Van Persie vs Wolyniec

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie scored three goals yesterday to lift his team to a 3-0 win over Aston Villa (and U.S. keeper Brad Guzan) that clinched the club’s 20th English championship.

His second was a beauty:

The full volley into the far corner, off of a pass from distance, kind of reminded us of MetroBull striker John Wolyniec’s overtime winner against Columbus in 2003:

Which one is better?

The MLS man was closer to goal, but the pass he had to deal with was longer. It was also an overtime winner.

Both players hit the ball absolutely on the screws, but RVP’s degree of difficulty to get it on frame was greater, and he pocketed it right in the corner.

Advantage: RVP, by a nose.

Quote of the Day: Ferguson Confirms Rooney’s Greatness, Whiteness

Ahead of last week’s Champions League clash between Benfica and Manchester United, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus called Man U striker Wayne Rooney the “best British player so far.”

Jesus then added, “but he doesn’t look like a British player but an Argentinian or Brazilian.”

Pressed for a response by The Sun, Alex Ferguson, Rooney’s coach at Man U, agreed—to an extent:

“If you look at Pelé, for instance, he was a very aggressive attacker also who could look after himself, so can Rooney. They have similarities that way—strength, speed, determination, but he’s white, completely white.”

Thanks for the clarification, Alex, but we’re pretty sure the Benfica manager was referring to Rooney’s style of play, not his physical appearance.

Breaking: Judah Friedlander, World Champion, Banned from MLS All-Star Game

You may know him as Frank Rossitano from NBC’s 30 Rock, but Judah Friedlander is much more than an actor on an Emmy Award–winning sitcom.

He’s also the World Champion (after winning the World Championships), a master of the martial arts, and an accomplished soccer player who was kicked off the Brazilian national team for scoring a bicycle kick off his own corner kick.* The play showed up his teammates so much that they voted him off the team.

Additionally, Friedlander had been scheduled to play in this Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United. But his presence would have required goalkeepers to don Kevlar vests and helmets* for their protection, a measure deemed to costly by league honchos, so Friedlander was barred from the event.

He did tape this explanatory video, though:

*These facts courtesy of Friedlander, from his appearance on ExtraTime Radio, here.

Revs Hang with Man U for 50 Minutes …

Hey, we’re just trying to put last night’s kickoff of the World Football Challenge in the most positive light for the underdog.

New England actually carved out the game’s first chance, a flying header by Shalrie Joseph that went juuuust wide of Man U’s far post in the 12th minute.

But the Red Devils controlled possession all the way through and in the second half, after both teams made substitutions, things went off the rails for the Revolution, and the visitors cruised to a 4–1 win.

That turn in the plot may have had something to do with the fact that when the teams went to their benches, Man U produced Ryan Giggs, Michael Owen, and Park Ji-Sung, while New England came up with Otto Loewy and Ryan Guy. May have….

In any case, the Red Devils created some pretty slick goals, especially the fourth one, which was nothing short of dazzling.

To the highlights:

United’s next U.S. stop is in Chicago, where they’ll take on the Fire at Soldier Field on July 23rd (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Red Devils Go Crimson

Manchester United is in the Boston area ahead of their clash with the New England Revolution in the World Football Challenge opener tonight (8:00 ET ESPN2), and yesterday, they took a tour of Harvard University.

Here’s some video:

A few comments: Nani’s Harvard hat is several sizes too big, and makes him look like a small boy. Dimitar Berbatov, before he flips his cap backward, oddly looks the part of a Harvard man, circa 1920. Or so we imagine. Wayne Rooney is more UMASS-Lowell or Boston University than Harvard, and the sight of him on the Cambridge campus is pretty rich. Though we could see him in the crowd (or on the ice) at a Beanpot game, screaming his lungs out alongside Tawmmy from Bev-uh-lee.

And Ryan Giggs is still a d***.

MLS Roundup: Vancouver Signs Gambian DP, Rooney, Ferguson Meet the Press

Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced the signing of Gambian international and former Belgian league standout Mustapha “Toubabo” Jarju today.

A 24-year-old striker, Jarju scored 18 goals in 31 games for RAEC Mons last season, leading the side to promotion to the Belgian top flight. He has 25 appearances and four goals for the Gambian national team, and is an alternate captain for his national side.

Jarju becomes the first African designated player in MLS history, and the fifth Gambian player in the league, after Sanna Nyassi (Colorado), Sainey Nyassi (Sanna’s twin, New England), Kenny Mansally (New England) and Mamadou “Futty” Danso (Portland).

•••

Manchester United has landed on U.S. shores in advance of the first game of their preseason tour (against New England on Wednesday) and coach Alex Ferguson had some interesting things to say about MLS and soccer in the U.S. Chief among these was his notion that the country should form several leagues, due to its size:

“I always thought the problem would be the size of the country. Travelling from Boston to Los Angeles is a long haul. But in Brazil they have two leagues. They could easily do that in the United States if it takes off and they got more clubs involved. In fact, you could have four leagues because of the size of the country and the population base. There are unbelievable possibilities for the United States.”

It would never happen, but we like it. You create regional leagues to get around the problem of travel (which is real; ask any MLSer), and then take the winners of them and do a playoff (or championship game) in one neutral site. Not a bad idea. Commissioner Garber, your thoughts?

Wayne Rooney is part of the Man U contingent that’s here, and he spoke with the MLS website today, saying he thinks the league is on the rise and “in the next five, 10 years, it’ll be one of the major leagues in football.” From  your lips to God’s ears, Wayne.

Rooney goes on to name-check Brian McBride and Joe-Max Moore, both of whom he trained with at Everton (Joe-Max “when I was a young lad”). Click here for the full article on Red Bull midfielder John Rooney‘s older brother.

New England–Man U kicks off at 8:00 tomorrow night on ESPN2.

See to it that Your DVRs Are in Working Order: Colossal Weekend Ahead

Major League Soccer kicks off its biggest weekend of the season to date with Friday’s “Soccer Night in America” on Fox Soccer Channel (10:30 EST).

The following night, ESPN2 (and Deportes) will carry the marquee New York vs Los Angeles matchup (11:00 EST), and on Sunday morning at 11:00, Fox Soccer will have the titanic Premier League clash between Manchester United and Chelsea, who are three points apart atop the table with three games to play.

There are also, of course, about 261 other interesting games—including a chance for Barcelona to clinch La Liga against Espanyol, a crucial relegation tilt for U.S. defender Jonathan Spector and West Ham, and a potential title clincher for AC Milan against Roma.

So don your agoraphobic sweater, shutter the blinds and stick some fresh batteries in the remote, it’s going to be a busy weekend.

Fox’s new “Soccer Night in America” telecast will feature a revamped set and state-of-the-art replay and graphics technology as it broadcasts Portland vs Philadelphia from the Rose City’s JELD-WEN Field.

Portland is unbeaten in three games at home this season—can Peter Nowak’s grind-it-out side, currently second in the East at 4-1-1, be the first team to get a result at JELD-WEN? We shall see, and appreciate once again the incredible atmosphere in Rip City.

Unlike last year’s two versions of the New York–Los Angeles matchup, tomorrow night’s meeting between MLS’s two biggest clubs will feature a record five designated players in the starting lineups.

Last season, an injured David Beckham missed the Aug 14 matchup (a 1-0 win for LA at Red Bull Arena) and Thierry Henry sat out the Sept 24 meeting (a 2-0 win for New York at the Home Depot Center).

Tomorrow night, both of those players are expected to start, along with New York’s Rafa Marquez and LA’s Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel. (Angel, of course, played for the Red Bulls for four years before signing with Los Angeles, and is New York’s alltime leading scorer. It will be interesting to see him face his old team, which probably could have handled his exit more gracefully.)

Add the Red Bulls’ Dwayne De Rosario—one of the best attacking midfielders in league history—and young U.S. internationals Omar Gonzalez (LA), Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo (both NY), and you have a game that could really scratch your footy itch.

There is one potential absence, though, that could be huge—big enough, in fact, to tip the outcome of the game. New York holding midfielder Teemu Tainio—whom coach Hans Backe has said may be the best MLS signing of 2011—has been declared a “question mark” for the game. Tainio has become very important very quickly for New York, settling the team’s midfield and helping to impose its possession style on opponents.

The Finnish veteran of the Dutch first division and the Premier League left last week’s game against Kansas City at halftime with a groin injury, and did not train on Monday or Tuesday of this week. His replacement in the second half against Kansas City, Carl Robinson, was a parachute-drop of a step down.

We are on the record, repeatedly, regarding Robinson, the 34-year-old Welsh midfielder, and if he starts against LA, well, we highly recommend that you bet big on the Galaxy on Saturday night. Backe does have other options in that spot (Mehdi Ballouchy, Jan Gunnar Solli, even youngster Matt Kassel), so it’s not  a foregone conclusion that Robinson will get the nod.

As for the Man U–Chelsea affair, we have to go with the Red Devils. Alex Ferguson rested something like seven starters in the midweek Champions League game against Schalke (and still cruised to a 4-1 aggregate victory), and his first unit should be perfectly primed for this one. Our crystal ball is showing images of Ryan Giggs factoring in big.

On the other hand, a Chelsea win would certainly inject some interest into the remaining two games. After Chelsea, Man U plays at Blackburn then home to Blackpool, while Chelsea’s final two matches are against Newcastle and at Everton.

Give us your predictions in the comments, and enjoy the games.

Spector Returns in Style

After weeks of being mired on the bench (or not even dressing) for West Ham in the Premier League, U.S. defender Jonathan Spector got a start in the Carling Cup yesterday and made the most of it, scoring two goals in the Hammers’ stunning 4-0 quarterfinal win over Manchester United, Spector’s former team.

The rangy Illinois native, who began his youth international career as a striker, started in midfield last night, and opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, athletically heading home a lob from Victor Obinna.

Fifteen minutes later, he and Obinna combined again, as Spector made a beautiful solo run, laid a ball into the box for Obinna, and when it got away from the Nigerian winger, pounced on the loose ball and buried it from nine yards.

Carlton Cole scored the Hammers’ other two goals on this snowy night at Upton Park, completely skinning Man U centerback Johnny Evans on both.

The victory puts West Ham in the semis with Arsenal, 2-0 winners over Wigan yesterday.

Today, Birmingham City takes on Aston Villa while Ipswich Town hosts West Brom to determine the other semifinalists.

Tom Cleverley Covers Pelé, Circa 1958

Manchester United youngster Tom Cleverley clearly has a sense of soccer history. His spectacular goal against the MLS All Stars last night in Houston was a clear homage to Pelé’s famous strike against Sweden in the 1958 World Cup final.

Check it out:

And the original:

Cleverley is faithful to the source material, while adding a few flourishes of his own. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it. We give it a 10.

The 20-year-old midfielder and 18-year-old striker Federico Macheda, who scored two goals, showed that the cupboard is by no means bare at Man U. The Red Devils put on an entertaining show en route to a 5-2 drubbing of the disjointed MLS All-Stars.

Despite the lopsided scoreline, the game was a success—with more than 70,000 fans in attendance at Houston’s Reliant Stadium—and the MLS team appeared on the verge of making our prediction come true when Brian Ching‘s header hit the net in the 64th minute to make it 2-1.

But then the floodgates opened with goals by Darron Gibson, Cleverley, and rising Mexican star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who was making his Manchester United debut. 

The timing of the event was not in the MLS side’s favor as probable starters Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan, and Dwayne DeRosario had all played the night before in CONCACAF Champions League action, and Seattle stars Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero were unavailable due to the Sounders’ CONCACAF game on the same night as the All-Star tilt.