MLS All Stars 3, Chelsea 2: Highlights

As we said the other day, the MLS All-Star Game is a different animal when Alex Ferguson and mighty Man U are involved. The Red Devils manager pointed his side’s summer U.S. tour toward the game for two years running, and the results reflected that.

Enter Chelsea (or reenter; they played the ASG in 2006), the reigning UEFA Champions League titlists, who took a less single-minded approach to the event, and add a well-balanced, talented team of MLS stars, and you get an entertaining night of soccer.

Take a look:

How about Jay DeMerit’s tackle at about the 1:50 mark? He was a beast all game, and as Martin Rennie, his coach in Vancouver, said recently, “If Jay DeMerit can’t make the U.S. team, then they must be very strong indeed at centerback.” The Rise and Shine star is back in form, and he deserves a look from Jurgen Klinsmann.

DC United midfielder Chris Pontius also had a good night, scoring the tying goal and winning the game MVP award, and San Jose wingbacks Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow—aka the $44,100-men—didn’t look the least bit out of place facing Chelsea’s millionaires.

All in all, a fun 90 minutes in Philly, and a solid night for the league. Here’s a bonus clip of Thierry Henry talking to Jimmy Conrad, postgame:

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Jimmy Conrad is Enjoying the Euros

Former U.S. international defender and friend of Backpost Jimmy Conrad is in Ukraine and Poland covering the European Championship for KICK TV, and he is letting the good times roll.

Here’s his bulletin from the Spain-Italy game, where he fell in with some Spanish fans, scalped a ticket, and made like Judah Friedlander (also a soccer fan!) in that Dave Matthews video from 2001:

He later interviewed a Swedish superfan who has been to dozens of big events, including the 1958 and ’82 World Cups, and asked the man which nation has the best fans. The gent’s answer? Scotland.

And the worst?

Wait for it …

England.

It just so happens that Sweden will take on England and its allegedly unseemly fans on Friday afternoon at 2:30 (ESPN2).

Jimmy Conrad to Announce Retirement Today

Major League Soccer is losing one of the best defenders and possibly the liveliest personality in its history today, as Chivas USA defender Jimmy Conrad will announce his retirement in a press conference at the Home Depot Center this afternoon.

Conrad suffered a concussion on March 26 and has had persistent headaches since the injury. He cited those, along with concerns about his future, in his decision to hang ’em up at age 34, after 12 seasons in the league. He will join the Chivas USA coaching staff.

A former walk-on at UCLA, Conrad is, with the exception of Jay DeMerit, the most self-made U.S. soccer star of the past two decades. He went undrafted by MLS, despite being a member of the Bruins’ 1997 NCAA championship team, and latched on with the San Diego Flash of the A-League. From there, he scraped and clawed his way into MLS, onto the U.S. national team, and into the 2006 World Cup, where he appeared in the U.S.’s 1-1 draw with eventual champions Italy, and went the full 90 in a 2-1 loss to Ghana.

Conrad captained the U.S. team twice and made 27 appearances in total, scoring one goal.

Here’s Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser talking to ESPNLA’s Scott French about Conrad:

“It seems like this is a sad thing, that Jimmy’s retiring. But really it’s a celebration of a fantastic career. You talk about your self-made players, he’s just worked and worked and worked and gotten himself to where he’s been one of the best defenders in league history, went to a World Cup.

“You just can’t say enough about his career. The fact that he is choosing to leave on his own terms is fantastic.”

We had the chance to interview Conrad on a couple of occasions, including this one right here, when Conrad was in camp with the U.S. national team in January 2010.

He talked about the young U.S. players on the rise, the difference between club games and international play, and of course the Goonies, Mikhail Gorbachev’s forehead birthmark, and Diff’rent Strokes.

Please go give it a read, in salute to a player who embodied the best of MLS in its first two decades.

Galaxy Snaps Up Angel in MLS Re-Entry Draft

The LA Galaxy made a trade with Houston for the right to pick fifth in today’s Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft, then used that spot to grab former Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel. LA sent a future fourth-round SuperDraft selection to the Dynamo in exchange for the pick.

The alltime leading scorer in New York history (61 goals), Angel could now partner with U.S. international Edson Buddle up top in LA, with MLS superstars Landon Donovan and David Beckham supporting them in midfield. (Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena helped bring Angel from Aston Villa to New York when Arena coached the Red Bulls.)

The Galaxy—and all other teams who made selections in today’s event—have seven days to make an offer to the players they’ve picked.

While LA’s surprise selection of Angel caused the biggest waves, there was plenty of other action in Stage 2 of the inaugural Re-Entry Draft: DC United took 33-year-old striker Josh Wolff with the first pick, and Chivas USA picked Wolff’s former teammate in Kansas City, centerback Jimmy Conrad, also 33.

Here’s the complete list of players selected:

Round 1

D.C. United: Josh Wolff

Chivas USA: Jimmy Conrad

New England Revolution: Ryan Cochrane

LA Galaxy: Juan Pablo Ángel

Chicago Fire: Cory Gibbs

Sporting Kansas City: Frankie Hejduk

Seattle Sounders: Chris Seitz

Columbus Crew: Jeff Cunningham

LA Galaxy: Luke Sassano

Colorado Rapids: Tyrone Marshall

Round 2

New England Revolution: Fred

Leading the list of players not selected was former Columbus playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Former LA midfielder Dema Kovalenko, ex-Toronto defender Nick Garcia, and erstwhile Houston keeper Pat Onstad were also passed over.

Every available player not selected today becomes a free agent who can negotiate with any team on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“MLS Owns the City of Manchester Right Now”

So said Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad after his team downed Manchester United 2-1 on Sunday, not long after the New York Red Bulls had beaten Manchester City by the same score.

No doubt Conrad—who was shown a straight red in the 39th minute after taking down Dimitar Berbatov in the box—was feeling a rush of blood to the head when he made the comment. He swore he got a lot of the ball on the play and didn’t think he deserved the red (the replays showed that referee Terry Vaughn, who’s messed up a call or two in the past, got this one right).

So, yeah, Conrad was going with the heart not the head when he threw that one out.

But still, the results—especially the win by 10-man KC—are impressive. Check out the Wizards-Man U highlights below:

The effort drew some praise from Man U coach Sir Alex Ferguson, who called the Wizards, “a big, strong team. They’re athletic, very powerful,” and it paid immediate dividends for Kansas City: The club is moving into its own soccer-specific stadium next June (capacity, 18,500) and saw a spike in season-ticket sales for the venue, with more than 700 sold on Monday.

Here are the Red Bulls-Man City highlights, with a “heavy legged” Thierry Henry (he’s packing in the training sessions to get match fit for his MLS debut on July 31), more good work from Macoumba Kandji, and Dane Richards proving once again (see Santos friendly in March) that he is the best exhibtion-game player in MetroBull history (now, as for MLS games…..):

Backpost Q&A, Inaugural Edition: Jimmy Conrad

Conrad and the U.S. face Honduras on Saturday.

Chances are if you’re reading this—and haven’t stumbled onto this site after a Google search for the Washington Post, or Post cereals—you don’t need an introduction to Jimmy Conrad, one of the more charismatic figures and best defenders in MLS.

But here’s a quick refresher bio for you:

It’s hard to imagine now, but Conrad went undrafted out of UCLA in 1998. After a season with the San Diego Flash of the A-League, he caught on with MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes in ‘99. Seizing his top-flight opportunity with both hands, Conrad improved every year until he drew a call-up from then-U.S. coach Bruce Arena in 2005, the year Conrad was named MLS Defender of the Year. 

He made the trip to Germany for the World Cup the following summer, appearing against Italy and Ghana in group play, and has been a stalwart on the Kansas City backline ever since. Conrad has 26 caps for the U.S. (and counting) and is a three-time MLS Best XI selection. He’s currently in camp with the U.S. ahead of the team’s friendly against Honduras on Saturday.  

Jimmy, first off, welcome, and thanks for being the first interview in site history.

It’s quite an honor to be the first interview on the site and my fingers are crossed that I live up to the hype. Wait, you are hyping this up, correct?

Oh, man—you might get tired of yourself, that’s how much we are hyping this. How is the mood in camp?

The mood in camp is good. Everyone is flying around, giving everything they have to prove to Bob that they deserve to be considered for the World Cup roster, and the camp has a lot of spirit as a result of this competitive fire between us. It’s been a lot of fun.

Lots of young guys called in this time. What’s the most significant adjustment a young player has to make in his first national team camp?

I would say the biggest adjustment is the speed of play. Everything happens a lot faster when you’re playing with the best guys from around the country so it’s best you have an idea of what you want to do with the ball before you it comes to you because if you don’t, you’ll get punished for it.

I hear that you’ve been frequently partnered in central defense with MLS Rookie of the Year Omar Gonzalez. How’s that going?

It’s going well. I only watched Omar play a few times during his Rookie of the Year campaign so it’s fun to play alongside him and see what all the fuss was about.  I think he’s got a bright future.

How satisfying is it for you to be able to compete with, and lead, guys ten years your junior? 

I don’t know if I feel “satisfied” knowing I was shaving peach fuzz off of my upper lip when they were still in diapers, but I do get a great deal of satisfaction from beating them in fitness drills.

When you’re joking around during downtime, do they get all your references to, you know, phonograph records, and WWII?

The sad part is that I don’t even have to go that far back. I can mention the TV show Diff’rent Strokes (quality programming by the way), or the movie The Goonies, or the Berlin Wall coming down, or the birthmark on Mikhail Gorbachev’s head, and all I get in return are blank stares.

One of Conrad's chief reference points, sadly lost on his young U.S. teammates.

Marcus Tracy had to leave camp early with tendinitis. How did he look while he was there? With the recent injuries to Charlie Davies and Clint Dempsey, the U.S. could be thin at forward. Is it realistic to think Tracy could step in?

It’s unfortunate Marcus had to leave camp early because he definitely has the tools to be a special player but, like the injured guys you mentioned, he needs to get healthy first.

You recently posted an impressive list of your top 10 songs of 2009 on U.S. soccer.com. Care to give us your top 5 movies of 2009?

I wish I could say I saw five movies from 2009 in 2009. Since I currently live with an almost-three-year-old little girl, who looks like me but without the five o’clock shadow, we watch a lot of Sleeping Beauty and Little Mermaid. In fact, I know all of the words to the songs, “Once Upon A Dream” and “Kiss The Girl,” from the two Disney classics, respectively. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.

What would you like to see come out of Major League Soccer’s new CBA negotiations?

I’d like to see a lot of things come out of the current CBA negotiations, many of which I can’t go into detail about out of respect for the process, but the majority of my issues swirl around attaining better rights for the players. I want to see significant progress on that front.

How likely is an MLS lockout on Feb 1?

There’s still a lot of time to negotiate between then and now so it’s hard to say. Hopefully, we can settle on a deal that satisfies both parties before we reach the deadline, however, we’re not going to sign whatever they place in front of us just for the sake of signing something. We need to see movement on the issues we care about.

Can you give us your prediction for Saturday’s friendly with Honduras?

Yeah, I can give you a prediction: It’s going to be cold with a slight chance of rain and there will most likely be more Honduran fans in the stands than Americans, and I’m okay with that. It’ll make for a good atmosphere.