Kick Off: US braces for "Super Tuesday" extravaganzas
Turns out you just might be able to teach an old dog new tricks.
Already, 33,000 tickets are sold for tonight's US Open Cup final (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer/Univision), and Seattle Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer is expecting over 35,000 to watch his side take on the Chicago Fire. That'd be a record for the 98-year-old tournament.
Seattle's CenturyLink Field will host the final for the second year in a row and the Sounders are participating for the third time running. Still, Osvaldo Alonso has them both beat. The Cuban midfielder will participate in his fourth consecutive Open Cup final tonight. He lost while playing for the Charleston Battery in 2008 before winning the 2009 and 2010 editions with Seattle.
Alonso's name is surely already written on Sigi Schmid's team-sheet. The Sounders' right flank is less clear, with James Riley (concussion) and Mauro Rosales (knee) missing time recently. Both trained Monday but “are going to be gametime decisions,” according to Schmid.
Seattle could become the first side since 1969 to win three Open Cups in a row. Chicago could also set some history by becoming one of only three clubs to have won the trophy five times. Frank Klopas scored the game-winner in the Fire's first Open Cup win, in 1998. Now he's looking to repeat the performance as a coach.
When Klopas glances at his roster, the guy he might pinpoint to score a winner just might Marco Pappa. The Guatemalan scored a hat-trick last week against Real Salt Lake, earning him Player of the Week honors.
The other Super Tuesday match pits the LA Galaxy against the New York Red Bulls (8 pm ET, ESPN2/Deportes). This is the make-up match after Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on the originally scheduled programming. The all-time series is nearly perfectly balanced at 15-15-6 (one shootout win apiece) with the 53-52 in goals-scored slightly favoring the Galaxy.
LA captain Landon Donovan won't be around to add to those 53 goals, however. An injury picked up against RSL will rule the 29-year-old out of this match, as well as the US' two friendlies against Honduras and Ecuador. Former Galaxy teammate Edson Buddle has replaced Donovan on the US roster.
Robbie Keane, too, will miss the New York match, heading to Europe to represent Ireland. That leaves David Beckham as LA's only available Designated Player. Keane, though, is hopeful the trio will get a chance to suit up together next year. Beckham's contract expires at the end of the year. “Of course, I’d like him to stay and I’m sure the club and David are at this moment speaking about him maybe staying,” Keane said.
Beckham has plenty of suitors for 2012, including reportedly Paris Saint-Germain and Queens Park Rangers in Europe. He also has options for when he eventually retires. A Wall Street Journal profile looked into the Englishman's maturation and fashion interest.
Another mainstay whose contract expires in a few short months is New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol. Having missed out on the playoffs, the club is probably in for some sort of personnel overhaul during the winter. “It’s going to be a long offseason,” captain Shalrie Joseph said.
New England's shakeup won't be anything like the Montreal Impact's. Monday, the club signed its first-ever MLS player: Nelson Rivas. The former Inter defender won't be a Designated Player. “I think this sets the tone for what kind of players we want to bring in for 2012, and what type of organization we want to be,” coach Jesse Marsch said.
Marsch also invited 25 players into a training camp. Some names familiar to MLS fans include US international striker Jeremiah White and league veterans Bratislav Ristic, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, and Wes Knight.
Last year, the Vancouver Whitecaps held a similar training camp ahead of their inaugural MLS campaign as well. Despite representing the USSF D-2 side, Ridge Mobulu neglected to stay, instead returning to Switzerland. Now the winger of Congolese descent is back with the Whitecaps. “I'm strong now in my head. I'm OK,” the 20-year-old said.
Places on Vancouver's roster can be difficult to come by, as Omar Salgado is finding out. The first pick in the 2011 SuperDraft recently was benched for a reserve match. Salgado's response: “I'm left speechless.”
Working conditions are likely in a higher mood down in Dallas. FCD gave an exhausted roster four days off, from Thursday through Sunday, off during the international break.
Still in Texas, Cam Weaver will miss the remainder of the season for the Houston Dynamo after deciding to undergo surgery for a hip injury. The striker has played injured through much of the year and had to take cortisone shots in May to cope with the pain.
Spanish giants Barcelona are also worrying about injuries these days, specifically hamstring injuries. But the staff maintain that a far-flung preseason tour that included a jaunt to the US isn't to blame . “Our preseason was very good and we are just having bad luck with the injuries,” Adriano said.
Carlos Tevez is also on the sidelines for an extended period of time, though for much less noble reasons. The Manchester City striker maintains his claim that he merely refused to continue warming up rather than rejecting his manager's attempts to insert him into the UEFA Champions Leeague match against Bayern Munich. Still, Tevez faces a two-week suspension without pay and may never play for Man City again.
On the pitch, however, there are some glorious things going on, including this audacious overhead kick. (VIDEO)
And for fans who want to watch goals like that in English pubs scored a victory on Tuesday when a court ruled in favor of Karen Murphy, a Portsmouth pub owner, who sued to be able to use a foreign decoder to show soccer matches. However, it's not quite a done deal, yet.