MLS Preview: Week 6

For the second time this season—and in league history—every MLS team will be in action on the same day, as eight games kick off tomorrow.

But while all the teams will be playing, not all of their key players will see the field as an injury bug has swept the league.

In tomorrow’s first game, the MetroBulls (4-1-0) travel to D.C. United (0-4-0) to take on a Red-and-Black side with no less than seven guys dinged up—defenders Marc Burch, Dejan Jakovic, and Bryan Namoff are all out, along with striker Chris Pontius, while defenders Juan Manuel Pena and Barry Rice and midfielder Clyde Simms are listed as probable.

If the Red Bulls—who are missing injured striker Macoumba Kandji—are going to get their first win in 10 tries (0-8-2) at RFK Stadium, now is the time to do it. TV: MSG/TeleFutura, 4:00 p.m. EST.

New England (2-3-0), which has lost two in a row, hosts FC Dallas (0-1-3), and will do so without striker Taylor Twellman, goalkeeper Matt Reis, and midfielder and team linchpin Shalrie Joseph, who checked into the league’s substance abuse program this weekTV: Fox Sports New England/MLS Direct Kick, 7:30

Houston (2-2-1) welcomes surprising Kansas City, which has given up just one goal while going 2-1-1. The Dynamo is missing forward Brian Ching (hamstring) and midfielder Geoff Cameron (torn PCL). Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad is listed as questionable with a calf strain. Can Houston D.P. Luis Landin (finally) step up? His injury-wracked team needs him to. TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 8:30

Chivas USA (2-3-0) travels to Toyota Park to take on Chicago (2-2-1) in a battle of two teams that have shown flashes of great potential but have yet to find their identity. The Goats could debut their new Costa Rican attacker Jose Macotelo, 24, who signed today. TV: MLS Direct Kick, 8:30

The defending champs, Real Salt Lake (1-3-2), will look to shake their slow start as they take on Toronto FC (2-3-0) at Rio Tinto Stadium. Toronto is coming off its best performance of the season, a 2-0 win over Seattle, and midfielder Dwayne De Rosario is in great form. But RSL playmaker Javier Morales and striker Robbie Findley are both rounding into match fitness after recent knocks, and they are bound to make life difficult for the Reds’ backline, which has given up 10 goals in five games. TV: MLS Direct Kick, 9:00

Colorado (3-1-1) will try to pick up its third road win of the year when it travels to Buck Shaw Stadium to face the San Jose Earthquakes, who’ve shown some life since their terrible 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake in the season opener. They could welcome back midfielder Arturo Alvarez from the disabled list for this one. But Colorado, with Omar Cummings and Conor Casey in attack, and Pablo Mastroeni in midfield, may be too much for the young Quakes. TV: MLS Direct Kick, 10:00

Seattle Sounders FC (2-2-2) has played more games than any club—with half of them away, including the last two in a tough four-day road trip. They will be happy to get back to the home cooking of a rocking Qwest Field, even if their opponents, Columbus (2-0-1) will be no pushover. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has willed the Crew to its current record with three goals and an assist, but the team will need striker Steven Lenhart (goalless in 2010) and midfielder Eddie Gaven to contribute as well if they are to get points against their old coach Sigi Schmid and Seattle on the road. TV: MLS Direct Kick, 10:30

The L.A. Galaxy (4-0-1) has given up just one goal all year while scoring seven, and even though defenders Sean Franklin and Leonardo, midfielders Eddie Lewis and Dema Kovalenko, and striker Clint Mathis are all listed as questionable due to injuries, they should have enough to down visiting expansion team Philadelphia (1-3-0). Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Juninho could turn this one into a rout. Especially given the fact that Philly’s top scorer, Sebastian Le Toux (four goals), injured his knee in U.S. Open Cup play on Tuesday and is listed as questionable. TV: MLS Direct Kick, 10:30

Advertisements

Clint Dempsey, Fulham Advance to Europa League Final

Just two and a half years ago, Fulham was on the brink of relegation from the Premier League. Yesterday, the Cottagers advanced to the Europa League final, defeating Hamburg 2-1 in their semifinal second leg.

That Roy Hodgson hiring has worked out quite nicely.

Fulham will face Atletico Madrid in the final on May 12 in Hamburg.

U.S. attacker Clint Dempsey came on for Bobby Zamora in the 57th minute yesterday and played the rest of the game. If Dempsey plays against Atletico on May 12, he’ll become the first American ever to appear in a major European final.

Current L.A. Galaxy and former U.S. striker Jovan Kirovski was a member of the 1997 Borussia Dortmund team that won the Champions League, but he did not play in the final. And according to our crack team of researchers (hat-tip to Rich), there were two former U.S internationals (Thomas Dooley and David Wagner) on the Schalke O4 team that defeated none other than Roy Hodgson and Inter Milan on penalties in the 1997 UEFA Cup final. But neither of those Yanks played in the title game.

In addition to Kirovski, there have been eight Americans involved in the Champions League, but none of them reached the final. DaMarcus Beasley got to the semis with PSV Eindhoven in 2005.

In yesterday’s game, Fulham fell behind in the 20th minute, then got a terrific goal from Simon Davies to pull even in the 69th minute before Zoltan Gera scored the winner off a corner kick scramble six minutes later.

Here are the highlights, moderated by an Eastern European crew in desperate need of coffee:

New U.S. Home Shirt Unveiled; Coach Bob Bradley Speaks

It’s deadline-time in day-job land, so that means slim pickings here at Backpost, sorry to say. But hey, look! It’s the new U.S. national team home jersey.

Not bad. We prefer it to the navy away shirt, and the red alternate. Also: it’s made from recycled plastic bottles (really). So it’s got that going for it.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley traveled to New York City for the unveiling, and he spoke extensively to the media, covering just about every major issue associated with the team, with six weeks to go before the June 12 World Cup opener against England, and less than two weeks before he selects his preliminary roster.

Here are Bradley’s comments on in-form American strikers Edson Buddle (seven goals in five games for the L.A. Galaxy this season) and Herculez Gomez (league-leading 10 goals in the 2010 Mexican Clausura), courtesy of Ives Galarcep:

Buddle

“The easy thing to see so far this year is he’s scored some incredible goals. That actually fits if you look over Edson’s career. As a young striker in the league, his talent came through based upon his ability at times to score some great goals, a variety of goals. Goals where he dribbled, goals with his head.

“That part is not new, but it’s been there of late. There’s been a lot of maturing that has taken place in less obvious ways. He seems to be doing a lot of little things that make a difference for his team.”

Gomez

“Herculez we had in in Copa America in 2007 following the Gold Cup when we had almost an entirely different team. We all know, if you go back to his beginnings in MLS, his first year was a year where he came into the scene in LA and what you would say is everything that he touched went into the net. His pure ability to strike a ball was pretty obvious.

“That’s kind of come back a little bit at Puebla.

“Even in the games where he was, a lot of these games he was just a sub, but he came on the field and now a certain ball would pop loose and the next thing you know he’d latch on to it and score a great goal.

“You try to assess those things and project, or factor, or ask yourself what it’s like when the games get better, are enough other pieces of the equation that fit, and see.”

Click here to watch Bradley’s chat with ESPN, and here for the rest of Galarcep’s report on the New York press conference.

Sacha Kljestan Scores Golazo, Debuts ‘King of Comedy’ Mustache: MLS Week 5 Wrap

The game of the week from MLS Week 5 was the Chivas USA-San Jose Earthquakes tilt at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night.

The Goats took it 3-2, halting the Quakes’ two-game winning streak, and the match had a little bit of everything—four great goals, a budding Name Hall of Fame candidate in Chivas USA’s Chukwudi Chijindu, and a referee, Edvin Jurisevic, who looked like Thom Yorke.

It also had Chivas USA’s Sacha Kljestan getting +2 for a great overall performance and an excellent goal, and -1 for having a mustache like Rupert Pupkin’s.

Here are the highights:

On to the other games:

RBNY 2, Philadelphia 1: We attended this one, and when we stepped off the train into a steady procession of chanting, singing, insult-slinging Union fans, we thought, All right, there’s going to be some atmosphere today.

Not quite: the Union fans were herded into the upper deck, which they had pretty much to themselves, and it turned out there were only a few hundred of them.

Total attendance was just over 15,000, and while the crowd was lively, it should have been bigger, especially when you consider that it was 68 degrees and sunny at kickoff.

In any case, RBNY won the game, thanks to a 67th-minute handball in the box by the Union’s Michael Orozco. It was the second straight week that the Red Bulls scored a winning goal from the spot (both by Juan Pablo Angel).

They are now 4-1, and one win away from equaling their victory total from last season—yet they’re still not dominating games.

On the plus side, new forward Salou Ibrahim got his first goal, and new winger Brian Nielsen, whose paperwork was finalized the day before the game, got the start and showed some promise. He nearly set up a goal on his first sequence with the team, stripping a Union player, getting sprung down the left and sending in a dangerous cross. Watch the highlights here.

Columbus 1, Real Salt Lake 0: Guillermo Barros Schelotto buried a penalty to pip the defending champs—who are 1-3-1 out of the gate in 2010—in front of 14, 322 at Crew Stadium.

Colorado 2, New England 1: This one, played in front of a paltry 8,142 at Gillette Stadium, put up a strong challenge to the Chivas-San Jose matchup for game of the week: Three great goals, including a 73rd-minute rocket of a winner from Pablo Matroeni.

Also: Colorado’s new Man City–style unis, decent target-forward work from Conor Casey, and a bicycle kick off the bar by Mehdi Ballouchy. Click here for the highlights.

Chicago 2, Houston 0: A chippy one in front of 11,312 at foggy Toyota Park. There were 10 yellow cards and two reds—all in the second half—and sadly, a season-ending injury to Dynamo midfielder Geoff Cameron, who tore his right PCL. Baggio Husidic and Peter Lowry got the goals. Highlights here

Kansas City 0, Los Angeles 0: White-hot Galaxy forward Edson Buddle was held scoreless, and so was Kansas City’s Kei Kamara, despite being presented with the Mother of All Sitters in the 16th minute. Kamara somehow whiffed at the ball as it bounced softly on the LA goal line. Watch it here. Attendance: 10,045.

Toronto 2, Seattle 0: Dwayne De Rosario had a goal and an assist to lead Toronto to its second win of the year and pick up the MLS Player of the Week award. A typically healthy crowd of 18,392 turned up at BMO Field.

Spector Shaky in Crucial West Ham Win

It wasn’t as bad as his U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore’s game against Sunderland, but Jonathan Spector’s performance in West Ham’s must-win game with Wigan on Saturday was not one he’ll want to remember.

He scored an own goal in the opening minutes—putting his team behind the eight-ball four minutes into the critical relegation game—and was yellow-carded for a foul in a dangerous spot in the second half, with his team clinging to a 2-2 scoreline.

Spector also struggled to contain speedy Wigan winger Charles N’Zogbia for much of the game.

Fortunately for the Yank defender, his gaffes faded to the background as West Ham won the game 3-2 on goals by Ilan, Radoslav Kovac and a scorching 76th-minute winner by Scott Parker.

When Liverpool blitzed 19th-place Burnley 4-0 on Sunday, West Ham had clinched another season in the top flight.

Here is a Parker highlight reel, including Saturday’s season-saver:

Altidore Goes Out with a Bang, then a Tweet

Jozy Altidore was red-carded in first-half stoppage time of Hull City’s game against Sunderland on Saturday. The 20-year-old U.S. striker head-butted Sunderland right back Alan Sutton after Sutton threw the ball at him following a scuffle for possession.

According to Sunderland coach Steve Bruce, the blow left Sutton with a broken nose, a chipped tooth and a cut above his eye. Sutton was also red-carded in the incident.

Needless to say, this was not the way Altidore wanted to go out in the Tigers’ biggest game of the year—they ended up losing 1-0 on a seventh-minute goal by Darren Bent and are now effectively relegated. To stay up, Hull City would need to not only win its last two games while West Ham loses its last two, but also somehow engineer a 23-goal swing in goal differential in the process.

In other words, the Tigers are done in the Premier League.

And after his performance, the on-loan Altidore may be done at Hull. On Sunday, he apologized via twitter; click here for the text.

He no doubt realizes he made a mistake and how much more costly it would have been if Sutton hadn’t also been sent off, but the incident casts doubts on his credentials as the top (healthy) striker in the U.S. national team pool. World Cup opponents will no doubt keep this incident in mind when they face Altidore in South Africa.

Yanks In England: Weekend Preview

There’s a rip-roaring slate of games on tap this weekend as the season barrels toward the finish line with the title, the relegation battle, and European places all hanging in the balance. Let’s get right to it:

Second-place Manchester United travels to fourth-place Tottenham on Saturday with a chance to jump to the top of the table—at least until current leader Chelsea hosts Stoke City on Sunday. 

But both United and Tottenham have lost just once in their last six games, and Tottenham will be battling to hold on to the final Champions League spot. Not an easy game for the Red Devils, and they may have to deal with ultra-speedy winger Aaron Lennon, who appears ready to make an appearance for Spurs for the first time in four months.

At the other end of the table, U.S. defender Jonathan Spector and West Ham host Wigan, while Yank striker Jozy Altidore and Hull City welcome Sunderland.

The Tigers will be without Jan Venegoor of Hesselink, who was knocked unconscious after a collision in Wednesday’s loss to Aston Villa. That could mean Altidore gets the start. Hull fans would love to see him repeat the relegation-struggle heroics of fellow Yanks like Brian McBride, or Clint Dempsey:

Hull is in 18th place, three points below West Ham, and both teams will be keeping an eye on 19th-place Burnley’s matchup with Liverpool on Sunday. Burnley trails Hull by a point.

U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann and 16th-place Wolves host 12th-place Blackburn on Saturday. Here is Wolverhampton manager Mick McCarthy on his team’s status, after last week’s scoreless tie against Fulham:

“I don’t think we’re there yet, but games are running out and we have taken another point. We still have important games left. This is silly season. Results are strange this time of year and I don’t want any silly results that might upset us.”

Here that Wolves? As the nihilists in The Big Leboswki would say, “No funny shtuff.”

Other Yanks in action this weekend include Brad Friedel, who will backstop Aston Villa as they host Birmingham City and try to keep their Champions League hopes alive; and Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey, who will square off as Fulham plays Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. Everton trails Merseyside rival Liverpool by five points in the race for seventh place and the final Europa League berth.

U.S. winger Stuart Holden is still recovering from a broken leg suffered in March, and will sit out Bolton’s meeting with Portsmouth at the Reebok on Saturday.

That leaves one game, and it’s a big one: Arsenal hosting Manchester City on Saturday, with Man City just two points behind Tottenham in the race for fourth.

Here is the U.S. TV schedule (all times EST):

SATURDAY, April 24

Tottenham v Manchester United, 7:30 am., ESPN2

West Ham v Wigan, 10:00 a.m., Fox Soccer Channel (FSC)


Hull City v Sunderland, 10:00 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus


Arsenal v Manchester City, 12:30 p.m., FSC

Bolton v Portsmouth, 4:00 p.m. (delay) Fox Soccer Plus

Wolverhampton v Blackburn, 5:00 p.m. (delay), FSC

SUNDAY, April 25



Aston Villa v Birmingham City, 7:00 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus

Burnley v Liverpool, 10:00 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus

Chelsea v Stoke City, 11:00 a.m., FSC

Enjoy the games.