Archive for November, 2010

A Candid Conversation With Mo Edu

Mo Edu: On the ball against Colombia...

Way back when we started The Shin Guardian Maurice Edu was the first player to recognize our publication on Twitter.

Later that year in October, when we worked with groups of fans to initiate the Charlie Davies Salute at RFK following his horrific accident, it was again Mo Edu that recognized our effort and was the first to get the word out–despite dealing with his own grief.

There is a reason that Mo Edu has more followers than any other U.S. player on Twitter and that’s because it’s easy to see he’s just a genuine guy.

Follow him on Twitter and you’ll see.

He’s always responding to those that reach out to him, even though he is, you know, a Champions League player, now a World Cup veteran, and an integral part of one of the most storied clubs in all of sports, Glasgow Rangers.

Ladies and gentleman, finally, our conversation with Mo Edu:

(Note: This conversation taped before Edu’s knee injury that will rule him out of tomorrow’s Manchester United clash at Ibrox.)

TSG: Well first, I’m not going to ask you about some of the following popular subjects, like: “The World Cup” “Slovenia goal” “Ghana” and “Ricardo Clark.”

Mo Edu: Okay, very cool. Thanks.

TSG: I hear Sky Sports reports all the time referring to you as “Morris” and then the States reports referring to you as “Maurice.” Do you go by Morris, Maurice, or Mo?

Mo: Mo. It’s just Mo. I prefer Mo.

TSG: Straightaway. Good. I can stop guessing or, rather, messing that up.

Okay, let’s get rolling. Recently you became the first American to score twice in a Champions League match. (Maurice Edu scored against Valencia and then (d’oh) diverted one into his own net afterward. The Rangers drew Valencia in that one, 1-1.)

Talk about that.

Mo: [Laughing] I mean, it was a great game. I would have obviously liked for both of those two goals to be for our team…

It was great to score my first Champions League goal, but not winning the game was obviously more disappointing.

TSG: Tell me about the difference in playing a league game versus a Champs League game. Is it the publicity and the press? The mindset? Is there a different mentality at all?

Mo: Well, first it’s expectations. In the domestic league, we’re expected to win every game. Every game we’re pretty much the favorites. And we’ve done well in our league this year and lived up to it.

In the Champions League, we’re playing the best in the world. We’re the underdogs and our formation in those games, the 4-5-1, reflects this and is a reflection of the quality of the teams we’re playing against.

Obviously the Champions League is more difficult and, no disrespect to the SPL, but it’s just a different feel.

TSG: Is there a different feel in practice during those weeks as well? Is there more intensity in preparation?

Mo: Nah, to be honest…everyone just gets excited for the Champions League. We all look forward to it.

We know it’s huge. It’s a pretty big opportunity for us to play in those games. For our team.

I think because of how we’ve done thus far this season in the league, we’re pretty confident going into the games [in the CL] and think we can do something special this year.

TSG: What’s been the best or unique experience in traveling for the Champions League?

Old Trafford...quiet for a brief moment...

Mo: Playing in different, storied stadiums. We played at Old Trafford and the Mestalla in Spain–two historical stadiums.

Playing in those stadiums is something that you dream of as a kid. Obviously Old Trafford is the home one of the most renowned clubs in the world and has a great atmosphere.

That [playing at Old Trafford] being my first Champions League game it was very exciting. It’s a special moment to play there.

Then when we play at home in Champions League it’s second to none because of the good turnout by our fans and how much energy there is for those games.

Champions League games at Ibrox are something special. You really have to be there to witness just what the feeling is.

TSG: I spoke to some of the Rangers supporters and they wanted to know this specifically-worded question, “How freaky do you find the Rangers-Celtics rivalry?”

Mo: I mean, well first and foremost, for those that don’t know, it’s the biggest sports rivalry in the world. [A little more about it here.]

The lead-up to those games are just full of excitement. When the games kickoff…well, I’ve never been let down.

The passion that goes into the game by each team and the passion and the hatred that goes against the other teams by the fans is just amazing.

It’s a game we all relish and look forward to and I’ve never been let down.

I’ve been fortunate enough to score in one and I always really enjoy the games actually.

TSG: In terms of that rivalry–and while the Scottish Premier League is itself a very physical league–it’s hard not notice how many more fouls there are in the Celtics-Rangers game and just how unbelievably physical the matches are.

Do you notice that out on the field?

Mo: Well, it’s always hard because the week before there is so much hype leading up to the game. It’s the only thing that people talk about all week. Everywhere you look around town the week before the game is all about the game.

There’s a large buildup going into the game…so when the game kicks off there is a lot of energy, a lot of passion and emotion that’s already built up and now let go on the field.

You try to keep a calm head and not get wound up in all the silliness that goes on, but it’s hard not to feel it.

TSG: You mentioned earlier in your career–when you were at Toronto FC–that it was important for you to go to a well-known, established club to learn. What have you improved about your game at Rangers?

Mo: Well, overall, it’s maturing.

I’ve become a more well-rounded player; I’ve tried to become good at all the little things in the game. The biggest part though has been growing up and maturing though.

David Weir, going hard in a Celtics-Rangers clash...

TSG: Another question from the Ibrox faithful here: Do you expect to play as long as Sir David Weir?

Mo: [chuckles] I’d love to. He’s definitely elite. He’s a true professional. He’s a dedicated athlete. He takes care of his body and that’s a testament to him that he’s played as long as he has at his level.

I don’t think many players go on and play as long as he does and it’d be fortunate if I could do that…

TSG: Let’s transition to the U.S. team. I want to go back to October because one of the focal points of camp was your position on the team, specifically playing centerback instead of midfield.

Now it’s not a position you hadn’t played, but it’s not the one you’ve honed and improved yourself with at Rangers. How did that get set up? Did you come in the first day and were you playing central defense already?

Mo: When I first got there he [Bob] gave me a heads up and said that…they were going to look at me back there and for me to keep an open mind.

So that’s how I went about the week and attempted to learn from the guys around me.

TSG: Was there a specific reason–better distribution or pressing speed–that Bob put you back there? What was the impetus for it?

Mo: I mean, he tried to explain to me that I had good attributes that might lead me to do well back there. He wanted to give me a chance to experience it and for them to see how it could work out.

TSG: How do you feel it worked out?

Mo: I thought it was alright. It went okay, not the greatest. I didn’t feel too out of my comfort zone. I think as the game wore on, I got better.

I mean I don’t think I’m a seasoned vet back there or anything, but it was alright.

Edu: Grew comfortable as the game wore on...

TSG: At the end of camp, you next played in the three-man midfield against Colombia. So what was the overall feedback of the camp in playing those two positions?

Mo: Basically, the feedback was that he thinks that I have some quality beneficial to play centerback. That was about it.

TSG: Do you have the sense that you’ll be tried out there permanently? Or will you continue to get runs at both positions? Is the latter a fair statement or am I putting words in your mouth?

Mo: Well, like I said, they see me as a center midfielder but with the option that I could possibly play centerback if needed.

TSG: Okay, let’s move on, some teammate questions for you.

Which player do you want with you if you’re about get in a brawl in a bar?

Mo: Gooch, easily.

And…for Rangers, Kirk Broadfoot.

TSG: Who’s the best ball striker you’ve ever played with from a scoring perspective. Who’s got the sweetest shot on goal?

Mo: Clint strikes the ball well. He’s got good technique and when he gets it…yeah.

TSG: What players do or did you learn the most from at Gers?

Scottish and Gers great Barry Ferguson...

Mo: Barry Ferguson and Pedro Mendes. Every day in training, I learned something from those guys. Those were the guys I tried to emulate.

TSG: Okay, what are your aspirations for your level of play in the future? Where do you see yourself progressing to, level-wise or league-wise?

Mo: I’ve always been a fan of Arsenal. They’re my favorite team, so I could see myself there at some point. Then when you watch a team like Barcelona you obviously like to think about possibly playing there with the way they move the ball.

TSG: Is your agent based overseas?

Mo: No, in the States.

TSG: So how does it work…your contract is up in two more years. Does the club come to you and say something to the effect of, “We’re trying to get a return on investment and we’re shopping you around”?

Or do you, the player, say, “I want to go somewhere else”?

Or do you just wait to six months before the end of the contract and that necessitates the conversation?

Mo: It could happen numerous ways and either the first two ways you described are the most likely ones.

As a player, though, you try not to think of that stuff at all. When you think too much about that stuff, you’re game goes down.

That’s why you hire the agent.

TSG: Okay, carefully then: has there been chatter about you moving given your age and the solid campaign that you’re having this year?

Mo: [Laughing] I don’t know. I had a couple of rough seasons with injuries and this is the first year I haven’t really been injured.

Right now, I’m focused on helping my team out and getting some trophies to Ibrox.

TSG: Okay, fair enough.

Something people don’t know, is that your father had a stroke a few years ago. I wanted to ask you about this because my mother is afflicted with something similar called AVM (Arterio-Venous Malformation).

Has he ever been able to come over and watch you play?

Mo: It’s difficult for them to come over. He hasn’t been able to come over.

The last camp back in the States in Chicago, that’s the first time he was able to see me play in a while.

It was really good for him to come see me play. My brother comes over here often though.

TSG: In terms of playing in front of your father, talk about how special it is since he can’t come aboard.

Mo: My father introduced me to the game at a young age and now he can’t come to most of my games. He was my first coach. He doesn’t have as big a role now and that’s difficult sometimes.

When he does get a chance to see me play it’s very special. I try hard every game, but those games when he’s there are really important.

TSG: Does he follow you on TV?

Mo: They try to get as many games as they can.

TSG: Do you catch up after the games on the phone and talk about them?

Mo: It’s difficult, you know, given his condition… [pauses...]

TSG: Okay…let’s change up the thinking. There are a number of high-profile Americans now abroad from old timers like Friedel and Cherundolo to the young guys like yourself, Stu and Jozy. How’s the “player network” help for Americans abroad?

Mo: It’s good having all the guys here and around Europe.

Sometimes you feel all alone overseas, but now you can go visit a lot more with a lot of the guys you played with either growing up or in camps. For me personally I haven’t had the time to go visit; I’ve had a lot of midweek games, but I’m looking forward to getting out to see the guys.

Stuart had a chance to come catch the game at Old Trafford.

Jozy had a chance to watch the game in Spain.

It’s just good having friends around.

TSG: I’ll leave it there for the day. I wanted to thank you for always supporting The Shin Guardian from our initial days. You’ve always been supportive and given us the time of day and I thank you for that.

Mo: Oh man, no problem, my pleasure.

TSG: And we’ve grown quite a bit. We averaged about a half million readers per month during the World Cup and we’re growing!

Mo: Really, no worries. Glad I could play my role in it.

……….

Mo Edu, genuine.

MLS: Jay Bell’s Expanding Viewpoint

TSG’s Jay Bell takes a look at the MLS club non-protected lists.

On Wednesday, Portland and Vancouver will take the first steps in truly building their MLS teams. Each will select 10 players who they feel will best fit the direction and identity of the team. Both look to be more ambitious than Philadelphia was last season, who went with youth. Both teams have already signed initial players and look to add more outside of the MLS avenues. Vancouver is likely to carry several more over from their Division 2 squad.

We take a look at what the lists of unprotected players means for each team as well as potential targets of the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Chicago Fire’s list: Nery Castillo, Andrew Dykstra, Collins John, Krzysztof Krol, Freddie Ljungberg, Peter Lowry, Dasan Robinson, John Thorrington, Deris Umanzor.

What it means for them: Not much really. Chicago was able to protect all of their valued assets. Their unprotected list is filled with players that would be risks for Vancouver or Portland, but that Chicago could still build off of. Goalkeepers are not likely to be picked in the expansion draft and the Designated Players are too risky for the new teams.

What it means for the expansion draft: Lowry and Robinson could be targeted for valuable depth. Thorrington could also be looked to for a reliable veteran presence.

Chivas USA’s list: Carlos Borja, Jonathan Bornstein,Chukwudi Chijindu, Rodolfo Espinoza, Maykel Galindo, Alan Gordon, Dan Kennedy, Eduardo Lillingston, Giancarlo Maldonado, Gerson Mayen, Jesus Padilla, Osael Romero, Marcelo Saragosa, Mariano Trujillo, Alex Zotinca.

What it means for them: Chivas seems to be daring them to select one or two of their Hispanic attackers. Meanwhile Braun, Zizzo, Gavin, Lahoud, etc. are all protected. Chivas likely has a different plan than the one Vasquez had in mind.

What it means for the expansion draft: Chivas’ risky players cost less than Chicago’s, so they’re more tempting. An accomplished player like Maldonado may benefit in a different system and the expansion teams like players with upside, like Padilla.

Cummings, protected, but probably going...

Colorado Rapids’ list: Andre Akpan, Quincy Amarikwa, Stewart Ceus, Ian Joyce, Ross LaBauex, Claudio Lopez, Ciaran O’Brien, Scott Palguta, Ross Schunk, Wells Thompson, Peter Vagenas, Anthony Wallace.

What it means for them: Colorado protected their spine. That includes Cummings despite the possibility of losing him this summer. They never had great depth this season anyway, so they will need to address that this offseason.

What it means for the expansion draft: Two names jump off of this list: Wells Thompson and Anthony Wallace. Both became regulars down the stretch for the new MLS Cup champions. Wallace is young with upside; a perfect candidate. If they lose one, expect the other two switch to the protected list.

Columbus Crew’s list: Eric Brunner, Kevin Burns, Jason Garey, Leandre Griffit, Andy Gruenebaum, Frankie Hejduk, Adam Moffat, Duncan Oughton, Gino Padula, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Joshua Williams.

What it means for them: The Crew has already declined the options on its oldest players and will not have the grind of the Champions League next season. They’re looking to go younger and build for the next several years.

What it means for the expansion draft: Portland and Vancouver probably won’t select a goalkeeper, but if they did, Gruenebaum would be the one to target. Brunner, Garey, Griffit, Moffat, and Oughton are all solid MLS players. Columbus should lose two in the draft.

DC United’s list: Dan Allsopp, Brandon Barklage, Adam Cristman, Jordan Graye, Pablo Hernandez, Devon McTavish, Kurt Morsink, Juan Pena, Troy Perkins, Barry Rice, Carlos Varela..

What it means for them: Injuries ravaged a team that felt like they had a chance to make the playofffs. They hope to get the pieces back together this year. There is not much risk on the unprotected list as Hernandez never produced as they hoped.

What it means for the expansion draft: Portland and Vancouver are left with slim pickings. The better players are the riskiest in Perkins and Hernandez. One of them may take a flier on Barklage, Cristman, or McTavish late in the draft.

FC Dallas’ list: Eric Avila, Jeff Cunningham, Kyle Davies, Edson Edward, Bruno Guarda, Atiba Harris, Daniel Hernandez, Dax McCarty, Milton Rodriguez, Dario Sala, Jason Yeisley.

What it means for them: This team was deep and it shows. Dallas was just unable to protect all of their important pieces. The players that they do not lose will help them in their Champions League quest next season.

Dax going somewhere....

What it means for the expansion draft: How does Dax McCarty not get taken? He is a midfield cog that would provide experience, work rate, bite, etc. that is all desired in an expansion midfield. Avila, Guarda, and Harris are also dynamic young attacking players. Davies could get snatched up also unless he is put on the protected list after McCarty is taken.

Houston Dynamo’s list: Samuel Appiah, Corey Ashe, Ryan Cochrane, Richard Mulrooney, Joseph Ngwenya, Anthony Obodai, Dominic Oduro, Pat Onstad, Eddie Robinson.

What it means for them: Houston locked up their midfield and defense. TSG interviewee Geoff Cameron said they felt like they had the pieces. He’s probably right. Without any extra competitions, Houston’s core and a potential Designated Player (Gio . . . ?) should push for the playoffs again.

What it means for the expansion draft: If either team wants to athleticism, Ashe and Oduro can give them that. What if Vancouver wants to solidify their defensive depth and select Robinson? Is the league ready for a Demerit/Robinson pairing?

Los Angeles Galaxy’s list: Gregg Berhalter, Alex Cazumba, Leonardo Da Silva, Bryan Jordan, Jovan Kirovski, Dema Kovalenko, Mike Magee, Yohance Marshall, Brian Perk, Josh Saunders.

What it means for them: Retirements have already affected the team and there may be more. They were already going to need to get younger soon.

What it means for the expansion draft: Bryan Jordan would be a valuable hustle player in an inaugural season. Mike Magee is the most likely to be picked.

New England Revolution’s list: Zak Boggs, Preston Burpo, Nico Colaluca, Kheli Dube, Cory Gibbs, Jason Griffiths, Roberto Linck, Tim Murray, Pat Phelan, Seth Sinovic, Khano Smith, Ilija Stolica.

What it means for them: The team is finally moving forward past Ralston and Twellman. Kraft will have to allow Nicol to pick up some pieces if this team will return to the playoffs.

What it means for the expansion draft: Gibbs is 30, but how would that be for solidifying an expansion defense? New England should lose two with Phelan and Sinovic as the prime candidates.

New York Red Bulls’ list: Juan Pablo Angel, Andrew Boyens, Conor Chinn, Austin da Luz, Irving Garcia, Brian Nielsen, Carl Robinson, Ibrahim Salou, Luke Sassano, Greg Sutton, Carey Talley, Sinisa Ubiparipovic.

What it means for them:: With retirements, New York protected their important assets.

What it means for the expansion draft: They’re not going to pick up the salaries of Robinson or Salou. Angel is out already. Sassano and Ubiparipovic are workhorses in the midfield. One could get taken. Chinn and da Luz are also young players with upside.

Philadelphia Union’s list: Cristian Arrieta, Eduardo Coudet, Fred, Andrew Jacobson, Brad Knighton, Stefani Miglioranzi, Alejandro Moreno, Joseph Noone, Shea Salinas, Chris Seitz, Nick Zimmerman.

What it means for them: Nowak is staying with his plan. The team was young this season and they’ll still be young next season.

What it means for the expansion draft: Neither Vancouver nor Portland should go after older guys with big salaries: Arrieta, coudet, Fred, Migs, and Moreno. The team is young, but there are a lot of them. Philadelphia may lose two out of Jacobsen, Salinas, and Zimmerman.

Real Salt Lake’s list: Jean Alexandre, Pablo Campos, Robbie Findley, Nelson Gonzalez, Ned Grabavoy, David Horst, Rauwshan McKenzie, Timothy Melia, Alex Nimo, Kyle Reynish, Robbie Russell, Chris Shuler, Collen Warner, Andy Williams.

What it means for them: Same core going going forward.

What it means for the expansion draft RSL isn’t really risking losing Russell and Williams because of their age. The expansion sides may be interested in Alexandre or Grabavoy, as well as Warner and Gonzalez. Findley is trying his chances in Europe, but that would be a high-reward risk if he gets taken in the 9th or 10th rounds.

San Jose Earthquakes’ list: Arturo Alvarez, Andre Luiz, Steve Beitashour, Bobby Burling, Joe Cannon, Ramiro Corrales, Eduardo, Geovanni, Cornell Glen, Chris Leitch, Justin Morrow, Brad Ring, Tim Ward.

What it means for them: Yallop’s bunch will be back at it again next year if Wondolowski can keep the goals flowing.

What it means for the expansion draft: Geovanni is left out there, but Portland and Vancouver probably have their own ideas for DP’s. Arturo Alvarez is a dynamic attacker not common in the unprotected lists. Burling and Ward are the most likely to be selected.

Seattle Sounders FC’s list: Julian Baudet, Terry Boss, Danny Earls, David Estrada, Leonardo Gonzalez, Taylor Graham, Patrick Ianni, Roger Levesque, Tyrone Marshall, Miguel Montano, Blaise Nkufo, Pat Noonan, Sanna Nyassi, Zach Scott, Michael Seamon, Nathan Sturgis, Tyson Wahl.

What it means for them:: The Sounders had a deep squad. They needed one to win the US Open Cup, make the MLS playoffs, and compete in Champions League.

What it means for the expansion draft: I said Alvarez was rare in this draft, but Nyassi is here too. The Sounders are riddled with talented youngsters: Ianni, Montano, Seamon, Sturgis, Estrada, Wahl, etc. Gonzalez and Levesque are two veterans that will be considered. Seattle is another team that could lose two .

Sporting Kansas City’s list: Korede Aiyegbusi, Jamar Beasley, Sunil Chhetri, Jimmy Conrad, Birahim Diop, Zoltan Hercegfalvi, Aaron Hohlbein, Nick Koenenakis, Eric Kronberg, Jonathan Leathers, Chance Myers, Shavar Thomas, Josh Wolff.

What it means for them: The team formerly known as the Wizards did not have a bunch of important pieces this season. Conrad was the oldest and left out.

What it means for the expansion draft: Chance Myers is another young player to build a defense with. Leathers and Thomas are the only other two I could see being picked.

Toronto FC’s list: Chad Barrett, Julian deGuzman, Gabe Gala, Nick Garcia, Raivis Hscanovics, Fuad Ibrahim, Milos Kocic, Miguel Angel Ferrer Martinez, Joseph Nane, Amadou Sanyang, Martin Saric, Maxim Usanov, O’Brian White.

What it means for them: They brought in the German, but this team is still in turmoil. For a team that should be trying to get younger, they left most of their best young players unprotected.

What it means for the expansion draft: Almost everybody seems like a possibility depending on what direction Vancouver and Portland take. Attackers (Ibrahim, White, Barrett), midfielders (Saris, Sanyang, Nane, etc.), and defenders (Hscanovics, Usanov). A lot of those players seem like they could thrive in a better situation.

MLS Movable Parts Rolling Ticker

I can’t keep up with this, so you folks are going to have to help:

Warner...not Findley

• Both Robbie Findley and Collen Warner left unprotected by Real Salt Lake….not that they should have been protected over those that were.

I think the Timbers or Whitecaps are more likely to take a shot on Warner who’s shown flashes of having more potential than Robbie Findley already hasn’t realized. Also, signs point to Findley seeking work abroad.

• Love the Union moves over the past 18 months. Justin Mapp, Roger Torres, Brad Knighton, Sebastian Le Toux.

And now Brian Carroll, exactly what the team needs. Savvy veteran in the middle of the park.

What will Philly do on the backline now?

• Jeremy Hall to Portland. Young back, developing in the confines of Portland. Nice move Timbers. Don’t expect to see any more New Yorkers heading westward now.

• Allocation Central: The Timbers send some cash to the L.A. and in return procure an allocation slot for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. L.A. gains it back after that. There’s something exciting about an international slot headed to Portland…

Snippets: On The MLS Cup Final & More

More from the Colorado Rapids 2-1 victory over FC Dallas in Toronto Sunday night and around the league news today:

• It’s not the coaches Paul Gardner; it’s the officiating

Nearly 100% shut down amid a brutish clash....

Noted curmudgeon Paul Gardner had a notorious moment on last week’s MLS media conference call with Don Garber’s State of the League address.

Gardner ranted about the quality of the league and suggested that MLS front office did little to aid coaches in his estimation–like Jason Kreis–who were putting a sublime product field.

Gardner’s opine would be way off-base in describing last night’s affair. The causal relationship last night stemmed exclusively from the loose regulation by the referees.

It is somewhat incredulous that, in a nationally televised game on a major cable station, the league didn’t see fit to ensure that it’s referees called a game that would produce a more flowing match.

As the game wore on it became increasingly clear that imposing your body on the opponent was a necessity to either maintaining possession or maintaining a tackle.

Cause and effect of that? Boot City up the field as both teams looked to bypass the attritional endeavor in the middle of the field.

• Have the Rapids done enough to uplevel?

Two pieces of commentary last week and last night in the wake of the Rapids victory.

Colorado Rapids owner Stan Kroenke: How about upping the ante with a DP big guy and tossing around ideas of the "d" word.....

One, an interview I heard with Rapids’ assistant coach Paul Bravo where he mentioned that it was a “big thing” for Colorado to take a private charter to Toronto. Shouldn’t be.

And…had the occasion to speak with Matt Crawford who played for the Rapids from 2003-2007 last night at the bar. Crawford is an “uber-Rudy” if you will, chosen 38th in the MLS SuperDraft in 2003 and given little chance to make the team, Crawford made the cut as a defender, but went to play four strong years in the midfield on guile alone.

Crawford hung up due to injuries–a nasty hip one (see Kyle Martino); he didn’t get jettisoned due to skill.

Asked Crawford if the Rapids operation was as below average as many suggested.

His positive reply, “Oh yeah, atrocious. We really didn’t get any amenities at all.” Two of the better owners in the league, “Phil Anshutz and Dave Checketts.”

Nice to have a Rapids vet to commiserate with last evening.

• Okay, maybe we can sneak this guy through

Okay, we’ve been head down in MLS Finals and frankly diapers. Anyone care to fill us in with who to expect to be protected and cut loose for today’s MLS club expansion lists?

Who are the Whitecaps and Timbers looking at?

More notes:

» Seattle Sounders wingman Steve Zakuani goes to Goodison (home of the Everton Toffees) for training.

» From last week: Freddy Adu (we don’t cover him much at TSG for good reason) possibly headed to Danish club Randers. Playing time Freddy. Doesn’t matter where you go. Just, you know, do it.

You think Nike is a little bashful up their Adu hype at this point at all? (This one’s good too.)

» One from the EPL: The Dirty Tackle skewers Dimitar Berbatov who after acting interested earlier in the season has now went missing.

Even the great Jonathan Wilson occasionally gets one wrong.

Lunchpail: Colorado Crowned 2010 MLS Champs

The Colorado Rapids come away with the victory Sunday night in Toronto as they rally from a goal deficit to wash out FC Dallas in the MLS Cup final, 2-1.

Your 2010 MLS Champs....

In what could be described as a true dig-in and hold-your-ground tug of war, the Rapids voraciously defended their central midfield and used a Conor Casey toe-poke from a sprawled position and a Mac Kandji-initiated Dallas own goal to down MLS MVP David Ferreira–who had his team’s lone tally–and FC Dallas.

TSG’s Jason Price and I took in the game at Danny Coyles in San Francisco with the crew from Center Line Soccer and Die Hipster Brewmaster Scott Riley (pushing hard for a Dax McCarty championship ring). Jason and I compiled many of the thoughts below:

• Take a bow, Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz

While many will erroneously tout Jeff Larentowicz exclusively–who was himself near flawless in possession in his defensive third–it was specifically the combination of Pablo Mastroeni and the Big Red Mountain Man who shut down the Dallas midfield and made finding lynchpin David Ferreira exceedingly difficult.

Big Red and Sayid were not "Lost" on their island in the midfield...

Countless times throughout the game, the Hoops attempted to ping it through the middle and whether it was Ferreira, Dax McCarty or a checking back Atiba Harris, the Hoops found no joy.

That David Ferreira, in particular, was quieted without Pablo Mastroeni earning a card was something that was incredulous to this writer before the showdown.

The continued stymieing of the Dallas attack in the middle combined with Brek Shea’s absenteeism on the left, resigned Dallas to forcing the ball down the right flank to Marvin Chavez, who created a chance or two but was not nearly proficient enough for what was demanded of him on the evening. (Note: Chavez was good, but too much was asked of him.)

TSG suggested that Conor Casey would have to be withdrawn or that the Rapids couldn’t defend the central midfield with just the Larentowicz-Mastroeni bookend all night long and hope to win. Consider us proved wrong, pleasantly, by the display.

• The Conor Casey Workhorse

You knew Conor Casey was feeling it when late in the game the knockaround guy attempted a little double stutter step move on the left wing in the hopes of deking his way around two defenders.

Honduras all over again....

In a physical game that favored Casey’s elbow-flailing style, the Colorado man was an absolute necessity to the Colorado game plan and he came up aces (and with some MVP hardware.)

Beyond Casey’s goal from the ground to knot the score early in the first half, Casey was absolutely vital to the attack as Dallas’ game plan forced the ball away from Omar Cummings who in turn failed to rise to the occassion.55th minute

As Cummings faded from the Colorado offense, Casey was moved outside from his normal central forward role to provide a hold-up play and draw out the Dallas central defense.

With Casey creating numerous threats on the outside, it in turn created space in the midfield as Daniel Hernandez and friends were constantly forced to come out and help out their central backbone.

• Pickens, Moor, Wynne and even Andrew Wallace: Take A Bow

TSG’s Jason Price–an experienced keeper–and I acknowledged three massive mistakes that led to David Ferreira running on to an Eric Chavez cross and coolly depositing home the game’s initial score.

First, Andrew Wallace–who bent but didn’t break on the evening–gave up way too much of an angle in letting Chavez’s cross even find the box.

Next Drew Moor failed to run with Ferreira into the box on the quick countering play–allowing Ferreira a direct angle to receiving the service.

Finally, Matt Pickens–slow off his line all season long–was mostly decisive in coming out, but negligent in failing to get there. You have to get there.

The result? A lead for Dallas.

The 2nd half saw all the Rocky Mountain actors in that play take a step along with Marvell Wynne who continues to impress in his move from right back.

(In fact, Jason related a quote attributed to Colorado coach Gary Smith when asked early in the season about Wynne being the starting central back. It paraphrases to this, “Marvell is going to be just fine. He doesn’t have the license to go forward now.”)

Dallas may have had 17 shots to seven for Colorado, but the Rapids central defense and keeper proved up to the task demanded in their final game of the season.

• Mac Attack

TSG interviewed Mac Kandj on Thursday of this week and suggested the big fella would be a highly unlikely, but possible a factor come late Sunday night.

Kandji came on for an inefficient Omar Cummings and somehow managed to be a difference maker.

Well played…Jason Price and TSG.

Some other notes:

»Dealing with Cummings:

While Omar Cummings should be held accountable for failing to go find the ball, it was, two keen tactical moves by Schellas Hyndman–who should still be commended on his evening’s game plan–that led to Cummings vanishing act.

First, was Dallas continually keeping the ball away from Cummings side of the field.

Second, and perhaps more subtly was disciplined positioning by the Dallas backline combined, more notably, with Kevin Hartman playing way off his line in the back to make the space that Cummings could have to receive the ball over the top infinitesimal. At times, I thought Hartman was guarding the 18-yard line, not his goal line!

As Jason and I noted, a smart chip from the top of the offensive third might have earned Colorado an equalizer earlier in the game if Larentowicz or Mastroeni had looked for it.

» How Far Can “Evening Out” Go:

Jair Benitez should have probably earned a red card, but definitely a yellow as he battled Conor Casey in the box in the first half.

The play saw Casey initiate (and foul) Benitez, but then Benitez leg whip and trip Casey after the ball was at his feet.

After the play, it seemed the refs were intent on letting Casey have his way with ticky-tack fouls all over the pitch all night long on Dallas players.

On one play in the 2nd half, Casey–in a move we’ve seen from him before–purposely stepped on the back heel of one of the Dallas players.

It’s tough to take anything away from Casey as the game was called extremely loose and he was allowed to play as such, but consider this an addendum to the Casey praise above.

» Oops, listened to the wrong tunes on my iPod in pre-game

Colorado’s Brian Mullan and FC Dallas man Brek Shea cancelled each out. Both came out listlessly and couldn’t find their groove the entire game.

Shea was eventually substituted for Jeff Cunningham–an understandable but curious move as Cunningham likes contact as much as a nun in a singles bar–while Mullan should likely have went to the bench early in favor of Wells Thompson by our volition.

Zach Lloyd for the Texas men also look inexperience and unsettled.

TSG’s 2010 MLS Cup Final Preview

It’s Los Angeles vs. New York.

MLS Cup 2010 is upon us: Even the logos have come a long way...

Wait..wait…wait it’s Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus.

Nope, not that either.

The MLS Champion will be coronated Sunday and the two teams vying for the right to wear crisp straight-brim hats in front of the camera and t-shirts that are way too bit will be the Colorado Rapids and the FC Dallas Hoops.

Perhaps unexpected, but the match-up? Infinitely thrilling, with tactical battles circled all over the pitch like a block of honeycomb.

In fact, in Colorado and Dallas you have two teams on-form that played to two draws during the season. The game shouldn’t be a blowout; unless one of the coaches refuses to make adjustments like Bruce Arena failed to last week.

The clash will, again for Dallas, be a battle of high pressure and midfield supremacy, while Colorado will look to dictate the tempo and wriggle free the best MLS strike tandem of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings.

Here’s what we’re looking at….

• Omar-velous

O-Marvelous

Mr. Cummings. Oh Mr. Cummings. This…this match…this is your game to win.

FC Dallas has not faced a full-game speed threat like Cummings who’s got the moxie to finish in these playoffs and their 4-1-4-1 and high line of pressure is not really suited for it.

The closest the Hoops have come to a Cummings-type is the not-exactly-proficient Robbie Findley, who nevertheless created some opportunities in Dallas on the front end of the Real Salt Lake series and then scored the lone goal for the ‘Lakers when Dallas played a mile high.

Unlike Findley, Cummings will make you pay if you make a mistake and with Conor Casey behind him he has an efficient target guy to work off, around, over and through.

Look for Cummings to attack centrally and then diagonally to the corner behind Jair Benitez.

Benitez will need to come to play on Sunday night because if Dallas is forced to draw out to the flank to give him help,  it will take the shape out of the Colorado midfield and play into Dallas’ relentless upfield pressure.

(However, it should be noted that Colorado outshot Dallas to the tune of 29 shots (17 for Dallas) with 11 on goal (7 for Dallas) across their two draws this season)

• It’s Not Always the Coaches Fault, But…

Oddly, not a peep about Bruce Arena’s or Jason Kreis tactics in the wake of FC Dallas dismantling the two in the playoffs.

Dabbled in geniusness

Both–Arena more so–were outcoached by Schellas Hyndman.

A simple question, you and I are about to rumble in a death match. Assuming you’re not bringing any Pachiaos and I’m not bringing any Roy Jones Jr.s (in his prime)….I bring five guys, you bring four guys.

Who wins?

With Atiba Harris up top against L.A. and Jeff Cunningham up top against RSL, Dallas outletted to their chosen striker when the play dictated it, but otherwise punished the other teams in the middle–either maintaining possession on offense or shutting down linkage on defense.

That Javier Morales was missing for RSL in the bumper match was a much bigger issue than first thought in retrospect.

However, Dallas simply had more men in the middle, and then had the dangerous David Ferreira above them. On defense, you had two four-men midfields having to account for Dallas’ speed on the wings and then David Ferreira at all times in the middle, cue plenty of linking space for the likes of Daniel Hernandez and Dax McCarty.

What will Colorado do here? Now, cue key player number two: Pablo Mastroeni.

Who didn’t love the ‘Maestro’s USMNT tenure?

That said, Colorado picked up Jeff Larentowicz this year to help out the aging Mastroeni. As good as Mastroeni is, he can’t possibly run with Ferreira and the Dallas pace the entire day…nearly the entire day he can, but not the entire day.

Your move Gary Smith.

Do you drop Conor Casey deep to help out and for outlet purposes and allow Dallas to push up the park?

Or do you go it 4-on-5, a tactic that put your predecessors to the sword?

I’ll be burning my eyes watching how the Rapids manages the midfield on both offense and defense against the Hoops. If Dax McCarty specifically, is getting free and creating chances in the 2nd 15 minutes or so….well you know Gary Smith should rethink his strategy at halftime.

All about the tempo...will Shea flourish?

• So we arrive at wing play

Perhaps….perhaps this game will turn on the flanks then.

And continually, perhaps the wingers will be a slave to the tempo that has been dictated.

On the Colorado side of the ball you have steely veteran Brian Mullan and the versatile Wells Thompson. A patient game favors the mountain boys.

In the mirror, you have Chavez and Brek Shea and if all hell is breaking loose up and down the pitch, both are likely part of it and causing an offensive ruckus.

• The “Y” Factor

Sir Andrew Wallace–Colorad’s outside backer–play with confidence. If you have a howler?

You can’t have a howler.

Prediction:

Consider TSG sufficiently scared of the damage that Omar Cummings can inflict in this one.

Should Dallas contain Cummings, I see an FC Dallas win by the slimmest of margins, 2-1 perhaps. If the game goes late in the evening, I stick with Dallas as well as my confidence with Kevin Hartman is much higher than Matt Pickens who tends to not deal with balls more than five yards off his line all that well.

It’s Dallas…unless Omar Cummings dazzles.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 248 other followers