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04 April 5:31 pm

In recent weeks, MLS has been putting it's money where it's mouth is, so to speak. The MLS Disciplinary Committee has been dishing out punishments after the fact for violent tackles and simulation.

It's come down hard on embelishment, too.

In my book, there are different forms of embellishment. There is embellishment that is used -- and, really, necessary -- to alert the referee that you have been fouled. This is the type of thing you see when, say, a faster player gets around a slower defender and is impeded. It might not be enough contact to bring a player down, but it is enough to stymie the attacker.

WATCH: Cruz and Benitez battle for possession

Unfortunately, refs are reluctant to blow the whistle in this scenario, thereby actually punishing the attacker. In many of these instances, the attacker will embellish the effect of the contact, making sure the referee recognizes that there was a foul. I'm okay with this kind of embelishment.  

I'm not okay with embellishment that is meant to con the referee into thinking a foul has taken place when it hasn't or a foul is worse than it really is. For examples, check out Danny Cruz's shameful writhing after being elbowed by Jair Benitez in D.C.'s win over Dallas last weekend. Or Alvaro Fernandez's histrionics a few weeks ago against Houston. It's sophomoric stuff, and both players were rightly fined for it.

It's also nice to see that at least one of the players involved isn't throwing a hissy fit about being sanctioned for his actions.

"There are different perspectives on soccer in the world," Fernandez told The Seattle Times this week. "So where I'm from, down in South America, we work on getting an advantage out of every situation that we can -- no matter what that is. It's not looked upon badly. Here it is looked upon badly. It's not a bad thing, it is what it is, and I just have to adapt to the league."

Well said.

04 April 5:13 pm

With NBC Sports continuing their great coverage of MLS for the first time in their history, check out the awesome "All Rise" promo video below.

Make sure you tune into their next nationally televised game between Philadelphia and Columbus at 3:30pm on Saturday April 14.

Hands up if your enjoying the coverage so far…..oh I see David Beckham is a fan of the production on NBC Sports!

04 April 12:56 pm

This ex-soccer player could perhaps rival the star of the cult Dos Equis commercials as the "most interesting man in the world."

German goalkeeper Lutz Pfannenstiel is now an international scout for Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, yet his playing career, which included a stint with current MLS outfit the Vancouver Whitecaps, wasn’t quite as conventional.

He was signed by 25 teams in 13 countries and to date is the only professional to have played in all six of FIFA’s confederations.

He was declared dead while on the pitch when playing for Bradford Park Avenue and was also locked up in a Singapore jail. He has spent five days in an igloo in a German ski resort, during which his antics were streamed live over the internet. He was also, believe it or not, a member of the "crazy gang" at Wimbledon and was stripped naked by Vinnie Jones and his teammates during a jog through London on a cold November morning in his first few days with the club.

Pfannenstiel spent time playing in North America with Vancouver in 2007, making four appearances, while also turning out for the Calgary Mustangs in 2004.

His title as an international scout for Hoffenheim means that current US national team players Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson and U-23 player Joe Gyau are all know to the eccentric German.

If those three have careers half as interesting as Pfannenstiel's, then we are all in for a real treat.

Stay thirsty my friends.

04 April 12:49 pm

You've never seen dancing like this in MLS. Trust us.

Two of the most noticeable celebrations from the weekend featured D.C. United's Maicon Santos and New York's Mehdi Ballouchy getting down in front of the home fans.

Let us know who you think has the best moves on the poll below.

04 April 12:42 pm

TORREÓN, Mexico – Toronto FC's hotel on the eve of the Canadian club's CONCACAF semifinal second leg against Santos Laguna was a scene of tranquility.

Only one state police car waited outside, watching on.

The legions of fans that Aron Winter was expecting to be chanting, banging drums and keeping the players awake throughout the night did not turn up and the Reds arrival was decidedly low key.

Not that it should lull the Canadian club into a false sense of security, as could be witnessed when I reported the above via Twitter last night.  

“The hell will be tomorrow … we don't need to disturb them today,” responded Santos fan Braulio Rodríguez.

Fellow Guerrero Nick Simonis summed up the mood: “Don't you know … it's the calm before the storm.”

A sellout is likely at the Estadio Corona, with 25,000 tickets sold by yesterday afternoon, the Santos Laguna press office confirmed to MLSsoccer.com.

On-form US striker Herculez Gomez – fast becoming a legend in Torreón, according to locals – did his bit to promote the game yesterday, teaming up with Santos Laguna teammate Marc Crosas to buy and then give out 100 tickets to local fans.

Around town this morning, there are plenty of green-and-white Santos Laguna shirts and a sense of excitement is building, with los Guerreros and their fans determined to reach the Club World Cup.

Toronto FC, on the other hand, have already achieved more than most expected by reaching this stage of the competition.  

Is a surprise in store? We'll find out a little later, but at least the Toronto boys go into the game after a good night's sleep.

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. E-mail him at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.

04 April 12:28 pm

The visiting supporters were out in force this past weekend in MLS and they made themselves heard.

There were Montreal Impact fans that made noise at Red Bull Arena. We heard the "Chicago Fire" chants at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. And the San Jose Earthquakes fans were seen on the match broadcast living it up as the Quakes hushed the 38,000 in Seattle with a 1-0 road win.

But arguably no traveling group had a better time than Real Salt Lake's. They were stuck in a corner at JELD-WEN FIELD but relished that epic RSL comeback in Portland.

04 April 11:14 am

Ah, un déplacement à Santos Laguna, le cœur rempli d’espoir. Parlez-en aux supporters de Montréal ou de Seattle, ils peuvent en témoigner, et ils savent pertinemment bien comment les rêves peuvent se transformer en désillusion.

Dans l’obligation de gagner ou de marquer au moins deux buts à Torreon pour la demi-finale retour de la Ligue des champions, le Toronto FC ne part certainement pas favori. Cela n’empêche pas Aron Winter, qui garde la composition de son équipe secrète, de faire preuve de confiance.

Suite à un match aller houleux qui a engendré les suspensions de Koevermans, Mares et Quintero, les Torontois s’attendent à une réception hostile. Les joueurs du TFC ont déjà leur tactique en tête : rester groupés, laisser centrer et ne pas offrir d’espaces.

Sera-ce suffisant ? Tout indique qu’on vivra encore une soirée de folie à Torreon. Reste à savoir au bénéfice de qui… Dans l’autre demi-finale, Monterrey, vainqueur 3-0 à l’aller contre les Pumas de l’Unam, a déjà pris option sur la qualification.

N’oubliez pas non plus qu’il y a deux matchs de MLS en ce milieu de semaine. Ce mercredi soir, Salt Lake reçoit Montréal dans un affrontement a priori disproportionné, alors que demain, New England tentera de confirmer sa bonne forme actuelle à Dallas.

LIGUE DES CHAMPIONS
Mercredi 4 avril
20h00 : Santos Laguna (Mex) - Toronto (Can) (1-1)
22h00 : Pumas Unam (Mex) - Monterrey (Mex) (0-3)

MLS
Mercredi 4 avril

21h00 : Salt Lake - Montréal
Jeudi 5 avril
20h30 : Dallas - New England

Toutes les heures HE (heure de New York et Montréal)
Horaire télé des matchs de Ligue des champions et de  MLS

03 April 4:16 pm

Une récupération de balle, des gestes décisifs effectués dans l’axe du jeu entre la ligne médiane et le grand rectangle adverse, et en quelques passes, c’est but ! Ce scénario vous est familier si vous avez regardé les résumés de la semaine.

Plus du tiers des 26 buts ont été inscrits lors d’une reconversion offensive rapide (alors que la moyenne en MLS tourne autour de un sur sept). Sept d’entre eux ont été bâtis dans l’axe, autant dans ce que les techniciens appellent la « zone 2 ».

Si l’origine de nombreux buts est semblable, leurs auteurs ont eu le mérite de varier les plaisirs. Notons la demi-volée de De Leon (DC United) contre Dallas, l’effort individuel du Montréalais Mapp à New York, le tir en pivot d’Henry dans le même match, la tête de Sapong (Kansas City) à Chivas USA ou encore Keane qui passe derrière les défenseurs de New England.

Quelques reconversions rapides ont aussi été facilitées par une erreur adverse, dont ont profité Perez (Dallas) ou le montréalais Nyassi. Sans oublier le but d’Anor (Columbus) à Toronto, qui regroupe presque tous les éléments évoqués dans ce texte (d’où mon choix de vidéo).

Autre fait notable de cette quatrième journée : hormis les trois penaltys, aucun but n’a été inscrit sur phase arrêtée !

02 April 4:05 pm

The nice thing about age-group soccer is that another chance to make good is always right around the corner.

For the US, that means shifting focus from the failure of the U-23s to the next crop of U-20s. Or as I'll be referring to them in my head, "Luis Gil's Group."

The Real Salt Lake youngster is by far the most experienced player in Tab Ramos' squad, announced by US Soccer on Monday, which also includes three other MLSers: Jack McBean of the LA Galaxy; Jonathan Top of FC Dallas; and Victor Pineda of the Chicago Fire.

Here's the whole squad, courtesy of US soccer:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Tomas Gomez (Georgetown; Webster Groves, Mo.), Jake McGuire (Chivas USA Academy; Pomona, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (9): Christian Dean (California; East Palo Alto, Calif.), Bryan Gallego (Akron; Kinnelon, N.J.), Jordan McCrary (North Carolina; Marietta, Ga.), Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (Tigres UANL; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), William Packwood (Birmingham City; Concord, Mass.), Jeffrey Payeras (LA Galaxy Academy; Hawthorne, Calif.), Derek Vogel (Pateadores; Long Beach, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Seth Casiple (California; Rocklin, Calif.), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (North Carolina; Mission, Texas), Collin Martin (D.C. United Academy; Chevy Chase, Md.), Victor Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Wil Trapp (Akron; Gahanna, Ohio)

FORWARDS (6): Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Ethan Decker (New York Red Bulls Academy; Manahawkin, N.J.), Daniel Garcia (FC Dallas Academy; Dallas), Jack McBean (LA Galaxy; Newport Beach, Calif.), James Rogers (New Mexico; Salt Lake City), Jonathan Top (FC Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas)

One player not on the list? Charles Renken. The 18-year-old midfielder is still settling in with the Portland Timbers, seeing action in reserve games and regular run in practice. But apparently he's not ready for the U-20s quite yet.

 

02 April 1:36 pm

Luke Rodgers may not be a Red Bull, but he hasn't lost his scoring touch.

Just days after New York terminated the English striker's contract by mutual consent, the result of a rejected visa appeal, Rodgers popped up on the scoresheet for his new team, Norwegian side Lillestrom.

Rodgers came on as a substitute and headed home a loose ball in front of net to put his new club up 2-1 in the 78th minute. Rosenborg scored an equalizer in the 90th minute, but it was still a shining start for the former Red Bulls talisman. And who knows, Rodgers may end up back in New York sooner than anyone thinks.