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nate sulat

12 March 1:25 pm

I give MLS fans credit for not living under rocks, so I won't tell them that the Portland Timbers play their home opener on Monday night against the Philadelphia Union at 9:30 pm ET on ESPN2/Deportes. Oh, wait...

Nevermind that! This is an exciting day. It's the season's first ESPN broadcast and, more importantly, our first chance to see JELD-WEN Field on TV. I like seeing JELD-WEN on TV.

And, with due apologies to the more hardcore non-Portland Cascadia fans, I maintain that the Timbers Army is a big reason why. No disrespect to any other supporters group, but the TA bring their A-game.

Like, remember when they sang the Star-Spangled Banner on national TV? Turns out that we're all going to get a refresher course tonight, because the fans are doing it again this season.

Get pumped, sports fans. Swallow your pride, Seattle fans. Union fans, brace yourself. This might get awesome.

08 March 7:35 pm

Photo Courtesy of NESN.com/SeattlePi.com

First Kick is right around the corner, but apparently so is March Madness.

I know, it kind of snuck up on me, but the Big 12 kicked off their conference tournament on Wednesday. I'm less interested in that than I am in the uniforms that Baylor debuted in their opening game today, an 82-74 win over Kansas State.

Baylor's jerseys are, apparently, "lime green." But am I the only one who sees an uncanny resemblance to the Seattle Sounders' "Electricity" jerseys?

I can't be. That's straight up the same color. Can someone please tell me I'm not crazy?

08 March 7:13 pm

Needless to say, Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League games were exciting.

Perhaps even more so because of the nearly unprecedented attendance. Between the two CCL matches, 71,001 fans showed up. That's an average of 35,500.

By comparison, UEFA's four Champions League games this week averaged 49,776.25. That includes 75,632 fans who packed the Nou Camp in an attendance figure nearly as ridiculous at Barcelona's 7-1 destruction of Bayer Leverkusen.

Take what you will from it, but it's fair to say that the bar for CCL matches hosted by MLS teams has been raised.

05 March 12:03 pm

Take heart, MLS fan: You are not the only one getting ready for the regular season.

With First Kick five days away, FIFA is getting in the spirit of the season by naming their four stars set to shine in the 2012 season: Juan Agudelo, C.J. Sapong, Brek Shea and Steve Zakuani.

I think those are pretty solid picks. You might not. The best part about First Kick is that for every team and every player, the sky is the limit on Day One; anything can happen.

So channel your inner FIFA and let us know: Who do you think is going to shine in 2012?

24 February 2:46 pm

I read an interesting Q&A on dcunited.com today where Kevin Payne says that Dwayne De Rosario is the most accomplished professional athlete in DC, and that the only guy in the greater market who comes close is Ray Lewis.

I liked that, mostly because I like solidarity, especially the kind of solidarity that leads you to make bold claims. But this raises a bigger question: Is Payne right?

In addition to Lewis — who plays in Baltimore for the Ravens, but whatever — the DC area boasts some notable athletes. The Capitals have Alex Ovechkin. The Washington Kastles of World TeamTennis have the Williams sisters. (I know, I know.) So who's the most accomplished?

First, I'm taking Ray Lewis in a landslide because I walk around in perpetual fear that he'll pop up on my blindside and destroy me. If I weren't worried about that, though, I'd probably point out that he's only won one Super Bowl and only two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, numbers which are clearly inferior to De Rosario's (four MLS Cup titles, two MLS Cup final MVP awards, an MLS MVP Award and a Golden Boot).

SB Nation is also throwing its support behind Payne's assessment, while Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post counters that Ovechkin has probably been one of the best two players in the world at points in his career, a feat which DeRo can't claim.

Of course, by that logic, Serena Williams blows the rest of the competition out of the water, because she may be the best player in women's tennis history, nevermind that the Kastles' season lasts about one month and that most of her accolades come from Grand Slams rather than WTT play.

But the fact I just spent 290 words on it means that Payne has hit on something interesting. (Everything I write about is interesting, didn't you know?) So I'll submit the question to you: Where does DeRo rank in the pantheon of DC-area pro sports?

22 February 6:21 pm

It may be I'm reading too much into this quote. I'll admit it. But did Rauwshan McKenzie just take a shot at Jason Kreis?

“This is the first time that I’ve had a defensive coach,” a smiling McKenzie said on Monday after inking a deal with Chivas USA three days earlier. “It’s easy to understand what he’s talking about and he obviously helps me because he played the position when he was playing, so it’s a bit easier than having like a forward as a coach.”

The move to Chivas makes sense - McKenzie played for Real Salt Lake in 2010 while current Goats head coach Robin Fraser was an assistant under Jason Kreis. Wait, isn't Kreis a forward?

Yes, actually. Kreis has 108 career MLS goals and was the league MVP in 1999 while with the Dallas Burn. Since then, he's made a pretty successful transition to coaching (see: MLS Cup, 2009).

Back to McKenzie, though: The 6-foot-4 center back has made exactly 11 appearances in MLS, so I think it's fair to characterize his field time as "limited." And whatever else he's done as a coach, Kreis did some of that limiting. If McKenzie harbors any bitterness about his lack of minutes, his former coach probably has a role in that.

And then we have this quote about how he's enjoying not having, like, a forward as a coach. Which is interesting in part because Kreis - yes, the forward - coached the team that set the current record for fewest goals conceded in a single season.

Game on? I hope so. There can never be too many grudges in MLS, as far as I'm concerned.

17 February 2:05 pm

The Michael Ballack-to-MLS drumbeat is getting a little bit louder now, it seems.

Goal.com is reporting today that the former Germany captain is in discussion with the league to bring him to MLS this season, citing unnamed sources from both sides of the negotiation. The article lists five teams that would be interested in Ballack's services: Chicago, Montreal, New York, Philly and Seattle.

Based on comments from the player himself, though, it seems that his most likely destination is the Red Bulls.

Fans in New York shouldn't be leaping for joy just yet, though. For one, even players that have shown a legitimate interest in the league have been known to spurn MLS (see: Anelka, Nicolas). Secondly, even if Ballack does sign, his contract with Bayer Leverkusen doesn't end until June 30, and his agent, Michael Becker, said that he won't be leaving before the Bundesliga season is done.

14 February 3:16 pm

Oh, come on, you're not that surprised, are you?

The Washington Post's Steven Goff reported yesterday that former US men's national team coach Bob Bradley made $400,000 in bonuses from April 2010 to March 2011, a sum that put his total earnings at almost a million bucks.

Reading that makes me think one thing and one thing only: Good for Bob. He earned that money, as far as I'm concerned. And even if his round of 16 finish at the World Cup wasn't enough for you (and if it wasn't, get over yourself), he still earned a reported 1.5 million dollars less than Jurgen Klinsmann will make this year.

Moreover, Bradley recently donated two months of his salary to the victims of the Port Said tragedy, so it's not like he's blowing his money on a third Bugatti. I don't begrudge the man for being good at what he does, and I don't mind that he's getting paid well for it, either.

13 February 2:40 pm

There's nothing like a good bit of outrage to spice up your day.

Why am I outraged, you ask? In a word, this.

<a data-cke-saved-href='http://msn.foxsports.com/video?videoid=ee06d881-6e53-474b-a6c5-8ce935992214&src=v5:embed::' href='http://msn.foxsports.com/video?videoid=ee06d881-6e53-474b-a6c5-8ce935992214&src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Clint Dempsey's notable goal' >Video: Clint Dempsey's notable goal</a>

Now, the only outrage that I should be feeling is how outrageously awesome that goal was. What I'm actually feeling is annoyed that the Premier League gave the goal to Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen as an OG.

Not only is that wrong in a "is this justice?" sense, but as nearly as I can tell it's wrong in a regulatory sense, as well. According to a 2006 FIFA Fact Sheet, “shots that ... rebound from the goal frame and bounce off a defender or goalkeeper are not considered as own-goals," and that's clearly what happened to Dempsey and Sorensen.

The only reason I know this to be the case is because I wrote an article about something similar in October when a Faryd Mondragon own goal was given to Dane Richards after a 1-0 Red Bulls win over the Union. My guess is that, after review by the awesomely-named Dubious Goals Committee, the FA will also reverse their ruling and Dempsey will get his goal. But in the meantime, I'll happily wallow in my resentment.

09 February 10:43 am

(Photo courtesy of dcunited.com)

So for about two hours last night, D.C. United U-18 Academy midfielder Patrick Foss was on the front page of nytimes.com.

Before everyone gets their panties in a bunch, this is one of those cases where it's not what it looks like. The US youth national teamer's soccer accumen wasn't actually the focus of the article. Rather, Foss seems to be in the middle of a fight in Virginia over whether or not home-schooled students should be allowed to play varsity sports for their local public schools.

This is more than a case of a jock trying to game the system, because apparently Foss is really smart (second paragraph). Other than that, though, I can't really offer an opinion because I know almost nothing about Virigina public schools, and it's an inherently complicated issue.

What piqued my interest was the fact that Foss wants to try out as a kicker for the local football team.

At 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, I have my doubts as to whether or not Foss has a career in football. As a player who has been to US Soccer's Residency Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and who is less than four months removed from a start with D.C. United's reserves, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he'll have a career in professional soccer. I get that kickers don't get hit that much, but why take the chance of getting hurt?

That said, Foss is 17. He deserves to be able to have fun and be happy. If football can help that come to pass, more power to him.