Bradley Re-Ups with U.S.

U.S. Soccer announced today that coach Bob Bradley has re-signed for four more years, quashing rumors that he was headed to Aston Villa, or a job in Scandinavia, or to an MLS side.

Nope—Bradley will stay right where he is, much to the chagrin of the Big Soccer pundits, and to the surprise of most observers following his post–W0rld Cup status. All signs seemed to be pointing to his departure—possibly by mutual consent.

Reports of a recent meeting between U.S. Soccer honcho Sunil Gulati and former German coach Jürgen Klinsmann only fueled the speculation.

But here he is, back on the job until 2014.

Many, many fans will do so, but it’s hard to argue with the re-hiring of a coach who went  38-20-8 overall, won the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, got his team to the 2009 Confederation Cup final, won his World Cup qualifying group, and topped Group C in South Africa 2010.

We’ll have more on this (and on the weekend’s MLS and Premier League clashes, btw) after tomorrow’s press conference officially announcing Bradley’s contract extension.

Seattle Falls to Monterrey; MLS Teams Go 0-4 in Second Round of CCL Group Play

Monterrey upended Seattle 2-0 at Qwest Field last night to send MLS teams to an 0-4 mark in the second round of CONCACAF Champions League group play, after the U.S. sides had gone 3-1 in the first round.

Here are the highlights:

Seattle keeper Kasey Keller appeared to be at fault on the first goal, mistiming a challenge off his line when he might’ve been better off staying put.

The Seattle backline was caught napping on goal number two.

Sounders FC stepped it up in the second half, eventually outshooting Monterrey 17-7, but they couldn’t find the net.

MLS sides resume CCL group play in September.

Click here for the current group standings.

Real Salt Lake Drops Preposterous 5-4 Decision to Cruz Azul

We burned through five headlines to this post in the waning moments of tonight’s completely insane CONCACAF Champions League clash between Real Salt Lake and Cruz Azul in Mexico City.

Here they are:

1. Real Salt Lake Overcomes Elements, Cruz Azul, to Make History with 3-1 win (80th minute)

2. Real Salt Lake Implodes, Blows 3-1 lead in Rainstorm to Tie 3-3 (88th minute)

3. Real Salt Lake Melts Down, Blows 3-1 lead in Rainstorm to Lose 4-3 (89th minute)

4. Real Salt Lake Escapes with Absurd 4-4 tie (92nd minute!)

5. See Top. (93rd-plus minute. Sigh.)

Yep. That happened.

In case the frenzied rewrites above are not enough to piece this unhinged game together, here’s a brief recap:

We heard the weather might be a factor in this one, and “factor” turned out to be a huge understatement.

The conditions were almost unplayable: driving rain left huge pools of standing water in midfield by halftime, and the second half was delayed by the conditions. Routine passes bogged down, the footing was Boogie Board-esque.

Real Salt Lake had an early goal dubiously called back, and Cruz Azul opened the scoring directly after that, with Javier Orozco finding the net in the fifth minute.

No matter for RSL fans: Alvaro Saborio equalized from the spot 18 minutes later, and then, just before halftime, Saborio pounced on a waterlogged backpass to the Cruz Azul keeper, rounded him, and punched it into the open net. Emphasis on “punched”—Saborio made sure his finish didn’t stall in the muck.

Halftime: Real Salt Lake 2, Cruz Azul 1

When Fabian Espindola scored in the 64th minute to make it 3-1, it seemed that CONCACAF history was in RSL’s—and MLS’s—grasp.

Sure, Orozco pulled one back in the 75th, but Real Salt Lake still led 3-2 as the game rounded the 80th minute and steamed toward 90….

Just two minutes left ….

And that was when Orozco buried his third, and Real Salt Lake’s chance to make history evaporated.

Before RSL fans could process that development, things went from bad to worse: Orozco struck a fourth. Cruz Azul 4, RSL, 3.

What. T….F….?

But wait! Will Johnson bagged a stoppage-time equalizer, 92nd minute! 4-4.

RSL would get a point out of this after all.

The RSL players dogpiled on the sideline in celebration, but the good feeling did not last long: Cruz Azul’s Christian Gimenez bagged the unlikeliest of winners just moments after the re-start.

So, to recap: Four goals in the final five minutes transformed a 3-2 RSL lead into a 5-4 loss.

Real Salt Lake Enters NAFTA Portion of Schedule

Defending MLS champions Real Salt Lake are in Mexico City tonight for a CONCACAF Champions League game against Cruz Azul.

When the final whistle blows, they’ll pack up and hop a plane to Canada for Saturday’s MLS tilt against Toronto FC.

It’s a tough stretch (they also host rising MLS contenders New York the following Saturday), and tonight, in the smog and altitude of Mexico City, the odds are stacked against them, monumentally.

As Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune points out, the U.S. national team is 0-23-1** on Mexican soil, and MLS teams are 0-19-2.

That’s a combined record of futility of 0-42-3 for Gringo outfits South of the Border.

Yikes.

We wouldn’t lay money for RSL to break the skein tonight, but then again, we said the same thing about Columbus last night, and a plucky mix of starters and reserves very nearly got the job done.

There are other reasons to think RSL could make history, according to James Edward of the Deseret News:

“Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast throughout the day in Mexico City, and a slippery surface may hinder Cruz Azul’s ability to show off its tremendous technical ability. Rain may also clear up Mexico City’s notorious pollution.

“Altitude shouldn’t be a big issue, either, at least compared to other MLS teams. Estadio Azul is an estimated 7,400 feet above sea level, but Real Salt Lake does most of its training at 4,500 feet at Xango Field in Lehi.”

Coach Jason Kreis has also intimated that he may go for it down there, and not rest the bulk of his starters.

So who knows—it could happen.

Seattle Sounders FC are also in CCL action tonight, hosting Mexican side Monterrey at Qwest Field.

Fox Soccer Channel, God bless ’em, has both games—Cruz Azul-RSL at 8:00 p.m. EST, and Seattle-Monterrey at 10:00.

**That one tie—which then coach Steve Sampson called “a golden point”—came in a 1997 World Cup qualifier at the dreaded Azteca Stadium.

The U.S. was down a man for most of the game, but battled and hustled its way to a 0-0 draw, probably the most satisfying 0-0 draw we have ever witnessed.

We remember Chris Henderson, who was famous for his off-the-charts fitness levels, charging tirelessly up and down the wings in the smoggy altitude of Mexico City.

By the end, the 100,000-plus home fans were cheering the visitors.

Andy Iro Disallowed Goal: Update, Sort Of

Major League Soccer’s website published an article this afternoon headlined “Official Ref Report Explains Iro’s Disallowed Goal” and reading, in part:

“According to the official referee post-match report, Emilio Rentería entered the field without permission and was eventually booked for that infraction. Law No. 3 from the Laws of the Game (page 60) says that when a player comes onto the field without permission, the game is stopped and the opposing team receives an indirect kick.”

But the article does not directly quote from the official report or link to it, so there are still some unanswered questions, some of which are discreetly brought up by commenters on the MLS site (see link above) and the Columbus Crew team site (see here).

Chief among these are:

  1. Video replay suggests that Renteria got clearance to re-enter the game from the fourth official (clearly) and possibly from the referee in the center of the field (Fox commentator Brian Dunseth noted this during the broadcast). Renteria is an experienced player who knows better than to re-enter the field willy-nilly. Doesn’t the fault lie with the officiating team for not coordinating better?
  2. Why did the Columbus Crew say they were initially informed the play was ruled offside?
  3. Where does the ‘numberless jersey’ fit into the whole mess?

We may never know, but hey, at least they didn’t go all Koman Coulibaly (and FIFA) and give us the silent treatment.

Progress?

Why Was Andy Iro’s Goal Disallowed? Offside? Improper Uniform? Chupacabra?

Check out the highlights of the Columbus-Santos Laguna CONCACAF Champions League game in Torreon, Mexico, last night, and see if you can tell:

At the start of the clip, Columbus striker Emilio Renteria takes an elbow to the head at the top of the box, and comes up bleeding. He goes to the sideline for treatment and a change of shirt (as required by the rules).

His new shirt has no number, but, as you can see in the clip, he checks with the fourth official to make sure he can re-enter the game.

After getting the ok, he takes a re-start from Duncan Oughton and swings in a perfect cross that Andy Iro heads home.

But the Santos Lagunas camp launches a protest, and a few minutes later, the goal is not only disallowed but Renteria is also shown a yellow card.

The Crew asked for a reason and were told it was offside (then why the yellow?); CONCACAF’S official verdict is that the shirt wasn’t numbered (then why was he allowed back on?).

A third explanation cannot be discounted: it may have been the Chupacabra of CONCACAF competition, which has been reportedly sighted before and allegedly preys upon Northern visitors to Central America, sucking away points with dubious refereeing decisions.

Some claim to have glimpsed it last night in Panama, where Arabe Unido edged Toronto FC 1-0, in a game that saw two red cards (both for Toronto). You can see the highlights to that one—which was not easy on the eyes—here.

But the Columbus game was an entertaining affair, and the undermanned Crew—which started both Oughton (who has played exactly 41 minutes in MLS this year), Dilly Duka (15 minutes) and backup keeper Andy Gruenebaum (zero minutes; and he was excellent yesterday, making six saves)—fought valiantly for 90-plus minutes until Ivan Estrada‘s last-gasp winner broke their hearts and they lost 1-0.

They deserved better (and we would have happily eaten crow if they’d gotten three points).

The loss runs MLS’s record in Mexico to 0-19-2.

CONCACAF Champions League: Can Crew Break MLS Duck in Mexico?

If the Columbus Crew is to make history tonight by becoming the first MLS team ever to win a competitive game on Mexican soil, it will have to do so without Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall, and Danny O’Rourke.

That trio of starters will sit out the Crew’s second CCL group-stage game, against Santos Laguna, to rest up for a key league tilt against surging FC Dallas on Saturday.

The pick here is … no chance. The Crew minus Schelotto and Marshall is, well, we’re not going to disparage the rest of their lineup—which includes U.S. internationals Freddie Hejduk and Eddie Gaven—but the loss of their playmaker and their defensive anchor (and biggest threat on set pieces) is going to be too much to overcome against tonight’s opponent, which currently sits in first place in its group in the Mexican top flight.

No, Columbus is not making history this evening, and in fact it could get ugly.

In tonight’s other CCL game, Toronto FC will try to shake off its 4-1 pasting at the hands of New York on Saturday (the Reds’ first home loss in a season and a half) and get a result in Panama against Arabe Unido.

Fox Soccer Channel has both games, at 8:00 and 10:00 EST.