Archive for April, 2007

Obviously, Serrano A Bit Of A Surprise There

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Fox Soccer Channel Graphic

Actual graphic goodness from Fox Soccer Channel’s telecast of the Atlanta Silverbacks-Minnesota Thunder United Soccer Leagues match last Friday night. There’s so much wrong with this, I don’t quite know where to begin.

Planet Houston?

Friday, April 27th, 2007

General ZodI admit – I’ve never been a big fan of Houston, Texas. It’s been about 10 years since I was last there (the very last game in the history of the Indiana Twisters, in fact), but I don’t think I’ve ever been there when it wasn’t oppressively hot.

It’s supposed to be in the 80s (and very likely humid) when the Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo meet on Sunday night at 6pm CT in a Major League Soccer match that you can watch on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and on the MLS Direct Kick pay-per-view package. Kenny Stern, Chris Doran and I will have the call for you as last year’s MLS Cup champions host last year’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup champion.

And, no, General Zod will not be there. Unfortunately.

Oh, Shut Up!

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Naperville Sun front pageI missed this yesterday, but it jumped out at me this morning: the Naperville Sun, the local paper here, reported Wednesday that a study found that teenagers in this affluent Chicago suburb are stressed out because of “too much competition, too many activities and living up to that perfect image.”

When it comes to living up to Naperville’s image as a model city, the report said “because Naperville is seen as having such a great reputation and is a city of high-achievers, kids feel compelled to be ‘perfect’ in order to fit in.”

After reading the story, the junior class at Baghdad High School said, “Oh, isn’t that cute?”

The Lords of Discipline

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Andy Herron cartoonMajor League Soccer cracked down on some thuggery on Wednesday, suspending and/or fining three players for misbehavior in games last week. Columbus forward Andy Herron drew the worst of it, as he was suspended for four games and fined $3,000 for a vicious elbow to the face of New England’s Jay Heaps last Thursday night. Heaps’ teammate, Shalrie Joseph, is $500 lighter for a dismissive shove to the face of Herron after the play, while Chivas USA’s Sacha Kljestan drew a two-game ban and a $1,000 fine for a wicked tackle from behind on Real Salt Lake’s Andy Williams that, remarkably, only drew a yellow card from referee Hilario Grajeda.

The MLS Disciplinary Committee (which consists of Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis, Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner for On-Field Operations Dr. Joe Machnik, former referee Paul Tamberino, former coach Alfonso Mondelo and former player Paul Grafer) called the Herron elbow “a deliberate and dangerous act, committed away from any play on the ball,” and said that while the Joseph shove was “not dangerous or likely to injure,” it was still “unacceptable behavior.”

Sacha Kljestan tackle on Andy WilliamsThe Kljestan challenge (above) was part of a nightmare evening for Grajeda, who has to be excused from doing MLS matches for a while. The committee has said it will stand by the referee except in the case of serious injury or egregious behavior by a player, and Kljestan’s tackle certainly qualified. Williams could be out up to 8 weeks with a “high sprain of his right ankle” which looked even worse than that, and the tackle from behind was deemed worthy of a send-off, so Kljestan will sit for two matches and cough up a grand.

As for Herron, there are probably some players and many fans who would pony up some dough to reward him for laying one on Heaps. Now if they could only get someone to do something about Kansas City’s Nick Garcia… (just kidding, Phil, relax).

No, Canada

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

I’m glad Toronto FC is in Major League Soccer. Really, I am. Toronto is a great city. They have a sparkling new stadium that makes its debut this weekend, they’ve sold 14,000 season tickets and it represents another step in the growth of the league and the game in North America.

But, Holy Stephen Brunt, are their sportswriters really, really bad when it comes to MLS coverage. I told you earlier about the cluelessness of Cathal Kelly and Dean McNulty of the Toronto Star, and now we can add Morgan Campbell to the list (must be something in the water there at the Star), who reports on TFC’s coach’s lament that his players can’t watch many MLS games on TV north of the border:

“Heading into tomorrow’s game in Kansas City, Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston can name several players on the Wizards’ roster who concern him.

Two games into the season, high-scoring forward Eddie Johnston already has a goal and two assists.”

Really? He does? I’ve never heard of this Eddie Johnston fellow. Tell me, Morgan, am I alone in that regard?

“I’m a great believer that you have to be able to know your opposition inside and out,” (Mo Johnston) said. “We have guys who don’t even know who Eddie Johnston is, but it’s not their fault.”

Of course it’s not their fault, Mo. Because Eddie Johnston doesn’t exist, unless he’s a relative of yours or something. The Wizards’ forward is Eddie Johnson. He’s kind of well-known. Well, south of the 49th Parallel, anyway.

Now, I don’t know if Mo said “Eddie Johnston” as he was quoted, but even if he did, if we’re talking about the stud player on a team your local side is about to play, you’ve got to make sure of the guy’s name.

Then again, check out page 14 of TFC’s media guide if you get a chance. Right there, in black and white, the page devoted to Toronto’s first MLS Head Coach and Director of Soccer.

Moe Johnston.

I kid you not.

I’d ask Michelle Lissel about that, too, but, as you all know, she doesn’t return emails.

He Had to be a Big Shot Last Night

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Billy Joel from the Daily HeraldI first saw Billy Joel in concert at the Tampa Jai-Alai Fronton in November of 1977. Last night I saw him for the fifth time at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates (a birthday present from my great girlfriend, Brenda).

In a terrific show that lasted more than two hours, the Piano Man sounded like the Billy Joel of old, even though he looked like the old Billy Joel (at 57, he’s older than my grandfather was when I was born). He can’t dash and leap around the stage frenetically like he did in his youth, but his voice and showmanship still pack quite a punch. His sense of humor hasn’t lost a step either, as shown when he thanked everyone for buying tickets because “my car insurance is really expensive now.”

On this, what could be his final tour, Joel is sprinkling more obscure tracks in with his repertoire of hits (saying “If we just played the hits, we’d all be falling asleep up here”). For someone like me who owns and enjoyed all of his albums, the chance to hear deep cuts like “Zanzibar” and “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” played live was great (even if the Daily Herald didn’t appreciate the set choices). Still, the standards were there, and Joel delivered everything you’d expect in a live performance. From the opening piano riff on “Angry Young Man” to the encore performance of “Piano Man” that had almost all of the 11,000 in attendance standing and swaying, to his traditional sendoff admonition “Don’t take any sh** from anybody,” it was vintage Joel and I loved every minute of it.

Thirty years later, it’s still rock and roll to me, too. Thanks, Billy.

A Sign of the Times

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Phil Anschutz from the New York TimesPhil Anschutz is soccer’s international man of mystery, but it’s also a mystery how within this otherwise good (if fairly standard) piece dated yesterday about the elusive head of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (and owner of three MLS teams), Graham Bowley of the New York Times wrote:

Although British tabloids have been filled with accounts of (David) Beckham’s extra-marital exploits, Mr. Leiweke favors words like “respect,” “integrity,” “character” and “family” when discussing the virtues that attracted AEG to the soccer star.

“That blue-collar work ethic in him, that is why we bet on David Beckham,” he says. Mr. Leiweke says AEG is now in talks to bring a second international star to the Chicago Fire, another of Mr. Anschutz’s soccer teams. “We are working on a deal right now,” he says, before suggesting whom he is trying to snare. “There are only four players that move the needle: Ronaldo. Beckham. Zidane. Ronaldinho.”

If you’re like me, or like most vertebrates who actually follow Major League Soccer, you already know that the guy AEG actually signed for Mr. Anschutz’ Chicago team is not one of the four guys “that move the needle,” but Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who signed three weeks ago.

I’m guessing Bowley wrote this article weeks ago, and the editors at the Gray Lady never actually went through it to see if anything had changed in it since it was submitted, seeing as how the subject of the article was still alive. That’s probably good enough for them.

And it’s yet another example of how the mainstream media sucks when it comes to coverage of soccer (even though this is basically a business article with some soccer in it).

UPDATE (4/24): Apparently the English press, so determined to one-up their competition, has jumped on the above quote as evidence that Zenedine Zidane is going to come out of retirement to join the Fire.  Luckily, our man Luis Arroyave of the Chicago Stupidfa…er, Tribune is on the case.

The Ancient Mariner

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Kenn pitching for the MarinersStill 41 but no longer a rookie, I made my spring training debut for my men’s 38+ baseball team, the Mariners of the Chicago Central Suburban Men’s Senior Baseball League, on Sunday.

It was only an inning, but it was encouraging (especially after going 0-2 with a 9.79 ERA as a rookie). I got the first Indians hitter to go low for a 59-foot-curveball, and he hit it to short. We weren’t able to make the play. The guy stole second, but I got the next three hitters on a popout, a groundout to first and, finally, my first career strikeout (yes, I know it’s a spring game, but I’ll take it any way I can get it).

We went 3-19 last year (one of those wins a forfeit), but we have some new players who look like they will be able to help us this year. One of the things about my rookie year that was cool was that, even though we were terrible and I walked more than The Proclaimers, it was a great bunch of guys and a lot of fun to be part of a team again. Hopefully it’ll be just as fun this year, only with more wins.

Forward Thinking

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

With the Chicago Fire having scored just twice in two matches to start the Major League Soccer season (and only one tally from a forward, Chad Barrett’s late equalizer Sunday in Colorado), Fire fans may be wondering where goals are going to come from this season.

Staten Island, maybe?

I’m certain this deal isn’t in the works, but I’m just suggesting it here: if you want a professional forward who has proven he can score goals, who is hard-nosed, a good guy to have around, with whom you’re familiar, and who would seem to be available for a song (or a short medley), you could do a lot worse than to trade for John Wolyniec, who is even less likely to see the field for Bruce Arena now that the Red Bulls have signed Juan Pablo Angel.

Journeyman? Yeah, he is. He’s been with New York, Columbus and Los Angeles just in the last two seasons and had previously spent time in Chicago and in the A-League.

Yes, he’s three years removed from his ten-goal season with the MetroStars, but he’s only 30 and I believe he’d be a good fit for this team.

I realize the Fire are going to be counting on Cuauhtemoc Blanco to score some goals this year, but he’s not going to be here until July at the earliest. What do you do until then?

I think you go after Woly. But that’s just me.

Where Have All The Numbers Gone?

Monday, April 16th, 2007

The Sports Attendance Database stuff and the MLS Attendance Analysis will be back eventually, folks, so relax.

I’m working on how best to streamline the site, which had gotten out of hand, and how best to update and present all that attendance information. I’ll get it sorted, trust me.