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19 February 4:34 pm

A little more than a year after taking the seventh-seeded Colorado Rapids to an unlikely MLS Cup victory, Gary Smith is working knockout wonders again on the other side of the Atlantic.

Smith and his new side, League One club Stevenage Borough, held Premiership visitors Tottenham to a scoreless draw on Sunday in FA Cup action, setting up a winner-take-all replay at White Hart Lane. Tim Ream and Bolton await the winner of that game. One in which Smith and Stevenage, emboldened by what was a very competent performance against Spurs, hope to push what could be a distracted Tottenham side to the limit.

“It’s quite incredible and we’ve got every chance,” Smith told ITV following the match. “They’ve got Arsenal and Manchester United soon and we might be sandwiched between them and we’ll go there with belief."

If they do manage to pull off a shock result and write their names into FA Cap lore, it will be because they managed to slow down the likes of Gareth Bale, Louie Saha and Jermain Defoe, something Smith was keenly aware of following the match.

"I thought today we prevented a tremendous Tottenham side from creating more than they are probably capable of," he told Sky Sports. "There was just a bundle of energy about the team.I thought that when that intensity dropped towards the end of both halves, the players' ideas and organisational skills to keep some very talented individuals at bay was fantastic."

Of course, Stevenage and their recently hired manager – Smith joined the cause on January 25 in a move club chairman Phil Wallace called a "different approach" – will have a much harder time containing Spurs in London, but it's still nice to see a former MLS headman giving an EPL title contender at least a temporary headache.


Added note from Yanks Abroad's Brian Sciaretta:

 

19 February 4:16 pm

In their final day in Florida, the Philadelphia Union held a light practice in front of about 100 fans. While there wasn't much action in the regeneration session, four Union players put on an odd feat of strength and coordination. We present the quad-push-up.

19 February 1:16 pm

Landon Donovan's second loan stint at Everton may not have ended in storybook fashion – he missed his final game because of the flu – but that doesn't mean the LA Galaxy and US national team stalwart didn't cherish every moment he spent this winter in Toffee blue.

Donovan sat down with EvertonFC.com to talk about his month-and-a-half at Goodison Park and what the club means to him after two wildly successful loan spells at the Liverpool-based club.

And in regards to whether this is his last go-round at Everton? Donovan had this to say:

"I would approach it the same way I approach it each year when I get a call from the manager here. One, am I physically able to do it? Two, does the manager want me? Three, do I feel like I can contribute and benefit the club? I would not come back if it was just for me to have the experience, but where I couldn't benefit the team. That would do nobody any good. I have too much respect for the club, the manager and the players to do that. The expectation is very clear if I come back. If I feel I can deliver on that expectation and the club wants me I would absolutely do it. I know I will be back in the future. I just don't know if it will be as a player – I hope it is.”

18 February 9:16 pm

While everyone else in the New York area is still dealing with the last remnants of winter, the Red Bulls skipped out of town for preseason preparations in Mexico. To document the proceedings in Cancun, someone came up with the idea to give Stephen Keel a camera and let him go wild.

The result was some absolutely vintage stuff from Keel packed into four episodes of priceless footage.

Highlights in no particular order:

  • Red moustaches
  • bocce ball
  • Remember the Titans
  • Alcohol-free Piña Coladas
  • Scandinavians
  • Oblivious tourists
  • Zip lines
  • Fake English accents
  • Ball washing stations
  • Scandinavians
  • Baby fat
  • Designer sunglasses

Keel Cam Part 1 of 3

Team Bonding at Xplor - Agudelo interview

17 February 7:03 pm

If you guessed Eddie Johnson to the Seattle Sounders (in exchange for Mike Fucito & Lamar Neagle) I want to take you to Vegas AND to my local convenience store to buy lotto tickets. And guess what? A few frequenters of Seattle's Facebook page actually called it yesterday when they saw the above photo of EJ with Chris Henderson in a team training photo gallery.

Seriously Juan, Michael & Neil, call me. There is a casino out there that needs us to relieve it of its cash.

 

17 February 6:47 pm

The Montreal Impact pulled the trigger and used their top spot in the allocation order to pick up one-time USMNT star Eddie Johnson. But don't bet on EJ taking up French lessons just yet as it seems Jesse Marsch is using him as trade bait.

Any guesses on where he'll land?

17 February 6:00 pm

Brrr...

The images of freezing players in Wednesday's Zenit St. Petersburg-Benfica Champions League match would make anyone shiver.

It should also give even the biggest "European-calendar" zealot some pause. For one thing, the temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit at kick off.  For another, the field at Petrovsky Stadium was a disaster.

Maybe it all gave the Russians a home-field advantage. After all, they pulled off a 3-2 win, thanks to two goals from Roman Shirakov.

But even the Zenit hero himself came out and complained. “Should we play in such freezing cold? I don’t think so,” Shirakov said after the match. “The ball feels like a rock. You could easily break a leg.”

Break a leg? Not good.

The reality is, a game like this is not fun for anyone -- not for the coaches, not for the players, and certainly not for the fans. The conditions aren't that far off from those in, say, Toronto or New England on any given Saturday night in February. Though there would probably be more snow.

So, the question is: Would you really want to go watch games in 17-degree weather? And you, MLS player, would you want to play on that field and kick a "rock"?

Yeah, didn't think so. Neither would I.

RELATED: February in Russia: So What Did You Expect? (NYTimes.com)

17 February 4:34 pm

Con los Cuartos de Final de la Liga de Campeones de la CONCACAF a la vuelta de la esquina, la pregunta tiene que ser hecha: ¿Quién es mejor delantero: Fredy Montero de los Seattle Sounders o Hérculez Gómez de Santos Laguna?

Este par no tiene demasiado en común: uno es colombiano y el otro mexicoamericano, uno triunfa en EE.UU., el otro en México, a uno le gusta la salsa, al otro el hip-hop, etc., etc., etc.

Sin embargo, estos titanes del gol se estarán viendo las caras el 7 de marzo por la Concachampions y desde ya me tengo la duda sobre cuál de estos dos brillará con más fulgor en la serie de dos partidos que le concederá paso al equipo ganador a la semifinal del torneo regional.

Y es que a ambos jugadores les sobra la motivación. Gómez quiere sacarse la espinita que tiene con el DT de Seattle, Sigi Schmid, de quien dice que un día le aseguró que “debería escoger otra profesión”.

Por su parte, Montero quiere llevar a Seattle a la gloria internacional y, de paso, volverse a ganar un espacio en la selección Colombia, ahora liderada por José Pekerman, algo que considera que podría abrir las puertas del seleccionado al jugador emelesero de ese país.

ESCUCHA A MONTERO EN TIRO LIBRE

Tenemos que esperar hasta el próximo mes para verlos en la misma cancha, pero por el momento que dicen: ¿Montero o Hérculez?

 

17 February 3:51 pm

There are two topics in American soccer that consistently reappear with all the certainty of death and taxes. One of them is promotion and relegation; I'm not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole.

The other is the notion that MLS should shift to a winter schedule similar to the one used by most of Europe. I say "most of" because there are Scandinavian and Russian exceptions to the rule. For a great read on what you get when soccer is played in stadiums where it is cold enough to hang meat in the stands, check out Jack Bell's latest blog post for the New York Times.

Here's the short version though: players wearing closets full of clothes, cement balls and a pitch that resembles a WWI battlefield.

How playing games --and watching them-- under such conditions could be seen as a viable option in the U.S. and Canada, places where the game is strong but still growing, I'll never know. Call me soft or worse but there is little beauty in watching frigid players endeavor to avoid injury while battling the cold on a rock-hard pitch. Using Russia as an example may seem extreme but when you see comparable temperatures in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Boston and Chicago it's not a total stretch to make the comparison.

I'm not saying soccer shouldn't be played in less than ideal weather but there is a difference between cold and crazy. And staking the future of a young league on February matches in Canada, the Midwest and the Northeast, would fall under the later.

So ask yourself...do you really want a winter schedule?

17 February 3:05 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.