Wednesday Round-Up

Always good to start the day with a little unsubstantiated rumor.

Citing Argentine Web site reports, Staff Writer Ivan Orozco reports today that former Manchester United midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron could be headed to Chivas USA in a $20 million deal from Estudiantes where he is on loan from Chelsea.

Of course, earlier reports had Veron headed to D.C. United, but for what it’s worth here’s the story.

Lots of soccer on TV today: at 4 p.m. on Fox Soccer Channel F.C. Toronto plays EPL club Aston Villa; at 5 p.m. on Telefutura it’s D.C. United and Monarcas in their SuperLiga opener; and at 7 p.m. on Telefutura it’s the Houston Dynamo against Club America in the day’s second SuperLiga game.

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Beckham Tickets & TV

After Beck’s sat out the SuperLiga opener Tuesday, Galaxy Coach Frank Yallop said after the game he anticipates making another late decision on whether he’ll play Saturday against Mexico’s Chivas at the Coliseum, so you might want hold off buying a ticket yet.

And, it turns out, people are, at least on the secondary market.

TicketsNow said Tuesday “ticket demand in the secondary market has come back down to earth” and they had more than 2,000 tickets to move for the three Galaxy SuperLiga games. The price range: $11-$268, compared to prices as high as $1,250 for the game this past weekend.

Meanwhile, Telemundo TV executives must be praying Beckham will play Saturday.

ESPN released the final ratings Tuesday for David Beckham’s MLS debut and while lower than the 1.2 overnights in major markets released earlier said it was the most-watched MLS telecast ever on ESPN or ESPN2, with 947,000 homes tuning in. That translated into a 1.0 rating, which may not sound like much, but MLS ratings are usually all but invisible, averaging around a 0.2 or so.

Here’s the (edited) ESPN press release:

“The telecast, which featured David Beckham playing for 16 minutes in his first match in a Galaxy uniform despite nursing an ankle injury, was also the most-viewed and highest-rated program of the night on ad-supported cable networks among Men 18-49 and 25-54.

The match beat the previous most-viewed telecast, the first in league history in April 1996 between D. C. United and the San Jose Clash, which was seen in 681,000 homes for a 1.0 rating.

The game also beat the most-viewed, non-World Cup final U.S. National Team game on ESPN or ESPN2. Previously, the most-viewed U.S. National Team telecast, seen in 680,000 homes for a 0.9 rating, was for the Oct. 3, 1997, World Cup qualifying match between Jamaica and the U.S. on ESPN.”

Not surprisingly, the Galaxy (and Beckham) are slated for five more prime time appearances on ESPN2 this season.

And David Beckham’s Soccer USA premieres at 6 p.m. today on Fox Soccer Channel.

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Result: Pachuca 1 Galaxy 2

Two second half strikes from Alan Gordon and Landon Donovon took the Galaxy to the top of SuperLiga Group B tonight in front of 19,317 in Carson.

The win broke a four-game Galaxy winless streak and was their first victory since Independence Day.

Alan Gordon claimed the opener five minues after the break, getting behind the last Pachuca defender and employing his left arm to control the long Landon Donovan cross before slotting it home.

The goal galvanized Pachuca and it was no surprise when striker Rafael Marquez Lugo equalized twelve minutes from the final whistle, stepping in front of Galaxy defender Abel Xavier and side-footing home a Damian Alvarez cross at the near post.

But the Galaxy struck back just three minutes later with a well-worked move begun by Chris Klein. Donovan received the ball, beat a defender and supplied Cobi Jones wide on the left, who beat two more defenders himself and shot a ball from 17 yards that deflected off Donovan into the net.

Updated 11:15 p.m.

Possession-oriented Pachuca still dominated the stats sheet in the second half — winning eight corners to the Galaxy’s one and getting twice as many shots (12) as the Galaxy on goal.

But it was the Galaxy that got the breaks — literally, said Coach Frank Yallop.

“(In the first half) we kind of allowed ourselves to let them play,” he said. “And I thought if we really, really decided to break on them we’d score goals and that proved right.”

Striker Alan Gordon acknowledged he handled the ball on his goal. But, y’know, he didn’t care.

“It wasn’t called,” he said with a laugh. “I kind of looked over my shoulder, but the flag was down. I’ll take it.”

Next up for the Galaxy: the real Chivas Saturday at the Coliseum.

Updated: Galaxy beat writer Billy Witz has more on the game here.

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Pachuca 0 Galaxy 0 (Half Time)

The first 45 minutes of the game reflected exactly what it was: a preseason game between the reigning Mexican champions and one of the worst teams in MLS.

Pachuca dominated possession, attacks and scoring opportunities — out shooting the Galaxy 11-3 — but most shots were from long range and dealt with easily by Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

Pachuca’s best chance came in stoppage time when a hard shot by defender Carlos Rodriguez was parried by Cannon and cleared by Ante Jazic.

The Galaxy unimaginative offense generated few clear cut opportunities.

The best came midway through the first half when Landon Donovan put Chris Klein behind the Pachuca defense, but Carlos Pavon headed the cross into the side netting.

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Pachuca at the Galaxy

With David Beckham not dressed as expected, the champagne and caviar crowd are absent and the stands are sporting plenty of empty seats.

Chris Klein has returned to the starting line-up for the Galaxy and Cobi Jones is back on the bench for the Group B game, otherwise it’s the same starting 11 that began the game against Chelsea.

Pachuca are without three Mexican National Team players, who will join the team Wednesday.

SuperLiga is under way, however, with FC Dallas and CD Guadalajara tying 1-1 in the opening Group B game

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SuperLiga Tuesday

The inaugural SuperLiga tournament kicks off tonight when the Galaxy play Mexican champions Pachuca at Home Depot Center.

Here’s a tournament preview from my weekly column.

And here’s a Galaxy update from Monday’s training.

Wikipedia has more background on Pachuca here.

Updated 3:30 p.m.

SuperLiga is being televised in more than two dozen nations around the world including such unlikely spots as Somalia, Iran and Libya. And belatedly, MLS has announced that English-language commentary is available here, too.

Meanwhile, Chivas USA has a special ticket deal for Saturday’s Galaxy-CD Guadalajara SuperLiga game at the Coliseum.

Buy a ticket to that game (prices start at $25) and you’ll get a free ticket to the Sept. 6 Chivas USA-D.C. United game. That will save you at least $14.

To order, click here.

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SuperLiga Kick Off


The SuperLiga trophy was unveiled today at a press conference in Hollywood. It’s pretty cool looking as you can see above.

What inspired the design? Here are the details from MLS:

“The winning team will gain possession of a silver and gold eagle feather or la pluma, which has long been one of the most coveted objects in world history, revered as a sacred symbol of honor, bravery, strength, excellence and glory. The bald eagle (U.S. and Canada) and golden
eagle (Mexico) also carry great significance in North America with the golden
eagle featuring in Mexico’s national flag.”

Alrighty then.

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The Season of the Superstar in MLS

Overshadowed by David Beckham’s debut perhaps, but Major League Soccer’s second biggest star has just made his first appearance for the Chicago Fire and put on a dazzling display.

Mexico’s Cuauhtmoc Blanco scored in the Fire’s 1-1 tie with Scotland’s Celtic in an exhibition game today in Chicago that was shown on Fox Soccer Channel, but that wasn’t the half of it.

The 34-year-old former Club America striker tormented defenders, made an audacious back heel and in the space of the hour or so he was on the field generally helped dispel bad memories of such highly-touted countrymen as Luis Hernandez and Carlos Hermosillo who never lived up to their reputations in MLS.

The league has been rightly criticized in the past for a lack of star names, but is making amends for that this season.

This afternoon’s four televised MLS games showcases some of the high-profile players who have joined the league this season.

On Direct Kick right now, beloved former Boca Juniors star Guillermo Barros Schelotto has just scored his second goal of the game for an improving Columbus Crew against expansion team Toronto FC. The 34-year-old Argentine now has four goals and seven assists in 13 MLS games.

Over on Telefutura, the free-spending New York Red Bulls are up 1-0 against DC United. New York is home to the MVP of Thursday’s All-Star game, Juan Pablo Angel, who is third in the league in scoring with nine goals in 11 MLS games (although the former Aston Villa player isn’t in the starting lineup today).

New York also signed former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna from Manchester City to add to a roster that includes a revitalized Clint Mathis and rapidly emerging youngster Jozy Altidore.

Add the likes of recent Galaxy signing Carlos Pavon, 33, the Honduran veteran; Chivas USA’s Cuban defector Maykel Galindo (seven goals and four assists in 15 games); and D.C. United’s Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio (10 goals in 16 games) and the number of impact players with flair who give armchair fans a real reason to tune in has increased dramatically.

For more on Blanco, here’s the Wikipedia entry.

Here’s what the same source says about Barros Schelotto.

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Result: Chelsea 1 Galaxy 0

Chelsea scored the lone goal of the game three minutes into the second half from a corner kick. John Terry scored with a left-footed shot from 18 yards, the ball pinging off the right post before entering the net.

The Galaxy’s best chance came in the 70th minute when substitute Quavas Kirk sent a pin-point cross to an unmarked Landon Donovan who headed over the bar from just five yards.

The night’s biggest cheer so far also came in the 70th minute when David Beckham began warming up. He disappeared down the tunnel, presumably for a pain-killing injection in his left ankle. (Beckham said after the game he needed a bathroom break and his foot strapped).

Alan Gordon became the answer to a trivia question in the 78th minute when Beckham replaced him to massive applause, including a clapping Posh Spice up in a luxury suite.

Becks played a total of 16 minutes (and 19 seconds) including stoppage time, according to one press box count, touching the ball 12 times and creating a buzz in the stadium every time he did.

“It was embarrassing at times,” he said.

Becks didn’t do much, but then he didn’t have to.

“The objective was for him to get on the pitch and give people the dessert they were waiting for,” Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho said in the post-game press conference.

Still, one crunching tackle from former Reading player Steve Sidwell left him clutching his ankle and undoubtedly sent the pulses of Galaxy officials racing before he quickly jumped to his feet.

“I saw him coming and I jumped just in time, so my foot wasn’t planted when he hit me,” Beckham said.

Beckham also took one corner and sent one long ball to Quavas Kirk, providing a small reminder of his vision and accuracy and prompting Mourinho to note that “his right foot has eyes.”

Oh, and Tigres won the World Series of Football on goal difference.

“It was nice to get out there and kick a soccer ball again,” Beckham said. “I haven’t trained all week, I haven’t kicked a ball all week.”

His ankle was “swollen slightly” and it’s unclear if he will play Tuesday against Pachuca in the SuperLiga (although that didn’t stop the Galaxy from promoting that he will play in that game on the illuminated advertising sign around one half of the field).

Still, Beckham said his foot wasn’t as swollen as it was two or three days ago and his goal is to be fully fit for the Galaxy game against Chivas next Saturday at the Coliseum.

“He might not play in the next two games, we don’t know,” said Galaxy Coach Frank Yallop.

He called the game a “building block” and was visibly relieved to get Beckham’s debut out of the way.

Mind you, so was Becks.

“This last week has been one of the most incredible of my life attention-wise,” he said.

Among the celebrities paying attention and in attendance tonight: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, basketball player Kevin Garnett, Mary-Kate Olsen, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Katie Holmes.

Updated: Galaxy beat writer Billy Witz has more details.

Here’s columnist Paul Oberjuerge’s view.

Columnist Steve Dilbeck chimes in.

And it sounds like sports media columnist Tom Hoffarth really enjoyed tuning in.

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