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simon borg

11 March 7:27 pm

Missed the weekend action? Couldn't watch all the matches? Get your fill with a weekend edition of the Smorgasborg:

CANADIAN SWEEP: It was one of the main themes of the weekend as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto all won. But is it just a coincidence that the three Canadian teams have won all of their matches thus far in 2013 (except for Toronto, who lost to fellow Canadian side Vancouver on opening weekend)?

Here's an attempt at an explanation: One common thread that runs through all three teams is that they feature an above-average number of starters with experience playing outside the US and Canada. This past weekend, Vancouver fielded an MLS-high nine of 10 starting field players who have spent time abroad while Toronto and Montreal are right behind with eight of 10 starting field players. The league average for players with overseas seasoning in a single MLS starting lineup: 5.

COOL MOVE: Jay DeMerit, the Vancouver Whitecaps captain who suffered an Achilles injury last week, led his team out of the tunnel on against the Columbus Crew. On crutches.

LINEUP QUESTION: A second look at Colorado Rapids midfielder Kevin Harbottle doesn't convince me that he brings more to the table wide left than second-year player Tony Cascio. This Colorado team, which has played well over 180 minutes, needs a player who can knife through a defense, cause havoc and especially shoot on goal. Harbottle has a single shot (none on frame) in two matches.

KEY INJURIES: Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni pulled up lame after nine minutes with a left hamstring strain. Eddie Gaven apparently rolled his ankle in Crew training and wasn't on the squad. D.C.'s John Thorrington is getting an MRI on his knee and Fire manager Frank Klopas revealed that Chris Rolfe has a muscle issue that is affecting his knee.

GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: It's the point of view that only a former player can share. After Mastroeni left the match, Altitude color analyst and US soccer legend Marcelo Balboa: "Been there, done that. You start digging your hand in right underneath the glute where the hamstring attaches becuase you just want to see if it's tight." His best line came five minutes later when he impressed upon viewers the need for players to stick to their assignment when asked to guard the post on a corner kick: "You do not leave the post. ... I'm going to go back to my Top Gun. Don't leave your wingman."

DEFENSIVE GAFFES: These three defenders may very well be in the running for Defender of the Year by the time the season ends, but the Crew's Gláuber (Kenny Miller's goal), FC Dallas center back George John (Oswaldo Minda's strike) and Sporting's Matt Besler (Robert Earnshaw's first) all had plays that could be in the running for Gaffe of the Year this weekend.

GOALKEEPER FOLLIES: The defenders are not the only ones who should be put under the microscope. Goalkeepers have had their share of mishaps. One week after an error by backup 'keeper Steward Ceus cost the Rapids big time, first-string 'keeper Matt Pickens made a killer error of his own on the Union's first goal. Crew netminder Andy Gruenebaum was caught way off his line on the Goal of the Week candidate from Daigo Kobayashi. And Philadelphia's Zac MacMath probably should have reacted better to Jamie Smith's equalizer in Colorado.

BOSTOCK RISING: After his showing against Sporting Kansas City, some will be wondering what the San Jose Earthquakes were thinking not signing Englishman John Bostock when they had him in camp earlier this preseason, especially given the Quakes' relationship with Tottenham Hotspur. Toronto were most dangerous on Saturday when Bostock was creating on the right flank.

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO SKC?: After two seasons finishing tops in the Eastern Conference, has a bit of complacency snuck in at Sporting KC? How else to explain the opening first half in Philadelphia (Week 1) and then in Toronto (Week 2)? Road fatigue could also be cited as one factor or perhaps the new players inserted in the lineup have taken that edge off a team that was known for its bite, pressure and harassing of opponents.

REMEMBER ME?: In just two games, Sporting Kansas City Designated Player Claudio Bieler has shown why he's DP quality: two shots on goals and two goals to show for them. The truth is that Bieler has been fairly invisible in both of Sporting's matches. In fact, after the halftime break he only had four passes and a throw-in to his name before his 77th-minute goal and that's when Sporting's pressure was its greatest.

Although his continuing adaptation to MLS may be at play, we may eventually figre out that he's a forward who needs another attacker playing closer to him. Perhaps in a 4-4-2? His goal vs. Toronto where he connected with C.J. Sapong on a flick header looked to be a very natural movement for him.

HEARD ON THE FIELD: We got a glimpse at some of the communication challenges that Chivas USA may be facing as goalkeeper Dan Kennedy set up his wall and attempted to grab the attention of teammate Tristan Bowen. Check the MLS LIVE broadcast at minute 21:07. "Tristan! Tristan! Right. … Not you! Tristan!"

OLD MAN JOEL: Match broadcasts are a wealth of information. From the NBC Sports Network broadcast, you learned that Joel Lindpere's girlfriend thinks "he runs like an old man" and he admits it (it's the truth). But even more entertaining is the nugget that the Chicago midfielder never leaves home without his trusted tennis ball which he "takes everywhere he goes just to roll on his back." We need some more information about that one.

CREAM RISES: Big, bad San Jose defender Víctor Bernárdez is a fan of Vick's vapor rub. It's that mentholatum cream that some players wear on their jersey to help their breathing. But did the Boss need an entire jar vs. Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls?

NOT GOAL OF THE WEEK: The prize goes to Chivas USA's Miller Bolaños in the 49th minute against FC Dallas. It's one of the weakest attempts you'll see at goal on a 1-v-1.

THE REAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The media voted for the guy who got two goals. But Robert Earnshaw's match for Toronto doesn't stand next to Kenny Miller's performance for Vancouver. He was the impact player of the week with his runs, his passing and his chasing. The 'Caps captain was buzzing. And it's perhaps time for those of us who criticized him after his dismal 2012 to eat our words.

MR. UNDERRATED: While Miller will get his due over the course of 2013, Montreal left back Jeb Brovsky may be one of the most underrated players in MLS. He plays his position effectively with excellent technique, stamina and passing. He should be getting plenty more plaudits than merely for his humanitarian efforts.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Tip of the cap to the Vancouver Whitecaps who put on a show for their fans in their win against the Columbus Crew. The one criticism: They made life extra hard on themselves by conceding an inordinate number of free kicks to ever-dangerous Crew playmaker Federico Higuaín.

WHO KNEW MLS HAD ITS OWN BATMAN: The UniMas broadcast crew taught us that Chivas USA defender Joaquín Velásquez is nicknamed "Murciélago," which translates to "bat" in English.

FIT TO BE UNTIED: Of the 17 matches played in MLS after two weekends, there has been just one draw: the 3-3 tie between Portland and New York.

RED ALERT: Also worth noting that there's not been a single red card shown by MLS referees after 17 league matches.

CHALK TALK: In addition to another memorable press conference, Chivas USA manager Chelís was caught by TV cameras during the match vs. FC Dallas having a passionate discussion with some fans near the bench (84:52) … during the match. Dallas broadcaster Brian Dunseth, who was on-site, says it was a prolonged discussion. Can the fan on the other side of the conversation please step up?

THE DAY PIGS FLEW: Elias' Peter Hirdt confirms that the last time Chivas USA and Toronto FC won on the same weekend was July 18, 2012, which is also the last time Toronto FC won a match. And while New England won their first MLS regular-season match at Toyota Park since July 8, 2006, RSL still can't win in D.C. (eight matches and counting).

OOPS: Both TSN and the KCWE broadcasts missed the Bieler goal. And the second half of Vancouver vs. Columbus kicked off before Sportsnet got back on the air.

RATED R: That rating is for Colorado vs. Philadelphia, specifically at 27:14 when the Union's Amobi Okugo lets Colorado's DeShorn Brown know that he thinks he took a dive: "Get the **** up. Stop doing that ****!"

TIFO TIME: The Section 8 supporters in Chicago take the cake for the best tifo of the weekend with the Phoenix rising thematic – "Chicago will rise above them all." Too bad there was no rising by the Fire on Saturday night.

MIXING AND MATCHING: Chicago's Frank Klopas is trying his best to get those Section 8 fans a goal. There was more shuffling of his forward line on Saturday to see which partnership works best. Here's what we've seen over 180 minutes: Chris Rolfe-Sherjill MacDonald (68 minutes), Chris Rolfe-Maicon Santos (87 minutes), Alex-Maicon Santos (25 minutes) and Alex-Chris Rolfe-Maicon Santos (33 minutes). Still no goals, however.

COMBINATION SENSATION: If you didn't catch the Chicago vs. New England match, it's worth the effort to get on MLS LIVE and watch the six-pass sequence put together by the New England Revolution at 55:40 in the second half. The quick combination play featuring Andrew Farrell, Juan Toja, Kellyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen resulted in a corner kick. Welcome to Revolution soccer in 2013.

JAPANESE TRADITION: MLS has featured Japanese players in the past, but Vancouver's Daigo Kobayashi is the first we've seen offer up a ceremonial bow as he came off for a 77th-minute substitution. When he reached the touchline, he turned back around facing the field and gave a subtle bow, a sign of appreciation and sportsmanship toward fans, officials and the opponent.

DOES RYAN JOHNSON NEED HELP UP TOP IN PORTLAND?: We were enthralled by the quick passing combinations of the Nagbe-Valeri-Alhassan trident in midfield during the Timbers' opener against the New York Red Bulls. But as skillful as they are, can the Timbers afford to play with all three in the 4-2-3-1 at the expense of giving Ryan Johnson more help up top? The Timbers will not be able to pass their way through everyone every weekend.

HEAD OVER HEELS: The "shimmy" seemed to be the most popular goal celebration this weekend (see the ones by FC Dallas and the New England Revolution), but the Robert Earnshaw front flip was on full show. How long before Ryan Nelsen hears the Fabián Espíndola back flip injury in 2008 and asks Earnshaw to retire the celebration?

01 March 12:55 pm

Nice of the US national team to join MLS Jersey Week.

On Friday, the US Soccer Federation, which turns 100 years old in 2013, unveiled its new centennial kits for both men and women's national teams, images of which were leaked a few weeks ago. Now it's official.

The uniform is inspired by the kit worn back in 1916 when the US played their first game against Sweden in Stockholm (a 3-2 win). So is the crest, which is the standout feature of the new jersey with 13 stars and 13 stripes, symbolizing the first 13 colonies of the United States.

Jurgen Klinsmann's squad will debut the kit in a World Cup qualifier on March 22 against Costa Rica at sold-out Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Give us your review of the new US jersey below.

17 February 2:08 pm

The soccer news cycles chews managers up and spits them out. But some of them will always have a place in our collective memory.

Former NY Red Bulls manager Hans Backe falls in that category and thanks to EmpireOfSoccer.com's Dave Martinez, we now know what he's up to these days.

Apparently he's serving as a color analyst for Swedish TV and those unique intonations we all grew to enjoy come to life all over again (video below).

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17 February 11:00 am

Whether you enjoy the Harlem Shake or not, it's now infiltrated MLS clubs. The Seattle Sounders, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Houston Dynamo (a special edition with the Dynamo Girls) are the latest to join the viral video movement.

Where would you rate Jimmy Conrad and his KICKTV crew in the American soccer Harlem Shake hierarchy?

14 February 1:05 pm

Here I am thinking all MLS teams had the same "intro music" -- the MLS anthem (see video below).

Well, it turns out the Portland Timbers have intro songs and club owner Merritt Paulson is looking for help to decide the 2013 version to succeed "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys.

So let's give the Timbers a hand here. Please share your ideas below and if you can spare a thought for their women's side, Thorns FC, they need one for them, too.

13 February 11:39 am

While manager Oscar Pareja continues to revamp the Colorado Rapids on the field, the club's supporters may be responsible for the biggest preseason development off the field.

The Bulldog Supporters Group, Pid Army and Class VI joined forces to form Centennial 38, a name which harkens back to an old Rapids supporters group.

The new Colorado supporters group already has a Facebook account and Twitter handle.

Are clubs better off with all supporters groups united under one umbrella? The Timbers Army seems to think so:

05 February 7:22 pm

If we're to believe the images leaked on TodoSobreCamisetas.com, this is what the USMNT's Centennial jersey will look like in 2013.

The primary feature? It has to be the old-school badge, which replaces the US Soccer Federation logo on today's jerseys.

Do you like this retro jersey better than the sash look? Think they should go with old-fashioned number design on the back? Want to see this crest become the new USSF logo?

Share your thoughts below.

05 February 6:59 pm

All you have to do is look at the transfer market in case you didn't already know it: The most valuable asset in the sport of soccer is the goal.

And yet in American soccer these days, we have a habit of dismissing our goalscorers as if they were utility journeymen.

We start with Kenny Cooper, who has scored 18 goals TWICE in his MLS career. Yet he's on his third MLS club in three years.

Chris Wondolowski has led MLS in scoring for three seasons and yet he can't make the USMNT's World Cup qualifying team.

Jozy Altidore is having the best season of any American forward to ever play overseas, but it earns him a smack-down with the USMNT for his lack of goals in red, white and-blue (let's glance over the fact that the USMNT continues to struggle to create enough chances).

Fredy Montero had four straight double-digit scoring seasons in MLS, and yet somehow that wore out his welcome in Seattle.

What are we left to conclude? Either American soccer hasn't yet learned to truly value soccer's hard currency or we're witnessing a massive shift in what is truly being expected of the modern forward: athleticism (Montero didn't have it), speed (not Wondo's strength), hard work (Altidore has apparently not done enough of it) and smash-mouth play (Cooper has earned reputation of being a soft "finesse" player) are apparently more important than how many goals you can bag.

Gone are the days when the team worked to service its top scorer. Instead, the forward has been asked to become a servant of his team.

Welcome to today's reality. In every walk of life employees are being asked to multitask. Whatever the industry, if you want to stay relevant, you better know how to do it all. One-trick ponies — no matter how valuable the trick — need no longer apply.

04 February 6:16 pm

Great defenders think alike.

Sporting Kansas City All-Star defender Aurelien Collin agrees with former USMNT legend Alexi Lalas that MLS' competitive set-up is one of its most attractive features.

When asked by SportingKC.com about what he likes most about MLS, SKC's French defender, who has played pro in Scotland, Greece and Portugal, practically mirrored Lalas' stance from last week. His answer comes at 4:10 of the video below:

"MLS? I like that any team can beat any team," Collin says. "It's not like leagues back in Europe. Most of them there are three or four clubs and after them the rest is behind. And in MLS you have like 15 teams that can beat each other. And that's competition. And I love it."

Have your say on the topic below. Agree with Collin and Lalas?

01 February 12:04 pm

Add yet another name to the list of Hondurans connected with a move to MLS.

Toronto FC, who have already been linked to midfielder Arnold Peralta, are now reportedly chasing forward Rommel Quioto (above), according to Honduran outlet Diez.

According to the article, the president of Honduran side Vida, Carla Dip, says she has received an offer from TFC for the 21-year-old, who has featured for the Honduras Under-20 and Under-23 sides but did not make it on the London Olympics squad. He has one cap with the senior team.

"This afternoon, I received an e-mail in which they're interested in the player and they submitted an offer," Dip told Diez. "They would like for him to join them as soon as possible and it would be on loan. I spoke to Quioto and we hope that he can go."

The report finishes by pointing out how Vida were on the verge of transferring Peralta to Toronto a few weeks ago but the player declined at the last minute when an agreement was already in place.

Toronto FC did not comment on the report, with a club spokesman stating that the club doesn't "comment on players not on our roster."