Category Archives: Rest of the World

News about Football from other parts of the globe…

3 matches and no real shocks in the CONCACAF CL

Robbie Rogers

So Tuesday saw the opening of the CONCACAF CL group stages, and here we would receive the opening matches from groups B and C on the night.  The other match played on the evening was from Group D, and in all honesty the result came out as one would expect.  So for those of you following along with me, here are a few words on the two matches I was able to watch and I will make sure to drop the score line from the Group D game as well.

UNAM (Mexico)  1 – 0  Comunicaciones (Guatemala)

Columbus Crew (USA/MLS)  2 – 0  Puerto Rico Islanders (PR/USL-1)

I was not sure what to expect out of this match, but I have to say I always saw Columbus as the better side in this one.  PRI would be missing a few players to injury and suspension, while Columbus had back their Argentinian leader Schelotto and hard nosed front man Moreno.  The match would be played by both sides as expected, with PRI trying to attack through the long ball and Columbus relying on a number of creative passes to create chances.  Columbus looked the better side from the start but could not find the net in the first half, taking the match into halftime at 0-0.

Going into the second half, the Crew coaching staff, seeing that they were the dominant side, would make a change to their lineup by bringing in another big attacker in Steven Lenhart to pair with Moreno up top.  This would work for the Crew, and in the 57th Lenhart would find the net on a cross from central defender Chad Marshall.  This goal would give the side the lead they needed to be able to bring off Schelotto, who is just back from injury, and use their strong defense to close out the match.  I had no doubt about the result of this match after Columbus went up, but they surprised me as Robbie Rogers picked up a deflected cross in the box and slotted it home, taking the Crew up 2-0 and all but guaranteeing their win.

Columbus showed well on their first night, but with their group makeup I would not go writing them into the later rounds just yet.  Their group also contains Costa Rican side Saprissa and Mexican side Cruz Azul, both teams very tough.  So in the end the Crew got the result they needed, as it looks like the rest of the way might be an uphill battle.

Marathon (Honduras)  3 – 1  DC United (USA/MLS)

DC’s run of bad form continues.  This is all I could think as I watched the match against the Hondurans.  If you watched you would think that DC had the better of the possession and that they looked dangerous on multiple occasions, but I do not think you could say that you thought they would win this one.  Having beaten DC handily last season in the CCL, Marathon knew what to expect from a DCU team, even if there were some new faces on the pitch.  The Hondurans for their part, started out slow in this one, making even the announcers think DCU had some sort of advantage.  The match should have only been 2-1 in the end, but a bonehead encroachment move on a penalty by a DCU player brought the saved penalty by Josh Wicks back to be taken again, at which time Mario Berrios finished his second attempt.

The Hondurans looked dangerous on the counter all night, as a slower DCU back line could not keep up when a ball was played long forward to the Marathon front men, and it was at one of these moments that Marathon’s Walter Martinez would find the opening goal; coming in the 23rd minute after a defensive blunder.  DCU would strike back right after the break though with a header that left Luciano Emilio bloodied and highly ineffective for the rest of the evening.  Try as they might DCU could not find another goal in this one, and in the 78th, Honduran International Jerry Palacios found the net for the goal that would put the Honduran side ahead.  Insult to injury would be added from the penalty spot late, but with a busy schedule coming up; DCU will get on with it and return to DC to await the Galaxy of the MLS at the weekend.

DC do not look like they will make it out of the group stages at the moment, but as we have seen many times before, you cannot base the final from the first performance.  The side currently looks to lack the talent to compete at this level, but with the transfer window still open, there could be more bodies on their way in.  Marathon should be dangerous in this group with their combination of speed and attacking, but this match would not be one they would want a repeat performance of.  Had DC been a better side the result could be very different, but Marathon made it work and fought through a performance that was not up to their skill level.  The return leg of this one should make for an interesting match as DCU will now be looking for their first win in 4 against the Hondurans.

So there is the wrap on Tuesday night’s CONCACAF CL action, there are a few more matches this week, but the TV coverage is spotty and only showing the MLS sides I think.  I will update with them as they come in, but I would not expect much in the form of an in depth story, as many of the matches in these early rounds will not be shown.  So until next time, tune in to some MLS, CCL, or any of the other footy that has now started up around the world.

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Filed under Comunicaciones, CONCACAF, CONCACAF CL, FMF, Marathon, Puerto Rico Islanders, Rest of the World, UNAM, Uncategorized, USL

Red Bulls do not disappoint, staying true to form – CONCACAF CL – Leg 2

Another night in the CONCACAF Champions league and another night with an MLS team bowing out, no surprises there.  I recorded both matches and caught them when I got home tonight, only to find that neither game was entirely watchable, and neither match provided enough excitement or decent enough play to keep a viewer entertained.  The Cruz Azul v Herediano match was probably the best of the two matches and the outcome had pretty much been decided last week in Costa Rica when Cruz Azul won 6-2, gaining a win and 6 away goals in the process.  There were only the two matches tonight so here is a quick breakdown of the action that took place.

W Connection v New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls (USA)  1 – 2  W Connection (Trinidad and Tobago)

Watching the worst team in the MLS compete in any match gets tiresome at times, but watching the complete debacle of a team who made it to the MLS Cup the previous season is something else entirely.  NYRB’s came out of the match with W Connection last week with a 2-2 draw and two away goals in the bag, something no one could have ever predicted would have happened, given the form of NY this season.  So coming off the first leg last week it looked as if NY had a good chance to somehow right their ship in the CCL at least this season and move forward with one positive thing.  All the Red Bulls had to do was to not lose the match and not give up 3 goals, should be an easy task when you are playing at home one would think.  Not the case though, as we would find out soon enough. The Red Bulls were without their number one player, Juan Pablo Angel, but in a match where the side just needed a 0-0 draw his absence should not have influenced the result much.  NY would start out quick with a goal in the 18th from the ageless John Wolyniec, taking a 3-2 aggregate lead in scoring.  NY still looked as if they could pull off the win until sometime around the halfway point of the first half when the team just completely forgot how to play.  All of a sudden fans and spectators watched as NY imploded.  Passes were not being completed, defense was now just a word, and scoring chances were nowhere to be seen.  W Connection would take advantage of this as Andre Toussaint would equalize in the 39th, beating Seth Stammler one on one before putting the ball past NY’s keeper Danny Cepero.  W Connection were not through though and still needed a goal to put them into the group stages of the competition.  Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Toussaint would pick off a pass from the back line of NY and put another past Cepero in the 45th, putting W Connection up 2-1 going into the half. Now one would think that something would happen in the locker room at halftime to energize the Red Bulls at home and push them to score another match, giving them a chance at moving on in the tournament, this would not happen tonight though.  The Red Bulls pushed but so did the T&T side.  Neither team would find another goal in the second half nor would the Red Bulls become the second MLS side to advance this week, leaving only DC United to advance while the Red Bulls and Toronto FC were sent home early.  Rumor is that Red Bull’s coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, has a job until the end of the season but with the sack race one I would not put it past NY to find a way to get him out sooner.

CONCACAF CAM ZEBALLOS

Cruz Azul (Mexico)  0 – 0  Herediano (Costa Rica)

Having seen the 6-2 demise of Herediano in their home leg last week, I was almost expecting what I saw tonight.  It looked as if Cruz Azul were fielding a complete second string side in the match to rest their stars with advancement almost imminent.  Herediano would come out swinging though, trying to at least give a good performance against the stronger Mexican side.  The match produced no goals but both keepers saw plenty of action as both sides looked for a breakthrough.  Cruz Azul will advance through this round as expected, and I have to say that although there were no goals scored, the fast paced box to box action made this match much more enjoyable to watch than the first match of the evening.  Look for Cruz Azul to be a tough match in the group stages, and possibly on into the knockout rounds.

Looking forward, there are 3 matches slated for tomorrow night, all three of which have the winning side from leg 1 on the road.  Panamanian side San Francisco will make the trip to T&T to face off with San Juan Jabloteh to start the night, San Francisco lead 2-0 on aggregate and look the side most likely to move through to the group stages in this tie.  Taking place at the same time in Panama, Honduran side Olimpia will be taking their 2-1 advantage on the road to face Arabe Unido, this could possibly be the most interesting match on the night with Olimpia leading on aggregate but Arabe Unido having the away goal from the first leg.  Look out as I think Olimpia will make it through this leg in the end but will be in for a fight to the finish.  Closing out the night Costa Rican side Liberia will take on Honduran side Real Espana to see who gets to move on and who gets to go home.  Liberia look to be the top side in this matchup with their convincing 3-0 win in the first leg and I would not look for much to change, making Liberia the final club to advance to the group stages, closing out the Preliminary Rounds of the CCL.  The action should be interesting tomorrow night and I will be following from a distance as FC Dallas welcome Houston to Frisco for a match that could prove to be even more interesting with FC Dallas’ current form and the rivalry that exists between these two sides.

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Filed under CONCACAF CL, Cruz Azul, FMF, MLS, New York Red Bulls, Rest of the World, Uncategorized

Jozy’s Future – New Move to Hull City?

SOCCER: APR 01 World Cup Qualifier - Trinidad and Tobago at United States

Speaking from his Twitter account, Jozy Altidore has announced that there will be an announcement on his future at a 2:30 press conference tomorrow, adding a wink wink and telling us that the clubs first match is against Chelsea FC.  Information from Tuesday had Altidore linked with Fulham and Hull City of the English Premier League.  Checking the schedule against Jozy’s post would indicate that he has found a home at Hull City, team voted most likely to be relegated this season after barely escaping the drop last season.  Now while another American International in the EPL will boost the position of American soccer on the global front, is it really a good move for the young American?

I think it is.  After being sold to La Liga side Villareal by MLS side New York Red Bulls, Altidore found himself first on the bench then on the way out the door on loan to the Spanish second division side Xerxes.  Altidore did not find much favor in either place spending the majority of his time on the bench in his first season abroad, but strong performances with the US Mens National Team over the past year has garnered interest from other clubs.  The rumors circulating earlier this summer were that Altidore would find himself in Greece with Olympiacos, but when the loan deal fell through it was looking as if Altidore might find himself on the bench for another season.

This season is important for Altidore as he needs as much time on the pitch as possible leading up to next summer’s World Cup in South Africa.  With Fulham and Hull City both interested in the young American it was hard to decide which club I would rather see him at.  With Fulham he would most likely find the bench again behind proven players in the EPL, but at Hull City, a team who struggles to score goals; it looks more likely that he will find plenty of time on the pitch.  This increased pitch time against quality opposition week in and week out should improve Altidore’s already impressive skill set, but if he was looking for a winning side to move to he may be sadly disappointed.  As one fan on Twitter put it, “Jozy you know Hull is a s***hole!”  I could not agree more, but playing time is playing time, and I would rather have the future of US soccer playing against quality instead of less quality sides or sitting the bench for another term.

Whether or not Hull stay up this season is not really the concern here, as I am sure the addition of one goal scorer will not make a big enough difference to avoid Hull’s fated drop back to the Championship.  The main thing is that Jozy gets time on the pitch.  He should have no trouble working into the lineup at Hull City, with his skill set and athletic ability.  I am afraid he will burn out as many other Americans have when going to the EPL though.  This fear is not to worry about though as he is reportedly set to sign only a one year loan deal, no details on whether or not there is an option to buy at the end, and if he does not cut it in the EPL he will just find himself back with Villareal at the end of the deal.  Should Jozy impress though he could see himself do one of three things.  Either sign with Hull full time, if there is a buy option attached to the loan.  Earn himself another shot with Villareal, though they have a strong attack currently already which is why Altidore is being loaned in the first place.  He could also have a good enough season to earn himself interest from other clubs that Villareal could sell him to, making some cash on their initial investment but losing a talented young player in the process.

So heading to the World Cup next summer the outlook is good.  Most of our first team squad is playing their trade in Europe, and we have players in Europe who are actually seeing time on the pitch.  While this does not mean more Americans will follow, it does open the door for clubs abroad to look in at the merchandise.  I was not initially happy about the decision to ship Jozy to Hull City, but in delaying this article to think on the topic some, I have come to a conclusion.  This is the best thing US soccer and Jozy could have hoped for leading up to the new season!  He goes to a side where he will see playing time ahead of the World Cup, have quality opponents, and be plying his trade in a country where he can further his skills in the game.

Looking forward to the press conference tomorrow, I will now be happy to see Jozy become a Tiger.  I wish him good luck this season and will be watching him progress against some of the best players in the world.  The US is invading Europe, and little by little they will recognize us and the quality of players we are producing.  So, good luck Jozy, I will be watching and hoping you get what you wanted out of this move.

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Filed under EPL, Hull City, La Liga, MLS, New York Red Bulls, Rest of the World, Uncategorized, USMNT, World Cup

Disappointment, Redemption, Expectation – Leg 2 of CCL

Well last night started out the second leg of the Preliminary Round of the CONCACAF Champions League, becoming one of triumph and defeat. I was only able to catch two of the matches, since the 3rd was played at the same time as the second with no repeat airings, so here is what I saw and I will insert the score of the 3rd match at the end for those following the results with me.

Dwayne De Rosario

Puerto Rico Islanders 0 – 0 Toronto FC

**PRI advance on 1-0 aggregate scoring

Now I could go on telling you how the USL is an American league as well and that PR is part of the U.S. or even that TFC is Canadian, but I won’t. TFC played poorly is what it all boils down to. In both matches TFC had opportunities that they squandered and PRI made the most of one chance and played defense, not perfectly but enough to get through. Toronto failed to produce a single goal in this two legged tie and should feel bad about it given the chances they failed to capitalize on. In the second leg TFC pushed for the entire 90 minutes, though looking dangerous at many points, never managed to put it together in the final third to score. This is the third match I have seen Ali Gerba play for TFC and the most dangerous thing I have seen from him was a deflection against New England in league play that led to a Dwayne De Rosario goal. The finishing was poor, the passing in the final third was poor, and the overall play by TFC was lacking. While TFC was happy to make their first appearance in CCL play, they were disappointing to watch and deserved the early exit they have now received.

MLS: MAY 30 United at Revolution

Luis Angel Firpo 1 – 1 DC United

**DC United advance through PK win after extra time.

I could say Firpo was surprising, but it was more along the lines of DC played poorly again in the CCL. They will advance, but unless something changes in the group stages they will be disappointed in the CCL again this season. Firpo came into the match tied 1-1 on aggregate, but having scored the away goal they held the advantage. DC had no excuses on this night in El Salvador as they fielded a strong squad to start the match, minus rookie sensation Chris Pontius and the new guy Danny Szetela. Both men would see action on the night though. Firpo would earn a PK in the 39th when a ball would strike a DC’s Marc Burch on his outstretched hand from a free kick, and on the ensuing pk Leandro would put Firpo up 1-0, increasing Firpo’s advantage. DC had held much of the match up to this point and would change nothing as three minutes later in the 42nd Christian Gomez would equalize for the MLS side. The rest of the match was played with DC in control for most of the time and Firpo not looking exactly dangerous on the counter, but nothing would come of DC’s pressure and the match would see extra time. Extra time would pass with neither side finding the breakthrough, though DC’s Da Silva would earn a red card in the 118th minute of play, leaving DC to finish out the last few minutes with 10 in order to take it to penalties. This was not a storybook ending for DC, but they took the PK Shootout 5-4 and will now advance for the first time in a few years, also becoming on of the few MLS sides who have managed to qualify while playing in Central America. The result was good for DC, but unless their play picks up before the group stages, it looks as though they could find themselves right back at home before the knockout stages begin.

APER SOC CALERO

Deportivo Jalapa 1 – 7 Pachuca

**Pachuca advance 10-1 on aggregate

In a match that looked promising to be exciting, the final score line does not disappoint. Jalapa scored on a penalty and Pachuca, who there was in no danger going into this match, missed one penalty. There was one hat trick in the match and 5 different goal scorers for Pachuca. They side looks strong going into group play and will not disappoint those who enjoy watching good football be played.

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Filed under CONCACAF CL, DC United, FMF, MLS, Pachuca, Puerto Rico Islanders, Rest of the World, Toronto FC, Uncategorized, USL

Night 3 – CONCACAF Champions League Prelim Qualifying – Leg 1

Danny Cepero

So tonight I was expecting to be seriously disappointed as the New York Red Bulls faced off with Trinidad and Tobago side W Connection in the first leg of Prelim qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League.  The Red Bulls would not disappoint either, as they currently sit at the bottom of the MLS it was to be no shock that they would struggle in their match with W Connection.  The officiating was questionable as usual for CONCACAF, and the away fields were in horrible shape.  This should not faze the Red Bulls though as they play on one of the worst pitches in the MLS at Giants Stadium and their quality of play this season has left fans questioning how this team who made the MLS Cup last season can be so poor this season.

I watched two games on the night as NYRB was aired on FSC and Cruz Azul’s match was aired on Galavision right afterward.  The first match would not be as disappointing as expected, though the match would leave much to be desired going into the second leg next Wednesday.  The second match had excitement from the start, and I am starting to wonder if it is the quality of the teams outside the MLS or if it is just the Spanish announcer’s excitement about the game.  Either way the second match of the evening was more entertaining to witness than the first.  There was one other match on the evening, but it did not get any airtime, so I will add the stats in for those who have been following this series on the CONCACAF Champions League.

W Connection (T & T/ TT Pro League)  2-2  New York Red Bulls (USA/ MLS)

I had a hard time getting excited to watch the Red Bulls’ tonight, after seeing the train wreck that they produced on the weekend when losing to Colorado 4-0.  Tonight almost started out the same way as W Connection front man, Jonathan Faria found himself in on goal in the first minute, only to be called back due to an offside call.  From here the match progressed slowly and neither team looked especially dangerous.  Whether it was from the plane ride or just lack of passion due to the current season’s results, NYRB looked slow and played slow making both sides seem as if the match was part of a Sunday Pub League.  Only in the 40th minute did the match heat up, when W Connection sent a ball in from a corner that Juan Pablo Angel tried to clear, only to see it go off the post and fall to Faria, who finished the shot with power from point blank range.  Thinking this spelled disaster for the Red Bulls, I was curious as to what the second half would bring.  Would it be another train wreck, or would the Red Bulls finally reach down inside themselves and show the world that they do still know how to play?

The second half would see the Red Bulls come out strong, not that their pace was up any yet.  In the 48th Dane Richards would find himself on the wing with the ball and a man across the box, a nice ball found the foot of the new Austrian forward Ernst Oebster, who would put a good shot in on goal.  This shot should have found the keepers arms, as he was in perfect position, but a deflection from his defender put the ball over him and into the back of W Connection’s net.  Now this was amazing as the Red Bulls have been dying lately in all matches, but almost 10 minutes later, in the 59th, Alfredo Pacheco would put another shot on goal only to see it take a deflection off of another W Connection defender and past the keeper.  I think I say it all when I say that I was shocked by this.  New York up 2-1, and they are playing soccer?  Never thought they had a chance in this one.  Everything was looking good for the Red Bulls as Faria came up with an injury and had to leave the pitch for W Connection, all but taking out the only promising offense W Connection had shown in the match.  Somehow though, the Red Bulls screwed it up when midfielder Hughtun Hector got a ball at the top of the 18 and put it past Red Bulls’ keeper Danny Cepero and into the upper 90, equalizing for the T & T side.  The match would finish with this 2-2 result and we see yet another MLS team fails to capitalize against a smaller side.

All was not lost though in watching this match.  Though the only real strong point for the Red Bulls was Dane Richards, they do take the 2 away goals back with them to New York for the return leg next Wednesday.  Faria from W Connection though, looked good.  He was creative and quick, and although he looked a little raw, I am sure some MLS coach’s radars went up if they had not been already.  I look to see this kid make his way north sometime soon, even if it is just for a trial, the kid has talent and deserves a shot.  Richards for the Red Bulls though gets my man of the match in this one as he was the catalyst that brought the Red Bulls back in this one, the only player who seemed to make it out of first gear for the MLS side, looked dangerous and created the chances that brought the Red Bulls back into the match.

CONCACAF CAM VILLA

Herediano (Costa Rica/ Primera)  2-6  Cruz Azul (Mexico/ Primera)

Now this match is where the night got interesting.  I had never heard of Herediano, but I had heard of Cruz Azul and had high expectations of them going into this match.  The action in this match would be fast, technical, and challenges would fly in from everywhere before the match was over with.  Now I am not sure if it is just the region or what, but I have not seen a pitch worthy of this tournament yet, but this was the first match in which the officiating seemed to be above mediocre.  Being broadcast on Galavision, I would have to use my minimal knowledge of Spanish and my wife as reference to comprehend some of the announcing.  But the match kicked off and we were underway.

So the action in the match started quick, when Cruz Azul took a ball out of the midfield and made a pass to the left wing, before sending a beautiful cross into the box.  The cross managed to not go too high, but just high enough to clear the keeper and find the foot of Alejandro Vela, who had little more to do than tap the ball into the net, as he was unmarked at the far post.  The rest of the half would see action back and forth, but the majority of the play still belonged to Cruz Azul.  Neither side would be able to find another goal though before the half, leaving Cruz Azul up 1-0 going in for the break.

The second half would start out with a bang as Cruz Azul still held much of the possession and was looking to add to their lead.  In the 48th though, Herediano’s Eduardo Gomez would come in with a dangerous slide tackle that would earn him his walking papers with a straight red from the match official.  Adding insult to injury, a minute later Vela would find Javier Orozco, who took the ball with one touch and put it past Herediano’s keeper, increasing the lead to 2-0.  Not 10 minutes later Orozco would score again as a ball sent into the box was centered for an oncoming Orozco, who finished the shot with ease.  During the television replay, Herediano played a long ball over the top that found front man, Andy Herron behind the defense with an easy shot on goal, drawing one goal closer to Cruz Azul.

Play for the next 10 minutes would be back and forth as Cruz Azul tried to regain the advantage in the match, and in the 70th they would find that opportunity after earning a corner kick.  The corner would be sent high into the box before the big Cruz Azul front man, Emanuel Villa, rose to head the ball home past the keeper before being substituted, ending his night on a high.  Cruz Azul would not wait long before they added to their advantage when a ball crossed into the box was then headed back across, finding the head of a late arriving Orozco, to cap off his hat trick on the night.  As before, Herediano would strike back quick as a defensive blunder found the ball bouncing free to Jose Guity, who tapped the ball home into the empty net while Cruz Azul’s keeper was tied up with his defender.  After the goal in the 77th, one would think that Cruz Azul would slow down the game and finish it out by possessing the ball against the handicapped side of Herediano.  Not so, as Herediano pressed for goals they left themselves vulnerable in the back, and when Cruz Azul recovered the ball it was sent over the top and right into the stride of substitute Pablo Zeballos, who found himself in on the keeper for an easy goal in the 89th.  Moments later the final whistle would sound, as the referee did not even allow for any extra time or embarrassment on the part of Herediano.

This was an exciting match in which both sides looked strong at times.  Herediano was definitely the weaker of the sides, but if not for their bad luck in facing Cruz Azul to qualify, they looked a side with enough quality to make it through.  Javier Orozco gets my man of the match in this game as he finished his hat trick and was instrumental in the build up to some of the other goals.  I would not be surprised to see some of Cruz Azul’g big names out of the lineup for the return leg in this tie, as they lead 6-2 with 6 away goals in the bag.  I would watch out for this team if I were in the group stage with them though, they look tough and do not slow down once they get going.

The 3rd match of the evening was not televised so here are the numbers.

Olimpia (Honduras/Liga Nacional)  2-1  Arabe Unido (Panama/Liga Panamena de Futbol)

Olimpia: Jocimar Nascimento (48 pen.), Everaldo Ferreira (56)

Arabe Unido: Publio Rodriguez (18)

This looks to have been a close match, but I guess I will not know as it was not televised.

Tonight was a great night of soccer in the region.  While New York did not win, they do bring 2 away goals back home with them for the second leg, giving them the best MLS performance of the first legs.  Cruz Azul on the other hand made sure that they would have nothing to worry about in their home leg by taking a 4 goal lead on aggregate, with 6 in the away goal category.  All in all it was a great evening to watch soccer, so until next week we will just have the MLS to keep us busy.  So let’s enjoy the weekend slate of matches and meet back here next week for the second legs.

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Filed under MLS, Rest of the World, Uncategorized

And Yet Another Failure for the MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League

Neil Nigel Henry,Dewayne DeRosario

So after last nights matches I was looking forward to the next batch of CONCACAF Champions League matches.  I would be sadly disappointed by an MLS side again though as I watched the one match of 3 today that was televised.  Toronto FC came back to win their qualifying match by 5 goals when 4 would have put them through in Canadian qualifications.  This result and those from their recent form in the MLS made their chances look good for the Prelim rounds of the tournament, but what looks good does not always pan out as we have come to find out.

Toronto FC (Canada/MLS)  0-1  Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico/USL-1)

The match would start out slow for Toronto FC, giving the Islanders many chances, none of which became too dangerous though.  As the first half of play went on though, TFC gained control of the possession battle and started to look somewhat threatening.  No matter how much possession TFC managed though their play in the final third lacked authority, that and the fact that the Islanders would drop 10 men behind the ball.  The draw would stick, taking both sides in at a 0-0 draw.

The coaches had some work to do at halftime and Toronto came out looking dangerous.  Nothing TFC did though could find the back of the net.  Play went back and forth between the sides for much of the second half after the strong start from TFC, but no one could seem to find the breakthrough.  In the 67th minute though TFC would have a defensive blunder that saw many defenders in the box and the keeper out of his goal, this mishap would become worse as the ball found it’s way to the Islanders front man Kendall Jagdeosingh, who would not have to use his speed after all to score the goal that opened the scoring and put the Islanders up 1-0.  TFC would fight the rest of the match trying to find the equalizer, but an equalizer would not come for TFC on this night.  In their first CONCACAF Champions League appearance TFC thought they had the best shot of any to make it through the Prelim rounds, with the Islanders being on an extended road trip and having played a match only a few days before against Vancouver that took 4 hours to finish.  This match would not be joyful for the hopeful TFC side though, leaving them with a job to do next week when they travel to Puerto Rico for the second leg, needing 2 goals to win the match outright and 1 to take the match to extra time.  TFC has proven that they can overcome the odds in times before, but this Islanders side is no slouch, having made the Quarterfinals of the Champions League only last season.  So while TFC looks forward to next week, the Islanders will continue their road trip and look forward to the second leg, going in with the advantage now.

A side note on this match is the fact that the referee did not give a single yellow card until the dying minutes of the match when defender Scott Jones for the Islanders was finally cautioned.  Now I as most fans enjoy watching a match where the referee does not interfere too much, but this match needed a few cautions for reckless challenges and Islander’s keeper Bill Gaudette wasted enough time throughout the match to merit playing 8+ minutes of extra time per half.  Gaudette even went as far as to have the kit man bring him a new set of gloves in an attempt to waste time.  So like I said, I do not want the referee involved constantly, but I would expect something when the blatant act of time wasting has occurred in excess of what any fan, spectator, viewer, or commentator deem appropriate.  This made the match hard to watch at times, making some wonder why we should bother watching an Islanders match in the first place, and I am not a fan of either side.

As I mentioned before I did not get a chance to watch the other two matches tonight because I could not find them broadcast on English or Spanish television, so for those of you who plan on following this with me through my blog here are the scores and goal scorers from the other two matches on the evening.

San Francisco (Panama/ Liga Panamena de Futbol)  2-0  San Juan Jabloteh (T & T/TT Pro League)

Goals: Carlos Mario Vilarete Diaz (5 pen.), Temistocles Perez (83)

Municipal Liberia (Costa Rica/Primera)  3-0  Real Espana (Honduras/ Liga Nacional)

Goals: Michael Imana (31 pen.), Alejandro Alpizar Delgado (75, 90)

After seeing the box scores on these matches I am sorely disappointed that I missed them.  The football from south of the border has been amazing to watch and I can only hope that this tournament keeps getting televised coverage, whether in English or Spanish.  For now I will be looking forward to tomorrow nights matchup for the last of the 3 MLS sides competing in the Prelim rounds, New York Red Bulls, who I do not think have a chance to make it through this two legged tie at all.  After coming up short in the MLS Cup last season New York have become the laughing stock of the league, and after tomorrow evening the train wreck known as the New York Red Bulls will, in my opinion, become the laughing stock of the CONCACAF Champions League as well.

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A Look Ahead – Manchester United and Chelsea in 2009/2010

Manchester United vs FC Barcelona Manchester United

Coming into the new season pundits and fans alike are speculative about United’s chances of capturing yet another League Championship.  I choose to believe in Sir Alex Ferguson’s coaching and decision making ahead of the new season.  There have been a few high profile departures from Old Trafford in the offseason and a few promising prospects who now don United colors going into the new season.

Key Losses: Cristiano Ronaldo (to Real Madrid), Carlos Tevez (to Manchester City)

Key Additions: Gabriel Obertan (from Bordeaux), Michael Owen (from Newcastle United), Antonio Valencia (from Wigan Athletic)

For the entirety of the summer I have heard every reason why United cannot compete for the title again this year.  To that I tell you to sit back and watch.  Ronaldo while a good player was a distraction at many points in time and not always a healthy one, and Carlos Tevez did not want to sit the bench anymore.  So Ronaldo fills his supposed lifetime dream of playing for Madrid and Tevez joins another side filled with World Class strikers fighting for time on the pitch.  Good luck to our two former players, and while we will miss you, we will move on.

Our additions have been criticized heavily as well.  They say, “Valencia to replace Ronaldo?”  No, Valencia will not be replacing Ronaldo, but filling a vacancy we had on the wing.  Valencia is a strong young performer who will only blossom more with time and with the attacking options presented at United he cannot do anything but succeed.  Gabriel Obertan, who has come to us from Bordeaux is a young French International with a promising future.  While it is not clear how much of an impact Obertan will have in the first team this season, one thing is for sure, he is a big target man with a promising future.  And our most highly criticized move of the offseason, Michael Owen, who is prone to injury and is aging as well.  Look, Owen is a gamble, but a smart one in my opinion.  He can still score and will have less pressure on him at United than he ever faced at Newcastle.  He has something to prove to his critics this season, and I think in a limited role this season we will see him regain his form and net many times for us.

We also return with a strong defense and a strong presence up top with Rooney and Berbatov.  Mix in the experienced veterans and the youth of the squad and I think this side will prove many wrong.  Finding their own way without Ronaldo would be tough for many, but Sir Alex Ferguson has done it before and I will not be surprised when he does it again.

Chelsea FC v Inter Milan

Chelsea

Following another season that saw Chelsea finish behind Manchester United in the EPL standings the biggest problem facing the Blues was who would be coaching the side next season.  That question has since been answered by bringing in former AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti to Stamford Bridge.  How will Ancelotti do in England?  From his preseason start with the Blues it looks promising, but do not hold your breath as a few seasons back Avram Grant, who was constantly criticized, managed to take the side to the Champions League final, before falling to Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United on penalties.

While not losing any integral parts of the wheel at Chelsea, a few new faces have shown up and a few old faces have reappeared.

New Signings:  Carlo Ancelotti, Coach (AC Milan), Daniel Sturridge (Manchester City), Ross Turnbull (Middlesbrough), Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow)

While you look at these signings, you also have to realize a few names have come back, though it is not clear whether they will be here by the time the season starts, they are as follows.

Adriy Shevchenko, Claudio Pizzaro, and Sam Hutchinson

My thinking is that with the play Chelsea have shown during the preseason, there is not much reason to change what is not broken.  I do not see Sheva and Pizzaro getting into the lineup while Drogba and Anelka keep scoring, and I would not be surprised to see a few others go out on loan before the season starts.

Chelsea will be a strong side this season, and with the coaching Ancelotti is bringing to the club, I do not think they will drop off much.  They will challenge for the League Title this season and the Champions League again, but do not be surprised to see them fall a little short again.  While money has bought Owner Roman Abromovich a strong side, they have yet to dominate year in and year out since Jose Mourinho left the club.

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