The Weekend: What Are You Watching

Quick note: We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming (in-depth interviews, long form analysis, witty commentary) shortly.

MLS revving up this weekend while the EPL is winding down and some great match-ups.

TSG's new "Sean Franklin," so to speak...

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: First up in the homeland is the least hyped match of the year, the Seattle Sounders taking on their pesky little brother Portland Timbers.

If you’re an MLS fan, you’ve been inundated with promotion for this game, but it’s justified.

Seattle has been playing uneven at best and comes off a shaky two game road trip that saw them wilt in DC and hold on in Columbus. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid by the way has never lost to his old employers the Crew.

This week though the Sounders face a Portland team that appears to be gradually coming together under John Spencer. As much Portland has attempted to play a more open and attacking game, it’s their set piece work (Spencer is of course a disciple of Dom Kinnear in Houston) that has been lethal. Jack Jewsbury doing an impeccable job in the early going serving up the stopped ball.

For Saturday, expect Portland to play the ball down the flanks as Seattle’s fullbacks, Leo Gonzalez and James Riley, have been susceptible to giving up the corner. Look for the new apple of TSG’s eye Jorge Perlaza to be a handful.

Going the other way, same attack story for Seattle, finding offense through Erik Friberg’s service and Alvaro Fernandez’s best Zakuani impression to open up Fredy Montero in the middle.


Galaxy vs. Sporting KC: If I’m an LA fan….I want to see David Beckham play some defense and make some on-target…non-yellow card tackles. Has to be hard for Bruce Arena to look a player like say 30-year-old $130K-a-year Todd Dunivant–who’s going up-down every game on the corner–in the eye and tell him it’s $5M-a-year Beckham that needs the rest.

FC Dallas vs. Philadelphia Union: The Union still cannot get their offense in gear. Mentioned it previously, but Philadelphia would have been a lot better off saving their Carlos Ruiz money and selecting and inserting Will Bruin into their line-up. Mind you, not because Bruin’s been hot, but because Ruiz and Sebastien Le Toux go together about as well as Timbers and Sounders fans. Both makes the same runs and both drop the same place in the midfield.

How will the Union deploy this weekend?

Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake: Koke and a smile this weekend?

Okay, didn’t know where to put the following and I want to comment on it.

Here was MLS exec VP Nelsen Rodriguez on the Marcos Mondaini suspension (for breaking Javier Morales’ ankle with a late slide from behind)

“During its discussions, the committee characterized Mondaini’s tackle as late, clumsy, and from behind,”

 “It was also, however, seen as an attempt to prevent his opponent from scoring. Brian Mullan’s tackle on Steve Zakuani last month did not serve such a purpose. Rather, it showed utter disregard for his opponent’s safety and appeared to be driven by anger.” 

You know the problem I have with this? The implication that it’s okay to foul someone to prevent them from scoring. Yes, it happens and players, coaches official know it will happen, but you can’t justify the Mondaini (short) suspension by saying it’s attempt to prevent a score. What does that say about your league, about the type of play you expect?

Whether you believe Mondaini got too lenient or harsh a sentence for the penalty, the league acknowledged that it’s trying to crack down on overtly physical play. It’s a smart move that will improve a more flowing, attacking brand of football.

Now with the lack of penalty for Mondaini, you (the league) has almost acknowledged those types of fouls are permissible. The league should have come down just short of Mullan (8 games) and said, “We don’t care about the injury. You can’t project one will happen. But we care about reckless play and we want players to think twice before intentionally following someone.”

David Ferreira fouled a league-high 84 times last campaign. Javier Morales; 76. If I’m a player looking to come to MLS and I’m a creative type that will make the league more exciting, don’t I put this on the “negative” side of my positive-negative review of coming to the States.

Look at the SPL; its reputation as a physical league precedes it. How many “beautiful game” players, how many Brazilians, Argentinians play in that league?


Tevez, still an uncertainty for this one.

The FA Cup: Manchester City vs. Stoke City: Either way this game will be, let’s say, energetic. Either Manchester City will brandish their class and ring up a 3-0 victory or Stoke City will initiate Project Mayhem on the pitch and look to lay the wood on City and rough them up at every turn, leading to a 1-0 or nil-nil 90 minutes and extra time.

Really quite fascinating because Stoke City can’t really compete on talent here with Manchester City looking for their first silverware and champagne….supernova.

Wigan vs. West Ham: Better than the FA Cup, the relegation battles and this is the biggest one of the season. Wigan on 36 points, West Ham, a paltry 33 points. This is a must-game for West Ham or they’re headed down. Period. Wigan are home and with the weather report expect to be a rainy 55 degrees, this one’s going to be a slopfest…and it favors the home teal as they bring down the Hammers and send them to the Land of Lower TV Revenue.

Oh by the way, my EPL predictions? Close, no cigar. Here’s what I had at the beginning of the season:

• Matthew, TSG: (5) Manchester City, (4) Liverpool, (3) Arsenal, (2) Manchester United, (1) Chelsea

I’ve probably got the top five here as Liverpool should go out swinging, but I didn’t think United had it this year. Wrong.

More shortly…

46 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John on 2011/05/13 at 7:29 AM

    Interlopers eh…… heh


    • Posted by Johninho on 2011/05/13 at 1:38 PM

      Yeah, I couldn’t even check such an obvious falsehood, even though everybody who knows me knows I’m going to be glued to our own little border war. Can’t wait – and if Qworst security tries to pull their usual crap, make an example out of them. God I can’t wait. #RCTID


  2. Posted by dth on 2011/05/13 at 7:29 AM

    Re: Union. Or! Or! They could play the same combination they used last year to good effect. Crazy though there.

    On KC-LA: interested to see how the KC attack matches up with the LA defense.


    • Posted by John on 2011/05/13 at 7:31 AM

      Philadelphia with Will Bruin would be BEARLY watchable….


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/05/13 at 9:05 AM

      Challenge with the same combo for the Union is that the service is not that strong. Last year, more flowing attack and players pushed up the pitch. If they’re going to play as withdrawn as they are on D, they’re going to need more out of their midfield.


  3. Posted by Nelson on 2011/05/13 at 8:19 AM

    Liverpool vs Tottenham should be fun now that the game doesn’t mean much. Look for Spurs to be brilliant in the back of the net out of nowhere…


    • Posted by John on 2011/05/13 at 9:11 AM

      Actually the game will ultimately determine who gets into the Europa League… and Harry has said that he would probably prefer to miss it and get into sixth place.


  4. My Betis will play against Gimnástic for the right to be officially, mathematically guaranteed promotion to the primera! Musho Betis!


  5. Posted by EFG on 2011/05/13 at 12:03 PM

    Two points separate Udinese, Lazio, and Roma in 4th-6th for the final CL spot. With Palermo advancing to the Coppa Italia final, and with it a berth in next season’s Europa League, one of these teams will miss Europe all together. Must wins for all three for the next two weeks.


  6. OK, you succeeded. I cringed at “Koke and a smile” :)


  7. Posted by Scott on 2011/05/13 at 12:36 PM

    What about New England vs. Vancouver Whiteheads?


  8. Posted by dth on 2011/05/13 at 1:12 PM

    Preliminary list for Mexico’s Gold Cup roster:

    Carlos Vela continuing his distinguished career as “Mexico’s Jozy Altidore” and isn’t listed. (Though of course it’s testament to something that America’s Jozy Altidore is one of the four best forwards in the U.S.) That team looks light in the middle to me, but then again what do I know?


    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/05/13 at 2:16 PM

      Light between the pipes, as well, although that’s probably not the shocker of the century.

      As long as we’re talking about weekend matches and Mexico, I’ll be at Pumas-Chivas Sunday. I’ll be sure to have a eye trained on Ponce.


  9. Posted by Alex Song on 2011/05/13 at 2:13 PM

    So…uh…this has nothing to do with this post in particular, but I just saw last night that Brek Shea extended his deal with FC Dallas through 2015. Is he resigning himself to a career as a mediocre MLS midfielder or is this a prelude to a summer transfer?

    I just can’t see why he would be content to remain as a utility player for this team when they don’t seem committed to playing him in the spot where he has the highest ceiling (center back).


    • Posted by dth on 2011/05/13 at 2:48 PM

      Brek Shea, like a lot of U.S. players, gets a lot of hype and wishful thinking associated with him. How is it we know his high ceiling is at center back? Some favorable comments from some Aletico Madrid guy who’d only seen him play once? Please.* Meanwhile, in all of the Brek Shea at center back discussions, it has somehow been conveniently ignored that Dallas already has two really good center backs in George John and Ugo Ihemelu; why the former, John, isn’t consistently mentioned as a prospect on par with the Reams, Gonzalezes and Oparas of the MLS is beyond me.

      * Yeah, I know Mondelo said Madrid was interested in paying for him. But you have to understand, “paying for him” doesn’t give us an answer as to how highly they rate him. Are we talking Jozy Altidore transfers or a $2 million offer? Because clubs make the latter offer for vaguely interesting players all of the time, as a gamble to see whether the player pans out. Given that the two most common criticisms of Brek Shea are first touch weak, soccer brain weak, lateral movement weak how could people turn around and say he might make a world class centerback when those just might be the top three most important qualities for a good centerback?

      It’s also a bit funny for people to minimize Shea’s MLS ability. Granted, by signing this contract, he’s essentially removed himself in my mind from any significant USMNT role–I want ambitious players who are willing to bet on themselves like a Stuart Holden or Oguchi Onyewu–but that doesn’t change the reality that Brek Shea is a pretty good MLS midfielder who’s one of the better players on one of the better MLS teams. I think matthewsf claimed a while back that Shea’s production was tied to David Ferreira…but Ferreira’s out and Shea’s still producing.


  10. Posted by ernj on 2011/05/13 at 3:57 PM

    Nothing about Ajax v. Twente. Not a top 4 league, but for all the marbles…


  11. Posted by mbw on 2011/05/13 at 5:54 PM

    There’s also an interesting (if sadly inconsequential) matchup of USMNT right fullbacks on Saturday.


  12. Posted by Ben on 2011/05/14 at 7:07 AM

    After all the vitriol here about players surrounding/pressuring the referee (Barca/RM), it was refreshing to see the Manchester United and Blackburn players calmly waiting some distance away for the referee to make his decision to grant the penalty.


    • Posted by John on 2011/05/14 at 11:31 AM

      I had it on good authority that English players never flop/pressure the ref, and that this is primarily a Barcelona trait. [/sarcasm]


  13. Posted by John on 2011/05/14 at 3:42 PM

    Watching the USWNT take on Japan right now and while I appreciate the crowd that did show up, the atmosphere is akin to watching a USMNT match from the late 90s…


  14. Posted by mbw on 2011/05/14 at 5:55 PM

    Benny is playing really well — has drawn a penalty and would have had a goal but for a bad offside call — and Shalrie Joseph is the league’s premier Grown-A_ _ Man. NE are a really fun team to watch when everything is clicking.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/05/14 at 6:49 PM

      Highlights-wise Omar Salgado had a nice-looking night, with two good saves from the NE GK denying him. What was your overall impression of your game?


      • Posted by mbw on 2011/05/14 at 7:53 PM

        My impression was that I would buy stock in New England, basically. They were missing their combinations in the first half but were out-and-out scary after halftime. Joseph and Feilhaber are special players in terms of vision, first touch, and ability to weight their long passes, and they have started linking up. And the role players — McCarthy, Tierney, Boggs, Nyassi — all played well. Will be interested to see how they do against stiffer competition.

        For Vancouver, Salgado had a couple nice individual efforts but they didn’t get much else going. Demerit played well but came out after 60 minutes or so.


  15. Posted by dth on 2011/05/14 at 6:21 PM

    Castillo with a brace. Knew he’d be a fantastic player from the moment he stepped onto the field for the Union.

    Sadly, I suspect the Union will take the conclusion that bunkerz are necessary from the trouncing so far.

    (From Chicago-TFC: Bone had a really good last 30 minutes and Orr Barouch continues to intrigue. Of course Barouch is just a green card guy but still interesting.)


    • Posted by dth on 2011/05/14 at 7:11 PM

      My favorite Union player for USMNT remains Amobi Okugo, but the fact is whenever he puts air under the ball it’s a guaransheed turnover. Really limits his game–you have to be able to switch the point of attack. Should be a major point of emphasis for him in terms of improving his game.


      • Posted by John on 2011/05/14 at 7:56 PM

        Once Houston stopped playing like Stoke this game became very enjoyable. However my nervousness has gone through the roof. 4 minutes till game time.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2011/05/15 at 1:44 PM

          I wouldn’t say Houston played like Stoke. Even though I am a biased Houston fan, it felt to me more like that first half was just ugly senseless possession from both sides with no creativity. Houston wasn’t just sitting back and absorbing loads of pressure from Real Salt Lake (besides the first couple minutes). I also think my assessment is backed by the 1 shot on goal from either team in the first half and fairly even possession percentage total.


  16. Posted by john on 2011/05/14 at 7:03 PM

    So…. that Houston salt lake game is…. uh…. foully. Meanwhile the union mystery magical team continues. I hear that old man weathers has stolen their offense.


  17. Posted by EFG on 2011/05/14 at 7:22 PM

    Poor Charlie. He must feel terrible after tonight’s match.


  18. Posted by dth on 2011/05/14 at 9:58 PM

    Interesting tidbit from Greg Seltzer: AS Roma looking to go American?

    The speculation was that Javier Pastore was a certain transfer to Italy–does he have an EU passport of some sort? If so, that’s Roma’s EU transfer right there (unless they pull a Milan/Kevin-Prince Boateng and have another club buy the American/Pastore then loan him to Roma). Then of course there’s the rumor that Carlo Ancelotti will coach Roma after Chelsea dismiss him. Anyway, if Michael Bradley is the guy, it might turn out that the Pastore/Bradley combination would work out after all…except in burgundy rather than pink.


    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/05/15 at 7:06 AM

      Bad idea to get an American just for the sake of getting an American.


    • Posted by EFG on 2011/05/15 at 7:41 PM

      Pastore has only been in Italy for 2 years so there’s no way he has an EU passport. Also, a Bradley purchase for Roma seems odd. He couldn’t find time in a weaker midfield at Villa so I’m not sure he sees time in Rome (unless De Rossi moves on but let’s not think about that). Guzan, on the other hand, is interesting because goalkeeper will be a big question mark heading into the summer. Plus he can probably be had on the semi-cheap side which would complement a Pastore mega-bid – who should be the #1 target for the club.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/05/15 at 7:52 PM

        Well, a lot of Argentines have immigrant roots, and the name “Pastore” certainly sounds like he has some Italian blood somewhere, so it may be he had his EU passport before he ever went there.

        (For an US example: Sebastian Lletget is Argentine, but he’s playing in England because of an Italian grandparent.)


        • Posted by EFG on 2011/05/16 at 3:59 AM

          Good point, I suppose I overlooked that, but I hadn’t seen anywhere where he has an EU passport.


  19. Posted by Joe on 2011/05/14 at 11:01 PM

    Wow I just finished watching the Seattle-Portland game. Wasn’t very impressive. Part of that was the heavy rain on the turf meant any weighted pass not at somebody was going out. The game wasn’t very physical or chippy. Not even a foul that was close to being a card.

    Kenny Cooper seemed to spend most of the second half flopping around trying to get a call. Portland had a nice goal on a set piece but really think it was more of a Seattle (Casey Keller) mistake. If anyone was going to win that game (as much as it pains me to say) it would probably be the Timbers. They had more consistent pressure in the final third and looked much more dangerous in open play.

    Seattle wow they didn’t look like they came to play. Had a few mistakes on defense that almost cost them big. They had a tough time stringing passes together in the midfield. And the forwards just had a tough time getting the ball on frame. Casey Keller had some good saves but made a huge mistake on a Portland free kick that cost them the win. O lets not forget the fact that Mario Rosales, Eric Friberg, Steve Zakuani, and O’Brian White were all out with injuries and Brad Evans was subbed out in the 40th min also due to an injury.



  20. Posted by Joe on 2011/05/14 at 11:08 PM

    So apparently Rooney Shaved his chest hair into a 19. Just saw the picture on Sky News I think he posted it on twitter.


  21. Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/05/15 at 6:59 AM

    Sitting hear watching Portland/Seattle on DVR and wondering the following:

    Why does the MLS play games late on the weekends?

    I don’t see how Saturday night games at 7, 8, and 11 are preferable to Saturday afternoon at 1, 2, and 4. I assume they don’t want to compete with baseball but I am not sure that is preferable to having a marquee game on at 11 on the east coast.

    I guess I am assuming a couple things:
    1) The soccer demographic is much younger than the baseball demographic.
    2) The things on TV (ESPN2, etc) seem to be fairly crappy unless its college football season. (I assume that SEA/POR would outdraw college softball, bowling and pool which is today’s killer line-up).
    3) If we assume a young demo then the chance is that most of them are out on Sat at 11 meaning very few east coast viewers watched the game. My bar nights are now few and far between but back in the days there was no way that SEA/POR reached the level of “lets stay in tonight”.
    4) By playing late games on the weekend you are some degree eliminating families with younger kids from the ticket buying population.
    5) The issue of them competing with college football is somewhat mute as they already are given the MLS cup is in November and the 8 eastern slot is ESPN’s game of the week and full of PAC 10 games.

    Anybody know what I am missing?


    • Posted by John on 2011/05/15 at 11:34 AM

      ESPN likes things that get really good ratings.

      Despite MLS successes, it still doesn’t translate to nationwide ratings.

      Therefore. ESPN puts it on in prime time for the West Coast, where it has the best chance of getting good ratings.


      Despite ESPN making more of a commitment in broadcasting soccer (With the odd Premiership game/Mens qualifier) they still really really really REALLY don’t care.

      Their website is generally abysmal, with a select (read one) decent writer, sportscenter hosts in general treat it still as a joke, and they still don’t really attempt to put out that great of a product (other than the world cup).

      I mean it is good to keep in focus the fact that the coverage now is still better than the coverage 10 years ago… but still. As much as I dislike Fox, they actually have a better commitment to the sport than ESPN who primarily #1 don’t care and #2 would rather air womens gymanstics.

      The fact that CNNSI has better coverage than ESPN in regards to this sport says something for ESPN’s commitment. I find FAR more interesting things from Grant Wahl, Jen Chang, Steve Davis, Avi Creditor than just about anyone (other than Jeff Carlisle) on espn. Not to mention that they STILL think that John Harkes is a good colour commentator.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/05/15 at 12:50 PM

        Enh. No offense to SI’s writers, but their best guys–like ESPN’s best guys–are poached from English papers. So SI gives me Rafa Honigstein and Sid Lowe, but ESPN has Michael Cox (Zonal Marking). Aside from that, there aren’t too many really top flight American writers in mainstream media.

        As to the broader argument: MLS is in a tricky spot because ESPN/Fox have discovered that people want to watch the best games in the best leagues. Hence they’re pretty eager to pimp the European leagues–and they’re talking them up in their talk segments, and made them regular inclusions in SportsCenter’s top 10 plays. MLS’s problem is the reality that the domestic brand of soccer is just not as good as the stuff in Europe.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/05/16 at 6:56 PM

          There was an interesting section on the MLS in April or May’s FourFourTwo, from urban stadium locations to Americans who watch European football but not the domestic kind…


      • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/05/15 at 1:44 PM

        I fully understand that ESPN is in it for the ratings…

        That said I find it hard to believe that either women’s gymnastics out rate the MLS or that the MLS gets better ratings being on at 11 pm eastern than they would at 1 pm eastern.

        It seems to me that putting the MLS on at 1 at least until college football starts would be the money making move. I am curious if the league wants the later times.

        I get the whole want to watch the best argument dth is making since in general I would much rather watch an EPL game then a MLS game. Even when I watch MLS it is generally “star” driven. I put start in quotes because its not necessarily the best players but the players I am most interested in… for example I watched the WhiteCaps Revs game to catch Salgado as I hadn’t seen him yet.


  22. Posted by dth on 2011/05/15 at 7:53 PM

    Bob Bradley interviewed in the Free Press:

    Maybe both Whitbread and Ream get called up?


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