The Third Half 010 Is Live

31 July 2008

This week's show is now up as a podcast. You can listen to the show from here, via the On Demand player, or you can subscribe to the show via iTunes.

Plenty to talk about on this week's show.
* Should MLS have an All-Star game? I give you my thoughts.

* With the MLS All Star game on Thursday, should MLS have played? I give you my thoughts on that.

* I breakdown the weekend that was MLS.

* I am joined by Michael James of the English Soccer Talk blog as we discuss our plans for previewing this upcoming Barclay's Premier League season on our blogs.

* I make an announcement regarding a competition for this upcoming Premier League Season. More information will be made available on the blog tomorrow. A tease can be found here.

* Me and Michael breakdown the following teams for next season: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, Everton, and Fulham.

* I answer the five questions of the week .

* I read out an email regarding my comments last week regarding the Columbus Crew.

Any comments or feedback are always welcome. You can leave them here, on the CSRN Message Board, or at jstarling@csrnusa.com

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Superliga Semi-Final 1 Stream of Consciousness

30 July 2008

Houston Dynamo v Pachuca
* While the field looks much better than in the group stages, it still doesn’t look the greatest in the world to play on.

* Calero with an excellent denial of De Rosario’s volley. I swore that was 1-0 to Houston.

* As the first half has worn out, Pachuca is doing an exceptional job keeping it’s shape while Houston appears to be pressing and twisting themselves out of shape.

* I would like to know where the yellow card is for Bruno Marioni’s dive over the knee of Wade Barrett? The Olympic diving judges would have had no choice but to give a 10. The face he milked it for as long as he did was embarrassing.

* Great pass from Ricardo Clark to find De Rosario. However he had help and despite what Glenn Davis is saying, he had the angle to make that final pass. To try and play hero in that situation was just plain dumb and stupid.

* A very interesting first half to say the least. A half where Pachuca’s shape stifled any real threat the Houston Dynamo created. Two real chances for Houston in the first half, both my De Rosario. The volley early in the half was turned over well by Callero, the counter was just a bad read from De Rosario as he had the help. While it won’t appear on any stat sheet, Pachuca started to turn the screw late in the first half. That is something that will have to worry Dominic Kinnear as the second half goes on. As it stands right now, I really feel this game is going to be decided from the spot.

* Lighting fast start from Pachuca to start the second half. Pat Onstad with at least one great reaction save and another decent save to deny Pachuca from scoring the opener.

* Houston is riding some of the biggest luck ever with that disallowed goal. I don’t care what camera angle you show me, Correa was onside by at least two feet.

* This game has opened up and in a good way. Decent tempo, good passing, and both sides don’t seem to be conceding their shape.

* Perfect corner kick for Houston. Excellent flick on from Waibel and wouldn’t you know it. The man DC United got rid of has put Houston in front. Calero was grounded to the far post and not a single soul marked Boswell or the back post.

* I think Corey Ashe’s unmarked header at the far post unleashed a giant breath of relief throughout the CONCACAF region. Perfect ball in, an even more beautiful header.

* Pachuca had 20 minutes where they controlled this game, but Pat Onstad between the posts did a remarkable job keeping them in the game. Houston was smart about their substitutions and once Pachuca started to fatigue, it was case of when. I honestly am shocked about this result because I didn’t see Pachuca in a knockout situation anytime soon. However, one does have to ask a simple question. That question being, how does this game change should Correa’s goal not been disallowed.

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MLS Sunday in Review

28 July 2008

I'm going to mix things up with this one. Simplicity and quick thoughts from this weekend.

San Jose Earthquakes 1 New York Red Bulls 1: Francisco Lima and Darren Huckerby are continuing to prove they are making easy work in transiting to MLS. However Huckerby's thirteenth minute goal has to bail out San Jose after Eric Denton's unique own goal four minute in. It was a strange goal really, a header that was apparently was destined past the end line for a corner ends up over Cannon's head and dipping in. Huckerby's wing work got San Jose the equalizer.

Jon Conway had to keep New York in this game and that he did. Ryan Johnson and Huckerby kept him busy and even until the end you questioned if San Jose was going to get the winner. New York just looked out of synch all afternoon long.

The reality for both sides is they need to find their winning mentality and stat. San Jose looks to be getting on that track, New York still does not.

FC Dallas 4 Los Angeles Galaxy 0: Is it not lost on people that Schellas Hyndman's first win in Major League Soccer came against the side that ultimately saw Steve Morrow fired. It could also possibly be one of Kenny Cooper's final appearances. His two goals along with Oduro and Thompson gave Dallas a convincing win.

Is it possible this is the formula game where everyone in MLS takes a look to defeat the Galaxy? I don't know if that will be the case, as the over one-hundred degree temperatures took the Galaxy out of the game before they could get into the game. It also didn't help that Eduardo Dominguez made Galaxy fans with Abel Xavier was back in the starting lineup. Once they went down 2-0 seventeen minutes in, they only exposed themselves further at the back and Steve Cronin saw a quarter century of shots thrown in his direction.

Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Edson Buddle looked severely fatigued, something that makes me question having the MLS All-Star game on Thursday only to throw teams back into the fray less than 48 hours after the full time whistle. People shouldn't get too excited over their poor play on the night, too much to fast tends to have that effect on people.

Kansas City Wizards 0 Chicago Fire 0: This game honestly makes me want to do the old 'mommy do I have to'? I honestly felt neither side created many quality chances that was going to severely test Kevin Hartman or Jon Busch. Kansas City looked the side more likely to get something out of the game, and Chicago showed yet again their fire power up front is severely lacking. Kansas City waited until it was too late to try going for the win, and that's what ultimately cost them.

For all the talk from Curt Onolfo about wanting to pace Josh Wolff back to ninety minute fitness, he sure is going on the express plan in doing so.

Colorado Rapids 0 Columbus Crew 2: From good goal in his first MLS start, to being done by halftime, Steven Lenhart made an impression on the pitch. Lenhart's goal was well taken after Coundoul hesitated coming off his line. However the elbow to Epren that saw him sent off was stupid, reckless and just downright dumb. It's moves like the red card that will see Lenhart be looked over to start and turned into a very late sub.

Will Hesmer had a fantastic day in goal. His play between the posts is the reason that Columbus pitched the shut out despite being a man down for the second half. Colorado created plenty of chances that on any other day would have won games, but Hesmer is proved his worth yet again and it makes me wonder if he's due for an international look?

Colorado's center backs are to blame for the second, however Marcello Balboa made a great point in the post game show. Is Coundoul starting to question himself a little bit?

These are my thoughts, what are yours?

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The Third Half 009 Is Live

24 July 2008

This week's show is now up as a podcast. You can listen to the show from here, via the On Demand player, or you can subscribe to the show via iTunes.

Plenty to talk about on this week's show.
* I give my thoughts on this week's five questions of the week.

* I breakdown a weekend of draws in MLS.

* Some brief Superliga Thoughts from matchday three. If you want to hear my thoughts about matchday two, I encourage you to listen to last Friday's American Soccer Show?

* I nice little vitriolic rant regarding the little 'incident' as Columbus Crew fans would like you to believe in Columbus, the idiotic response from the Columbus Crew organization and the bad choice of words they used.

* I also weigh in on what I want Don Garber's response to be and a suggestion for FIFA to consider regarding any hooliganism.

* I briefly hit on some MLS stories not limited to these.
- Abel Xavier's crying over being released.
- An article from the Toronto Sun before their loss to Montreal regarding their uphill battle in trying to win the Voyageurs Cup.

Any comments or feedback are always welcome. You can leave them here, on the CSRN Message Board, or at jstarling@csrnusa.com

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MLS Draws in Review Part 2-2: New York v LA Galaxy and FC Dallas v Colorado

22 July 2008

Since both reviews ended 2-2, I thought saving these for the second part of my review would fit the bill.

New York Red Bulls v Los Angeles Galaxy
In a game with more twists and turns than quality play on the plastic of Giants Stadium, LA went from 2-1 in injury time and thanks to Landon Donovan finished the game 2-2 and were unfortunate they didn’t win with Donovan’s last second volley that thundered off the cross bar.

This game was dire to watch, yet at times highly entertaining. The heat of New York plus the super fast conditions that the Giants Stadium field turf provided made this game at times look like you were watching a game of pinball or pong depending on your personal gaming preference. In fact you could really argue that the first twenty minutes of this game were completely unwatchable as the high temperatures plus constant long balls made play an afterthought.

Then LA started getting their feet and turning the screws. Carlos Ruiz has plenty to prove to Ruud Gullit if you are to believe the press and his goal in the twenty-ninth minute should silence some critics for the moment. Ruiz did a good job getting into the right spaces but besides that one goal, was really lacking up front. He had two other good opportunities to score and missed badly. His chance in the twenty-first I think if it was Buddle making that run, he finishes.

Dave Van den Burgh was his usual quality self, and I’m going to reserve judgment on Jorge Rojas until I have seen more of him. For all we know, this was a case of a team seeing a player for the first time and once the league adjusts to him we could see just another average player. However Rojas does deserve credit for setting up both goals with deft passing.

To me though when you boil this game down, it will come back to the five missed chances New York had to really put this game away. Rojas had two good chances to put the game away, and didn’t, and Cronin adapted to Van den Burgh’s angled shots. In fact you could even argue that Donovan’s chance to win on the last kick of the game was the best opportunity from either side to put this game away.

Oscar Echeverry was shocking in how far ahead of his team mates he was. It’s like a broken record with him.

Overall, it may not have been the greatest of quality there was still enough entertainment to make up for it. In the end, 2-2 was the fair result.

FC Dallas v Colorado Rapids
In a game that could be broken into three sections, FC Dallas came back to take the lead only to lose it three minutes later in a bit of a helter skelter final 25 minutes, neither side was able to find the back of the net as the game ended 2-2.

As I mentioned above, this game could be broken down into three sections. The first section is the first thirty five minutes where Colorado controlled most of the flow of play and could only manager the fifth minute effort. After that despite the number of forward attacks, were unable to manage any decent shots on goal while nearly being burned twice on the counter.

The second section of this game starts around the thirty-fifth minute and goes until the sixty-fifth when Dallas not only took control of the game, but were rightfully in the lead. How many times this season have we seen Bouna Coundoul make the mistake of severely coming off his line only to see the ball end up in the back of the net. Both Dallas goals could have been prevented had Coundoul not had a fascination with Kenny Cooper. What was he trying to ask him, not too make him look like a fool with the shots from distance he couldn’t handle first time?

The third section was the final twenty-nine (yes I’m including the stoppage time) where a slip up in Dallas’s shape gave Conor Casey the equalizer. From there, there weren’t many decent chances on goal and the game ended up fizzling out with only one moment where the referee’s had to get a big decision right, and that they did in the eighty-seventh when they correctly adjudged Dominic Oduro offside, the second time he was caught offside in pretty much the same position.

I thought both teams for the most part kept their shapes rather well, but wasted plenty of the possession they had. When you control large swaths of a game, you have to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. If anyone should feel aggrieved about not winning, it’s Dallas. With as many times they peppered Coundoul with decent chances, only for the Colorado keeper to make mincemeat of them, their poor ability to follow up was almost borderline damning.

Both sides still have a long way to go before being able to be taken as serious contenders. That though, didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this match.

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MLS Draws Part 1: Columbus v Kansas City and Chicago v Real Salt Lake

21 July 2008

Columbus Crew 3 Kansas City Wizards 3: Both back lines will be doing some extra work this week that's for sure. After Kansas City with two goals up with two goals in two minutes, Columbus put three in within twelve. It took the re debut of Josh Wolff to deny Columbus all three points as Wolff's 75th minute equalizer gave KC a share of the spoils.


Kansas City should be highly thankful for the contribution of one Kurt Morsink. Morsink had a major contributing factor on all three Wizards goals. I am confident in saying if it wasn't for Morsink, Kansas City loses this match. He was the glue that pieced the midfield to the forwards. His winning of the ball in the 24th minute was the only reason why KC had a 2-0 lead to begin with. Jack Jewsbury also deserves a little praise. Despite coming forward a couple of times too many, his final passes to Espinoza and Wolff were right on the money.


I have to wonder if Schelotto doesn't convert on the free kick in the 26th if this match doesn't completely change. It was wise of Schelotto to first not ask for ten yards, but then to wait for Hartman to start cheating back to the far post before shooting. In fact it if wasn't for Schelotto, Columbus doesn't get any of the three goals. His crossing on the other two goals were major contributing factors.


Both back lines have to be seriously taken to task. On 2 of Kansas City's three goals, both Columbus center backs were not only out of position, but didn't even bother trying to get back into the play. The same could be said for the second Columbus goal. The Crew's third was just pathetic from Jimmy Conrad as he didn't look bothered trying to mark Chad Marshall.


I wouldn't have risked Josh Wolff for the whole second half (maybe the final 25 minutes), but he did enough to confuse Columbus and set other people up.


In the end, the draw was the fair result. However, this was not as entertaining as the scoreline would lead you to believe. With as many breakdowns in the midfield and at the back, the only thing more surprising is how this game didn't end 4-4, or yes, even 5-5.


Chicago Fire 0 Real Salt Lake 0
: If this was a game of crossbar challenge, this would been your brand of entertainment. However, this was a simple game of football. Both Jon Busch and Nick Rimando were tested for ninety minutes, but no one was able to find the back of the net as the game ended scoreless at Toyota Park.


Three things really struck out to me in this game that was really surprising. The first was how poorly both teams did in switching the field. It was almost like neither side wanted to do so. It got even more apparent towards the end of the match when both sides would start in the center of the park and just picking a side to work on. It allowed both back lines to set up and the midfield to crowd the penalty area. When you are unable to stretch teams out, the logjam in the middle is going to be prevalent.


The second thing that struck out to me was the poor set pieces. I am racking the brain really hard trying to think of a good scoring opportunity from a free kick or a corner. In a tight game like this where neither side is doing anything during open play, the set pieces have to be better. Even Blanco's set pieces tonight were borderline horrific.


The final thing that stuck out to me was how much space the midfield was giving. It was allowing too many unmarked runs in the first half and chances on goal that you wouldn't see most weekends. It did get better in the second half, but it wasn't that much of an improvement.


While this game was entertaining, technical it was not. It was sloppy and lacked direction. It also goes to both teams problems up front. Both Jon Busch and Nick Rimando deserved two week's pay for their performance between the sticks and I expect Chicago and Real Salt Lake to send letters to the maker of the goal posts for saving their skins on multiple occasions.With both back lines having to work double time, the nil draw was about the fair result.

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Superliga Group B Matchday 3 Stream of Conscious

Chivas USA 1 v New England Revolution 1
* The Titan Stadium field may only be a small upgrade from the field at the Home Depot Center.

* Another thing that had me puzzled was why the Olympians are playing in this game? It shouldn't matter what side of the coast they are playing on...they should be in camp just like everyone else had to be today. Then again, maybe this is why the game is being played at 5 pm Pacific.

* Good first touch from Dube, but the second touch wasn't the greatest as he put himself too wide to do anything. He shouldn't have given up on the play though.

* As the first half has moved along, New England is taking control of the game.

* Poor shot from Ante Razov. Kljestan fed him well but the grass did him no favors. Reis with a comfortable save.

* I understand Steve Nicol isn't happy with how Dube was tackled, but when you have the referee running over to calm you down, that's a warning that could have been better used later in the match. You probably won't get a second time.

* Nice save from Reis to deny Marsch, but I am still not convinced that was going to sneak in at the near post. But in an instance like that where the crossbar is in play, best to do the safe thing.

* Not the greatest of first halves from a technical standpoint. Chivas for long periods of the half looked content with playing eight behind the ball and New England's passing from the midfield to the forwards were lacking. The back for New England let one opportunity go and were lucky not to be bitten in the backside. Chivas USA has to start taking the game to New England as they can't solely rely on a draw and expect Santos Laguna to do the business.

* I like the fire Chivas USA has come out with to start the second half. A couple of good chances have gone begging though.

* Great finish by Ante Razov, who has been the savior of Chivas USA in the last few weeks. Excellent through ball and the Revolution defense was lacking. Matt Reis had to come too far off his line and if Razov gets two opportunities with two chances on goal, he will finish. You have to feel bad for Reis as the second the ball found Razov's feet, you just had that sense he was scoring.

* New England is wasting opportunities big time now. Bobby Burling does well to deny Mansally when he should have shot at the first opportunity.

* What the hell was that on the post for Chivas USA? Nice corner from Ralston and Joseph puts the powerful header at the feet of Kennedy. I couldn't tell you who it was on that far post (I couldn't tell if it was Bobby Burling or Daniel Paladini) but whomever it was should have never been inside the goal mouth. For starters it prevented Kennedy from making a proper save on it because he couldn't cross the goal line to keep the ball out with his hands and secondly, I think the kick went off the back of Kennedy and in.

* This is too much of a gamble from New England taking out their attacking options for defensive options. Playing for the draw has been known to bite in the rear end.

* I didn't see any hand ball on Wells Thompson, but thankfully for New England, the free kick was severely lacking.

* The second half showed that both sides were taking advancing was in this competition seriously. However when New England needed to turn the screw, they were able to and were rewarded with the goal. Chivas USA though once applying the pressure early in the half for the goal didn't create any goal scoring opportunities. New England now has the home field advantage in the Semi-Finals and finals should they get that far, Chivas USA just became Santos Laguna's best supported fans for the next two hours.

Pachuca 1 v Santos Laguna 1
* It's always nice to hear a Brad Sham commentary. He was the highlight to me of last year's competition commentary wise.

* Well Pachuca doesn't want to leave this competition early. What an individual run from Damian Alvarez and the strike was simply sublime. No keeper in the world was going to save that shot.

* Matias Vuoso could have very well been booked for a dive. It looked to me like he fell over the legs of Castillio looking for a call.

* Alvarez should make it 2-0 to Pachuca, but when you shoot right at the keeper, you have to live with the consequences of what he does.

* Oswaldo Sanchez single handedly is keeping Santos in this game.

* Great chance for Santos at the end of the first half as they earn a free kick within striking range. Juan Pablo Rodriguez's first free kick however was extremely lacking, the second one should have been the equalizer.

* The first half was a strange one. While it was even for the most part, Pachuca had the best chances on goal. Santos Laguna's best chances didn't really come until the end of the first half and off set pieces. That's not going to get you back in many matches, much less win them. However what the end of the half tells me is if Santos is going to try and come out to start the second half all guns blazing.

* Santos has come out with a renewed purpose to start the second half. However despite the effort, their flow is lacking. Again, Pachuca has had the better chances to start the second half.

* Great save from Callero to deny Christian Benitez. It's a pity however it took almost an hour for Santos to get a legit chance on goal during open play.

* It maybe my curse writing this, but I don't see Santos getting a goal here. If they do, I don't see them getting the win to prevent Pachuca from advancing.

* To expand on my point above, if Santos does score, it's going to be Christian Benitez who does score. Two good chances have gone begging, but the chances are getting better by the shot.

* Leave it to Benitez to prove my blogging curse correct. Benitez had the center of the defense opened up by Arce and all Benitez had to do is finish. From that close, if he wasn't finishing that he was never going to finish. Great strike, but do they have enough time to win it...or does Pachuca bunker down for the advancing draw?

* Pachuca is taking a major gamble taking Gimenez off. Unless Gimenez's legs are totally gone or Edy Brambila is a better defender, that's a move I don't know if it's worth making.

* Maybe it was a better move than I thought. While Santos turned the screw for a good 10-15 minutes after equalizing, Pachuca reestablished their dominance.

* The final half hour of this game I could watch over and over again. It was everything that was right with soccer. It was one of those games where the script in your mind should have never been written in the first place. Santos tried, but Pachuca's 'been there done that' attitude to this game showed through.

So July 29th will be Houston Dynamo v Pachuca...where have we seen that before.

July 30th will be New England Revolution v Atlante.

Could we very well see a New England/Pachuca final?

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Superliga Matchday 3 Group A Stream of Conscious

20 July 2008

DC United 1 v Houston Dynamo 2
* Maybe it's just me, but I thought Onstad's save off Emilio's header was more routine than the announcers made it out to be.

* Nice run by Ricardo Clark to get to the near post, but Zach Wells has to fight more to get to that near post. To further that, where was the cover on the post.

* Fred, you can't collar someone and expect not to see the book. Good decision by the referee to show him the yellow.

* I'd like to know what the referee booked Emilio for? If anything, you could argue it should have been a free kick to DC United. As for the celebration, did you have to shoot off the shotgun?

* Great free kick from Brad Davis and where was the marking on Boswell. Did it also look like Wells didn't look bothered trying to save it?

* I give Emilio credit for trying that shot on the endline, but when you have no help you have no choice really.

* With Zach Wells playing as badly as he has in this first half, I don't blame De Rosario for that shot from distance.

* No patience what so ever from DC United. I understand the need from time to time shooting from distance, but shooting just to shoot is reckless.

* I question if DC United even want to play this game. They look like a team who are doing everything at half speed. Houston are having their way with DC United and even with United towards the end of the half trying to save face, it doesn't appear that DC United will be able to. This is simply disgusting from DC United as there is no shape in their midfield, no shape at the back and the most inexcusable thing of all, no marking in the final third. DC United aren't helping out moving forward either.

* I wonder if Robinson is seeing stars after that collision. A boot to the face is never fun.

* DC United look more content with trying to rest some people for Tuesday now they haven't had pulled a goal back inside the first fifteen minutes.

* I don't want to mean condescending, but there is DC United's consolation goal. Pat Onstad makes the mistake of missing the ball off the corner and Ricardo Clark's marking of Francis Doe wasn't great.

* Onstad would have been beaten as Kirk decided to take the long distance shot.

* Good grief DC United may as well not even be on the park after Holden's goal. Carroll and McTavish out of position and Carroll despite trying to get back was god awful. Wells wasn't going to save it but I would have liked to see an effort trying to.

* Great challenge from Corey Ashe to deny Craig Thompson.

* I think the best way to sum up this game is simple. Set pieces killed DC United in the first half and the second half played out just like every second half for DC United in this competition. DC United would pull one back, get a couple of close chances only to have their hopes dashed by something. The first leg would be Moreno's penalty miss. The second leg would be missed chances once DC United made it 2-3 and tonight would be Holden's goal. Houston though dominated this game from minute one and won this game without too much of an effort.

Atlante 2 v Chivas de Guadalajara 0
* With the sun in the Chivas keeper's eyes, it doesn't hurt to try a couple of shots from distance.

* Nasty injury to Munoz of Atlante. It takes alot to get me to cringe on an injury and that tackle made me cringe.

* Great skill from Arellano to get just enough space from two defenders and get the chip off on goal. He deserved to finish it.

* Tight marking prevented Gabriel Pereyra from finishing Maldonado's centering ball. Michel with a much more routine save than from earlier in the first half.

* Great goal by Maldonado. Beautiful passing from the midfield and Magallon and Reynoso were torn apart by the Maldonado run. Great finish to a first half that had the natives restless for some action in front of goal.

* The first half was a pleasure to watch. The good ball movement, the physicality and the technical skill was just a joy to see. Chivas better not take this game lightly as a loss could sees them out of this competition. Atlante have deserved the lead as they to me were the stronger side. The crowd has been raucous, and the atmosphere intense.

* Oh Chivas should have equalized through Baez. Unfortunate for him, the ball got caught up under his feet giving the Atlante backline to close down.

* I'm still trying to figure out what was wrong with the disallowed goal that would have put Atlante 2-0 up. It looked good to me.

* Referee gets this call right. Castillo got Arellano just a yard outside the penalty area. However that was a god awful free kick, right to the keeper.

* So close from Arellano as his latest chance off the corner goes off the post. It wouldn't have been so dramatic had Atlante had someone covering the far post.

* With as many attackers Chivas de Guadalajara have on the field right now, wouldn't you think that Atlante may set up for the counter attack.

* Great job by Espinoza to follow up Pereyra's header off the post. He was the only one who knew where that ball ended up off the woodwork and his finish was about as automatic as can be.

* Thoughts go out to Luis Michel. I understand that Atlante (it looked like Munoz to me but I am not sure) was going for a follow up, but the apparent arm break was not pleasant to watch.

* Well if I have understood the tie break procedures here with 3 teams on 6 points, Houston wins on group differential and that due to Atlante's win over Chivas de Guadalajara, Atlante advances to the semi-finals. To be honest about it, Chivas can feel hard done by for not getting an equalizer, but their all out attack bit them as Atlante was able to win a set piece off the counter attack and a little clean up work later are 2-0 ahead. Once the injury happened to Michel, I wish the referee would have just blown for full time. Nobody seemed like they wanted to play after that. For the Goats, it's a case of De ja vu.

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Rafa Benitez v Martin O'Neill and Could a Trade Been Worked Out

19 July 2008


Photo from here.

I have to admit, when I got home yesterday and saw that Scott Carson had been sold to West Bromwich Albion for a grand total of 3.25 million pounds (depending on benchmarks, that fee can rise...to only 3.75 million), the lunch I had just enjoyed with Kartik Krishnaiyer of the American Soccer Show nearly escaped me. It read to me that Liverpool were going to do anything in their power to prevent Martin O'Neill from signing the player. The reason behind it is a simple one, because Aston Villa and Martin O'Neill wouldn't do business about Gareth Barry in the way Liverpool wanted. Going with my gut instinct, the whole Gareth Barry saga with Liverpool started alot sooner than it ever got reported in the press. The one who got caught up in all of it was someone who should have never been the pawn of anger, Scott Carson.

I have pretty much some of the same issues about this transfer as does Michael James over at the English Soccer Talk blog. So I won't look at those issues. What I do want to look at is the simple fact Rafa Benitez dropped his valuation of young Carson by nearly a whopping seventy percent. If anything that should be the ultimate slap in the face to both Scott Carson and Martin O'Neill. It should be a slap in the face to Scott Carson that despite what Rafa was saying in the press about Carson and Villa, he was simply lying for the sake of politics. It should be a slap in the face to Martin O'Neill because the valuation of Carson was vastly different than what was told to him. If Martin O'Neill had been told even 4-6 million for Carson, not only is Carson playing for Aston Villa in the Intertoto Cup, Aston Villa don't draw 2-2 on the road to Odense BK in the first leg. While I understand Liverpool need the transfer funds, you simply don't drop the valuation on someone over fifty percent unless you are desperate.

Where does Gareth Barry work into all of this? Well that's simple one. With Gareth Barry wanting to go to Liverpool, his valuation in all of this is crucial. Is Barry honestly worth 18 million pounds? Well that depends on how you look at it. You can take the train of thought of at 27, he's probably never going to be valued more because not only can he play on the left (thought not his best) or in the center (where he has thrived under Martin O'Neill). You can also take the train of thought that in 8 years, he only has 20 international caps and that a player like Barry while not a dime a dozen can be found and groomed. You can also argue with the latter that Rafa Benitez would have to make some tough choices about letting fan favorites sit in order to play Barry.

While it can't happen now, but couldn't Aston Villa and Liverpool have worked out a trade with these two players in it? My simple answer to this question is yes. If you are to believe the Times, Aston Villa was ready to accept 15 million plus Steve Finnan. Even if you the 10 million valuation of Scott Carson, could Liverpool have offered Scott Caron and Steve Finnan plus maybe 15 percent of Gareth Barry's sell on fee in exchange for Gareth Barry? My personal feeling is Aston Villa would have taken that just to get rid of the trouble Gareth Barry has caused the club and Liverpool would have taken that just to get the valuation they had on Scott Carson and naturally getting their man.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but couldn't a deal have been worked out between these two clubs? Let me know what you think?

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The Third Half 008 Is Live

17 July 2008

This week's show is now up as a podcast. You can listen to the show from here, via the On Demand player, or you can subscribe to the show via iTunes.

This week's show was recorded on Monday July 14th, and there was plenty to discuss.

* Superliga was a matchday in the book, I give my thoughts on all four opening games.

* While Superliga got all the attention, there was still some exciting action from the land of Major League Soccer. I break down all the games I was able to see.

* A rant about the officiating in the San Jose v Colorado game.

* An even bigger rant about the grievance filed by the MLS Players Union over the payout structure should an MLS side win.

* Brief thoughts on the MLS All Star 11 and my feelings on who should have gotten in via Nicol's selection or the Commissioner's picks.

* I take a look at a quote from Ivan Gazidis that came back to the forefront after Jason Kreis's 2 game suspension was announced.

* All that and more packed into the fastest one hour in radio.

Any comments are welcomed, encouraged, and appreciated. You can leave them here on the blog, over on the message board, or you can email them directly to me at jstarling@csrnusa.com

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Superliga Group B Matchday 2 Stream of Conscious

New England Revolution 1 v Pachuca 0
* I want to take a look at the disallowed goal a second time. It appeared to me that the two players who were offsides at the delivery of the ball were not the two that ended up playing the ball.

* Good through ball by Aguilar for Pachuca's first half, but even better from Reis to not only save but to eventually hold on.

* If Khano Smith had played more regularly with New England this season, would he have hit Kenny Mansally in stride?

* I would like the referee to explain to me exactly where the foul was on Calero by Dube. They got tangled up, no one fouled anyone. Play should have continued. The fact it didn't was a joke.

* There was a reason Gimenez's centering ball found no one, Parkhurst and Heaps were perfectly marking the Pachuca forwards. Add Reis getting into the mixer and Pachuca was not going to get a shot on goal.

* Phelan and Parkhurst would have to take all the blame if Alvarez would have put Pachuca up completely against the run of play.

* This game is following almost same exact script to Houston's game last night against Chivas de Guadalajara. New England had plenty of scoring chances but in my opinion, did not have the best chance of the first half. That would go to Damian Alvarez who really should have finished. This is also one game I feel that has benefited from playing on the turf as the pace of the game has been exceptional. While it took 40 minutes for Pachuca to get use to the turf, how much longer will they be able to hold up thanks to the cross country trip they just took?

* Where was the man running onto Calero after he mishandled Dube's shot?

* Nyassi should have gotten Mansally's cross and it should be 1-0 to New England. Dube will be frustrated at himself for not hustling enough to get to the follow up chance.

* Alvarez will regret missing the shot from distance. I think it may have been his best chance of the evening.

* Plenty of 'so close but yet so far' in this second half from both sides.

* I don't think Calero expected Dube's shot to reach him that quickly. Still a decent reaction save.

* It would have still gone out for a corner thanks to Igwe's deflection, but Aguilar was for the first time that I can remember tonight able to beat his marker.

* Thoughts go out to Pat Phelan. That was one nasty hit.

* I have to give the referee credit for getting the penalty right. Mansally's cross in was played on the arm by Manzur. I have to give Khano Smith credit for getting Calero to guess first before going the opposite direction. It wasn't the best taken penalty in the world, but I don't think Steve Nicol, Khano Smith, or anyone else on the Revolution will care.

* As I type these final thoughts on the game, all I can do is sit back and think we probably saw the best game in this tournament unless these two meet in the final. Shalrie Joseph was spectacular in the midfield, Mansally down the wing gave Pachuca fits the entire 90 minutes. New England held it's shape wonderfully which is something that many teams in the world would be unable to do against Pachuca. When it was all said and done, Pachuca was forced into changing their tactics which is something I don't think they ever expected to have to do against an MLS side.

Chivas USA 1 v Santos Laguna 0
* Lucky for Chivas USA the backline remembered how to play an offside trap right from the off.

* How on earth did Christian Benetez miss the open net? He took Arce's pass perfectly, got Kennedy to ground quickly, but nearly put a dent into the crossbar. Should be 1-0 to Santos and is that going to be a chance they regret later?

* Great job by Vuoso to dispossess Curtin, but he has to shoot that ball far post and not right into the body of Kennedy.

* Nice save from Kennedy at the end of the first half to deny the corner kick directly scoring.

* At halftime, all I can think about is the number of times Santos Laguna should be 1-0 up and are not. At the same time, Chivas USA have had just enough cracks at goal to keep Santos at least honest. The one thing that has to chance post haste for Chivas USA is the shape in both the midfield and back as it is conceding too much territory to Santos. Santos though despite the cross country trip don't look like they have lost a step. The word strange does not yet to begin to describe how this first half has gone.

* To further that last point, does Razov or Marsch come on if Chivas USA is down 1-0? My answer is no.

* Chivas's 3-2-3-2 formation may have no width, but it pays off with the goal. perfect cross in from Kljestan. Ante Razov beats his marker and the far post comes calling. Oswaldo Sanchez was really left on an island.

* Santos has left it just a little too late to start making subs.

* But when you give up free kick opportunities, it doesn't matter much. Off this free kick, I don't know what the call was for, but frankly I think Santos were robbed. It is utterly disgraceful that fans showed no class and threw projectiles and hit the linesman. Those people should be arrested for assault and battery and then never allowed into a football ground again.

* The story of this game can be written like this. Preki went for the jugular to start the second half and was rewarded for his attacking sense. Santos about the 55th minute started looking heavy footed and despite their attacking opportunities, seemed to be lacking when having to track back. Chivas USA's goal was extremely opportunistic and gives them hope in their final group match. Santos, it was nice knowing ya.

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Superliga Matchday 2 Group A Stream of Conscious

16 July 2008

DC United 2 v Atlante 3
* Well so much for Atlante not taking this competition seriously. No shape in the back at all for DC United and Wells was going to be beaten 1 v 1. A minute later, it should have been 2-0 to Atlante but Wells was right there to catch it. At least United players tracked back this time.

* Simms not even half way through the first half has three long distance shots, two that didn't make it past the first defender and a third that was right at Vilar. It's decisions like not setting up an attack and getting off impatient shots that's hurting DC United right now.

* See what happens DC when you set up an attack? Beautiful work from Moreno to start the short passing sequence that ended up at the feet Thompson. Credit to Thompson for getting the cross off quickly and great work from Francis Doe to get enough space between him and the defender to poke it home. Vilar got caught trying to catch and failed miserably.

* Credit to the referee again for not biting on Moreno's penalty shout. I thought there was minimal contact and that Moreno went down way too quickly.

* Leave it to the counter attack again for DC United to lose their shape. Rey was given too much space by McTavish, a lesson the first goal should have provided.

* As the second half begins, all I can think about is how bad DC United were burned on the counter attack. That second goal at the end of the first half for Atlante could very well kill off DC United. DC United's shape did them no favors because the back four were playing way too high. You can't get too far forward against a side that can pass with lightning efficiency.

* Nice move from Bermudez to turn Namoff and with Wells that far off his line, why not try the shot. To use one my bad puns from The Third Half Chat, this game is 'Murder She Wrote'.

* I am shocked that Santino Quaranta was brought into this game.

* Has Emilio pulled one back to little too late? Again scored starting with his back to goal. However Atlante gave him too much space.

* DC United's second half performance was much better than in the first, but giving allowing Atlante to bookend each half with a goal was to their ultimate undoing. From DC United's perspective as well, I was appalled at the number of long distance shots they took. For a team that can build an attack when need be (as in both their goals tonight), this was particularly disturbing. Moreno did a good job playing the role Gallardo normally plays and while it took a while for Emilio to find his shooting boots, his goal at least gave DC United hope. I think DC United is done in this competition unless Chivas beats DC United by 3 clear goals.

Houston Dynamo 0 v Chivas de Guadalajara 1
* It always amazes me that at Onstad's age, his reflexes do not seem to have gone.

* Nearing the end of the first half, I am honestly amazed at how open this game has been. Both sides came out with no intent on being cautious and are gunning for it. Even on nil right now, this is a game I would have no problem showing to someone who has never seen a game and going 'this is what soccer is all about'.

* I with the feed on the Superliga website had the full crowd volume. It seems loud, but the noise isn't coming through.

* At halftime, the second point I made to this game is all that keeps coming to my mind. However I have to take Glenn Davis to task for a comment he made about the slow pace of this game. In my person opinion (and I thoroughly enjoy Davis's commentary) it is a shallow comment to make. I go back to my tried and tested saying 'pace does not a game make'. Both sides have had plenty of chances and both sides have played some wide open soccer. This very well could be the most open game we have seen so far in this competition. It's also a shame that the field is in such a sorry shape.

* How unfortunate is Houston to not be a goal up right now? Just when you thought Brad Davis had an empty net, the third wheel cleared from the location the shot was going into goal at.

* Is this the Caraccio coming out party? He has had two very dangerous attempts on goal that were only denied by great keeping from Michel.

* What was Pat Onstad thinking on the opener? It appeared he wasn't ready for Arellano's shot at the near post. Ianni's poor marking didn't help either. Still though, that is a shot Onstad normally saves.

* I understand why Chris Wondolowski was brought in for Caraccio, but I can't help but feel Caraccio would have equalized on the same shot Wondolowski took.

* Waibel should have been booked for not only his shoulder check square into the back of his marker, but for falling over trying to get a penalty.

* When you write the story of this game, it boils down to the inexperience up front for Houston. Had Brian Ching played this game, they would have gotten at least a draw. The absence of Dwayne De Rosario wasn't that noticeable. Fair play to Chivas for soaking up vast amounts of pressure and then scoring against the run of play. Houston for all the chances they had, should have at least have had one.

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MLS Review Part 2: San Jose v Colorado and Chicago v Toronto

14 July 2008

San Jose Earthquakes 1 Colorado Rapids 1. San Jose was robbed as far as I'm concerned. How the linesman or Hilario Grajeda did not spot Conor Casey's push of Jason Hernandez in the 69th minute is beyond me. It was also the moment Grajeda lost control of this game. The game was already physical to begin with. However with Grajeda allowing more than he should have in the first half, the second half once Hernandez was shoved out of the way for the equalizer descended into chaos.
The one booking that really made me shake my head was Kei Kamara's yellow card in the 75th. It was one of those things where Kamara was already going for the header and had no idea Coundoul was already there. It was a reactionary yellow card only because of the equalizer.
San Jose to me though did not take advantage enough of the chances they had. It's not fair to blame San Jose entirely as Bouna Coundoul denied two well taken shots on goal that on most days would have been goals. They still weren't though and despite 8 on goal, 5 on target, the forwards still are lacking as the midfield of San Jose is still having to pick up alot of the slack. Will that change with Darren Huckerby shows up, only time will tell.
Colorado tried to bully their way across the park and weren't so successful. They got reckless in their challenges, and while I understood their attacking tendencies, being offsides 8 times in a 96 minute game (yes I include the stoppage time in both halves) is simply inexcusable. Had they stayed onside, the outcome is very different.
There is a base for San Jose to work from this match. Maybe Frank Yallop losing his cool will inspire this team to bigger and better things.

Chicago Fire 2 Toronto FC 1. Chicago dominated the first half and were nearly undone by a sixteen year old. Yep, that's about the story of their season...a team that has pace can have them. You ask why they had New England's number, but really sometimes a team just has another's number.
I thought Toronto came out way to timidly to start the game and paid the price for it. Chad Barrett was able to stretch Toronto out and Chris Rolfe was able to get off a shot without being pressured at all. But Chicago's finishing came back to haunt them. Three golden chances on either side of halftime came back to bite them in the backside, Blanco's effort to me in the 53rd should have been the dagger in the heart. He gets mad as his teammates for missing those same efforts he delivers in and I was very happy to see him get mad at himself for missing the closest thing to a sitter Chicago had all night.
So let's talk about Abdus Ibrahim kid. It's amazing to me that he was ready to give up before going to Toronto. Fair play to the organization for giving him the chance. Once his body fills out it's going to be scary how good he can be. Hell I shouldn't be gleaming at one club appearance but add in the appearances he had with the US at the U-17 World Cup, it's going to be difficult to put too many expectations on him. The goal he scored was just a beautiful run, his shot on goal seventeen minutes later was game winning material.
What is worrying about Chicago is the lack of shape this team keeps. At times it looks like 11 people who have just started playing together, and that's not a good thing. If any team in Major League Soccer has an over reliance on midfield goals, it's Chicago. I understand Chad Barrett has five goals, but a goal every 3 games isn't going to cut it. When 3 midfielders each have 4 goals (Chris Rolfe, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and John Thorrington), that is a problem to me. And having to rely on John Thorrington for a game winner is a scary proposition.
As I said in my preview, I don't trust Toronto on the road. You could say that for all the MLS teams with the exception of New England but TFC is as close to a guaranteed three points as you will get if you are playing them at home.
As for the diving yellow cards. On the first one, despite what some will say, it was not a penalty. However it was not a dive. Jon Busch was able to get to the ball before making contact with Maurice Edu. As for Ibrahim, Jorge Gonzalez got it right. There was no contact, the referee was right next to the play, and Ibrahim went down fishing for a call.

All in all these were two entertaining games. What were your thoughts?

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Superliga Matchday 1 Group B Stream of Conscious

New England v Santos
* I wonder if Santos is thinking to themselves 'a competition like this and we have to degrade ourselves to playing on something that should be used in making garbage bags or credit cards'?
* A half hour into this game all I can think of 'nil draw'.
* Reason being, besides a high number of fouls, no one has put a chance on goal that I thought was going in.
* Castillo to Peralta and Reis gets called into duty I don't think he was expecting. But it was right at head, it was going to be saved.
* I would like to know what was going through Juan Pablo Rodriguez's mind when he decided to throw the elbow squarely into the mouth of Nyassi? I'm glad the linesman got it right because once we were able to actually see the incident, the only two words that came to my mind were 'red' and 'card'.
* Michael Parkhurst lucky that Larentowicz was coming central as that tackle to Vuoso would have qualified him for a Patriots tryout.
* At halftime, all I can think about is how dead the crowd appears to be. It doesn't help the play hasn't done much to get them into the game. The Revs took forty-four minutes but finally are starting to slowly take control of the game. My hope is that the second half is much better because even with the late surge from New England, all that keeps coming into my mind is 'nil draw'.
* Arce's shot should be a warning to New England that Santos does not fear them, even down a man.
* The New England Revolution fans should be ashamed of themselves tonight of all nights. We can debate the merits of this competition until we are blue in the face, but the fact is MLS cleared these teams schedules so these teams could take this competition seriously. The fact the fans seem like they are attending a funeral is embarrassing to the organization as a whole.
* Well it took long enough for a goal and well taken from Dube. Nyassi does well to dispossess Mares at the top of the attacking third, and the dummy from Phelan was perfect. Dube had the benefit of having traffic prevent Sanchez from getting to that.
* Nice to hear Nyassi get the obviation he got coming off.
* I would assume Steve Nicol is not happy with how this first game went. Yes, they got the goal but beside Nyassi, I cannot think of a single bright spot on the pitch for New England. If it wasn't for the stupidity of Juan Pablo Rodriguez, this game probably ends on a nil draw. Really New England had 3 decent scoring opportunities, the same amount Santos had as well.

Chivas USA v Pachuca
* Kljestan should have buried Bornstein's centering pass for 1-0, the crossbar unkind. I am really interested in seeing how Bornstein plays in the midfield. With as forward as he likes to play, it's only natural for Preki to give it a shot.
* Live I questioned the penalty decision, but on the replay it was the right call. You can't raise your arms and give the appearance of punching the ball away. However the penalty went for naught as Claudio Suarez got the keeper to guess wrong, but still couldn't slot home the penalty.
* I am honestly surprised with how the opening fifteen minutes have gone. Ante Razov the beneficiary of some bad defending from Pachuca, the goal well taken.
* Agree with the booking to Mendoza. The studs were showing on the tackle of Aguilar. Marioni despite being heavily marked still was able to get that header on target. From that close, it isn't going to be stopped.
* I wonder how much Chivas USA will regret missing their chances once this is all said and done. They should at least be 2-1 up right now.
* And as I talk about Chivas USA regretting chances, Gerardo Carlos Rodriguez did well to get into space down the wing, but it was just awful from the Chivas USA back four as Caballero was unmarked in the penalty area. That is just unforgivable, even more so with a cold keeper. That's the second goal he wasn't at fault for.
* Great save by Calero to deny Razov. I thought that was the equalizer.
* Good field positioning from Parker to save Caballero, a save I don't think Guzan would have made because he would have been scrambling from the near post.
* Chivas USA took some time in the second half, but they to me have finally started turning the screw in their direction. With about 15 minutes to go, I am sensing at least one maybe two more goals. Now watch that not happen.
* Another good save from Parker to deny Rojas. That is a save Guzan wouldn't have made because he would have left the five hole wide open just like he did for Steven Gerrard.
* When the story is written for this game, it will boil down to missed chances from Chivas USA. They controlled the first fifteen and final 25 minutes, but were unable to get the final ball home. I thought for Lance Parker tonight, he did about as good a job as he could. His back line let him down off the free kick for 1-1 and Caballero's game winning goal. However with that said, Chivas USA hung tough with probably the best team in the group and should fancy their chances of getting out of the group. I think they win on Wednesday, it all boils down to if they can beat New England.

For more coverage of both games tonight, check out the analysis from the American Soccer Spot. New England v Santos, Chivas USA v Pachuca.

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MLS Review Part 1: Kansas City v New York and SuperClasico

13 July 2008

Kansas City Wizards 2 New York Red Bulls 1: Frankly to me the first half was not even a competitive contest. As I said in the chat at the time, I almost saw no reason to bother with the second half at all. LukeSassano epically was a waste of space and it was no surprise to me that he did not see any action at all in the second half.
Kevin Goldthwaite has to take the blame for both Kansas City goals. On the first, he did nothing to stop Jimmy Conrad from getting into the space he should have been occupying in the first place on the Claudio Lopez corner. On the second, he was simply the closest defender burned by a through ball in which no one else was back(the second closest was Dave Van denBergh). At that point, you could call the game over...or could you?
Two changes compounded New York's efforts in getting back into the game. The first being the substitution of Scott Sealy for Roger Espionoza and the second being Dane Richards inclusion for Carlos Mendes. The changes seven minutes apart completely changed the balance of the game as New York's shape completely threw Kansas City for a loop.
Juan Pablo Angel had a couple of nibbles in the first half and did well for himself to create space. Dane Richards and Van den Burgh gave him enough service late, but it really was too little too late. The ineffectiveness ofSassano (already mentioned), Mike Magee, and Oscar Echeverry really hurt New York's cause in the first half. When your attacking options aren't getting enough quality touches on the ball, disaster isn't farbehind.
Ivan Trujillo would be better off asking for his release. I have yet to see him put together a complete performance this entire season.

Los Angeles Galaxy 1 Chivas USA 1. In an good derby match, the Galaxy needed a 72nd minute equalizer to pull off the 1-1 draw.
To me, the Galaxy were bossed around in the first 55 minutes of this game. It goes to show you how thin the Galaxy back is when Abel Xavier doesn't play but Greg Vanney does. When Ante Jazic was subbed due to back spasams, Mike Randolph didn't seem all the comfortable in the back. While I still disagree with the substitution of Joe Franchino for Carlos Ruiz, that seemed to be the move to spring the Galaxy into action. Buddle's goal really came as Francisco Mendoza abandoned his space to double Beckham allowing Vagenes to spot Buddle.
Chivas though should have capitalized on the chances they created for themselves in the first half. Once the Galaxy started turning the screws, Chivas USA only had one decent half chance on goal.
The biggest surprise to me was how ineffective Landon Donovan seemed. He seemed more content to cry about the officiating (which I thought was fine for what it was, minus Preki's sending off) than scoring.
This game showed while they are both decent sides in their own right, there is still a killer instinct that has yet to come out. A team who wanted it would have found a winner out of nothing. The Galaxy over the last couple of weeks have to be a little concerned that the offensive input has dropped off every so slightly and with a bulk of their next games on the road, injuries at the back is the last thing they need. Chivas USA needs to find more scoring options. With the injuries to Eskandarian and Galindo, a huge chuck of their attack was erased. Hopefully for Chivas, Jorge Flores can return from an ankle sprain and continue to show why he has been this season's surprise package.

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Superliga Group A Matchday 1 Stream of Conscious

For those who have been following my blog from the very early outset, you are familar with the Stream of Conscious blog. For those who have only started following my blog since moving to CSRN, the premise of the blog is simple. I watch a game live and as I'm watching it just whatever comes to my mind about a particular situation during the game you'll see my opinion of it.

One thing about the English language video from the Superliga website. I thought the video qualify was much better than the MLSNet subscription you would pay for. However to not having it fully ready until about 8 minutes into the match and having to start in Spanish was a bit embarrassing. And you could steal a page from USL's web video department, a tiny scoreboard w/ at least the minute the game is in would be nice. It would also be nice for the Superliga website to at least have the starting lineups for both sides. If you found them on the website please let me know. Fair credit to ESPN's Soccernet for keeping regular updates on both Superliga games tonight.

DC United v Chivas de Guadalajara
* Have to agree with the referee for not taking Moreno’s bait on the penalty appeal. Went to the ground way too easily. However, where was the yellow card for simulation?
* Emilio, like the idea, hate the final execution right into the post. Even more so as the Chivas keeper was giving away the near post.
* DC United is lucky to not be down 1-0. McTavish and Namoff should have been in communication with Wells about who was going to be responsible for that ball, instead they nearly get burned
* DC United’s passing in the midfield is a little cause for the concern in the opening 20 minutes.
* Omar Arellano…let’s count the bodies, Simms, Burch and beats Wells. Simms has to clean it up in the midfield because Burch was out of position to track back effectively.
* Poor free kick from Burch, why DC didn’t have someone running onto the far post if that was the idea is beyond me.
* Morales should have made it 2-0. Santana gave him all the space he needed with the centering pass and then his shot was shielded well from Wells. For that fact, why Wells didn’t bother to make an attempt at trying to save it was beyond me.
* I have to give the referee credit for calling the back pass correctly. It doesn’t matter how tiny the pass was it was a pass. Emilio’s shot on goal though, disgusting. You have to be able to get that shot between the wall because they were moving.
* As the first half ends, all I can think of is how shambolic DC United looked. Chivas had their way regardless of where they were on the pitch. Chivas is passing at will, crossing with no problems whatsoever, and is closing DC United down without any hesitation. DC United’s shape was nonexistent, the 3-5-2 of Chivas giving DC United fits all over the park. Santana has been spectacular from my vantage point. What’s even worse is you can’t blame Wells for the Chivas goal.
* Much like the first half, DC United have started the second looking the better side on the field. That didn’t last for too long however.
* McTavish, just like Emilio. Emilio set him up perfectly and McTavish had the keeper beaten with the pace he had on that one.
* Who from the DC United organization turned off the lights.
* I have to admit I think that Chivas is getting a little cocky playing 9 behind the ball, while they have clearly been the better side, they have been beaten twice only to be saved by metal. However Chivas have been that good in the opening hour.
* How many chances are DC United going to blow? Argument for hand ball but a faint one at that to me. Emilio should have had a better shot.
* What a strike off the free kick by Pineda. No keeper in the world would have save that kick.
* Emilio, finally turns his back to goal and scores...something we haven’t seen him do at all with any confidence. Well taken goal.
* Wow is Emilio a man possessed. That was nothing but blistering pace to beat Olvera. Moreno though telegraphed that penalty and the keeper had no problem saving it. Scoring chance 3 that should have been a goal. A night of what ifs from DC United.
* I think the story of this game can be written in just a few lines. DC United had their chances to score and despite being outplayed still had a spot kick for an undeserved share of the spoils. Once the lights were restored, DC United were the better team, but from 2-0 down, the post shots came back to the forefront.
Chivas de Guadalajara has to guard against complacency moving forward, DC United needs to play a full 90 minutes and not just pray on the odd chance, because in my mind, the chances were about the same.

Houston Dynamo v Atlante
* I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a requirement of any facility AEG owns or rents for soccer that the field has to be the dodgiest looking thing around.
* Brad Davis’s free kick looked just too tall for me at first, but fair play to De-Ro for leaping at the last possible moment and getting enough to see the ball home. What the Atlante keeper was thinking is beyond me. He came out way too late.
* Atlante just allowed themselves to get stretched too thin on the second goal and Cameron picked out that pass perfectly to Holden.
* I would hate to be the man who was suppose to be marking Stuart Holden before it became 3-0. That spacing from Atlante’s back line was a joke.
* On the double red cards, Dwayne De Rosario should have just let play go on. You don’t run up and try and get a guy’s attention from behind by grabbing his shoulder forcibly and then getting in his face. However even stupider from De Rosario was not going to the official when he was called over. Personally I think the official was going to give a yellow for unsporting behavior and be done with him, but when he didn’t come over, he got the straight red. The irony is in the chat we were discussing when he should have been subbed out, now we won’t see him until their game against DC United. As for Javier Muñoz Mustafa, only an idiot throws a punch to the face and thinks they will get away with it.
* Cameron has done an exceptional job tonight getting the ball deep and finding the open man. Brian Mullan was unmarked until right after he shot. By then, just a little too late.
* If Ricardo Clark is going to give up reckless free kicks, he needs to be subbed.
* The final half an hour of this game seemed to me a worthless exercise as both teams just seemed to be going through the motions. Atlante finally looked like trying, but it didn’t last for long. The pace of the game dropped to levels you would expect from a training session.
* I think it’s safe to say that Atlante is treating this as games to tweak the squad. Houston better not think these next two games will be as automatic. Chivas de Guadalajara looked class against DC and DC v Houston is more than likely going to decide who comes second in this group.
* One more good performance from Houston in the group stages and I will eat my words about Houston finishing last (and everyone from Houston will have every right to take me to town for them).

These were my thoughts as the night unfolded, what were yours?

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A simple message for Sepp Blatter and Cristiano Ronaldo

12 July 2008

I have to admit when I first read the comments from Sepp Blatter to Sky News, I did a double take. When I read them again, I was pretty much speechless. But a speechless blog is pretty much a worthless blog so after chewing on Blatter's words I came up with the only logical thing I could say...

Seppy Baby, SHUT UP!

I question if he really knows anything to the word slavery. These players do not work against their will or for free. The last time I checked, they get together either with the club themselves or have their agent discuss terms of a contract. Then a player signs that contract. No where in this process is a player doing something against their will.

I compare Blatter bringing up the Bosman law to nothing more than someone who took a sip of sour milk and crying about it. Once the Bosman rules took effect, teams had to adjust how they did business, just in the same manner players did. Up went the transfer fees, up went an agent's influence in contract negotiations. But more importantly, it changed how clubs had to structure contracts, something William Gaillard does a good job of reminding people about in UEFA's response to Blatter's rediculous comments. Now the length of the contract mattered, and trying to renegotiate a new contract started sometimes not long after the last one was signed. Again I'll say it and not just for posterity's sake; if you as a player do not like the length of your contract, DON'T SIGN IT!

Sepp, that is the message you should be sending to not only the players within the game, but also to every club. It is a slap in the face to everyone at Manchester United (not named Cristiano Ronaldo) that you are trying to influence the potential transfer of a player. The last time I checked by the way Seppy, you have a few more important problems on your hands than to be meddling in affairs that shouldn't even be your business. Don't you have a little problem with South Africa and the potential you may have to move the 2010 World Cup? Don't you have a little problem trying to make sure your 6+5 formula somehow gets put into place without the European courts getting in the way?

To Cristiano Ronaldo I say one thing, thank you for making it clear for the entire world to see exactly what you want and the lack of shame you are showing to the club that probably not only paid for your ankle operation, but is paying you over 100k a week now as it is. While the Guardian correctly states that Ronaldo stopped short of 'directly stating he wanted to leave Old Trafford', for someone who knows how to read between the lines of what some is saying, you directly said it. Comments like 'It's true. I agree with what the president of Fifa said. I know what I want and what I would like' is the clearest of intentions to even the most blinkered and blinded Manchester United fan what you want and the fact you agreed with what Sepp Blatter said tells me that in your mind you are already playing for Real Madrid.

I'm sick of this transfer speculation. But at this point, if Ronaldo stays at Manchester United for the upcoming season, I see nothing but the same exact scenario happening with David Beckham and his last season at Manchester United. While I am glad that those at Old Trafford are not backing down from their initial stance, it's blatantly obvious now that Ronaldo has used you for what he wanted and is ready to bail while giving you the middle finger in the process. At this point I'd let him go while taking Real Madrid to the cleaners in the process.

It'll teach Ramón Calderón a lesson, not to try and force these things through the media.

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Evening Thoughts: MLS Preview

11 July 2008

Another weekend, and the football never ends. I ought to just quit complaining about the amount of football on offer on any given weekend for us in the United States. If you have ESPN360, you have the Russian Premier League (someday soon on Comcast...someday soon). Major League Soccer is on a reduced schedule, but still up and running with three games this weekend. If that isn't enough for you, there's the start of the Superliga competition.
The Third Half Chat will commence for Superliga:
Saturday afernoon from 3:55 pm Eastern to the conclusion of San Jose v Colorado.
Saturday-Sunday nights from 7:55 pm.
Tuesday (July 15th)-Wednesday (16th) from 7:55 pm

Check this blog within an hour of the conclusion of play each match night for my thoughts on each game in a return of my Stream of Conscious blogs. Depending on my schedule on Sunday morning/afternoon, I'll have some talking points from this past weekend in MLS.

Brief thoughts on this weekend's MLS games.
San Jose v Colorado. Buck Shaw Stadium hosts San Jose and is hoping to replicate not only their win at Dick's Sporting Goods park, but to replicate their last home game at Buck Shaw that saw San Jose see off Houston 2-1. With Gavin Glinton injured and Jovan Kirovski facing a late fitness test (I don't expect him to start, but to come off the bench late and only if needed), Kei Kamara may have to go in alone. San Jose have a good chance at getting all three points as Colorado's road form has been shambolic to be kind. The narrower pitches seem to do Colorado in as their wide play is neutered. Omar Cummings has to start finishing the chances he gets or I fear he'll be seeing more of the bench as the season winds down. I don't see many goals in this one, 1-0 to San Jose my prediction.

Chicago Fire v Toronto FC. Can Toronto get over the Vancover hangover? With a road form that is only comparible to Colorado, their task only gets tougher...even more so with Danny Dichio potentially out with concussion. Chicago needs a win, there is no other way to describe it. To blow it so late against Columbus had to hurt, but I think it hurt even more to find out Calen Carr won't play. When you are relegated to Chad Barrett and Tomasz Frankowski up front, Blanco could be in for a frustrting night. Toronto have to win on the road before I take them seriously, but in their short history in the league, I just don't see them doing the business, even with Chicago's depleated roster. Chicago 2 Toronto 1.

Real Salt Lake v Columbus Crew. RIce Eccles Basketball Court (as I refer to RSL's temporary home ground...October can't get here fast enough) hosts the first meeting between RSL and the Crew this season. Jason Kreis will start yet another suspension, Chris Wingert also absent for his red card against Houston. RSL is also a bit of the walking wounded with Fabian Espindola out, and Nathan Sturgis more than likely out. A win for RSL puts them a top the West while a win for the Crew get them even closer to overtaking New England.
This is a trap game to me for Columbus. The Crew have done well of late coming from behind, but in the altitude of Salt Lake they won't get that chance. RSL has done an exceptional job of late closing up shop at home though their lack of scoring has to be a worry. If it was me Kenny Deuchar would be on very thin ice. Unless Columbus can adapt to the turf (and so far this season they have not), and be a little more direct in their play, I don't see them getting the win. RSL will struggle for a goal, but I see one late here, and RSL getting it. RSL 1 Columbus Crew.

Again, join us in The Third Half Chat. If I'm in the chat, you will see the chat box as you come directly to the home page of the blog. If you would like to bookmark 'The Third Half Chat' page, I would recommend that as well. With a busy weekend of football, stop on by the chat and enjoy the friendly banter and virtural pub atmosphere.

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The Third Half 007 is Live

10 July 2008

This week's show is now available. You can download from here, via the On Demand player, or you can subscribe to the show via iTunes.

On this week's show (links will appear to the stories used on show once I get home from the 9-5):

1) A comprehensive look at the weekend that was MLS
2) My thoughts on the Frank Lampard transfer talk.
2a) Initial Article.
2b) Mourinho's prediction.
2c) Chelsea's offer to Lampard.
2d) Inter Milan's offer to Chelsea & Chelsea's response.
2e) Scolari comments on Lampard.
2f) Lampard's agent has something to say.
3) RSL's home turf advantage and the lack thereof.
4) Ben Olsen...is he finally finished after another surgery?
5) How Facebook may have announced a transfer prematurely
6) My brief preview on how I see Superliga playing out.
Other Stories
Could US get 2010 World Cup?
Could Superliga help get Houston back on track?
Crouch moves to Portsmouth.
Big names getting Olympic call-ups.
Hull City sign Geovanni and are talking with George Boateng.
Cristiano Ronaldo goes under the knife.

All that and more packed into the fastest hour in radio. You can leave your comments here, on the message board, or at jstarling@csrnusa.com.

See you all tonight for the Third Half Chat!

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Updates on Emmanuel Adebayor and Gareth Barry

04 July 2008

First off, happy 4th of July to everyone in America. Let us not forget what this day is truly all about.

It's amazing in this 24 hour news world how fast stories change and develop. I went over one story in full on this week's installment of The Third Half, I talked in full about Emmanuel Adebayor and how that story had changed. Well suffice to say, it's only changed even more.

I'll start from where Barcelona's bid of 25 millions pounds was denied. If I would have been Arsene Wenger and saw that offer, I'd probably be laughing to hard to say or write no on the sheet of paper required.
This is where I am left scratching my head. The Guardian is reporting that AC Milan is balking at having to offer 35 million pounds, while the Telegraph is reporting that Arsenal is considering a 30 million pound deal from Barcelona. This reads to me that AC Milan were never really a serious contender. It's amazing to me that AC Milan didn't think that the biding was going to get this high. In today's overinflated market, it seems that AC Milan (or any other Italian club), doesn't have the money it's going to require to get star players in their prime. That isn't a good thing for the game.
Another thing to that spinet of news is the fact that while AC Milan are saying 35 million pounds, Barca are only bidding 30 and Arsenal are considering it. Is this sour grapes from AC Milan because they can't afford him and a club like Barcelona can?
Oh and one other thing, you would think that Emmanuel Adebayor would have learned from the lessons Gareth Barry just gave him. To have his agent come out and claim that Arsenal haven't done enough, it is a slap in the face for what Wenger and the club have given him already. The last thing you want is the same standoffish attitude Aston Villa are taking, saying such things will only speed that process up.
On the Barcelona end to this, in something that I can only describe as a political trick, Albert Vicens is warning that a vote of no confidence could undermine everything they are trying to do on the transfer market. While they is true, don't you think it's just a little too late to be trying that trick? Stability is needed at any club for any long term success, but making the changes made even from before the season ended last season doesn't help that.

This brings me to Gareth Barry. It is very apparant what Aston Villa want for Barry, and nothing short of 18 million pounds is going to be rejected without a second thought. This was after they rejected a 15 million pound offer and rumors started circulating that Liverpool had reached 'final offer' status, Liverpool quickly denying those claims.
If it didn't get any juicier, Gareth Barry has been banned from training with Aston Villa. I don't think Barry was realizing who he was messing with, someone who has a hot head and isn't afraid to put someone in their place. But in reality, this is probably the best thing to do. He's already been fined for those comments and Randy Learner has seen his fair share of hold outs before. It's simply for Villa, either Liverpool pay what Villa want for Barry or Barry can sit and rot away not getting any action (or any call ups to the National Team).

What both of these situations show is a changing of the guard. No longer are these clubs going to be hijacked by players who demand to be moved and these clubs are not going to make irrational quick moves in doing so. These players are under contract and they better be damn well committed to the cause of helping the club they are under contract for. If players aren't happy, take it behind closed doors and work it out like a man instead of being cowards and using the media as your bastard child. The players no longer have the control of dictating where they want to go and immediately getting it. With valuations now as high as they are, players better make sure before signing their contract that the terms in it are exactly what they want.

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The Third Half 006 is Live

03 July 2008

This week’s The Third Half is live. You can download directly from here, via the On Demand player, or you can subscribe to the show via iTunes.

On this week’s show.
1: Plenty of news discussion from the past week.
* The story of Kenny Mansally attempting to get back to Foxboro for the game against Toronto FC.
* My thoughts on Conde v Blanco in the locker room.
* Can KC's schedule actually get tougher than playing six on the road?
* The twisted saga of Emmanuel Adebayor over the past couple of weeks (will update this tomorrow).
a) AC Milan feel deal can't be made.
b) George Weah urges AC Milan to make deal.
c) Daily Mail runs story saying Adebayor wants 4 times what he is making now or he wants out.
d) Adebayor says he will see out his contract.
e) Or will he?
f) Adebayor makes the claim that him leaving will benefit Arsenal.
g) Wenger weighs in and says he feels Adebayor will see out contract. At the same time, Adebayor is claiming he wants out if Barca or AC Milan come calling.
h) Adebayor finally says he favors a move to Barcalona.
i) Martin Samuel nails this story saying this has reached the point of no return.
*Gareth Barry v Martin O'Neil.
* Champions League Revenue to be redistributed in a new way?
* The morning to night change about Rafa Benitez and 50 million pounds.
* Paul Robinson out at Spurs?
* A new referee, with an aging referee getting one more year.

2) I give some quick thoughts on the Euro 2008 Semi-Finals with more discussion on the final and where the two finalists go from here.

3) Quick recap of the previous weekend in MLS with a little rant about ESPN and their treatment of last Thursday's game.

4) Brief preview of the weekend to come in MLS.

I hope you all have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend. I'll update this blog for Soccer Saturday night in America. Please leave your comments either here, on the message board, or at jstarling@csrnusa.com

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About This Blog

Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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