Colorado 4, Philadelphia 1: Omar Cummings Not Long for MLS?

The Colorado Rapids have already turned down a transfer offer for striker Omar Cummings, from Mexican club Necaxa, and we’d say it’s a good bet they can expect more—and more lucrative—offers in the winter market.

The Jamaican international hit two for the Rapids last night in a 4-1 romp over expansion side Philadelphia at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The double gives him 12 goals for the season and six in four September games, good enough to win the MLS Player of the Month award.

Cummings is certainly on a roll, but last night, he also benefitted from some AYSO-style defending by the Union.

Eight minutes into the game, Macoumba Kandji (in for the suspended Conor Casey) took a pass from right back Kosuke Kimura and attacked down the right side. When Philly defender Michael Orozco-Fiscal backed waaaay off him at the edge of the box, the lanky Rapids striker used the space to center the ball for Cummings, loosely marked in front of goal. He lunged and poked a shot inside the far post.

Just seven minutes later, Cummings was left free at the back post and did well to adjust his body to volley home Jamie Smith’s corner for a 2-0 lead.

Wells Thompson added a goal off a rebound in the 68th minute and substitute Quincy Amarikwa took a pass from Kandji to score the fourth in the 86th minute.

Eighteen-year-old Jack McInerny pulled one back for the Union right at the end, but it was cold comfort for Philly, which was coming off one of its best performances of the year, a 3-0 rout of Chivas USA last Saturday.

The result, Colorado’s fifth straight win at home, puts the Rapids closer to their first playoff appearance in four years, and drops Philadelphia 12 points off the postseason pace with four games to play.

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Freddie Comes Alive: Chicago 3, San Jose 0

Freddie Ljungberg scored a brilliant goal and assisted on two others to lead Chicago to an unexpected 3-0 win at San Jose’s Buck Shaw Stadium last night.

While the game represented a chance for Chicago to keep its playoff hopes—best described as “slim,” or “mathematical”—alive, the more inviting opportunity, it seemed, was for the Earthquakes, playing at home, to bury the Fire with a win and take a big step closer to clinching a berth themselves.

The opening moments of the game reinforced this perception: San Jose had the bit between its teeth and dominated the Fire with crisp passing and sharper movement.

But when the Fire scored against the run of play, on a header by Elon University [!] alum Steven Kinney off a Ljungberg corner kick, the momentum shifted drastically. Like someone had hydraulically jacked up Chicago’s end of the field, tipping the play toward San Jose’s end.

In the 72nd minute, Ljungberg sliced through the San Jose D with a beautiful touch, then coolly finished with a chip into the far side-netting. Very classy goal.

The Fire completed the rout in stoppage time with a goal by Patrick Nyarko, assisted by Ljungberg and Brian McBride, who came on in the 90th minute.

What’s up with that, Chicago coach Carlos de los Cobos? You put McBride—U.S. Soccer icon, a man with a pub named after him at Fulham—into a 2-0 game in stoppage time?

McBride responded to the unusual decision by almost immediately setting up the third goal, springing Ljungberg on the byline to cross for Nyarko.

Chicago’s postseason hopes remain slim—they’re 10 points behind eighth-place San Jose with five games to play—but they’re not out yet.

CCL: Real Salt Lake Clinches Quarterfinal Berth

You have to like the way Real Salt Lake is conducting business this season.

Coach Jason Kreis rested a number of starters for this past weekend’s MLS tilt with Colorado because he wanted to have his first-choice lineup ready to go for the CONCACAF Champions League game against Toronto FC last night.

A win or a tie against Toronto and RSL was through to the CCL quarters.

As Kreis said:

“We don’t want to go into the last match at Cruz Azul needing a result. We’re going to put all of our cards on the table for [the Toronto CCL game]. We feel like the that’s the one that we have to get a result in, and wrap up this Champions League stuff so that we can then turn our attention back to the Supporters’ Shield and the playoffs.”

That second-string lineup mustered a tie against Colorado over the weekend—gaining ground in MLS on the Galaxy, which lost—and last night, the regulars rallied for a 1-1 draw in Toronto to secure a berth in the CCL quarters.

What was it the A-Team guy used to say? “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Real Salt Lake is getting it done in two competitions this season, no mean feat with an MLS budget and roster depth. They also had some severe travel SNAFUs in their odyssey from Utah to Toronto, via Atlanta.

Yet Kreis had them ready to play. If he keeps this up, he’s a shoo-in for Coach of the Year.

Here are the highlights:

The tie eliminated Toronto, which has fired its coach and GM this season and is on very thin ice re. the MLS postseason.

But hey, that goal by former U.S. youth international Jacob Peterson—after a perfect 60-yard outlet toss by goalkeeper Jon Conway—was pretty nice.

Wynalda Lands Front-Office Job! … In Mexico … In Third Division

Former U.S. national team striker and noted shrinking violet Eric Wynalda has been hired by Mexican third-division club Murcielagos as its “president of international operations.”

Wynalda told Soccer America that his new role will involve scouting young players for the club’s developmental program, seeking player exchange programs and developing marketing and sponsorship opportunities.

We’ve always appreciated Wynalda’s immense contributions to U.S. Soccer—he scored the first goal in MLS history, and he was the national team’s alltime leading scorer until 2008—but this one is a puzzler.

As he told SA:

“It’s kind of strange that I would end up in Mexico, but I want to coach. If somebody down there thinks that you can contribute, that’s where you end up. Right now there’s just not a place for me in U.S. Soccer or in MLS.”

Well, okay, sure, there may not be a place for you at the top level of Stateside soccer, but why not start small here—why not try for a third-division-type gig in the U.S.?

He continues:

“I found it fascinating that there is so much American-Mexican talent in Mexico, players we didn’t know about.”

Wait, what? There’s “American-Mexican talent,” in Mexico, that we don’t know about?

So, if Jose Torres, for example, is a Mexican-American, who qualifies as an American-Mexican? And is this is the start of the Wynalda pipeline of previously untapped talent flowing back to the USMNT?

Ah, forget it: It’s late on a Tuesday; no time to try to make sense of this one.

But we will note that Murcielagos means “bats”—as in batty, or bats*** insane.

Americans in Europe: Tracking Back

It was a busy weekend for Yanks all over the continent, with Michael Bradley and Benny Feilhaber both bagging goals, Carlos Bocanegra’s team going top of the table and Oguchi Onyewu … continuing to be buried on the AC Milan depth chart.

Let’s take a look, with sidebar commentary on which U.S. players need to come back to the States and play in MLS—before the league gets too good for them. (Ha!)

Spain

Jozy Altidore dressed but did not play in Villareal’s 3-2 win over Malaga yesterday. New Jersey–born striker Giuseppe Rossi scored Villareal’s second goal in the triumph, which vaults the Yellow Submarine (4-1-0) into second place in the Primera Division.

Altidore has only played in the Europa League thus far this year for Villareal.

Should he come back to play in MLS? Nah. Altidore just left, and he’s only 20. We will not be surprised when he finally breaks through in Europe.

Italy

Oguchi Onyewu did not dress in AC Milan’s 1-0 victory over Genoa on Saturday. Onyewu has not played for the Italian giants this year, and earlier in the month he was left off the squad list for the Champions League group stages.

MLS? It’ll never happen, but a move somewhere is not a bad idea for Gooch. He appears to be in a black hole with the Rossoneri, which just extended his contract through the 2012-13 season—which he will play for free. At 28, and theoretically in his prime, he should be getting regular minutes.

Germany

Steve Cherundolo got the start and went the full 90 in Hannover 96’s 1-0 win over Kaiserslautern on Sunday.

MLS? The 31-year-old defender is still a mainstay—and a deputy captain—at Hannover so, no, not now. But maybe in a couple of years.

Cherundolo’s new teammate, DaMarcus Beasley did not dress for the game.

MLS? If it doesn’t work out at Hannover, we say yes.

Michael Bradley started, went the distance and scored a goal in Borussia Moenchengladbach’s 2-2 tie with Schalke 04 on Saturday. Click here for the highlights. (Schalke’s two recent big signings, Klass Jan Huntelaar and Raul, each found the net.)

Bradley’s goal was his second of the year.

MLS? Nope. Bigger and better things await him in  Europe.

Potential U.S. national-teamer Jermaine Jones started for Schalke and played 51 minutes.

MLS? No. He’s only 28, and looks to be (finally) rounding back into fitness.

Ricardo Clark dressed but did not play in Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2-0 win over Nurnberg on Saturday.

MLS? No. The 27-year-old is still settling in at Frankfurt.

Scotland

Maurice Edu played 16 minutes in Rangers’ 3-2 win over Aberdeen on Sunday.

MLS? The 2007 MLS Rookie of the Year has a bright future in Europe.

France

Carlos Bocanegra played 90 minutes for top-of-the-table St. Etienne (5-1-1) in a 1-0 win over Lyon on Saturday.

MLS? Not this year—he’s 31—but maybe down the line a bit.

Charlie Davies did not dress for Sochaux’s 2-1 loss to Marseille on Saturday. Davies’ recovery is not going smoothly. See here for the details.

MLS? He just needs to get back to 100%—if that’s possible.

England: Non-Premier League

Championship

Former Duke star Mike Grella did not make the bench for Leeds’s 1-0 shutout of Sheffield United on Saturday.

MLS? How much is Leeds paying him to ride the bench? More than Toronto FC would pay him to start? His lack of playing time has kept him out of the USMNT pool.

Zak Whitbread has a calf injury and sat out Norwich City’s 2-0 loss to Hull on Saturday.

MLS? Maybe it’s time for the 26-year-old—who has bounced from Liverpool to Millwall to Norwich City—to give the U.S. circuit a try.

League One

Frank Simek started and went 90 in Carlisle United’s 2-0 loss to Bournemouth on Saturday.

MLS? Carlisle United, Frank? Really? You were called in to the U.S. camp for last March’s Netherlands friendly, for crying out loud. Here are three MLS teams that need help on their backline: New England (45 goals against), Houston (45), DC United (42)—and every one of them could beat Carlisle United.

Greece

Freddy Adupoor Freddy Adu—did not dress in Aris’s 1-0 win over Ergotelis on Sunday.

MLS? If any team would have him.

Belgium

Sacha Kljestan did not make the bench for Anderlecht’s 5-0 rout of Mechelen. But he does have two goals for his new club this season. He’s just returned from an injury.

MLS? He just left. Let’s give him some time in Europe.

Denmark

Michael Parkhurst went the full 90 in FC Nordsjaelland’s 3-0 shutout of Horsens on Sunday.

MLS? He’s doing fine in Denmark and getting paid more than he would earn in the States.

Chris Rolfe and Marcus Tracy sat out Aalborg’s 2-0 defeat to Sonderjyske. Rolfe has a hamstring injury and Tracy has a knee injury.

MLS? Rolfe just left the U.S. and Tracy is determined to make it in Europe, which he seems capable of—if he can stay healthy.

Benny Feilhaber went the distance, scored a goal and had two assists in Aarhus’s 3-2 win over Koge in the Danish second division. The man is on a roll, with five goals and two assists in his last three games.

MLS? If his current white-hot form doesn’t get him a solid European offer this winter, then why not? The Danish second division is surely a lower level than the U.S. top flight.

Norway

Hunter Freeman and Clarence Goodson both went the distance in IK Start’s 0-0 tie with Honefess yesterday.

MLS? Freeman can make more money in Scandinavia, apparently, and Goodson could jump to a continental European league if he keeps up his solid play.

Mikkel Diskerud played 88 minutes in Stabaek’s 2-1 win over Kongsvinger on Sunday.

MLS? The U.S. youth international has bigger aspirations—including getting called into the senior USMNT—and at 19, time to pursue them.

Yanks in England: Weekend Wrap

The Premier League tossed up handful of surprises in Week 6, a few of them involving Americans, and all of them adding welcome twists to the early stages of the season.

First up—stop press! West Ham got its first win of the year!

And it came not against a Wigan or a Wolves, but against Champions League entrants Tottenham. Frenchman Frederic Piquionne netted the game’s only goal, on a header in the 29th minute.

That gives U.S. defender Jonathan Spector’s team a win and a tie in its last two games after it started the season with four straight losses. Should you read anything into the fact that Spector has not dressed for either one of those games?

No. No, you should not.

Stuart Holden and Bolton played host to mighty Manchester United, with the U.S. winger getting the start and going the full 90. Bolton came out like a team serious about winning the game; they were full of energy, and they got a fifth-minute goal from Zat Knight.

After Nani tied it up 17 minutes later, the hosts took the lead again, on a rocket from Martin Petrov in the 67th minute. They couldnt hang on, though, as Michael Owen found a 74th minute equalizer. But Wanderers will definitely take the 2-2 tie.

And Holden has definitely nailed down a starting spot in the center of Bolton’s midfield, begging a question for reader Prison Mike: “So why couldn’t he get on the field in South Africa?! Tell me that. Why?!”

It’s a fair question, Mike. The best answer we’ve heard comes from Ref Baiter: “He may not have been 100% match fit back then, after the broken leg in March.”

There were two committee meetings of Americans in England this weekend, as Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey and Fulham hosted Tim Howard and struggling Everton, and Marcus Hahnemann and Wolves welcomed Brad Friedel and Aston Villa, with Brad Guzan and young Yank defender Eric Lichaj on Villa’s bench.

Howard made two saves—one of them an excellent parry of a shot by Dempsey—and the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Johnson played 35 minutes, and got good reviews from his coach, Mark Hughes.

Everton is off to another atrocious start, having just lost to Brentford (of third-tier League One) in the Carling Cup and still in search of it first Premier League victory. The Toffees are currently dead last in the standings, but we wouldn’t bet on them to stay there.

Hahnemann and Friedel each made six saves—several of the spectacular variety—in the Wolves-Villa match, but Hahnemann couldn’t keep out Emile Heskey’s 87th-minute header, which proved to be the difference in Villa’s 2-1 victory.

The Rest of the Big Four

Liverpool’s debt-ridden American owners could not have been happy with the Reds’ result on Saturday, a 2-2 draw with Sunderland, at Anfield—and one they had to come from behind to earn.

First-place Chelsea was upended by a 59th-minute goal from Man City’s Carlos Tevez that handed the Blues their first loss of the year, and Arsenal was stunned at home by West Bromwich Albion. The promotion side jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held on for a 3-2 win as Samir Nasri pulled two back in the late stages.

Blackburn, Blackpool, et al…

Blackpool overcame an own goal to snatch what it thought was a late point on Matt Phillips’s 87th-minute strike at Bloomfield Road, butBlackburn’s Brett Emerton struck back in stoppage time to give the visitors a 2-1 win.

Birmingham City tied Wigan 0-0 but extended its home unbeaten streak to a club-record 18 games, and Stoke City edged Newcastle 2-1 on an 84th-minute own goal by James Perch at St. James’ Park.

Quote of the Week:

Mick McCarthy and Ian Holloway were beaten out by West Ham manager Avram Grant, who had this to say about Robert Green, after the keeper best known for his gaffe against the U.S in South Africa made a number of great saves in West Ham’s shutout win over Tottenham:

“Robert Green is a good goalkeeper and it was a normal performance from him. It was a great save against Modric. It does not matter what is in the papers—he showed on the pitch that he is a very good goalkeeper. His performance today was the best speech.”

Site News: “We’re taking our talents to Midtown”

This has been percolating for a few months, and today, it’s official: We are writing a weekly column for Major League Soccer.

It’s called Monday Postmortem, and it consists of analysis, insights, observations, and arcane sailing references as they relate to the most recent round of action in the league.

It will run every week on the MLS website, right about … here.

Please check it out weekly and weigh in on the comment boards!

We will still be crashing the Backpost on a daily basis (more or less), but every Monday, around coffee time, you can read us over there.

Thanks for your support. As you were.

Next up: Yanks in England weekend wrap.