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Gavin picks the MLS – Week 23 picks

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So after a dismal few weeks of picking matches in the MLS, I have decided to turn matters over to my son Gavin from here on out.  Gavin is 2 years old, going on 3 in September, and I am working on getting him started into the game early as I had him watch the opening match of the EPL season with me Saturday morning; since he was awake already.  So from here on out I relinquish control of the MLS picks to him, and he seemed to enjoy making them so it should be quite interesting, until he forms a real opinion or picks his own club.  So without further ado, here are Gavin’s picks for MLS’ Week 23.

Last Week:  1 – 5

MLS Overall:  8 – 17

**team in bold is chosen winner, no bold denotes a draw

Los Angeles  v  Chicago

New England  v  Seattle

Los Angeles  v  DC United

Kansas City v  San Jose

Toronto v  Chivas USA

FC Dallas v  New York

Colorado v  Chicago

Real Salt Lake  v  New England

Seattle  v  Houston

Now here is my take on the matches, minus any REAL predictions.

Chicago should show strong as usual and LA are hurting at the moment, but I would not be surprised if LA come out to play in this one as Donovan will be a bit more recovered from his H1N1 virus, and they were managing before Beckham joined the team so his absence should not hurt them much.

Seattle got a result in what I can only guess was a horribly called match last weekend, but New England is struggling this season, and Seattle is a tough place to play this term.  This could be an interesting match to watch, if one of the sides can get a goal early.

LA will go from a mid-week matchup in Chicago to DC, who will have played a CCL match on Tuesday in Honduras.  This match in DC could go either way with both teams playing two matches in a short week.  LA could bounce back in this one after dropping two, but DC has the deeper side and should give the Galaxy trouble in DC.

Two of the worst possible teams face each other this week in San Jose.  Kansas City will come to town and will be looking to get on track, after going through a recent coaching change.  San Jose could pose a problem to Kansas City though, as they have gotten some results of late, and do not look to be giving up on their season quite yet.  This is probably one of the more useless matches to view of the week, the other taking place in New York.

After getting back on track against DC last weekend, Toronto will travel to the Home Depot Center to take on Chivas USA, who also managed to gain back some confidence in New York on the weekend.  This should be an entertaining match, and very physical with the two sides involved.  Do not be surprised to see more than a couple of bookings in this one, and maybe a player or two sent off by the end, as they both play a pretty physical game.

Dallas will travel this week to New York to face what has to be the worst team in the MLS at the moment.  This match is almost pointless, except I am a Dallas fan and hope to see them do well.  Dallas still has an outside chance at the playoffs, but New York really has nothing to look forward to for the rest of the season, and should be playing spoiler for the rest of their term.

The only other match I am really looking forward to is taking place in Chicago at the weekend, as Colorado come to town.  Colorado has looked good of late and Chicago will be playing their second match inside of a week with a weakened squad.  I am very interested to see if Colorado can take their show on the road in this one and find a result, but I am afraid I am going to be sadly disappointed by Chicago shutting up shop and defending like made.  Here is hoping that Colorado gets a goal early so Chicago cannot get all their men behind the ball for 90 minutes.

New England will welcome Salt Lake into Foxboro this weekend after returning from a late week match against Seattle, in Seattle.  With a weakened squad, I find it hard to believe New England can compete strongly twice in one week, but I would hope so since Salt Lake is not one of the stronger sides in the league.  This match will most likely be a bore to watch, but there are some entertaining players, and if they can produce some fireworks it could be interesting to see.

After a disappointing result in Seattle a few weeks back, the match that earned Brian Ching his $500 fine for his comment on Twitter, Houston will welcome the Sounders to Houston.  The Houston side will be on a short week as they open up CCL group play in the mid-week, but barring any serious injuries, Houston should be up for this match as they are used to this busy schedule.  Seattle will also be on a short week after playing New England at home in the mid-week, but if they can find the net this could be a match to watch.  The MLS new boys have had their ups and downs this season, but at the moment they still find themselves in position to make the playoffs, a feat not normally associated with a first year expansion side.  This should be a match to watch this weekend though.  I know I will be tuning in.

So there it is.  Week 23 picked by my son so I no longer have to embarrass myself trying to pick a league based on parity, to be sadly disappointed as the results roll in.  This should be a good weekend, as the MLS is packed with matches, the CCL and UEFA CL have action, and the EPL will start in the mid-week.  Another busy week in the world of footy.

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Filed under Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, CONCACAF CL, DC United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC, Uncategorized

Recap of MLS Week 22 – Pushing towards the playoffs

Fan

So as this was the opening weekend of the EPL, I did not watch any MLS matches this weekend.  It was a busy weekend as it sat and I could not find time to get through all of the matches.  I have watched some, but I am going to stick to a brief recap on the weekend’s action.  As for the normal predictions review included with this post, I am planning a new predictions review post that will cover both the MLS weekend picks and the EPL picks into one.  Also, starting with MLS Week 23 fixtures, there will be a change to how the games are picked so lookout for that.  Enough babbling by me though, so let’s get on to the action.

Toronto FC  2 – 0  DC United

With Toronto’s recent struggles I had not expected this result, but TFC righted their ship this week and got back on track with an important win against Conference rivals DC United.  Dwayne De Rosario would put TFC up in the 30th to take TFC in at the half up 1-0.  TFC was not finished yet though, as O’Brian White netted for TFC in the 66th to put TFC up 2-0 and secure the home win.  DC will be in action this week in the CONCACAF CL so look for them, TFC bowed out of the CCL in the preliminary rounds, so now I am looking for them to get back on track in the league.

New York Red Bulls  0 – 2  Chivas USA

Chivas pulled it off in the Big Apple!  Having not scored a goal and seeing their strong start to the season resemble Hull City’s EPL start last season, Chivas have gotten themselves back on track.  What better a side to do it against than the NYRB, a side who has the leagues worst record and do not look to improve on it any time in the near future.  Chivas would end their scoring drought early on in the match through Maykel Galindo in the 14th and in the 90th with Eduardo Lillingston.  These goals were crucial to Chivas USA, who have been through a very rough patch of late and needed an easy match to gain back some confidence.  There will be hope for Chivas yet this season as they start their ascent back up the table while New York Red Bulls continue to anchor themselves to the bottom.

Columbus  2 – 0  FC Dallas

I do not know what to say about this match.  As a Dallas supporter I feel I should rail against the ref who made a poor call that led to Columbus’ first goal, but as someone who writes about the sport and who knows the team in question, I think no matter what the ref did or did not call Dallas needed to score and didn’t.  Columbus got their first goal on a header from Marshall in the 10th through a corner earned by a poor call.  Dallas pressured Columbus throughout the match though, looking dangerous at times but lacking the finishing touch.  Columbus would shut the door on Dallas though in the 87th when substitute Eddie Gaven came on and weaved his way through the Dallas defense before beating Dario Sala, to give the Crew a 2-0 victory.  Columbus continues to get the results although I do think their play is less than stellar of late, and Dallas needs to keep on going and score some more goals.  The playoffs are a far off option for Dallas still, but results like this one are not going to help them get any closer to those coveted playoff spots come the end of the season.

Real Salt Lake  0 – 0  Houston Dynamo

I thought for sure Houston would take this match, but that would not be the case on this night as both teams failed to find the back of the net.  The only real stat of interest in this one for me was the fact that both sides finished with 10 men as Houston’s Andrew Hainault managed two yellows in the first half, to be sent off in the 36th, and RSL’s Clint Mathis followed suit by picking up his second yellow in the 45th.  This tells me one of two things about this match.  Either the match was poorly called, which is the most likely case in MLS, or the players did not heed the refs early cards as warning enough.  Either way, there is no reason to have sent off two players in the first half.  I might have to go back and watch this one later to see what really happened.

Los Angeles  0 – 2  Seattle Sounders FC

Looks like the Sounders have bounced back when you look at the score line, but I doubt that was the whole story in this one, as two players were sent off for the Galaxy in the match and one for Seattle, and Landon Donovan did not enter the match for the Galaxy until the second half while recovering from his bout with the H1N1 virus.  Now after looking at the stats in this match I am definitely planning to go back and look at the tape to see what happened, but David Beckham was the first sent off in the 17th minute, with Seattle’s Tyrone Marshall following in the 76th and Galaxy’s Eddie Lewis departing in the 79th.  Only Marshall’s was for two yellows, as both Galaxy players were issued straight reds by the official.  Missing a healthy Donovan did not help the Galaxy and going down to 9 men in the end did them no favors either.  Seattle did manage to find the finishing touch again in this one though as Steve Zakuani netted in the 22nd and Fredy Montero found the net in the 54th.  Since I did not watch the match I will not pass judgment on Seattle, but I do not think the new side is out of the woods yet, as winning against a weakened side does not convince anyone that you have gotten back in your stride.  Next weekend’s result will probably be the result that fans should concern themselves with concerning Seattle, and LA should be alright as this could just be a little bump on the final stretch of the season.

Kansas City  0 – 2  Chicago

Mike Banner scored his first goal for Chicago!  That was the headline I saw referring to this match.  Kansas City is in dire straits at the moment, following the sacking of their coach and their lack of results of late, but I was surprised to see Chicago win this one by 2.  No McBride and no Blanco did not look good for Chicago coming into this one, but I am guessing through sheer grit, the Fire pulled it out.  Rolfe provided the goal that Chicago would need in the 13th and Banner did net for his first time in a Fire uniform in the 89th.  I am guessing Chicago’s defense was great as usual in this one.  The only other thing that happened of note was the sending off of Kansas City’s Zoltan Hercegfalvi in the 86th.  It had no real effect on the match for sure, but Kansas City is not looking like they will improve anytime soon.

So there you have it.  MLS Week 22 is now in the books and a few teams will now be looking forward to their group stages in the CONCACAF Champions League.  This will be a busy week for a few sides and many writers, but look for my predictions with a new twist to be up in the next day or so for Week 23.  I now have a few matches to catch up on to better understand what the outcome was, but that is nothing new in MLS, as there are always strange occurrences.  My prediction wrap up should be posted before long, but as the UEFA CL is starting up along with mid-week matches in the EPL, it will be another busy week in the world of soccer.

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Filed under Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Columbus Crew, CONCACAF CL, DC United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

MLS Week 22 – Predictions/Looking ahead in a busy week

Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian Ching

So with the anticipation building for Wednesday and the match at the Azteca, I decided to go ahead and get this coming weeks MLS predictions out of the way.  I am looking forward to an improvement in my prediction form but not expecting much as MLS just has a way about shutting you down when you think you know what is coming.  So to avoid being late due to mid-week madness here are the picks for this week, including my choice for winner in the Mexico v US match.

Overall Record: 8 – 14

MLS Record: 7 – 12

Last Week: 3 – 3

**Winners in bold and draws neither in bold

DC United v  TFC

Chivas USA  v  NYRB

FC Dallas  v  Columbus

Houston v  RSL

Seattle  v  Los Angeles

Chicago  v  Kansas City

It will be interesting to see how things turn out this week as both DC and TFC try to get back on track in MLS this week.  Chivas taking on NYRB can either be a match that puts some confidence back in Chivas or turns out to is a very dull game for all involved, maybe ending 0-0 or seeing NYRB pulling out the win over Chivas.  Although Dallas has had a good run of form of late, look for Columbus to take all three points in this matchup with their dominant play and strong defense.  Houston will have a few of their stars back from a mid-week clash with Mexico, but look for them to continue their good run of form and take all three from RSL.  Seattle has not looked good of late and I do not see that improving anytime soon.  Look for LA to take the match with Seattle and continue chasing frontrunners in the West, Houston.  Kansas City is short a few coaches now but I look for them to put on a strong performance and gain a point with a draw against a weakened Fire team.

The weekend’s action should be interesting if nothing else, although many will not find the time to watch with the Premier League kicking off this weekend.  Look out for my EPL week one predictions sometime soon as the season is mere days away.  I am hoping the predictions will turn around here, but if not there is always the EPL, which at times picks itself.  So here is looking forward to the EPL season as I know the rest of you are as well.

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Filed under Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Columbus Crew, DC United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC, Uncategorized

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