Philadelphia Union - 2
New England Revolution - 1

Colorado Rapids - 1
FC Dallas - 1

Houston Dynamo - 2
New York Red Bulls - 1

Kansas City Wizards - 2
Toronto FC - 0

Real Salt Lake - 2
DC United - 0

San Jose Earthquakes - 1
Seattle Sounders FC - 0

Chivas USA - 1
Columbus Crew - 1

There's been a lot of speculation recently about which cities offer the best mix of market, facilities, owners and fanbase for Major League Soccer's twentieth club. Commonly mooted names are New York, Miami, Atlanta, but I know that none of these are right. Even dark horses like San Antonio, Nashville, and Saint Louis fall short of the mark. There's only one city that has the chops to handle this milestone MLS franchise.

Scranton, PA.

Now before you laugh, let's look at this objectively. Scanton may seem like a small city, and indeed, it would be the least populous in MLS, but it's by no means a backwater, boasting a Metro population of about 550,000 (And the Lehigh Valley, home to over 800,000, is just an hour away). Its smaller size and industrial background would add an interesting element not seen in the usual MLS cities, which tend to be more cosmopolitan and built up. Eurosnobs will love the parallel to the northern English factory towns. Just tell them it's "America's Blackpool."

For the more practical minded fans, have a look at a map. Roughly two hours away from New York and Philadelphia, Scranton has instant rivalries, and is within reasonable driving distance of six other MLS cities. Scranton is no alien to soccer, either. Early American soccer powerhouse Bethlehem Steel played just an hour south of the city. That kind of history is invaluable when setting up a new team. Also enticing is the absence of any other Major League sports teams in the area.

The success of NBC's "The Office" has helped put Scranton on the cultural map, as well. Vice President and acknowledged soccer fan Joe Biden was born in Scranton, and could provide essential political clout to any hopes for public money, as well as a famous face to help win over residents.

So there you have it. The perfect candidate for MLS expansion. Maybe we can even get Dunder-Mifflin to sponsor them.

Liveness Podcast 07.29.10

Friday, July 30, 2010 | View Comments

I hesitated to post this debacle, but what the hell. Despite my own lack of composure and Zach's (yes, Zach showed up for a midweek live show) attempts to throw me off with talk of bad 80's movies, there is some good soccer talk in there. Beau Dure, late of USA Today and author of Long Range Goals, a book on the history and success of MLS, popped in twice to bookend the proceedings.


TORONTO - JULY 14:  Freddy Adu #11 of Team USA dribbles the ball against Michael Stanislaw #6 of Team Austria during their FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 quarterfinal game at National Soccer Stadium on July 14, 2007 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Austria won 2-1. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

I've got the 2007 US U-20 World Cup team on the brain. After a strong showing in tournament, one many Americans watched thanks to Canadian timezone friendliness, several players from the squad earned themselves transfers to Europe; with the news that Freddy Adu failed to impress on his latest trial, the ongoing uncertainty about where Jozy Altidore might play this season, and the signing of Sal Zizzo with MLS, the fortunes of those that made their name in that tournament is an interesting peek at the divergent fortunes of young players.


The biggest name on that 2007 team, Jozy Altidore, is hoping to get a chance to prove himself at Villareal, though the road to significant playing time might be difficult. The mark Altidore has made with the National Team, and his fairly secure place in the setup as long as he's healthy, will keep him top of mind. He needs to play, of course, and while his Hull experience was hardly a rousing success, it probably benefited his development in the end.

What else can be said about the saga of Freddy Adu? He never proved himself enough to stay with Benfica, the loan to Aris last year ended with little progress made, and his attempt to land a contract with Swiss club FC Sion this week has come to naught. Freddy might very well be headed back to MLS, and while that seems like a natural step considering his need to playing time, I have my doubts that he'd play all that much here either. Freddy has baggage, not all of his own making, and I wonder if there's an MLS club really willing to take it on.

Sal Zizzo signed with MLS and was allocated to Chivas USA through a lottery (necessary due to his one US senior team cap). Coming off a knee injury, Zizzo says he just wants to play and coming to MLS made sense from that standpoint. Despite his ultimately disappointing end at Hannover, he claims he doesn't regret signing there; if Sizzo can get healthy (he says he has no defined timetable for getting on the field) and play, we'll find out just how much going to Germany helped him. I had a short chat with him his week that will be part of the American Soccer Show coming Monday.

Much of that 2007 U-20 roster is in MLS. Some are contributing, and some have turned into very fine players. One was just traded today. Of the group, only Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore have turned into National Team regulars. On the other end of the spectrum is Danny Szetela, who moved to Racing Santander after the tournament; a return to MLS with DC United didn't work, and Szetela's career has now stalled to the point of disaster.

I don't know that there are any conclusions to be drawn from all of this other than what what is common knowledge; prospects flame out all the time, and though it's not really too late for anyone from that '07 team, some are clearly headed in the wrong direction. It's just another reason to maintain perspective on the supposed "future" of American soccer. A few twists and turns, an injury, or a simple inability to meet expectations will quickly turn a U-2O World Cup star into a just another player. Sometimes, not even that.

Excuse the crap post. Friday is not agreeing with me.

Impromptu Liveness: 07.29.10

Thursday, July 29, 2010 | View Comments
Pretend radio!
Short notice again - I've decided to fire up the UStream machine and kill an hour of mic time.

Listen here or at the MFUSA UStream page.

Starting at 8:30 PM Eastern
Skype: americansoccershow Skype Me™!
Phone: 858-769-5310 x255 (if it works)

Live Broadcasting by Ustream

Donovan Comments, I Back Down

Thursday, July 29, 2010 | View Comments
CARSON, CA - JULY 22: Landon Donovan  of the Los Angeles Galaxy plays the ball at midfield between Brandon McDonald , Bobby Burling  and Jason Hernandez  of the San Jose Earthquakes in the second half during their MLS match at The Home Depot Center on July 22, 2010 in Carson, California. The Earthquakes and the Galaxy played to a 2-2 draw. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

A little while back, in a late night ramble that may or may not have been ill-advised, I went off on those who reacted negatively to the possibility that MLS would't "allow" Landon Donovan to go back to Europe. I rejected the idea of valid indignation on the subject, and I talked at length about what we didn't know about Donovan's own wishes and the role that played in my response.

It's time for me to back down, at least in one regard. Donovan spoke about a possible transfer in the All-Star Game aftermath last night, and went just about as far as we could expect in outlining his hopes of a move. It wasn't a "let me go" plea necessarily, but it does seem pretty clear Donovan is ready to head back to Europe now as opposed to the winter (on loan or otherwise).

"We have had transfer interest and we will have some time to think about it and see where it goes," Donovan told Reuters after featuring for the MLS All Stars against Manchester United on Wednesday. "There is interest from a number of teams."

I'll still defend MLS on their right to hold out for a good return on a Donovan sale.  I'll still cling to my belief that Donovan here is ultimately better for American soccer than Donovan abroad.  But the latter doesn't really matter if Donovan wants to go; the reality of this game is that the player can essentially force a sale if he wants to and the market will bear a fair price.  No one wants a malcontent, and even if Donovan's influence and impact is greater as an MLS player, the league shouldn't keep him around "against his will."

As I mentioned in that meandering rant, I would be happy to see Donovan playing in England.  Believing Donovan does more good for American soccer playing here and my own selfish desire to see him in a top league are two different things.  And there is a knock-on effect for the perception of MLS if Donovan leaves and contributes in England or elsewhere at a high level. Both can be good, it's just a matter of degrees.

At the time of my original reaction, I found the indignation distasteful.  Now, seeing Donovan's comments as I do (as a roundabout admission that he's looking to go), and with the possibility that we'll hear a number on an offer, I'm backing down.  A bit.  If Donovan really wants to go and the offer is good, I can understand an angry fan reaction to his not being sold.

Just don't buy the idea that MLS would be holding American soccer back if Donovan stays in a Galaxy uniform.

- Jason Davis

I suppose this post is unavoidable. When 70,000 people show up and a significant number can see the game on a widely available national TV outlet, a drubbing like the MLS All-Stars took last night at the hands of Manchester United is bound to be a talking point. It certainly was during the game.

Twitter blew up with expressions of embarrassment on the part of MLS fans and suggestions that MLS should be ashamed of the beating. The idea that the game was some kind of referendum on the quality of the league floated in the periphery. I railed internally against all of it.

The game was an exhibition. A collection of players from various teams across a league in the midst of its grueling season who had an hour or two of training together were beaten by one of the world's best clubs looking to make amends after losing to a nondescript MLS team on the weekend. In hindsight, I'm kicking myself for thinking the game would be a draw.

MLS is a victim of its own success in this situation. Previous All-Star wins versus foreign clubs, plus last year's narrow defeat to Everton, have conditioned people to believe this format of throwing together the league "stars" produces something approaching a reasonable team. It doesn't. Not even close.

The only way for an All-Star squad will beat a well-drilled team like Manchester United is to get a few moments of individual brilliance and for the opposition to fail to capitalize on their chances. MLS got little of the former, and United didn't cooperate on the latter; what we saw last night has always been the more likely outcome in All-Star games. The league simply managed to beat the odds in the past. A reversal of fortune does not necessarily imply the league has taken a step back or that the quality of player here is a below any perceived standard.

And let's be clear: a win last night wouldn't have proved anything either. Just as Kansas City's win over United on Sunday proved nothing other than that an actual team has a better chance of winning exactly because they are a team. The mitigating factors surrounding the All Star Game make the result meaningless. For those of us already fans, that is.

If the All-Star Game is a chance for the league to showcase itself to soccer fans who aren't not already on board, then last night's showing is disappointing. I suppose we could lament the lost chance to grab new fans, but the league surely knows the risk it takes putting its players in that position; nevertheless, the juice is worth the squeeze because of the 70,000 people in the building and the prime time TV slot on ESPN2.

Eventually, we're going to have to get over this need to view every friendly, All-Star or not, as an indication of where the league stands.

Just like the All-Star Games against foreign opponents before it, last night's result proves nothing. Manchester United is a better team than a bunch of thrown together players. Is that a surprise?

I was disappointed in the MLS showing last night, being an MLS fan. But I sure as hell wasn't ashamed or embarrassed.

CCL Preview: Sounders v. Metapan

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | View Comments

by Dan Barkley

CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round, First Leg.

Time: Wednesday, July 28, 10pm EST.

Location: Qwest Field, Seattle

Media: FSC

Seattle begins their international competition history tonight against Isidro Metapán, and it's hard for me to be as excited for this game after last night. It's not fair to the Sounders, but I am crushed after the embarrassment in Los Angeles. I was feeling confident about this game, and in general still am, but everything is a bit tempered. Jason already gave his impressions on the game so I won't say anymore on the topic.

Back to the game at hand, I don't think it contains that dangerous combination of an underdog with a history of over-performing in the competition against a lackadaisical team in an empty home stadium. Metapán was in El Salvador's second division in the 90's, but has established themselves as one of the top two teams in the national league recently. They've won either the Apertura or Clausura each of the past four years. However, the El Salvador league is not particularly strong, no team from the league has done much in the CCL in the past few years. Metapán themselves have not advanced past the round where they entered; they did beat the Dynamo in El Salvador last year, however, their only win in group play. Looking at games between MLS and El Salvador sides the last two competitions, DC United got past Luis Ángel Firpo in the preliminary round last year (but only on penalties), while the Dynamo won once and drew once with the same side the previous year's group stage. That puts MLS at 2-3-1 vs. Salvadoran sides in the past two years. Not exactly awe-inspiring, but at this point I'll take any sort of hope.

I would say Metapán is the weakest of the three sides MLS faces in the prelim, and Seattle will at least have the advantage of a decent crowd on hand (reports of somewhere between 12-22k tickets sold). The Galaxy showed us how hard it can be to play with no home crowd, something Seattle can hopefully avoid. The Sounders have also showed a propensity for playing well in cup competitions in their young MLS history, so I will naively hope for a good effort tonight. Here's to Seattle helping us wash some of the awful taste of last night away with a strong performance.

For more on the game from the Sounder side of things, head over to Sounder at Heart.

New York, New York

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | View Comments
The Manhattan skyline is seen from a helicopter in New York City, April 22, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: CITYSCAPE)

A big MLS event, which the All Star Game is, naturally leads to bits of "news" on various league business as filtered through mouthpiece/commissioner Don Garber. The assembled press asks (or someone holds a web chat) and The Don answers; responses are often vague and non-committal, but Garber knows when to say something substantial and when to dance around a topic.

On a second team in New York, one in New York proper rather, Garber does no dancing. The word is out, and the placement of an expansion franchise somewhere inside the five boroughs is nearly stamped "inevitable." There are legitimate reasons for a team with a New York, New York address to exist, just as there are reasonable objections. The Don also talks regularly about needing a team in the Southeast; in light of the Red Bulls only now taking advantage of the massive New York market, it might be prudent to get that bit of business done first.

I generally defer to New Yorkers and those with better knowledge of the city on the wisdom of New York 2. It doesn't appear from the outside that a stadium deal could come with any ease, and locating a team on Long Island sounds like a recipe for disaster. All that being said, the idea of a New York derby (or New York/New Jersey rivalry if you prefer) is intriguing; I expect matches between the two teams would be some of the most visible and hotly contested in the league.

Maybe the Wilpons (owners of the Mets) are still up for MLS despite their Madoff-related troubles. Maybe a team based in the city itself would attract more interest and dramatically raise the the league's profile. If the conditions are perfect (owners, stadium, etc.), it does make a lot of sense. There's really no reason the market can't support two franchises.


For awhile there, it appeared possible that NYC2 would coincide with the return of the Cosmos. Relics of the past, but with a resonating influence, the name and the brand still move the needle. I've covered the issue of whether or not American soccer "needs" the Cosmos name in the past, and won't bore you with a rehash here; but there's movement on the Cosmos front, and it would be odd to simply ignore it. While the majority of the country might not have any idea of what's going on in the NYC, people are taking notice.

What this viral campaign means is anyone's guess, and it's clearly driving my New York-based friend SF a little mad with curiosity. Something is happening, and while I'm of the feeling it's going to ultimately be disappointing (at least to me), I can't help my fascination with all things Cosmos.

Because of that, and because SF decided to post on the subject, I've just become a pawn in the further dispersal of the virus. I feel dirty and exhilarated at the same time.

And the video is pretty cool.

DeMerit, Defenders, and DPs

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | View Comments
June 23, 2010 - Tshwane/Pretoria, Guateng, South Africa - 23 JUN 2010: Jay DeMerit (USA). The United States National Team defeated the Algeria National Team 1-0 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa in a 2010 FIFA World Cup Group C match.

by Brian Mechanick

When Justin Mapp was traded to Philadelphia Union for allocation money, rumors immediately started floating that the Chicago Fire were going to sign an additional Designated Player, to go with big signing Nery Castillo earlier this month. Speculation ranges from the Fire bringing in another Mexican player to try to draw Chicago’s coveted Hispanic fan base to bringing DaMarcus Beasley back to his former club.

Around the MLS-sphere, a few have wondered if USMNT mainstay Jay DeMerit might return to Chicago, where he played four years at the University of Illinois-Chicago and one with Chicago Fire Premier (the development side of the Fire). At age 30, DeMerit has said that he might return home to the league that didn’t draft him seven years ago and set him off on his unique soccer odyssey. Although fans would love to see Jay back in the USA, would it make sense for the Fire to make him a DP?

For those unfamiliar with the DP rule, there is a minimum salary of $335,000, which goes under the league salary cap; the rest of the player’s salary is paid by the individual team. No defender has ever earned the title, and the logic for why is very solid. Defenders are not as able to impact the game as much as attacking players, and thus are unable to draw fans or excitement to the team needed to offset a DP salary.

Currently the highest earning defender in MLS is Chad Marshall, who is earning $250,000 in base salary (plus another $70,000 in bonus compensation) this year. As a the MLS Defender of the Year two years in a row, its hard to argue that Marshall is nothing if not an elite MLS center back. Yet if DeMerit were to come back as the Fire’s DP, he would earn at least 40% more than Marshall. DeMerit is a better player than Marshall, as the last two years of the US National Team has proved, but it’s difficult to justify him getting at least 100 grand more than Chad to be a DP.

Even if DeMerit were worth a low-DP salary, the external benefits of signing him are few. DeMerit has never been a renowned name to the casual US soccer fan, so it’s hard to believe he will increase the Fire’s attendance. His tendency for rough and tumble defending will do nothing to turn the Fire into a more dynamic, exciting team. And perhaps most damaging financially, if DeMerit were to become a DP, he would cost Chicago their last “free” DP. Having to pay $250,000 to get a third DP has to be a prohibitive cost for any team signing their second DP, as it may be hard to stomach for any club not named the Galaxy or Red Bulls to pay such a fee just for the right to shell out at least half a million dollars on another designated player.

Going against this logic is New York Red Bulls near-official signing of defender Rafael Marquez, the famed Mexican of Barcelona FC. While Marquez can play the defensive midfield role and has skill going forward, his rumored two million dollar wage flys in the face of traditional “attacking players only” DP logic. But as perhaps the most famed Mexican player of his generation, nobody can doubt his ability to draw NYC-area’s large Mexican population into Red Bull Arena. And with the deep pockets of Red Bull able to lie out the cash for such a venture, you can’t condemn the Red Bulls for making a move that makes such sense on and off the field.

In the end, a Chicago Fire fan could be excited about DeMerit coming in as a low-salaried DP. Partnering him with Wilman Conde would give Chicago the league’s best center-half pairing, and give the Fire a legitimate shot at making a push for their first MLS Cup since 1998. With MLS salaries on the rise with a higher salary cap and more DP’s, the Fire might start a trend in giving center backs a push into DP territory. Still, the high-cost remains an issue. A referendum is coming on defenders in MLS: stay the course and look for value along the back, or take a risk to jump in on a higher-priced defender.

Galaxy Fall Into CCL Black Hole

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | View Comments
CARSON, CA - JULY 22: Head coach Bruce Arena of the Los Angeles Galaxy voices his opinion toward the line judge during is team's MLS match against the San Jose Earthquakes at The Home Depot Center on July 22, 2010 in Carson, California. Donovan scored on the rebound to tie the game 2-2. The Earthquakes and the Galaxy played to a 2-2 draw. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Galaxy 1, Islanders 4. And if it weren't for a lucky bounce, LA wouldn't have scored.

What can you say? The best team in MLS, a side that with just two losses this season, a team that built its first half success on defensive strength, gives up four at home to a second division side in a competition they claimed they were taking seriously. Another MLS team, this one imbued with big hopes in an international competition the fans desperately hope to see an American (or Canadian) side win, fails miserably.

Every. Single. Year.

Foolishly, we bought into the Galaxy's chances in the CONCACAF Champions League. They've been so good in MLS, good enough that it wasn't entirely unreasonable to think they could get to the finals next year. The casual fan may not have an appreciation of the Champions League or the good it would do for the league's reputation to have an MLS club win it, but the rest of us know. MLS knows. The teams involved know.

So why the massive egg laid by LA? The lineup they put out was almost full-strength (no Omar Gonzalez did hurt them) and Landon Donovan claimed the team was taking the competition seriously. There are no excuses for giving up four goals at home, especially to a lower division opponent. Losing by on a lucky break for Puerto Rico would almost be excusable, if still disappointing. Rolling over to the tune of a three goal beat down is a joke.

Give the Islanders credit. They seem to play their best in this competition, and took the chances the were given. They weren't afraid of the Galaxy (and why should they be?) and gave a full effort. The moment they stepped on the field they seemed fired out of a cannon. The Galaxy, on the other hand hand, had all the momentum of a glacier.

Donovan and Buddle will be in Houston for the All Star Game tonight. I would imagine the first thing their All Star teammates will say to them is "What happened?" If there's an answer to that question, I'd love to hear it.

Time to move on MLS fans. Barring a miracle in Bayamón, league hopes in the Champions League will need to be transferred elsewhere. Maybe the Crew were always most likely to get it done anyway.

In that vein a quick question for the comments: In your opinion, which MLS team has the best shot of going deep into the CCL?

June 17, 2010 - Anderlecht, BELGIUM - epa02207184 US player Sacha Kljestan (L) and Anderlecht's manager Herman Van Holsbeeck pose at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium, with a shirt of RSCA Anderlecht after a press conference in Anderlecht, 17 June 2010. Midfielder Kljestan is one of RSCA Anderlecht's new acquisitions.

As I begin this post, Sacha Kljestan has just scored in his debut for Anderlecht. The Belgian club are playing a Champions League qualifier against Welsh Premier League side The New Saints, and while the competition is hardly strong (The New Saints' home ground has a capacity of 2,000, and the club was called "Total Network Solutions FC" until four years ago), an American scoring in European competition is still rare enough to be notable. Hell, an American scoring almost anywhere outside of the US is still notable on some level.

Sacha's goal has prompted me to consider what his move might mean to those of us watching from the States, being the ardent Americans abroad-watchers that we are. Kljestan's progress as a player has been maddeningly inconsistent, with his play equal parts encouraging and disappointing over the course of the past few years. He frankly admitted that a potential move to Celtic falling through a year and a half ago affected his focus, and his form dipped enough that he lost any National Team favor he had with Bob Bradley and the fans.

Belgium's Jupiler League looks to be a perfect stepping stone for Kljestan, either as a place to make a name before making a move to a bigger stage, or as a place to get better, play more consistently, and eventually get himself into the National Team picture as an important player. There are simply not enough Americans with Sacha's creative abilities for anyone to give up on him; at 24 closing in on 25, four seasons in Europe might turn him into a late-bloomer ready to contribute in Brazil in 2014.

Anderlecht are a big Belgian club. They have a rich history and a demanding fan base, and are coming off a Jupiler League title last year (their 30th). If Kljestan can make his bones there, he'll be doing very well.

Oguchi Onyewu, though on a different career path, made himself into a quality defender while playing in Belgium. Perhaps Sacha, who few think will turn into anything special but who certainly has talent, can do the same at midfielder there. It bears careful watching.

Admittedly, I don't know enough about Anderlecht and their roster to know if Sacaha just started today because of weaker opposition, or if he's worked himself into a semi-permanent spot in the lineup. Nothing will drive USMNT and Americans abroad fans nuts more than a player wasting away on the bench. At his age, Sacha needs to play. If he does, it's possible he'll take a major step forward. With the frustration of missed European opportunities behind him, we just might see a different Sacha Kljestan.

A goal in his debut is a good start. It will be interesting to see if Sacha Kljestan, sometimes MLS star, turns into Sacha Kljestan, successful American in Europe.

Kansas City Wizards forward Sunil Chhetri (L) battles for the ball against Colorado Rapids midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy during the first half of their 2010 U.S. Open Cup qualifying round at Stanley H. Durwood Stadium on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City in Kansas City, Missouri April 13, 2010. REUTERS/Dave Kaup (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

India's place in the soccer world fascinates me. The sheer size and population of the country juxtaposed against its inability to produce players of much quality or a national team capable of making a dent internationally is simply stunning. Along with China, who appears to make more of an effort despite their slow improvement, India is a "sleeping giant." There are, in small ways, parallels to the state of the game in United States, past and present.

Perhaps India needs a player to capture the nation's attention, preferably in a visible league somewhere abroad. With only a few Indians having ever played outside of the country (most recently Bhaichung Bhutia at Bury FC), the strength of the league almost doesn't matter; MLS, while not equivalent to the world's top competitions, would serve nicely. This is America, after all, and regardless of the league's place in the international pecking order, visibility is relatively high.

Despite his best efforts, Sunil Chhetri has not become that player. Disillusioned in Kansas City, where he has hardly played, Chhetri is reportedly looking* (this is not confirmed) to get out of his contract, and is angling to join the India National Team's training in Portugal ahead of the Asian Cup. If true, this is a sad turn of events for a player who might have lifted his country's soccer reputation had he scored a few goals for the Wizards.

Whether or not Chhetri extricates himself from Kansas City, and whether or not he was really given a chance to prove himself there, India is still without a player doing anything of note abroad. If the problem for Chhetri is that he's simply not good enough to play here, then India may have to wait. Chhetri appeared to be the the best hope.

It's not exactly over for Chhetri, especially if he's unable to get out of his contract, but it's hard to imagine Peter Vermes giving him much playing time moving forward.

News is relative. In US soccer circles, Chhetri's plea for his release is hardly noticed, save for a few Wizards fans. In India, although the sport is far from the national obsession that cricket is, Chhetri's frustration and his short appearance against Manchester United (Sunil Chhetri v. Manchester United) are big news.

As a matter of seeing a player from a nation outside the norm make a mark and perhaps give rise to an Indian explosion of Wizards fans, I had high hopes for Chhetri. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it will end well.

*At the behest of someone more familiar with things in KC, I've changed the language here and changed the link. As of now, the only thing confirmed is what Chhetri said directly to

by Dan Barkley

CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round, First Leg.

Time: Tuesday, July 27, 8pm EST.

Location: BMO Field, Toronto

Media: FSC/ Streamed at

The first of two MLS teams beginning their CCL campaigns Tuesday, Toronto, takes on C.D. Motagua. Motagua is the third team to qualify from Honduras for this year's CCL, and have been the third best side in Honduras for the past few years, behind Marathón and cross town rivals Olimpia. Their most recent showings in the CCL (and the previous incarnations, the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and Giants' Cup) include three previous appearances this decade. In 2001, they went out in the first round of Giants Cup, and in 2003 they went out to the Galaxy in the first round. In 2008, they first made a very impressive run in the Central American Cup winning seven out of eight games and drawing the other, to become the top seed out of Central America. They then lost to Pachuca, going out 1-0 on aggregate, but they did draw 35,000+ fans to their home leg. This does not seem to be an isolated event, and we will touch on the atmosphere in Honduras's capital city more when we preview the second leg.

It would be impossible to talk about Motagua's roster without mentioning Amado Guevara's return to Toronto. The former MLS most valuable player played the 2008 and 2009 seasons with Toronto FC, so I am interested to see how he is received by the home crowd. Preki seems to have something against Guevara, but as far as I remember he was popular among the fans. Along with Guevara, both starting fullbacks for the national side are wtih Motagua, Sergio Mendoza and Emilio Izaguirre. They spent most of the World Cup being torched by Spain and Chile before sitting in their last game; it is hard to hold that against them as Chile proved to have one of the most dynamic attacks in the tournament, and Spain had just come off their embarrassing defeat to Switzerland. Motagua striker Georgie Welcome came on as a substitute in all three games, and played well against Spain, though Spain had let up with a 2-0 lead when he entered.

Toronto has one previous appearance in the CCL, crashing out against Puerto Rico Islanders last year in the prelims. They sit in position for the first playoff berth in their history and have played very well at home. Recent home form has taken a dip, however, as they've given away some points with late goals conceded to Dallas and Philadelphia.

Honduran sides have done well in the past couple Champions' Leagues, with Marathón making the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons. However, Motagua does not seem to be on that level. While Toronto had an awful start to the season, they've certainly improved since, and I think they will handle this game at home. We also can't forget that they are only in their preseason, and Toronto is probably just reaching their peak form. The second leg will be more interesting, if the Motagua fans can create that hostile environment; along with the long travel, that will be a dangerous game for the Reds.

Thoughts on USA-Brazil

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | View Comments
SOCCER/FUTBOL WORLD CUP 2010 OCTAVOS DE FINAL USA VS GHANA Action photo of coach Bob Bradley of USA, during game of the 2010 World Cup held at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg, South Africa./Foto de accion de Bob Bradley entrenador de Estados Unidos, durante juego de la Copa del Mundo 2010 celebrado en el Royal Bafokeng Stadium de Rustenburg, Sudafrica. 26 June 2010 MEXSPORT/JORGE REYES Photo via Newscom

Two weeks from today, the US National Team returns to the field. Brazil comes to the States with a young and talented squad under new head coach Mano Menezes, who will look to put his mark on the team while giving the next generation of Brazilian players a run out at Giants Stadium. The Americans will look what exactly?

At this juncture, it seems certain that Bob Bradley will coach the team. The roster announcement is expected early next week, and with only one day of training ahead of the match, big changes are probably not in the offing. Most of the usual suspects will be there.

Let's consider this match a respite then, before the long four-year cycle begins anew and we start to worry about which young players are getting their shot, which older players will continue to contribute moving forward, and if the team will even have the same man in charge. Even if Bradley is on the sideline in New Jersey, we still don't know if he'll be staying on for another run. Gulati and US Soccer have remained tight-lipped, nothing has leaked about any meetings, and rumors about the Fed's thinking are non-existent.

Despite the short timeline, I hope to see Bradley call in a few players who didn't go to South Africa but have appeared with the senior team in the past. Alejandro Bedoya comes to mind. So does Charlie Davies. I'm honestly not sure if the timing is appropriate for Davies, but he's participating in competitive preseason matches, and appears to be fully recovered. Sochaux open their Ligue 1 season the Saturday before the Brazil match against newly promoted Arles Avignon. Maybe Brian Ching appears in light of his service, though that might seem patronizing after Ching was left off the World Cup roster.

Over 40,000 tickets have been sold for the Brazil game, and though I expect many of those tickets were purchased because of Brazil and not the US, it's not as if there's no buzz for the match. Except, I don't feel any buzz personally, and I don't get the sense anyone really cares all that much. Most of that is because it's a friendly and a massive come down after the World Cup, but some of it is because it the game represents almost no forward momentum for the program. We don't really expect to learn anything new.

Lame duck coach? Maybe. Outgoing players, or some who likely won't feature much in the next cycle? Probably. Nevertheless, it should be entertaining.

The match will take on added meaning if we learn something about Bradley's fate before then, if he shocks us all and calls in a experimental team, or if calls up Jermaine Jones. Remember Jones? Apparently he's finally healthy (no, really) and training with Schalke. At some point in the near future he figures to make his US debut. It's just a few months too late for most fans.

by Dan Barkley

CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round, First Leg.

Time: Tuesday, July 27, 10pm EST.

Location: Home Depot Center, Los Angeles

Media: FSC/Audio at

Tuesday sees two MLS teams begin their CCL campaigns. The Galaxy get a fairly familiar opponent in Division II side Puerto Rico Islanders. In recent years, the Islanders have fielded a strong side, finish on top of the USL-1 table in 2008 and third place in 2009, while finishing second and third in the playoffs, respectively. Even more impressive has been their play in the CCL. In 2008 they made it to the semifinal before losing to Cruz Azul, a match that needed penalties to be decided. Their run also included a victory over another Mexican side, Santos Laguna. In the 2009 CCL, they beat Toronto FC before finishing last in their group, although they did draw both Cruz Azul and the Columbus Crew in Puerto Rico. This year, the Islanders sit fifth in the USL Conference and eighth overall in Division II.

The Islanders are what many would hope from MLS clubs; they've had solid domestic seasons while taking the CCL very seriously. In fact, their semifinals appearance is better than any MLS showing in the past two years. They have played very well at home during the tournament, and have unarguably punched above their weight.

The Galaxy have slowed a bit after their blistering start to the season, but at this point they still have to be the favorites for the title (depending on what becomes of the Landon situation). They showed during the build up for the World Cup that they are one of the deepest teams in the league as well. They certainly have the talent to beat the Islanders, though there are some notable factors to consider.

How seriously will Bruce Arena take this game? He recently complained about the US Open Cup after LA's loss to Seattle. He has paid lip service to the CCL in the build up to the All-Star Game, but it remains to be seen what type of side will be fielded Tuesday. The All-Star Game on the following day also complicates things. We'll leave complaints about MLS scheduling aside, but with four Galaxy players in the All-Star Game, it will at least play into Arena's decisions.

For those of us who want to see a strong MLS showing in the CCL, LA is integral. We know they have all the talent to handle the Islanders. MLS sides were 5-0 against Division 2 sides in the US Open Cup this year, including one win from the Galaxy, who didn't play many first team players in their 2-0 win over AC St. Louis. All of this is very encouraging, and aside from the Islanders good form in the CCL, this shouldn't provide too much challenge for the Galaxy. I predict a win in the first leg before LA is held in Puerto Rico and advances without having to tax their stars too heavily.

Salgado's Choice

Monday, July 26, 2010 | View Comments

Omar Salgado's story, moving to the US after being dropped by Chivas Gudalajara because he accepted an invitation to join the US U-20s, is intriguing. He's now signed up with MLS on a Generation Adidas contract and will enter the 2011 draft; with an expected loan this summer to a DII club (perhaps one of the two 2011 expansion sides), he could conceivably be on a senior roster by next summer in a rising league that is suddenly growing its list of young talent.

Why did Salgado accept Thomas Rongen's invite? Chivas' Mexico eligible-only policy is well known, and if Salgado wanted to stay, agreeing to play for the US was a risky move. It doesn't seem too far-fetched to think he knew what he was doing all along and chose a path that he knew would get him released in the belief that MLS was a better place for him. He didn't want to stay in other words, and his club career was the driving force rather than his national team future.

If only because he'll get a shot to prove he can play right away at the top level here, something that came more difficultly at Chivas. At 16, "buried" in the system in Guadalajara, it could be years before he got his shot to become the next Chicharito. Meanwhile, teenagers are making a mark in MLS, getting a chance to show their abilities. Perhaps impatience won out. No one would argue that MLS is yet a better place for a player of Salgado's age to develop, but if he thinks he's ready, wants to get the clock started on his exposure to European scouts (if he hold those ambitions), and appreciates where MLS stands, then this whole funny business makes a little more sense.

It could backfire, of course. Salgado isn't guaranteed to feature with whatever MLS team he joins next year. He might be sent out on loan regularly (see: McInerney, Jack) or simply sit on the bench. The time he needs to adjust to the senior level could be prolonged, or his progress might be stunted by suddenly leaving Chivas.

Or I've got this all wrong and Salgado is just an example of a kid with dual-citizenship who decided he'd rather play for the US (right now*) than Mexico. As an American, that makes me happy. As a fan of MLS, it makes me happy that Chivas pushed him out the door in response. The more young talent in the league, the better.

My whole argument could be shot if there was ever a chance MLS wouldn't sign Salgado; that's almost inconceivable.

Whether he's here for his international aspirations or for his club prospects, Salgado's decision will ultimately shape his future. For the sake of whichever MLS team drafts him and the National Team, let's hope it works out.

By the way, Salgado scored the winning goal for the U-20s in a Milk Cup win over China earlier today.

*Obviously, Salgado is not tied to the US or Mexico at this point. Should he reach the level where he's ready for senior international duty, he could play for either country. For the time being, he's saying all the right things.

July 02, 2010 - 06119772 date 02 07 2010 Copyright imago Hasenkopf Wimbledon 2010 Sports Tennis ITF Grand Slam Tournament David Beckham and be Son as Spectators on the Grandstand in Foreground Andy Murray Girlfriend Kim Sears and Mother Judy Tennis men All England Championships ATP Tour London Wimbledon Private Grandstand Spectators Vdig xub 2010 horizontal premiumd.

by Vlad Bouchouev

Three years ago the Los Angeles Galaxy were able to haul in the most marketable name in soccer. Three years later they’re sitting atop of the league table – no thanks to David Beckham.

In fact, it almost feels like many people have forgotten that Beckham is under contract for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Because of a serious Achilles tendon injury earlier this year, Beckham has missed the majority of the MLS season. It was maddening that Beckham's injury occurred during his loan spell with AC Milan -- apparently somewhere in his LA Galaxy contract existed a clause that allowed Beckham spend most of his time lollygagging overseas.

Beckham’s next adventure took him to South Africa. Though he couldn’t play due to injury, he still somehow managed to get on the English bench by working as a “mediator” between the English management and players. Beckham even kicked a ball around in South Africa despite still recovering from his Achilles tendon injury (any other team in Europe would have punished him for doing such a thing).

Now the World Cup is over and despite being injured, I expected him to return to LA immediately after the tournament and be some sort of mediator there; or, at the very least attend Galaxy match. But that didn’t happen and frankly not too many people in the US know (or even care) about his current whereabouts.

For those of us that are still curious, Becks has been doing a lot of non-soccer related stuff. No surprise. Understandably Beckham needed a little vacation time after the World Cup so he took some time off in Nice, France. After all, he did play 90 minutes of every match for England this past competition - oh wait, never mind. After the vacation, David had a moral obligation to cheer on his fellow countryman (in the UK sense of "countryman") Andy Murray at Wimbledon. Unfortunately Murray lost. Then came some serious work: interviews, interviews, interviews. As if we don’t know enough about the lad already. Now Beckham is planning on posing nude for a raunchy Armani ad and potentially spending some time with the West Ham organization. Who knows where he’ll be or what he’ll do next.

We can approach the whole David Beckham situation from a few different standpoints. One, the one I’m beginning to ascribe to, that the whole Beckham deal is a bit of a scam. Two, we can be nice and make the case that Beckham was unfortunately plagued with injuries and just was not able to get off the right note in the MLS. Or we can attempt to make the weak argument that Beckham revolutionized the MLS with his “big name”. Yes, Beckham did sell a lot of shirts. Yes, Beckham sold out stadiums (for a year or two at most). Yes, Beckham changed the way the MLS signs big time players. But has he reached his potential for all that he can bring to this league? I don’t think he has.

For the money that the MLS and AEG paid Beckham, one would think they would try to make the most of having such big name brand in their league. To that end, maximize the amount of time Beckham spends in the US and the amount of media attention he gets. Instead the two parties have been rather lenient in letting him “hang out” with the likes of AC Milan and the English National Team. Perhaps the MLS and AEG have already achieved their goals? Maybe they feel that Beckham has already done everything he possibly could to promote the game in the US and their marketing scheme has been a success. I don’t think that this is the case. Deep down, the league and Los Angeles probably feel like they have been genuinely screwed over.

MLS All-Star Game, its worth and the need for it (or lack thereof), Henry's debut and goal, MLS on TV and why the ratings stink plus a few listener emails. Pew Pew Boom.

The American Soccer Show for download.
The American Soccer Show on iTunes.

There are AmSoc t-shirts available if you didn't already know, the proceeds from which will help the show and site chug along uninterrupted. Thanks in advance if you decide to purchase one.

If anyone has requests or suggestions on the show, either things you'd like us to cover or guests we can reasonably hope to get, feel free to share.

Mar. 18, 2010 - United Kingdom - Football - Fulham v Juventus UEFA Europa League Third Round Second Leg - Craven Cottage, London, England - 18/3/10..Clint Dempsey celebrates scoring the fourth goal for Fulham.

by Daniel Popko

Clint Dempsey’s dribbler squeaked by Robert Green for the first of five ( US goals in South Africa. In addition, he had a high work rate and was dangerous enough playing for the Stars and Stripes that, on top of the best season of his career with Fulham, Deuce became an in demand commodity on the European transfer market.

While some of the “bandwagon fans” that jumped on for the magical run (have no fear, you’re perfectly welcome to come aboard, everyone has to start somewhere) might not have been able tell you what Dempsey’s club team was or, if they could, where it was located, that wouldn’t stop them from rallying behind one of their heroes. What if he suddenly found himself playing weekly in front of 80,000 screaming fans at the San Siro?

Have no fear, soccer’s “silly season” is here.

American sports fans love the speculation that comes with player movement. Millions tune in for the NFL Draft. The MLB Hot Stove captivates the nation. LeBron’s “Decision” was the third highest-grossing cable program of the year (but it still couldn’t touch Nickelodeon’s “ICarly.” No really). If the average American was looking for a boost to jump into love of the “other” football, what a better time than during the transfer market after the World Cup?

Transfer rumors make LeBron “taking his talents to South Beach” look tame by comparison. Young guns like Mario Balotelli and Neymar might command transfer money totaling upward of $30 million,, but could just as easily end up going nowhere. Cesc Fábregas treats Barcelona and Arsenal like a rose ceremony on “The Bachelorette” (sorry, I have female roommates. I couldn’t avoid the show if I wanted too, and believe me, I want to) and 30+ stars contemplate furthering the over-analyzed label of the MLS as a retirement league.

Men’s National teamers have moved around this transfer window, but nothing has made a big or even a moderate splash in world football. Sure Sacha Kljestan is headed to Anderlecht in Belgium and Jonathan Bornstein planned a move south of the border to Tigres. Even Jay DeMerit and Frankie Simek will be sporting some fresh colors in the Football League next season. Fantastic. I wish them all the best of luck - but there are bigger fish to be fried.

At this point it seems clear that even the endless pockets of Manchester City won’t table a bid that could make Don Garber consider letting American Golden Boy Landon Donovan leave MLS, so the speculative eye turns to the USA’s other dynamic attacking force (sorry Jozy) in Deuce.

The rumour mill stared churning in early July with reported interest from Italian giants Milan. With his former manager at Craven Cottage, Roy Hodgson, moving to Liverpool, that too became a “potential destination.” If the investigative reporting and impeccable sources of Wikipedia are to be believed (they shouldn’t, but then again real journalists tend to be nearly as accurate with transfer speculation), Napoli, Juventus, Bordeaux, Sochaux, Borussia Mönchengladbach were all lining up to have Clint sign on the dotted line.

The Napoli interest seems legitimate enough and Juventus would almost certainly like to avoid this happening again, but those final three clubs scream of pro-American linking just for its own sake. I’m not saying none of those teams wouldn’t benefit from Dempsey’s presence, but all three feature a prominent American on the roster already -- at least until Bradley flees Mönchengladbach for greener pastures. Not to mention, Sochaux, Mönchengladbach and Hannover could be viewed as a step down in club quality from Fulham.

Now while rumours are just as likely to come from real sources as a few supporters enjoying a pint, it’s not as if clubs are interested in Deuce for his place of honor in the eye of the American fan. They're after his composure, skill and the moments of brilliance he can provide in goals like his chip against Juve. Jason Kuenle tackled the idea of American friendly clubs when talking about the odyssey that Ricardo Clark could have had, and perhaps the success of Bradley, Steve Cherundolo and hopefully Charlie Davies will give these clubs a better idea of what American players can do, opening the door for young guns coming up the ranks.

Clubs like Fulham, Everton and arguably Aston Villa already seem to be keen on giving Americans a chance.. Scandinavia is simply bustling with American talent. Plymouth Argyle have even come back to offer trials to Cody Arnoux and Anton Peterlin after enjoying seven sublime appearances from Kenny Cooper. Even Milan would be going back for another piece of the pie after signing Oguchi Onyewu as their fifth choice center back.

While I don’t need to preach to the choir that is reading this right now, these are the small developments that are refreshing to hear. We care about Carlos Bocanegra making an essentially lateral move in Ligue 1 and Eddie Johnson and Freddy Adu’s double-loan to Greece, but Donovan spending 10 weeks in the blue jersey of Everton or Deuce possibly moving to a top European club grabs attention. It has the ability to make mainstream headlines, even in the American sports media.

At this point in soccer’s development in this country, any positive visibility is a good thing. It may not immediately put people in the seats for an FC Dallas-Kansas City Wizards game, but American players playing Champions League soccer at the top clubs in the sport makes the game more visible to the average viewer.

If you turn on Fox Soccer, you’re much more likely to see a match with AC Milan or Liverpool than Mönchengladbach or Sochaux. Having a player like Dempsey on the pitch may be enough to keep those fringe fans watching. Even if it’s not directly drawing them into the domestic game, it could be enough to get them interested in the sport itself beyond the national team, which itself is a start.

If Joe Average keeps coming back for more footy and realizes that Dempsey once plied his trade in the jersey of the New England Revolution or Tim Howard manned the cage for the MetroStars, maybe they’ll look around locally for their next fix and a view of the talent of tomorrow. Everyone’s journey to football fandom has to start somewhere.

Who knows, it may even be getting to see Maurice Edu make a clattering tackle on Sacha Kljestan in the Champions League group stage. That’s something almost every American fan can get behind.

Changes, Additions, Tweaks

Monday, July 26, 2010 | View Comments
Close-up of a route traced on a map

Time to update everyone on the changes afoot here at MFUSA. If you've been paying attention, and you're a sharp lot so I know you are, you might have noticed a few new names on the bylines of posts. These new writers are people who responded to my call for new contributors a few weeks ago.

This change, going from a mostly one-man blog to a team effort, will serve a few purposes: one, it will help me hone my editor's eye, something I've wanted to do for quite some time, and two, it will increase the amount of coverage the site provides. The goal is to keep standards high and posts insightful while giving you more posts on more subjects. I'm simply not capable of hitting everything worth talking about, so I'm happy for the help. Don't worry though, I'll still be churning out my usual quantity of nonsense.

If you find yourself curious about these new writers, visit the "Writers" page linked at the top of the site. As their first posts go up, I'll be adding biographical blurbs about them to the page.

And since I'm here, I might as well ask for reader input. I'm opening the floor to suggestions for things you'd like out of MFUSA in the future; I can't promise we can make them all happen, but we'll certainly consider anything.

June 23, 2010 - Tshwane/Pretoria, Guateng, South Africa - 23 JUN 2010: Jozy Altidore (USA). The United States National Team defeated the Algeria National Team 1-0 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa in a 2010 FIFA World Cup Group C match.

by Warren Lent

His feet have too much potential to even think about giving up on him, but impatience can drive any club to make rash decisions. The curious case of Jozy Altidore continues, with the usual twists and turns one would expect from a transfer season.

Jozy Altidore became the most expensive US international ever after his $10 million transfer from the New York Red Bulls to Villareal in 2008. The La Liga club had high expectations for the 18 year old. Villareal gave Altidore decent playing time, but thinking about long term development, the club sent him on a loan to Xerez while they were in the Segunda Division. Playing time was expected to be in abundance for Jozy, but a freak toe injury kept him off the pitch for the entire 08-09 season.

The beginning of the 2009 brought another setback when Villareal brought in fellow forward Nilmar from Internacional of Brazil. Nilmar is thought to be in the prime of his career as a forward, and the need for a player still developing like Jozy was non-existent for Villareal.

The 09-10 seasons had Altidore on the loan train once again to England as Hull City acquired him. A single premiership goal in 28 appearances, and a head butt to end his disappointing stay, has Jozy Altidore's young career somewhat uncertain heading into the 2010 season.

Reports have surfaced that a sale transfer of Altidore from Villareal may be possible, instead of another loan spell. Ajax seems perfect for a player like Altidore, but whether or not they would be willing to buy his rights has yet to be determined.

Although many Ajax supporters are hesitant to admit it, the Dutch club is known for being a launching pad to help many budding stars burst onto the scene. Ajax is the club of Luis Suarez, the striker who played a pivotal role in Uruguay’s impossibly deep run in the 2010 World Cup. The striker gained worldwide praise (and a fair share of jeers toward the end of the cup) and a transfer to a prestigious club elsewhere in Europe seems imminent. The reputation for Ajax as a top developmental club can only bring more hope to fans of Altidore if he were to make the move to Amsterdam.

If Ajax is not the next stop for Altidore, where would he be best suited to perform at a high level?

The answer is extremely tricky, because everyone that has been around Jozy believes that it is just a matter of time before he explodes. But another nagging question: when will this explosion finally happen? Unfortunately, motivation in training was an issue while Altidore was in Hull City, and has nagged him throughout his brief career. Natural ability alone will give him a good career, but supporters across the globe hope Jozy has the desire to be great.

Greatness may come at Villareal, but at this point it seems very unlikely. For better or worse Jozy Altidore holds the future in his own hands.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 25: A scoreboard displays the matchup prior to the game between Manchester United and the Kansas City Wizards at Arrowhead Stadium on July 25, 2010 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

In the immediate aftermath of the Wizards 2-1 victory over Manchester United yesterday came the inevitable superlatives and the equally expected backlash. For Wizards and some MLS fans, the win was a landmark by which the league and the team can be measured; the biggest win ever, the biggest goal of the weekend (Arnaud's or Kamara's, take your pick), etc., etc., HOLY CRAP THE WIZARDS BEAT MANCHESTER UNITED AND THIS PROVES SOMETHING UNPROVABLE.

To which the response was swift. It was just a friendly (it was), United's team was hardly even medium strength (mostly true), and pre-season friendlies are not usually hotly contested by the team in pre-season (yup). We could debate just how much the Wizards players cared versus how much those United scrubs did, but without the powers of time travel and telepathy it's impossible to know. Maybe United did mail it in while the Wizards played with every bit of themselves. It's certainly easy to assume, and for those looking to minimize the Wizards' win throw it out without proof.

That's all relevant. But the context gets lost in the one-side-crows-the-others-slaps-them-down dance, because the supporters of both arguments refuse to allow for subtleties. The exhortations of Wizards fans, a biased crowd blinded by their loyalties and naturally ecstatic with the result, shouldn't be assumed to the opinion of the masses. Nor should the wet blanket crowd, anxious to put everyone in their place, get a pass for being so derisively dismissive. There's a middle ground as to the weight of the Wizards win. Somewhere.

No one, at least no one sane, thinks that the Wizards are better than Manchester United. No one thinks MLS is approaching the Prem in quality. The Wizards aren't suddenly going to steal away "die hard" United fans from middle America. But because it was United, the most famous and valuable club in the world, it has real meaning. It was by no means "defining", and it might even stretch the definition of "historic"; but we can safely assume that millions of people who didn't know about or hadn't heard of the Wizards before yesterday know them now. There's a undefinable value in that, and it's unfair to criticize those tasked with selling MLS (TV commentators and the like) for breathlessly describing the win in over-the-top superlatives.

It was Manchester United. Excuse everyone for getting a little excited.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 25: Davy Arnaud  22 of the Kansas City Wizards talks to the media after the game against Manchester United at Arrowhead Stadium on July 25, 2010 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Everyone needs to relax. It was what it was, but no need to rain on anyone's parade. A little enthusiasm never hurt anyone. Even less important is worrying that the excited claims of a few MLS fans is going to hurt the reputation of all American soccer fans, coloring us as uninformed or naive. Who cares.

United was recently crowned the world's most valuable sports property at $1.8 billion. For a bit of perspective, and using the MLS expansion fee as a an easy base value for the typical American franchise, United's worth is equivalent to 46 MLS teams.

If we compared salaries for those that appeared in the match yesterday, the difference would be mind-boggling. The Wizards are a K-Mart team, United the finest Tiffany has to offer.

The Wizards win is a big deal for one day for those reasons and more. 50,000+ showed up at Arrowhead to watch. Soccer's place in the Midwest can only be helped by the event and by the Wizards win, and superlatives should be forgiven in the immediate afterglow. All that being said, it's probably best to move on quickly.

The other talking point from this game involved the straight red to Jimmy Conrad for his tackle of Dmitar Berbatov in the penalty area. First, it was a clear red, and if this match wasn't a friendly there would be no discussion of Terry Vaughn's call. I suppose it's fair to talk about the spectacle and keeping the sides level despite the call being correct; I just don't particularly have a problem with the call, and in the end it actually benefited the Wizards. By holding on for the victory (hell, by retaking the lead) while a man down, a greater air of accomplishment is attached to it. Right call, maybe wrong time, adds a bit more weight to the victory. Not worth the energy needed to debate it.

Again, moving on to things that matter. IT'S ALL-STAR WEEK!

AC Milan #80 Ronaldinho during a game against Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. Los Angeles Galaxy tied AC Milan 2-2 Sunday, July 19. 2009, in Carson, California. Photo by Matt A. . Photo via NewscomLos Angeles Galaxys Landon Donovan during game against AC Milan at the Home Depot Center. Los Angeles Galaxy tied AC Milan 2-2 Sunday, July 19. 2009, in Carson, California. Photo by Matt A. . Photo via Newscom

If this were an journalistic enterprise, and believe it or not I do have a few standards, I'm not sure I could get away with posting this bit of "news."

Luckily, this is just a blog, so I'm going to post it anyway while making sure to frame it with serious amounts of skepticism.

There are suggestions floating around that Ronaldinho might still sign for the Galaxy. In return, Milan would receive Landon Donovan.

The bar has been raised on the MLS transfer window silliness to heights never seen before.

I honestly don't what to make of this. I don't know if it has to be complete nonsense, or if it makes some sense on a weird level. If Donovan wants to go and the Galaxy want Ronaldinho to replace him, it's almost somehow conceivable. Except for the nagging problem that Milan have never once mentioned any interest in Donovan.

One of the "sources" says the price is 24 million euros and Donovan in return for Ronaldinho. That's insane. Ronaldinho's price tage was 10 million euros just recently.

The mentions of this deal are posted in languages I don't speak. I'm relying on Google Translate here, so if I'm missing some nuance, please let me know.

Meanwhile, I'm glad it's Friday.

A thanks for the heads up on this go to @jguesman. Follow him on Twitter and visit his Galaxy blog Section 108.

PHILADELPHIA - JULY 21: Philadelphia Union fans cheer during the game against Manchester United at Lincoln Financial Field on July 21, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Like it or not, soccer fan culture in cities across the United States and Canada will naturally reflect the character of the particular city. Individually speaking, this means that the supporters for an MLS team are going to act like fans from other sports. Maybe they'll sing a little more. Maybe they'll have drums or chant in Spanish due to a larger Latino makeup. But for the most part, New Yorkers are going to act like New Yorkers, Chicagoans like Chicagoans, Philadelphians like Philadelphians, etc., etc.

And those Philadelphians like to curse if you haven't heard, or if you've simply ignored the fan behavior at Phillies, Flyers, Eagles, and Sixers games over the years. In most cases more than a few fans aren't doing it in unison, so the extent of aural destruction is limited. Get a couple hundred or thousand fans on the same page, however, and you have a chorus of profanity washing over everyone and everything in its path like a wall of dirty sound. It's not what Phil Spector had in mind. Because soccer promotes this coordinated chanting like no other sport, the profanity is generally much clearer and more easily noticed.

Which is a problem when uptight tourists visit a stadium containing passionate rowdies, and do so expecting a quiet family-friendly day of watching their favorite foreign powerhouse club. There are a lot of Manchester United fans, for whatever reason, and when the Red Devils come Stateside for the first time in years, those fans flock in droves. As moths to the overpriced flame, they're simply appalled (APPALLED!) when those disgusting local fans - dressed in the colors of the lowly MLS team whom they value their real connection with - yell out a resounding "F**k You!" or "You Suck A**hole!"

How cute, those delicate sensibilities.

Whether or not it's right for those fans to curse, or whether their use of the language is a touch...basic, is a debate for a different day. The former is a matter of taste and what one expects from fans at a sporting event. There are lines that shouldn't be crossed, and fans should be careful not to cross them. I don't see simple cursing as that, usually. There are times when it's not called for and repetitive use is distasteful; more than anything, it just grates on the ears to hear fans resort to profanity to express themselves rather than create something clever. American soccer crowds too often lack for creativity.

But if Philly fans, at all sporting events, curse, why should we want or expect anything different at a Union match? Screw soccer exceptionalism, I want my American soccer crowds to be just like their football, baseball, and hockey equivalents but with that little bit of extra flair. Soccer crowds should be unique because they're soccer crowds; that doesn't mean they should be watered down versions of crowds at other sporting events, it means they should be the exact opposite. Louder. More coordinated. A better representation of the passion they have for the sport and their team. Since we're talking Philly, they should be more Philly.

I'm not advocating more cursing. I'm advocating that they use it wisely to its greatest effect and they stay true to their Philly-ness. American soccer culture is American sports culture with a twist. And it should be.

Now that I've bored you to tears will all of this, I should reveal the source of my inspiration. After attending the Union-Manchester United game, someone decided to lambaste Union fans for their choice of words. Most of it is uptight nonsense. Subsequently the author apologized for mistaking a non-profane chant for "F*ck You!", which takes much of the sting out of the "controversy." If I didn't know better, I'd think the entire thing was a concoction meant to rile up Union fans and set off a firestorm. The post is certainly getting a lot of attention, with links from more bloggers than you can shake a stick at.

The retraction doesn't change my feelings on the issue, and I'll defend the fans' right to use any words they choose that aren't racist, homophobic, or make light of a tragic loss of life. In fact, I almost wish the Philly fans had been chanting what the writer thought they were chanting.

More bothersome to me than the objection to perceived bad words is the idea that an American Manchester United fan should feel an obligation to apologize to the English fans in the crowd on behalf of their countrymen. What? There are almost no words to describe how ridiculous this is, both from a visiting-fan perspective (forget where the fans individually came from; Manchester United were the visitors, which makes their fans the visiting fans) and because it indicates a tragically mistaken view on the niceties of football. Here's the truth: there are none. Even as we speak, MLS is slowly shedding the family-friendly soccer mom label it embraced for too long; professional soccer matches around the world, and yes, also in England, are attended by adult supporters who curse, curse often, and curse loudly. There's nothing for which the Union fans should be ashamed. Britain is not populated by a race of super-polite cheery gents who never curse and will always invite you over for tea. Sports can be crude and impolite, and this is part of their appeal.

Think of soccer in American like you would any other sporting event, consider the locale you're visiting, and prepare accordingly. If you find yourself with even the smallest doubt about the level of behavior at the game, don't go.

For a similar take to mine, see Aaron Stollar's at Fighting Talker.

Voila! Henry Scores

Friday, July 23, 2010 | View Comments
July 22, 2010 - United States of America - Football - New York Red Bulls v Tottenham Hotspur 2010 New York Football Challenge - Pre Season Friendly - Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey, United States of America - 22/7/10..New York Red Bulls' Thierry Henry celebrates scoring his first goal.

It really couldn't have gone better for Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls last night. Sure, it would have been nice to actually win the game, but in the end losing hardly matters. Henry played, shone, and scored. Red Bull fans have to be giddy with the anticipation of letting the Frenchman loose on unsuspecting MLS defenses.

Henry didn't look slow and he didn't look rusty. The New York attack was naturally focused through him, and though that might eventually lead to an imbalance that could hurt them, it's hard to imagine any other tact. There's enough talent in the lineup in other places to make the Red Bulls supremely dangerous when Henry is on the field.

Because man, can he finish. His goal was a perfect example of that fact; after Lindpere made hay on the right, Henry got just enough of a touch to steer the cross to the far post. A thing of beauty, it wasn't. Effective? Completely. Henry will score goals in this league (duh) and he will likely score some pretty ones. But New York will benefit most from his ability to put the ball in the net no matter the "beauty" of it all.

As I wrote before the game, Henry's debut was everything Beckham's wasn't. That doesn't mean the effect will be bigger, or that Beckham's poorly handled debut for the Galaxy didn't have it's own unique positives. But Henry brings a different type of attention, and because he scores goals for living, he will inevitably show up in more places more often for what he does on the field rather than what he does off it.

Henry took the PATH train to Red Bull Arena last night without telling anyone that he was going to do so. That speaks volumes about the man's love for that town and his understanding of what being here means. He might be a cheat, but it's hard to argue that his being here isn't good for the league.

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Remember the summer of 2007? MLS had finally signed a big time player, and though David Beckham was clearly past his prime, he brought real star power to the league for the first time. We didn't know yet that Beckham's first year and a half would border on disaster, that Beckham would be looking for ways out of LA in subsequent winters, or that the vaunted "Beckham Effect" would fade so quickly. Amidst talk that he was just here to increase his star everywhere but the field, Beckham landed on American shores to pied-piper the masses toward the beautiful game.

Except he was injured when he got here, and when he did debut, it was in a meaningless friendly on a still-gimpy ankle. Ill-advised to say the least, it was clear at the time that the Galaxy (with Frank Yallop only a puppet) pushed Beckham onto the field for the cameras and the crowd. From a playing perspective, almost everything that could have gone wrong, did.

Tonight, the biggest name to cross the Atlantic since Beckham will make his own debut in an MLS shirt. Thierry Henry will face his old Arsenal rivals Tottenham at Red Bull Arena, and indications are that the Frenchman's debut will go off without a hitch (barring an injury - let's hope I'm not a jinx). Beckham's arrival was big news followed by injuries problems and disappointing play; Henry's, even if his play is mildly disappointing, can't possibly be anything but a thousand times better.

I'm not big on these friendlies during the season, but I am looking forward to seeing what should be a mostly-full stadium respond to Henry. I'm not sure how much we should expect out of him in terms of quality play, but the moment should be excellent.

Make no mistake: There's a sideshow element to Henry's arrival, just as there was for Beckham. But there's also a sense that the league has grown up a lot over the course of the last three years, and Henry being here is a different kettle of fish. The hype isn't there for Henry the way it was for Beckham, but for most of us that's a good thing.

If you want to watch the game tonight, it will be on FSC and streamed through Veetle for free. Veetle requires that you download a plugin, but the picture is excellent. The site will also have the other games in the "tournament."

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