blog

Preseason

29 February 7:50 pm

While most of us where tuned in to the USMNT's (surprise?) win over Italy at a bar, online or on our couches, the MLS players that are here in Orlando for the Disney Pro Soccer Challenge took in the game from their hotel rooms.

While the scene played out at team hotels all over town, Kevin Ellis and Dom Dwyer's room might have been the only one with an MLS camera in it. Check out their predictions and first-half thoughts in the clip above. You'll also find out why Kevin Ellis is, also surprisingly, pro-Italia.

29 February 10:44 am

Last night was my first matchnight of the preseason and it did not disappoint with both Toronto FC and FC Dallas coming out victorious over their non-MLS opponents at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. I took particular pleasure in two things: Ryan Johnson's tough-angle goal against BK Hacken and the sight of David Ferreira back on the pitch.

While the former was pure entertainment Ferriera's return was a reminder of what FC Dallas was missing in 2011 and a warning of what they'll have in 2012. Opposition beware.

Speaking of opposition, FC Dallas' opponents for the night were local USL side Orlando City, who featured a pair of soccer siblings: Dustin (brother of Dax) McCarty Maxwell (brother of Leonard) Griffin and John (brother of Wayne) Rooney. Last night the latter was living in the shadow of his older brother as a large man in a "Rooney" Manchester United jersey sat almost immediately behind his spot on the bench in the first row of the stands. No doubt John Rooney is a big boy and his own man but that type of thing must be maddening after a while.

Back in MLS land, I had the pleasure of witnessing the Houston Dynamo staff, who were in the press box for last night's matches, absolutely dominate a half-time session of trivia game Sporcle. Steve Ralston and Dominic Kinnear not only know their soccer but baseball as well. They also have an encyclopedic memory for 1990's alternative rock that any radio DJ would be jealous of but with one exception: they didn't know the name of Lit's big hit.

But you can't fault them for that because no one remembers what Lit's big hit was.

28 February 8:43 pm

Benny Feilhaber is a talented man capable of many things. Unfortunately using his left foot is not one of them.

Rookie Kelyn Rowe, on the other hand, uses his left foot better than many of us use our right hand. Watch the kid try to teach the veteran something new and grab a laugh along the way.

28 February 6:28 pm

Not content with the robust stable of forwards already under their employ, the Vancouver Whitecaps announced today the signing of Maltese striker Etienne Barbara. Having registered a 20-goal season last year under Rennie while with the Carolina Railhawks, his nose for goal will be no shock to his former and current coach.

What exactly does Rennie think of his 7th (yes 7th) striker? Check out the clip above to hear what he has to say about him following today's practice in Orlando.

28 February 4:53 pm

The great thing about being in Orlando this week is, surprisingly, not the weather. That's been spotty. Last night a storm rolled through that, while not quite biblical in proportion, was enough to hold Simon Borg and myself hostage in the Sporting KC hotel for far longer than we intended. In the end it was OK though because it afforded me a chance to talk about team chemistry with coach Peter Vermes, who said of all the team's he ever been around the current KC squad is the tightest off-the-field he's ever seen.

Unfortunately for Kei Kamara though the storm put a damper on the pick-up basketball game he was trying to organize with some of his teammates. So much for team camaraderie.

The sun came out today though and after all that rain it's as humid as anything. Even Houston Dynamo players Corey Ashe and Andre Hainault, who should be used to a bit of sticky weather, thought it was a bit much for February.

The Dynamo had some interesting neighbors at today's practice. On one side were pitchers and catchers for the Atlanta Braves --they conduct spring training at the sprawling ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex-- with the Montreal Impact on the other. Funny how Brian Ching came back to Houston only to spend pre-season in the shadow of the Impact; guess his preseason plans would have been the same either way.
 

28 February 4:30 pm

There are some days when I wish I weren't one of the hosts of ExtraTime Radio. Usually, it's when Simon Borg -- bless his big heart -- starts making absurd declarations like, say, Clint Dempsey should sit on the bench for the USMNT.

But there are other days when, for whatever reason, I miss the show and I really, really wish I could've been there.

Yesterday's episode is one such day. I would've given anything to be there when Sporting KC's Aurelien Collin started giving Simon fashion advice. "Suspenders!" It's the only time I've ever heard Simon ask for advice. Magnifique!

Then, New York Red Bulls manager Hans Backe drops this whopper: He wants to win the US Open Cup. Considering how he shrugged off the USOC last year, that's pretty amazing.

If you haven't heard it, check it out here.  

28 February 3:50 pm

The Whitecaps are one of the six MLS clubs currently holed up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. With Sebastien Le Toux, Eric Hassli, rookie sensation Darren Mattocks and Long Tan among their ranks they posess one of the most blessed attacks in the league.

One of the talking points during today's post-practice media scrum was the 'Caps wealth of attacking options. Does new coach Martin Rennie realize what he has on his hands? Let's just say he's happy with what he's got.

27 February 10:21 pm

CHARLESTON, S.C. – As the saying goes, you learn something everyday. Today, I learned that alligators pretty much run the show here in South Carolina, and Dwayne De Rosario makes the occasional visit to MLSsoccer.com in his spare time.

How do I know these things, you ask?

Check out the photos I snapped at Blackbaud Stadium below for proof that giant predatory reptiles basically run amok in Charleston. Or at least that's what my imagination and that second alligator depiction are telling me. These signs are literally feet from the pitch and the stands and were posted in front of the dark, swampy field where Crew, Fire and D.C. United players were doing some promotional photos for NBC. It's safe to say things are a little different here. Clearly, I am not in Kansas anymore.

As for DeRo? He – or whoever runs his award-winning personal website – caught wind of Matt "MLS Analyst" Doyle's Countdown to First Kick piece from yesterday that examined whether or not the MLS MVP could repeat his 2011 brilliance in 2012.

De Rosario tweeted the following tonight, linking to this page where you can "Weigh-in on the million dollar question: Can DeRo Do It Again?"

I, for one, voted "Ah... Duh... Yeah" but you may have a different opinion, so head on over and make your voice heard.

And, as always, be gator safe and remember that a fed gator is a dead gator!

27 February 6:35 pm

This week the Insider will be coming to you from the happiest place on earth. I'm in Orlando to take in a week's worth of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in hopes of getting a good handle on who'll be contenders and who'll be pretenders in 2012. I'm also here to spend some time around the players in a somewhat relaxed setting in hopes of seeing --and sharing-- their true personalitites.

First stop: the FC Dallas hotel, home of one of the league's worst Halo addictions.

How bad is it? So bad that the players pooled their money and bought to TV's when the hotel wouldn't let them hook their XBOX's up to their TV's. I'll let goalkeeper Chris Seitz tell you the rest.

Oh and the guy with the mohawk? His name is Andrew Jacobson.