Kick Off: De La Hoya ready to celebrate with Houston
There are myriad ways to celebrate a championship.
A glitzy ring, for instance. Buying your wife a watch, a la Rafa Benítez, for another example. But if Oscar De La Hoya gets his way, he'll celebrate a Houston Dynamo triumph by chugging milk straight from the MLS Cup.
The boxing legend and part owner of the Dynamo says he'll be in the Home Depot Center locker room pregame to deliver a motivational speech, and “if we win I will be back in the locker room drinking milk out of the MLS Cup.” This, of course, after he promised to paint his face orange for the final (Sunday, Nov. 20, 9 pm ET, ESPN/Galavision/TSN2).
In De La Hoya's speech, he may want to reference the power outages that twice halted the Western Conference Championship between the LA Galaxy and the Dynamo two years ago. The players who remain from that match in Houston have wryly pleaded with the HDC to pay the electricity bill this time, as well as plotted revenge.
MLS assist leader Brad Davis was on the pitch for that match in 2009, but won't be in 2011. Dominic Kinnear declared the left winger “unavailable” with a right quad strain.
Robbie Keane should return in time for his first final. Bruce Arena had asked for the Republic of Ireland to release him ahead of a second leg Euro 2012 qualifier against Estonia, considering Ireland is 4-0 up from the first leg, but the request was denied. Still, Arena thinks Keane may see diminished time assuming the game goes according to plan.
In contrast, Chris Birchall was granted an early departure from national team duties with Trinidad and Tobago to prepare for the match.
Birchall's midfield teammate David Beckham was tabbed as the Comeback Player of the Year after overcoming an Achilles tendon tear which ruled him out of the 2010 World Cup.
Beckham won the player votes, but D.C. United forward Charlie Davies claimed a larger section of media votes, which told in subsequent coverage. Veteran Washington Post journalist Steven Goff thought Davies was a shoo-in. “The guy nearly died in an accident,” Goff points out.
Beckham wasn't the only one from LA to pick up an award yesterday. When the Galaxy report to training next, they'll be taking orders from the 2011 MLS Coach of the Year. Arena nabbed the gong for a record third time.
The usually bullish Brooklyn native deflected praise for the award to the rest of the organization and even admitted that he voted for Seattle coach Sigi Schmid: “Sigi had a fabulous year, as did Peter Vermes, as did others. I think the finalists for this award and others were certainly deserving of the recognition.”
Much of Arena's success down the years (he won his first Coach of the Year award 14 years ago) has come with a 4-4-2 formation. That both sides in the final will line up similarly shouldn't come as a surprise, according to Goal.com's Kyle McCarthy. Besides remaining the most popular formation in the league, four Supporters' Shield winners and seven MLS Cup winners in a row have used the system.
Another 4-4-2 proponent, Sigi Schmid, feels his Sounders FC team is good enough to openly talk about pursuing the best record in the league: "Now I feel the Supporters' Shield is an attainable goal. I think it is something that's within our reach."
That attitude will please Eric Wynalda. The former US international expressed his frustration with an “un-American” willingness to put up with losses under the tenure of Jurgen Klinsmann in an interview with The New York Times.
Wynalda will no doubt be keeping a critical eye on the patriotism of new coaching hire of the New England Revolution. According to the Boston Globe, that man is former Revs defender Jay Heaps. Heaps apparently took his recent commentary gig to study the Revolution and MLS opponents with an eye on an administrative or coaching career.
In another coaching move, former Fire and Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio will take over Puebla, which features former Fire winger DaMarcus Beasley, come November. The Colombian will leave Once Caldas to join the Mexican side.
Another former Fire employee, Bob Bradley, lost his first match in charge of Egypt, 2-0 to Brazil, in a game to raise money for famine victims in Somalia. The Brazilians weren't in a charitable mood, however, and Valencia's Jonas Oliviera scored a brace.
Furthering the coaching carousel, reports link former FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke with the vacant Carolina Railhawks gig. It opened up after Martin Rennie joined the Vancouver Whitecaps.
First Bill Hamid, now Tim Ream. West Bromwich Albion “have been in discussions” about a training period for the New York defender, similar to the stint Hamid spent in England, according to WBA technical director Dan Answorth.
Fans eager for players making the flight west across the Atlantic instead may want to hold off hope of former Real Madrid playmaker Guti Hernández joining the league. A tweet from Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman suggested the team made an offer for a Spanish Designated Player. However, the club rejected links to Guti as “a speculative rumor.”
Rumors are heating up in Dallas. Fabián Castillo and Maykel Galindo were unexcused absentees from FC Dallas' final training session of the season, raising doubts about their futures with the club.
Castillo was one of the players brought in by technical director Barry Gorman, who won't be with the team in 2012. His contract was not renewed, and he had been relegated to a scouting role by the end of the 2011 season.
The player recruitment will continue unabated by Gorman's departure, of course. FCD are reportedly looking at Tauro FC duo of Luis Moreno and Carlos Rodríguez. Both are Panamanian defenders.
Continuing the Central American theme, two unidentified Costa Rican players are training with the Columbus Crew. They will likely play in a reserve match later today.
The Crew faced the prospect of losing the entire first-choice midfield with the contracts of all four set to expire. That won't happen, though, after Eddie Gaven penned a two-year extension. How will he celebrate? “I’ll probably just go out for a nice dinner with my wife,” he said. “I’m a pretty low-key guy, so I don’t really have anything planned.”
The Portland Timbers similarly have a low-key offseason scheduled. Unless, of course, you count early fitness plans set to start as early as Dec. 1. "We gave up a lot of goals in the last 20 minutes of the game. We can rectify that," Mamadou Danso said.
Training during the offseason is nothing new to Dwayne De Rosario, who could win his first ever MVP award on Nov. 18. Despite D.C. United's offseason, DeRo has been playing with Canada in World Cup qualifiers. Still, “knowing that you’re training without any games is difficult.”
There will be a touch more purpose about D.C.'s front-office offseason actions. The team needs to hammer out a new lease at RFK Stadium, where United receive roughly $1.85 million per year less than the average MLS clubs but still pay $1 million more in expenses. The club recently sent out a survey to fans regarding a mooted move to Baltimore.
International matches return to the big screen today. Klinsmann's US team is back in action at noon ET, visiting Slovenia and available on ESPN2. The Euro 2012 qualifier between Croatia and Turkey airs at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN Deportes. And England takes on Sweden on Fox Soccer Plus at 3 p.m. ET in a friendly.
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