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MLS Newsstand - March 25, 2011

on Fri, 03/25/2011 - 17:03

(This sampling of coverage is a service provided to members of the media by MLS Communications)  

 

Select Video Clips – March 25, 2011

http://www.criticalmention.com/report/4195x205971.htm

 

  • Jay DeMerit talks about the upcoming USA vs. Argentina match (First Take---ESPN2)
  • Kasey Keller is not concerned with Seattle Sounders FC slow start (KCPQ—FOX, Seattle)
  • Jason Kreis signs a contract extension with Real Salt Lake as head coach through 2013 (KSTU---FOX, Salt Lake City)
  • Portland Timbers tickets auctioned off to benefit children’s recreational program (KPTV—FOX, Portland)
  • Chad Ochocinco speaks about his second day on trial with Sporting Kansas City (WSJV—FOX, South Bend, IN)
  • Seattle Sounders FC need to score against Houston Dynamo (NWCN—NWCN, Seattle)
  • Vancouver Whitecaps FC remain focused for second game (CFJC—CFJC News)
  • Vancouver Whitecaps FC fans can tag themselves in a panoramic picture from the season opener (CTV—CTV News)

 

MLS Newsstand – March 25, 2011

 

Houston Dynamo at Seattle Sounders, 10:00 p.m. ET (Fox Soccer)

1. Seattle brings out Hall's best (Houston Chronicle)

2. Sounders FC feels urgency, not panic for Friday home game (Seattle Times)

3. Proactive Dynamo refreshing (Houston Chronicle)

4. Slow-starting Sounders in search of first points (Tacoma News Tribune)

5. Seattle, Houston both aim to bounce back in Friday fixture (The Sports Network)

6. Houston (0-1-0) at Seattle (0-2-0) (Yahoo! Sports)

7. Sounders have yet to field best eleven (SportsPress Northwest)

8. Head To Head Preview: Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo (Goal.com)

9. Dynamo headed to Seattle looking for first win (MLSsoccer.com)

 

FMF Tour News

10. Mexico's soccer team looking to lay foundation for success in Saturday's friendly vs. Paraguay at Oakland Coliseum (San Jose Mercury News)

 

Other MLS News

11. Hassli considers opening MLS win the most beautiful day of his career (The Province)

12. MLS officially North America's most diverse league (Globe and Mail)

13. Major League Soccer is Poised to Overtake the NHL as the 4th Most Popular Professional Sports League in the U.S. (Fox News Latino)

14. Union not taking Whitecaps lightly (Philadelphia Inquirer)

15. Burch finds his footing with United (Washington Examiner)

16. Thierry Henry not traveling with Red Bulls to Columbus, missing match with strained left hamstring (New York Daily News)

17. Fire sporting new look for its home opener vs. Sporting (Chicago Sun-Times)

18. Union's Ruiz ready for another shot in MLS (Philadelphia Daily News)

19. Crew rookie gets up to speed (Columbus Dispatch)

20. Valdes wants to please Union fans (Philadelphia Inquirer)

21. Jason Kreis signs contract extension; team to retire his No. 9 jersey (Deseret News)

22. Whitecaps will try to keep the momentum (Globe and Mail)

23. Ex-Union midfielder sorry to miss Philly trip (Philadelphia Inquirer)

24. TFC must be better for home opener (Toronto Sun)

25. Real Salt Lake coach signs 2-year contract extension (Salt Lake Tribune)

26. Fire add forward Ferrari to roster (Chicago Tribune)

27. Rapids' Cummings among stars called into "international fixture" duty (Denver Post)

28. March update on Livestrong Sporting Park (Kansas City Star)

29. Multi-sport hits and misses: Ocho has work cut out (Toronto Star)

30. David Beckham will be in the house Saturday (Deseret News)

31. Beckham to captain Los Angeles Galaxy (Associated Press)

32. Fire sign forward Ferrari (The Sports Network)

33. Chad Ochocinco begins MLS tryout (ESPN.com)

34. Revs open at home Sat. vs. United (ESPNBoston.com)

35. Fire bring in forward Ferrari (ESPNChicago.com)

36. Just call him Captain Becks (ESPNLosAngeles.com)

37. Chicago Fire Sign Forward Gabriel Ferrari (Goal.com)

38. Real Salt Lake Hands Coach Jason Kreis A Two-Year Extension (Goal.com)

39. Ochocinco has better Day 2 of trial (MLSsoccer.com)

40. New England considering move for forward Lekic (MLSsoccer.com)

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

(Additional articles for consideration can be submitted directly to Lauren Brophy of MLS Communications at Lauren.Brophy@MLSsoccer.com.)

 

1. Seattle brings out Hall's best

Keeper plays well at home but seeks first win

 

By Jose de Jesus Ortiz

Houston Chronicle – March 25, 2011

 

Just as Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall started falling in love with soccer, his parents vowed not to spend weekends traveling the state of Washington for select games.

 

Nonetheless, Hall soon had his parents traveling throughout the state and to California for tournaments.

 

A little over a decade later, the Halls have traveled thousands of miles to see him play. Just this week, the Halls began looking to purchase a home in Austin or San Antonio so they can retire there and be close to their kids.

 

"Watch," Hall, 25, said with a chuckle, "as soon as they move I'm going to get traded or something."

Plenty of support

 

After spending most of the previous two weeks in Texas, the elder Halls will give out over 40 tickets to family members to watch Tally and the Dynamo face Seattle tonight at Qwest Field.

 

Hall has had his two most impressive performances in Seattle. In his first year with the Dynamo in 2009, Hall tied the franchise record with 10 saves in an Open Cup semifinal against the Sounders. A year later, he returned to Seattle and tied his season high with seven saves.

 

As the Dynamo's starting keeper for the first time in his career, Hall returns to Seattle in search of the one thing he has been denied in his trips home as a pro: a victory.

 

"It's a funny feeling," Hall said. "Not that I hold myself to a higher standard there, but having a good game there feels better than in other cities against other teams. I always look at having a good game.

 

"At the end of the day if I can play well, that feels good, but any result has actually been elusive there. That's the most important thing. That's what we're looking for."

 

Although his parents didn't want to trek around Washington for games, they did.

 

Before long, Hall began dreaming of the Olympics.

 

"In sixth grade, he calculated the Olympic years and his age when he would have a shot," his father, Talmon Hall, said.

 

Hall never reached the Olympics, although he was part of a pool of players who trained with the U.S. under-23 team prior to the 2008 Games.

Specific needs

 

Despite being lightly recruited, Hall told his parents he would consider attending only a Division I university in a warm climate with a full-time goalkeepers coach. Point Loma University, which is near his hometown, offered to start him with a scholarship that gave him $23,000 for his first season.

 

"Gail and I thought we had hit the jackpot," Talmon Hall said. "Tally didn't want to go there. It was a Christian college, small, regularly top 10-rated college for their division, and he didn't want to go there because it wasn't Division I and they didn't have a full-time goalkeepers coach.

 

"We let him make his choices along the way, so we couldn't tell him he had to go there."

The right choice

 

Cal State Fullerton initially offered Tally a scholarship, but it rescinded most of the offer after finding a goalkeeper it liked more.

 

Hall almost signed with Fullerton anyway until San Diego State offered him a spot with $500 in scholarship money the first year.

 

Hall signed with San Diego State, and in 2005 he became the Aztecs' first soccer All-American since former U.S. national team defender Marcelo Balboa in 1991.

 

Talmon and Gail Hall have been traveling to see their son play soccer ever since. Tonight they'll at least get to see him in Seattle, close to where they nurtured his dreams.

 

 

2. Sounders FC feels urgency, not panic for Friday home game

 

By Joshua Mayers

Seattle Times – March 25, 2011

 

TUKWILA — Less than 6 percent.

 

That's how little of the Sounders FC season has played out in two shutout losses so far. It's a sample size far too small to make any judgments on, said coach Sigi Schmid, especially considering the team's difficult schedule, short rest and injuries.

 

Put that proverbial panic button away for a couple more weeks, at least.

 

"When you get four to five games into it," Schmid said, "then you sit there and say, 'Yeah, it's either working or not working.' "

 

That isn't to say Sounders FC players and coaches are in denial about their disappointing start — especially with a glaring zero goals on 18 shots.

 

Kasey Keller said that the slow start will bring some extra urgency to a 7 p.m. game Friday against Houston at Qwest Field.

 

"I think there has to be a little bit," said Seattle's captain. "I don't want to lose two games at home in a row and get off to such a bad start to the season. It's been a difficult start, and we know that. ... No better time than starting on Friday (to get) this thing going in the right direction."

 

Getting healthy will help.

 

Schmid has yet to play what he calls his "best 11." He said 6-foot-4 forward Nate Jaqua would be available for the first time this season. Midfielder Steve Zakuani, who scored 10 goals in 2010, could also return after missing a game with a hip injury. Additionally, midfielder Brad Evans practiced all week after straining his hamstring in the team's final preseason game.

 

"Certainly if we can bring those guys back into the fold, whether it's starting or off the bench, that's going to improve the strength of our team," Schmid said.

 

Keeping a level head, however, might be the biggest challenge. Dating back to 2010's regular-season-ending loss to Houston, Sounders FC has been beaten in three straight MLS games. That losing streak reaches five if back-to-back playoff defeats to Los Angeles are included.

 

Schmid shrugged off that data and said he hopes the players aren't "overly swayed by the outside influences."

 

"I think that's great for the media and that's great for fans to keep track of," said Schmid of the impact of losing streaks.

 

"At the end of the day, it's what you've done last week. You feel good or bad depending on your last performance, and you know you're going to be judged by your next performance."

 

Happy at home

 

Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg has played all 180 minutes this season for his new team — at two positions, no less. Adapting on the field has been a smooth transition, but nothing could prepare the 25-year-old for the Qwest Field atmosphere experienced in the home opener.

 

"I can't wait to play at home again," said Friberg on Wednesday, calling the fans "fantastic," "amazing" and "unbelievable."

 

Notes

 

• Qwest Field will host a May 28 friendly between Mexico and Ecuador. The match kicks off at 1 p.m.; tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday.

 

• According to a report in Holland, ex-Sounders FC designated player Blaise Nkufo has decided to retire. The 35-year-old forward left the team March 15 before the season opener in what was called a mutual parting. A message to Nkufo's representative was not immediately returned.

 

 

3. Proactive Dynamo refreshing

 

By Richard Justice

Houston Chronicle – March 25, 2011

 

Maybe you saw what happened to the Dynamo on opening night, and maybe you're thinking you've seen this movie.

 

Our teams do this kind of thing all the time. They build up expectations. They fall on their faces. They shrug.

 

Sometimes they ask for patience. Sometimes they announce they're on the right track. But they never seem to do anything. General managers keep their jobs. Players feel safe because, well, they are.

 

That's why what the Dynamo did after last weekend's season-opening 1-0 loss to Philadelphia was striking. Rather than saying something, they did something.

 

First, forward Dominic Oduro, who missed what should have been a routine game-tying goal late in the game, was traded.

 

Second, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear had a tough-love talk with his players Wednesday, and that's putting it as nicely as I can in a family newspaper.

 

And no one tried to spin anything. What had happened against Philadelphia would not be tolerated, and it wasn't just about Oduro.

 

Kinnear had gone over a pregame checklist for his players, and it prominently included a good start and finishing offensive opportunities.

 

Instead, the Dynamo allowed a sloppy early goal and never recovered. Philadelphia packed the defensive end of the field, and even though the Dynamo had the ball 70 percent of the game, they were unable to finish plays.

 

Of their 14 shots, seven never got to the goalkeeper. If you watched Tracy McGrady settle for jump shots, you'd understand.

 

Cue the blunt talk.

 

"We wanted to send a message," Dynamo president Chris Canetti said. "Our fans need to know we take winning seriously."

 

And then he said something you don't hear around this town often.

 

"There needs to be accountability."

 

Gulp.

Need for new faces

 

After last season's collapse, the Dynamo turned over 40 percent of their roster, adding youth and speed to a mix that might have gotten stale.

 

Canetti told his players this would be an important season, that the Dynamo wanted (needed?) momentum for next year's move into a new downtown stadium.

 

They're like the Rockets and Astros in that there's a correlation between attendance and winning. So when the Dynamo drew 19,385 on Saturday, when they played poorly, when they got booed by their fans, the people in charge felt compelled to show they got it.

 

"I hope no one is feeling panic," forward Brian Ching said. "We've got a good team, a team that's a lot better than last year. We have to be careful not to put too much pressure on ourselves too early. It's a long season."

 

The Dynamo spoiled us by winning MLS championships in their first two seasons, and on nights when there's a large Robertson Stadium crowd, the atmosphere is noisy and fun.

 

But the stadium won't be close to full if the team isn't winning. There might never be that many soccer fans here.

 

Still, there's potential. When the Dynamo lined up for a corner kick in the second half Saturday night, thousands of fans were on their feet cheering, looking for a reason to go crazy.

 

Afterward in the locker room, Kinnear wrote this message on the board: "33 games to go."

 

But in the days that followed, he let his players know how disappointed he was as they prepared for tonight's game in Seattle.

 

"Every defeat hurts," he said. "Some hurt really, really bad. I was frustrated by that one. It was a good crowd and an opportunity for us to get the season off on a good way. We could have come out with something. I was more frustrated than anything."

 

Had Saturday's game been played at this time last year, it might have been considered a bump in the road. At that time, the Dynamo were coming off another playoff season.

 

But a 9-15-6 season prompted changes, and Kinnear doesn't want anyone to think this season is a repeat of last.

No-complacency zone

 

"It's one of those things where we worked so hard, and we're better than the result the other night," defender Bobby Boswell said. "It's a good thing people are upset, and it's good Dom feels the way he does. No one is complacent. He has created a winning culture in the locker room and with how hard we work on the field."

 

The Dynamo are committed to regaining that winning culture, and that's the message they've got for their fans. Apparently if they have to hurt some feelings along the way, so be it. Refreshing, isn't it?

 

 

4. Slow-starting Sounders in search of first points

 

By Don Ruiz

Tacoma News Tribune – March 25, 2011

 

Three of Major League Soccer’s 18 teams haven’t scored a goal this season, and two of them will meet tonight at Qwest Field.

 

And while the Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders FC will be looking for their first goals and first points in the standings, the urgency seems greater for the Sounders, who are one of two MLS teams to have already played two games. The other – Los Angeles – has two goals and four points, including a win at Seattle in the opener.

 

For the Sounders, there is the added embarrassment of looking up at expansion rivals Vancouver in the Western Conference standings and seeing the Whitecaps atop the league with four goals.

 

Given all that, coach Sigi Schmid is eager to turn things around. But he’s also quick to stress that fans and media shouldn’t overreact to the first 180 minutes of a 34-game season.

 

“People push the button real quick,” he said Thursday. “There’s 96 points out there. There’s more than enough points that are there. …You got to look at a body of time. When you get four or five games into it, then you sit there and say it’s either working or not working. But we haven’t been able to put our best 11 on the field yet, and once we get our best 11 on the field, then we will also be better able to judge.”

 

Schmid said the Sounders won’t have their best 11 on the field tonight either, but they’re getting closer. Forward Nate Jaqua (hip) will be in uniform for the first time, while Steve Zakuani (hip) and Pat Noonan (adductor) are listed as probable.

 

Jaqua would add important elements of size and toughness that come in handy against his former club, which is traditionally among the most physical teams in MLS.

 

The Dynamo lost its opener, 1-0, at home to Philadelphia.

 

“I know Houston very well, and it’s one of those that is always kind of a fight,” Jaqua said. “But that’s where a lot of the games that I play in are at. They want me up there, they want me taking kind of the brunt of it and knocking things down. And I think (O’Brian White) has done a very good job of that this year, as well. You know you’re going to get that from Houston. Deal with it.”

 

White has started Seattle’s first two games at forward alongside Fredy Montero.

 

Montero has fired seven times and put six on goal – both league highs – while White has taken four shots and put two on goal. As a team, Seattle has launched 21 shots with 11 on goal.

 

Those totals back up Schmid’s point that the Sounders are getting chances. However, everyone on the team understands it’s time for some of those opportunities to turn into goals.

 

“Sometimes it’s frustrating,” White said. “But you can’t get too frustrated because that would take your mind off the game. You’ve got to be disappointed when you don’t score, especially in two games. But you’ve got to use it as motivation. … Sometimes you just need one to get going.”

 

The Sounders’ history supports that. In the club’s three previous instances of being held scoreless in consecutive games, the Sounders have ended the streak with multigoal games, scoring an average of 2.3 goals.

 

MEXICO TO VISIT

 

The national team of Mexico will meet Ecuador at 4 p.m. May 28 at Qwest Field, it was announced Thursday.

 

Tickets go on sale today through Ticketmaster.

 

Mexico’s last appearance in Seattle came in 2008, when a crowd of almost 60,000 turned out to watch El Tri’s 1-0 win over China.

 

Also on May 28, the Sounders will play a 6 p.m. game at Real Salt Lake.

 

 

5. Seattle, Houston both aim to bounce back in Friday fixture

 

The Sports Network—March 24, 2011

 

Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - The Major League Soccer schedule maker didn't do Seattle Sounders FC any favors to start the 2011 season.

 

Seattle opened the season at home vs. David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy before traveling across the country to take on Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Red Bull New York just four days later, losing both games 0-1.

 

"We have to move on," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid told his club's website. "When we play two of the better teams in the league and show that we can play them pretty even ... now we just have to make sure that we come out with the results."

 

On Friday, Seattle (0-2-0) has a chance to get its first positive result of the season when it hosts the Houston Dynamo at Qwest Field.

 

The Dynamo opened the season with a 1-0 home loss to the Philadelphia Union, and will be gunning to rebound on the road on Friday.

 

"Bouncing back from the loss to Philadelphia is big for us, and it's important for us to get a good result," Houston midfielder Mike Chabala told mlssoccer.com. "At the end of the season, every point counts, and it's important for us to get going in the right direction."

 

Seattle could get a big boost, with a number of players close to returning from injury.

 

"For me, my season starts now," Seattle winger Steve Zakuani said. "I had an injury building up to the L.A. game and so rather than preparing for the game, I was always conscious of missing the game. Now I'm healthy, I feel good and I'm ready to get some games under my belt."

 

The return to health of winger Zakuani should pay immediate dividends, with the third-year pro being a huge part of the team's offense, as evidenced by his 10 goals a year ago.

 

Houston (0-1-0) could also get a boost if forward Brian Ching is able to play. The veteran forward missed the opener with a hamstring injury suffered in preseason, and resumed full training this week. He is officially listed as questionable for the game while midfielder Colin Clark is doubtful and midfielder Francisco Navas Cobo is out.

 

Seattle will be without forward Mike Fucito, while forward Nate Jaqua and Brad Evans are doubtful, midfielder Michael Seamon is questionable, and Zakuani and midfielder Pat Noonan are probable.

 

 

6. Houston (0-1-0) at Seattle (0-2-0)

 

By Nicolino Dibenedetto

Yahoo! Sports – March 25, 2011

 

The Seattle Sounders may not have an extensive MLS history, but they’re off to their worst start to a season and still searching for their first goal.

 

Getting Fredy Montero untracked and having up to four players back from injury could help the Sounders avoid a season-opening three-game slide Friday night against the visiting Houston Dynamo.

 

Seattle lost 1-0 at New York on Saturday, four nights after a home loss by the same score to Los Angeles.

 

“When we play two of the better teams in the league and show that we can play them pretty even … now we just have to make sure that we come out with the results,” coach Sigi Schmid told the team’s official website.

 

The Sounders are on the verge of matching a dubious team record of being blanked three times in a row for the first time since July 25-Aug. 8, 2009.

 

Production from Montero would help. The forward has come up empty on seven shots after netting 10 goals with 10 assists last season.

 

He’s scored in each of two regular-season meetings with Houston at Qwest Field with both ending in victories, including 2-0 on Aug. 8.

 

Seattle may be in for an offensive boost if Steve Zakuani has recovered from a hip injury that sidelined him against the Red Bulls. The speedy midfielder tied Montero with a team-leading 10 goals while adding six assists last season. He’s considered probable, along with reserve forward Pat Noonan (adductor strain).

 

Forward Nate Jaqua (recovery from hip surgery) and midfielder Brad Evans (hamstring strain) are doubtful but nearing returns.

 

“It’s important to get our big guns back,” defender Jeff Parke said. “Nate’s a very important part to this team, so it’s good to see him back. Brad is an important link in the middle and Zakuani’s speed is lethal out there on the outside. We need all three of those players to be healthy.”

 

The Dynamo are expected to have Brian Ching back after a hamstring injury forced him to miss Saturday’s season-opening 1-0 defeat to Philadelphia.

 

The forward struggled with injuries last season, getting seven goals and three assists in 20 games.

 

“I haven’t had any problems so far, and I expect to be healthy with the hamstring for the weekend,” he said.

 

Ching may be partnered with Will Bruin, who generated one shot in 61 minutes Saturday after being drafted 11th overall in January’s MLS SuperDraft.

 

The Dynamo exchanged forwards with Chicago on Wednesday, acquiring Calen Carr for Dominic Oduro. The oft-injured Carr has nine goals and three assists in 82 games over five seasons, scoring three times while being limited to 14 games last year.

 

It’s uncertain if he’ll make his Dynamo debut due to a concussion suffered during the preseason.

 

Oduro became expendable after being at the forefront of Saturday’s defeat when he had a chance at a tying goal from five yards out of an empty net but sent his shot well over the crossbar.

 

 

7. Sounders have yet to field best eleven

 

By Stanley Holmes

SportsPress Northwest – March 25, 2011

 

The Seattle Sounders have not been able to put their best starting 11 on the field yet but they’ll get closer on Friday when they face the Houston Dynamo.

 

Coach Sigi Schmid said the squad should be strengthened with the return of forward Nate Jaqua and winger Steve Zakuani. Midfielder Brad Evans is questionable but could suit up as well. But forwards Mike Fucito and Pat Noonan are still recovering from injuries and will not be part of the squad.

 

Schmid was being coy about the starting lineup but did say he knows who has earned the right to be considered for selection against Houston. “I’m not going to give you our starting lineup at this stage,” Schmid said. “But I think they’ve shown themselves to be guys we have to consider and we have to look at in terms of the 18 and possibly even in the starting 11.”

 

Schmid is clearly pleased with the return of Jaqua — who figures to see some action against the Dynamo.  The big target forward has been struggling to shake off an offseason hip surgery and has yet to play meaningful minutes.

 

Injuries have been interrupting Jaqua’s ability to get a good run of games since early last season. This has hampered his ability to be a serious scoring threat and foil for Fredy Montero, which Schmid believes Jaqua is capable of doing.

 

Jaqua had a career record nine goals and made seven assists in 2009, but last year was mostly underscored by groin and lower stomach strains that kept him out for the first third of the season. He returned in June to score five goals in a U.S. Open Cup championship run, but he was still feeling some pain that ultimately required hip surgery.

 

For Schmid, Jaqua could be one of the catalysts to bust open the Sounders’ scoring draught.

 

“It’s good to get some guys back into the mix like Zakuani, Evans and Jaqua,” Schmid said. “We were able to do a full week of training. I thought those were all positives.

 

The players, he said, have responded well in training this week — which included two closed practice sessions.  He said that newbie midfielder Mauro Rosales continues to gain his fitness and integrate into the squad and could play a role tomorrow.

 

“He looks all right and fits in the group real well,” Schmid said. “It’s just matter of keep getting his game legs under him. We’ll see what the opportunity brings with the game on Friday.”

 

Schmid continued to answer questions about no goals and losing the first two games of the MLS season. He said he’s not too worried, the team is responding well, practicing well and reminded those who were listening that there are still “96 points” up for grabs.

 

“The only concerns I have is not getting overly swayed by the outside influences,” he said. “People have high expectations for our club. We are the victims of our own success in that regard. As a result, people push a button real quick, ‘woops, we just lost two’. There are 96 points out there.”

 

No team can be evaluated over two matches — the season is long, he said. And they’re still waiting for some key players to get fit or healthy.

 

“You’ve got to look at a body of time, when you get four or five games into it, then you sit there and say ‘is it or isn’t working’,” Schmid said. “We haven’t been able to put our best 11 on our field yet and once we get our best 11 on the field, then we’ll be able to judge.”

 

 

8. Head To Head Preview: Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo

 

By John Zielonka and Andrea Canales

Goal.com—March 24, 2011

 

Seattle Sounders FC: Kasey Keller made several critical stops in the 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls last week.  The 41-year-old ‘keeper guessed right and made an outstanding save on Thierry Henry’s penalty kick early in the match to keep the game scoreless.  Despite the team’s scoring woes, the veteran goalie continues to be a steady and reliable influence to the rest of the squad.  

 

Houston Dynamo: The Houston squad looked incapable of scoring, but except for the blunder that caused the goal, the defense kept the opposition quiet most of the match. Granted, that's a bit like saying the Kevlar vest protected the dead man really well except for the bullet that caught him in the throat.

 

 

Off Target

 

Seattle: The Sounders lead MLS with 11 shots on target.  They have been unable to convert these chances into scores, as they remain scoreless in their first two matches.  Forward Fredy Montero has been particularly snake bitten.  The Colombian should have scored at least two goals by now, but was thwarted by a couple of hot goalies in the LA and New York matchups.

 

Houston: Houston can't really blame hot goalkeepers for their lack of goals. They're not really creating many viable chances. New signing Calen Carr may help change that, but that's a lot to ask.

 

 

Tactics:

 

Seattle: With goals sorely missing from his offensive arsenal, head coach Sigi Schmid can stay the course, or adjust his tactics to generate easier finishing opportunities.  Seattle’s two top scoring threats, Montero and O’Brian White, may need some assistance in front of the nets.  The standard 4-4-2 might require an additional body to open up the area in front of the opposing ‘keeper.  The pressure is on Schmid to figure out a way to at least score once in the upcoming match against the Houston Dynamo.  If Seattle has a goose egg on the scoreboard by the mid-game break, watch for some tactical and personnel changes to take place in the second half.

 

Houston: It's tough for even good MLS teams to beat Seattle at home, and perhaps Houston figures what worked for Philly may be worth a shot - push players into the mix in front of the opposing goal and hope for the best. Dom Kinnear may be giving the midfield more free rein to crack shots at the goal.

 

Intangibles:

 

Seattle: With the offense mired in a funk, the mental part of remaining calm and not panicking will be critical.  Keller is the team leader on this squad.  His guidance and experience are needed to keep everyone focused.  

 

Houston: This isn't the start a team discouraged from missing the playoffs last season needed. It will be a test of Kinnear's coaching skills to keep the squad focused. Otherwise, it's going to be a long, hard season for the Dynamo.

 

Outcome

 

John Zielonka: The Sounders break their scoring duck and win their first of the year. Seattle Sounders FC 1  (Montero, White)  -  0  Houston Dynamo.

 

Andrea Canales: The Sounders are unlikely to lose their third game in a row - especially since it's a home match. Sounders win by at least two goals.

 

 

9. Dynamo headed to Seattle looking for first win

 

By Darrell Lovell

MLSsoccer.com—March 25, 2011

 

HOUSTON – It doesn’t take much to create a rivalry in MLS. A tough tackle, a hard-fought match or a competitive playoff series can spark a feud between fan bases and create a tough battle between teams on the field.

 

The Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders only have two years of history with each other, but they've still forged a friendly rivalry after several tough battles. Chief among them are an extra-time US Open Cup semifinal in 2009 that Seattle won and a spirited first-round MLS Cup Playoff series in that same year that Houston took 1-0 in aggregate extra time after 210 physical minutes.

 

The clubs traded home victories in 2010 and are deadlocked with a 2-2-2 head-to-head record in MLS play with neither team losing at home. On Friday, the Dynamo head to Seattle expecting a tough battle from a team, that like Houston, are looking to get things on track early in 2011 (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer).

 

“They’re a good team,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear, "they haven’t gotten off to a good start so they’re looking for the same thing we are, and that’s to get that first win of the season."

 

The trip to Seattle will be a homecoming of sorts for several Dynamo players. Tally Hall (Gig Harbor, Wash.) and Cam Weaver (Kent, Wash.) are from the area and Mike Chabala (University of Washington) and Brian Ching (Gonzaga University) played their college soccer in Washington.

 

“I’m excited about playing in Seattle,” Chabala said about going back to where he played his college ball. “My time in Seattle projected my career forward … but at the end of the day, it’s just another tough place to play on the road in MLS.”

 

Injury Update

 

Gustavo Rangel

Ching is set to make his 2011 debut against Seattle this weekend after missing the season-opener with a hamstring strain. With fitness an issue, Ching is questionable to start but will be available for selection.

 

“We’ve got to be careful with Brian because we don’t want to rush him back,” Kinnear said, "but he’ll be available and that’s a good thing."

 

Newcomer Calen Carr is out with a concussion and not expected to travel and Francisco Navas Cobo will miss his second straight match with a hamstring strain. Colin Clark has been upgraded to questionable but is still not available for selection despite taking part in scrimmages this week.

 

Lineup News

 

Andre Hainault is the likely replacement for Jermaine Taylor with the latter away on national team duty with Jamaica. Hainault’s move inside would open up a starting spot at full back for either Chabala or rookie right back Kofi Sarkodie, with Hunter Freeman moving to the left.

 

Projected starting lineup: GK – Hall; LB – Chabala, CB – Bobby Boswell, CB –Hainault, RB –Freeman; LM – Brad Davis, CM – Lovel Palmer, CM – Geoff Cameron, RM – Corey Ashe, FWD – Will Bruin, FWD – Jason Garey

 

Seattle will present a tough attacking challenge for the Dynamo. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid coaches an attacking style and is always pushing his team to create and score goals. With the always dangerous Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani as well as incoming Argentine playmaker Mauro Rosales, the defense and goalkeeper Hall will have a challenge in stopping the potent Seattle attack.

 

“They’ve got some good offensive power so we’ll have to stay organized and maintain our shape to keep them in front of us and minimize the danger,” said Hall.

 

While the defense will be battling the Sounders up top, the Dynamo will be looking to get on the board for the first time in 2011. Last week, the attack failed to score a goal against a compact Philadelphia Union defense that was playing to preserve a lead for 85 minutes. This week the Dynamo will see more space as the Sounders look to get the ball forward.

 

“I felt we were unlucky the first game and the challenge for us this weekend is to play with the same style but put the ball in the back of the net,” Ching said.

 

 

10. Mexico's soccer team looking to lay foundation for success in Saturday's friendly vs. Paraguay at Oakland Coliseum

 

By Elliot Almond

San Jose Mercury News – March 25, 2011

 

As one of the most recognizable names in Mexican soccer, former goalkeeper Jorge Campos has experienced the recurring nightmare of his country's national team.

 

"We're always close," he said one day while visiting the Earthquakes' training facility to promote Saturday's match between Mexico and Paraguay at the Oakland Coliseum.

 

Campos, the starting keeper for Mexico's 1994 and '98 World Cup teams, hopes the fortunes change beginning with the sold-out match that starts at 2 p.m.

 

Although the game is described as a "friendly," it could lay the team's foundation as new coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre begins shaping his squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The match will provide the former Chivas and Toluca coach with a first chance to assess his players.

 

"He has to see them, how they're going to play, what style he's going to play," said Campos, who is scheduled to appear at the Coliseum with Mexican soccer legends Jared Borgetti, Luis "El Matador" Hernández and Zague before the match.

 

Every move Chepo makes will come under intense scrutiny by Mexican fans who affectionately call their team El Tri. They have suffered through the indignity of two decades of unfulfilled promise as the national team last advanced past the second round of the World Cup in 1986 when it played host.

 

The weekend marks the opening of what promises to be an exciting year of international soccer being played in the United States. The Americans play host to powerhouse Argentina on Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J., then face Venezuela three days later in Tennessee while Mexico plays Venezuela in San Diego.

 

The United States and Mexico are preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, starting in June, whereas Argentina and Paraguay are entered in Copa America, South America's championship. The Gold Cup has taken on prominence because the winner advances to the 2013 Confederation Cup in Brazil, where it will have a chance to face World Cup-level competition a year before the big event.

 

The opportunity could help Mexico, which is searching for a new identity.

 

"Now we have to do something different," said Campos, a television announcer and former Major League Soccer keeper.

 

That sentiment runs strong in Mexico after El Tri left South Africa advancing only to the second round. The disillusionment centered on Mexico's 3-1 defeat to Argentina that included a botched referee's call that led to an Argentine goal.

 

Now a majority of the Mexicans are coming into their prime and ready for a breakout.

 

Mexico has reason for hope with the dynamic strikers Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez of Manchester United and Giovanni dos Santos of Racing Santander on the roster. Chepo also has called striker Carlos Vela of West Bromwich Albion and Celtic midfielder Efrain Juarez for the first time since they were banned for six months over a party at the team hotel.

 

The coach also wants to take another look at goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who missed Mexico's last two exhibitions because of poor play.

 

Campos, 44, can't wait to see how the group mixes as it has gained experience abroad similar to U.S. players in the English Premier League.

 

"They have to make the difference," he said. "They're playing on the best teams in Europe. That combination can be really good for Mexico -- we hope."

 

 

11. Hassli considers opening MLS win the most beautiful day of his career

 

By Marc Weber

The Province – March 25, 2011

 

Eric Hassli has won a Swiss Super League title and played Champions League games against Real Madrid, but last Saturday, he said, topped it all.

 

‘‘It was the most beautiful day of my career,’’ he said. ‘‘It was incredible.’’

 

The Whitecaps’ French forward was speaking through an interpreter after a team practice.

 

He was beaming, staring out at Empire Field, where he had scored twice against Toronto in front of 23,000 fans to open the MLS era in Vancouver.

 

The joy and relief he brought the locals was reciprocated.

 

“I’ve played in front of 85,000 people, but cheering for the other team,” he said. “Here, it was for my team, and it was fantastic.”

 

Hassli is not a classic “designated player” in MLS — one who makes more than the league’s maximum salary-cap hit of $335,000.

 

He’s not a name — unless you follow the Swiss league religiously — and he’s not a rising star.

 

He’s nearing 30, and something of a journeyman, having played in France, Switzerland and, briefly, England.

 

But, on the evidence of one game, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound striker is a fit for this league and this team; a shrewd signing for director of soccer operations Tommy Soehn and coach Teitur Thordarson.

 

‘‘For the way we play,’’ Thordarson said, ‘‘Eric is a very important player. He means so much for us.’’

 

He means so much because he’s big and strong, and can bring others into the play as well as finish.

 

But also because of his character, something Caps management talked about at length when fans were anxious for a splashy signing.

 

Hassli, a native of Sarreguemines, France, near the German border, is soft-spoken and seems humble.

 

He shrugged off his two goals after the game: It’s about the group, about 30 people, and everyone who works for the club, he said.

 

He talks about his career stops as experiences more than personal accomplishments.

 

Scoring 18 goals for St. Gallen in Switzerland? ‘‘Yes, that was fun.’’

 

Going five months without pay at Servette in Geneva before the club declared bankruptcy? That was OK, too. ‘‘It was crazy,’’ he said. ‘‘But, it was a good experience. It was different, but it was good.’’

 

About the only regret Hassli seems to have is that French club Metz wouldn’t sell him to Southampton in 2002. He’d gone to the English club on trial and scored six goals in nine games.

 

But Metz gave Hassli his pro start at 18, and one of his greatest thrills. He debuted against Bordeaux and one of his idols, French World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry.

 

‘‘I loved his personality, his way of playing,’’ said Hassli, a father of two living at Coal Harbour with former Zurich teammate Alain Rochat.

 

Hassli noted he not only has Dugarry’s jersey from that game, but his shorts, too.

 

At Metz, Hassli played with Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who is now with the Philadelphia Union and will be the last line of defence against the Whitecaps on Saturday.

 

Vancouver will try to harness the energy from their thrilling opener and carry it into a hostile environment.

 

The Caps are without injured Italian playmaker Davide Chiumiento, while captain Jay DeMerit is on duty with the U.S. national team.

 

twitter.com/provinceweber

 

WHITECAPS GAMEDAY

 

VANCOUVER (1-0-0) AT PHILADELPHIA (1-0-0), 1 P.M.

 

Venue: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.

 

TV: Sportsnet One

 

Radio: TEAM 1410

 

The setup:

 

Riding high after an emotional opening-day demolition of Toronto in front of 23,000 fans at Empire Field, the Whitecaps head to hostile PPL Park for their first road test — without captain Jay DeMerit.

 

Whitecaps’ last game:

 

Recently-signed designated player Eric Hassli delivered the goods with two goals in a 4-2 romp over Toronto as Vancouver welcomed big-league soccer back in style.

 

Union’s last game:

 

Danny Califf scored five minutes in and Philadelphia held off the Houston Dynamo the rest of the way for an impressive 1-0 road win to open the season.

 

Predicted starting XI:

 

Hassli / Harris

 

Teibert / Koffie / Dunfield / Khalfan

 

Wagner / Rochat / Janicki / Leathers

 

Nolly

 

Three things to watch:

 

1. Vancouver is without its two starting centre backs from opening day as Jay DeMerit (U.S.) and Michael Boxall (New Zealand) are with their national teams. Greg Janicki slips comfortably into a starting role — he missed the opener with a tight calf — but who does Teitur Thordarson pair him with? Veteran left back Alain Rochat could slide over, but college draft pick Bilal Duckett is another option. Vocally, Janicki and goalkeeper Jay Nolly will have to make up for DeMerit’s absence.

 

2. Davide Chiumiento dazzled in Vancouver’s MLS debut. From the right wing, he set up the first two goals, terrorized Toronto’s defence, then left with a hamstring pull at halftime. Without their most creative player against Philadelphia, the Whitecaps will rely heavily on forwards Eric Hassli and Atiba Harris to combine and create chances. Based on the Toronto game, there’s a strong chemistry brewing between the two big men.

 

3. The Caps will have their hands full with the Union forwards — but perhaps for different reasons. Frenchman Sebastien Le Toux lit up the league in 2010 with 14 goals and 11 assists after being plucked from Seattle in the expansion draft. Strike partner Carlos Ruiz, a former MVP and Golden Boot winner, is back in MLS after three years off. The 31-year-old Guatemalan made the highlights last week not for a goal, but for an elbow to the face of Houston’s Andrew Hainult. No red card, though.

 

Leaders:

 

Goals: (VAN) Eric Hassli (2), Atiba Harris, Terry Dunfield; (PHI) Danny Califf.

 

Assists: (VAN) Davide Chiumiento (2), Atiba Harris (2), Wes Knight; (PHI) None.

 

Cautions: (VAN) Terry Dunfield, Gershon Koffie, Eric Hassli; (PHI) Carlos Ruiz, Carlos Valdes.

 

Goalkeepers: (VAN) Jay Nolly (1-0-0, 2 GA); (PHI) Faryd Mondragon (1-0-0, 0 GA).

 

Injuries: (VAN) Out — M Michael Nanchoff (groin), W Shea Salinas (knee), M John Thorrington (quad); Doubtful — M-F Davide Chiumiento (hamstring); Probable — W Russell Teibert (hamstring). (PHI) Questionable — D Danny Califf (knee); Probable — D Juan Diego Gonzalez (hip).

 

 

12. MLS officially North America's most diverse league

 

By Paul Attfield

Globe and Mail – March 25, 2011

 

Reflective of its status as the North America’s premier take on the world’s game, Major League Soccer is officially the most diverse league among the continent’s top five professional leagues once again.

 

As of March 20, 2011, more than 62 per cent of MLS players were born in the United States or Canada, but the total number of countries represented by place of birth – 57 – is the most of any of the “Big Five” sports leagues. The NBA, with players from 40 countries, is next. About 38 per cent of current MLS players were born outside the USA and Canada; Major League Baseball is next at 26 per cent.

 

Of Canada’s two MLS representatives, the Vancouver Whitecaps lead the way, with a squad containing players from 12 different nations, while Toronto FC has staffed itself with a multi-cultural roster with players hailing from nine different countries.

 

Courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau, official statistician for all five leagues, here is a breakdown:

League (Year)    Total Players     Born Outside USA/Canada         Countries of Birth*

MLS (2011):                   487       184 (38%)      57

NBA (2010-2011):          434         87 (20%)       40

NFL (2010):                    2050       67 (3%)         27

NHL (2010-2011):           764         193 (25%)     19

MLB (2010):                   1029        272 (26%     18

 

* Including USA & Canada

 

Of the current MLS players born outside the United States and Canada, approximately 39 percent are from Central and South America, 25 percent are from Europe, 19 percent are from Africa, and 14 percent are from Caribbean nations.

 

 

13. Major League Soccer is Poised to Overtake the NHL as the 4th Most Popular Professional Sports League in the U.S.

 

By Maria Burns Ortiz

Fox News Latino – March 25, 2011

 

As data from the 2010 Census emerges, the cultural demographic of the U.S. population is shifting. It’s only a matter of time until our sports landscape catches up.

 

For the better part of half a century, U.S. professional sports have been dominated by the four major professional sports leagues: the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

 

The big four lead sports broadcasts. Their team jerseys are available in every local sporting goods store. Each league has a unique tab on the navigation bars that run along the top of every major sports website.

 

And then there’s Major League Soccer. MLS results are buried, if even noted, in most sportscasts. MLS jerseys are often tucked in a back corner, if available at all, at many sporting goods stores. MLS news is relegated to a generic “Soccer” subhead on national and local sports websites, grouped with the world’s various professional leagues and national teams.

 

To a casual observer, MLS appears to be a second-tier professional league in the American sports sphere, behind the “major” professional sports leagues, more apt to be grouped with the likes of the UFL, WNBA or Major League Lacrosse.

 

Javier Hernández's prowess as a super-sub may prevent him from getting the playing time he needs.

 

Ten years ago, that thought might have been true. But as the Census is showing, a lot can change in a decade.

 

The truth is, MLS is on the verge of overtaking the NHL as the fourth-most popular professional sports league in the United States – if it hasn’t already.

 

In 2010, MLS average attendance was 16,675 spectators per game, a 4 percent increase over 2009. The NHL drew an average of 17,072 fans per game last season, a 3 percent drop from the year prior.

 

Among the largest crowds, the Seattle Sounders’ average of 36,173 MLS fans a game dwarfed the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, who drew an average 21,353 fans. The L.A. Galaxy also surpassed that figure, averaging 21,437. As MLS stadiums continue to expand and as the league continues to grow, so too should the league’s attendance numbers.

 

And for MLS, growth continues virtually across the board. Sixty percent of clubs – or 9 of the league’s 15 returning teams (not including the expansion Philadelphia Union) – experienced an increase in attendance.

 

Meanwhile, the NHL experienced a 66 percent decrease in average attendance with 20 of the league’s 30 teams posting lower attendance numbers in 2009-10 than 2008-09.

 

With regard to ratings, MLS also is making a surge. The league’s televised 2011 opener between the Galaxy and Sounders on ESPN was up 129 percent in ratings and 112 percent in viewership, drawing 604,000 English-language viewers. The game’s Spanish-language broadcast on ESPN Deportes drew another 79,000 viewers, an increase of 84 percent from a year ago.

 

Those TV viewer numbers rival – or surpass – those of almost every nationally televised NHL game this year on Versus. And no league can come close to boasting that kind of jump in viewership.

 

While multiple factors are responsible for MLS growth, the 16-year-old league’s ascension to the top ranks of professional sports has a large amount to do with the sport’s popularity among the Latino community. This rise is in no small part due to MLS efforts, since its inception, to market to this important demographic.

 

“Other leagues have the advantage that they’ve been there longer, but there’s no doubt that [idea of the four professional sports leagues] is starting to change, and I think that’s about a demographic change,” Eduardo Carvacho, senior director of Hispanic sales and marketing for F.C. Dallas. “It doesn’t take too long to realize, reading the highlights that are coming out of the Census, that demographics are changing in America.”

 

Census data released so far has shown the number of Hispanics in this country is rising fast. Data in almost every state show a higher Hispanic population than expected, with projections for the U.S. Hispanic population to be around 55 million, or 17 percent.

 

The population shift isn’t just in states along the U.S.-Mexico border, New York and Florida. It’s happening in places like Washington (where the Hispanic population grew by nearly 71 percent) and Missouri (where it skyrocketed by 79 percent). For the record, both states tout MLS teams.

Of the U.S. Hispanic population, 85 percent trace their roots to countries where soccer is the premier sport.

 

In 2009, 33 percent of MLS fans were Hispanic, more than twice that of any other league. (The NBA is second with 16.) That same year, 40 percent of fans that attended an MLS game were Hispanic. Those numbers alone are overwhelming evidence as to just how influential the Hispanic fan base is for MLS and its growth.

 

Compared to the other major professional sports leagues, MLS is just coming out of its infancy. The first MLS season was 1996. The NBA, the next youngest league, played its inaugural season in 1946-47.

 

As MLS teams become even more ingrained in their communities and the next generation of fans – a generation that cannot remember life without MLS – grows older, the league is all but certain to continue its upward trajectory.  The expected rise of the U.S. Hispanic population will undoubtedly provide an added boost.

 

Just how much of a boost?

 

“As the Hispanic community continues to grow and becomes the largest minority group in America, I believe we [at MLS] have the opportunity to leapfrog No. 4 [U.S. sports league] and are poised to become that No. 3,” Carvacho said.

 

In 2000, such projections would have been deemed wishful thinking. Now, they seem well within the realm of possibility.

 

After all, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that a lot can change between now and the next Census.

 

 

14. Union not taking Whitecaps lightly

 

By Marc Narducci

Philadelphia Inquirer – March 25, 2011

 

It looked like the perfect opponent for the Union in the home opener of their second Major League Soccer season: a team that, like the Union a year ago, is new to the league.

 

A week after a 1-0 opening-night win at Houston, the Union host the Vancouver Whitecaps at 4 p.m. Saturday at PPL Park in Chester.

 

What better way to open at home than against an expansion team? Or so the thinking goes.

 

This one doesn't seem to be the automatic 'W' that it might have appeared to be when the schedule came out.

 

That's because Vancouver sent more than a few shock waves, not to mention a message that the Whitecaps will be on the attack, when the expansion club beat visiting Toronto FC, 4-2, on Saturday.

 

Anyone who saw the highlights could appreciate what looked like fastbreak soccer. And there were a few other scoring chances that the high-flying 'Caps missed.

 

To put the goal total in perspective, the Union have never scored more than three goals in their 31-game MLS history. In fact, no other MLS team scored more than three goals in the first week.

 

So what was the Union's response to Vancouver's stunning debut?

 

"Wow," said newly acquired midfielder Brian Carroll.

 

Carroll has been part of two MLS championship teams, so he doesn't impress easily.

 

"I expected a competitive game, but not necessarily a 4-2 game," Carroll said. "I knew Vancouver would come out firing in their home opener."

 

Even the Whitecaps didn't see this offensive explosion coming. Coach Teitur Thordarson said he was confident of winning the opener, but scoring four goals wasn't in his pregame forecast.

 

"I was absolutely surprised," Thordarson said in a phone interview. "It was a dream come true, and we played very well."

 

That was against a Toronto FC team that won nine games last year - one more than the Union.

 

Of course, even if Vancouver had lost by 4-2, the Union wouldn't be taking the game lightly. They know what it's like to be an expansion team that wants to be treated like a veteran club.

 

"That 'expansion team' stuff is thrown out the window at this point," Union assistant coach John Hackworth said. "If you look at it, and that score came against a natural rival like Toronto, that was one impressive performance."

 

So the Whitecaps won't catch the Union off guard. In fact, that score may have been the best things that could have happened to the Union.

 

There will be no sneaking up on their defense, especially by designated player Eric Hassli, who scored the first and fourth goals for the Whitecaps while his teammate provided plenty of offense in between.

 

The game will be a sellout, but Vancouver already experienced that in its opener, in front of 22,592 fans, including co-owner Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns point guard.

 

"The atmosphere at our game was electric," Thordarson said. "We have heard about the great Philadelphia fans, and we're looking forward to that atmosphere."

 

The Union are looking forward to it as well. There should be plenty of emotion at PPL Park.

 

The Union have a winning record for the first time in their brief history and, obviously, so do the Whitecaps. And after last week's scoring barrage, Vancouver won't be slipping in through the back entrance.

 

The fans and the Union know better than to treat their opponent like any run-of-the-mill expansion team.

 

 

15. Burch finds his footing with United

Defender happy to be back from injury

 

By Craig Stouffer

Washington Examiner – March 25, 2011

 

It was an abbreviated return that hardly felt like a return at all.

 

D.C. United defender Marc Burch played four games last year, but he probably shouldn't have played any. After breaking the sesamoid bone in his right foot during the preseason, Burch underwent surgery and didn't play until July, only to be gone again for the rest of the year by September.

 

"I didn't feel like I played at all last year," said Burch, who returned to the lineup in D.C. United's season-opening 3-1 victory over Columbus on Saturday. "When I came back, my foot was still broken, so it didn't really feel like I was back."

 

Burch's veteran presence at left back was a welcome one -- he delivered the long ball that led to Charlie Davies' second goal -- but after essentially a year off, it was hardly guaranteed that the 26-year-old would be in the starting lineup, sharing that duty with Daniel Woolard.

 

"He kind of had to relearn how to play with his new foot," United coach Ben Olsen said. "But about a month [into preseason], he looked like his old self, and then he started progressing from there. Woolard has done fine and was very steady in the preseason, I thought, but in the end, my gut said to go with Burch."

 

In his sixth year in MLS out of Maryland and first as a married man after tying the knot during the offseason, Burch is settled yet focused on keeping his place.

 

"It would be nice to walk off the field at the end of the game and feel OK, but I'm not at 100 percent," Burch said. "I'm close enough, and I feel like my game is getting back to where it should be. I have my speed and my balance and everything I need right now."

 

Left back might be set, but Olsen could see two members of his starting back line change when United (1-0-0) plays New England (1-0-0) on Saturday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass. Right back Jed Zayner remains questionable with a left hamstring strain, which could open the door for rookie Chris Korb to make his debut. With rookie center back Perry Kitchen on duty with the U.S. under-20 national team, Rodrigo Brasesco appears likely to make his first start.

 

"That's going to happen all year," United center back Dejan Jakovic said. "So we have a bunch guys -- I'm sure Rodrigo's going to step into that hole and do a good job for us."

 

 

16. Thierry Henry not traveling with Red Bulls to Columbus, missing match with strained left hamstring

 

By Stefan Bondy

New York Daily News – March 25, 2011

 

The number of Thierry Henry's injuries matches his career goal total with Red Bulls. The Red Bulls striker said Thursday that he'll miss Saturday's game against the Columbus Crew with a strained left hamstring, further depleting a roster that is without five other starters because of international duty.

 

Henry hasn't practiced all week and won't travel with the team to Columbus, meaning he won't add to his two career goals until at least April 2 against the Houston Dynamo.

 

Henry was injured eight minutes into Saturday's season-opening victory over the Seattle Sounders. He continued to play - and missed a penalty kick - before realizing that pushing himself was a mistake.

 

Henry, 33, missed several games last season - including most of the playoff series against San Jose - because of a knee injury. He has played in 12 of 19 games since signing a 4-1/2-year deal last summer.

 

Asked if age was becoming a concern, Henry turned sensitive. "That is a stupid question," he said.

 

He also insinuated that the Red Bulls fitness staff was responsible for a rash of hamstring injuries.

 

"We've been having eight or nine hamstring (injuries) in three weeks. So clearly something's happening. I don't know (what's happening). I'm not the fitness coach. We've been doing what we've been told."

 

Coach Hans Backe acknowledged the problem. "Five or six (players) have had tight hamstrings. so we have to check that, definitely," he said. "I have to sit down and figure out why we have that."

 

 

17. Fire sporting new look for its home opener vs. Sporting

 

By Len Ziehm

Chicago Sun-Times – March 25, 2011

 

Those who witnessed the end of the Fire’s disappointing 9-12-9 season in 2010 won’t recognize the team’s roster for the home opener Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.

 

Counting this week’s trades for Houston Dynamo forward Dominic Oduro and Chivas USA defender Yamith Cuesta, Fire technical director Frank Klopas has 15 new faces among 29 signed players, and another newcomer will be added once paperwork is completed with Pari Pantazopoulos, the Prospect High School product who came through a 219-player tryout before training camp started en route to earning a place on the first team.

 

More than half of the starters in last week’s season-opening 1-1 draw at FC Dallas weren’t with the Fire last season.

 

The entire back line as well as the two starting forwards were all new players. So was starting midfielder Mike Videira.

 

Unlike last year’s team, the newcomers aren’t high-profile guys. This year’s version of the Fire doesn’t include any players comparable to Brian McBride, Freddie Ljungberg, Nery Castillo or C.J. Brown. But coach Carlos de los Cobos likes the players Klopas has provided him. They gave a gritty effort against one of Major League Soccer’s best teams in the season opener.

 

“I’m satisfied because the players made a good effort against a very good team,’’ de los Cobos said. “We’re a different team. We need time to mature on the field, but the most important thing is they’re working hard, and the more experienced ones are very positive guys. That’s important with a young team.’’

 

Klopas went after defenders first, getting Cory Gibbs in the expansion draft and Jalil Anibaba with his first-round pick in the MLS SuperDraft. One of his first free-agent signings was Croatian defender Josip Mikulic. They all played 90 minutes at Dallas.

 

“I’m very excited,’’ said Mikulic, who spent five seasons playing for NK Zagreb in his homeland. “This is unbelievable. For the first game, we had 20,000 people. Last year in Zagreb, we had 2,000-3,000 maximum. The players in this league are very fast, very strong.’’

 

Mikulic isn’t a player on the downside of his career, as was the case with most foreigners entering MLS in its early years.

 

“Every year MLS is better,’’ he said. “For a few years, everybody was saying you can go there when you’re 31 or 32, but I’m 24.’’

 

Anibaba is learning fast after completing his college career at North Carolina.

 

“I’m just blessed and honored to have this opportunity,’’ he said. “The older guys have helped me a lot. I’m learning the demands of this profession. You can’t make mistakes in crucial moments. You’ve got to bring your A-game every day.’’

 

De los Cobos has been pleased with Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari, the two new Uruguayan forwards. Working with proven returnee Marco Pappa, they bring life to a Fire offense that scored only 37 goals in 30 MLS games last season. The arrival of Oduro also should help on the scoring end.

 

Not all the newcomers figure to make an immediate impact.

 

Videira, acquired in a trade with the New England Revolution, was subbed out in the 62nd minute at Dallas. Orr Barouch, a speedy forward on loan from the Mexican league, came off the bench in the opener. His playing possibilities might be limited with Oduro’s arrival. On Thursday, the Fire signed striker Gabriel Ferrari, a former U.S. under-20 team member who played in Italy and Belgium the last two seasons.

 

 

18. Union's Ruiz ready for another shot in MLS

 

By Kerith Gabriel

Philadelphia Daily News – March 25, 2011

 

When pressed, there is one thing Union forward Carlos Ruiz admits he doesn't like about Philadelphia.

 

"It's really cold here," Ruiz confessed. "The weather here is crazy, this is my first time on the East Coast and it's taking some time to get used to the weather."

 

It didn't help that, at the time, the Guatemalan was at PPL Park, which was being battered by freezing rain on one of the dreariest Wednesdays in recent weeks.

 

Still, it was the only thing he could find wrong about the city that has given him another chance in Major League Soccer.

 

For seven seasons, the man known as "El Pescadito" or "Little Fish" racked up a goal-scoring count that made opposing defenses love to hate him. Ruiz' 82 goals in MLS ranks among the top 10 all-time and his 16 postseason tallies during glory years with Los Angeles and FC Dallas are still a league best.

 

But it wasn't just his scoring ability that made him a villain; it was his brash play, penchant for the occasional dive, and smart tongue that led to him being labeled a bad boy, and caused him to be ostracized in many MLS circles.

 

Following a 2008 friendly against Guatemala, U.S. national team goalkeeper Tim Howard had this to say after a run-in with the Union's newest go-to guy.

 

"He kicked me straight in the head. With Carlos, you expect that. You know what? He's dirty. I wish I could say otherwise. I've seen it [in MLS]. There is no place for it. It's reckless. It's there for everyone to see. I kind of expect it . . . that's what he does. I think you would rather have him be a man out there and say, 'Look, I don't like you; I am going to kick you.' You can almost respect it in a funny way. He has this way about him. He kicks, he punches . . . "

 

Ruiz exited MLS that year after a falling out with Toronto, a team he had been traded to by the Los Angeles Galaxy. But he claims that since then, a 2-year run with clubs in Paraguay, Mexico and Greece have changed him.

 

"In soccer you never stop learning and when I went away I have learned a lot from my mistakes in the past," said Ruiz. "All I want is to show my teammates, the coaching staff and the fans of Philadelphia what I can do on the pitch. I don't care what people say about me anymore; I am here to score goals and help my team win."

 

At first glance, it would appear Ruiz' bad- boy image is long gone. The spiked hair has been replaced with a coifed style favored by most politicians. He speaks softer; he listens intently to questions. Carlos Ruiz today, dare I say it, seems to be a different person.

 

"We give Fish more authority right now because he deserves it," said Union boss Peter Nowak. "Carlos Ruiz matured and matured in a very good way. He fits well with our team and we (as a technical staff) are happy with who we've added to our group."

 

Tomorrow, Ruiz will get another chance to make a first impression in front of what will be a sold out PPL Park for the home opener against MLS expansion Vancouver. And it's a chance he's been craving.

 

"I have a lot of experience playing in this league," said Ruiz. "I am a goal scorer; it's what I was brought here to do. If I do my job well, my teammates, coaches and the fans here in Philadelphia will see that and embrace it. It's what they need and deserve."

 

And it's what Ruiz needs to ensure he won't be left out in the cold.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT AT PPL

 

To the 18,500-plus making the trek to PPL Park tomorrow, know changes are already in place or planned to ensure a better fan experience this season.

 

For starters, the Union added an additional 1,000 parking spaces around the stadium, eliminating satellite parking and corresponding shuttles.

 

"Every one of the parking spaces is within walking distance to the stadium. No satellite parking spots will be necessary," CEO and managing partner Nick Sakiewicz said earlier this week. Additionally, Sakiewicz noted the I-95 ramp being built near the stadium is scheduled for completion in late June or early July. The ramp has been under construction for nearly 2 years.

 

Finally, for the truly lazy, the Mangia in-seat dining system will be fully operational for the entire season. Mangia (pronounced MON-jah) is a system where fans can order not just food, but merchandise and tickets from their smartphone. Short of going to the restroom (although Mangia may soon have an App for that) you'll never have to leave your seat. PPL Park is one of only five sporting venues in the country that uses Mangia.

 

AKERS A PLAYER?

 

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco has 1 day remaining on his 4-day tryout with Sporting Kansas City. Ochocinco, an avid soccer enthusiast, has been reportedly having a hard time keeping up but, to his credit, did tally an assist during a practice scrimmage yesterday. Peter Nowak, who was asked about Ochocinco's tryout laughed and said: "Why not, I think it's great, I just hope Mr. Ochocinco knows about our salary cap."

 

Nowak also told reporters that he too had been approached by an NFL player interested in a tryout. This has led to speculation and a Twitter debate as to who it might be. How about Eagles kicker David Akers? Akers was a stud soccer player in high school and held his own while goofing around with members of the U.S. national team at the NovaCare Complex when Philadelphia hosted the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2009.

 

Who do you think the NFL player might be? Shoot me an email.

 

In the meantime, check out this Philly.com video that shows Akers doing his thing:

 

UPCOMING GAME

 

Vancouver (1-0-0, 3 points) at Union (1-0-0 3 points)

 

When: Tomorrow, 4 o' clock

 

Where: PPL Park, Chester

 

TV: 6ABC

 

On the web: Streaming video on MLSSoccer.com

 

For kicks: The expansion Whitecaps are no slouch, coming off a 4-2 season-opening victory last Saturday over Canadian rival Toronto FC. Union defenders will have their hands full with designated player forward Eric Hassli, who scored a brace against Toronto . . . Former Union midfielder Shea Salinas was taken by the Whitecaps in the expansion draft, but will not make the trip to Chester this weekend. The 23-year-old Texan sustained a knee injury during practice and will miss his second game . . . Tomorrow's game at PPL Park has been sold out for 2 months, according to Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz. This, even though the U.S. national team is playing Argentina, featuring reigning FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, just 2 hours away at New Meadowlands Stadium (7 p.m., ESPN2) . . . Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit will miss tomorrow's MLS game to play for the U.S. . . . Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash is co-owner of the Whitecaps.

 

INJURY REPORT (as of Tuesday)

 

Questionable for the Union: Danny Califf, DF (left knee meniscus); Probable: Juan Diego González, DF (left hip flexor strain)

 

Out for Vancouver: Michael Nanchoff, MF (groin strain); Shea Salinas, MF (right knee sprain); Doubtful: John Thorrington, MF (right quad strain); Davide Chiumiento, MF (right hamstring strain); Questionable: MF Russell Teibert (R hamstring strain)

 

DID YOU KNOW?

 

Union boss Peter Nowak is the Union's version of Rusty Ryan, Brad Pitt's character with an eye-catching oral fixation for food and drink in director Steven Soderbergh's Oceans' Eleven and its sequels. Much like Ryan, there is rarely a time when Nowak isn't drinking something. His personal preference appears to be water, Gatorade, and in what has become a postgame favorite, hot coffee.

 

 

19. Crew rookie gets up to speed

 

By Shawn Mitchel

Columbus Dispatch – March 25, 2011

 

The retooled Crew might lack cohesiveness, but not speed.

 

Left back Shaun Francis might have pursued a career in track-mad Jamaica had he not excelled at soccer. Winger Robbie Rogers is an end-to-end dynamo. Utility man Danny O'Rourke, when healthy, can beat some of Major League Soccer's fastest forwards to the ball.

 

But the player who has turned the most heads with his quickness is rookie defender Rich Balchan.

 

He can play a little ball, too.

 

Balchan, selected by the Crew in the first round of the SuperDraft in January, has started all three of the Crew's meaningful games this year. He played in both of the team's Champions League games against Real Salt Lake because of a head injury to center back Chad Marshall and shifted to the left side last week against D.C. United because of a hamstring injury to Francis.

 

So much playing time so soon is rare for a Crew rookie, but Balchan's quickness has helped him earn another likely start Saturday against the New York Red Bulls in Crew Stadium.

 

"If there is a ball played over the top into the space I should be in, sometimes I can recover with speed," Balchan said. "(Speed helps), but it can be an Achilles' heel. You can rely on it too much and then you're not thinking about your positioning."

 

Balchan was caught off-guard and beaten by Josh Wolff before Wolff scored United's first goal.

 

"Maybe he was a little bit nervous with the pressure," Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. "But with more games he's going to get better."

 

When the Crew timed its players in a 30-meter sprint in the preseason, the only player with a quicker time than Balchan was Francis.

 

Balchan is among the team's leaders in mini-sized hotel toiletries, too. He and some of the Crew's other newcomers lived in hotels from late January until last week, when Balchan, former Indiana University roommate Andy Adlard and rookie keeper Alex Riggs settled into a suburban apartment.

 

"A good group of friends can make you more comfortable in practice and that can carry over into a game," Balchan said. "It's been an easier transition."

 

Balchan, also a central midfielder, will likely play his third position against the Red Bulls and swap sides with right back Sebastian Miranda.

 

"I can adjust," Balchan said. "Part of the reason why they brought me here was my versatility, and I have to prove at this level that I can be versatile."

Henry ruled out

 

Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry was ruled out of the game against the Crew because of a hamstring injury. The French star's absence will leave New York with just two healthy forwards: Luke Rodgers and rookie Corey Hertzog. The Red Bulls are the favorite in the Eastern Conference but will be without five starters because of injuries and national-team call-ups.

 

"They're still a good team, and those guys that are going to sub in are going to be ready to play," Marshall said. "I really hope we don't use that as an excuse to come out and not play our best."

 

 

20. Valdes wants to please Union fans

 

By Marc Narducci

Philadelphia Inquirer – March 25, 2011

 

Central defender Carlos Valdes enjoyed a strong debut with the Union in their MLS season opener on Saturday, a 1-0 win at Houston. Valdes frequently covered up for teammates who were beaten by an attacking Dynamo team.

 

Though he was cool under fire, the 25-year-old Valdes admits to being a little nervous entering his home debut. The Union will host the Vancouver Whitecaps at 4 p.m. Saturday at sold-out PPL Park.

 

"I am excited, but I feel a lot of responsibility because it is my first game in front of the fans, and I want to start out well," Valdes said through an interpreter.

 

Accustomed to first-rate competition, Valdes has been a member of the Colombian national team since 2008 and last year played for the Colombian First Division club Independiente Santa Fe. Of course, the difference now is familiarity.

 

Valdes said he has been leaning on his teammates to help him learn about the top players and teams in MLS.

 

Winning his first game with the Union was a bit of a relief because he didn't want to let his teammates down.

 

"When somebody is new to a team, you are always looking to perform and provide everything you can to your teammates," Valdes said. "So getting that first win was great."

 

 

21. Real Salt Lake: Jason Kreis signs contract extension; team to retire his No. 9 jersey

 

By James Edward

Deseret News – March 25, 2011

 

SANDY — On the day Real Salt Lake founder Dave Checketts announced plans to retire Jason Kreis' No. 9 later this summer, the RSL boss also inked his coach to a three-year contract extension.

 

It's easy to see why Checketts was anxious to keep Kreis around through the 2013 season.

 

Since retiring just a month into the 2007 season to take over as head coach, Kreis has helped transform Real Salt Lake into arguably the best franchise in MLS.

 

RSL won the 2009 MLS Cup, was in hunt for the 2010 MLS Supporter's Shield until the final weekend of the season and is on the doorstep of advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League final next month.

 

"As I've said many times in the nearly seven years since he became the face of our franchise, Jason continues to fit the profile of every great leader I have worked with throughout my career," said Checketts in a statement. "The vote of confidence that ownership and management give today to Jason speaks for itself. Not only is he one of the best young coaches in MLS, he's one of the best — period. We are thrilled to have him here for a very long time."

 

An MVP-caliber player for over a decade in MLS, as a coach Kreis has amassed a 51-42-34 record in the MLS regular season, MLS playoffs and Champions League play.

 

His team hosts last year's Supporter's Shield winner Los Angeles this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the team is unbeaten in 35 straight in all competitions.

 

Kreis never had the pleasure of playing at Rio Tinto Stadium, but he became the franchise's first-ever player in November of 2004 in a trade with Dallas. He scored 17 goals with RSL and retired with 108 career goals. At the time of his retirement he was the all-time leading scorer in MLS history, but he's since been passed by three others.

 

Despite scoring just 17 goals in an RSL uniform, Checketts believes strongly in retiring his No. 9 jersey during RSL's home game on July 4 against New England.

 

"We understand that retiring a player's number is not a normal part of soccer protocol. While we have great respect for the game, we seek to honor an exceptional player and coach to our organization. Jason was the first player signed at Real Salt Lake, he established and broke significant MLS records while wearing our uniform, has provided exceptional leadership both on and off the field. In my mind, no one at RSL should ever wear No. 9 again."

 

 

22. Whitecaps will try to keep the momentum

 

By David Ebner

Globe and Mail – March 25, 2011

 

Empire Field is quiet. Wednesday morning, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC take a light practice, loose and limber. But under a bright sun, the white-capped North Shore mountains in the near distance, it almost feels as though the raucous cheers of last weekend still reverberate – when the expansion squad notched its first win in a perfect debut, a 4-2 crushing of Toronto FC.

 

Greg Janicki, a veteran of Major League Soccer, watched the spectacle from the sidelines. The defender was nursing a calf strain back to health and now is poised to lead the Whitecaps into the maw of Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon, where the Whitecaps play the Union in their first away game in the hostile environs of PPL Park. The match is likely a more significant acid test for the ambitious upstart squad than its emotional opener. While Janicki is back in action, Vancouver takes on Philly with glaring holes on offence and defence and a depleted roster, with important players absent because of international commitments or injury.

 

But buoyed by the resounding W in their debut, the Whitecaps are far more confident than a typical expansion team might be – and Janicki knows the task ahead.

 

“It’s to keep the momentum going,” Janicki said on the side of the pitch after practice. “We don’t want any drop-off – and I don’t think there will be.”

 

Picked by some – including ESPN – to finish dead last in the MLS, the Whitecaps see themselves more like the Seattle Sounders than Toronto FC. TFC had a terrible first season in 2007, averaging less than a goal a game, and was the worst team in the league. Two years later, expansion Seattle won its first three matches and made the playoffs.

 

Skeptics are coming around. ESPN, in its power rankings after Week 1, put Vancouver at eighth in the 18-side league. “Life in MLS began in dreamlike fashion for the Whitecaps, as they pummelled Toronto into submission,” ESPN said.

 

Vancouver’s depth will be tested against Philadelphia. The MLS schedule isn’t arranged around the international calendar of FIFA – so Whitecaps captain and key defender Jay DeMerit won’t be around, as he is on duty with the U.S. national team. Another defensive starter, Michael Boxall, is away playing for New Zealand.

 

Davide Chiumiento won’t play either. The playmaker – chosen one of the MLS players of the week – set up two goals in the opener but left the game with a hurt hamstring.

 

“Obviously I would like to have all my best players but sometimes we have to play games without having that opportunity,” said coach Teitur Thordarson.

 

The absence of 22,592 screaming Whitecaps supporters doesn’t worry Thordarson. He said his squad has thrived on the road in the past.

 

“It’s a different challenge. The spectators here, they were like an extra player on the field, they helped us immensely. We will face the opposite in Philadelphia. But all football players are alike, they like to have a lot of spectators. We have never shown any fear for that. It’s rather been a positive thing for us.”

 

Philadelphia is a modest second opponent for the Whitecaps. The second-year team struggled last year, like most expansion squads, and finished 14th of 16 teams. This year, however, an overhauled defence helped Philadelphia win its opener on the road, when the Union shut out Houston.

 

Philadelphia’s Sébastien Le Toux will be a threat, as the forward is pegged as a potential contender for most valuable player.

 

The Whitecaps have their own ace in ascendance. Forward Eric Hassli, imported this month from FC Zurich, put the team up 1-0 in the 15th minute against Toronto and scored again in the 72nd minute to extend the lead to 4-1.

 

Hassli, who turns 30 in early May, was a prolific scorer several years ago in Zurich before breaking his leg in September, 2009. Relocation to Vancouver has reinvigorated his passion.

 

“It was the most beautiful day of my career,” Hassli said in French of the opener. “C’est incroyable.”

 

Without predicting wins every match, Hassli believes the Whitecaps can pull off rare feats for an expansion team – bringing an attacking confidence to each game.

 

“Every weekend we’re going to do that.”

 

 

23. Ex-Union midfielder sorry to miss Philly trip

 

By Marc Narducci

Philadelphia Inquirer – March 25, 2011

 

Shea Salinas was looking forward to returning to PPL Park, but an injury will keep the former Union midfielder from joining his Vancouver Whitecaps teammates for Saturday's Major League Soccer matchup.

 

Salinas strained a knee ligament in practice on March 5 and said he is about 90 percent healthy.

 

"The team doesn't want me to travel unless I am 100 percent," Salinas said in a phone interview.

 

Salinas, who will turn 25 in June, appeared in 17 games for the Union, making seven starts and scoring a goal. He missed time due to a stress fracture but returned to finish out the season. Now he is disappointed not to be coming back to PPL Park.

 

"I have a lot of friends in Philadelphia who I would like to see and a lot of memories, and it would have been great to play in front of the Philadelphia fans again," Salinas said. "That isn't in the plans, so there is always the chance to play Philadelphia when they come here [on June 18]."

 

After last season, Salinas was claimed by Vancouver in the expansion draft. He made a strong initial impression with the Whitecaps.

 

"He was our best player in the preseason, without a doubt," Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson said. "He was extremely good, and it's unfortunate he got injured."

 

Salinas hopes that he can return for Vancouver's next game, April 2 at home against Sporting Kansas City.

 

Saturday's opening 4-2 win over Toronto FC indicates the type of wide-open attack Vancouver employs, one which suits Salinas fine.

 

"We play a very aggressive style of soccer and press teams when they have the ball, and we don't sit around," Salinas said. "We go straight to the goal, and it's awesome to play that way."

 

Salinas said that he is enjoying being in Vancouver, and compares the passionate fans with those who follow the Union. The Whitecaps opened in front of a sellout crowd of 22,592.

 

"I had a great relationship with the Union fans and was able to get out in the community," Salinas said. "It was unfortunate I had to leave when I did, but I am really enjoying my time in Vancouver and can't wait to play in a game."

 

 

24. TFC must be better for home opener

 

By Gareth Wheeler

Toronto Sun – March 25, 2011

 

Last week’s 4-2 season-opening loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps was a reminder how far Toronto FC has to go to become competitive.

 

Toronto FC will have to be a whole lot better in various aspects of the game in its home opener Saturday to avoid dropping points in consecutive weeks to expansion competition.

 

The Portland Timbers roll into town, featuring Toronto FC killer — striker Kenny Cooper. The talisman marked his return to Major League Soccer last week with a goal, and has scored six goals in his past four games against TFC.

 

BMO Field at times over the years has been a fortress for Toronto FC; a beacon of stability for a club with very little.  Memorable wins last season against the MLS champion Colorado Rapids and Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League speaks to the difficulty of playing in Toronto.

 

The usual warmth inside the friendly confines will be replaced by cold weather with a projected high of -1C on Saturday, and an anxious crowd eager to see early results of head coach Aron Winter’s overhaul, live and in-person.

 

Nothing short of a Toronto FC victory will be seen as progress to most.

 

To avoid back-to-back embarrassments, Toronto FC will have to do five basic things to get a result Week 2.

 

1. Positive possession

 

Toronto FC dominated possession in Vancouver to a clip of 65%. The statistic is flattering, but hardly tells the story. Toronto’s possession was largely negative, consisting of the defensive line passing it back and forth, amongst each another. And when the ball advanced, there weren’t enough options in Red to attack with design. Vancouver sat back comfortably, letting Toronto meander as it pleased. Possession statistics are only significant when the majority of possession is coming from the midfield in attacking positions. The midfield needs to be better at finding space and holding up the ball.  And the defenders need to be far better in distribution. Too many wayward passes killed the flow and meant attacks were played from passive positions.

 

2. Cann that bad plan

 

The punishment/experiment playing Adrian Cann at left-back needs to stop. The Whitecaps carved up Toronto FC’s left side, and Cann was left stranded. It wasn’t all Cann’s fault, the support coming from the central defence was poorly timed and not good enough. Without Cann in the middle last week, Nana Attakora was lost from a positional perspective. Cann is a centre-back, period. His partnership with Attakora is not one to be messed with, at this point. Cann doesn’t have the speed to deputize the wing, but has the ball control and ability to read the game to be an asset in the middle.

 

3. Wingers must improve

 

While Maicon Santos did well tracking back as a targetman getting involved last week, the same cannot be said of the wing players. Javier Martina and Nick Soolsma each had moments with the ball at their feet, looking like real threats. But opening up into space and properly supporting the midfield was largely absent. Soolsma looks awkward moving off the ball and it’s hard to see him sticking at the right-wing position. Jacob Peterson was efficient in the role in pre-season. Martina looks like he can be a contributor, but where his best position may be is up for debate. In a 4-3-3, the wide positions need to keep opposing wing-backs honest, stretching the field and creating space. Young Nicholas Lindsay did a proper job in the role at the end of last season, getting the ball in space and attacking defenders. Not playing the position properly means a breakdown in system.

 

4. Get De Rosario the ball

 

The script reads much the same as previous seasons: Toronto FC’s best players not getting the ball at their feet or in proper positions. De Rosario was left frustrated and it’s well warranted. If the system is predicated on movement, and one of De Rosario’s strengths is finding room in tight spaces, then he needs to get the ball. He creates and can finish. De Rosario’s goal came from superior movement and a well-timed run when he received distribution. So the other two midfielders need to spread out and demand the ball from the back four in possession. That way De Rosario can play off the movement and become more influential.

 

5. More effort, push-back

 

The entire work-rate and effort last Saturday left a lot to be desired. There is no excuse for not hustling back and competing. Toronto defenders inexcusably left goalkeeper Stefan Frei for dead multiple times during the match, including a two-on-none break on Eric Hassli’s goal in the 72nd minute. Talent-wise, Toronto FC isn’t good enough to take stretches of the match off. It will have to out-work and out-think opponents. It was out done in both categories against Vancouver. That must be remedied.

 

Toronto FC also added a new player to their roster Thursday, acquiring Serbian international Alen Stevanovic on loan from Italian Serie B side Torino FC. The 20-year-old midfielder is co-owned by Torino and Inter Milan.

 

 

25. Real Salt Lake coach signs 2-year contract extension

 

By Michael C. Lewis

Salt Lake Tribune – March 25, 2011

 

Coach Jason Kreis has signed a two-year contract extension that will keep him on the sidelines for Real Salt Lake through the 2013 season, and will see the team retire the No. 9 jersey he wore as a Major League Soccer player later this summer.

 

The former striker was in the final year of his previous contract. Financial terms were not disclosed.

 

“Jason continues to fit the profile of every great leader I have worked with throughout my career,” team majority owner Dave Checketts said in a statement. “Not only is he one of the best young coaches in MLS, he’s one of the best — period. We are thrilled to have him here for a very long time.”

 

Kreis led RSL to the 2009 MLS Cup championship, and had the team in contention for the Supporters Shield regular-season championship until the end of last year.

 

The team also has advanced to the semifinals of the prestigious CONCACAF Champions League international tournament, and ranks among the top championship contenders in the league this season.

 

RSL plays its home league opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.

 

“We have enjoyed some success here now at Real Salt Lake and the entire organization — players, coaches, staff, ownership, management and, most importantly, the fans — believes, as I do, that ‘the team is the star,’ ” Kreis said. “Everyone involved in establishing and raising our expectations continues to work towards earning championships, and no one takes that responsibility lightly. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue in this great endeavor.”

 

The team will retire Kreis’ jersey number when it plays July 4 against the New England Revolution.

 

Kreis was the first player in team history, scored its first goal in 2005, and retired as a player in order to replace original coach John Ellinger in 2007.

 

 

26. Fire add forward Ferrari to roster

 

By Jack McCarthy

Chicago Tribune – March 25, 2011

 

Gabriel Ferrari, a 22-year-old forward and one-time U.S. Under-20 international team member, was officially signed by the Fire on Thursday.

 

Ferrari played in the New York Red Bulls youth system, then spent time in Italy with the Sampdoria, Perugia and Foggia clubs before joining Swiss side AC Bellinzona last September.

 

He represented the United States in the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and had three goals in four appearances.

 

"During Gabriel's time in camp we were impressed with his size, speed and worth ethic up top," Frank Klopas, the Fire's technical director, said. "His experience abroad and desire to be part of this club were defying factors in us signing Gabriel."

 

The Fire open their 2011 home season at 3 p.m. Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.

 

 

27. Meyer: Rapids' Cummings among stars called into "international fixture" duty

 

By John Meyer

Denver Post – March 25, 2011

 

COMMERCE CITY — Omar Cummings picked up where he left off last season, scoring one goal and creating another Saturday when the Rapids won their season opener over Portland.

 

But the MLS champions will have to play without their dangerous forward when they take on Chivas USA on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

 

World soccer is in one of its periodic "international fixture" periods, when top internationals are called to play for their countries in "friendlies." The U.S. national team will play Argentina on Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J., and Paraguay in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday.

 

Cummings will be with the Jamaican national team, the so-called "Reggae Boyz," who play Venezuela tonight and El Salvador on Sunday. He scored seven goals in the Rapids' final five regular-season games in 2010 and was the league's player of the month in September.

 

Sanna Nyassi, a newcomer at midfield, was called away to join Gambia's national team.

 

Chivas loses two players who started in their 3-2 loss last week to Sporting Kansas City. One of them is forward Alejandro Moreno, a Venezuelan who may see action against Cummings tonight at the Montego Bay Sports Complex. Cummings is expected back Tuesday.

 

Who replaces Cummings?

 

Quincy Amarikwa would seem to be the most likely replacement for Cummings, although recent addition Caleb Folan is another possibility.

 

Amarikwa delighted Rapids fans Saturday when he came on for Conor Casey in the 61st minute, playing with typical breakneck abandon.

 

"I think Quincy was terrific when he came on," Rapids coach Gary Smith said. "Really lifted the crowd, brought us some energy and some real hustle and bustle up front. There's no doubt about it, the lad's improving no end — quality in his game, choices in his game."

 

Folan, who played most recently for Hull City (England) and has seven caps for Ireland, was signed March 16.

 

Did you notice?

 

Rapids midfielder Jamie Smith kissed his wedding ring after scoring a world-class goal Saturday night. It was a message to his wife, Laura, who was visiting his native Scotland.

 

"I knew my wife was watching the game (on TV)," Smith said. "I enjoyed the goal, but the main thing is that we got the three points and we won the first game. It was just a bonus to get the goal."

 

Smith's goal, a blast from 25 yards, was one of five nominated for MLS goal of the week. The winner will be announced today.

 

 

28. March update on Livestrong Sporting Park

 

By Charles Gooch

Kansas City Star- March 24, 2011

 

It's kinda hard for an update on a multi-million dollar soccer complex to get lost in the shuffle.

 

But, with the Livestrong Sporting Park announcement earlier this month, the beginning of the season and the Chad Ochocinco trial going on this week, that's just what happened. I took a tour with OnGoal's Vice President David Ficklin on March 3 and caught up with him earlier this week. Here's a stadium update for March. (We'll have an April update coming for sure and those will have more pictures.)

 

There are three notable dates approaching. The first section of curtain wall (glass) around the Member's Club will be installed starting today. The first seats will go in on Monday, March 28. And the most important part of a soccer stadium, the grass, will be laid down over a 2-day process sometime next week or early the week after (depending on the weather).

 

The Field

 

The irrigation/drainage/heating system is completely in place. The stadium survived some of March's heaviest rains and Ficklin tells me that the irrigation system is fully functional. A 10" layer of sand and root mixture is being laid over the drainage system right now.

 

The Seats

 

The beams that house the seats are going down this week and the first seats at the stadium will be attached next week. (We'll sneak as many pictures as possible and start getting a look from different sections during the next tour.)

 

The Scoreboards

 

Both the north and south scoreboards are functional. The installation of the supporting ad panels on each side will be complete by mid-May.

 

The Lights

 

If you drive by The Legends and see some lights on in the stadium, it's not because something is going on that you don't know about. The lights must undergo a 100-hour "burn-in period" so that each bank of lights will burn at their prescribed intensity come June 9. If they don't get 100 hours, the lights will not be right.

 

The Signage

 

During the last days of May, the Livestrong signage will go on the stadium.

 

The Plaza

 

The grading process on the western edge of the stadium site (the Plaza) is complete and hardscaping is the next step.

 

The Conclusion

 

Everything is still on schedule, Ficklin said. There are decisions still being made (like when the grass goes down) about the stadium. All-in-all, the stadium is still fairly impressive and the attention to detail (see The Lights) is pretty impressive too.

 

 

29. Multi-sport hits and misses: Ocho has work cut out

 

By Morgan Campbell

Toronto Star – March 25, 2011

 

So, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco thinks he can make the leap from football to footie.

 

After the first day of his four-day trial with Major League Soccer’s Kansas City squad, the Pro Bowl receiver had received underwhelming reviews, but apparently he’s learning quickly.

 

“From yesterday to today he’s really improved,” Kansas City striker Teal Bunbury told ESPN.com. “Today his touch was a lot better, his movement was a lot better, he’s understanding the game a bit more. He’s really getting adjusted.”

 

Whether Ochocinco will pick up enough skill to make soccer his second job still isn’t clear, but sports history is littered with stars who have moonlighted with varying degrees of success.

 

TWO-SPORT HITS

 

CLARA HUGHES

 

Cycling/speed skating

 

After a road cycling career that included a pair of bronze medals at the 1996 Olympics, the Winnipeg native switched to speed skating, where her resume includes four Olympic medals (one gold) and six world championship medals (one gold). These days the 38-year-old Hughes is back on her bike, competing for Canada at this weekend’s world track cycling championships.

 

BO JACKSON

 

Baseball/football

 

After winning the 1985 Heisman Trophy at Auburn University, Jackson, a 6-foot-1,225-pound bullet train of a tailback, shocked the football world by electing to play pro baseball. By 1987 he was with the Royals full-time, and by 1989 he was an all-star. But he never could shake the football bug and in October 1987 he joined the Los Angeles Raiders, quickly becoming the NFL’s most dynamic running back. His 38-game career included three touchdown runs of 88 yards or longer. Since he would join the Raiders only after baseball season ended, Jackson never played a full NFL season, but averaged an astounding 5.4 yards per carry in a football career that was cut short by a hip injury.

 

DEION SANDERS

 

Football/baseball

 

Unlike Jackson, Sanders juggled both sports from the beginning of his pro career, splitting his time between the Atlanta Falcons and New York Yankees for two seasons. In 1992 he joined the Atlanta Braves, setting him up to make history as the only athlete to ever play in an NFL game and the World Series side-by-side. To shuttle between Braves games and Falcons practices, Prime Time would ride a private helicopter.

 

HERSCHEL WALKER

 

Football/bobsled/MMA

 

As a student athlete at the University of Georgia, Walker would often use his scarce free time to sneak away from campus and compete in karate tournaments. As an all-pro NFL running back Walker dabbled in the bobsled, competing in the two-man event in the 1992 Olympics. And now as a retired NFL player with hazy plans for a comeback, the 48-year-old Walker competes as a professional mixed martial artist, manhandling a pair of overmatched youngsters to compile a 2-0 record.

 

MULTI-SPORT MISSES

 

MICHAEL JORDAN

 

Basketball/baseball

 

When three-time NBA champ Michael Jordan abruptly retired from basketball to start a baseball career in 1994, you could have been excused for thinking he could find the same success on the diamond as he did on the court. Sure, he hadn’t played baseball since adolescence, but he had survived being cut from his high school hoops team to develop into the greatest basketball player ever. Alas, baseball presented problems even Jordan couldn’t solve — chief among them, the curveball. He finished his lone season as a pro batting just .202 in 127 games at Double-A Birmingham, and by the spring of 1995 Jordan had returned to the NBA.

 

JOHNNIE MORTON

 

Football/MMA

 

This former Detroit Lions receiver had always been a multi-tasker. In addition to his NFL career (12 seasons, 624 receptions, 8,719 yards), he dabbled in modeling and dated 1990s R&B starlet Shanice. In July 2007, Morton, weighing in at a rock-solid 193 pounds, made his debut as a mixed martial artist. His career lasted the 38 seconds it took for opponent Bernard Ackah to knock him out. And Morton’s post-fight drug test? Positive for steroids.

 

NATHAN PERROTT

 

Hockey/boxing

 

In his brief (89-game) NHL career Perrott established himself as a decent hockey heavyweight, racking up 251 penalty minutes. But when the former Leaf turned pro as a boxer, he quickly learned that his knuckle game didn’t translate to dry land. Perrott has lost two of his three pro fights, both by first-round knockout.

 

THE RIGHT CHOICE

 

DANNY AINGE

 

Baseball/basketball

 

Ainge didn’t stand out on the diamond at Exhibition Stadium, hitting just two homers in parts of three seasons as a Jay. But he established a rep as a monster in pickup basketball games at George Brown College, and in 1981-82 returned to his primary sport. Smart move. Ainge’s NBA career lasted 14 seasons and included one all-star game and two league championships.

 

THE ULTIMATE MULTI-TASKER

 

ROY JONES JR.

 

Basketball/boxing

 

On June 15, 1996, this boxing legend began the day as a basketball player, suiting up as a point guard for the Jacksonville Barracudas of the USBL, playing 15 minutes and scoring four points in an afternoon game. That night, Jones returned to his normal gig, defending his IBF super-middleweight title against Montreal’s Eric Lucas. Jones retained the title when Lucas retired after 11 lopsided rounds.

 

 

30. Real Salt Lake: David Beckham will be in the house Saturday

 

By James Edward

Deseret News – March 25, 2011

 

SANDY — David Beckham will be in the starting lineup for the Galaxy this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

 

No joke.

 

He's not injured, he's not with AC Milan and he's not with the English National Team. He's actually healthy and available, and ready to suit up for the team he signed a contract with more than four years ago.

 

It will be Beckham's first game at Rio Tinto Stadium — where the home team is unbeaten in 35 straight overall competitions — and just his third game against Real Salt Lake in nine meetings.

 

For a player who was there for the stadium groundbreaking as a member of Real Madrid, and there again as a member of the Galaxy to praise the construction progress five months before the stadium's grand opening, Beckham has been noticeably absent on the field.

 

Excluding the Real Madrid friendly at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2006, the only two matches Beckham has suited up for against RSL were on May 3, 2008, at Rice-Eccles Stadium and then in Seattle for MLS Cup in 2009.

 

Of the other six games, he was injured for three, on loan with AC Milan for two and with England for an international friendly for one.

 

He missed both RSL-Galaxy clashes last year while recovering from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered while on loan with AC Milan.

 

Many critics view Beckham's time in MLS as a major disappointment, citing numerous examples that it appears he doesn't really want to be here.

 

That's not the sentiment with Real Salt Lake.

 

"I think it's been a positive. I don't see how it can be a negative for the league. He brings in so many fans, he brings such a buzz about him," said RSL defender Nat Borchers. "And if he's got some controversy about him that's good for the league. Personally, I think he's a great player and good for the league."

 

RSL captain Kyle Beckerman believes Beckham's been great for the league, too, not only raising awareness about MLS overseas but in the United States for fringe soccer fans as well.

 

"Hopefully Beckham will bring the fans in (on Saturday) that don't usually come and then hopefully we'll put on a good performance and keep them for the rest of the season," said Beckerman.

 

Even though Beckham has seemingly missed as many matches as he's played in, RSL coach Jason Kreis still believes he's been good for MLS and the Galaxy.

 

"We all feel like our league is more important in the sports scene in our country, so that for sure was a success. When he's at his best and in form, he's been certainly a very good player in our league. Competitively speaking, I'm also sure it's helped L.A," said Kreis.

 

His arrival in MLS was dubbed the "Beckham Experiment" in a book by Grant Wahl, but the jury is still out about how successful it's really been.

 

Since Beckham's signing, the Galaxy have played 119 matches between the MLS regular season, playoffs and CONCACAF. Beckham has appeared in 65 of those games and the Galaxy have zero trophies to show for opening their wallet.

 

Beckham is in the final year of his five-year, $32.5 million contract, and most expect him to be back in Europe in 2012.

 

 

31. Beckham to captain Los Angeles Galaxy

 

Associated Press – March 25, 2011

 

CARSON, Calif. — David Beckham has gotten the captain's armband back for the Los Angeles Galaxy for the first time in three years.

 

Coach Bruce Arena decided that Beckham will be captain Saturday for the Major League Soccer team's game at Real Salt Lake.

 

Beckham took over as captain when he joined the team in 2007 but last captained the Galaxy on Oct. 26, 2008. The armband was given to Landon Donovan the following year.

 

"Yeah, Bruce has asked me to wear it, and I'll be proud to wear it," Beckham said. "It doesn't change the way I play. It's something you're very proud to wear, but you need more that that one leader on the field."

 

Donovan will miss the game to be with the U.S. national team for its exhibition against Argentina in East Rutherford, N.J.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32. Fire sign forward Ferrari

 

The Sports Network—March 24, 2011

 

Bridgeview, IL (Sports Network) - The Chicago Fire signed 22-year-old forward Gabriel Ferrari, the major League Soccer club announced on Thursday.

 

"During Gabriel's time in camp we were impressed with his size, speed and worth ethic up top," Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas said. "His experience abroad and desire to be a part of this club were defining factors in us signing Gabriel."

 

 

Ferrari joined the New York Red Bulls youth system before signing with Sampdoria in Italy at 19. Ferrari returns to MLS following his time overseas

 

 

33. Chad Ochocinco begins MLS tryout

 

ESPN.com—March 24, 2011

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Switching from football to soccer won't be easy for Chad Ochocinco, if it happens at all.

 

Locked out of his day job, Ochocinco opened a four-day tryout with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday and by the end of his first day with the Major League Soccer team the star receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals was panting for breath.

 

"Exactly what I expected," the six-time Pro Bowler explained. "I would be a little winded being that I haven't ran at this pace or this level since the end of our season of football. It was fun. I didn't expect to come in here and be Superman."

 

Ochocinco plans to go through with the tryout, and, if possible, join the MLS team. The famously spotlight-hungry player insisted he was motivated by love for a sport that was actually his first choice until his grandmother persuaded him to focus on football after the 10th grade.

 

"I would play for free," he said.

 

Wearing No. 85, of course, Ochocinco worked out with more than 40 media representatives lining the practice field, roughly 10 times the number that normally show up for a midweek workout. He moved fluidly on the cold, blustery day and was taller than almost all the professional soccer players on the field.

 

His athleticism was obvious and so was his soccer rust after so many years away from the game.

 

"The time I've had off from the game of this football has been a very long time," he said. "There's no way I can make up that ground, the years I've been away from the game. But I do have a love for it."

 

With the NFL in a lockout and a court fight looming, Ochocinco has said now is a good time to check into another sport. Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes said he tried to use the practice to help Ochocinco get acclimated to something new.

 

For much of the day, he had individual instruction from assistant coach Zoran Savic.

 

"He was a little bit hesitant early on, a little bit tentative," said Vermes. "But I think now he's got a good feel for what a day goes like for us. You can see he's very coachable. I wouldn't try to make any determinations at this point."

 

On Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in New Orleans, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis took a shot at Ochocinco when asked about the receiver's MLS tryout.

 

"How does he do at anything?" Lewis told reporters. "What has he ever done that he's completed? What circle has he ever connected in any way?"

 

Ochocinco responded to his coach's comments via Twitter early Wednesday, providing a link to a column on Black Sports Online that criticized Lewis for his comments about the receiver.

 

"Marvin Lewis won't say anything bad about Carson Palmer, stays kissing his ass, but disses @ochocinco daily #smh," he wrote.

 

Vermes knows many people will view the tryout as a publicity stunt, either by Ochocinco or the team.

 

"I've said this before -- I've always considered it from the very beginning to be a long shot. But I can tell you this, we bring trialists in all the time," Vermes said. "To be frank, they're always long shots. But we also bring guys in with much lesser physical tools than he has and they get trials with us as well. It's very normal in our sport to do this. It's just different because it's a guy who's coming from the NFL.

 

"I did not want it to be a media thing for him. He said it wasn't."

 

Ochocinco insisted he would have stayed with soccer and given up football if it had been practical.

 

"I had that talk with grandma. We talked about what do you want to do for your career," he said. "In that time in 1994, soccer was not the thing in the states, especially in high school. Football was the route I had to go and I put all my energy into that. With the lockout here, this is something I always wanted to do. It was her choice for me not to play soccer and now I have the opportunity to do it. It was always my No. 1 sport, my No. 1 love."

 

He also said he encountered no resentment from the established players when he showed up.

 

"I don't think I'm going to take anybody's job. It's not going to happen," he said. "These guys have been playing this game for years and I'm trying to make the transition from football to football. To come in here and take someone's job is pretty farfetched."

 

Knowing he'll eventually return to the Bengals when the players and owners settle their differences, Ochocinco said he would be content to just be a squad man and practice with Sporting Kansas City

 

"That would be fun," he said. "When the lockout, when it does happen, or we're able to go back and play, I'll be in better shape than everyone else because I might be the only one training at this level."

 

 

34. Revs open at home Sat. vs. United

 

ESPNBoston.com—March 24, 2011

 

The Revolution (0-0-1, 1 pt.) open their home schedule on Saturday, March 26, at Gillette Stadium, against D.C. United. The game will start at 4:30 p.m. ET. It will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet New England. MAS-TV will televise the game in Boston in Spanish. The game will also be broadcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

 

The Revs have won four consecutive home openers at Gillette and also have a three-game win streak against D.C.

 

Some game notes courtesy of the Revs:

 

-- Saturday will be the 55th regular season game between the Revolution and D.C. United. United leads the series 25-21-8, however, the Revs own a 14-9-4

advantage in Foxborough, including an 8-3-4 record at Gillette Stadium.

 

-- The Revs are 4-1-1 in their last six games against D.C.

 

-- The Revs are 10-5-0 in home openers in their history. They are 6-3-0 at Gillette, including four straight wins.

 

-- Shalrie Joseph has scored three times in 24 career games against D.C.

 

-- Matt Reis has played 22 games in goal vs. D.C. His record is 7-9-6 with four shutouts and a 1.45 goals against average.

 

Here was the Revs lineup in their season-opening tie against the L.A. Galaxy:

 

GK Reis

D Tierney

D Soares

D Coria

D Barnes

M Perovic (Mansally 22’)

M McCarthy

M Joseph

M Phelan

M Boggs

F Schilawski (Nyassi 74’)

 

 

35. Fire bring in forward Ferrari

 

By Charllie Corr

ESPNChicago.com—March 24, 2011

 

The Chicago Fire signed 22-year-old forward and former U.S. U-20 international Gabriel Ferrari on Thursday.

 

The 6-foot-2 Ferrari was with the Fire as a trialist throughout preseason and was in attendance at the team's annual luncheon on March 14, though he was not officially introduced to the public at the time. Ferrari most recently played for Swiss club FC Wohlen.

 

"During Gabriel's time in camp, we were impressed with his size, speed and work ethic up top," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said in a statement. "His experience abroad and desire to be a part of this club were defining factors in us signing Gabriel."

 

The New York native was part of the New York Red Bulls' youth system, and at age 19, Ferrari signed with Italian Serie A club Sampdoria. Ferrari represented the U.S. at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, netting three goals in four games during his tenure with the U-20 squad.

 

 

36. Just call him Captain Becks

 

By  Scott French

ESPNLosAngeles.com—March 24, 2011

 

David Beckham will don the captain's armband Saturday night for the Galaxy, stepping in for Landon Donovan, who will miss the game at Real Salt Lake while with the U.S. national team.

 

Beckham was handed the captaincy when he joined the Galaxy in July 2007 and held it until L.A. coach Bruce Arena appointed Donovan during the 2009 preseason. This will be the first time he has served as the team's captain since.

 

"Bruce has asked me to wear it, and I'll be proud to wear it," Beckham said after Thursday's training session at Home Depot Center. "It doesn't change the way I play. It's something you're very proud to wear, but you need more that that one leader on the field."

 

Beckham was England's national team captain from November 2000 through the 2006 World Cup, and he was handed the armband by coach Fabio Capello for a June 2008 friendly against Trinidad & Tobago.

 

"He’s a logical choice, and he's worn the captain’s armband here before and probably in a couple of other places as well," Arena said. "I don’t think it’s asking too much. It’s not too overwhelming for him.”

 

Donovan on Monday joined U.S. preparations in Cary, N.C., for friendlies Saturday night against Argentina in East Rutherford, N.J., and Tuesday against Paraguay in Nashville.

 

 

37. Chicago Fire Sign Forward Gabriel Ferrari

Fire Add Former U.S. U-20 Forward To Roster.

 

Goal.com—March 24, 2011

 

The Chicago Fire announced today that they have signed former U.S. U-20 Forward Gabriel Ferrari. Ferrari makes his return after his time with Italian Serie A club Sampdoria and Swiss club FC Wohlen.

 

“During Gabriel’s time in camp we were impressed with his size, speed and worth ethic up top,” said Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas. “His experience abroad and desire to be a part of this club were defining factors in us signing Gabriel.”

 

Ferrari, a prized prospect out of New York, joined the New York Red Bulls youth system while he was in high school. At 19, Ferrari signed with Sampdoria in Italy’s Series A.

 

The 6-2 forward made his debut in a Coppa Italia match against Inter Milan before moving to Lega Prima Divisione side Perugia on loan in July of 2008. While with Perugia, Ferrari made 14 appearances and netted one goal. Ferrari moved to Foggia, where he made 14 appearances during his loan in 2009-2010.

 

Ferrari joined Swiss club AC Bellinzona in Sept. 2010 before moving on loan to FC Wohlen. The American striker appeared in three matches scoring one goal while playing in the Swiss Challenge League.

 

Ferrari was selected to the 21-player squad that represented the United States at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The New York City product notched three goals in four appearances in international competition for his home country. 

 

38. Real Salt Lake Hands Coach Jason Kreis A Two-Year Extension

 

By Zac Lee Rigg
Goal.com—March 25, 2011

 

Head coach Jason Kreis, the first player ever signed by Real Salt Lake, has signed a two-year contract extension with the Utah club. The deal will keep Kreis in charge through the 2013 MLS season.

 

Kreis became the youngest coach to win the MLS Cup in 2009 when he led Salt Lake to its biggest title. Since then, the club has established itself as one of the premier sides in MLS.

 

"As I’ve said many times in the nearly seven years since he became the face of our franchise, Jason continues to fit the profile of every great leader I have worked with throughout my career,” said RSL Founder Dave Checketts. “The vote of confidence that ownership and management give today to Jason speaks for itself. Not only is he one of the best young coaches in MLS, he’s one of the best – period. We are thrilled to have him here for a very long time.”

 

Additionally, Kreis' RSL No.9 jersey will be retired on July 4. The 38-year-old became the first player in MLS history to score 100 goals in the league, doing so while playing with Salt Lake. He retired to take over coaching duties in 2007.

 

“When I was hired nearly four years ago, I stated that it was time for action, that I was embracing a complete and utter challenge, undertaking tremendous responsibility,” said Kreis. “We have enjoyed some success here now at Real Salt Lake and the entire organization – players, coaches, staff, ownership, management and most importantly, the fans – believes, as I do, that ‘The Team is the Star.’ Everyone involved in establishing and raising our expectations continues to work towards earning championships, and no one takes that responsibility lightly.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue in this great endeavor.”

 

Despite losing long-time assistant Robin Fraser to the Chivas USA head coaching role in the offseason, Kreis has led his side to a 2-0 first leg semifinal lead over Deportivo Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League. Should RSL advance to the final, it will be the first U.S. side to do so in the current incarnation of the tournament.

 

According to a team release, Kreis is "an avid woodworker, oenophile and golfer with a voracious appetite for reading."

 

 

39. Ochocinco has better Day 2 of trial

 

By Andrew Wiebe

MLSsoccer.com—March 25, 2011

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Day two of the Chad Ochocinco experiment was decidedly less hectic than Day 1, but the wide-receiver-turned-footballer still managed a few memorable moments.

 

After an unquestionably average first day in Sporting blue, manager Peter Vermes said Ochocinco was able to make more of a mark on Thursday after shaking off some rust the day before.

 

“He actually had two of the best crosses in the game today that we played.” Vermes said before chuckling at the thought. “He was OK. I think the game is fast for him. I think the play is maybe a little higher than even he expected. Some things he’s alright in. Some things he’s far behind in just because he doesn’t play on a regular basis.”

 

Vermes said the plan remains for Ochocinco to conclude his four-day trial on Saturday (Sporting’s reserves are scheduled to train Saturday and Sunday), after which the coaching staff will make a decision on his future with the team.

 

And although his presence is expected to end this weekend, Vermes said the players and coaching staff haven’t been distracted by the attention or media hordes that follow No. 85’s every move.

 

“When you are inside the white lines playing and doing your training, you really don’t know that anyone is out there,” he said.

 

If anything, Vermes said the attention was positive for the club in a general sense and forced Kansas City’s players to be accountable for their own performances since a large media contingent was there to potentially document their every move.

 

Bunbury possible starter against Fire

 

Teal Bunbury could be in line for his first start of the season if this week’s training sessions are any indication.

 

After being eased into full contact activities after dislocating his elbow this preseason, Bunbury is participating fully in training, although he is still required to wear a brace on the elbow to prevent any further damage.

 

He was named as a substitute last weekend against Chivas USA, spending the game on the bench, but has been training with the de facto first team this week as Kansas City prepare to face the Chicago Fire without Kei Kamara, who is on national-team duty with Sierra Leone.

 

Vermes refused to elaborate on who would start but emphasized that Bunbury was cleared by the medical staff to participate fully.

 

“I think it was great last week that we didn’t have to use him and put him into a situation where he would have to sort of fight against some players that might have put him in a precarious situation,” Vermes said. “I think the more that we can hold him off, the better it’s going to be for him and us in the long run because then he’ll be fully fit again.”

 

The reality though is that Bunbury is the most likely candidate to slide in for Kamara at right forward, allowing Omar Bravo and C.J. Sapong to start on the left and in the center as they did in week one.

 

Smith weeks away from return

 

Ryan Smith is back working with the ball, but Vermes said it could still be a long time before the forward returns to training with the full team.

 

“I still think he is weeks away from really starting to participate fully in practice,” Vermes said Thursday.

 

Smith had been experiencing pain and extreme soreness during and following workouts since having knee surgery this offseason. Vermes said the pain was gone but that Smith was still dealing with unusual soreness after some workouts and slowly trying to work back to full fitness.

 

“He is back to running, starting to do some agility stuff and doing some ball work,” Vermes said. “He has good days, and he has bad days.”

 

 

40. New England considering move for forward Lekic

 

By Kyle McCarthy

MLSsoccer.com—March 25, 2011

 

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England’s search for a striker could soon be coming to an end. The club is currently weighing up a move for Danish striker Rajko Lekic after he completed a two-day trial with the Revolution on Thursday.

 

Head coach Steve Nicol said the prolific Silkeborg forward made a positive impression on the club's technical staff during his two training sessions with the team.

 

“We like what we've seen,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com. “Like everything else, there are a few things we need to iron out, but we've been impressed with him in the past couple of days.”

 

The brief trial provided only a passing glimpse of Lekic's abilities, but the circumstances dictated the short evaluation period. Lekic remains under contract to Silkeborg until the end of the year and the Danish season is currently ongoing.

 

In order to take the once-capped Danish international on trial, the Revolution needed to secure written permission from Silkeborg. The Danish Superliga club allowed Lekic to link up with the Revolution, but limited his participation to two days.

 

“Obviously, we would have liked to have seen the player for a couple of more days, but the agreement with Silkeborg was that he would only train for two days,” Revolution vice president of player personnel Michael Burns said. “He trained with us on Wednesday and Thursday and he'll go back [Friday] evening.”

 

Now the Revs must decide whether to make a move for Lekic and whether the proposed terms of the move – Silkeborg, for instance, could hold out for a transfer fee to usher through an immediate switch given the remaining term on Lekic's deal – work for them.

 

“We'll have some internal discussions, we'll talk to his agent and the club and see if it makes sense if we can get something done,” Burns said.

 

Nicol said he expects the process to move swiftly as New England attempt to address their need for a proven striker and Lekic tries to sort out his own future.

 

“We need to make a decision quickly because we want to and he and his club need to know as well,” Nicol said. “It's an all-around thing.”