Wilman Conde Bails Out Bill Gaudette, Silences RFK Stadium with Late Golazo

Red Bulls defender Wilman Conde stung a half volley from 28 yards in the 88th minute against D.C. United last night, lifting his team to a critical 2-2 draw on the road and bailing out his goalkeeper, Bill Gaudette, who let in two soft goals earlier in the game.

Check out Conde’s laser here:

That strike papered over two howlers by Gaudette that allowed D.C. to take a 2-1 lead into the final moments. In the 21st minute, the journeyman keeper let Nick DeLeon’s soft flick-on slip through his hands to tie the score at 1-1, and midway through the second half, he made an ill-advised charge to the top of the box in an attempt to claim a D.C. long ball, leaving his goal wide open when Dwayne De Rosario beat him to the pass.

Gaudette made an almost identical mistake against Sporting Kansas City last week, allowing Kei Kamara to nod in KC’s goal in that 1-1 draw.

Complete highlights from RFK here:

In Gaudette’s defense, he’s been, for the most part, very good since coming over from LA in mid-July, and his defense has let him down on many occasions. (Markus Holgersson was also to blame on D.C.’s first goal—arguably on their second too). On August 19, Gaudette bailed out his teammates with three spectacular saves against Portland, enabling RBNY to complete a 3-2, come-from-behind victory. So they owed him one.

But the Red Bulls need to sort out their goalkeeping—a bugaboo for the team since Red Bull took over in 2006—and their defense in general to have any shot at the MLS Cup this season.

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CONCACAF Champions League: Beckham Leads LA’s 5-2 Rout of Isidro Metapan

LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham created two goals and scored one to guide his team from an early 1-0 deficit to a 5-2 drubbing of visiting El Salvadoran side Isidro Metapan in CONCACAF Champions League group play last night.

Playing without attacker Landon Donovan, the Galaxy nonetheless created plenty of chances and could have won by an even greater margin against a Metapan side that was reportedly shorthanded as well. Four Metapan players, two of them starters, were unable to make the trip due to visa issues, the team said.

Check out the highlights and see if you can tell why Robbie Keane was sent off in the 70th minute:

Looked to us like Keane was booked for what the ref incorrectly believed was a dive, and then, when Keane appeared to request a sub from the LA bench, the official misinterpreted the gesture as something hostile directed at him, and went to his back pocket for the red. Two quick mistakes by the ref, and just like that, Keane is out of the next CCL tilt.

The Galaxy are grouped with Metapan and the Puerto Rico Islanders and must win the group outright to advance to the quarterfinals. See the complete CCL standings here.

D.C. United 4, Chicago 2: Andy Najar Finds New Position, Sean Johnson Might Want to Do the Same

Okay, that’s a little harsh, we admit. And we like Johnson: He’s a great shot-stopper, and he’s got a voice like James Earl Jones to boot. But man, has he shown a scary tendency for killer mental errors.

He made two in Chicago’s 4-2 loss to D.C. United last night, in a game that also featured United youngster Andy Najar’s debut at right back, which went as well as Johnson’s night went poorly.

Take a look:

Let’s review: In the 19th minute, Johnson—and his defenders—got lazy on a shot to the far post from Chris Pontius, letting it roll through the six-yard box untouched—until Dwayne De Rosario popped up to punch it in for the game’s first goal.

Then in the waning moments—in a play reminiscent of his mistake against El Salvador in Olympic qualifying last March (more on that shortly)—Johnson flailed at a weak shot from Long Tan, allowing it to dribble through his grasp and in for the game-killing fourth goal.

Unfortunately for Johnson, and the U.S. goalkeeping depth chart, these lapses are not isolated incidents. The agile, 6-4 ’keeper has battled mental bugaboos since (at least) the spring of 2011, when a crisis of confidence and a series of elementary mistakes got him benched for several weeks.

A year later he made that disastrous error against El Salvador in Olympic qualifying, aka the Nightmare in Nashville, aka the 3-3 Tie that Sunk U.S. Olympic Hopes and So Much More. See it here.

That Robert Green-esque blunder brought the bridge to London falling down on the U.S. team’s head, and with it a massive opportunity to boost the profile of the game, and Major League Soccer, through the league’s broadcast partnership with NBC, which also televised the Games.

Johnson did bounce back from that gaffe during the 2012 MLS season, putting together a string of solid performances and even one spectacular, 10-save thriller against San Jose in late July. And it was almost enough to erase the memory of Nashville. Until last night.

On the bright side of last night’s young-player ledger, D.C.’s 19-year-old Home Grown player Najar was a revelation in his new role, getting forward dangerously, creating chances, and defending pretty well, too.

United’s win pulled them to within a point of Chicago and Houston in the crowded East standings, where six points separate fifth from first.

BPFL 2012-13: Week 1 Wrap

Here he comes, looking like a bag of money in his white tuxedo and black bowtie, it’s co-commissioner Our Man at the Valley, with the first recap of the 2012-13 Backpost EPL fantasy season.

Take it away, sir:

We’re back!!! The second season of the Backpost EPL Fantasy game began this past weekend—though with Euro 2012 and the Olympics taking up most of the offseason, it might seem like we’ve never been away.

This season we’ve got 13 entrants in the BPFL, joined by an Average team to fill out the head-to-head fixtures. Most of our entrants are returning from last year, including our defending champion—the Wonder from Down Under—Rise* of FC Hammer.

There were and still are lots of player movement to keep track of, as the transfer window in the EPL remains open until the end of the month. The prolific Robin Van Persie moved to Manchester United from Arsenal last week, setting up a potentially lethal strike force with Wayne Rooney. Tottenham have been shedding players right and left and some good values abound.

And there are lots of new players worth keeping track of, too. Not many of us would have heard of Michu (18 points) or Mladen Petric (16 points) before Saturday. And while we might have heard of Eden Hazard, it’s unlikely we would have anticipated the five assists he was credited with in the opening gameweek (these include two for drawing penalties).

There were lots of emphatic opening-week victories in the Premier League, and a few came from unlikely sources. Swansea, with a new manager and missing two of their key midfielders from last season, nonetheless pumped in five goals at QPR. Fulham, missing their best player from last term, put five past Norwich. West Brom, facing a Liverpool team with loads of new players and a new high-profile manager, ran out 3-0 winners against the Reds. Everton defended so deeply over the last 30 minutes that they had to turn on the floodlights at Anfield, but still came out on top against Manchester United.

My co-commissioner, MGlo, who manages Old27M, and I will be bringing you updates every other week throughout the season. His optimism concerning the new season was buoyed by the return to the EPL of two of his old Fantasy favorites, Kevin Nolan of West Ham and Ian Harte of Reading. Inexplicably, Nolan and his 10 points remained on Old27M’s bench, though a strong performance by a host of players in Chelsea’s victory over Reading gave Old27M an opening-week victory and hope of a maiden Top 10 finish.

Unlike last season, the EPL website seems to have made it through the first week unscathed. There was a slight hiccup on Friday when the site was down for a few minutes. That was around the time I took Nathan Dyer out of my provisional squad and replaced him with Joe Allen—a move that cost me 14 points.

Otherwise, there don’t seem to be any new rules in the game and the front page of the website is a lot clearer than it was last season in terms of the status of the game.

In addition to my co-commissioner’s BPFL win, there were opening-week victories for Rise* of FC Hammer, Clever and Witty, Marskansas, Colorado Keeper, Average, and myself.

My Disgruntled Numpties trailed The Losers 39-6 after Saturday’s games. That was enough to push me back into my MLS shell for another six weeks (I’m dominating the Backpost MLS division). But with a slew of Chelsea goal-scorers and their extra game this past week, I was able to overcome the deficit and win 85-49.

Performance of the Week: Led by Branislav Ivanovic and his 24 points, my Disgruntled Numpties took the honor this week with 85 points.

Asleep at the Wheel: This is a new accolade this year, a dubious honor that will be given, only occasionally, we hope. Its aim is to throw a spotlight on a manager who isn’t paying the strictest attention to his team. Our inaugural winner is Prison Mike, whose original squad of 15 included five players who clocked 13 minutes or fewer in the opening gameweek (that total doesn’t include Sergio Aguero; the Argentine exited his game after 13 minutes due to injury, but at least was a starter.) Is it too early to use your wildcard, Mike?

Thank you, OMATV. We’re looking forward to a great season, and we have it on good authority that Prison Mike was scaring kids straight last week, and had to neglect his BPFL team. Won’t happen again, he says.

Columbus Getting Positive Early Returns from Higuain

He may not be as good as his younger brother, Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain, but 27-year-old Argentine attacker Federico Higuain is off to a fine start as the third Designated Player in Columbus Crew history.

He had an assist in his debut this past Sunday against Houston, and last night, in his first start for the Crew, Higuain set up a goal in the fourth minute and scored one in the 58th, leading Columbus to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC.

Columbus looked dangerous through the first hour, with U.S. midfielder Eddie Gaven, Costa Rican striker Jairo Arrieta and Venezuelan attacker Emilio Renteria all joining Higuain in a fluid attack. Though of course it’s hard to say whether their dominance could be chalked up to the Crew’s skill, or a lack of the same from Toronto, who are now 5-15-5 on the season.

Highlights:

Designated Players can be a crapshoot, as the Crew have found out in the past, breaking even with their previous two—Guillermo Barros Schelotto (thumbs up) and Andres Mendoza (meh, and he had penalty-kick-etiquette issues).

If Higuain keeps this up, he’ll make the franchise 2-for-3 on DPs and could push Columbus into the crowded field of contenders in the East, where the top five teams are just six points apart.

The Crew are seven points out of a playoff spot, but have games in hand on every team ahead of them in the standings.

The Scottification of the Vancouver Whitecaps

 

 

 

 

The Vancouver Whitecaps set what seemed like a new standard last season as the most-attractive-to-watch yet least successful expansion franchise in Major League Soccer history.

They played a skillful, free-flowing style that created lots of chances—unfortunately, too many of those chances were in front of their own net. They conceded 55 goals and finished dead last in the Western Conference. But they were fun to watch.

During the offseason, center back Jay DeMerit returned to health, and the club acquired veteran South Korean wingback Y.P. Lee and Argentine center back Martin Bonjour, along with French attacker Sebastian Le Toux, who led Philadelphia in scoring last season.

With their defense shored up, and more skill in the attacking third, they got off to a great start this season.

But Whitecaps brass, which includes Scottish head coach Martin Rennie, were curiously unsatisfied, and have kept on tinkering with their roster.

Soon after the arrival of Scottish midfielder Barry Robson in mid-June (on a free transfer arranged in January), the team jettisoned Swiss playmaker Davide Chiumiento, arguably the most skillful player on the roster, Le Toux, and the big (but skillful) French striker Eric Hassli—all within one week.

Around the same time Vancouver brought in Scottish striker (and national team captain) Kenny Miller, Jamaican winger Dane Richards, and Irish defender Andy O’Brien.

O’Brien is not Scottish, but Ireland is close enough, ethnically and in their soccer, to Scotland to justify the following tweet from MLSSoccer.com’s Matt Doyle after a recent Vancouver loss:

“The Whitecaps may have lost, but I still think they’re favorites for the Scottish Premier League title this season.”

With Miller, Robson and O’Brien down the spine, the Whitecaps have become stodgier—and more physical: Their recent 2-0 loss to Dallas featured 41 fouls and nine yellow cards, six of them shown to Vancouver players.

Gone is the silky combination play between Chiumiento, Camilo, and Hassli that made them such an entertaining side.

Sure, Chiumiento was not exactly a defense-first kind of guy, and the team left itself too wide open last season, but the offseason acquisitions addressed that problem, to a T. Now, they’ve fallen off the other side of the horse.

And judging by the results, the problem is not limited to style: the Whitecaps are 2-5-2 in their last nine games.

Jozy Altidore On Pace for 68-goal Season

U.S. fans take note: Your national team resumes World Cup qualifying in a couple of weeks—taking on Jamaica in a home-and-home set on Sept 7 and 11—and while they may not have in-limbo attacker Clint Dempsey for those matches, they should have striker Jozy Altidore, whose current form suggests he’s more than capable of filling the goal-scoring void left by the disgruntled Fulham star.

Altidore struck two more times this past weekend, leading AZ Alkmaar to a 3-1 win over Heracles and matching his two-goal performance on opening day against Ajax.

All he has to do is keep this up the rest of the way and he’ll bank a record 68 goals.

Highlights here:

Two thoughts on this clip:

1) How good is the Dutch Eredivisie, really? Not to take away from Altidore’s performances—and plenty of players have jumped from the Eredivisie to top leagues in Europe—but is Heracles really that much better than say, Toronto FC? Their defense, especially on Alkmaar’s second goal, is enough to make you wonder.

2) Maybe it’s our long history with Fahrenheit, but does the Celsius temperature scale seem wanting to you? Lacks the descriptive power of Fahrenheit, where a hot day can climb into the 90s or 100s. That 30-degree Celsius pregame reading in Alkmaar? Not very impressive. (And it translates to roughly 88 Fahrenheit, which is not that hot—especially for Altidore, who grew up in humid New Jersey and sizzling Florida, two locations where the heat calls for the more finely calibrated Fahreneit system to accurately reflect just how miserable you are in it.)