blog

simon borg

16 February 11:29 am

Today could be the day that the Dynamo land two forwards ahead of the 2012 season.

In addition to reacquiring Brian Ching, Costa Rican reports say the club are also close to signing Cristian Lagos from a club called Santos. An executive from the Costa Rican side confirmed it, according to this tweet by a reporter

He made news on Wednesday, getting revenge against his former club Liga Alajuelense, by scoring two goals in a 3-1 win by Santos.

(PHOTO: Al Dia / Costa Rica)

15 February 7:08 pm

There’s a Jeremy Lin waiting to erupt in every league.

So we dug up the MLS names that have the identical combination of traits that have made Lin’s story transcend nationwide: a rise from relative obscurity, an unconventional path to stardom, far from dominant physical traits and the ability to impact his team in a significant way.

We narrowed down a list of 10 names that have the potential of replicating #LinSanity in 2012:

LA’s Jack McBean, FC Dallas striker Jonathan Top, the Crew’s Aaron Horton and RSL’s Sebastian Velasquez likely won’t get enough of a shot this season;

Columbus’ Ben Speas, Chivas USA’s Casey Townsend and Philly’s Chandler Hoffman come from collegiate soccer powers and don’t make the cut;

Chicago’s Orr Barouch and Portland’s Bright Dike are both doted with the athletic attributes of potential difference makers. It wouldn't be fair to name them.

Which leaves our favorite candidate: Lin’s fellow Harvard grad Mike Fucito.

He was never looked at by the US national team in his younger days, he went to a school that’s not a traditional soccer heavyweight and his 5-9 frame makes him a long shot to be a force at forward in a league where athleticism rules. 

The Massachusetts native made just 13 starts and scored two league goals for Seattle in 2011, so he still has a ways to go. Similarly, Lin came off the bench in 29 games for Golden State in the last NBA season, averaging 2.6 points per game.

Fucito may have the slight headstart with the beginnings of a cult following in Seattle. But he's no regular just yet and he has the chance to take ownership of the forward spot permanently if he can stay injury-free this year.

And if the goals can follow, #LinSanity may have to make way for a dusting-off of #LikeMike.

15 February 2:44 pm

Unlike previous regimes, when USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann speaks, there's always a fresh takeaway.

In this latest video interview conducted by Allen Hopkins, Klinsmann makes it clear that he has no preference for a tactical formation but he's more interested in all 11 players working and running hard for 90 minutes. And the key to success for his philosophy lies in the forward line:

"It's a very difficult process for our strikers, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo or Edson Buddle," Klinsmann tells Hopkins. "They have to learn to go backwards the moment we lose the ball they have to be behind the ball."

No one is exempt from the hard work, according to Klinsmann and the German fires this warning to any wannabe primadonnas.

"Maybe eventually down the road if there was one guy or maybe one diva we might have and says 'I want to do it my way,' he will be gone. He won't fit into the Brazil [2014] roster."

It's not too hard to figure out which players this is directed at.

09 February 8:03 pm

Pick up the phone, David Beckham. It’s time to call in a favor.

LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena was a big part of helping Beckham finally settle down in MLS after a rocky start. Now it’s time for Beckham to use his direct line with the English FA to nominate Arena as a candidate for the vacant national team post of the Three Lions.

There’s a strong argument to be made that Arena would leap to the top of the list if he ever got on it. Here’s how he matches up with the rumored finalists:

Arena has more World Cup experience than Harry Redknapp and a lot less baggage. Aside from his recent spell at Tottenham, Redknapp's resumé doesn't blow anyone away.

Arena has plenty more international experience, including management of star players, than second-division coach Sam Allardyce.

And let’s not flatter Stuart Pierce with a comparison to The Bruce.

Which leaves Guus Hiddink as the only real competition, although the Dutchman doesn't have Beckham's influence on his side like Arena does. Hiddink is the classic coaching mercenary -- the new Bora Milutinovic -- and his record says he's good for a short-term run, but don't expect him to leave a legacy. Not when the next big payday is waiting.

Look, an American at the helm of England is the longest of long shots, but hasn't Beckham always said he wants to help grow the American game? Is there anyone who doubts that merely having Arena’s name in the mixer for the most important national team job in the world would leave a mark?

It just takes a phone call.

06 February 3:24 pm

The dream is still alive for Chicago Fire winger Patrick Nyarko, and we’re not talking about his designs on playing for the USMNT, which he has indicated previously.

He’s hoping to see his native Ghana advance to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, and they’re still on track after their weekend quarterfinal victory over Tunisia.

“It’s going to be tough, but I’m hoping for Ivory Coast vs. Ghana final,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com last week. “Before the tournament started, I picked Ivory Coast to win it but I want Ghana to win it. I think Ivory Coast has the better team, but Ghana is playing very well. I still think we have the hope we might sneak up on them and win it.

“I’m looking forward to a Ghana vs. Ivory Coast final, but there are so many new teams that are emerging. Look at the Nations Cup and you ask where are Nigeria and Cameroon? Where did those big teams go? They didn’t qualify because other teams have emerged.”

Ivory Coast and Ghana are, in fact, on a collision course for a final and they face Mali and Zambia respectively in the semis on Wednesday. Nyarko argues that the rise of new contenders outside the traditional powers is what is making African soccer an up-and-coming force.

“No disrespect to CONCACAF,” says Nyarko, “but I think the Cup of Nations is the second best tournament after the European UEFA championships.”

02 February 8:08 pm

For many American soccer fans who watched Wednesday's soccer tragedy unfold in Egypt's Port Said, Bob Bradley immediately came to mind.

The American is the head coach of the Egyptian national team and he chose to live in Egypt with his wife as part of the job. A day after the stadium riots that claimed 74 lives and injured a few hundred others following the match between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly, Bradley took to the streets. 

Along with thousands of other Egyptians, Bradley and his wife were photographed at the protest march held Thursday in Central Cairo to commemorate the victims and condemn the violence. The ex-US national team coach spoke to Steven Goff of The Washington Post regarding his thoughts on the events and their impact on the national team.

“When a tragedy like this occurs, it’s important to show respect,” Bradley told The Washington Post.

Below is a video of comments made by Bradley to Egyptian TV.

02 February 7:33 pm

Raise your hand if you are clueless about the Roman numerals involved in this upcoming NFL Super Bowl on Sunday. 

Ok, so it's "XLVI" and I've drawn a massive blank on that grade school class that I need to decipher it.

When it comes to the Super Bowl, I lost count a long time ago, which is why I think it’s inevitable that the NFL will eventually buckle and go the MMA route with how they identify their main event: Super Bowl 60, Super Bowl 61, etc.

And MLS should give some thought to making the switch as well.

In the event the regular season ever moves to a winter-spring schedule that overlaps two calendar years, attaching the actual year to "MLS Cup" will be irrelevant. Take England for example: How muddled is it to call Manchester United the 2010-2011 Premier League Champions? No, they were technically never champions in 2010.

And so why not take advantage of the fact there is a new format for MLS Cup this year with the highest remaining seed hosting the final, and rebrand the way we refer to soccer’s championship match in the USA?

The new nomenclature would also allow for multiple championship matches in the same calendar year if MLS ever opted to go to a split season (ala the aperturaclausura set-up in other leagues in South America). Ever try to follow the champions in Mexico? It’s a mess.

So "MLS Cup 17" this December! Has a decent ring to it.

 

31 January 7:01 pm

Kris Boyd doesn't know it yet but he has more than just MLS defenders he'll be contending with every weekend in the USA.

Portland's new designated player already has a minimum goal target he MUST hit in 2012 to even qualify as a moderately successful signing: nine.

That's the total that would surpass Kenny Cooper's production from last year in a Timbers jersey.

And make no mistake about it: By offloading Cooper on SuperDraft day and committing the big bucks to Boyd, the Timbers absolutely need Boyd to have the better season this year.

It will be the game-within-the-game to watch throughout 2012. Who is the more productive player in MLS? Boyd may not know who New York's Cooper is yet, but you have to figure Cooper, for one, will be checking Boyd's stat line every weekend.

They are very different players -- Boyd is considered a natural scorer while Cooper enjoys playing outside the box -- but in the end both will be judged by the ultimate measure of a striker's success: balls in the back of the net (and assists). And Boyd has the edge going into it purely based on his characteristics.

If the Scotsman does not bang them in for Portland, then it would likely point to wider personnel issues for the Timbers (do the wingers provide enough service? do the central midfielders have enough ideas?).

And in that scenario, the much-maligned Cooper would come out smelling like, well, roses.

 

 

31 January 4:59 pm

Philadelphia fans who are up in arms over the trade that sent Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver are missing the big picture.

As if it wasn't easy enough to notice, the Union are managing their club very differently from every other side in the league. And it's the right way: building on youth.

It's not merely the obvious transfer fee opportunities that come with grooming quality young professionals. There will be handsome rewards in this department, no doubt.

But youth is the way to go in a league structured around a salary budget. The younger the player, typically the less onerous is the salary hit that accompanies him. Younger players are also more attractive trade bait when a team is ready to offload them.

And going young gives a team maximum flexibility in a league in which roster management skills are severely put to the test. A young squad allows a coach the luxury of time to make a more informed decision on which players are worth the long-term investment.

Union fans will see this happen with the commitment the club is set to make to 20-year-old Roger Torres and 21-year-old Sheanon Williams, who manager Peter Nowak wants to reward with a better contract. Williams and Torres earned it based on performance, not based on their resumé.

Yes, a 28-year-old Le Toux will score goals and run his heart out for the Vancouver Whitecaps. But the cash received in exchange for a player entering the final year of his contract will help further Philly's youth movement.

Sure, Union management could perhaps be a little more forthcoming in specifically addressing how the move impacts current contracts or future acquisitions. But fans can have faith that there is a plan the team is sticking to.

Keeping Le Toux would have been nice. But it would likely have meant Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerney riding the bench for yet another season. Wouldn't Union fans have been just as upset at that scenario?

27 January 6:08 pm

There's no mistake. A 54-year-old English manager at the helm of the oldest club in England's Premier League is advocating a mini-revolution for the sport: the introduction of the NFL challenge system.

Before you throw cold water on the idea, consider for a moment the proposal put forth by Stoke City's Tony Pulis: a challenge flag per half for each team with 30 seconds for the match official to check upstairs. It tacks on a mere minute per half if both coaches use their flag.

His plan allows for video replay to make its entry at the highest levels of professional soccer without proving to be a scandalous shock to the system. Most reasonable fans can stomach this.

Beware, however: MLS should not be the guinea pig, otherwise the experiment gets labeled as a gimmick. If the EPL takes the first stab, the soccer world will surely embrace it. It should happen in England before it shows up anywhere else.

"It would help the referees, it would help us, the football nation and the supporters. And it would get the decision right, which is more important than anything else," Pulis says.

He actually never makes mention of a flag in his pitch. So can soccer be original and come up with its own object to hurl at the ref?

Pulis sells it well. Watch him in this video clip.