Posts Tagged ‘Fulham F.C.’

Soccer Spectating Report 19 April-9 May

The European season is coming to an exciting conclusion while the MLS gets into full swing. Here’s three weeks of soccer highlights.

New England Revolution 3:2 Sporting Kansas City (23 April)

This game was the culmination of an exciting week – striker Rajko Levic’s first home game, the debut of midfielder Benny Feilhaber and the premier of the Revolution’s new shirt sponsor.  While I’m not too excited by corporate advertising on the jerseys themselves I do appreciate that it will improve revenue for the team.  The game was exciting come from behind win with Feilhaber helping set up the first goal and Lekic scoring the game winner with captain Shalrie Joseph scoring as well.

DC United 2:3 New England Revolution (26 April)

The Revs traveled to Maryland for a US Open Cup qualifier, playing an almost entirely different lineup from their previous game against Kansas City.  It was a good sign of the depth of the team as the Revs easily took a 3-goal lead with two goals by Kheli Dube and one by Alan Koger.  They let up towards the end of the game allowing United to get back two points but the Revs held on for the win and advance to the next qualifier versus KC.

Real Madrid 0:2 Barcelona (27 April)

This game had everything: the mad rants and eventual expulsion of José Mourinho, Real’s negative play and hard tackles,  Barça’s excessive play-acting, and lots of fisticuffs on and off the field.  Of course none of these were good soccer and an embarrassment to the game.  Imagine a novice soccer spectator being told that two of the best clubs in the world were playing in the world’s premier tournament and then seeing every soccer stereotype acted out.  Luckily there is Lionel Messi whose two brilliant goals in the final 15 minutes were a joy to behold.

Real Salt Lake 0:1 Monterrey (27 April)

I rooted against Real in the afternoon in one Champions League and for Real in the evening in another Champions League.  Real Salt Lake historically made it to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League and tied against Monterrey 2:2 on the Mexican leg of the final.  Unfortunately, RSL was not able to secure a MLS bye in the Club World Club despite a lot of pressure on the Monterrey goal and good chances in the final 20 minutes.

Chivas USA 3:0 New England Revolution (30 April)

Hello gut punches, I remember you!  The new players and wins against KC and DC built up a lot of excitement for the road game against one of MLS’s weaker sides.  The Revs lost and lost bad as the Goats scored twice in the first half and sealed the game in the 57th minute.  I guess it was lucky that I wasn’t able to get video of the game, just audio from the Revs website.  And the audio cut out after the third goal and I couldn’t restore it.

SC Herenveen 1:2 AFC Ajax (1 May)

An exciting Eredivisie season is coming to a climax and Ajax came from behind to win their second-to-last match.  Herenveen scored in the 19th minute but Ajax calmly responded in less than a minute with Miralem Sulejmani’s equalizer.  Christian Eriksen put Ajax ahead for good right at the start of the second half.  Ajax stands in second place one point behind FC Twente and face that team at Amsterdam Arena for the final game of the season on 15 May that will decide the Eredivisie championship.  Interestingly the same two teams met for the Dutch Cup final on 8 May which was won by FC Twente 3:2.  Hup Ajax!

Boston Breakers 1:0 Sky Blue FC (1 May)

The Breakers won their first home game and broke a two-game losing streak on Rachael Buhler’s goal in the 53rd minute.  A week later though, they lost 2-0 away to Philadelphia.

Barcelona 1:1 Real Madrid (3 May)

A better game than the first tie of the Champions League semi-finals with the home side dominating the first half and going up 1-0 in Pedro’s goal in the 54th minute.  Real Madrid made things interesting when Marcelo Vieria equalized ten minutes later but it was too little too late.  Barça advances to the final against Manchester United at Wembley on May 28th.

New England Revolution 0:0 Colorado Rapids (7 May)

Accentuate the positive: the Revolution got a point from the defending MLS Cup champions and their first shutout of the season.  On the downside, the Revs failed to score themselves despite having long periods of dominating the attack and shots by both Ryan Cochrane and Benny Feilhaber hit the crossbar and Shalrie Joseph missed a golden opportunity.  I guess this is baby steps for recovering from the Chivas lost and bringing the team together.

Fulham 2:5 Liverpool (8 May)

Things got ugly quick at Craven Cottage as Fulham went down by three goals to Liverpool in the first 15 minutes. Maxi Rodriguez would net a hat trick in this laugher for the Liverpool side.  It’s quite a recovery for Liverpool who were in the relegation zone a few months ago and now are challenging for a spot in the Europa League.  I just wish the Red Sox ownership purchased Everton instead.

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Soccer Spectating Report 22 February – 20 March

Lots of catching up to do.

USA 3:2 El Salvador (22 February)

I managed to tune in to one match in the 2011 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, this quarterfinal match.  It was odd to watch what looked like a high-school game (albeit highly-skilled) played in a mostly empty stadium in Jamaica.  It got to a rocking start with each side scoring within the first 10 minutes.  Then it slowed down until the 95th minute when Mario Rodriguez put the USA up 2-1.  Another goal by Marc Pelosi in the 112th minute seemed to seal the deal for the USA.  Then it got weird.  Three players (2 USA, 1 El Salvador) got sent off in the final minutes and El Salvador capitalized on a penalty kick, but the USA held on for the win.  I didn’t watch any of the rest of the tournament but the USA U17 team won the semifinal versus Jamaica 2-0 and the championship versus Canada 3-0.

Ajax 2:0 Anderlecht (24 February)

The Europa League duel of the Low Country capitals continued with another easy win for Ajax who won 5-0 on aggregate.  This competition is derided for being meaningless but the fans at Amsterdam ArenA were having a great time.  Ajax advanced to the Round of 16 versus Spartak Moscow where alas they would lose 0-4.

Everton 2:0 Sunderland (26 February)

Everton continued a successful spell with an easy victory over Sunderland.

Mallorca 0:3 Barcelona (26 February)

Despite missing some key players, Barcelona won another easy game on the road with goals by Messi, Villa, and Pedro.

PSV 0:0 Ajax (27 February)

The Amsterdam side had a chance to gain ground in the Eredivisie but failed to do so in this dull, scoreless tie.

Manchester City 1:1 Fulham (27 February)

There was a soap opera plot regarding former City/current Fulham manager Mark Hughes, but the drama was pretty apparent on the field in this tense match.  Damien Duff earned a point for Fulham with his late first half equalizer.

Everton 0:1 Reading (1 March)

After the high of defeating Chelsea in the the FA Cup replay and some good wins in league play, Everton’s anemic attack and loss at home to Championship side Reading was a huge disappointment. Now Everton doesn’t have much to play for the rest of this season, except to avoid relegation.

Ajax 4:0 AZ Alkmaar (6 March)

Willem II Tilburg 1:3 Ajax (13 March)

L.A. Galaxy 1:1 New England Revolution (20 March)

The Revs kicked off their 2011 MLS season in an uncharacteristically wet and windy Southern California against the defending Supporters Shield champion LA Galaxy.  Shalrie Joseph put the Revs on the board in the first three minutes and then the Revs mostly defended against a relentless Galaxy attack.  New England also benefited from the referees calling back three goals on LA, but the refs called it right on at least two of them.  A nice scrappy point well-earned against one of the top teams in the MLS.

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Soccer Spectating Report 24-31 January 2011

Well, the transfer period is over now.  This week I saw Luis Suarez leave one of my favorite clubs and move to the rival of one of my other favorite clubs.  Not much in positive news for the teams I follow. Ah well.  The games have been entertaining at least.

Liverpool 1:0 Fulham (26 Jan)

In the battle of clubs formerly managed by Roy Hodgson, Fulham got the better of Liverpool overall and were even responsible for all of the goal scoring, but still took the loss.  The loan goal occurred after some defensive miscues by Fulham allowed the ball to bounce around the goal mouth.  John Pantsil’s attempted to clear the ball, but it glanced off his leg and into the Fulham goal.  American star Clint Dempsey played another great attacking game but just couldn’t connect for a goal.

Ajax 4:1 NAC Breda (27 Jan)

While their hopes of an Eredivisie championship are slipping, the Amsterdammers still have a chance to earn some hardware by repeating as KNVB Cup (aka Dutch Cup) champions.  After going down a goal early on, Ajax made it look pretty easy dismantling NAC and advancing to the Cup semifinals.  The same teams met again over the weekend in Breda with Ajax winning by the same scoreline.

RW Oberhausen 1:1 FC Ingolstadt 04 (28 Jan)

I added another new league to my spectating catalog with this match from the German 2. Bundesliga.  American international Edson Buddle lead the MLS in goals while playing for Los Angeles last season and earned a transfer to Europe.  He scored a goal for Ingolstadt in his first match with the team last week.  In this match, Buddle’s team went up on a 27th minute goal by Stefan Leitl.  Shortly after halftime, Ronny König equalized for the opposition.  Buddle himself entered the game in the 61st minute, but there would be no further scoring.

Everton 1:1 Chelsea (29  Jan)

A most-exciting FA Cup match that saw the home side go ahead in the 62nd minute courtesy of Louis Saha.  I held my breath in hopes that Everton could hold or even extend their lead, but alas a Chelsea counterattack resulted in a Salomon Kalou goal 13 minutes later.  Everton seemed to be the better team on the field so it seems something of a wasted opportunity.  It’s going to be a tough replay at Stamford Bridge on 19 February.

Hercules 0:3 Barcelona (29 Jan)

Earlier this season Hercules shocked their hosts at Camp Nou with a 0:2 victory and hoped to upset the La Liga table leaders again in their home grounds.  Barcelona would have none of that and easily dispatched Hercules with a goal by Pedro just before the half and two goals by Lionel Messi in the final minutes.  The highlight of this game was watching with my three-year old son who pointed out things like “that guy fell down” and shouted “goaaaaaaaaaaal!” after Messi’s scores.

Melbourne Victory FC 2:0 Gold Coast United (30 Jan)

I was up late and couldn’t fall asleep so I tuned into some A-League soccer from Australia.  Melbourne is a sister city of Boston, so their teams have my support although for completely arbitrary reasons I’m drawn to the expansion club Melbourne Heart because they have more of an underdog status and the name Heart resonates more with me than the cocky Victory.  There’s also the fact that the captain of Victory is Manny Muscat, a brute of player serving an 8-game suspension for a vicious tackle.  Nevertheless, it was a Victory game that was on so that is what I watched.  The home side won on a hot day where the crowd was thin and hiding in the shade.  Both goals were scored by Danny Allsopp, a one-time DC United player.  The A-League seems to have a lot in common with the MLS.  It’s too bad our countries are so far apart because it would be fun to see an international cup match of some sort featuring North American and Australian teams.

Internazionale 3:2 Palermo (30 Jan)

Now this is some thrilling soccer!  An offensive spectacle and the lead changing hands over the course of the match.  The only thing wrong with is is that Inter ended up victorious as I like to see the mighty fall.  Palermo took the lead 5 minutes into the game thanks to Fabrizio Miccoli and then doubled their lead in the 36th minute Antonio Nocerino.  Inter were able to get one back with a Giampaolo Pazzini goal in the 56th minute.  The big turning point is when Javier Pastore took a penalty kick that would have put Palermo up 1:3 but had his shot blocked by Júlio César.  The momentum shifted to the home side who soon scored two goals in a matter of minutes: Pazzini (73′) and Samuel Eto’o (76′).  Still a great game though.

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Soccer Spectating Report 2-9 January

For the new year, I’m giving up coming up with a new, clever title each week for my soccer-blogging. With that said, let’s dive into the game reports:

Fulham 3:0 West Bromwich Albion (4 January 2011)

An entertaining match at Craven Cottage saw Fulham earn their first win at home since October and may be the best game thus far in the season.  Goals included a scorching long-range shot off the keeper’s hands by Simon Davies and very similar headers from a corner kick by the USA’s Clint Dempsey and Brede Hangeland.

Everton 2:1 Tottenham Hotspur (5 January 2011)

Speaking of best games of the seasons, Everton earned a very satisfying win at Goodison Park (first home win since October) against the 4th-place Spurs.  With Tim Cahill on international duty, Everton played two men up top with great success.  Louis Saha scored on a brilliant strike early in the first minutes of the match.  Van der Vaart equalized for Tottenham a few minutes later.  Things went back and forth with good chances for both sides until the 74th minute when a Saha shot rebounded off the keeper and Seamus Coleman headed it into the net.  Perhaps one of the most exciting moments of the EPL season for me thus far.

Palermo 3:0 Sampdoria (6 January 2011)

The flamingo-pink Sicilians dominated their Genoan guests with goals from captain Fabrizio Miccoli, Giulio Migliaccio, and Massimo Maccarone.  Not bad when facing one of Serie A’s strongest defenses.  And all that offense kept the ball from finding the back of their own net as well.

Scunthorpe United 1:5 Everton (8 January 2011)

I’ve never watched a FA Cup match before but I’d heard a lot of the lore.  I only caught a small portion of this game so if you went by what I saw (end of first half, beginning of second half) it was a 1-1  draw.  I like that the game was played in a tiny old-fashioned stadium that held a little more than 9,000 spectators (although it’s not as old as I thought as it was built in 1988).  It must be a real treat for fans in lower divisions to have Premier League teams come to visit, especially when the home side scores as Scunthorpe United did in the opening moments of the second half.  The rest of the match was all Everton and the Blues advance to the 4th round with a match at home against (gulp) Chelsea.

It was a good week for the teams I follow.  I’m beginning to see how football sets one up for false hopes and heartbreak.  After a big win against Tottenham Hotspur, I look at the table and see that Everton are only 10 points out of a spot in European competition.  A strong second half of the season and maybe just maybe.  Of course, Everton are also just five points above relegation.  I guess I didn’t realize that even if the same 3-4 teams always win that the rest of the pack stays pretty close together.

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The World of Soccer

A lot has happened since my last soccer update.

First, there was the draw for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.  The USA were drawn in Group C with Korea DPR, Sweden, and Colombia which looks like a tough group.  I expect the USA will probably advance, but I could see a scenario where they finish behind Sweden and North Korea as well.  Group A with the  hosts and two-time defending champions Germany, Canada, France, and Nigeria looks like a tough group as well.

The bigger news for many people was the announcement of the hosts for the men’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022.  I find myself have mixed reactions to the whole thing.

On the one hand, I was really hoping the World Cup would return to the US (and to a lesser extent I would have liked the Netherlands & Belgium to get a chance to host).  The USA, England, and some other bidders seemed much better prepared to host a World Cup than Russia and Qatar.  On the other hand, it’s good that countries that have never hosted the World Cup before to get a chance. And the World Cup is going to have great attendance and be a great success no matter where it is held.  Experienced fans will travel anywhere in the world, and new fans from those regions will have a chance to see the games. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of evidence of corruption in how FIFA awarded the bids.  Yet, corruption or not there is some virtue in the World Cup going from South Africa to Brazil to Russia to Qatar, about as four different places in the world as I can imagine and sign that this is a truly global event. Yet Qatar hasn’t yet built the stadiums and it could be 120 degrees in the summer.  Building a dozen new stadiums and air conditioning them doesn’t seem very economical.  But the plans for Qatar’s systems call for solar power of the air cooling system and the stadiums will be dismantled and donated to developing nations after the World Cup. Still it seems that countries with lots of money are being awarded as hosts rather than countries with a true love of the game.  So what, they have the money, let them spend it on creating a great stage for the world’s greatest sporting event.  Let the US spend money on player development.  Let developing nations spend on more important things than soccer. But Russia is a bastion of racism against black players and Qatar discriminates against Israelis and homosexuals.  This is a tough one to rationalize, but there is a case to be made for the World Cup being a way of pushing a progressive message through in these countries. So, I don’t know what to think, but I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Here are the games I’ve watched the past two weeks.

Barcelona 5:0 Real Madrid (29 November 2010)

Deep inside I have no real reason to hate Real Madrid or to support Barcelona, but damn if this wasn’t a satisfying result in the first El Classico I’ve ever watched.  It helped that Real’s Cristiano Ronald was a total brat in pushing Barça  Pep Guardiola for no apparent reason, while Barcelona played a beautiful game of passing and possession.  The goals for lovely too, my favorite being David Villa’s second goal through the keeper’s legs and then gently bouncing into the net.

Chelsea 1:1 Everton (4 December 2010)

After the Blues poor form through November and coming off a 1:4 home loss to West Brom, a trip to Stamford Bridge didn’t look to promising.  Luckily Everton put in a good performance against (an admittedly slumping) Chelsea strong on possession and attacking in the second half.  Jermain Beckford’s header to equalize in the 85th minutes was a lovely sight to see.

Arsenal 2:1 Fulham (4 December 2010)

For a loss to a top side, this was still a pretty impressive game for Fulham.  The goal by Diomansy Kamara in the 29th minute tied the score and Fulham had some good chances to go ahead even as Arsenal squandered some excellent chances of their own.  Unfortunately for Fulham, they were victims of the beautiful footwork and scoring of Samir Nasri and his two amazing goals.

Ajax 1:1 NEC Nijmegen (4 December 2010)

A tense and frustrating match saw Ajax go winless at home for the third straight game.  The disappointing season for Ajax resulted in head coach Martin Jol leaving the team after this game.

Napoli 1:0 Palermo (6 December 2010)

This was a low-scoring game but not for lack of trying as there was lots of end-to-end play with each side attacking well but meeting up with even better defending and some great saves by both goalkeepers.  The game nearly ended in a scoreless tie but for Christian Maggio’s last minute goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Barcelona 2:0 Rubin Kazan (7 December 2010)

Barça finished up Champions League group play (winning Group D) with a pretty easy win over the defensive Russian side.

AC Milan 0:2 Ajax (8 December 2010)

In their first match under their new coach and last match in Champions League play, Ajax had to try to earn a win in hopes of securing a spot in the Europa League.  Unexpectedly, the result was a satisfying road win at Milan with goals by Demy de Zeeuw and an awesome long range shot by Alderweireld.  Milan brought on former Ajax players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Clarence Seedorf, but didn’t have much fight in them.

Everton 0-0 Wigan (11 December 2010)

Ugh!  The less said about this match the better.  There’s no reason that Everton shouldn’t have won this game dominating play throughout.  To go scoreless defies belief.

Newcastle United 3-1 Liverpool (11 December 2010)

Not teams I would usually watch but I’ve made friends with a NUFC supporter on Tumblr and this game was on the tv at the James Gate pub when I went in for lunch.  I didn’t see the whole match but I did see Liverpool equalize early in the second half and then the impressive goals by Joey Barton and Andy Carroll to give the Magpies a deserved win.

 

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Thankful for Soccer

I had a busy week of travel for the Thanksgiving holiday but managed to watch a handful of soccer games live and via ESPN 3 replays.

South Africa 0:1 United States (17 Nov 2010)

Ah, the sweet, sweet sound of vuvuzelas.  The USMNT has played a lot of games in South Africa the past couple of years and returned for the Nelson Mandela Challenge.  It was a good opportunity to see a lot of youngsters as five players earned their first caps.  There were a number of great individual performances including Eric Lichaj, Brad Guzan (captaining from the goal) and of course Mikkel Diskerud (who provided a golden assist) and Juan Agudelo (who scored the lone goal).  At 17 years old Agudelo is the youngest player to score for the USA.  It’s a small sample size, but this game made me very happy about the future of our side.

Ajax 0:0 PSV (20 Nov 2010)

Ajax’s battle with PSV for the top of Eredivisie table was physical, gritty, and tense, but all the same it ended in a scoreless draw.  Ajax continues to struggle and have been winless in three straight Eredivisie matches. Also, in a game I missed on Tuesday, Real Madrid eliminated Ajax from Champions League contention.  Oh well, time to focus on the domestic league.

Italy 0:1 United States (20 Nov 2010)

Who’d have thunk that the Italian women’s football team also focuses on defensive play?  A fairly dull World Cup qualifying playoff match saw Italy and the US goalless through 90 minutes.  Then Alex Morgan (always Alex Morgan and her fresh young legs) scored in the 4th minute of stoppage time for the win.  Scoring a dramatic, last-minute goal to win the match?  Now the US women are playing like the US men.

Manchester City 4:1 Fulham (21 Nov 2010)

I didn’t watch this match with great attention but saw enough of Manchester City’s evisceration of Fulham at Craven Cottage to not be happy about it.

FC Dallas 1:2 (o.t.) Colorado Rapids (21 Nov 2010)

The unlikely MLS Cup contenders played a fairly entertaining match in Toronto.  David Ferreira’s first half goal was the scoring highlight of the game but also the only highlight for Dallas.  Rapids’ star Conor Casey equalized in the second-half after fighting for a rebound while laying on the ground.  The game winning goal in overtime Macomba Kandji made a good drive to the net and had his  shot deflect off of Dallas’ George John for an own goal and the win.

Everton 4:1 West Bromwich Albion (27 Nov 2010)

This seemed like a rerun of the Fulham-Manchester City match last week with the home side demolished by four goals and even playing a man down due to a red card.  Everton is looking pretty hopeless these days as they are winless for November (and they kick off December at Stamford Bridge).

United States 1:0 Italy (27 Nov 2010)

Amy Rodriguez provided the goal in Chicago to give the US women a 2-0 aggregate win over Italy and the final spot in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.  Pia Sundhage was not happy with her team’s play and after the matches against Italy & Mexico (not to mention friendlies versus China and Sweden) it looks like the team needs to get it’s act together if it hopes to contend for the World Cup championship.

Palermo 3:1 Roma (28 Nov 2010)

Thanks to a profile of young Argentinian star Javier Pastore on Cheeky Chip, I’ve finally found a Serie A team I want to follow and that is the Sicilian side Unione Sportiva Città di Palermo.  The flamingo pink side joyfully defeated Roma in a battle for the 6th spot in the Serie A table and are in striking distance of moving further up the table next week.

There’s an exciting week coming up including El Classico at Camp Nou, the draw for the Women’s World Cup, and the announcement of the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 (Go USA!)

 

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Socceraholic

I’ve been watching a lot of games lately, and the games keep on coming.  So many leagues, so many competitions.  I’m going to need a break.

Canada 1:0 Mexico (8 November 2010):

The final of the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup was a bit anti-climactic as both sides had already earned a spot in the 2011 Women’s World Cup through their wins in the semi-finals.  Host nation and giant-killers Mexico returned to Earth after eliminating the United States. Canadian captain Christine Sinclair scored the only goal after her side was awarded a penalty kick on a handball in the box.  As I noted in my last post, I look forward to these two nations representing North America in the World Cup (with the US hopefully joining them) and the continued improvement of competition in women’s soccer worldwide.

Chelsea 1:0 Fulham (10 November 2010):

While others tuned into the Manchester Derby, I was drawn to the less-heralded West London Derby which I imagine is a one-sided affair akin to William & Mary’s athletic rivalry with University of Virginia (that is Chelsea and Virginia are indifferent to those who want to be rivals with them).  Playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea have not lost or even conceded a goal in Premiership play this season was a mighty challenge for Fulham.  Impressively, Fulham put a lot of pressure on Chelsea and controlled the ball for long periods of time with a goal seeming due any moment.  Sadly, it did not come, but I believe that Fulham wore Chelsea down for their match with Sunderland on Saturday.

Everton 1:1 Bolton (10 November 2010):

Here’s a game that can be looked at in two ways.  On the one hand Everton played a great game, controlling the run of play and putting a lot of pressure on the Bolton goal.  Bolton’s only really good moment was the classic counterattack that lead to their goal.  Everton should have really scored a goal or two an won this game, so the end result is rather disappointing.  On the other, after going down 0-1 in the 78th minute and then losing a player to a red card in the 84th minute, I’d pretty much resigned myself to an Everton loss.  Jermaine Beckford’s dramatic goal in the third minute of stoppage time was a pleasant surprise that salvaged a point from the match.

FC Barcelona 3:1 Villareal CF (13 November 2010):

Another exciting game featuring Barça’s attacking style as they faced a rival for one of the top spots in La Liga.  David Villa and Lionel Messi (2) scored to lead Barcelona to an important victory.

Colorado 1:0 San Jose (13 November 2010):

The MLS  “Eastern” Conference Championship was one by one of the most exciting goals I’ve seen in my soccer-watching experiment.  At first, I thought the goal was scored by Omar Cummings  on a brilliant assist by Kosuke Kimura, but it turns out that Cummings never touched the ball and at best distracted Earthquakes’ goalkeeper Jon Busch as Kimura’s shot rolled in.  That was enough to send Colorado to the MLS Cup Final for the first time since 1997.

AZ Alkmaar 2:0 Ajax (14 November 2010):

Ajax played a road match in Alkmaar,  a city I totally wanted to visit on my recent trip to the Netherlands because of their famed cheese market.  The teams slogged through the rain with neither side getting their passing side started or managing a good shot on goal for much of the match.  AZ (pronounced Ah-Zed by the English commentator) scored at the 74th minute and put the death knell in the 89th minute with Ajax looking pretty much anemic in return.  This disappointing loss was the second straight in Eredivisie play.

Los Angeles 0:3 FC Dallas (14 November 2010):

I have a bias against Los Angeles and LA sports teams in general, and against the LA Galaxy in particular due to their frequent MLS success (especially two MLS Cup victories at the expense of New England).  So I admit a certain bit of schadenfreude seeing FC Dallas not just defeat, but also embarrass, the Galaxy in the Western Conference Final.  Now we should see two good teams in the MLS Cup Final with no “stories” other than the fact that the Eastern Conference champion is from a city 8° longitude west of the Western Conference champion’s hometown.  Sports in the USA have never been strong on geography.

Speaking of the MLS cup, I was listening to the a recent A Football Report podcast and the MLS playoff format was discussed.  The European commentators were pretty much dismissive of the American playoff system emphasizing that the team that plays best over the course of a long season.  A fair point and there is much I like about the European way of doing things but I also find it anticlimactic to end a season without a championship game or series.

I’m probably going way behind my ken, but I thought up a system for the MLS that would reward the best team(s) of the regular season while still having an exciting playoff system.  This concept assumes that the MLS will expand to 20 clubs by 2012 and at that point I’d divide them into two geographical conferences of 10 teams each (listed below).  There would be no inter-conference play and thus each team would face one another 4 times (2 home/2 away) for a total of 36 regular season games.

The advantages of two ten-team conferences include:

  • Encouraging regional rivalries
  • Allowing for fans to travel to more away matches.  While I never expect this to be as big a factor as it is in Europe, I would say that a diehard Red Bulls supporter, for example, would be able to go to more games in New England, Philadelphia, and Washington than in Seattle and San Jose.
  • Increase the draw for CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup, North American SuperLiga, and Canadian Championship matches due to the novelty of teams from the two conferences facing one another.
  • Reduce wear and tear on players traveling long-distance.  European players have complained about the long road trips necessary in the United States, so perhaps more players from abroad would be attracted to playing in the MLS.
  • And it would probably save on travel expenses.  MLS could even tout it as a green initiative.

The top 3 teams would qualify for the playoffs for a total of 6 teams (down from the currently overgenerous 8).  In the conference semifinals the top-ranked teams would earn a by while the 2nd and 3rd place teams faced one another in home-away aggregate goal series.  The winners of the semifinals would face the first place teams in a one-game conference championship hosted by the first place team.  The conference champions would then play the MLS Cup Final at a neutral location.

Probably a crazy idea, but I think it would be more fair and entertaining than the current system.  Of course, what would really make it work would be if the MLS developed a second division either through expansion or collaboration with the new NASL and begin a promotion/relegation system but I think that’s a long way off, if ever.

Eastern Conference

  • Chicago Fire
  • Columbus Crew
  • D.C. United
  • Kansas City Wizards
  • Montreal Impact
  • New England Revolution
  • New York Red Bulls
  • Philadelphia Union
  • Toronto FC
  • 2012 Expansion Team (New York / Detroit ?)

Western Conference

  • C.D. Chivas USA
  • Colorado Rapids
  • F.C. Dallas
  • Houston Dynamo
  • Los Angeles Galaxy
  • Portland Timbers
  • Real Salt Lake
  • San Jose Earthquakes
  • Seattle Sounders F.C.
  • Vancouver Whitecaps F.C.

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