Posts Tagged ‘david beckham’

By Evan Ream

I’m genuinely excited for this game, as I am for all MLS Cups, even if something predictable happens. I started watching MLS Cup in 2004 and have never been treated to a bad game. Even the worse games of the seven I have watched live went to overtime. I don’t think this game will be bad, I think it will actually pretty much mirror the best one I have seen: MLS Cup 2008.

The Galaxy will start off strong and get a goal in the first half – Robbie Keane is my pick to get it – and cruise to halftime leading 1-0. After the half, one of the Dynamo’s 394702347230 six footers will equalize setting up a dramatic finish in which Keane will score twice after the 85th minute. Yes, I’m predicting the first hat-trick in MLS Cup history. I think Keane is on really good form and will exploit the Houston backline with smart runs.

Houston still has a chance in this game, but I think that they just don’t have enough quality. They will probably have to score two or three goals on set pieces to win this game, and with Brad Davis out, I just don’t see that happening.

Prediction: L.A. Galaxy 3 Houston Dynamo 1

MVP: Robbie Keane

By Evan Ream

This Sunday, the L.A. Galaxy will take on the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. to decide who will win the 16th MLS Cup. This is my first of two team previews.

Overview

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>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern


Last Year: 18-7-5 59 points, 1st in West, 1st overall. Beat Seattle Sounders FC 3-1 on aggregate in the Western Conference Semifinals, Lost to FC Dallas 3-0 in the Western Conference Final. Won the Supporter’s Shield
 
Key Losses: Eddie Lewis, Chris Klein, Dema Kovalenko, Tristan Bowen, Edson Buddle
 
Key Additions: Juan Pablo Angel, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Barrett, Paolo Cardozo
 
Projected Starting XI: The Galaxy look to play in a straight 4-4-2 just like they did last year. Up top, Juan Pablo Angel is a clear lock for one of the two forward spots. Chad Barrett looks to have the upper hand on Adam Christman for the other starting forward spot, though it should be noted that Landon Donovan could see some time up top as well. Donovan will probably be preferred at left midfield where he can see more of the ball and make better use of his speed. On the opposite flank, David Beckham is the clear starter. In the middle Juninho will likely start alongside Chris Birchall. Juninho will likely be slightly more of an attacking player than Birchall, but not necessarily that much higher up on the field. Juninho is a linking player who plays further back than people think while Birchall is just a prototypical destroyer. This year’s Galaxy backline looks to be one of the strongest in the league: perhaps only second to Real Salt Lake. Todd Dunivant should be the starter at left back; Gregg Berhalter should play next to him, though it is unclear how well he will hold up during the entire season. Leonardo should get a good amount of starts in place of Berhalter. Omar Gonzalez is one of the best defenders in the league and he is a clear starter here as well. Sean Franklin, an underrated player in my eyes, will be a lock at right back. Frankie Hejduk should be able to come off the bench late in games to preserve leads or be a solid back-up to Dunivant and Franklin. In goal, Donovan Ricketts will be the starter for the third year in a row.
 

Chad Barrett          Juan Pablo Angel
 
Landon Donovan          Juninho          Chris Birchall         David Beckham
 
Todd Dunivant          Gregg Berhalter          Omar Gonzalez          Sean Franklin
 
Donovan Ricketts

 
Prognosis: This team is pretty old in some areas and Bruce Arena picked up some very old players (Angel and Hejduk) in the offseason. This looks to be a championship or bust type of squad. Though they won’t completely destroy the squad if the team fails to win, you have to think that some guys like Beckham and Hejduk will be on their way out. This team possesses perhaps the best finisher in the league (Angel), the best passer in the league (Donovan) and the best crosser in the league (Beckham). If Angel stays healthy (and Chad Barrett actually decides to play soccer), this team could be one of the best offensive teams in league history. One thing that I have learned to do over the years is never to doubt David Beckham. He has overcome so much, and I think even he knows that his MLS legacy will look a lot better if he wins a title in his last year. For that reason, and the quality of players and coaches the Galaxy have, I can’t see them finishing out of the top two. This team will make a good playoff run and should be considered one of the, if not the favorite for the title.
 
The Intern’s Take: The main question about LA is how far they will go in the playoffs, not if they will earn a spot there. They are filled with talent in most positions and should be challenging the entire season for the Supporters’ Shield and have a very real chance of winning that trophy for the second season in a row. Although getting up there in age, Juan Pablo Angel should be able to adequately replace the forward role left open by Edson Buddle’s move to Germany, and maybe even score more than Buddle did for LA last season. The Galaxy went unbeaten in their first 12 games last year, only losing once the World Cup was underway, when they were without Donovan and Buddle. With this summer’s Gold Cup, the Galaxy will have a similar situation, and there is also the possibility that Omar Gonzalez may be called up onto the US roster. As the reigning regular season champions, the Galaxy will be playing in the 2011/12 CONCACAF Champion’s League. They are a very talented team and it will be interesting to see how much emphasis they put on this tournament. For the sake of MLS, let’s hope they don’t make the same mistakes as last year, in which they did not manage to qualify for the group stage and were embarrassed at home in a 4-1 loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders. I would love to see a full strength Galaxy team take on some of the Mexican teams in this tournament. The Galaxy will have a lot of soccer crammed into the season (MLS, CCL, US Open Cup, as well as players in the Gold Cup) and there must be concerns about how this team will hold up, especially given the age of some of LA’s key players. That being said, they are still a talent packed team that is in the middle of the discussion of possible MLS Cup winners for the 2011 season.

>By Evan Ream

With MLS Cup 2010 over with, I feel like it is finally time to look back on one of the biggest league changes that has ever occurred in MLS. I’m talking about the “Designated Player Rule.” For the first 11 years of MLS, the maximum salary that any player could be signed to (aside from a few exceptions) was around $300,000. This made sense from a fiscal standpoint as MLS didn’t have enough money to spend any more than that, however it didn’t help bring any more star power to the league.
 
After a decade of MLS, the owners began to feel like the league was becoming stale and thus created the so-called “Beckham Rule,” under which any player could be signed for any amount of money, though he would count as a maximum salary under the salary cap. This rule was created to sign marquee players that the league never would have been able to sign before. Although a Designated Player has yet to win an MLS Cup, they have undeniable changed the way the league works. From busts like Denílson to great successes like Juan Pablo Ángel, I am going to rank all the designated players from worst to best.
 
Before I get to the list, I want to describe the criteria that I’m working with. First of all, I’m only going to consider DP’s that originally signed with the league as DP’s (so I’m disregarding Landon Donovan, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and Luciano Emilio). Furthermore, I’m only going to include players who have spent the majority of their MLS career as a designated player (so Claudio López is excluded). When I cut those players out of the equation, 17 players remain. I am going to judge those 17 players on not only goals and assists, but also contributions to their team weighed against their salary (according to Wikipedia) and any notable contributions to the team (such as winning trophies or setting franchise records). So, without any more build up, here is my list:
17. Nery Castillo, Chicago Fire 2010 – present, $1,400,004 Regular Season: 8 Games/0 Goals/0 Assists Playoffs: 0/0/0
Among Designated Players, there have been some amazingly huge busts, and Nery Castillo is the perfect example of one. He arrived in Chicago with great fanfare and huge promise, and all that happened was that the Fire got worse and didn’t make the playoffs while Castillo looked out of shape while not contributing a goal or assist. With the tight budgets in MLS, you can’t afford (both figuratively and literally) to spend almost $1.5 million on a player that does essentially nothing in eight games. It remains to be seen what will happen to Castillo next year, but I can’t imagine that the Fire would want to retain him unless they completely restructured his contract which I’m sure he is less than willing to do.
 
16. Mista, Toronto FC 2010, $968,736 RS: 9/0/1 P: 0/0/0 Notable Accomplishments: Canadian Championship (2010)
The former Spanish international was recently cut from Toronto (a team in need of good forwards) without scoring a league goal. He was pretty much just as disappointing as Castillo, but he gets higher marks for winning a trophy (though not a major one), and providing a goal in the CONCACAF Champions League as well as an assist in league play. Yes, Toronto spent about one million for a goal and an assist.
 
15. Denílson, FC Dallas 2007, Salary Figures Not Available RS: 7/1/0 P: 2/0/0
Denílson only ranks higher than the previous two players do because his team actually made the playoffs and he actually scored a league goal (even if it was a penalty). This being said, Denílson was a giant disappointment as he consistently did nothing in games and disappeared for giant stretches. His team actually almost made the Western Conference Final; they were up 2-0 with 45 minutes left, but then Arturo Alvarez got a dumb red card and they lost to Houston 4-2. Just think, Denílson could have been below average for at least one more playoff game! The fans were robbed by Alvarez.
 
14. Luis Landín, Houston Dynamo 2009-2010, SFNA RS: 16/2/3 P: 3/0/0
I think Luis Landín qualifies as the only MLS field player that has been fatter than Andy Williams. Landín showed bits of skill in his two seasons, scoring two goals and contributing three assists, but it was ultimately just not enough as he could never really get into shape or adjust to the physical play of MLS. On a side note, I think I saw Landín in a video game the other day.
 
13. Branko Bošković, DC United 2010 – present, $380,000 RS: 13/0/0 P: 0/0/0
I don’t think we have really gotten a chance to fairly assess Bošković yet. Yes, he hasn’t really done much in MLS play, but he was on one of the worst teams in league history last year. With DC adding Dax McCarty and presumably getting healthier, we should get a better assessment of Bošković next year. He has played well for Montenegro during his international breaks, which would suggest that he can be a quality player in MLS, but I think we need to wait and see for this player.
 
12. Claudio Reyna, New York Red Bulls 2007-2008, SFNA RS: 27/0/3 P: 2/0/0
Claudio Reyna is the second best USMNT player of all time, behind Landon Donovan; unfortunately, his great international career didn’t really translate into MLS. Reyna was a good player during his brief stint, but he could never stay healthy. Reyna was simply too old to play on turf consistently. His time in MLS was a sad ending for such an accomplished player.
 
11. Julian De Guzman, Toronto FC 2009 – present, $1,670,796 RS: 30/0/2 P: 0/0/0 NA: Canadian Championship (2009, 2010)
Julian De Guzman hasn’t really been an amazing two way midfielder like we all thought he would when he first entered the league, but he hasn’t really had much help either. I just don’t understand how a player can go from starting in La Liga to being an average MLS player. In fact, if I had to pick one word to describe De Guzman thus far in MLS, I would pick “mediocre.” De Guzman simply hasn’t been the amazing passer that he can be. He has definitely shown flashes, but has to play consistently good soccer.
 
10. Marcelo Gallardo, DC United 2008, SFNA RS: 15/4/3 P: 0/0/0
Gallardo was an interesting player in MLS. On one hand, he couldn’t stay healthy and he didn’t really fit into the DC team like the player he replaced, Christian Gomez. On the other hand though, he scored some amazing goals. Gallardo was a talented player who would go on to star for River Plate after MLS, but I just feel like he didn’t really fit into the league and didn’t live up to the expectations that United fans had of him after they traded Christian Gomez.
 
9. Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls 2010 – present, $5,600,000 RS:11/2/3 P: 1/0/0
So far, Henry has pretty much done nothing on the field to help New York as he has been struggling with injuries. He has contributed just two goals in 11 games for the Red Bulls, but I still think his signing has been a success. Henry is just two years removed from starting for a Champions League winning team. He is clearly still a quality player. Once he settles in to MLS, he should be one of the greatest the league has ever seen. That being said, to sign him for four more years is a coup for the league.
 
8. Geovanni, San Jose Earthquakes 2010, SFNA RS: 12/1/3 P: 3/0/0
Geovanni was recently cut by the Earthquakes, but I honestly have no idea why. Although it doesn’t show in the numbers, he was instrumental in the late season run for the Quakes. Before Geovanni arrived, the offense was stale, and lacking a playmaker, but once he did arrive, Chris Wondolowski went off and scored a ton of goals, as defenses could no longer focus on him. I have to think that the only reason San Jose cut Geovanni was a contract dispute, because he was undoubtedly a success on the field.
 
7. Álvaro Fernández, Seattle Sounders FC 2010 – present, $300,000 RS: 12/2/1 P: 2/0/0 NA: US Open Cup (2010)
Álvaro Fernández is the lowest earning member of any Designated Player on the list and therefore one of the list’s shrewdest signing. Fernández got decent playing time at the last World Cup for Uruguay during their run to the semi-finals. For whatever reason, he came off the bench last year because Sanna Nyassi was in favor, but he still positively influenced nearly every game he entered. In fact, Seattle did absolutely nothing in the playoffs without him on the field. Fernández still has to adjust to the league, but the start to his MLS career looks promising.
 
6. Rafael Márquez, New York Red Bulls 2010 – present, $5,560,000 RS: 10/1/1 P: 2/0/0
Rafael Márquez would and should be higher on this list if it wasn’t for a terrible playoff performance in both legs against the Earthquakes this year. Márquez is one of the best players in the league at this moment and he has certainly been good for New York, but he was just terrible in the playoffs. The fact that I have him this high on the list still though shows how good of a player he is. Look for Márquez to be one of the best players in the league next year.
 
5. Blaise Nkufo, Seattle Sounders FC 2010 – present, $480,000 RS: 11/5/0 P: 2/0/0 NA: US Open Cup (2010)(null)
I love the way Nkufo plays. At 35 years of age, you would think that he would just be your average target forward who finished off good service in the box, but this was not the case. If you look at the second goal in his game against the Crew where he scored a hat trick, he beats a solid (and much younger) player in Brian Carroll with ease. Nkufo is a smart and intelligent player who still obviously has physical gifts. He scored five goals in just 11 games for the Sounders; I can’t wait to see what he can do over an entire season.
 
4. Freddie Ljungberg, Seattle Sounders FC 2009-2010, Chicago Fire 2010 – present, $1,300,000 RS: 52/4/19 P: 2/0/0 NA: US Open Cup (2009) MLS Best XI (2009)
Despite constant issues with management, Ljungberg has been one of the best players in MLS the last two year. He has constantly been an attacking threat, providing nearly 20 assists in two years in the league. People may complain about his diving, but he has always been quality on the field, no matter which team he was playing for. There really isn’t a lot to say about Freddie, just that he has been great on the field and a great ambassador for soccer in the United States.
 
3. David Beckham, LA Galaxy 2007 – present, $6,500,000 RS: 48/9/16 P: 7/0/3 NA: Western Conference Champion (2009) Supporter’s Shield (2010)
People may complain about what David Beckham has been doing the last two seasons, by getting loaned out to AC Milan in a last ditch attempt to make the England World Cup team, but you can’t really blame him for wanting to play at the highest level. Beckham has done something that no other player up to his point had done in the league; he made MLS relevant which is more important than any amount of games that he has skipped. The funny thing is that when he actually has been on the field and playing, he has played really well. Beckham was probably the Galaxy’s best player this year in the playoffs and he scored two key goals in order to push them to the Supporter’s Shield. Beckham should be back next year, which would be a huge boost for the Galaxy as he is one of the best players in the league.
 
2. Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Chicago Fire 2007-2009, SFNA RS: 62/16/26 P: 9/1/1 NA: MLS Best XI (2008)
I really hate putting Blanco this high on the list because I am not a fan of his personality, but he was quality when he played in MLS. So far, in 15 years, he is the only Mexican to ever make the MLS Best XI. He was an amazing player in his three years, not just for the goals and assists he provided (which were plentiful), but for his ability to maintain possession and switch the point of attack. His teams never made a cup final, but they were some of the better and more exciting teams during the last part of the decade in MLS.
 
1. Juan Pablo Ángel, New York Red Bulls 2007-2010, $1,620,000 RS: 102/58/14 P: 8/3/0 NA: MLS Best XI (2007), Western Conference Champion (2008), NY Red Bulls All Time Leading Goal Scorer (58)
This isn’t even close. There is Juan Pablo Ángel and then there is everyone else. Ángel may be the best signing in MLS history for the countless goals that he has provided. At times (especially 2009), Ángel was the only bright spot for New York on the field. He gave a cursed franchise hope for four years, as well as great regular season and playoff memories. Ángel’s contract was recently not picked up by New York, which I think may be one of the biggest mistakes New York has ever made (which is saying something). At the age of 35, Ángel still has it and another team will pick him up and pay him Designated Player money without hesitation.
 
As you can see, many of these players have been busts. It seems as if, in most cases, teams were better off signing lesser-known players for a lot cheaper than Designated Players, but as we are only four years into the rule, it remains to be seen what different expensive players can do. This rule has definitely been a positive as most of these players would have never been in the league without it. I look forward to the coming years to see what exciting players the league can sign (or resign in the case of Álvaro Saborío and Fredy Montero) to Designated Player contracts.