Archive for October, 2010

For FC Dallas, The Magic Number Is Two

The playoffs system failed by having 2 teams of their caliber facing off in the first round.  However, fans are lucky enough to be treated to 2 games between two of the best teams in the league.

Playmaker...and MVP? Double the title...

The game was always going to be decided in the center.  The match hinged on which team could contain their opponent’s playmaker best.  Javier Morales was lined up in front of Kyle Beckerman, while David Ferreira was lined up in front of 2CM’s: Daniel Hernandez and Dax McCarty.  However, when the game began, both teams were playing a high line with the wind blowing north.  Real Salt Lake’s long passes were getting held up in the wind.  Still, Espindola fought to get onto a long pass and punished the defense, curling a shot past Rimando.  RSL was ferociously marking Ferreira for the first part of the match.  Beckerman was in his pocket.  When he got away from Beckerman then RSL’s defenders were giving him a rough time as well.  Dallas was not marking Morales near as tight.  He roamed free much of the time.

Ferreira fought his way into plays.  He even dropped all the way to the back line once or twice just to get on the ball.  When he did get into space he made things happen.  He began to put in dangerous balls and get on the end of crosses.  Midway through the first half Dallas began to keep the ball more and put pressure on Real Salt Lake’s defense.  A lot of the pressure came from Ferreira.  In the 44th minute he was able to get on the ball and send a pass into the box that bounced around before Cunningham equalized.

Dallas’s playmaker was making plays.  Real Salt Lake’s playmaker was having a hard time getting into the game.

Dallas had a hard time finding Ferreira in the 2nd half.  That is when Morales got more involved . . . with a yellow card.  That play gained more importance when Morales went in with a high boot for a loose ball catching Dax McCarty in the mouth giving Morales the second of his 2 yellow cards.

Six minutes later, referee Kevin Scott the 2nd red card to Atiba Harris for an incident that many thought warranted a yellow card at most.

“I just saw him win the header, 100%” Hernandez said of the play.  “I think has been a problem, always, is he gives a red card to compensate and look for a reason to give us a red card.”

See you in Salt Lake...

As the field opened up Dallas had the strength in the center.  It was now Hernandez, McCarty, and Ferreira against Beckerman.  Ferreira was now able to find the game again.  Hyndman went for the win inserting Avila.

Just a minute later Ferreira made a great run into the center and was fouled, but Scott gave the advantage.  Avila picked up the ball, lined up a shot, and gave FC Dallas the win sending the supporters into a frenzy.  Dallas gets criticized for attendance, but they should not get criticized for lack of atmosphere.

Was it a good omen that native Texan Clint Dempsey began the day with 2 goals?

The match was decided by strength in the center.  2 playmakers began the game on the field: David Ferreira and Javier Morales.  2 playmakers finished the game on the field: David Ferreira and Eric Avila.

Halloween Rewind: MLS Playoffs, Edu & Deuce..

Doing a little work here on a TSG Brazil 2014 exposé, so we’ll saturate you with some Halloween highlight videos leading off with Mr. Maurice “Fernando-Torres-For-A-Day” Edu:

» Bang:


» 9 times….9 times the US Women went Wayne Rooney on Guatemala Saturday. We are digging covering the US Women’s team here at TSG. Clinical…and then some….and then some….and…you get the picture:


» David Edwards gathers and bundles home….and the Wolverhampton Wolves feast on Tevez-less Manchester City. Funny that Mancini is doing no better than Mark Hughes was doing at this point last season…


» Joel Lindpere may have been playing with a nick, but that didn’t stop him from guiding in a rebound for the only score at the Buck last night. The Red Bulls who quite handily dealt with the frenetic pace of the home side head home sitting pretty for the second leg. More from Jason Price shortly….


»Bizarre at Old Trafford yesterday as United go up two through Nani after a misunderstanding on a free kick versus offsides call. Even Kei Kamara wouldn’t have missed this one…


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Your weekend comments here

Already scored a brace!

Sorry for being a little slow and incredibly brief..

Many a good game going on in every league ranging from the EPL to MLS.

Deuce already has a brace against Wigan…hatrick hero?

Big game though starts in 90 minutes when we’ll find out which one of United or Spurs is the real deal! On the other side of Manchester, City are currently down a goal to Wolves and Blackburn are holding Chelsea to a 1-1 draw!

Meanwhile in La Liga, Hercules takes on Real Madrid. The irony of this match up is not lost on us, but this is certainly a potential banana skin for the Madrid giants. The recently promoted club has already beaten Barcelona and Sevilla and tied Villarreal.

UPDATE: Herucles Hercules Hercules! are up 1-0 thanks to Juventus old boy Trezequet

The Bundesliga is already a goal fest with 4 of the 6 games producing 3 goals or more. Still incredibly refreshing to see the usual suspects no where near where they usually are.

Sunday in the MLS, the Galaxy visit Quest field to take on the Sounders. Which attacking force will break through? Freddy Montero and Blaise Nkufo lead the line for Seattle and they have been unstoppable lately, but the Galaxy’s defense has been superb all year. This is turning to a bit of a grudge match and Seattle are keen to paint themselves as loveable underdogs against the star studded Galaxy. We shall see!

Steven Lenhart: Proving MLS Is a Short Hop from NAIA

This is a guest interview by frequent TSG contributor Jay Bell.
Photos courtesy of the amazing Matt Mathai.

Few rookies come into MLS with less fanfare than Steven Lenhart. He was a virtual unknown coming out of Azusa Pacific University in California. He showed up, he worked hard, and all his team has done is win. Turns out that’s what he did in college as well.


Lenhart's hard work has always made him a winner.


I got a chance to talk to Steven on the phone Tuesday about his soccer past, present, and future. The guy just never stopped chuckling. You could tell that he was giving honest answers, but he laughed at a lot of little stuff too. I don’t know if it was my southern accent or if he was in a really good mood, but it made for a fun conversation.

I was also lucky enough to speak with his college coach, Phil Wolf. Wolf and Lenhart led Azusa Pacific to a 20-1-1 record and their first ever NAIA National Championship in 2007. Wolf has since moved to currently ranked #5 Southern Methodist and was very eager to share some words about Lenhart. His comments will be seen throughout this conversation with Steven.

TSG: First off, we just want to say congratulations on being the first MLS team to get to the quarterfinals twice in the new version of the Champions League.  How do you and your team approach that competition?

Steven: Man, I think that we take each game seriously. The games do fall during the week. We’re trying to do well in the league also, so sometimes certain players don’t travel or guys that haven’t been playing play a lot. Yeah, we approach it, we take it very serious. And like you said, this is the second year that we did qualify for the quarterfinals, so I think we’re doing something right. Also, like a lot of the guys that aren’t playing–I think there’s a lot of commitment to working for each other and kind of battling, trying to get results in some of those other countries and at home.

TSG: Alright…well a lot of MLS fans, not just Crew supporters, were upset with the way that away match at Santos went down. What was that match like and what are road games like in CONCACAF in general?


Jumping up high for the header.


Steven: Yeah, dude, those–they’re always interesting. Because you don’t know, you don’t know how the reffing is gonna be. I guess you never know in a game. Yeah, you kinda feel like you’re at a little bit of a disadvantage, but at the end of the day you can’t worry about that side of things.

But yeah, just being in other countries its always an experience. Cruising around before the games, going to the grocery stores or just walking around–people are a lot more interested and asking questions. You know, like taking pictures with you. Its kind of a novelty down there. I think they like it when Americans get to come. It’s fun; I enjoy it. I really like going down there.

TSG: Speaking of enjoying it: a lot of people thought you had kind of a “coming out party” in the last quarterfinals. Do you think that just because you enjoy it more you seem to do really well in that tournament?

Steven: No; I mean, I enjoy playing. So, I don’t know. It was just another game. Yeah, when I am enjoying soccer, when I am enjoying it, yeah I play way better. But its a long season so there is a lot that goes into it. That was the beginning of the season and it was fun. Yeah. I try and play like that every game, but it just doesn’t happen.

TSG: Lets backtrack a little bit. I think you were born in Jacksonville, right?
Steven: Yeah, in Florida.

TSG: When did you first move out to California?

Steven: My whole family is from California. So my dad got transferred with his job just for… a year and that’s when I was born in Florida. So we just moved back after… literally…when I was six months old. Moved back to California. Moved back to one of the same cities that my whole family had been before.


Skipping around two defenders.


TSG: I know you went to one school for a year and then ended up at Azusa. What made you head to Azusa Pacific?

Steven: Yeah…you know, you just feel like you don’t connect somewhere or you just feel…a change needs to happen. It wasn’t necessarily soccer. I was playing at the school. My first school was called Point Loma Nazarene University. I was a walk-on there. I wasn’t recruited by anyone. So I just..went and just…ran on the beach by where my first school was. I got to surf and hang out. I just kind of felt like I needed to get out of there. There’s something better for me, literally. So I just told my coach I was done and transferred to Azusa without even telling–I didn’t even tell the head coach, Phil Wolf at Azusa. I just kinda…I called him  late in the Spring. I was like, “Hey, can I come try out?” He let me try out. So he let me walk on. I don’t know. Just–a change needed to happen, so from my old school, but I guess it worked out.

TSG: It kinda seems to happen a lot over there. We recently interviewed Justin Braun. And he’s another big guy and he said he wasn’t really recruited much out of high school either. Did you try to contact other schools to try to get some more looks?

Steven: No. My senior year of high school I was on a pretty good soccer high school team. We won the state championships or whatever. I wasn’t like a big part of the team really. I didn’t play like the last half of the season with my club team. They didn’t want me to come back. So I was just kind of off soccer–whatever.

I’ll just go to Point Loma and surf and hang out really and just try to experience college. And them I’m like, well they have a soccer team I might as well try. So… two weeks before I just called, I called… before their training camp and they let me come walk on. It happened at both schools, Point Loma and Azusa. I was done. After Point Loma, I had a little bit of a falling out with the coach.

Not really, it was just…something needs to change. So I was like, dude, I’ll just transfer to Azusa. I need to get out of this place. I don’t need soccer. I could be done. And …literally, that’s kinda still how l am today. Soccer doesn’t… define who I am, you know? I mean that you hear, I bet people say that a lot, I’m sure, but I really try and live it and make it more about soccer. So I don’t know, that’s kind of where I’m at still.


TSG: What were your first impressions of him [Lenhart]?

Coach Phil Wolf: He showed some ability and I thought he was a decent enough player for me to give him a roster spot, but I didn’t think much of him past that. Kind of, he’s good enough to make our team. Let’s give him a roster spot. Let’s see if he can develop into something.


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Playoffs! We’re Talking MLS Playoffs

Jay Bell graces off with some more video wizardry of the MLS playoff brackets.

Another Champion Label Awaits: Heather O’Reilly

Spotlight: Heather O'Reilly

The United States Women’s National Team is in Mexico today about to hurdle their first obstacle on their way to World Cup 2011 in Germany.

Before their sojourn to Cancun, TSG had a chance to catch up with superstar flanker Heather O’Reilly, whose trophy case is devoid of just one piece of hardware: an elusive World Cup gold medal.

So how does someone who has won a championship at all levels begin her preparation for a qualifying tournament?

By getting engaged, of course, back at their alma mater, in this case the University of North Carolina. Who knew?

TSG caught up with Heather by phone in Chapel Hill.

An endearing subject; enjoy the read.

TSG: Okay, let’s start with a simple question.

We spoke to Kristine Lilly the other day; you average about 15.87 caps per year, Kristine averages 15.17 caps per year. So…if your career spans the same 23 years that her’s did, you’ll break her most capped record.

Heather O’Reilly, how do you feel about that?

O'Reilly, hot on the trail of Lilly's cap record...

Heather O’Reilly: <Laughing> Is that true?

I don’t think that Lill’s record will ever be touched.

Also, U.S. Soccer used to play a ton more games. Now, with the WPS, we don’t get those game numbers in each year.

Yeah, but what Lill’s done won’t ever be topped and I don’t see myself playing as long as her.

TSG: We’re rooting for you anyway…

Heather: That would be an epic race.

TSG: You’re headed to Mexico in a week or so…

Heather: I don’t think anyone forgets ever what happened in 2007. You might have to stat check me on this, but I think only Kristine Lilly and Christine Rampone have a World Cup gold in their possession. It’s pretty fresh in everyone’s minds that the last two World Cups we haven’t won.

I think everybody thinks about that and we’re excited to start the journey. We’re fired up about getting it back from the Germans for sure.

TSG: When you go down there, and since you’re expected to win–and I don’t mean disrespect to any opponents–but do you work on things to improve for the World Cup next year or do you just focus on winning each game?

Heather: I don’t think it has to be black-and-white either way. Something Pia is fond of saying over and over again is, “Respect the game, respect your opponent.”

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MLS Playoffs: Western Conference Words

Hectic week this week and just now getting around to our MLS playoff predictions. (Yes, I realize I have to at least get out a Columbus-Colorado preview in the next twelve hours.)

Do you need an intro…good, neither do I.

One note, for each playoff series, I’ll give you a “TSG Qualification” score (you should ask for something similar from the other writers you follow) that lets you know how qualified we are–based nearly entirely on number of times we watched a club–to make a prediction on the series.


• Who’s brighter? The Los Angeles Galaxy or the Seattle Highlighters.

TSG Qualification Score: 7.5 out of 10

Mr. Booey...Mr. Ba-Ba-Booey...this was not your finest season...

Everything…just about everything about this series points in the Sounders favor.

The fact that:

» The Galaxy will play a road game on turf (ouch) to open the series. Landon Donovan for one let us know this week that the games are getting to him.

» Are you watching the Premiership at all these days? Why do I ask? Four of the top six or so hottest players in the Barclays (Johan Elmander, Dimitar Berbatov, Samir Nasri, Darren Bent) have something pretty major in common.

None of them played in World Cup 2010. The Cup hangover happens and Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle are desperately rifling down the bloody maries.

» Speaking of Buddle, it is flat-out incredulous, ludicrous, ridiculous. Simply? It’s terrible coaching that Bruce Arena took his number one target man and sniper and left him up top, with few substitutions, to battle bigger and stronger defenders all season long.

It’s not wonder that Buddle has tailed off…between the World Cup and his Bruce Arena-induced torture, I surprised he can still run.

Bad move Arena….which leads me to…

» Let’s continue with this Buddle theme. Best way to support Edson up top probably…probably to play Jovan Kirovski out of position up there for the better part of the end of the campaign. Say what?

I remember the beginning of this year when the Galaxy were straight on firing. Impressive…extremely impressive to see.

I remember thinking…okay Arena is going to develop some players around these guys, Cazumba for one, and the Galaxy is going to become deeper and deeper.

So what did Arena do all year? Fail to develop Tristan Bowen, let Michael Stephens hit the wall (because he was playing well) and trade Alan Gordon who at least saved Buddle some downtown thumping.

Bruce, Bruce…what are you doing? It is any wonder why the Brian McBride felt like a man without friends oh-so-far up the pitch at 2006? Of course not.

» I haven’t even talked about Arena’s near Bob Bradleyesque reliance on the 4-4-2 or his getting outcoached twice by Frankie Yallop. Moving on….

» Meanwhile, defensively Los Angeles has not picked up it’s back four line in the game in the absence of 2002 World Cup vet Gregg Berhalter.

Is Montero ready to step up?

» We haven’t even talked about Seattle yet who shed Freddie Ljundberg and immediately went on a tear. It’s not a fair comparison but the way the quicks play up top for Sigi Schmidt it reminds me of Argentina’s configuration that put so much pressure on team in the group stages of the World Cup.

But…after all this, I’m picking the Los Angeles Galaxy. I don’t how they’re going to do it, but I just think–and perhaps to the detriment of their advancement later in the playoffs–the Galaxy will take this one.

I really can’t point to a good season, maybe just that Donovan, Buddle (maybe), and Beckham have proven they can do it whereas I’m not sure Fredt Montero is just yet “the guy” for Seattle.

Call it a hunch..perhaps a stupid hunch, but the Galaxy move on.

• Who’s more savory in this one? Real Salt Lake or the men from Pizza Hut

TSG Qualification Score: 5 out of 10

Super edition...but ultimately not enough...

You know I wish I watched Dallas more than 5 or so odd times a took in a game this year. They’re just like folks describe them I surmise. Kind of ho-hum, jack-of-all trades master-of-none.

I know I’d pick out a few more subtle things if I watched them more frequently–then again they don’t really draw a crowd.

I really did like the addition of Kevin Hartmann who did a super job of marshalling the defense himself and exuding some calm.

Heather Pearce has played confident and attack-minded football all season.

However…as defenses get more stout in the playoffs, I truly believe that winning the midfield is vitally important and you have to like the top team that Real Salt Lake has here. Kyle Beckerman is the leader, but flanking him are Will Johnson–who after some time overseas at Blackburn and Heerenveen–is starting to play more-and-more like the player that Europe was whispering to earlier in his career and perhaps the most underrated player in the league (despite his age) Andy Williams. Williams is straight lunchpail and I don’t think I have once see him not put the team first in his play.

Fronting this more than capable ensemble is Javier Morales–who Justin Braun told us a few weeks ago is in his opinion the best player not named Donovan in the league. Morales is classy.

The champs are going to be touch to break down and I haven’t talked about the Club America Salt Lakes ziploc defense yet.

However, I don’t think this series will be a cakewalk and I actually think the series is in FC Dallas’s hands.

The quality of Real Salt Lake is known, does Dallas rise to the challenge or show they’re not ready to challenge just yet. The first game will speak to this as RSL has yet to win there. Dallas needs at least hit a two-spot at home in my opinion to make this a series.

I just don’t think they’re quite there yet. RSL, onward.


Eastern Conference later Thursday…