Archive for the ‘MLS’ Category

The 11th Minute Salute For Steve Zakuani

The tradition continues….

A stirring tribute to injured winger Steve Zakuani as the Seattle faithful give a call-and-response Saturday at home in the 11th minute of their 3-0 win over Toronto FC to the player who’s leg was snapped in two last weekend.

Zakuani, on twitter: “Experienced the most emotional 1 min of my life today.”

Very cool to see this tradition continuing especially for Steve. One day TSG will relate the tale of how the Charlie Davies salute came to past (let us know if you want to here). The genesis of it was started with… brother.

Rimando & Alvarez: Your Real Salt Lake CCL Primer

TSG’s Jay Bell gets on the horn with RSL’s key men

Last weekend I got a chance to speak with a couple of Real Salt Lake players about their CONCACAF Champions League final against Monterrey. I was able to speak with Arturo Alvarez (AA) for the second time in just over a month and I was also able to chat with RSL’s head man between the pipes, Nick Rimando (NR).

Time dictated that I was not able to present the interviews in their entirety, but what you see here is the bulk of their answers from my conversations with them. Both guys opened up about the first leg, the substitutions, the atmosphere, the second leg, Jason Kreis and having the support of MLS clubs, players and fans behind them:

Arturo Alvarez...First leg match in Mexico

AA: “I think we approached that match just like any other match.”

“We went in there with the mentality to get the win, get a result and I think we’re really happy with it at 2-2.”

Familiarity with the underdog role

NR: “We seem to do well when he have that underdog role. I think if we keep doing well in these competitions and in the league, we’re not going to have that role anymore. We’re okay with having it. We’re okay with going into games with not so much pressure on us and just going out there and showing these other teams and the rest of the world that we can play with the best teams and we can get results when we need to.”

AA: “I think Monterrey probably came into this series as the favorite to win this tournament or at least win these championship games. We’ll take the underdog title and we’ll make the most of it. We know the kind of team that we are. We never gave up.”

On Monterrey’s early substitutions

AA: “I was surprised that the moves were made really early. It happenedjust right after they scored. We didn’t really know what to think about it. We did learn I guess, that they were injured though.”

“At first, I really didn’t know what to think.”

DeNigris, golazo!

AA: “Those two players for them are key players for their team. De Nigris scored the goal, but I think whenever you’re in the final, this Monterrey team will have an important player brought in.”

NR: “You could take it as a disrepect sort of thing or they think that they had it in the bag. But reading the paper later, they were both injured and are going to be out for several weeks. You can’t really blame the coach unless that’s not the truth.

Whenever you sub early like that, two of their offensive players. I also thought it kind of took away from their game a little bit. They score a goal, you kind of get a rhythm going and you get a fire going in you. I think that is kind of the opposite that happened there. You get a hold of the game, you have some opportunities, but again, its the coach’s decision.

If someone is hurt on our team and he needs to come out, I’m sure Jason will do the same thing.”

Inevitable rationalization that the substitutions saved RSL

AA: “I don’t think the two early substitutions affected the game in any way. I think they kept possession. At that moment we just worried about ourselves and just made sure that we were playing our game.”

NR: “For me, I look at it as an opportunity to capitalize on taking out two players and for them not to get into a rhythm. And that is how we took it as a team. We really didn’t stop think about ‘they’re taking them out, this is disrespectful.’ We just carried on playing and that’s what we did. We played our game and fortunately for us it came at the right time. They took those players out and we started to keep the ball a little bit, play the ball around, got our opportunities and ended up scoring.

If it helps us, sure, I hope they do it again so it helps us. Any way we can get some help and any way that we can get some goals and to take the rhythm away from the opposing team, I’m okay with that.”

Line of reasoning that RSL is lucky to face a Monterrey squad without key players in the second leg.

Rimando, triumphant...

NR: “We’ve proven that we can play without players who are out with red cards or injuries. We’re going to see who’s, I guess, deeper. We’re playing without Beckerman. We’re playing without two players as well. We’re going to have some players that are going to come in and show how deep we are. If you are a good club and you want to go to that next level, you’re not just going to do it with 11 players. We know that. Monterrey is still a good team without those two players.

They’ve proven to be a good team. We’re not taking them lightly and I am sure that they’re not going to take us lightly.”

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Monday Quarterbacking

You still on that jellybean high? Fantastic weekend for soccer, if you could squeeze it in:

Target audience: Appropriate Herbalife sponsorship with Portland in town....

• The Los Angeles Galaxy went out of this world with their 3-0 thrashing of the visiting….”TIIIIMMMMBERs!”

While the Galaxy’s form will be hailed, I’m not sold on their squad just yet. Chad Barrett played above himself and P-Town’s midfield seemed to be sleeping on the job (in reality they were just, collectively, a step slow).

Press the Galaxy’s midfield. Give Beckham, Juninho and Donovan less time on the ball and to make passes. I’m curious then if there forwards will loose themselves and give their midfield counterparts streaking runs or interplay up top.

Not sold, but we shall see.

A few other nuggets in this one:

» AJ De La Garza filling in for the injured Leonardo looked dynamite. I shall call him Mini Cannavaro. For now. Hope he lives up to the junior nickname.

» Interesting post-game commentary from Landon Donovan where he lightly admonished, “Have people figured out I’m not a goal scorer [more a passer] anymore?” Was known for a while, but sure make Bruce Arena’s commentary that Donovan might be play as a second striker prior to the season a little hollow. That’s Arena for you though.

» Darlington Nagbe. Take solace Portland. Kid will be a player.

• MB90 minus 90: I’m afraid it’s time for all those that glommed on to the statement, “Michael Bradley has earned playing time everywhere he’s went” to throw an asterisk on that statement.

Villa skipper Gerard Houllier was admitted for emergency surgery earlier in his coaching career at Liverpool and now he’s back in the hospital as of last week. That likely means a “don’t rock the boat” squad with assistant manager Gary McAllister in charge.

Late to the "party" at Villa Park...

You may see Bradley sneak in the 18 one or two times and even the eleven once, but you can consider–for whatever reason–Bradley’s time at Villa to be a failure for his exposure.

Once again, Junior Bradley was nowhere to be seen as Aston Villa drew Stoke City 1-1 on Saturday. Manning the midfield hub was 31-year-0ld Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker. On the bench for the Houllier’s was Jean Makoun…and 37-year-old Robert Pires.

Has Bradley’s ability or career plateaued or is this just a speed bump. I still maintain that the Bradley to Sunderland nonsense (only heard here in the States) was just a story plant for buzz. Whither Bradley post-campaign? Back to Bo’Munchen, but will it be in Bundesliga II?

• Spec-ulating: Speaking of the Yanks’ midfield, a healthy performance from Jonathan Spector though West Ham got the knife from Chelsea. Spector’s midfield movement (on the account of him being a former striker I’d imagine) is excellent, but he’s still not a run with the ball or final pass sort of guy. With Bob Bradley seemingly now chock full of righbacks (Cherundolo, Chandler, Lichaj) will Spector be used in the midfield?

• Arsenal fan? Always turn your set of at 80 mins: Tough weekend for Arsenal fans as Tamir Cohen banged home a header to give Bolton a 2-1 victory over the would-be title seekers. At some point, if you’re not going to make the right purchases, you have to at least ask your manager how he’s going to solve those late game mental mistakes.

And Danny Sturridge for Bolton, once again proficient.

David Vaughan for Blackpool; Jermaine Jones thinks about the yellow for Blackburn...

• The Yellow Card Bowl: Who gets the first today as Jermaine Jones and Blackburn face off against Nigel DeJong and Manchester City.

• Get out of the kitchen!

• The story for ‘Pool: Liverpool, creeping up the table. The story for Pool? Not Maxi Rodriguez’s three-spot, not that Joe Cole actually still exists. How about that John Flanagan kid at rightback? He’s 18!

• The other ‘Pool: After a stirring first half of the campaign, Blackpool find themselves in the thick of relegation fisticuffs. How about this? The player’s voted their player of the year this past week. Charlie Adam, of course, right? Nope. Seems threats and commentary about wanting to leave the club midseason didn’t sit well in their dressing room. The Tangerines Proper went with the other middie David Vaughan.

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Sounders Win Away, But Story Is Zakuani

I’d like to take the Brian Mullan tackle on Steve Zakuani in an unpopular direction.

Zakuani downed....

Friday night in Colorado, the Sounders made a 1-0 win stand-up in the face of what was some heartfelt agony at losing their teammate Steve Zakuani on an unfortunate tackle in the early minutes.

A confluence of circumstances, and some may say a frustration tackle by veteran Brian Mullan, led to Steve Zakuani’s career being put in peril. Breaks to both the tibia and fibia. Mullan slid in aggressively as Zakuani planted on his right foot. All that could heard as the pop of breaking bones.

You have to feel for Zakuani, like Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo before him, a finesse and pace-based player whose career may be forever changed by the tackle (let’s hope not.)

On Mullan’s side, a moment of lack of judgement–there is no defending the reckless challenge–will now forever stain a professional career that has earned him five MLS Cups. His mark–no pun intended–on the game will be forever tarnished by the tackle. A crude badge of dishonor.

I said I was going to take the commentary on the tackle in another direction. I had a friend growing up, Keith Ball, who he and I battled unmercilessly on the baseball diamond. On the field, Keith was an enormous talent who played hard and played to win. Off the field, perhaps the nicest guy in the room. On field, pardon, but a dickhead, win at all costs sort of fellow.

But he’s that player, like a Brian Mullan, who added that toughness necessary–in any league by any team–as an integral ingredient to a side.

I don’t condone what Brian Mullan did–and debate will see-saw on his character and “the dirtiness” of the play for the next few days–but I do know it’s the game and that moment, “the moment” is consuming, leading players to both great exaltation and other times, like tonight, sheer anguish.

That same power that willed a Landon Donovan shot into the back of the net against Algeria worked in reverse this evening.

It’s the nature of the game. It’s unavoidable. It’s how it goes.

Unfortunately, Steve Zakuani was on the receiving end. Hopefully, he will make a speedy recovery and exhibit the same speed, and more, that made him a dangerous player with the ball and tonight’s horror moment will be but a bottoming footnote in a highlight reel career.

Gotham Bulls Over United: Henry Drops Brace…

…and Juan Agudelo does his “not Eddie Johnson” routine with a solid technical goal.

United ran into a buzz saw this evening and a team that is starting to play the type of ball that Hans Backe envisioned. That said, it’s a radically different feel for the team and Thierry Henry is active and interested.

String together a few games and the “next Beckham” moniker will drop from the Frenchman’s trading card.

As for United, outed a little bit with inexperience, DCU couldn’t protect the backline by clogging the midfield. Tough one.

Real Salt Lake Scratches For Solid Result

Good teams find the way.

Real Salt Lake with not one, but two critical away goals to level the match both times as the visitors on the road in Monterrey played like it was already crowned the champion. Impressive.

Great performances all around, but Nick Rimando….aggressive…on the road?! Tops.


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