Starting…well, now, it’s high time we took stock of the football being played here in the Western Hemisphere. Specifically, here at home. This craftily titled article will take a look at MLS, the FMF and regional competitions of note. Henceforth, the North American Futbol-Talk Article begins.
The So-So Star Game
Well, that was…remarkably sad, considering the past versions of the game had at least something resembling competition to work with. First off, the fact that the game was held midweek, in the middle of CONCACAF Champions League Qualifiers, in order to not break the “flow” of the season is, well, rather absurd. Unlike the MLB All-Star Game, having 22 players gather up for a day of training and then expecting them to bring it to Manchester United might have been raising the expectations bar a wee bit much.
As such, United pretty well put any premonitions about their loss to Kansas City to bed within the opening half hour. Macheda’s double off the noggin’ should give United fans everywhere hope that whenever Berbatov is doing his usual “woe is me” impression that there is a force off the bench to score. If that doesn’t help, then maybe Javier Hernandez did the trick.
This in itself didn’t do a whole lot to complement the image boost that Sir Alex Ferguson gave the league before the game. That said, with the timing of the game, it still is promising that the league can put out the players available that they have and at least give United a go, considering that United are easily the best squad they’ve ever squared off against. A full week to prepare might have done them a lot of good and might have made things more respectable.
While the All-Star break isn’t really the halfway line, there has to be some concern about Houston at this point. Having never finished lower than second in the West, seventh place in a very competitive West does not bode well for a team that, while certainly wasn’t expected to win after having loss Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark, amongst others, should be competitive. Instead, they haven’t won since May 22nd, a streak that could have been ended had Brad Davis notched a penalty late in the first half against New York on Saturday. At least then the last gasp goal from the Dynamo could have won the contest instead of tying it.
The only consistent thing about this team is there is no consistency. They haven’t strung together consecutive wins this season, something that is killer in a division where the top end through fourth place (minus Seattle) has games-in-hand. A massive second half rally is in order if they want to make the playoffs, which isn’t entirely out of the question (thanks to the East being…the East). But before they can even think about that, a win might be nice to have. If they go beyond New England without one, though, you can pretty much write them off, which is a bit of a shock with 10 contests left after that.
Will He Or Won’t He?
Landon Donovan seems to be stuck in limbo right now. Everton would buy him outright if MLS wasn’t going to choke every last six-pence out of the English outfit it could. Don Garber has made it clear he’s waiting for fool’s money before letting Landycakes out to Europe, and when the words “fool” and “money” go together, there’s only one real place he might end up.
The only issue for Donovan is that, should he decide to traverse to Eastlands, is that, well, good luck ever seeing the field. Chances are very good that he will stay because of new regulations in England about team sizes, something that City are going to find nauseating soon. Thus, Galaxy fans, fear not, for Donovan is not going anywhere.
…Unless Everton get a cash boost or stumble out of the gates. Then, all bets are off.
Santos Are Hot
Somewhere in Birmingham, England, there are hundreds of fans cursing their beloved Brum for not keeping Christian Benitez. His return to Santos Laguna has sparked a scoring spree as the Guerreros have smashed eight goals in just two contests, jumping to the early lead in the Apertura. Granted, the schedule is rather kind for the Torreon outfit, but given their mini slide in the last three rounds into the fifth to sixth place range, taking an early lead over Monterrey will do a lot for confidence. With several bottom of the table sides still to come in the next month, Santos could put itself in a prime spot to keep itself near the top of the table and build upon their runner-up spot in the Bicentenario.
Conversely, the team that knocked off Santos in the Bicentenario final hasn’t exactly looked the part. Losing against Pumas (whom were subsequently rocked by Santos) and drawing Pachuca at home is already sending up warning bells as the draw was secured with only two minutes and change left. A bad result away to Chiapas might have some questioning the squad, given the usual expectations of the team, and coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, even if he is pleading for calm.
Toluca didn’t exactly light the world on fire to start the Bicentenario, either, but, then again, they didn’t have a title to defend in that competition. Losses to teams like Chiapas, though, don’t sit well with fans expecting wins, though.
Return of Necaxa
Having dropped out of the Primera Division last term, Necaxa wasted little time in jumping back to the front of the promotion queue by nabbing both the Apertura and Bicentenario of the Liga de Ascenso, keeping Club Leon locked in the closest yet again, the second place outfit in the second division for the third year running. It certainly can’t be hard for los rayos to improve on their last stint in the big time, having finished 17th in both the Apertura and Clausura of ‘08-’09. Stuck in Group 1 did them little favor in terms of getting anywhere near the Liguilla, but for Necaxa, getting some coefficient points is the name of the game at the moment.
They may have to look deep into the Apertura, though, as the next two months are not exactly user friendly, with contests at Atlas and Morelia perhaps their best chances at points with Cruz Azul, America, Santos and Queretaro in the heat of August and September still to come. It will be a rough start for the promoted start, but, for right now, not being bottom of the table will have to suffice.
CONCACAF Champions League
What the L.A.?
OK, I get that the Puerto Rico Islanders have been known to bump out a big team here and there. But at L.A.? With Donovan and Buddle and all but two regulars on the pitch? 4-1 to the USSF-2 side is a bit much even for the most fervent of Islander fans to handle. Did Bruce Arena have too much to handle with the All-Star game the next day? Did the players have to much attention placed on Manchester United and not the USSF boys? Can someone say “overlooked” in Spanish?
I Wanted It Painted…Yellow….
So, in eight qualifying contests, there was a whopping total of 28 yellow cards handed out compared to 22 goals scored. Cruz Azul and San Francisco nabbed 8 of them, the Panama outfits (San Francisco and Tauro) had 9 total, the Mexico units (Azul and Santos) six, while the three MLS squads had three total, and all of those were handed out to Seattle Sounders.
The conclusion? It’s amazing there wasn’t a single red card!
Chivas de Guadalajara continued their amazing run into the semifinals, paired off against Universidad de Chile, the 2009 Chilean Apertura champions. The absurd nature of the knockout round of the Libertadores was in full force when Corinthians, the top seed, was dropped by national rivals Flamengo in the opening round of the knockout stage. Estudiantes, the reigning champions from Argentina, were dismissed by semifinalist Internacional of Brazil in the quarterfinals, leaving Sao Paulo as the favorite.
Guadalajara drew 1-1 at Azteca, leaving themselves an uphill fight as they need to score at El Nacional, the home of Universidad. While not impossible, Guadalajara could be the second Mexican side to reach the finals, first done by Cruz Azul in 2001, where they lost to Boca Juniors.
This is also the third semifinal for Guadalajara, looking to finally break the ceiling and make the finals of South America’s premier club competition. The second leg is Tuesday at 9:15 PM EST.
With this article down, feel free to drop a line and state what you want to see talked about, whether it be more Apertura, MLS, etc. and what teams you want more on.
Tags: Everton, Manchester City, Manchester United, Soccer