Mar 04, 2010 - Bruehl, Germany - Former german national coach JUERGEN KLINSMANN is presented as TV expert for german channel RTL for FIFA World Cup, in Bruehl.

The biggest news of the moment comes to us from Canada, where Toronto FC are reportedly on the verge of signing Juergen Klinsmann as a consultant.  Klinsmann and his California-based company, Soccer Solutions, will advise Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment on everything from the club's next GM down to playing style and academy setup.

FIFA Meets, Changes Nothing

Friday, October 29, 2010 | View Comments
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a news conference in Singapore August 11, 2010. Blatter is an invited guest of the Singapore Youth Olympic committee. The inaugural Youth Olympics will be hosted in the city-state from August 14 to 26. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash (SINGAPORE - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS SOCCER)

FIFA wrapped up their planned Executive Committee meetings today with a press conference in Zurich, where it was announced that the December 2 vote on World Cup bids for 2018 and 2022 would go ahead as scheduled. Despite a barrage of questions as to the fairness of the vote, and though he admitted that combining the voting on 2018 and 2022 was a mistake in retrospect, Sepp Blatter and FIFA did little to assuage fears of corruption.

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 20: Chris Wondolowski  of the San Jose Earthquakes gives the team mascot a fist pump after being honored as team MVP before a game against Chivas USA on October 20, 2010 at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Wondolowski scored three goals as a substitute in the second half during the Earthquakes' 3-0 win. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

by Robert Jonas - Center Line Soccer

Over the past couple of weeks Major League Soccer has been collecting the ballots for the various regular season awards that will be announced over the next few weeks. The list included major awards like the Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, and Goalkeeper of the Year, along with lesser known awards like Referee of the Year and Public Relations Staff of the Year. Since the polls closed this past Monday afternoon, MLS has released the finalists in each award category and media members have revealed their first choices. For me, the most interesting of the categories is that of MVP.

MLS Playoff Predictions

Thursday, October 28, 2010 | View Comments
SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 22:  Kyle Beckerman #5 of Real Salt Lake holds the Philip F. Anschutz MLS Cup trophy as he and his teammates celebrate their win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup final at Qwest Field on November 22, 2009 in Seattle, Washington. Real Salt Lake won 5-4 in a penalty shootout following regulation time.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Columbus and Colorado kick off the MLS playoff season tonight at Dick's Sporting Good Park.  Eight teams, one Cup, all the pomp, pageantry (such as MLS can produce for conference semifinals), and more cliches than you can shake a stick at.

Japan is regarded as a long shot to win the 2022 World Cup bid, in part because they were joint hosts with South Korea (another 2022 bidder) only eight years ago. If FIFA can be swayed by promises of advanced technology, however, they're chances might be better than conventional wisdom believes.

MLS Regular Season Prediction Review

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | View Comments

Fortuneteller's Hands Above Crystal Ball

Standing up and taking one's medicine on predictions gone wrong is a humbling experience.  Not that there's any real shame in failing to nail down a league rife with parity and year-to-year shifts; MLS is a harsh mistress, and those trying to tame her nothing but gluttons for punishment.

Donovan Should Pass on Another Loan

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | View Comments
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Landon Donovan  of the Los Angeles Galaxy looks on prior to a corner kick in the first half during the MLS match against D.C. United at The Home Depot Center on September 18, 2010 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated United 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

With the MLS season coming to a close, and with the January window rapidly approaching, steam is building behind another winter loan for Landon Donovan.  Everton are the most vocal bidders, of course, and Donovan has regularly expressed his desire to return to Goodison since leaving England in the spring.  Newcastle is also rumored to be interested in the Galaxy attacker.

Aztex Fans Express Their Pain

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | View Comments

What was rumor is now fact; the Austin Aztex are no more, having been uprooted from Texas and moved to Florida to continue life as Orlando City Soccer Club. Phil Rawlins is the man responsible, and while he's saying all the right things about bringing professional soccer to Orlando, it's impossible to ignore the broken hearts he left behind in Austin.

USMNT Dark Horse Eugene Starikov

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | View Comments

The net for potential USMNT players is cast necessarily wide in the hope that anyone with American ties can be brought into the fold.  While Germany (Jermaine Jones, possibly Daniel Williams) and Mexico (a plethora of young players) are the focus at the moment, there's reason to cast an interested eye towards Russia.

This is the face of greatness

Before I dive headfirst into the concrete-bottomed shallow end of the bracket, I'd like to take a moment to say something about an issue that's been bugging me. I don't follow the second division that closely, because it's not on TV, and there's even less money in writing about USL and NASL than there is in writing about MLS, but the move of the Austin Aztex to Florida is disappointing, if only for Austin soccer fans. I hate the notion that supporters can be left high and dry whenever the Front Office wants to chase a fresh dollar or two. Looks like there's two Mickey Mouse organizations in Orlando now.

And while I realize that emotions are running high, I don't quite get the hate for the name "Orlando City SC." Is it kinda clunky and an obvious bit of europosing? Sure, but it could have been worse. It could have been Lokomotiv Orlando. Orlando Albion. Bayern Orlando FK. CD Chivas USA.

Now that I've gotten that out of my system like so much bad Taco Bell, let's talk playoffs. Or as it will be known in the next round, the Western Conference Cup. Because right now, I have very little confidence in the two East teams. Columbus has played quite a lot of matches with a squad boasting an average age of seventy eight, winning just one of their last seven games (Against nothing to play for Philly, so it barely counts), and to top it off, Will Hesmer is out for the season with a Danny Califf'd shoulder. Against the physical presence of USMNT rejects like Pablo Mastroeni and Conor Casey, I don't see the Crew playing going beyond two.

Interesting side note, the other keeper besides Hesmer to score a goal in MLS? Danny Cepero, against Hesmer's backup and now, Crew starter for the playoffs, Andy Gruenebaum. Stay strong, Nordecke.

As for the other team from the Rust Belt, it's not that the Red Bulls aren't good, it's that they're playing against Chris Wondolowski, who has ten goals in his last eight games. That's not just "hot." Five goals in eight games is "hot." Ten? Tim Ream better bring plenty pf SPF50 if he doesn't want to end up like a ginger in Phoenix.*

Looking to the West, the most difficult team to predict is obviously the Galaxy. I wouldn't be surprised to see them steamroll everyone and romp their way to a third MLS Cup. I also wouldn't be surprised if they rolled over and meekly went two-and-out against Seattle.

The Sounders themselves are a bit of an enigma, too. Over their last fourteen games, the boys in rave green have posted a 10-2-2 record with 22 for and 11 against. On the flip side, they've also been outscored 7-1 by LA this season, and the vaunted home crowd advantage they have at Qwest wasn't much help when the Galaxy put four past Kasey Keller in May.

That just leaves Real Salt Lake against FC Dallas left to cover. If MLS used a single table, Dallas would be playing the dead-men-walking Columbus Crew. Instead, they get to play the reigning champs. Who haven't lost a home game since May. Of last year.

My picks:
San Jose defeats New York
Colorado defeats Columbus
Los Angeles defeats Seattle
Salt Lake defeats Dallas

San Jose defeats Colorado
Salt Lake defeats Los Angeles

Salt Lake defeats San Jose

*That is, burnt beyond recognition.

The Cosmos: Con or Committed?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | View Comments

Two weeks or so ago, I started to write a piece on the new New York Cosmos and their "efforts" to this point in their nascent existence. In light of the release of their Umbro line of gear (which I posted about at the time) and because so much of what they've done to this point seemed...shady, I intended to tear the Cosmos apart as a fake team scamming the world in a bid to sell jerseys.

The Return of the Ginge brings Sepp Blatter audio on the FIFA corruption scandal, talk about all those MLSers retiring this year, the structure of the MLS playoffs and what the league's format will be in years to come. Did I mention Sepp audio?

In this space on Friday, Robert Jonas discussed the nature of modern sports and the lack of "clubs" in MLS, boiling down the fan-team relationship into one of pure economics.  Teams have owners who sell a product.  Fans, or supporters if you like, either buy that product or they don't.  When the team is struggling on the field or management fails to address the problems, fans only recourse is to not buy tickets.  The word "club" is not applicable to MLS franchises because they fail to meet the basic definition.

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 24: The Los Angeles Galaxy starting XI pose for a group photo prior to the MLS match against FC Dallas on October 24, 2010 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated FC Dallas 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

So that's it then - the 2011 MLS regular season has come to a close.  It's been quite a ride, starting way back in the frosty days of March, included a first-ever break for a World Cup, an infusion of high-dollar talent in the summer, the initially dominant Galaxy come back to the pack before hanging on for a point title, and a shock Golden Boot winner in Chris Wondolowski. Other things happened, too, but they're too numerous to name. 2010 was a whirlwind year.

Steve Nicol to Liverpool?

Saturday, October 23, 2010 | View Comments
Join Liverpool? Are you crazy?

Far be it for me to kick start a nasty internet rumor that has no basis in fact, but I was contemplating* the current travails of Liverpool Football Club, and having seen more than one or two suggestions that it might be time for Roy Hodgson to move on - or more accurately, to be moved on, forcibly, presumably using an electric cattle prod - a name came to mind.

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by Robert Jonas - Center Line Soccer

As Major League Soccer nears the conclusion of its sixteenth season, the organization is making the transition from a struggling fringe league to an important part of the American sporting landscape. Attention from the classic and on-line media and the availability of games both in live venues and on television have never been higher in this country.

Ah, the business of soccer in America. Just when a club (I use that word ironically, despite treating it as a synonym for "franchise" in an American context) begins to take root, just when the fan base is growing and just when a supporters groups see success in building their numbers, it's all taken away.

The competitive structure of MLS rarely stays the same for very long.  Between teams coming (and going), the white knuckle determination of league to hold onto its conference setup, and regular concerns over schedule congestion and travel, the people in charge of such things are constantly tinkering.  The number of scheduled games fluctuates regularly, as it will again next year when each teams plays 34 times, a four game increase over 2010.

SOCCER/FUTBOL RAFA, YA ES TORO Photo of Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, during press conference of Rafael Marquez./Foto del comisionado de la Major League Soccer Don Garber, durante conferencia de Rafael Marquez. 03 August 2010 MEXSPORT/ISI PHOTOS Photo via Newscom

And now, a message from MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

"(TFC supporters) helped teach Americans how to be soccer fans, travelling, being passionate about Champions League and international games. It’s unfortunate that they haven’t been rewarded with a successful team."

Uh. Ok.

A general view shows FIFA headquarters, the Home of FIFA, in Zurich October 20, 2010. FIFA will begin an investigation on Wednesday into allegations of vote-selling by two members of its executive committee in the contest to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and that bidding nations may have colluded. Tahitian Reynald Temarii and Nigerian Amos Adamu will be summoned as the ethics committee probes allegations they offered to sell their votes when approached by Sunday Times reporters posing as lobbyists for an American consortium. Picture taken with a fish-eye lens. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann (SWITZERLAND - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

FIFA's ethics committee addressed the recent vote-selling scandal publicly yesterday, announcing that the two executive members caught on tape by The Sunday Times offering to sell their votes, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, are provisionally suspended pending a further investigation.  A final hearing will take place next month.

San Jose Earthquakes - 2
Chivas USA - 1

New York Red Bulls - 1
New England Revolution - 1

Houston Dynamo - 0
Seattle Sounders FC - 1

DC United - 1
Toronto FC - 1

Kansas City Wizards - 1
San Jose Earthquakes - 0

Colorado Rapids - 2
Real Salt Lake - 0

Chivas USA - 2
Chicago Fire - 5

Columbus Crew - 2
Philadelphia Union - 3

LA Galaxy - 2
FC Dallas - 1

VIDEO: The Referee

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | View Comments

Martin Hansson was the referee on that fateful night in Paris when Thierry Henry's handball saved the French and sparked an international incident. This documentary chronicles Hansson's quest to realize his dream of refereeing in the World Cup and the non-decision that derailed it.

Depth Key as RSL Tops CCL Group

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | View Comments
SANDY, UT - JULY 31: Head coach of Real Salt Lake Jason Kreis and players wait for a game against DC United to start at an MLS soccer game against Real Salt Lake July 31, 2010 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Real Salt Lake, the defending MLS Cup champions and overall second place team during the 2010 regular season, is their depth.  RSL's big names are well known as major drivers of their recent succss;  Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio and Jamison Olave all come to mind as all-league type players.  But RSL also features "lesser" names that contribute to their overall success; these players fill defined roles, operate under the radar, and come off the bench when needed to fit perfectly into the greater team concept.  That depth and across-the-board quality are true testaments to the what Garth Lagerwey and Jason Kreis' have built in the Utah desert.

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Get me out of this thing!

The internet has exploded recently with the revelation that this decade's "Savior of English Football™," Wayne Rooney, is intent on leaving the favorite team of that friend of yours who also likes the Yankees, Cowboys, and Lakers. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Landon Donovan might be headed back to England and Everton in January, and the chances that it will be permanent just got a lot better.

In this episode of potential US National Teamers-who-are-not-yet-eligible ("The Inbetweeners"?), two exciting prospects of African origin but with American stories have contact with their birth-nation's soccer federation, throwing their international futures in to doubt and giving the red, white and blue clad faithful reason to worry that they're set to lose out on yet more promising young soccer talent

The Playoffs As They Are

Monday, October 18, 2010 | View Comments
There's a bit of jockeying to be done, but the MLS Cup playoff field is set.  Playoffs are what Americans do; be you a traditionalist or not, it's hard to argue that this particular playoff season isn't setting up to be a barn burner.    The "best" team over the course of the season might not win (though we don't know who that is quite yet), but that the price we pay for heightened excitement.

RSL Turnaround Gives TFC Hope

Monday, October 18, 2010 | View Comments
CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 13:  Head Coach Mo Johnston of Toronto FC looks on prior to his team's MLS match against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center on October 13, 2007 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

In Major League Soccer, hope springs eternal. Even in October.

Toronto FC has just one league match left of their schedule, a road date with DC United on Saturday. Having already lost to United at home last month (which effectively ended their playoff hopes), the only thing left for TFC to play for is avoiding the ignominy of being swept by the league's worst team. 2010 is over. Time to look ahead.

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ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - OCTOBER 30:  The sign of the FIFA headquarters during the FIFA Executive Committee announcement for the host venue of the FIFA Womens World Cup 2011, at the FIFA headquarters on October 30, 2007 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)

In perhaps the least surprising development since Tom Hicks' idiotic comments on the end of his Liverpool tenure, members of the FIFA executive committee, the body responsible for handing out the two World Cup bids for 2018 and 2022, have been caught offering to sell their votes.

We're No-Ginge for one more week, so this episode features the thoughts of Brian Straus from Soccer Fanhouse on USA-Colombia before Jared DuBois (find him on Twitter, listen to his podcast) returns to break down that game and consider bribery allegations in the World Cup bidding process.

USA Bid Committee Executive Director David Downs addresses the media during a press conference announcing the 18 cities to be submitted to FIFA as part of the bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup at the ESPN Zone in Times Square, NYC, NY, on January 12, 2010.

In separate moves no doubt related to one another, the United States has dropped its 2018 World Cup bid while England have done the same for 2022.  The implication here is that by choosing to bow out of the consideration for 2018, the US got something in return; Sunil Gulati has been adamant in recent weeks that the Americans would only limit themselves to one bid if it brought an advantage.  With this news coming down today, we can assume that something has been promised to the US bid organizers.

During the height of their protests against owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet, Liverpool fans burned American flags as a intentionally provocative sign of their hatred.  "Yanks Out" was a consistent refrain, echoing across Merseyside as the two American billionaires took the club further and further into debt.  With the deadline for the Royal Bank of Scotland to seize the club and take it into administration approaching, the roar of anti-American disdain became deafening.  Though the vitriol was specifically directed at Hicks and  Gillet, the nationality of the owners became a significant element in the way fans expressed their anger.

Onyewu Not Talking

Friday, October 15, 2010 | View Comments
Aug. 06, 2010 - 06284017 date 05 08 2010 Copyright imago Buzzi Oguchi Onyewu PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxITA Football men 2011 ITA Series A try out Single Vdig xkg 2010 horizontal premiumd.

Snub a reporter, risk a ripping. Oguchi Onyewu learned that lesson this week after his first match as captain for the USMNT in Philadelphia. After a refusing to speak with the media during training camp for the Americans' two October friendlies, Onyewu carried over the policy to the aftermath of the Colombia game in Philadelphia. Simon Borg relates Onyewu walking through the mixed zone and wagging a finger in the direction of the assembled reporters.

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Chris Wondolowski  of the San Jose Earthquakes reacts after missing a shot against the Chicago Fire during an MLS game at Buck Shaw Stadium on September 29, 2010 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

by Robert Jonas - Center Line Soccer

Turn on your radio or television and you can’t miss them — campaign advertisements for politicians and propositions hoping to earn your vote ahead of state and local elections in early November. Most of these ads end up being of the mudslinging variety, but some try to focus in on the positive attributes politicians support and the promises they hope to bring forth if elected. Discussions and debates rage on between supporters on either side of each race and issue, while those few left in the middle and undecided try to weigh the merits of the opposing campaigns. In a few weeks’ time, all the fuss, all the arguments, all the vitriol will give way to a slate of winning candidates and new laws, and the losers will soon be forgotten.

Two Cultures Coming Together

Thursday, October 14, 2010 | View Comments
Brian "Buster" Phillips of Run of Play has a new post up extrapolating some of the "cultural shadow" (my phrase) discussion on Ian Darke and the influence the English have on American soccer into a wider musing on cultural cross-pollination.  The thrust of his piece is that perhaps English and American soccer cultures are beginning to blend and fuse as a greater number of Americans throw themselves into the game, English outfits looks to learn American marketing techniques, clubs are passing into American hands and the Internet puts us all into a rolling shared-language conversation on all of the preceding and more.  Brian reasons that as time moves along, the language and the growing involvement of Americans will only pull us closer to our cousins across the pond when it comes to this game.  That's the nature of globalization, and soccer isn't immune.

Friendly Takeaway

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | View Comments
USA's midfielder Jermaine Jones (15) battles for the ball with Colombia's midfielder John Valencia during their international friendly soccer match in Chester, Pennsylvania, October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Why all the hate of the 4-3-3? Yes, it turned into a 4-1-4-1. Yes, it looked uncomfortable. Yes, it produced no shots on goal. Well, I guess with these factors going against it, I can understand the hate. But, I find myself in counterpoint again to a vocal portion of the US fan base. Here’s what I saw in these two games that gives me hope.

The fan base has been clamoring for a change to a more attacking, possession based formation. They got what they wanted in the 4-3-3.

And it wasn’t effective.

This was particularly the case on the front line. So, let’s break down that line in this formation. Jozy isn’t yet to the level that he can be effective as a single striker. Holden is much better passing the ball than making runs at defenders. Shea, while skill-wise is a good fit for that wing position, received his first cap and showed the accompanying nerves. With this the case, it should not be that surprising that the US struggled to create opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, there is a reason that the US has played a 4-4-2; its players are currently best suited for a 4-4-2.

Transitioning to a possession oriented, attacking team is not going to be pretty. Too many of the traits and tactics that made the 4-4-2 effective for the US are counterproductive in an alternative formation. For example, the dump pass into the deep corner works great in the 4-4-2. Either the side midfielder receives the ball and has two targets in the box or one of the central forwards peels out and the side midfielder makes a diagonal run into the space left by the forward. We’ve seen this second tactic consistently in US games over the last couple years. Long ball down the side, Altidore peels off, receives the ball, makes a move, passes to the diagonal run of Dempsey or Donovan.

In the 4-3-3, this tactic doesn’t work if it is the striker receiving the ball in the corner. If Altidore receives the ball in the corner. There is not another striker in the middle to create space for the diagonal run. Leaving a cross or back pass as the only options. The cross is not a solid option because only the opposite winger is in a good position in the box. This leaves the attack killing backpass as the best option. Too often, Altidore was on the receiving end of long balls into the corners because the wingers weren't there.

The wingers weren't there because, there are tactics that don’t work in the counterattacking 4-4-2 style that are essential to an effective 4-3-3. In the 4-3-3, more of the width needs to be provided by the side backs. This allows the three midfielders to stay central and dominate possession and the two wingers to stay forward. This didn’t happen last night. With Spector rarely getting forward, Holden was forced to check down. The experience on the left side was similar, but to a lesser extent. With the wingers checking down to provide the width, the formation changes into a 4-1-4-1 which is why it was Jozy chasing down the balls in the corner.

For the side backs to provide width, they need time to get forward. This time can be created by the interaction of the central defenders and the central midfield. A ball turned over played into the central midfield, back to the central defenders, then back up to the central midfield gives the side backs time to enter the attack from their defensive positions. On the second possession by the central midfield, the passing options should have developed; internal passing among the central midfield, passes outside to the sidebacks, diagonal balls to the wingers, and the through or over the top ball to the striker. The time necessary to get into these positions, of course, stymies the counterattack and deep long ball on which the US has survived. But if the goal is possession, the counterattack should not be the primary option after a turnover.

This summer, I discussed at length where I thought the US should be heading based on the projected talent pool in 2014. These past two matches has done little to change my opinion. Jermaine Jones looks capable of playing any of the three central midfield positions. Eric Lichaj looked very good going forward and his defending was solid for a first cap. Outside of blown clearances, the defense was solid, even without Onyewu being match fit. While playing in the 4-4-2, the offense had rhythm even without Donovan.

If the US is to use a possession oriented formation, its going to have to sacrifice results. Villarreal generally plays with two up top. So for Jozy to develop into a player capable of playing as a single striker, he is going to have to get that experience (and the poor offensive performances that come with this) with the national team. For the side backs to find the right balance, they are going to get caught out occasionally. For the central midfielders to find their short passing rhythm, there are going to be bad turnovers that lead to breakaways.

Effectively playing a possession oriented formation will require growth from the players in the talent pool. With that growth, there will be growing pains. The US is not in a position where it can seamlessly transition from one style to another. If we really want to see the US become a team that can hold possession and work an offense, its going to require time and patience.

Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski kicks the ball past USA's Maurice Edu during the first half of their international friendly soccer match in Chicago, October 9, 2010. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Let's pretend.  You're the coach of a national team, which means your opportunities to run your charges through their paces are limited, and your pool of players is fluid and unpredictable.  Your team has issues with depth in central defense, and an overabundance (quite suddenly) of defensive-minded central midfielders.  You have friendlies on the schedule and the mandate to push the envelope.  What do you do?

Chicago Fire - 1
Kansas City Wizards - 1

Seattle Sounders FC - 3
Chivas USA - 1

Chicago Fire - 2
DC United - 2

Toronto FC - 2
Columbus Crew - 0

Philadelphia Union - 2
New York Red Bulls - 2

New England Revolution - 1
Kansas City Wizards - 2

Real Salt Lake - 1
FC Dallas - 0

San Jose Earthquakes - 2
Houston Dynamo - 1

LA Galaxy - 2
Colorado Rapids - 2

HARRISON, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Thierry Henry  of the New York Red Bulls looks on against the Colorado Rapids on September 11, 2010 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Red Bulls defeat the Rapids 3-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

The idea that MLS is headed down a dangerous path with increasing investment in players like David Beckham and Thierry Henry is not a new one.  Nor is the inflammatory notion that doing so will create NASL redux, a repeat of history that will inevitably lead to the league's collapse.

A Request for Charlie Davies

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | View Comments
Sochaux president Alexandre Lacombe told a French newspaper yesterday that it will be at least six months before it's clear whether Charlie Davies will be a top-flight player again.

"According to doctors, it will take at least 18 months from the date of the accident to hope for real progress and know more. It's a miracle he's still alive and doing well. Right now, Charlie isn't a Ligue 1-level player, that's for sure, but he continues to work hard ..."

The Timbers' New Beginning

Monday, October 11, 2010 | View Comments
The Portland Timbers, USSF Division 2 version, were knocked out of the playoffs last night by the Vancouver Whitecaps when they won 1-0 but lost the two-legged series 1-2 on aggregate. While the Whitecaps will continue on in search of one final second division title, the Timbers have played their last game as a minor league outfit.

The new show is up in all of the places it can possibly be up, so get your fill.  The Ginge is off on a tour of the Southeastern United States, so Jared DuBois of jrodius twitter fame and the Corner of the Galaxy podcast sits in to help me weave my way through USA-Poland thoughts, CD9's vehicle-related mistakes, and the value of the US Open Cup in light of the Sounders repeat.

CHESTER, PA - AUGUST 11: A view of the video board above the field during a game between Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on August 11, 2010 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The game was a 1-1 tie. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

The United States is bidding to host a World Cup - possibly in eight years, but more likely in twelve.  As time ticks down on the pony show bidding process, it wouldn't be wrong to say that each and every little thing matters. The charisma of the men charged with selling the bids, the number of signatures on electronic petitions to promises of extraordinary profits; it is all meant to make the bids in question look as mouth-watering as possible to the FIFA committee.  Appearances matter.

The USA's Jermaine Jones (15) and Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski struggle for the ball during the second half of their international friendly soccer match in Chicago, October 9, 2010. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Uneven, inconsistent, somewhat encouraging while at the the same time eminently maddening; the United States' performance on Saturday night against Poland was all of those things.  But what most stuck out for fans and analysts alike was the strong performance by the team's long-awaited addition, American-German Jermaine Jones.

USA-Poland Gameday Discussion

Saturday, October 09, 2010 | View Comments
Here we go with Bob Bradley Version 2.0 - USA v Poland tonight in Chicago (7:30 PM EDT, Fox Soccer Channel). 

There are several questions to which we'll have answers come game time, including whether or not Bob Bradley intends to move away from his tried and true 4-4-2. The looks of the roster seems to indicate a change is coming.

The Soccer Blog Hustle

Saturday, October 09, 2010 | View Comments
Let's throw the curtain aside for a moment, shall we?  Though the business of blogging isn't of interest to everyone (that old axiom about sausage comes to mind), enough of you might care that a discussion of some recent developments seems appropriate.

New York Red Bulls - 2
Real Salt Lake - 1

FC Dallas - 2
Coloroado Rapids - 0

DC United - 1
San Jose Earthquakes - 3

Kansas City Wizards - 1
Seattle Sounders FC - 1

Chivas USA - 1
Toronto FC - 3

Houston Dynamo - 2
New England Revolution - 1

If it wasn't Friday and work wasn't hell, I would have had this up earlier.  In fact, I debated whether to post it at all.  Alas, it's gone uber-wide at this point, so it's likely you've already heard, and there are some ramifications to consider.   Charlie Davies was caught going 125 mph (or whatever that is in kilometers) at some point this past weekend.

SEATTLE - MAY 01: Head coach Sigi Schmid of the Seattle Sounders FC (R) talks with head coach Robert Warzycha of the Columbus Crew prior to the game on May 1, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

by Robert Jonas - Center Line Soccer

As the MLS regular season enters its final fortnight, the top eight teams in the current league table are virtually assured qualification to the post-season MLS Cup tournament. The bottom three of those eight — Seattle Sounders FC, the Colorado Rapids, and the San Jose Earthquakes — now face an interesting choice as to where they target their playoff seedings.

World Cup Bid Pimping in London

Thursday, October 07, 2010 | View Comments
"The diminutive director of US Soccer does come across as arrogant at times..."

The 2018 and 2022 World Cups are set to be handed out in roughly two months, and the men in charge of hyping their respective nations' worthiness to host one or the other are buzzing around like caffeinated bees. They're desperate to convince the watching football world that they've got it all.

Here's a small collection of stories to be shared and commented on - not sure I have enough to say to warrant a dedicated post on each, but they're all noteworthy.

SAN ANTONIO - MARCH 5:  Visitors walk around outside of the Alamo the night before the 168th Anniversary of the 1836 Fall of the Alamo March 5, 2004 in San Antonio, Texas. The events begin at dawn the following day to commemorate the final day of the Alamo conflict.  (Photo by Jill Torrance/Getty Images)

If you missed this news earlier in the week, a San Antonio entry will join the NASL in 2012.  We've chronicled the efforts of the Texas city to get a professional club in this space, specifically in reference to the supporters group The Crocketteers, and though it's not MLS, it's good to see a team finally arrive on the scene there.

Ian Darke called the game-tying goal for the USMNT vs Algeria at the World Cup in South Africa

Nearly two weeks ago, ESPN made the announcement that they have hired Ian Darke to be their lead soccer voice in the United States. Darke has been involved in broadcasting soccer for nearly 30 years, starting with BBC radio (also covering boxing and athletics) before making the move into pay TV in 1992. American soccer fans will know Darke best as a result of his excellent commentaries in the 2010 World Cup, including the call on the Algeria-USA game, in which his excited summary of the events leading up to Donovan's equalizer has become the abiding memory of South Africa for many fans.

Adrián Ruelas of Santos Laguna and Fontana, CA
Mexican clubs extending their reach across the border to pull in young American talent is nothing new; as the changing complexion of the US U-20 roster indicates, there are more than a few Mexican-American players in the youth systems of Mexico.  These players tend to have dual citizenship, the opportunity to play for either country internationally, and leave the US in search of the better opportunities Mexican player development presents.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JUNE 07:   John Henry arrives for Bill Fance Jr.'s funeral at Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center June 7, 2007 in Daytona Beach, Florida. France died June 4 at the age of 74.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
John Henry

It's not a done deal, but there's a good chance that Liverpool fans will finally get the new ownership they've so desperately craved.  No more Tom Hicks, no more George Gillette; instead, the Reds might just end up in the hands of NESV, the group that owns the Boston Red Sox.  Consisting of Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino and other investors, the leading figure in the group, at least in terms of pure wealth and presumed stewardship, is John Henry.

Sounders Win A Worthy Cup Final

Wednesday, October 06, 2010 | View Comments
SEATTLE - OCTOBER 02: Fans of the Seattle Sounders FC cheer during the game against Toronto FC on October 2, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Sounders defeated Toronto 3-2.(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

How did you enjoy the US Open Cup Final? You did watch, right?

If you skipped it, shame on you; not because of any imagined obligation to support American soccer's one open knockout tournament, but because you missed a damn good soccer game. Seattle outlasted Columbus last night in front of 30,000+ engaged and raucous fans at Qwest Field, and almost every moment of the match was befitting of a Cup Final contest.

The rumor (Update: It's false - see bottom of this post) that the US Open Cup winner won't receive a spot in next year's CONCACAF Champions League has been bouncing around for quite some time. Until now, it's all been speculation, with much of it emanating from Adrian Hanauer out in Seattle. Though the confederation has still yet to confirm the rumor, you can add the Crew's technical director Brian Bliss to those who say it probably won't happen.

CHESTER, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Philadelphia Union fans cheer during the game against the Chicago Fire at PPL Park on September 11, 2010 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Union won 1-0. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

So this popped up in my inbox this morning, courtesy of Major League Soccer's daily "Newsstand" email.

Beckham ready for Philly crowd Thursday
By Marc Narducci
Philadelphia Inquirer – October 5, 2010

MLS Playoff Race All But Over

Tuesday, October 05, 2010 | View Comments
HARRISON, NJ - OCTOBER 02: Roger Espinoza  of the Kansas City Wizards challenges Dane Richards  of the New York Red Bulls for the ball on October 2, 2010 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

by Dan Barkley

With just over a month left in the season, the playoff race is essentially dead. The top eight teams have a stranglehold over those spots, although the seeding will probably shift with every game played here on out. For teams on the outside looking in, however, only three have even a mathematical shot at making the playoffs, the Wizards, Fire and Toronto FC. For the Fire and TFC, however, their chances are virtually nil, even if either won all of their remaining games, the Rapids and Earthquakes need only gain a point or two each to eliminate them both.

Tonight, in front of 30,000 fans at Qwest Field in Seattle, the Crew and the Sounder will face off for the oldest continually awarded trophy in American sports.  The backdrop provides the game gravity it rarely possesses.  The two finalists are quality MLS teams in the midst of playoff seasons, and it should always matter when a title is up for grabs.  Yes, the game is on a Tuesday night in a time slot that will make it difficult for some of the country to commit to watching it all; nevertheless, the Open Cup Final needs a bit of hype in the hours before the game.

If you live in the United States and have a television, you've probably seen this commercial for DirecTV. In it, a Russian oligarch-type talks about the savings he receives by subscribing to "premium televisions package" through the satellite provider.

Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa (C) is carried off during their English Premier League soccer match against Manchester City in Manchester, northern England October 3, 2010. Ben Arfa was taken to hospital with a suspected fracture of his left leg after only four minutes of his team's Premier League match at Manchester City on Sunday. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) NO ONLINE/INTERNET USAGE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE ++44 (0)
Nigel de Jong's handiwork

Netherlands head coach Bert van Marwijk has dropped Nigel de Jong from his roster for upcoming Euro qualifying over the 25 year-old midfielder's chronic rough play. The latest broken leg left in de Jong's wake belongs to Newcastle forward Hartem Ben Arfa, and van Marwijk's decision comes as a direct response.

AmSoc 45: Wynalda Says It All

Monday, October 04, 2010 | View Comments
Zach and I cover the USMNT roster and some CONCACAF shenanigans, but this show is really about the appearance of the outspoken Eric Wynalda. Wynalda doesn't hold back on his belief the American soccer is getting it wrong when it comes to developing players, talks about his belief that there are only four or five guys in America with his unique set of skills and experience, and talks about the challenge facing him as he takes a job with a third-division Mexican club.

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