Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Does the MLS All-Star Game mean to Major League Soccer?

Tonight, (Wednesday, July 25th, 2012) The MLS All-Stars will play the European Champions, Chelsea in a friendly at PPL Park in Philadelphia, PA.

The question that tends to come up each year around this game is, what does this game mean? Well, depending how you look at it, this game can mean a lot of things, or very little.

Most MLS fans see this game as a yardstick comparing the MLS to other clubs around the world. In past games, the MLS All-Stars have had mixed results. Sometimes they win, other times they lose. But this game does seem to have some extra expectations. Maybe because Chelsea are European Champions., Or perhaps it is because more and more stars from around the world are playing in the MLS. Either way, the result of the MLS All-Star game will have reverberations around the league, and even the world.

The MLS All-Stars do have a challenge on their hands. Although they are a team made up of the best players in the league, they have little experience playing with each other. Chelsea, on the other hand, has much more experience playing together and even though they might not have all their players, they have a formidable lineup.

In the end, if the All-Stars lose, I don't think much will be said about it. After all, Chelsea did win the Champions League. But if the MLS All-Stars win, I think it will be one step closer to bringing Major League Soccer up to par with the rest of the world, as well as gaining a little respect.

The MLS All-Star game will be live on ESPN and at 8:30pm Wednesday, July 25th.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Union Future Looking Bright with Three Game Winning Streak

PPL Park Home of the Philadelphia Union 
courtesy Philadelphia Union 
The Philadelphia Union are on a three game winning streak at the midpoint of the MLS season.  In each of their wins the Union displayed good passing and possession and most importantly, goals, which brought them each win.

In the Union's Major league Soccer game against Toronto FC on July 8th 2012, they recorded an impressive 3-0 victory over their opposition. Although the Union are just one place ahead of last place Toronto, in their last meeting Toronto was the victor.

The Union played well throughout the game against Toronto and goals by Adu, McInerney, and Farfan sealed the victory. This was the Union's second win in a row, after surprisingly beating the Galaxy 2-1 the week before.

While the Union's victory over Toronto was complete, they faced a more difficult challenge in the form of the Montreal Impact, who they played on July 14th 2012 at PPL Park.

Goalkeepers Zac MacMath for the Union, and Donovan Ricketts for Montreal each made invaluable saves during the first 80 minutes which kept this MLS game scoreless. But in the 82nd minute, Lionard Pajoy broke the deadlock and knocked a lose ball into the back of the Impact's net.

But Montreal came level just minutes later when an Impact corner kick was curled in at the Union goal, deflected off a player, and ended up in the back of the net. A 1-1 tie was not what the Philadelphia Union wanted or needed as they try to salvage their season and win games. So in extra time, defender Carlos Valdez took it into his hands and grabbed a late game winning goal (his first of the season), to give the Union the full 3 points they need.

Watch full match highlights of the Union's 2-1 win over Montreal.

The Union seem to have found the scoring ability they lacked for most of the season. If they can continue to win games, they are likely to make the playoffs, and have a chance for the Cup.

Philadelphia will play Aston Villa in a friendly on Wednesday, but return to MLS play on Saturday as they take on the New York Red Bulls. The game against New York will be broadcast live on ESPN at 2:30 PM EST July 21st.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Union Secure 2-1 Win Over LA Galaxy

The Philadelphia Union beat the LA Galaxy 2-1 after a stoppage time goal scored by Michael Farfan. It was an important victory for the Union as they attempt to get their season back on track with new coach John Hackworth.

Union Win 2-1 vs LA
The Union faced an immediate onslaught for the first 20 minutes or so as the Galaxy pressed them and took several shots. But Philadelphia made it through the initial push, and began to settle in and pass the ball around. The half looked to end scoreless but just before the whistle, Michael Farfan made a drive to the end-line past his defender and sent a low cross that Jack McInerney elegantly back-healed into the side netting on the far end of the goal. And before anyone knew it, the Union were up 1-0 at halftime.

The Galaxy made a few changes, notably to their back line, and came out in the second half looking for an equalizer. The Union did well and kept the Galaxy from scoring until the 73rd minute when a ball sent across the goal found Chad Barrett who finished it to make it 1-1.

LA continued to look for goals but it was the Union who got the late winner.

In the 95th minute, Michael Farfan got the ball just outside the area and dribbled towards goal under minimal pressure. a low curling shot to the back post left the Galaxy keeper no chance, and give the Union a 2-1 victory.

This victory is crucial for the Union after an unfortunate loss last week in Houston as they try to make up for lost points. The good news for the Union is they have been playing very well recently and have 3 games in hand on the Montreal Impact who are 1 point ahead in the Eastern Conference Standings.

The Philadelphia will play Toronto on Sunday and plan to extend their winning streak to two games.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spain Play the Perfect Game in Euro Cup Final

On July 1st, 2012, Spain beat Italy 4-0 to become European Champions. They also defended their '08 Euro Cup title, and became the first team to win three major tournaments in a row (Euro '8, World Cup '10, Euro '12).

Spain are Champions
But what the world watched in the 2012 Euro Cup Final was not the same Spanish team that won in '08 or at the World Cup, it wasn't even the same as the team that made its way to the final. No, the Spanish team that showed up in the final was a perfect team.

From the goalkeeper Casillas, who made several key saves to keep the clean sheet, to the defense who effectively shut down the Italian attack, to the substantial midfield that not only blocked Pirlo from passing, but created goal scoring opportunities in wonderful passing efficiency. The Spanish played the best any team has ever played, and they did it with the world watching.

Each goal came about because of quick passing and perfect accuracy. The fact they scored 4 goals against a good Italian defense and one of the best goalkeepers in Buffon, shows how deadly they were.

Some might say it goes too far to call Spain's performance in the Euro Final 'perfect', or to say they are the best team in history. But the fact that no other team has put together a show like Spain did in the final, and no other team has won three major tournaments in a row, seem like overwhelming factors in their favor. I think Spain are due their recognition.

While I look forward to Spain's next involvement in a tournament (World Cup 2014), I recognize that it will be nearly impossible for them to play better than they did in the Euro Final. From now on, people will compare their performance to that game, and will likely be disappointed when they don't meet that expectation. I am just glad I was able to watch the game in which Spain proved they are the best.

If you are looking for more on the final, read Euro Cup Final 2012 - Spain Beat Italy 4-0