MLS Newsstand - July 8, 2011
Selected MLS Clips - July 8, 2011
· The Dynamo’s Will Bruin discusses the team’s upcoming month (KRIV—FOX, Houston)
· Sounders coach Sigi Schmid previews the big game Sunday against Portland (NWCN, Seattle)
· RSL prepares for a pair of games against streaking FC Dallas (KSTU—FOX, Salt Lake City)
· Tucson continues to seek MLS teams for pre-season training (KVOA—NBC, Tucson)
· Roger Levesque expects a great atmosphere in Portland on Sunday (KING—NBC, Seattle)
· Coaches exchange ‘banter’ ahead of rivalry match (KOMO—ABC, Seattle)
· Jeff Cunningham ties the career goals record with his last-minute winner vs. Vancouver (WBNS—CBS, Columbus)
· Timbers ready for huge game vs. rival Sounders (KATU--ABC, Portland)
· Galaxy finish with July 4th draw in new uniforms (KCBS—CBS, Los Angeles)
· Beckham and Donovan on hand to unveil new Galaxy jerseys (KCBS—CBS, Los Angeles)
· Galaxy show off new uniforms at L.A. Live (KCAL, Los Angeles)
MLS Newsstand - July 8, 2011
1. Oduro is Fire's main source of fuel (Chicago Tribune)
2. Some ties better than others for Rapids (Denver Post)
3. Rapids can't rest on their MLS Cup laurels (Denver Post)
4. Cunningham is worthy of historic goal (Columbus Dispatch)
5. Dominic Oduro looking for another goal — and rare Fire win (Chicago Sun-Times)
6. Whitecaps acquire Jordan Harvey from Philadelphia Union (Vancouver Sun)
7. Sarkodie's confidence on upswing (Houston Chronicle)
8. D.C. United’s blockbuster trade will play out on the field (Washington Times)
9. Could Harvey's exit give Spector a Union spot? (Philadelphia Inquirer)
10. Union earn high marks at midseason (Philadelphia Inquirer)
11. Real Salt Lake will host U.S. Open Cup semifinal if it gets that far (Salt Lake Tribune)
12. Nat Borchers is RSL's top player according to index (Deseret News)
13. Dunfield's dismay says it all (The Province)
14. Opposite paths for Sounders, Timbers since tie (Tacoma News Tribune)
15. Sounders FC's Zach Scott working hard to stick around (Seattle Times)
16. Early goal is the difference in Timbers' 1-0 loss to Club America (The Oregonian)
17. Philly in at the back for Caps (The Province)
18. Montreal Impact nearing decision on coach for MLS debut (Montreal Gazette)
19. Portland enemy Levesque ready for Sounders-Timbers (The Associated Press)
20. Club America beats Timbers (The Associated Press)
21. Vancouver acquires Harvey from Philadelphia (The Sports Network)
22. Philadelphia trades defender Jordan Harvey to Vancouver (Sporting News)
23. Union deals Mission Viejo's Harvey to Vancouver (ESPNLA.com)
24. Philadelphia trades Harvey to Vancouver (Soccer America)
25. Kreis, Real Salt Lake look to trialists to fill injury gaps (MLSsoccer.com)
26. Timbers' top enemy Levesque may feature from start (MLSsoccer.com)
(Additional articles for consideration can be submitted directly to Lauren Brophy of MLS Communications at Lauren.Brophy@MLSsoccer.com.)
1. Oduro is Fire's main source of fuel
By Jack McCarthy
Chicago Tribune—July 8, 2011
The Fire's overall offensive attack may remain in a rut, but there's nothing wrong with Dominic Oduro's game.
The 25-year-old forward has four goals in the Fire's last nine games, more than half the team's production. And Oduro's next goal will give him the most he's had in six Major League Soccer seasons.
But he says there's still room for improvement as the Fire (2-4-12, 18 points) take an eight-game unbeaten streak to Los Angeles on Saturday against the Galaxy (9-2-9, 36 points).
"I think I'm getting there little by little. There have been a couple of times when I've reached the target but (haven't) executed," said Oduro, who scored the Fire's lone goal Saturday in a 1-1 tie with Chivas USA.
"It's a matter of staying really focused and trying to get everything right. You aways have to keep your head up and keep going even when things go down."
Oduro was acquired in an April trade that sent Calen Carr to Houston.
"He's always a threat," Fire interim coach Frank Klopas said of Oduro. "He's a smart player.
"He makes great runs, creates space for himself and his teammates and he's been a big positive."
While Oduro has been productive, the rest of the Fire have struggled with just three collective goals since May 21. But improved defense has kept the Fire competitive, and they've given up just five goals in nine games.
"A breakthrough comes through dedication and hard work," Oduro said. "We've been tying games and it's really frustrating, but we're playing better defensively ... and the wins will come eventually."
2. Some ties better than others for Rapids
By John Meyer
Denver Post—July 8, 2011
The Rapids were sorely frustrated by their scoreless tie with Houston here Sunday, but more than satisfied with a 1-1 draw in Kansas City on Wednesday night.
Facing three games in seven days — Vancouver plays here Saturday — coach Gary Smith left midfielders Brian Mullan (back spasms) and Jamie Smith (tight calf) at home for the midweek game, hoping treatment and rest would ensure their availability Saturday. And when Pablo Mastroeni left the game with a hyperextended knee in the 30th minute, that meant the Rapids were playing without three of their four best midfielders.
Conor Casey scored the fifth goal in his last six games (having missed the Houston game on a red-card suspension) off a beautiful long ball by Tyrone Marshall and a lethal finish.
Earning a road draw against a hot team pleased Smith.
"Kansas (City) are in a real confident run," Smith said. "At home they've been looking pretty bright. I thought we started and played very well in the first 30 minutes until Pablo came off. The goal was obviously a big lift for us. It was always going to be a tough task to keep that (lead) intact, but in the end, I'm very, very pleased with a point."
Goalkeeper Matt Pickens had some big saves, including a brilliant one in second-half stoppage time to preserve the draw. And the Rapids were a little lucky too. Kansas City hit the woodwork twice.
"Really world class," Smith said of Pickens' save in the game's waning moments. "He's going the wrong way. If he's not 6-foot-4, he doesn't get it. Even then, he manages to tip it onto the bar and recover."
Smith believes Pickens is playing with heightened confidence because the Rapids now can put their best four defenders on the field — Marshall, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor and Kosuke Kimura. Wynne missed four games with a hamstring strain.
"He looks comfortable, his confidence looks there, and honestly I think it comes with playing with a solid back four," Smith said of Pickens. "When I put out Drew, Tyrone, Marvell and Kosuke, I think that group with him behind have a nice relationship and a confidence with each other."
Hopeful on Mastroeni.
Smith said he'd have a better idea about the severity of Mastroeni's injury today, but based on the way the veteran was walking around in the airport Thursday, Smith believed the injury wasn't serious.
Mastroeni wouldn't be able to play Saturday anyway, because he earned a yellow card on the play when he was injured, his fifth of the season. He'll be suspended one game for yellow-card accumulation.
Capsizing in Vancouver.
The expansion Whitecaps (2-9-8) will be desperate for a good result here Saturday night.
At home against Columbus on Wednesday, they lost their fourth consecutive game, 1-0, on a Jeff Cunningham goal in the 90th minute. Midfielder Terry Dunfield missed a penalty kick, and the Whitecaps had to play the last 15 minutes with 10 men after midfielder Shea Salinas was given a red card
3. Rapids can't rest on their MLS Cup laurels
By Nick Groke
Denver Post—July 8, 2011
Some Rapids fans took exception to Mark Kiszla's column Sunday wondering where the winning attitude went for Colorado sports. In his column "Snap out of it, Denver," Kiz asks, "How did the greatest sports city in America develop such a losing attitude?"
Of course, while the Avs and Broncos struggled last season, and the Nuggets and Rockies can't quite break through, the Rapids are defending an MLS championship. a fact brought up often by Colorado MLS fans in talking about their home team.
But how long can Rapids fans ride the MLS Cup wake?
This is a team with two victories in its past 16 games. It has one win in its past 11. And the Rapids are struggling to score, with just four goals in their past five games.
There are no Rapids players in the top 10 in the most recent MLS all-star voting. No Rapids within the top five forwards, none within the top seven midfielders or defenders, and Matt Pickens is not among the top five goalkeepers in voting.
The Rapids have dropped to fifth place in the Western Conference, 12 points behind the Galaxy. They are the eighth-best team in MLS overall, ahead of 10. And they have a minus-2 goal differential on the season.
How long can fans pat them on the back for winning a title? The Rapids are nearly the exact definition of mediocre this season, with five wins, five losses and nine ties; they have 20 goals for and 22 against.
It seems the discussion shouldn't be looking back at a nine-month- old victory, but ahead to the remaining 15 games this season, with a tilt Saturday vs. the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps at DSG Park in Commerce City.
The Rapids finally are getting healthy, with the top-line tandem of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey settling in together. Casey has surged of late, with five goals in his past six games.
And Colorado's defense seems finally arranged, with Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor and Kosuke Kimura forming the backline for two consecutive games. Before Wednesday, the Rapids had used four different left backs in five games.
The time to right the Rapids' ship is now. It's a busy week, with two games down among three in seven days. If not, the Rapids won't be able to defend their Cup as one of 10 playoff teams.
Rapids vs. Whitecaps
Colorado returns home to DSG Park for an MLS matchup vs. Vancouver.
Saturday, 7 p.m., airing on ALT
• Rapids (5-5-9, 24 points), behind leading scorer Conor Casey (five goals and six points).
• Expansion Vancouver (2-9-8, 14 points), paced by Eric Hassli's six goals.
4. Cunningham is worthy of historic goal
By Michael Arace
Columbus Dispatch—July 8, 2011
Crew forward Jeff Cunningham touched off a mad celebration when he scored in the 90th minute to beat the Vancouver Whitecaps at Empire Field on Wednesday night. Among the first of many joyous teammates to embrace Cunningham was rookie Eric Gehrig, which was fitting - Gehrig hugging Ruth.
Granted, soccer is not America's pastime. As yet, it does not command the same level of attention here as it does in other parts of the globe.
Granted, Major League Soccer might not be among the best professional leagues of its kind in the world. Babe Ruth would not play here unless he was in his Boston Braves phase, the tail end of his career.
Granted, Cunningham was born and raised in Jamaica and knows next to nothing about Ruth or, for that matter, Lou Gehrig. There were no baseball questions on the citizenship test he took 10 years ago.
Yet, "Ruthian" is a fine adjective to describe Cunningham after Wednesday night.
His goal was the 133rd of his MLS career. It tied him with Jaime Moreno for the most goals in league history.
Moreno is retired. Cunningham, 34, will pot another one sooner or later and become the most prolific offensive force in the history of America's best soccer league. He will be the king, and he plays for the team down the street.
Good for Columbus. Good for the Nordecke. Good for Cunningham.
"I just turned on my phone and I had a whole bunch of messages," Cunningham said during a layover in Chicago yesterday. "How many messages? I heard from all the important people."
Among the important people are his wife, his young daughter and his mother.
The Crew has a few days off and Cunningham yesterday was headed to Tampa, Fla., to visit his mother. She is a housekeeper in a nursing home. She taught him what it means to have a work ethic. She is the only critic he has ever heeded.
Cunningham has had his share of other critics. Despite his finishing acumen and his two league scoring titles, he has been traded four times. Dallas dumped him after he scored 28 goals in two seasons there. Last fall, the Crew claimed him on re-entry waivers and brought him back to Columbus, where his MLS career began in 1998.
Cunningham scored the first goal at Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium built in the United States.
His goal Wednesday night was the 63rd he has scored in a Crew jersey. It made him the all-time leading regular-season scorer in franchise history, one ahead of Brian McBride, among the most beloved players to don the Black and Gold.
"It is where it all started for me and, hopefully, I'll have the chance to break (Moreno's) record in Crew Stadium, in front of all the great fans that have supported me," Cunningham said.
Cunningham has just the one goal this season. He needs to produce more. Coach Robert Warzycha might use him more. Regardless, this is still a wonderful story. Here is this once-tempestuous player, tempered by years and fatherhood, returned to his roots to play for posterity - and handling everything with the deft touch of a wizened veteran.
Cunningham last month was demure and classy when Andres Mendoza took a penalty kick away from him in Crew Stadium - and delayed the record-setting goal. Throughout the season, he has said nothing untoward about his playing time, or lack of it. All he has done is accept more work, take the rookies under his wing and bide his time to strike.
"I don't think of my legacy or anything like that," he said. "I am just trying to do my job the best I know how. I want to win here, and I think we have a good team. Someday, my career will be over, and I will go get a job and continue as now - trying to be a good husband, a good father and a good man."
His goal for the record books was a beauty. It was a header off a cross from Josh Gardner. It was the only goal of the game, scored in the last minute. It provided three precious road points and, perhaps, a certain propulsion.
5. Dominic Oduro looking for another goal — and rare Fire win
By Zen Ziehm
Chicago Sun-Times—July 8, 2011
Dominic Oduro scored his fifth goal of the season for the Fire last Saturday, tying him with midfielder Marco Pappa for the team lead. This Saturday, Oduro goes back to the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., hoping not only to score again but to get a better result for his struggling team.
Last week’s game, against Major League Soccer rival Chivas USA, ended in a 1-1 draw — the Fire’s 12th tie in 18 games. This time the opponent is the Los Angeles Galaxy (9-2-9), the best team in MLS. Chivas USA and the Galaxy share the same home field.
The Fire’s eight-game unbeaten streak sounds good. So does its 1-0-6 record since technical director Frank Klopas replaced Carlos de los Cobos as coach. It’s the longest unbeaten run for an MLS coach starting a new job since the league dispensed with shootouts to break ties in 2000.
Still, the Fire (2-4-12) remains an also-ran and won’t improve on that status by settling for one point for a draw instead of the three awarded for a victory.
‘‘I could name a couple games where we should have easily gotten three points,’’ Oduro said. ‘‘This game isn’t really fair sometimes. For us it’s about being focused the whole 90 minutes. Little errors can hurt you.’’
Acquiring the speedy Oduro has been Klopas’ best move to get the Fire out of its doldrums. He sent injury-riddled forward Calen Carr to the Houston Dynamo for Oduro on March 23, just after Oduro was roundly booed in Houston for missing an easy chance that would have given his team a 1-1 season-opening draw with the Philadelphia Union instead of a 1-0 loss.
Oduro, who left his native Ghana to attend college at Virginia Commonwealth in 2004, had stints with FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls before coming to the Dynamo in 2009. He refused an initial contract offer from Houston during the last offseason in anticipation of getting a better deal in Europe, but that never materialized. Oduro, in his sixth MLS season, asked the Dynamo to take him back in February. He was sent packing after the first-game miss.
‘‘I was surprised,’’ Oduro said. ‘‘I thought Houston wanted to keep me there. I didn’t see the trade coming, but it was a blessing in disguise.’’
It wasn’t for the Dynamo. Carr, a first-round draft choice who never was a steady starter in five seasons with the Fire, was nursing a concussion at the time of the trade and still hasn’t played for the Dynamo.
Oduro, meanwhile, scored his first goal for the Fire in a 2-1 home loss to the Galaxy on April 17 and will be looking to find the net again in the rematch. Though he did score last week, Oduro hopes he’ll have better luck in his second visit to the Home Depot Center.
‘‘I was disappointed in myself,’’ he said. ‘‘I should have done better to help my team. I had a couple breakaways and should have been patient and put the ball in the net.’’
Still, Oduro was one of six Fire field players placed on the fan ballot this week to determine starters in the July 27 All-Star game against England’s Manchester United in New York. The others are Pappa, Gonzalo Segares, Cory Gibbs, Logan Pause and Diego Chaves.
‘‘I still think I’ve been doing great, and I love this game,’’ Oduro said. ‘‘Being an All-Star would be much appreciated.’’
6. Whitecaps acquire Jordan Harvey from Philadelphia Union
Vancouver Sun—July 7, 2011
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps have acquired defender Jordan Harvey from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money, the two clubs announced today.
The 27-year-old has been the Union's starting left back this season on a squad that has surrendered just 16 goals in 17 games.
The Whitecaps – with two wins, nine losses and eight draws this year – have given up 26 goals in 19 games.
Caps head coach Tom Soehn said Harvey is an experienced Major League Soccer player with strong tackling ability, quickness and a capacity to push forward into the attack.
“We look forward to having him join our back line,” Soehn said in a statement.
Whitecaps regular starting left back Alain Rochat has played centre back for the Caps this season whenever injuries created a shortage of players in that position.
Rochat played centre back Wednesday in a 1-0 home loss to Columbus due to a groin injury to Jay DeMerit. Normal starting right back Jonathan Leathers played left back for the first time this season.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Harvey started 16 Union matches this season and started 45 games for the club the past two seasons. He was acquired from Colorado in the 2009 MLS expansion draft and is expected to join the Whitecaps when they play in Colorado on Saturday.
7. Sarkodie's confidence on upswing
Dynamo find more minutes for rookie defender
By Jose De JesúsOrtiz
Houston Chronicle—July 7, 2011
Coach Dominic Kinnear thought so highly of Kofi Sarkodie in January that he didn't bother putting the speedy right back on his draft board. He assumed the University of Akron star would be gone before the Dynamo picked seventh in the first round.
Will Bruin was one of three players the Dynamo targeted with the seventh pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, but the club passed on the talented forward when Sarkodie was available.
Bruin, the 11th pick, has been a consistent starter this season for the Dynamo. But Sarkodie is starting to stake his claim to a starting spot.
Midway through his rookie season in Major League Soccer, Sarkodie has started consecutive games for the first time.
Earned four starts
He has started four games this season. But until his strong effort Sunday while helping shut out Colorado in a scoreless tie, Sarkodie had never started consecutive games. He had gone more than a month between each of his previous three starts.
Early in the season, it was impossible to assume Sarkodie, 20, would go so long between starts. He was in the starting lineup for the second game of the season, holding his own against former Akron teammate Steve Zakuani. With veteran Hunter Freeman ahead in the depth chart, Sarkodie was back on the bench for the next two months until he started May 28 against FC Dallas.
Sarkodie's rust and inexperience were evident against FC Dallas. Moreover, he couldn't help but wonder when he'd start again after drawing a pair of yellow cards and a subsequent ejection in the 72nd minute.
Although Kinnear has been adamant that Sarkodie will be a special player in MLS, there's no denying the former All-America's confidence was shaken.
"It was tough," Sarkodie said. "After the Seattle game, the next match I played against FC Dallas was a couple months later. Looking back, after the game against FC Dallas in the locker room it was more a feeling of frustration.
"I told myself, 'I don't know when I'm going to play again. All I can do now is continue to get better, do the right things, eat right, continue to do yoga.' I kept lifting weights and spending time working so I would be ready when I got my next chance."
Lift from teammate
Sarkodie's confidence got a boost from veteran teammate Jason Garey. As they exited the locker room after the 2-2 draw against FC Dallas, Garey lifted Sarkodie's spirits.
"Garey told me I'm a talented player and to keep doing the right things and I would get my chance," Sarkodie said. "Honestly, with every game my confidence has been growing.
"The more experience and more games I get, my confidence is growing and the easier it is to see things on the pitch."
Sarkodie suffered a mild right ankle sprain Sunday against Colorado, but he doesn't expect the injury to hinder his availability if Kinnear opts to start him for the third consecutive game.
He has progressed since that lonely stint he spent in the locker room waiting for his teammates after he was ejected against Dallas.
"He's done OK," Kinnear said. "One thing we're trying to get him to do is to get into the attack more. Defensively, he's done pretty good, and his distribution's been all right. We want him, when the goalkeeper gets the ball, to be a little more aggressive to get wide and to get onto the ball and attack the space because we know that's a big part of his game."
8. D.C. United’s blockbuster trade will play out on the field
By Thomas Floyd
Washington Times—July 7, 2011
Always an intense feud, the long-running rivalry between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls was injected with an extra dose of intrigue last week.
Just 12 days after pulling off a blockbuster trade that saw United ship midfielder Dax McCarty to New York for five-time All-Star playmaker Dwayne De Rosario, the Interstate 95 foes will clash Saturday in Harrison, N.J.
It will be the teams’ second meeting of the season after New York handed United a 4-0 drubbing at RFK Stadium in April. For a D.C. organization that historically has dominated New York, the result left a bitter taste that has lingered for the past two months.
“We got smacked pretty good,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “I definitely don’t think we’re the same team. We obviously know the mistakes we made in that game, and we’re looking to fix them.”
The early returns from last week’s swap have been positive for both sides. De Rosario had an active evening during United’s 2-2 draw with Philadelphia last weekend, finding plenty of touches on the ball and notching an assist on Josh Wolff’s opener.
“To have an immediate impact like that is always good,” De Rosario said of his debut. “If we can continue to build our communication, we’ll be good.”
McCarty, meanwhile, has efficiently played as a one of two holding midfielders in his first matches for the Red Bulls (6-3-10). It’s an adjustment that largely frees wingers Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere of defensive obligation while opening space for striker Thierry Henry to create from deeper positions.
“It’s obviously a more defensive move by New York,” Pontius said. “So we need to get after them more where they are going forward. If they’re going to be attacking from the wings a lot more now, that’s where they’re going to be vulnerable for us to attack.”
Although the McCarty-De Rosario showdown in the middle will be the most scrutinized matchup, New York’s star-studded roster features plenty of skill and athleticism for D.C. (4-5-7) to worry about — much of which was on display during the Red Bulls' 5-0 win over Toronto FC on Wednesday.
Henry buried his league-leading ninth goal of the season. The right-sided combination of Jan Gunnar Solli and Richards combined for three assists, torching Toronto much like the duo burned United in April. Lindpere notched his fourth goal in three games. Forward Juan Agudelo, back from a month of U.S. national team duty, scored twice.
It was the epitome of a squad clicking on all cylinders.
“They’re a very dangerous team going forward,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. “If you sleep for a second, they have real talented, experienced guys there that will punish you.”
To United’s advantage, the Red Bulls will be playing their third contest in eight days Saturday. And New York will be without Finnish midfielder Teemu Tainio (suspended because of yellow card accumulation) and veteran center back Rafael Marquez (hamstring strain).
The latter, a designated player signed from European power FC Barcelona last summer, creates a notable void for a team that builds from the back.
“One of the traits of Marquez is his passing ability, his composure on the ball,” said Wolff, a former U.S. player who has battled against the Mexico captain many times in the past decade. “It goes a long way with them because they’re a possession team and he’s somebody that is very indicative of that. … But whoever’s out there, we’ve got to put them under pressure and make the plays that we can make.”
While De Rosario led United’s film preparation early in the week, sharing his intimate knowledge of the Red Bulls’ strengths and weaknesses, the D.C. players acknowledged McCarty was surely doing the same thing for New York.
As Pontius put it, “There will be no surprises” — except, perhaps, the result.
“If there is any time for us to go in there and get some points and get a win up in New York, it’s now,” he said. “Especially after them beating Toronto 5-0 and feeling a little bit of confidence about themselves, I think we can go up there and spoil the party.”
9. Could Harvey's exit give Spector a Union spot?
By Kerith Gabriel
Philadelphia Inquirer—July 8, 2011
LEAVE IT TO THE Union technical staff to double as bombardiers.
At 2:45 p.m. yesterday, the club sent out a news release that sure-footed defender Jordan Harvey had been traded to Vancouver for allocation money.
Initially, the trade came as a shocker to everyone. Especially to Harvey, who told Vancouver radio TEAM (1410-AM) that he found out late Wednesday night the trade might happen, but that it wasn't confirmed until late yesterday morning.
But Harvey also told the station that from what he'd ascertained, "At the end of the day, Philly got some kind of offer that they couldn't refuse."
Currently, the Union is seated second in Major League Soccer's allocation order, behind Chivas USA.
Manager Peter Nowak didn't respond to messages asking for a comment, but a Union spokesperson said that Nowak plans to address it following tomorrow's match at San Jose and in his subsequent weekly news conference next Wednesday.
It's smug, but it doesn't come as a shocker. After all, this is the same Nowak who shrugged off questions about the nonrenewal of defender Michael Orozco Fiscal's loan deal. The same Nowak who was noncommittal about why he left Shea Salinas unprotected in this year's expansion draft after Salinas said he was told by the technical staff that he was safe. He, too, wound up in Vancouver.
But is there a method to Nowak's obvious madness?
When Harvey said the Union received an offer it couldn't refuse, it turned on my incandescent lightbulb: What if the Union is preparing to announce a blockbuster signing, say, a player named Jonathan Spector, perhaps?
Now this is pure speculation, but Spector, 25, is out of contract, released by English club West Ham after the English Premier League season wrapped. Though a rightfooted player, Spector has been known to play anywhere along the back line, especially for the U.S. national team. He spent time within the Chicago Fire reserve system in 2003 (Nowak played there from 1998-2002) and attended U.S. residency camp in Bradenton, Fla. (2002-03). Union assistant John Hackworth was director at Bradenton from 2004-07.
They know Spector and Spector knows them.
As far as Harvey, sure his loss is a sin. He played in every match but one since joining the Union as an original in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft. He came cheap, too, collecting a base of just $61,875 this season. Union supporters flocked to Twitter expressing their discontent and for a while Harvey's Twitter handle was trending hard in the Philadelphia region.
But to improve, you have to upgrade, and it's hard to argue that Spector would not be a major one.
HUNTED BECOMING THE HUNTER
Despite having Columbus on its heels and New York looking down from above, in terms of pole position, the Union is perhaps one of the luckiest teams in Major League Soccer.
Lucky, because a consistent defense over the course of 17 league matches has allowed the club to sit at or near the top of the Eastern Conference, falling to the second spot just a handful of times thanks, in part, to a pesky Red Bull corps that mimics a fly you can't swat.
Lucky, because despite all of its immense firepower, that same Red Bull New York contingent can't find any consistency. Red Bull took first place by just one point by virtue of a 5-0 thrashing of Toronto FC on Wednesday night, but with even a tie against San Jose and a New York loss to D.C. United on short rest this weekend, the Union will take over first place yet again thanks to goal differential.
As the second half of the regular season kicks off for the Union out West, it's still evident that a set starting 11 is not in place. Each week, Peter Nowak "shuffles the deck,'' as he put it after the scoreless draw against Sporting Kansas City, to find cohesion along the front. About the only constant is a defense that has allowed 16 goals, the third lowest total in the league. Faryd Mondragon is still giving up less than a goal a game (0.94) and is in the top five keepers in shutouts with five.
"I think the last two games against [Chivas USA and D.C. United] have shown that if we start to play to our ability, to our level, that we can move forward and score goals and we can defend as well,'' Nowak said. "Going on the road, you can't have those kind of moments where there is a lapse in concentration. That's my message for this team, especially after the last match [2-2 tie at D.C. United], because if you go on the road and score two goals, you should win the game."
What has been consistent?
How about the pairing of defensive midfielders Amobi Okugo and Brian Carroll. Or Justin Mapp's control of the midfield from the flanks. Don't forget Danny Mwanga running at defenders up top and even Carlos Ruiz' newfound vigor, post-CONCACAF Gold Cup.
But mostly, the fact is that the Union competes in a perennially weaker conference. Sure, the Union may rule the roost in the East, but this club would be tied for fourth in the West, battling for a playoff spot. And what if the MLS ran on a single-table format? Look at the standings, even though Nowak doesn't, and see for yourself where this team would rank.
"We are not really looking at the standings, because the more you look at the standings, the more you shift your focus to something that is not really important," Nowak said.
ODDS AND ENDLINES
Shea Salinas said that he spoke with Jordan Harvey shortly after he found out about the trade. A baffled Salinas said, "[Harvey] played every minute of almost every game; it's shocking that Philly would let him go. I can only guess that Peter is confident in the guys that are backing up Jordan. I talked to [Harvey] and he's coming into town Sunday. I plan to show him some places downtown because he likes the downtown area." Salinas also said, "Look, I can't really speak for him, but he was definitely shocked and I don't know if he saw it coming. Again, I can't speak for Jordan, but there were definitely a mix of emotions. We don't have a whole lot of MLS experience on our team so his experience in the league is vital and I look forward to hanging with him again" . . . Where-they-are-now update: Former goalkeeper Brad Knighton is the hottest goalkeeper in the NASL. Knighton, who plays for Carolina, leads the league in goals-against average (0.82) and shutouts (five). With Knighton in goal, the Railhawks have a 12-1-1 record, are winners of 10 straight and haven't lost in 13 straight, since their season opener. *
SHOTS ON GOAL
Upcoming game: Union (7-4-6, 27 points) at San Jose (5-6-6, 21 points)
When: Tomorrow, 10:30 p.m.
Where: Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
On the web: Streaming online at MLSSoccer.com
For kicks: The Union will either find a dejected San Jose or one intent on getting back on track when it travels to Buck Shaw to take on the Earthquakes. San Jose will host the Union on short rest following a 2-0 loss at Chivas USA Wednesday night. The result also meant the loss of goal-scoring threat Steven Lenhart (five goals, two assists), who will miss tomorrow's match due to yellow-card accumulation. Lenhart picked up his second caution in the 60th minute . . . However, San Jose still boasts a scoring threat in Chris Wondolowski, who was top scorer in the league last season and is at it again, leading the Earthquakes with six goals . . . Peter Nowak on Wondolowski: "Chris was included on the [U.S. national team] Gold Cup roster for a reason, he has been scoring really good goals as of late. We have to see what we can do to shut it down" . . . Penn Charter alum Bobby Convey is out for this match with a knee contusion. Convey hasn't played since a June 25 match against Los Angeles . . . The Union is in second place, though tied with Columbus on points thanks to goal differential.
INJURY REPORT (as of Tuesday)
Doubtful for the Union: Veljko Paunovic, MF (left hip strain). Probable: Danny Califf, DF (rib strain).
Out for San Jose: Bobby Convey, MF (left knee contusion); Andre Luiz, MF (left knee injury); Ike Opara, DF (left foot injury)
DID YOU KNOW?
Bobby Convey just can't catch a break from the injury bug. Convey has battled injuries for much of his career. Same can be said for fellow alum Chris Albright, midfielder for Red Bull New York, who returned to full practice just last week after intense rehab following major knee surgery earlier this year.
10. Union earn high marks at midseason
By Marc Narducci
Philadelphia Inquirer—July 8, 2011
The Union are at the midway point of their 34-game Major League Soccer schedule with a 7-4-6 record, standing in second place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the New York Red Bulls but with two games in hand.
For a second-year franchise the team has certainly exceeded expectations after going 8-15-7 in its inaugural season.
What's interesting is that the expectations have risen, and games such as 1-1 home draws with Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City actually felt like losses because the Union controlled most of the play.
Either way, team manager Peter Nowak won't allow the Union to become complacent, and when asked if he is surprised at where the Union stand, he replied: "Yes and no."
Nowak then expanded.
"We have had a good start and have gotten the attention from other teams," he said. "We have a team that is difficult to beat, and teams have to play their best to get a good result against us."
That is what Nowak likes most about his team this year.
"It is big progress," he said. "Of course everybody expects us to continue this way."
The biggest reason for improvement has been the defense. Central defender Carlos Valdes and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon have been major additions. Valdes has arguably been the Union's best player and should be a lock to make the all-star team. Not flashy, he has brought stability to the back line.
It says here that fellow central defender Danny Califf should also be an all-star, and outside back Sheanon Wiliams also warrants consideration. The other outside back was Jordan Harvey, but he was traded on Thursday to Vancouver for allocation money. Harvey, who started 45 of 47 games with the Union was a solid performer whom the team deemed expendable.
The biggest weakness last season was in goal, and Mondragon has brought stability and veteran leadership. He hasn't had to make many outstanding saves, but as assistant coach John Hackworth pointed out earlier in the year, Mondragon does such a good job positioning himself that he doesn't often need to make that spectacular save.
If appears teams are sensing a potential weakness and are shooting low on him. Mondragon isn't the quickest coming off his line, but he has made a major difference and has given the Union great confidence.
The midfield has been solid, and it's the place where players have been rotated the most. One can see why Nowak is so high on Brian Carroll, a defensive midfielder, whose underrated play is truly appreciated when he's seen on a game-by-game basis.
The recent addition of Vejko Paunovic has brought an offensive presence to the midfield. The team has benefited already from his passing accuracy and field vision.
The one area that needs more consistency is up front. Carlos Ruiz has made some plays that few others in MLS can make, such as the spectacular goal in the 2-1 win over Chicago. He also goes long stretches without touching the ball.
Want to get Nowak going? Mention the inconsistency of Ruiz.
"I am angry with the whole assessment of when Carlos isn't scoring that he isn't working," Nowak said. "If you don't see what he brings to the table, then it's not fair. There are some guys who have one chance and will finish it, and that is Carlos."
Sebastien Le Toux has been a good distributor but is looking to find his scoring touch. A 14-goal scorer last year, he has just one this season, on a penalty kick.
Le Toux played up top last season and has been asked to move back to the midfield. He has had scoring chances but hasn't finished them. On the plus side, he has a team-high six assists.
"He works so hard, and I would be worried if he didn't have the scoring chances," Nowak said.
And then there is Danny Mwanga, who, along with Ruiz, has a team-high five goals and has improved his shot this season, evident by a blast in a 1-1 draw at Colorado and in scoring the game-winner in 3-2 triumph over Chivas USA. It says here that he is the team's most dangerous offensive player.
The fact that the team has allowed four goals in the last two games needs to be addressed, and the offense must be more consistent. But for a second-year team, the Union have shown that they are among the most improved MLS teams and, in a league with parity, a contender for the MLS Cup.
That's why they have to get a midseason grade of A. While championships aren't won on midseason grades, it's better to be in the Union's position today than the one they occupied at this time last year.
11. Real Salt Lake will host U.S. Open Cup semifinal if it gets that far
Salt Lake Tribune—July 7, 2011
Real Salt Lake will host a semifinal game in the U.S. Open Cup tournament next month if it advances that far.
The team has learned it will play either the Los Angeles Galaxy or the Seattle Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 30, provided it beats FC Dallas on the road — something it has never done — in the quarterfinals on Tuesday night. That game comes just three days after FC Dallas plays at RSL in a Major League Soccer game on Saturday.
The Galaxy and Sounders play the other semifinal in Seattle on Wednesday night.
12. Nat Borchers is RSL's top player according to index
By James Edward
Deseret News—July 7, 2011
SANDY — Lost amid the uproar surrounding the red card that put Real Salt Lake a man down against New England on Monday was its impact on the next game.
By virtue of his first ejection in an RSL uniform, Nat Borchers will be forced to sit out this Saturday's massive match at Rio Tinto Stadium against red-hot FC Dallas.
Dallas has won three straight and has vaulted to the front of the MLS Supporters Shield conversation. Even though Los Angeles has a slight edge over Dallas, 36 points to 34 points in the standings, Dallas has played two less games and leads in points per game at 1.89. Los Angeles is second at 1.80 ppg, while Real Salt Lake is third at 1.69 ppg.
This weekend's match marks the exact midway point of the Major League Soccer season for Real Salt Lake, and securing the full three points is a must in the race for the Supporters Shield. It will have to do so without Borchers, who according to the Castrol Index has been RSL's most efficient player this year.
The Castrol Index is the official performance index of MLS. It uses the latest technology to track the movements of every player on the field and then objectively analyzes whether it had a positive or negative impact on a team's ability to score or concede a goal.
Ten is the highest index score possible, and Borchers ranks third in MLS at 9.22, trailing only New York's Thierry Henry (9.33) and Dallas' George John (9.27).
Here's a look at where RSL's top 10 players rank in the overall index midway through the season: Jamison Olave (14), Tony Beltran (32), Chris Wingert (52), Nick Rimando (53), Ned Grabavoy (54), Kyle Beckerman (67), Will Johnson (108), Fabian Espindola (174) and Andy Williams (201).
RSL TO HOST?: Three days after RSL and Dallas meet in a league game at Rio Tinto Stadium this Saturday, they'll meet at Pizza Hut Park in Texas in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match.
It was announced on Wednesday that if RSL wins, it would host the Los Angeles/Seattle winner in the Open Cup semifinals on Aug. 30. Teams must bid to host games in the U.S. Open Cup, and most just assumed that RSL would get outbid by Los Angeles and Seattle.
Real Salt Lake is clearly putting its money where its mouth is about taking the U.S. Open Cup seriously this time around. First, however, it must overcome a brutal history in Dallas, with an all-time record of 0-9-1 in league and playoff games.
INTERESTING THOUGHTS: Following Monday's 3-3 draw, RSL owner Dave Checketts — who was in attendance because of the Jason Kreis jersey retirement — called the ESPN700 postgame show to weigh in on the match and the officiating.
He had some pretty interesting thoughts about how things like that can be avoided in the future.
"I think we should do our best in American soccer and in Major League Soccer to make sure we're doing the things that would make the game more fair and interesting. The NFL, the NBA, the NHL have all included replay review in various forms. It makes it so the calls get made right, and we don't have that in this sport, and I have been screaming about it frankly for the last couple of years," said Checketts.
13. Dunfield's dismay says it all
Midfielder kicking himself after Vancouver fails to improve
By Marc Weber
The Province—July 8, 2011
The look on Terry Dunfield's face Thursday was about as far as he could get from opening day, when his beaming smile lit up Empire Field and post-game highlight shows.
It was a look of frustration and disappointment, and whatever was said in a lengthy chat with coach Tommy Soehn before practice at Burnaby Lake, Dunfield seemed to still be absorbing it all.
It was a private chat, said the midfielder. Soehn offered this: "Like everybody, sometimes you need to pick guys up; sometimes you need to put them in their place."
Which of those Soehn was doing Thursday, the morning after Dunfield missed a penalty kick and coughed up the ball in a 1-0 home loss, was anyone's guess, though Dunfield's mood suggested the latter.
This is the lowest point of the season for the Whitecaps, losers of four straight. It's also the lowest point for Dunfield, the lone Vancouverite on the roster who wants this to succeed more than anyone.
There's no faulting his desire. There's also no hiding from a night like Wednesday.
"It was a tough one for me," said the 29-year-old, who is coming off the high of representing Canada at the Gold Cup. "It's a long season. I've definitely had my ups this year and hopefully days like [Wednesday] are few and far between.
"It's difficult to swallow because you've let the boys down. When things are going great you're the hero, and when things aren't going well you're an easy target."
Since Soehn took over from Teitur Thordarson on May 30, Dunfield has seen his role change. Whereas Thordarson liked Dunfield's penchant for playing with reckless abandon, Soehn speaks often of doing more by doing less.
It's a point he raised again Thursday. "What he needs to focus on," said Soehn, "is making sure he's doing what he does well and not trying to overdo things."
Overdoing things probably includes taking penalties, especially with Camilo and Alain Rochat on the field, though whether the blame for Wednesday's missed opportunity falls to Dunfield, or to Soehn for not forcing the issue, is a matter of perspective.
Will Hesmer's role in this shouldn't be ignored, either. It wasn't the best penalty, but the goalkeeper was Columbus's best player.
In Dunfield's defence, Soehn and teammates were quick to point out after the loss that it should never have come down to the penalty. There were enough chances before to put the game to bed.
Still, the likable local midfielder lost his starting spot Wednesday to Peter Vagenas, and he's watched Vagenas and Rochat don the captain's armband under Soehn, an honour he held under Thordarson when Jay DeMerit was hurt.
"I'm a strong person and I can handle it," said Dunfield, minutes after he'd led out the post-practice run and pushed the pace. "I'm still one of the leaders on this team.
"The only way to get out of this situaion is to work hard."
14. Opposite paths for Sounders, Timbers since tie
Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers have gone in opposite directions since their inaugural Major League Soccer derby ended in a 1-1 draw.
By Don Ruiz
Tacoma News Tribune—July 8, 2011
Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers have gone in opposite directions since their inaugural Major League Soccer derby ended in a 1-1 draw.
That May 14 meeting in Seattle left the clubs even not only on the scoreboard but also in the MLS standings, where each emerged with 14 points.
Since then, the Timbers have added only four points, going 1-5-1.
Over the same stretch, the Sounders have added 18 points, going 5-1-3.
With the rematch coming up Sunday in the Rose City, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid avoided any bulletin board material when asked what has gone wrong for the Timbers.
“Don’t know: You’ve got to ask (Portland coach John Spencer) that question,” Schmid said. “It’s a little bit similar to when we came into the league the first year. We got off to a great start; there was a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of adrenaline going through everybody’s veins, and so you get off to a really ambitious start, almost.
“And then reality sets in and the day-to-day grind sets in, and then things change a little bit. And that happened to us as well: We stumbled a little bit, and then we caught ourselves. They’re a team right now that’s going through the same process. It’s just a normal growing process.”
That fast start by the Timbers may have peaked with the visit to Seattle, when a then-record Sounders regular-season crowd of 36,593 watched the rivals play to a 1-1 draw.
Alvaro Fernandez put the Sounders ahead in the 52nd minute, but Mamadou Danso got the Timbers even in the 65th.
Then, almost as soon as that game went into the book, the coaches began beating the drum for the next meeting. Schmid said the rainy weather had played to the advantage of the Timbers. Spencer accused Schmid of making excuses.
Both coaches reined things in after that. By the end of that week, Spencer was stressing how much respect he has for Schmid. And Schmid opened this week by responding in kind.
“I have a lot of respect for John as a coach,” he said Thursday. “I know we said a lot of things back and forth. I think he’s a really good coach, I thought he was a really good player, and I’ve always liked him, and I’ve enjoyed the banter as well.
“Right now we’re focused on making sure that we’re ready for Sunday’s game. We want to go down there and we want to play very well.”
Sounders defender Jeff Parke, however, sounded like a man who hopes the truce doesn’t last all the way to the 1 p.m. Sunday kickoff.
“I’d definitely like to hear a little bit because it shows how much they care about it,” he said. “... It gets us a little bit more motivated.
“You see and you hear different things, and you put it up on the bulletin board and you read it every time maybe, and hear how much (trash) he’s talking and see what’s going on. It should be fun.”
The Sounders would travel to Real Salt Lake for the U.S. Open Cup semifinal match if both clubs advance in the quarterfinals. If Seattle advances and Real Salt Lake loses, then FC Dallas would visit Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila at 7 p.m. Aug. 30. First, the Los Angeles Galaxy visits the Sounders in a quarterfinal match Wednesday at Starfire. The right to host Open Cup matches is secured through sealed bid to U.S. Soccer. …
O’Brian White (blood clot) returned to training, and Schmid said he could return to action in the July 16 home game against Colorado. … The Sounders plan to work on penalty kicks in training today. As of now, Schmid said Brad Evans is the top penalty kick taker, with Alonso Osvaldo and Lamar Neagle mentioned as possible second choices.
15. Sounders FC's Zach Scott working hard to stick around
Zach Scott, who turned 31 last Saturday, is the team's second-oldest field player, but his career is peaking because of his versatility and work ethic.
By Joshua Mayers
The Seattle Times—July 7, 2011
Zach Scott and his wife, Alana, needed to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
Three years ago, Sounders FC was putting the pieces together for its debut season in Major League Soccer. Making the team would be difficult for Scott, a hard-nosed defender who had played with the Sounders in the lower leagues since 2002.
So, while he was at tryouts, Alana began looking for places to live in Maui, where she and Zach grew up. A structural engineer, she even set up her business base there.
"I thought he'd be done and that'd be it," said Alana.
"We were very ready to move back to Hawaii if it didn't work out," Zach added.
But three days before the season opener, a contract offer finally came. Scott went on to start the first five games of the season, but struggled with an abdominal injury the rest of the year, eventually needing surgery. After laboring through 2010 and playing just four MLS games while trying to get back in shape, he has reestablished himself as a consistent defensive option for coach Sigi Schmid.
Heading into Sunday's game in Portland, Scott has played or been available off the bench in the last 12 games in all competitions.
Could he have imagined contributing like this after nearly giving up the sport?
"No, not at all," said Scott. "It's been so up and down these last couple years.
"I feel like I'm playing well, and like I've told my wife, if I don't feel like I'm improving each year, I'm just going to stop playing. I feel like I'm a much better soccer player than I was last year and ... I expect to continue that trend."
Scott, who turned 31 last Saturday, is the team's second-oldest field player, but his career is peaking. Assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, who coached Scott in the United Soccer Leagues, said the Gonzaga University product is "probably playing the best soccer of his life."
He got there through hard work.
When Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, a regular Sounders FC starter, was suspended for a June 23 game against New York, Scott battled his way up the depth chart and into the starting lineup.
"Zach has always been in the top two or three in terms of hardest-working guys," said Schmetzer. "Ever since I saw him an open tryout in Memorial Stadium in 2002, that was the thing that got our attention: He was winning every single header, tenacious, hard-working. He's always one of the last guys to leave the field, and that's why he's stuck around."
At a sturdy 5 feet 11 and 179 pounds, he is perhaps the only player on the team who is a reliable option at every position on defense: right back, left back and center back.
"He's still under the same approach that he can't take anything for granted," said Alana, whose day job has provided the financial stability needed for Zach to live his dream. "He has the best work ethic of anyone I've ever met. I don't think he'll ever be comfortable."
• Schmid said O'Brian White could possibly return to play a substitute role in a July 16 game against Colorado. The forward had surgery in April to remove a blood clot from his left leg.
16. Early goal is the difference in Timbers' 1-0 loss to Club America
By Jamie Goldberg
The Oregonian—July 8, 2011
The Timbers know they need to stop giving up early goals. They've been talking about it all week. But even with a completely different lineup slated for Thursday's exhibition, the Timbers couldn't prevent Club América from knocking in the deciding goal 16 minutes into the match en route to a 1-0 win in front of a crowd of 17,198.
Five days after the Timbers gave up two goals in the first 20 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City, they allowed another early goal to lose again at Jeld-Wen Field.
With the ball bouncing around in the goal box, Club América's Vicente Sanchez managed to get a pass off to his team's top goal scorer, Angel Reyna, who drilled a shot off the goal post and into the back of the net, leaving Timbers goalkeeper Adin Brown with no chance to make a save.
"I thought for 7 or 8 minutes of the game, we were rocking a little bit," Timbers coach John Spencer said. "We were in trouble."
Yet Brown, who made his first start since May, did prevent the Timbers from suffering more early damage by making three saves in the first half. The most impressive came after Club América was awarded a free kick in the 15th minute. The shot deflected off Kenny Cooper's foot straight to Club América's Sanchez, whose on-target shot was knocked away by a diving Brown.
Club América had another opportunity 3 minutes later when Daniel Montenegro's shot bounced off the far goal post. Minutes later, Matias Vuoso appeared to score on a breakaway, but the goal was disallowed due to an offside call.
"They know how to keep the ball," Timbers midfielder Rodrigo Lopez said. "They're very dynamic. I think they battered us for a little bit -- 10 to 15 minutes. But I think we held our own. I think we had more chances, but we couldn't get one in."
The Timbers had their fair share of chances.
Kevin Goldthwaite nearly scored an incredible goal in the 26th minute. After Lopez delivered Goldthwaite the ball off a corner kick, he flicked it backward toward goal, but Club América keeper Armando Navarrete was there to punch the ball away.
Though they had opportunities, only four of the Timbers 13 shots were on goal.
But losing 1-0 to one of Mexico's most storied clubs might not be too disappointing for the Timbers, who hardly played any of their regular starters.
With only three days until their rivalry game against Seattle, Spencer chose to rest his usual starting lineup. Instead, he started a lineup that included no starters from the Timbers' last MLS match against Kansas City. Even the substitutes included only two players that saw the field against Sporting KC: Futty Danso and Kalif Alhassan.
"I felt we played very well tonight," Spencer said. "I thought we played some great football."
Spencer has said in recent weeks that his starting lineup is not set. If he was trying to get a better look at a few substitutes, this was a good opportunity.
Among the players who got an opportunity Thursday was Bright Dike, who made his season debut in the 71st minute when he replaced Sal Zizzo. Dike has been sidelined since tearing his right Achilles tendon in February.
"It was good to get him on the field and I think it gave everybody a lift," Spencer said. "We need to try to find a way to get him into the game."
17. Philly in at the back for Caps
Vancouver adds Union left-back to improve shutouts
By Marc Weber
The Province—July 8, 2011
A solid, stoic defence was supposed to be the backbone of the Vancouver Whitecaps in year one. Two of their first signings were American World Cup starter Jay DeMerit and Swiss-Canadian Alain Rochat, who has Champions League experience.
More than halfway through the MLS season, the Caps have allowed 26 goals, fourth-most in the league, and have three shutouts, tied for worst in the league. The reasons for that go beyond the back four, but Thursday the club acquired left-back Jordan Harvey from the Philadelphia Union for allocation money.
"One of the things we definitely want to do is make our team deeper and add MLS experience," said Tommy Soehn who wears two hats as coach and director of soccer operations.
"With Jordan, we get a left-back, which gives us the flexibility of moving Rochat inside and it brings in another guy who knows the league and we know what we're getting. He's just a good, solid MLS pro and, character-wise, we're excited to have him in the dressing room."
Harvey, a 27-year-old from Mission Viejo, Calif., started 45 of his 46 appearances for the Union, including 16 starts this season for a squad that has only allowed 16 goals in 17 games.
Drafted out of UCLA by the Colorado Rapids in 2006, he'll have a chance to face his former team on Saturday as the Whitecaps face the Rapids.
Vancouver, losers of four straight overall, are still in search of their first road victory.
Soehn said Harvey will be in the 18-man roster for sure, though he wouldn't commit to a starting spot for the former U.S. under-20 player.
With captain DeMerit on the sidelines for the third time this season due to a nagging groin injury, Soehn again shuffled his back line Wednesday, using right-back Jonny Leathers on the left, sliding Rochat into a central role, and giving Wes Knight a rare start on the right.
The addition of Harvey allows Leathers to return to his natural position, but it's tough news for left-back Blake Wagner and centre back Greg Janicki, who have already struggled to find minutes since Soehn took over May 30.
With the international transfer window opening July 15, the Caps have one roster spot open; though not yet announced, centreback Mouloud Akloul is on his way out.
If the Caps plan to add more than one player this summer, jobs are in jeopardy.
"You want it competitive in every spot," Soehn said.
If Harvey does start Saturday, the Rapids present a stiff first challenge for the new-look back line.
The defending MLS Cup champions have only scored 20 goals in 19 games but have been without standout forwards Omar Cummings and Conor Casey -the classic little-and-large combination who have represented Jamaica and the U.S., respectively -for an extended period due to injury.
Both are back, and Wednesday, Casey scored for the fifth time in six games.
"You've got Casey, who's a big target guy, works hard, and you've got Cummings, who can open up the back and get in behind, so you'll always have to account for those two and they play off each other well," Soehn said.
The Caps' coach is tinkering with more than personnel in defence. In Wednesday's home loss to Columbus, Soehn had his fullbacks, Leathers and Knight, pushed much farther forward, looking to join in the attack. It's a tactic he said will continue in Colorado.
Leathers enjoyed the more offensive role and still tracked back and make two key plays when things broke down.
"It's pretty effective when it's done right," he said.
18. Montreal Impact nearing decision on coach for MLS debut
By Randy Phillips
Montreal Gazette—July 7, 2011
MONTREAL - The search for who will guide the Impact in Major League Soccer in 2012 is winding down.
Sporting director Nick De Santis told The Gazette Thursday only a few interviews with potential head coaches remain to be conducted and an announcement about who gets the job could come before the end of the month.
“We’ve interviewed quite a few candidates and we’re down to the last two or three,” De Santis said. “We hope that within the next couple of weeks we can make a decision.”
The news comes with the club in the throes of its worst season in franchise history, playing its final year at the second-division level in the North American Soccer League.
De Santis assumed the head coaching duties June 30 when Marc Dos Santos resigned after the club won only twice while losing seven of its first 12 games and was mired in seventh place in the eight-team league.
The team has a tie and a loss since De Santis, a former team captain, assistant coach and head coach, took over and is 2-4-8 with 10 points overall, seven points short of a playoff spot.
De Santis said the new coach will not come in to try to salvage the rest of the current season and he, in fact, will be doing double duty over the final 14 games of the regular season.
“The (new) coach will come in and evaluate, stay on the outside, but work with the technical staff,” De Santis said. “He would be basically looking ahead and preparing for next season.”
In the meantime, De Santis has been cracking the whip at practice which was notable Thursday, ending a nearly two-hour session with soccer’s version of hockey’s bag skate, where players did a lengthy series of sprints across the width of the field at Claude Robillard Stadium.
“It was a day of work. We’re trying to focus on keeping things very intense and at a good pace,” De Santis said of the proceedings during which he ripped into a few players verbally for not properly executing a drill.
“If you saw our last game,” he said of a 2-0 road loss to the Carolina RailHawks last Sunday, “we felt that on the physical aspect they totally dominated us and I think we’ve got to get to a certain rhythm, a certain intensity and that’s why the focus now, especially during nine days without a game, is on a lot of intensity.”
Two new players have begun trying out for the club just as two with the it since the start of the season, Frenchmen Idriss Ech Chergui and defender Richard Pelletier, were on their way out.
Canadian defender Ross Smith and English midfielder Ian Westlake joined practice sessions this week.
Smith, 30, from Milton, Ont., spent most of his career playing abroad, but was with the Portland Timbers last season and until recently had worked as radio analyst for Timbers games.
Westlake is a 27-year-old native of Clacton-on-Sea, who was last with Wycombe Wanderers of English League Two.
De Santis said he will continue to bring in players to try out in an effort to turn the season around, particularly with the international transfer window due to open next week. But bringing players for next year for MLS is out of the question for the time being.
“Trying to bring in (players) for next year is going to be very difficult, especially without a coach in place,” he said. “Our vision is to bring a coach in, to work with him to start looking at the future.
“Right now players we bring will be just to try to change the dynamics of the team,” De Santis continued. “We might make two or three changes to add more depth and stability because I still believe the guys (here) have to get out of it mentally and we have half the season left to do that.”
Team captain Nevio Pizzolitto feels players have recommitted themselves to working harder in the wake of Dos Santos’s departure after less than three seasons.
“Things are going well,” he said. “Guys are working hard which is very positive and especially when things go wrong because the human tendency is to let go and get away from working hard and doing the right thing, and that’s just not the case right now.
“Nick’s got us focused, determined and taken us back to the basics of which first just working harder than everyone else,” said Pizzolitto.
The Impact’s next game is against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 7:30 p.m. on July 13 at Saputo Stadium.
19. Portland enemy Levesque ready for Sounders-Timbers
By Tim Booth
The Associated Press —July 7, 2011
TUKWILA, Wash. — He's enemy No. 1 for the Timbers' Army, which, considering there's a guy holding a working chain saw just a few yards from the playing field, might make some slightly uncomfortable.
Seattle's Roger Levesque is used to it by this point. He's played the villain long enough to realize he'll always be in the middle of the Portland-Seattle rivalry as long as he's playing for the Sounders.
"I think it's good for the game. The rivalry is great for the game of soccer, it's great for the Pacific Northwest. I don't know about being in the middle of it as being a great thing for me, but at the same time it's kind of a fun thing," Levesque said on Thursday. "It's good to ignite maybe some anger in maybe the Portland fans, see what I can do to upset them as much as possible."
It's a pretty safe assumption what the general reaction will be Sunday when the Sounders travel south to face the expansion Timbers in the third game of the Cascadia rivalry between Seattle, Portland and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
After all, this is the guy who got booed by Portland fans while playing for the USL Timbers as a temporary replacement during a 2008 exhibition match, with a sign in the stands reading "True Fans Hate Levesque."
Add the anticipation of the first Sounders-Timbers MLS match in the Rose City and it could equal an atmosphere unlike anything Levesque or the Sounders have previously faced.
That's what MLS wanted when it added Portland and Vancouver as expansion franchises and why both games between the Timbers and Sounders this season were given prime national TV broadcasts.
"We're definitely going to feed off their fans. It's going to be a great motivation for us," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "Obviously we're going to have some fans there and they had to work hard to get those tickets and to get into that stadium and we want to reward them. But definitely going into that environment and knowing the kind of atmosphere it is, is something that will help spur us on into our effort as well."
Levesque's relationship with the Portland fans dates back to his time playing for the Sounders when they were a USL franchise before making the jump to MLS in 2009. Portland fans accused Levesque of taking a cheap shot during a 2004 match, begetting the disdain the Timbers have for the floppy-haired native of Portland, Maine.
But his crowning moment came in 2009 during the third-round of the U.S. Open Cup when Levesque scored on a diving header just 48 seconds into the match in Portland and helped give the Sounders a 2-1 victory.
Not that a reminder was needed, but the Sounders' main supporters group — the Emerald City Supporters — made sure that moment wasn't forgotten the first time Seattle and Portland faced in MLS play in May.
The tifo display on that rainy May night highlighted those who spent part of their careers tormenting the Timbers with giant images that took up nearly an entire section in the stadium.
It started with current designated player Fredy Montero, followed by U.S. national team goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann and goalkeeper Preston Burpo, who spent nine years playing for the USL Sounders. They were followed by former NASL Sounders stars Jimmy Gabriel and Brian Schmetzer, now a Sounders assistant coach.
And the capper to the entire show was Levesque's face with a smug smile and the words "48 Seconds" at the very front of the display.
Levesque's return to Portland comes at a time when he's playing some of the best soccer of his career. He scored twice in a 4-2 win over the Red Bulls in late June and has started the last two league matches for the Sounders. Seattle is unbeaten in its last seven league matches — four wins and three draws.
"I'm just excited to be a part of it and out there playing. I've enjoyed being a part of it and combining with the guys and just getting results," Levesque said. "We've been on a good run here the last few weeks and hopefully we can keep it going."
20. Club America beats Timbers
The Associated Press—July 8, 2011
Angel Reyna scored the game's only goal in the 16th minute and Club America beat the Portland Timbers 1-0 in an international exhibition match Thursday night.
Jeld-Wen Stadium was hardly partial to the hometown Timbers. The club reserved about half of the stadium's 18,000 tickets for fans of Club America, who matched the throaty Timbers Army for noise. Club America, based in Mexico City, is one of Mexico's most popular soccer teams.
With a Major League Soccer rivalry game coming up Sunday at home against Seattle, the Timbers rested most of their starters against Club America.
For the first time this season, Portland started three forwards, but it didn't provide an immediate boost to the team's struggling offense. Club America didn't have such problems, though, as its offense kept Timbers goalie Adin Brown active early in the game.
During the ninth minute, Vicente Sanchez ripped a shot that Brown tipped away with a finger. Four minutes later, Daniel Montenegro blasted a 20-yard shot that got past Brown but hit the left post.
Club America's early assault eventually paid off. During the 16th minute, Sanchez crossed a ball to Reyna, who nailed a 10-yard shot past Brown for a 1-0 lead.
Portland's best scoring chance came in the 31st minute, when forward Kenny Cooper hit a close-range shot that forced Club America goalie Armando Navarrete to dive for the save.
The Timbers had several good opportunities to pull even during the second half, the last one coming in the 89th minute, when Kevin Goldthwaite kicked a close-in shot over the cross bar.
Portland is 5-8-3 in MLS competition and currently in eighth place in the Western Conference. The Timbers are winless in their past six MLS matches.
Thursday's exhibition game was Portland's second of four this season. Later in July, the Timbers play host to West Bromwich Albion of the English Premier League and Independiente of Argentina.
21. Vancouver acquires Harvey from Philadelphia
The Sports Network—July 7, 2011
Vancouver, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC acquired defender Jordan Harvey from the Philadelphia Union on Thursday for allocation money.
Harvey, 27, joined the Union via the Major League Soccer Expansion Draft from the Colorado Rapids in November 2009. He appeared in all but one game over two years with the Union, starting 46 of a possible 47 matches.
"Jordan Harvey is an MLS experienced [defender] with strong tackling ability, quickness, and a capacity to push forward into the attack," said Whitecaps FC coach Tom Soehn. "We look forward to having him join our backline."
In four seasons with Colorado, who drafted him in the first round of the 2006 MLS Supplemental Draft, Harvey started 42 of his 45 appearances. He will be eligible to make his Vancouver debut on Saturday against the Rapids.
Per league and club policy, terms of the trade will not be disclosed.
22. Philadelphia trades defender Jordan Harvey to Vancouver
Sporting News—July 7, 2011
The Philadelphia Union, in a surprising move, traded away fan favorite Jordan Harvey on Thursday to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Harvey, a defender who had started 45 of Philadelphia's 46 matches all-time, goes to Vancouver for allocation money. The club could be trying to free up money before the July 15 international transfer window opens.
The trade is a gamble for the Union, which has allowed an Eastern Conference-low 16 goals. Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams all remain on the back line, but depth is an issue
In Vancouver, Harvey will play alongside Alain Rochat and Jay DeMerit to help solidify a porous defense, which has allowed 26 goals, the fourth-most in MLS.
23. Union deals Mission Viejo's Harvey to Vancouver
By Scott French
ESPNLA.com—July 7, 2011
Jordan Harvey, a Philadelphia Union original who has missed just one league game in the club's brief history, is headed to the Pacific Northwest. The left back from Mission Viejo and UCLA was traded Thursday to the Vancouver Whitecaps for allocation money as Union boss Peter Nowak prepares for next week's opening of the summer transfer window.
"Jordan Harvey is an MLS-experienced [defender] with strong tackling ability, quickness, and a capacity to push forward into the attack," Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn said in a statement. "We look forward to having him join our backline."
Vancouver employs one of the league's best left backs in Alain Rochat. No word on what Harvey's role will be.
Harvey (Capistrano Valley High School), 27, selected by the Union from Colorado in the expansion draft that followed the 2009 season, has started 16 of 17 games for the Eastern Conference leaders this year after starting 29 and playing in all 30 games for last year's expansion side. He spent four seasons with the Rapids, playing a significant role with its championship reserve team before appearing in 45 MLS games in 2008-09.
Harvey played in World Cups for the U.S. under-17 and under-20 national teams and starred for four seasons at UCLA. He was a freshman when the Bruins in 2002 won their fourth NCAA title.
UPDATE (7:07 p.m.): Harvey appeared on TEAM 1410 Radio in Vancouver after the trade. Here's some of what he had to say:
On the trade: "At the end of the day, Philly got an offer they couldn’t refuse, from what I’m understanding. To know that Vancouver wants me that bad is awesome. That’s how I’m looking at it, so I’m looking at it as a fresh start and a new opportunity."
On going to Vancouver: "You look at the bright side of things. I’ve been online looking at everything all day, and I’m excited. Vancouver is a beautiful city and a great organization. ... I’m actually closer to home, so my family is pretty excited about this."
24. Philadelphia trades Harvey to Vancouver
By Ridge Mahoney
Soccer America—July 8, 2011
One of the better defensive units in MLS this season has been altered with the trade of left back Jordan Harvey from Philadelphia to Vancouver.
In exchange for Harvey, 27, the Union received an unspecified amount of allocation money. Harvey was acquired in the Expansion Draft and made 46 appearances (one goal, two assists) for Philadelphia in 2010 and 2011. If he takes over at left back for the Whitecaps that will push Alain Rochat, who has played on the outside as well as centrally this season, to centerback.
“Jordan Harvey is an MLS experienced [player] with strong tackling ability, quickness, and a capacity to push forward into the attack,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn in a press release announcing the trade. “We look forward to having him join our backline.”
A five-year veteran of MLS, Harvey started his career in 2006 with Colorado, which took him as the ninth overall pick in the Supplemental Draft. He played 45 games (42 starts) and registered four assists for the Rapids, which left him exposed in an Expansion Draft held after the 2009 season. He led the Union in minutes played (2,613) last year and had made 16 starts this season.
Before he turned pro, Harvey (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) played for the U.S. under-20 team and helped UCLA win the 2002 NCAA Division I men’s title. He is expected to be eligible to face his original MLS team Saturday when the Whitecaps play at Colorado.
25. Kreis, Real Salt Lake look to trialists to fill injury gaps
Without Morales, RSL entertain ideas of adding Hernández, Corea
By Randy Davis
MLSsoccer.com—July 7, 2011
LEHI, Utah — Real Salt Lake created some international buzz recently when the Costa Rican and Australian press picked up on the news of Melbourne Victory playmaker Carlos Hernández in camp here.
But in reality, Hernández has been just one of a handful of trialists who have come through the RSL training gates over the last several weeks. And while he is an intriguing prospect, he may be the biggest long shot of them all.
Hernández joined forward Chris Agorsor, forward/midfielder Dustin Corea and defender Seth Owusu as the most recent players to get a chance to show RSL head coach Jason Kreis their best abilities.
RSL are in the forced position to scour for talent because of the season-ending injury to playmaker Javier Morales, but filling his shoes is no easy task.
“We face multiple challenges in trying to bring someone in to fill Javier’s shoes,” Kreis said. “First and foremost is style of play. Second is transition to the physical nature of our league. Third is to have to play on both sides of the ball for us. A lot of teams that play with a No. 10 expect absolutely no defending from them.
“And fourth, and probably the most critical, is money,” Kreis added. “You’ve got to have money to be able to pay players and bring them over.”
Unlike the others, Hernández is a known quantity — a star for his Melbourne club and a World Cup veteran who has played alongside RSL striker Álvaro Saborío on the Costa Rican national team. However, he still has a year remaining on his current contract and would likely come at a much higher price than the lesser-known players at whom RSL has been taking a look.
In addition, Hernández is known to struggle with conditioning, and that’s something that Kreis demands from his midfield.
Another interesting trialist is Corea, who had originally planned to trial with RSL in the offseason but canceled in favor of a shot to play with the El Salvador U-20 team — a move that put him in national team limbo until recently. Corea had previously played with the US youth squad and failed to fill out the proper paperwork for the switch of national-team allegiance.
“It was weird,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to happen. It just got cleared up about two days ago. I was going to go to the Gold Cup with the full team, but FIFA didn’t clear me to play. Now I can play with the full team or the 23s.”
Corea admitted that after backing out of the earlier trial, he thought his chances with Real Salt Lake might be done.
“I thought that once I didn’t come, that I wouldn’t get the chance to come again,” he said. “But I tried to come. I spoke with coach Miles [Joseph] and they invited me down here. When they told me, I was just happy to be able to come here and show what I can do.”
“Corea — I’m not really sure if he’s a midfielder or forward,” Kreis said after watching the 19-year-old over the last couple of weeks. “He kind of fits in that same role as Arturo Alvarez.”
“I think it’s difficult for us no matter what because we don’t have any money and because we expect a lot out of our players,” said Kreis, who seemed hesitant to play up any chance for new recruits in the summer window. “So we may be fooling ourselves to think that we can bring anybody in that can contribute in any meaningful way until we have a preseason.”
26. Timbers' top enemy Levesque may feature from start
Could Sounders' striker display yet another wacky celebration?
By Andrew Winner
MLSsoccer.com—July 7, 2011
TUKWILA, Wash. — Seattle striker Roger Levesque may get a chance to show the Timbers Army his pirate face.
After being named to the starting XI vs. New England and the LA Galaxy, coach Sigi Schmid intimated that the energetic forward may be in line for his third consecutive start on Sunday against Portland (4 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN Deportes).
Asked Thursday if he would consider Levesque’s history with the Portland Timbers when making his decision this week, Schmid said, “Sure, if things are close. And he’s a guy who is in form and it’s a close competition between him or another player, then yeah, it’s something you definitely take into consideration.
“I thought Roger’s played well over the past three games that he’s been out there — the one as a reserve and the other two as a starter. Even in LA I thought he did a good job of holding the ball up for us. So right now, he’s holding onto that spot, for sure.”
Levesque has performed well in his two games in the starting lineup. The striker possesses the physical fitness to press opponents for 90 minutes without requiring a substitution. If the Sounders’ game plan involves cutting off service to the opposing fullbacks and forcing the center backs to make decisions, Levesque’s energy could be useful.
He’s also provided a welcome scoring punch to a forward line that has struggled to find the net in recent matches. Prior to those two recent starts, Levesque scored twice in a substitute appearance against the New York Red Bulls.
However, he arguably leads the league in one category: entertaining goal celebrations.
After his first goal against New York, the zany Levesque displayed his “pirate face” in homage to the Sounders Video Dating ad campaign. After his second, his “SCUBA diver” celebration was shown extensively on ESPN the following day.
Goal celebrations are nothing new to the Portland, Maine, native. In the 2009 US Open Cup, Levesque and Nate Jaqua mimicked felling a tree after Levesque scored on a diving header.
Incidents such as those ensure the player loved by Seattle fans is despised in equal measure by Portland Timbers fans. While Levesque said he doesn’t have anything planned for this weekend, there’s one thing he won’t do:
“I’m not going to pick a fight with Timber Joey,” Levesque said, "especially if he’s got that chainsaw fired up."