Nottingham Forest was eliminated from the promotion playoffs yesterday after losing to Swansea City 3-1. This was the 2nd leg of the League Championship playoff semifinal. The first leg ended in a 0-0 draw, so everything was riding on this 2nd leg match.
Swansea took a commanding 2-0 lead into halftime, but Forest fought back and got within a goal thanks to Robert Earnshaw's first time strike in the 80th minute. Nottingham Forest continued to put the pressure on late, hitting 3 posts; however, they never were able to break through. After conceding a late empty net goal, Nottingham Forest was defeated 3-1 and eliminated from the promotion playoffs.
US forward Robbie Findley did not make the gameday roster for Nottingham Forest and with the loss, Findley will not be playing football in the EPL next year.
Swansea City will take on the winner of the Cardiff City-Reading semifinal in the promotion playoff final, which will determine the final team that will rise to the English Premier League. Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City already have secured automatic spots in the EPL for next season.
It's a shame that Findley was not included in such an important match. He made the move away from the MLS so he could participate in big promotion games like this, so it must have been devastating to not even make the bench. Also, Forest signed Findley to be a speedy, goal scoring machine and ironically that's exactly what they were missing in this 2 leg series.
On a bright note, if Nottingham Forest got promoted to the English Premier League, Findley's playing time would have decreased substantially. Now, Findley has a chance to get some regular minutes in the Championship division next season and hopefully avoid injury in the process.
With Brad Friedel's contract with Aston Villa set to expire at the end of the season, 3 other English teams are ready to make an offer for the 39-year-old vet. Liverpool, Tottenham, and West Brom all are very interested in acquiring Friedel for next season. It appears that Liverpool is the current favorite to land Friedel.
Friedel played for Liverpool between 1997 and 2000, but only managed to make 30 appearances during his time there.
Just when you thought Friedel's EPL career was over, he surprises you with some unbelievable performances down the stretch for Aston Villa. Friedel must have some secret aging potion because the guy is playing like he's 30. Liverpool and Tottenham are not shabby teams and for these clubs to be interested in a 40-year-old keeper is pretty remarkable.
Where should he go? He definitely will have a better chance to start at Spurs, since they've had some goal-keeping struggles. Gomes has made some blunders recently and thus could be challenged for the #1 spot. Friedel would have a tougher go at the starting spot at Liverpool, with the experienced Pepe Reina at the helm. Unless Reina leaves Anfield, I can't imagine Friedel winning the job, which would make me question a move to Liverpool at this stage in his career.no comments
Last week, Marcos Mondaini of Chivas USA was handed an additional three game ban and fined $1,500 after his crunching tackle on Real Salt Lake’s star playmaker, Javier Morales. Morales suffered a broken left ankle following this tackle from behind, forcing the referee to hand Mondaini a straight red.
This has been the third season ending tackle since the start of the 2011 MLS season to a prominent player. Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani was on the end of a similar tackle three weeks ago in a match against the Colorado Rapids. Brian Mullan was the culprit this time, as he viciously launched himself into Zakuani's legs, causing immediate damage.
Rapids fans were quick to point out that midfielder Brian Mullan received a much harsher punishment for his tackle, a ten game ban and $5,000 fine, compared to the penalty Mondaini received for his leg breaking tackle. The MLS claimed Mondaini's tackle was "seen as an attempt to prevent his opponent from scoring. Brian Mullan’s tackle on Steve Zakuani last month did not serve such a purpose. Rather, it showed utter disregard for his opponent’s safety and appeared to be driven by anger.”
Last year’s MVP David Ferriera is also expected to miss several months after suffering a broken ankle on a bad tackle against Vancouver in mid April.
All of these tackles were completely reckless and the players deserved to receive a ban. Mullan’s tackle on Zakuani was horrific and it made sense that he received a harsher punishment. His was the second season ending tackle in quick succession and it seems like the MLS is sending a message; reckless tackles will not be tolerated.
At the same time, it’s hard for the players to shoulder all the blame for these tackles. Tackling and contact will always be a part of the game, and these injuries will continue to happen. However, I think the MLS has responded appropriately. These bans will definitely resonate among the players, causing them to think twice before making such a risky tackle.no comments
Charlie Davies and his scoring touch will be on hold for a "couple of weeks", as the DC United forward suffered a hamstring injury early in Saturday's match vs. Colorado.
Bob Bradley was at the match to scout Davies for the Gold Cup, but this injury makes it extremely unlikely that Davies will make the team. Bradley is set to announce the Gold Cup roster later this week, with the all important tournament just 3 weeks away.
Another unfortunate break for Davies. He's having a fantastic MLS season, scoring goals left and right, and just before the Gold Cup he somehow suffers a hamstring injury. It really is unlucky.
However, I'm not positive Davies was going to make the team regardless of the injury. I would have chosen Jozy, Buddle, Agudelo, and Gomez before Charlie at this point in his comeback. There is still something off about his game and don't forget, half of his 6 goals came from the PK spot, while the others came from point blank range. That's why I think even if Charlie did make the team, his impact would have been limited during the Gold Cup.no comments
Rangers defeated Kilmarnock 5-1 over the weekend to claim their 3rd straight Scottish title, finishing one point ahead of Celtic. Maurice Edu started for Rangers in the title-clinching match and played the full 90 minutes. This title gave Rangers a record 54th Scottish championship.
This is an impressive accomplishment, but let's be honest Scottish football is a two team league. Nobody but Rangers or Celtic actually have a legitimate shot at winning the title. The other 10 teams in the league are awful. Celtic finished a ridiculous 29 points above the 3rd place club, Hearts. I don't know if anything can be done to restore parity in this league, but Scottish football is in a sad state of affairs if you ask me.
Meanwhile, Oguchi Onyewu missed Twente's last match of the season vs. Ajax with an ab injury. The winner of this match would claim the Dutch title. Twente ended up losing the match 3-1 to Ajax and thus relinquished their title as Dutch champions.
It's always tough when you give up the title on the last day of the season. It's especially tough when you are the defending champs. It just wasn't Twente's day and not having Onyewu's towering presence in the back could not have made things any easier.
In other news, Ricardo Clark and Eintracht Frankfurt were relegated from the Bundesliga after a 3-1 loss to league champions, Borussia Dortmund. Rico did not dress, as he still is nursing a leg injury.
Jonathan Spector and West Ham also got relegated from their respective league (EPL) after collapsing to Wigan. West Ham lost the match 3-2 after holding a 2-0 lead and conceded the game winning goal in 2nd half stoppage time. Spector started and played 61 minutes.
Aston Villa midfielder, Michael Bradley finally played in his first EPL match. Bradley game off the bench and played 10 minutes in a 2-1 win over Arsenal.
Better late than never. With one more match remaining in Villa's season and with the team safely clear of relegation, maybe Bradley will get some more minutes on Sunday vs. Liverpool. It'd be nice to see Bradley make an imprint on at least one EPL match this year.
US midfielder DaMarcus Beasley is in talks with the MLS according to his agent, Lyle Yorks. Beasley signed a two year deal with Bundesliga side, Hannover last summer but he has only made 4 appearances with the club due to injury and poor form. Beasley came over on a transfer from Rangers of the Scottish Premier League.
If Beasley were to sign with the MLS, Chivas USA would have the first chance to acquire him since they sit atop the allocation rankings, which determines how US National Team players are allocated once they sign an MLS deal. Chivas USA still holds the #1 spot in the allocation order after passing on Benny Feilhaber earlier this year, who signed with the New England Revolution.
The top 5 teams in the allocation rankings are...
1. Chivas USA
2. Philadelphia Union
3. Houston Dynamo
4. Toronto FC
5. Chicago Fire
Beasley is also in talks with clubs in Mexico and Europe (specifically the Netherlands)
It's about time Beasley makes the move back to the MLS. He hasn't played regularly in Europe since his Champions League days with PSV in the Netherlands. Just like I said with Feilhaber, if Beasley wants to keep his name relevant in the national team discussion then a move back to the States is necessary. Beasley would be starting, re-gaining his confidence and hopefully returning to form as a dynamic left winger with blazing pace.
Will Chivas USA pass again? I actually think they will. First off, Beasley was making more than Feilhaber abroad and thus will require an even bigger contract or at least one that is very similar to Benny's MLS deal. So Chivas USA still has that huge financial constraint if they sign Beasley. Secondly, Chivas wants a forward and Beasley does not exactly fit the goal-scoring mold. Beasley would be good for 6-8 goals a year, but not that double digit number Chivas needs.no comments
Last night, US forward Justin Braun stole the MLS spotlight scoring a hat-trick to lead lowly Chivas USA to victory over the Red Bulls, 3-2. In a back and forth match, Braun's tap-in goal in the 56th minute was the last score of the night, allowing Chivas USA to escape Red Bull Arena with the improbable win.
Braun opened up the scoring in the 6th minute with a beautiful curling strike from the top of the 18. Henry then responded by collecting a long ball from Rafa and quickly firing a shot into the lower corner on a break-away opportunity. The scoring didn't end there, as Braun snuck a shot between Coundoul's (Red Bulls Goalie) legs from a tough angle to give Chivas USA a 2-1 lead. However, 2 minutes later DeRo scored his first goal in a NY kit from the penalty spot after the controversial Luke Rodgers got taken down in the box.
Despite countless corner and free kicks the Red Bulls could not score another and instead were left helpless as Justin Braun completed the hat trick in the 56th minute; resulting in a 3-2 Chivas win.
Side Note- Justin Braun has been called-in to the last 2 January training camps with the US National Team, but has yet to feature in an official game
Justin Braun's 3 goals...
Is this Braun's coming out party? I wouldn't get too excited yet. Braun has some ability with his 6-3 frame and solid striking ability. Tactically he has a lot to work on and with his lack of experience on the international stage, Braun still has a difficult road in front of him. At this point, he is still a long shot to play a big role in the upcoming World Cup Cycle despite a lack of forward depth in the US pool.
On Saturday, the highly anticipated Northwest derby between Seattle and Portland resulted in an exciting 1-1 draw. Despite the rain, the Seattle faithful were out in full force. To be exact there were 36,593 fans chanting and screaming at Qwest Field.
Alvaro Fernandez secured a 1-0 lead for Seattle with a nice strike in the 52nd minute. Portland then responded only 13 minutes later, capitalizing on a mistake from veteran US keeper Kasey Keller. Keller was indecisive about coming out on a free kick, thus allowing Danso to beat him to the ball and head it into the net.
The crowd and atmosphere were spectacular; however, the play on the field was adequate at best. The rain had a lot to do with the poor passing that was seen throughout the match, but I think the quality of players on the pitch played a bigger role in the sub-par performance from both squads.
Where was Kenny Cooper?? If somebody knows, please inform me because the guy was nonexistent. With his size, he should be all over the pitch creating havoc in order to stretch out the opponent's defense. Cooper did none of these things on Saturday and I expect him to step up in Portland's next game.
US Soccer Youth Technical Director and former National Team captain Claudio Reyna, presented his plan for the new US Soccer coaching curriculum, which will revamp the US youth system. The idea is to engage athletes between the ages of 6 and 12 ("golden time"), allowing them to develop the skills essential for the game at a younger age. According to research by New York Times bestseller Dan Coyle, the “golden time” is pivotal in determining whether an athlete reaches an elite level.
This six year period will be divided into two subgroups: initial and basic. In the initial stage the focus is on passing, shooting and dribbling so players can get as many touches on the ball as possible. In the basic stage, strategy gets introduced. Players are taught some of the simpler points of offensive and defensive strategy.
This nationwide initiative spearheaded by Reyna is a great step in improving the level of play in the US. Trying to implement this program nationwide is a bit ambitious, but if nothing else once a few top clubs in each region begin using this system then there will be some sort of trickle down effect.
Another important aspect of reaching players with stronger coaching at younger ages is to potentially get athletes interested in soccer over the other major sports. The US produces the greatest number of athletes in the world, but soccer is far from the most popular sport. The NFL and NBA are almost entirely filled with Americans, if some of these athletes focused more on soccer, who knows where US Soccer would be today. Just look at Chad Ochocinco, during the NFL lockout he earned (whether or not it was a PR stunt) a trial with Sporting Kansas City without having played in years.no comments
After a lack luster start to the season, Landon Donovan is on a goal scoring tear. Donovan scored 7 straight goals for the Galaxy, until Angel and Beckham put the finishing touches on LA's 4-1 victory over Sporting KC last night.
LA got off to a rocky start with Sporting KC going ahead in the 34th minute on a Omar Gonzalez own goal. However, Landon Donovan responded for the Galaxy with two goals in two minutes. His first came on a penalty kick, which was awarded to LA after Beckham got taken down in the box. Then two minutes later, Donovan executed a give and go with Chad Barrett and buried the ball home from close range. Landon's 7th goal of the year put the Galaxy ahead 2-1.
The Galaxy went on to win the match 4-1, thanks to goals from Angel and Beckham.
Here are Donovan's goals...
Beckham never fails to impress on free kicks, bending in a beauty...no comments
The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers will begin their MLS rivalry tonight at 11pm EST on ESPN2, forming the first true derby in the MLS.
If you want to get pumped up for the match, here's a video documenting Portland's home debut vs. Chicago (you will become a Timbers fan after watching this)...