 25, 2011


Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the United States national team, on Thursday released his 24-man roster for two coming friendly matches — against Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on Sept. 2 and at Belgium in King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels four days later.


That is a quick turnaround and a long, long way to travel (a trip of some 5,600 miles) to a game in Europe during FIFA’s international fixture period early next month.


Keeping his promise to give a look to different players, Klinsmann called in for the first time Fabian Johnson, 23. Johnson, a midfielder who holds dual U.S. and German citizenship, played previously for Germany’s U-21 national team and currently plays for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. He began his career at 1860 Munich and playing two seasons with Wolfsburg.


Left off the roster were Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark, all of whom Klinsmann said are in unsettled in their club situations.



“All three of these players are trying to sort out their club situations, and the deadline for transfers is a week away,’’ he said on the team’s official blog. “They have also not been playing matches, so for these reasons we decided to select different players for this roster.”


Among the (relatively) new faces on the team are defender Timmy Chandler, striker Teal Bunbury and midiflelder Jeff Larentowicz.


There are 11 players from Major League Soccer clubs on the roster at a critical time as teams push for the playoffs. The Red Bulls put two on the team as does Dallas.


The roster:


Goalkeepers Bill Hamid (D.C.United/M.L.S.), Tim Howard (Everton/England)

Defenders Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers/Scotland), Edgar Castillo (Club America/Mexico), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg/Germany), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover/Germany), Clarence Goodson (Brondby/Denmark), Zach Loyd (Dallas/M.L.S.), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis/Mexico), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA/M.L.S.), Tim Ream (Red Bulls/M.L.S.)

Midfielders Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake/M.L.S.), Clint Dempsey (Fulham/England), Maurice Edu (Rangers/Scotland), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/Belgium), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado/M.L.S.), Robbie Rogers (Columbus/M.L.S.), Brek Shea (Dallas)/M.L.S., Jose Torres (Pachuca/Mexico)

Forwards Juan Agudelo (Red Bulls/M.L.S.), Jozy Altidore (Alkmaar/the Netherlands), Teal Bunbury (Kansas City/M.L.S.), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles/M.L.S.)



Canada Coach Stephen Hart has selected a heavily veteran squad for its World Cup qualifiers against St. Lucia at Toronto’s BMO Field on Sept. 2, and the return match in to Puerto Rico four days later.


Canada has failed to qualify for the World Cup since playing in the 1986 tournament in Mexico.


The roster:


Goalkeepers Lars Hirschfeld (Valerenga/Norway), Milan Borjan (Sivasspor/Turkey)

Defenders Nik Ledgerwood (Wehen Wiesbaden/Gemany), Kevin McKenna (Cologne/Germany), Andre Hainault (Houston/M.L.S.), Ante Jazic (Chivas USA/M.L.S.), Dejan Jakovic (D.C. United/M.L.S.), Jaime Peters (Ipswich Town/England), Mike Klukowski (Manisaspor/Turkey)

Midfielders Julian de Guzman (Toronto/M.L.S.), Terry Dunfield (Toronto/M.L.S.), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake/M.L.S.), Josh Simpson (Manisaspor/Turkey), Atiba Hutchinson (PSV Eindhoven/the Netherlands), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United/M.L.S.)

Forwards Tosaint Ricketts (Politehnica Timisoara/Romania), Simeon Jackson (Norwich City/England), Olivier Occean (Grüther Fürth/Germany), Iain Hume (Preston North End/England)



15. MLS' biggest disappointment may be New York's Red Bulls


By Grant Wahl—August 25, 2011


In the summer of 1999, the editors of Sports Illustrated gave me one of those awkward, but secretly fun assignments: Spend some time with the fans and leaders of "the worst pro team in America," the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, and produce a story about it. Writing about a laughably bad sports franchise is like reading a well-done review of an awful movie. There's a guilty pleasure involved, and the MetroStars fans I spoke to didn't disappoint, showing the gallows humor of the long-suffering supporter who knew that someday all the pain would be worth it.


But here we are in 2011, 12 years later, and Gotham's MLS outfit still has zero trophies (Sorry, this year's "Emirates Cup" exhibition doesn't count). A lot of things have changed since '99. Red Bull bought the team, renamed it the New York Red Bulls, built a $200 million soccer stadium and invested in big-name players like Thierry Henry and Rafael Márquez. Yet this year's Red Bulls are easily the biggest disappointment in MLS heading into Sunday's star-power showdown with Los Angeles.


New York was the consensus preseason pick to win the Eastern Conference, not least because it had two proven global names (Henry and Márquez), rising U.S. national-teamers (Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo), and dependable threats out wide (Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere). And while Henry leads the league in goals (12), the team itself has been a disaster, going 6-6-14 and winning just twice in its last 19 games -- with those two wins coming against league doormats Toronto and New England.


Even in MLS' embarrassingly forgiving postseason format, in which 10 of 18 teams reach the playoffs, New York is on the outside looking in based on points per game, tied for 11th as of Thursday with Portland. If the Red Bulls fail to make the playoffs after spending so much money and generating such high expectations, you would have to include them with the 2008 Los Angeles Galaxy as the biggest flops in MLS history.


Let's be clear: New York is capable of playing quality soccer. In fact, one of the best games of this or any MLS season took place the last time the Red Bulls played L.A., a 1-1 tie on May 7. That affair had a big-game feel and a real buzz of intensity throughout, in large part because it included players like Henry, David Beckham and Landon Donovan on their A-games. Add new L.A. striker Robbie Keane into the mix, and Saturday's rematch in New Jersey could deliver again. But if the Red Bulls can't take advantage of their home field and beat the Galaxy (which has the league's best record), it will only continue NYRB's long slide.


What's wrong with New York? For starters, the defense has been surprisingly awful, giving up 37 goals, more than any other team with a chance of reaching the playoffs except Portland (The Galaxy, by contrast, has allowed only 20). Márquez, in particular, has been subpar this season, looking slow and hardly like a former defensive stalwart for Barcelona's European champions. The goalkeeper position has been a malaise of mediocrity, from Frank Rost (now injured) to Bouna Coundoul to Greg Sutton.


Nor should coach Hans Backe escape blame. His unwillingness to use his substitutions, his reliance on the unconvincing midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, his role in acquiring and then trading Dwayne De Rosario (who's lighting it up in D.C. now): Backe's questionable moves have changed perceptions of him. A year ago, he seemed to be the rare foreign coach who understood MLS' peculiar rules and succeeded on the field. Now? He's a man in danger of losing his job.


Of course, in MLS redemption is always only a few timely wins away, and that holds true for New York, too. Five of the Red Bulls' last eight regular-season games are at home, and three of those eight foes are below them in the standings: Vancouver, Toronto and Portland. As we've seen so many times, anything can happen if you get into the playoffs. Middle-of-the-pack regular-season teams have won three of the last six MLS Cups, and even New York got all the way to the Cup final in '08 despite barely squeaking into the postseason.


Beating L.A. on Sunday would be a good way to start turning the season around. But one thing hasn't changed since the start of the league: New York is supposed to be one of MLS's flagship franchises. Its fans expect it, and so do the ambitious owners from Red Bull, who've poured millions into facilities and players, only to see their team fighting for the last wildcard spot with D.C. United, Chivas USA and Portland.


We're 16 years into MLS, and New York still has zero trophies. In '99 it was a source of amusement. These days it's just not funny anymore.



16. Anibaba makes smooth defensive switch


By Charlie Corr, 25, 2011


BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas made it clear following the team's 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Sunday where he prefers to play rookie defender Jalil Anibaba.


"I like him better as a center back," Klopas said of Anibaba, who opened the season as the Fire's regular right back. "He reads the game better there. For me, I think he can play both. But I see him as a better center back than on the right."


Anibaba's move to center back has been a smooth one, and that was evident when out of the blue he had to replace an injured Cory Gibbs in the opening minutes of a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 3.


"In college, I was able to grow in that position more," Anibaba said. "When I made the transition to center back from attacking mid (where he played in his first two games at Santa Clara), it wasn't easy for me just because it takes time to get used to a new position. It's just a matter of me having more games underneath my belt at center back, and I've been able to transfer my experiences from college at center back to this level."


Anibaba had quite a bit on his plate to open the year. The Fire (3-7-15) lost most of their back line during the offseason and Anibaba was selected as the ninth overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Anibaba then was thrust into a right back slot that he had not played before. Aside from a short stint in the midfield, Anibaba's entire collegiate career at Santa Clara and North Carolina was anchored at center back.


"Right back was a great experience because I got to see the game from different angles and a different perspective than I was used to," Anibaba said. "It definitely helped me grow as a player, fast. I felt like as far as catching up to the curve, it was one challenge I had to take on very seriously because I was also adjusting to the [MLS] level and adjusting to a new position. So it was a definite challenge. But I think I applied myself and did all right."


The Fire's depth at center back is extensive, especially with Gibbs healthy again from a groin injury. Yamith Cuesta was a backup during the Toronto match, and Josip Mikulic did not even make the available 18-player roster after opening the 2011 campaign as a starter.


The back four of Gonzalo Segares, Gibbs, Anibaba and Dan Gargan had a shutout against the Reds over the weekend, and it would be surprising if Klopas decided to change the back line after posting a rare victory.


"The cohesion was there, and the understanding was there from not only Cory and myself, but also Dan and Gonzalo. We definitely had a great understanding, and I think it's a good moment for us as far as getting the win and getting the shutout. But it's pretty obvious that we have a lot of work to do. We have to remain humble and remain steadfast in our endeavors to make the playoffs."


Timetable for Kinney's return unknown: Fire defender Steven Kinney was supposed to be back by now after rupturing his right Achilles tendon on Oct. 23 last year against Chivas USA. He had a successful surgery and was showing some successful signs in training. But a groin strain has kept Kinney on the shelf all season, and he is not sure when he will return.


"I do not know, and every time I try to put a timetable on it, it seems like I get another setback," Kinney said. "I was pushing kind of hard. When you're out for seven, eight months, your body isn't really used to that. I expected injuries and I expected some setbacks along the way. This is one I've just got to take in stride."


Because of the groin strain, Kinney has been limited to riding the bike. Meanwhile, midseason acquisition Gargan has solidified the right back slot in recent weeks. For Kinney, seeing the Fire's season from a distance has been a difficult experience.


"It's tough watching all these ties and stuff, because you feel like you could be out there helping them," Kinney said. "It gives me that hunger to get back out there to help the team. I'm just waiting for that day to get back out there."


Bocanegra nets goal, joins U.S. roster: Former Fire defender Carlos Bocanegra tallied a goal in his Rangers debut on Thursday en route to a 1-1 draw against Maribor. Despite Bocanegra's game-tying goal in the 75th minute, Rangers bowed out of the Europa League with a 3-2 aggregate defeat.


U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named his 24-player roster on Thursday ahead of the team's friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium, and Bocanegra is part of the squad. The U.S. hosts Costa Rica at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., at 10 p.m. CT on Sept. 2 (ESPN2), then faces Belgium at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels at 1:30 p.m. CT on Sept. 6 (ESPN).



17. Zach Loyd, Brek Shea called into U.S. camp


By Buzz Carrick, 25, 2011


U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named a squad of 24 players to prepare for the upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium. The U.S. first hosts Costa Rica on Sept. 2 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. PT, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2, and Galavision. Four days later, coverage from King Baudouin Stadium begins at 8:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. ET) on ESPN and


“We are excited to get the group back together and to see some fresh new faces,” said Klinsmann. “We will continue to get to know the players and gather some valuable information during our 10 days together. Hopefully we can continue where we left off from the game against Mexico.”


“We are excited to be one of only two MLS teams to have multiple players called into U.S. National Team camp,” FC Dallas President and CEO Doug Quinn said. “Both Brek and Zach are deserving of this honor, having displayed the ability to excel at the MLS level. I am sure they will continue that success on the international stage.”



18. Kasper discusses McDonald signing


By Sebastian Salazar—August 26, 2011


After a rough road trip to the Midwest, the Black-and-Red weren't licking their wounds at practice Wednesday.  Players and coaches alike noted their disappointment at the single point captured from Chicago and Kansas City and seemed all but ready to turn their attention to Portland.  Here's some highlights from Wednesday's training session.


McDonald's new deal


When Brandon McDonald came to United from San Jose in late June, it was unclear just how much of an impact he would have on D.C.'s shaky backline.


Two months later, McDonald's impact is obvious and the 25-year-old has been rewarded with a new contract from the club.  Though terms were not released on the deal, it's safe to assume McDonald has earned a sizable increase from the $45,000 he was scheduled to make in 2011 according to the MLS Players Union.


"We felt it was important to try and get a deal done now," United GM Dave Kasper told Russ Thaler.  "He's come in and done a great job for us and he's only going to get better."


McDonald, who had reportedly been considering a move to Europe after this season, saw enough potential over the last two months with United to make D.C. his longterm home.


"It was a long thought process, obviously" McDonald admitted Wednesday.  "[In the] couple months I've been here, being with the guys and the coaching staff, I think we can do something special here."


Honduras finally tabs Najar


Since announcing his intention to play for Honduras in early April there have been plenty of close calls, but no call-ups, for United teen-sensation Andy Najar.


The wait came to an end last week, as the 18-year-old was called in for a September 3rd friendly against Columbia at Red Bull Arena and a September 6th showdown with Paraguay in San Pedro Sula.


A source close to the player noted that the Honduran federation and United had previously been unable to find the right timing for Najar to be released for international duty, but with no D.C. games scheduled for the first ten days of September, the logistics finally came together this time around.


"There are no words to describe this," the usually shy Najar told me in a Spanish-language interview.  "There have been other call-up opportunities, but unfortunately I could not attend.  But now, thanks to God, I have an opportunity and now I have to take advantage of it."


What a difference a year makes


Remember the beginning of 2010, when United planned to use Santino Quaranta as an attacking center midfielder, a la a traditional #10?


For many reasons, most of which were beyond Quaranta's control, that experiment never worked.  But in 2011, Santino has found his way back into central midfield with much more success.  But as he explains in the quote below, the role he's being asked to play since returning from a concussion is far different from what he was doing at the beginning of last year.


"People talk about the 'attacking midfielder' and the "Number 10' and having to do so much, but really the game has just evolved to where it's two-way midfielders who are able to make passes and help your team," Quaranta said after Wednesday's practice.  "The Number 10 thing, it's kind of overrated, really."


As I've said on multiple platforms over the past few weeks, Quaranta is - in my opinion - playing the best I've seen since I joined the United beat in 2009.



19. Dynamo seek early goals, first away win at Vancouver

Rolling Houston want early lead, confident they can quiet Hassli


By Darrell Lovell—August 25, 2011


HOUSTON — The Houston Dynamo have been the cardiac kids in the month of August.


Houston have pulled out a result in the last 10 minutes in the three of their last four games. With a trip to the Pacific Northwest to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on the horizon, the Dynamo are looking to reverse that trend by going on the offensive early.


“I think the last two games we put ourselves behind the eight ball early,” said defender Hunter Freeman.


In the last five games, the Dynamo have been playing the type of attacking soccer that fans and players alike have craved. Houston have come out of the gates connecting passes and creating chances, but the early goals have been missing.


Playing from behind in three of the last four tilts, the Dynamo have shown that while they may not strike first, they have the confidence to strike last.


“The first goal does give you confidence, but the thing we’ve shown the last two games is that we don’t get too high or too low,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear. “Whatever way you win the game, whether it’s early or late, that’s the objective.”


Handling Hassli


While taking the offensive and striking first is important, the Dynamo will have their hands full with French hitman Eric Hassli. Vancouver’s Designated Player has accounted for 10 of Vancouver’s 26 goals this season but missed the first match against Houston — a 3-1 win for the Dynamo on April 10 — because of a red card suspension.


While Hassli will be without his strike partner Camilo — who has eight of Vancouver’s goals this year — the Dynamo are well aware of how dangerous the 6-foot-4 forward can be around the net and are looking to draw on experience to handle the big striker.


“He can pull something off when you give him time and space, just like any good forward,” Freeman said. “However, we’ve played against other tall forwards in the league and we have our own guys who we practice against everyday, like Carlo [Costly], [Brian] Ching, and Cam [Weaver], so it’s not anything we’re not used to.”


Breaking through


One storyline that has persisted throughout Houston’s season has been the lack of road wins. While Houston have stayed in striking distance with an 0-4-8 record away from Robertson Stadium, the club knows winning on the road is important and are eager to finally put that away win in the books and move forward.


“It’s something that we all want to erase,” Freeman said. “I thought we were close to getting it in New England. … But if we continue to play like we are, hopefully the goals will come and we’ll come out on top.”



20. FC Dallas' 1-0 Champions League win caps odd two days in Toronto

Last-minute sub scores goal to give Group C leader rain-delayed win


By Aman Dhanoa

Dallas Morning News—August 25, 2011


TORONTO — FC Dallas found redemption Thursday morning in a replay of its CONCACAF Champions League group stage match against Toronto FC. A goal from last-minute starter Jack Stewart during stoppage time in the first half was enough to lift FCD to a 1-0 victory.


The win gave FC Dallas (2-0) the lead in Group C with six points.

The original match was abandoned with FCD ahead, 1-0, at halftime Wednesday night when a tornado watch, torrential rain and lightning made the conditions unsafe to continue. The match was replayed Thursday in its entirety.


Stewart, acquired on loan from Minnesota of the division 2 NASL on Aug. 15, was called on to start after Andrew Jacobson suffered an allergic reaction to peanuts from eating a chocolate bar. The team was about to walk onto the field when Jacobson felt the reaction, forcing the last-minute change.


Jacobson was hospitalized and is questionable for Saturday’s MLS game at Kansas City.


“We just picked up Jack Stewart and we don’t know much about him,” coach Schellas Hyndman said “But I’ve got to say he’s pretty good in the air. I thought he played really well under the conditions of not knowing the team.”


Stewart made his mark when he headed the ball past TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic off a cross from Ugo Ihemelu at the left touchline.


Minutes earlier, Toronto defender Richard Eckersley tackled Marvin Chavez from behind inside the box, giving FCD a penalty kick, but Daniel Hernandez missed wide left.


John poised to sign: Center back George John was in England on Thursday for a physical and was expected to sign with Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League by Friday, Rovers coach Steve Kean told the Lancashire Telegraph. Kean said a transfer deal has been reached for John, who he called “if not the best, one of the best defenders in the MLS.”


Shea, Loyd called: Midfielder Brek Shea and defender Zach Loyd were named to the U.S. national team for upcoming games against Costa Rica on Sept. 2 in Carson, Calif., and at Belgium on Sept. 6.


21. Toronto FC falls to Dallas in replay


By Kurtis Larson

Toronto Sun—August 25, 2011


TORONTO - A first-half header in stoppage time from Jack Stewart gave FC Dallas its third consecutive 1-0 win over TFC and moved the Texans atop CONCACAF’s Group C through two games.


Sharpness was a theme echoed by both benches after Thursday morning’s Champions League match —­ a full replay of a game originally scheduled for Wednesday night that was abandoned halfway through due to severe storms and torrential rain.


“The solution was to play the game today,” head coach Aron Winter told reporters when asked about TFC’s preparedness for the early start. “When these things happen, it’s not nice because of preparation.”


Looking to correct TFC’s poor performance the night before, the Dutchman adjusted the Reds into a 3-4-3 with Frings in defence and offensive minded midfielders Matt Stinson and Zavarise on to replace Andy Iro and Terry Dunfield — something that created a number of opportunities late in the game.


But Dallas’ late first-half goal held up.


With Dallas captain Daniel Hernandez failing to convert a 44th minute penalty, the clubs looked destined to remain scoreless at the break until Ugo Ihemelu’s second attempt from a corner found an unmarked Stewart whose near-post flick beat Milos Kocic and put the MLS finalists up for good.


“It’s the end of the first half and you have to stay tighter to players,” Kocic said of the goal. “It has to be better on set pieces … especially going into the half.”


Though they’ve failed to score in more than 300 minutes against the Hoops, Stewart’s stoppage time goal came against the run of play as Toronto failed to convert a number of first-half chances.


Toronto nearly led on 14 minutes when a Dallas turnover fell to Ryan Johnson in the attacking third. The Jamaican split a pair of defenders with a pass to Peri Marosevic whose close-range attempt deflected over the bar.


A tame opening picked up just before the break with both sides trading opportunities five minutes from halftime.


With a single defender to beat after receiving a pass in space, Joao Plata’s step-over fooled Ihemelu to open up space for a tight angle shot in the 39th minute. The Ecuadoran’s low drive nearly slipped underneath Kevin Hartman who was off his line to cut the angle.


The Dallas ‘keeper looked beat minutes later after Torsten Frings hit Marosevic in space on the right wing. The former Dallas prospect’s cross drifted over Hartman just inches away from a lurking Plata.


“We had a lot of opportunities to score,” Winter said. “If you watch the whole game we were creating a lot of chances but missing the goal. We were not sharp at that moment.”


Describing Toronto as lacking urgency, Winter identified Dallas’ first-half winner as a time when TFC’s back four fell asleep after controlling a majority of the game.


With Dallas only interested in holding the lead, opportunities were scarce until the game opened up in the 79th minute. Marosevic received a clever through-ball from Plata at the top of the penalty area before an onrushing Hartman came off his line to deny the Reds a way back.


Marosevic failed to convert a third quality chance when he fanned on a full volley metres from goal five minutes from time that would have given the Reds a share and Marosevic some revenge against a club that threw him away.


“At the end of the day, that’s a chance I have to put away,” Marosevic said. “It’s good that we’re creating these opportunities, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if we don’t put them away.”


The sobering loss puts TFC at a disadvantage in Group C with Dallas picking up six points through two road matches with TFC playing its next match at Pumas of Mexico.


After picking up three points in Panama, the home loss means TFC can’t drop any more points at BMO Field and must pick up at least a draw in either Dallas or Mexico City — something the club managed at Cruz Azul last year.


Defensive regular Richard Eckersley will miss Toronto’s third group match at Pumas on Sept. 14 after receiving a sending off late in second half stoppage time.


Toronto returns to league action Saturday night against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes.


22. Galaxy have enough to win in CONCACAF Champions League match


By Phil Collin

LA Daily News—August 25, 2011


CARSON - With their schedule for the week lightened considerably by a hurricane, the Galaxy pretty much had a bonus game in their second CONCACAF Champions League match Thursday night.


So thanks to the deluge they're expecting on the East Coast, a couple of players who would have taken a seat on the bench for the Galaxy instead were on the field from the start.


Yes, it made a difference.


David Beckham set up Omar Gonzalez's first-half goal, and long-lost Chad Barrett came off the bench to deliver the final shot in a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica's LD Alajuelense at Home Depot Center.


Neither Beckham nor Gonzalez were slated to start, but they each produced their specialties - a corner kick and sheer height, respectively - to give the Galaxy some breathing room in their Group A game.


"I wasn't going to play, Sean Franklin wasn't going to play tonight, David wasn't going to play tonight," Gonzalez said. "Not having the New York game kind of helped us put the first team out there and everyone showed well."


Franklin, who entered the game in the first half when defender Gregg Berhalter injured his right foot, assisted on Barrett's goal as the Galaxy moved to 2-0 in group play. But they must play three of their next five group games outside of the U.S. Alajuelense is 1-1.


The Galaxy learned Hurricane Irene had caused postponement of their scheduled game Sunday in New York to Oct. 4. That back-loads an already difficult schedule,


but they get an extra break before the season resumes next week in Kansas City.

"It helped us," coach Bruce Arena said of the scheduling switch. "I would not have played Beckham tonight or Gonzalez. It was a plus for us. Then, obviously, with the injury to Berhalter, Sunday would have been difficult.


"This is going to be the story in September and October, to deal with these games sandwiched between MLS games."


Still, the Galaxy got to flash their depth when Barrett scored in the 77 th minute, only six minutes after he came off the bench.


The Galaxy still will need their depth as the tournament goes on because midfielder Juninho was handed a straight red card in the 88 th minute for a high elbow on Jhonny Acosta as they leaped for a lob pass. The Galaxy also picked up three other yellow cards (Beckham, Landon Donovan and Mike Magee), which could come into play down the road.


But they still had their favorite weapon on hand, and Beckham's corner kick in the 38 th minute was headed into the goal by Gonzalez, who easily outjumped defender Giancarlo Gonzalez to get to the swerving pass.


Robbie Keane twice was in position at the goal post for passes, but last-second breakups by Giancarlo Gonzalez and Jose Salvatierra kept him from converting.


In the 64 th minute, Alajuelense's Kevin Sancho finally headed a ball into the net, but he was ruled offside and the Galaxy retained their 1-0 lead.


Moments after Magee picked up the Galaxy's third yellow card, Beckham took possession at midfield and moved straight toward the goal before passing to Franklin, who was heading down the flank.


Franklin's centering pass bypassed Keane and was perfect to a trailing Barrett, who buried his shot into an open net. It was Barrett's first goal for the Galaxy since June 18, when he scored his fourth of the season against Colorado.


"It was really an easy tap-in," Barrett said. "It pretty much started with Beckham. He played a great through ball, Franklin gets up great on the right side and Keane made a great near-post run and took both of the defenders away from me and it was just an easy tap-in."


The Galaxy didn't come out unscathed, however. Berhalter had to leave in the 27 th minute after injuring his foot. Franklin, replaced in the starting lineup by Magee at midfield, entered the game.


Barrett made his first appearance since July 4 when he came on for Adam Cristman in the 71 st minute. Barrett has been recovering from a right knee sprain.


The Galaxy will lose Keane (Ireland), Donovan (U.S.) and Chris Birchall (Trinidad and Tobago) for international matches next week.



23. Galaxy defeats Alajuelense, 2-0, in CONCACAF Champions League play

Omar Gonzalez scores in the 38th minute on a cross from David Beckham while Chad Barrett adds an insurance score in the 77th minute.


The Associated Press—August 25, 2011


After sweeping through their first two CONCACAF Champions League games at home, the Galaxy will need to keep up their strong play when they leave the country.


Omar Gonzalez scored on a cross by David Beckham and the Galaxy beat Alajuelense, 2-0, on Thursday night to stay unbeaten in CONCACAF play.


"This is exactly where we wanted to be," Gonzalez said. "We wanted to win the first two games at home and go (on the road) with a bit of breathing room."


The Galaxy's favorable group stage draw has worked out in their favor. After being awarded consecutive home games to open play, the Galaxy have won both while outscoring the opposition, 4-0.


Chad Barrett, playing for the first time since July 4, added an insurance goal in the 77th minute as the win pushed Los Angeles to the top of Group A, three points clear of a pair of clubs tied for second.


Now comes the difficult part -- picking up points on the road. The Galaxy face tough matches in their next two tournament outings, both coming in hostile environments.


Up first is Mexican side Morelia on Sept. 13, followed by a rematch with Alajuelense.


"I think it's best not to think about it," Gonzalez said. "We need to just worry about what we can control."


Against an Alajuelense squad playing without its leading scorer, the Galaxy benefited from being able to field a strong starting 11. Coach Bruce Arena originally planned on resting some key players, including Beckham, with an important MLS showdown against New York looming in three days.


That match was postponed Thursday because of Hurricane Irene, which is expected to bring inclement weather to the East Coast on Sunday.


Beckham was in the starting lineup and made his mark. He sent a left corner kick high into the box in the 38th minute, allowing Gonzalez to get his 6-foot-5 frame in position near the front post. Despite facing away from the net, Gonzalez managed to get the back of his head on the ball and redirect it past goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton.


"He always has an advantage on set pieces," Arena said of his towering defender.


Jonathan Martin, Alajuelense' top playmaker, did not suit up because of an injury. He scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over Morelia in their opener and could have provided an offense spark against Los Angeles.


"The game was tailor-made for someone like him," Alajuelense coach Oscar Ramirez said. "We would have loved to have him."


Both sides struggled to get much of a flow going, with a flurry of offsides and foul calls halting play. Beckham, who was particularly upset with the officiating afterwards, drew a yellow card in the 31st minute under strange circumstances.


After the Galaxy were awarded a corner kick, Beckham asked the linesman for more space near the sidelines before he attempted the kick. Head referee Marco Rodriguez ran over a brief moment later and present a visibly-unhappy Beckham with the card for not kicking the ball in a timely fashion.


"It was very weird," Beckham said.


The Galaxy played out the final few minutes with 10 men when Juninho was sent off with a red card. The Brazilian midfielder went airborne and inadvertently elbowed the head of Alajuelense defender Jhonny Acosta. He will miss the tournament's next match.


"There were some terrible decisions," Beckham said. "For both teams. Not just us."


The Galaxy may have lost a player to injury in the victory. Starting left back Gregg Berhalter had to be carried off on a stretcher in the 27th minute with a right leg injury. He left the stadium in a walking boot and was scheduled to get X-rays on Friday.



24. In Toronto, Let’s Play One and a Half!


By Jack Bell—August 25, 2011


Major League Soccer teams have had impressive success so far early in the group stage of this season’s Concacaf Champions League — all wins and one draw.


Wednesday night brought the first match between M.L.S. teams — Toronto and Dallas — at BMO Field in Toronto in a Group C game. Surely something had to give, and it did.


Inclement weather in the Toronto area caused about a 30-minute suspension of play in the first half with visiting Dallas holding a 1-0 lead. At halftime, another deluge and persistent lightning and thunder forced officials to abandon the game with 45 minutes to play.


Besides fairly heavy rain, bolts of lightning were frequently seen striking the 553-meter (1,815-foot) high CN Tower less than 3 kilometers (1.5 miles) from BMO Field.


Dallas was leading, 1-0, on Jackson Goncalves’s goal in the 18th minute, but tournament regulations require unfinished games be replayed completely.


The game, in its entirety, was scheduled to be replayed at 10.15 a.m. on Thursday.


In the replay Thursday morning Dallas duplicated the score from the abandoned match to earn a 1-0 win over Toronto in the replay at BMO Field. The recently acquired defender Jack Stewart scored in first-half stoppage time to give Dallas the three points.



25. Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0 L.D. Alajuelense: Omar Gonzalez, Chad Barrett see Galaxy go top of Group A

The Galaxy dispatched its Costa Rican opposition in a 2-0 home win in the CONCACAF Champions League.


By Seth Vertelney—August 25, 2011


An Omar Gonzalez header and a Chad Barrett side-footed finish was all the Galaxy needed in a 2-0 win at Home Depot Center against L.D. Alajuelense in CONCACAF Champions League play.


The result sees the Galaxy go to the top of Group A with two wins in two games.


The home side had the better of the early chances, putting pressure on the Costa Ricans early. Adam Cristman came closest to score, as his header looped off the crossbar from a Robbie Keane cross.


The Galaxy's early pressure paid off in the 37th minute when David Beckham whipped in a corner from the left side, and Omar Gonzalez got the better of his man in the air, nodding home past Alajuelense's backup goalkeeper Ivan Garcia.


After the half, Alajuelense started to find some openings in the Galaxy defense, but despite a number of good chances, it was unable to find the back of the net.


Los Angeles put away the match on 77 minutes, when David Beckham started a slick passing move with a through ball to Sean Franklin, who then sent a low cross to the penalty spot, where it was met by the onrushing Chad Barrett. The American striker duly side-footed home.


It wasn't all good news for the Galaxy in this match, though. Defender Gregg Berhalter was stretchered off in the 27th minute with what appeared to be a serious foot injury, and Juninho was given a straight red card in the 88 minute for an overzelous challenge in the air on an Alajuelense player.


In its next CCL match, the Galaxy will face Mexican side Morelia on Sept. 13.



26. CCL: Second straight win gives Galaxy room to breathe

LA take full control of Group A after 2-0 victory over Alajuelense


By Luis Bueno—August 26, 2011


CARSON, Calif. — With a 2-0 shutout of Costa Rican side LD Alajuelense on Thursday night, the LA Galaxy not only strengthened their hold on Group A of the CONCACAF Champions League, but they also followed through on a their goal of winning their first two matches of the tournament.

When the Champions League schedule was released, the Galaxy immediately honed in on their first pair of tilts. Both at The Home Depot Center, LA saw the games as must-wins for several reasons.


With three of the last four games are slated for hostile territory, the Galaxy made it an immediate goal to claim six points from those matches in order to take pressure off themselves, and followed through with that on Thursday.


“This is exactly where we wanted to be,” said Omar Gonzalez, who accounted for one of the Galaxy’s two tallies against Alajuelense. “We wanted to win the first two home games so we can kind of go there with a little bit of breathing room. We’ve done really well to get these six points.”


Gonzalez and Chad Barrett got the goals for the Galaxy on the night as LA moved three points clear of both Alajuelense and Morelia, who beat Motagua 4-0 earlier on the night.


Alajuelense didn’t go down quietly, though. They put up a good fight, stood toe-to-toe with the Galaxy, and made for some uncomfortable situations.


“Not an easy game, a good opponent, different kind of game than we’re used to, different qualities, the officiating is certainly different,” said LA head coach Bruce Arena. “A good experience for our group. For the most part, a number of players haven’t been through a lot of this. Overall we’re real pleased with the win. This is going to be a tough competition right through the end.”


Before the match, the Galaxy found out their league game on Sunday against New York was moved to Oct. 4 due to Hurricane Irene. Without a weekend match to prepare for, Arena was able to field his star players, like David Beckham and Gonzalez, who were originally slated to rest.


It did not matter much to Beckham though, who said he was already focused for the match.


“Bruce was going to rest a few players,” Beckham said, “… but I prepared anyway like I was playing.”


Fielding a strong lineup, the Galaxy took control of the game late in the first half when Beckham found Gonzalez on a corner kick. Gonzalez headed the ball into the back of the net, but didn’t hit it cleanly.


“I kind of gave that guy a little bump to free up some room,” Gonzalez said. “Actually, as the ball was coming in, I went to swing for it and it hit the back of my head and went in. A goal’s a goal, so I’ll take it.”


Barrett knocked in the game’s second goal when Sean Franklin slipped a ball across the goal mouth. Robbie Keane made a run to the near post and drew defenders towards him, allowing Barrett to waltz in and tap the ball across the line.


“It’s a great goal. Anywhere in the world, that’s a great goal,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “We’ll take that goal all day.”


The only blemishes came in the form of injury and cards. Gregg Berhalter left the game midway through the first half after he said he “stepped and felt something pop in my foot.” Further tests will be taken Friday to determine the severity of the injury.


Juninho was also sent off and will miss the match at Morelia. Additionally, Mike Magee, Donovan and Beckham picked up yellow cards and are suddenly in yellow-card peril. Beckham said he was surprised he did not join Juninho in the locker room.


“I expected another yellow card to, be honest, at some point because that’s the way the officiating had gone all night. It was a disgrace at times,” Beckham said. “That’s sometimes what you have to put up with in these competitions. It’s unfortunate, but the important part was we won the game.”