Thursday Update

F.C. Dallas has shipped moody malcontent Ramn Nez to Chivas USA in exchange for a conditional 2009 draft pick.
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Nunez’ star is on the rise and the 21-year-old came close to making his national team debut with Honduras last year, but he reportedly had several run ins with management in Dallas.

In Nunez, Chivas USA gets the playmaker it has lacked since Chivas USA Coach Preki shipped the petulant Amado Guevara back to his native Honduras earlier this season. Hope he has bettter luck with Nunez.

He logged 67 regular-season games in four seasons for Dallas, scoring 14 goals and 9 assists.

The SMU product who has lived in the U.S. since age 5 could make his Chivas USA debut Saturday against Toronto.
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“We are pleased to have secured a player of Ramn Nez caliber at this point in our season, Preki said. This is the time of year when good clubs need good players to step up, as we continue our push toward a playoff spot. We hope that Ramn will increase the overall quality and level of competition within our already strong group of players.”

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Result: D.C. United 0 Beckham 2

The Galaxy’s second goal was pure Beckham, too.

He made an inch perfect pass from inside the Galaxy’s half of the center circle that eluded Josh Gros and was clinically finished by Donovan.

United didn’t play poorly — they out shot the Galaxy 8-4 in the first half, for instance — but they didn’t have a player of Beckham’s undoubted class.

Clearly the outstanding player on the field, Beckham dominated the game, dictating the tempo, directing virtually all the Galaxy’s attacks and making the game look simple, a trait of all the greats.

Even Posh clapped after his goal.

Beck’s left in the 63rd minute, his job done and the field turf at Giant’s Stadium looming Saturday.

There were 17,223 in attendance and you’ve got to think those ticket stubs will be quite the piece of memorabilia in years to come.

Steve McClaren picks his England team Friday, by the way, but Beckham is already all but guaranteed a spot.

Next up for the Galaxy in SuperLiga: Pachuca on Wednesday Aug. 29 in the final, two days after the Galaxy visit Kansas City.

Updated 10:45 P.M.

Keep a bunch of sports writers on a tight deadline waiting for 90 minutes for an interview after a game (he needed treatment on the ankle) and you’re sure to get a hostile reception. Unless you’re Beck’s who disarms any hostility immediately with that “aw shucks” smile and a (genuine, you feel) comment of “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Anyway, modest Becks talked for 14 minutes, thanked the ref for not giving him a red card for the foul and described both goals as owing something to a “certain amount of luck,” (!) but conceded “you create your own luck.”

“I felt I was going to score as soon as I had the ball in my hands,” he said of the free kick that was the first he’d taken in eight weeks. “If I hit it right I knew it was going in.”

Beckham said he was surprised at the strength of his left ankle.

“I was happy to get an hour on the pitch — I didn’t expect to last an hour,” he said. “It was a lot better than I actually thought it was going to be.”

I did get a knock on my ankle tonight,” he added. “It’s slightly swollen.”

Still, he hopes to play at least part of the game in New York before flying out to join up with the rest of the squad before England’s game on Wednesday against Germany.

Beckham was the talk of the post-game press conference even before his belated appearance.

D.C. United Coach Tom Soehn was asked four questions — and three were about Beckham.

Galaxy Coach Frank Yallop looked like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

“It was good for the locker room to be buoyant and happy because we haven’t had a lot of happiness this year,” he said. “We’ve all been waiting for that free kick.”

Landon Donovan said he had approached Beckham after training Tuesday to offer him the captaincy.

“I’m not stupid and I’m not naive,” he said. “This is someone who’s been the captain of England, one of the better teams in the world.

“(Becoming captain) made him immediately a part of the team.”

And his performance tonight instantly made him the most important part.

Updated 1 a.m.

For more details on the game, here’s what Galaxy beat writer Billy Witz had to say.

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D.C. United 0 Beckham 1 (Half Time)

Here’s how the Beckham goal was described on MLS’ Match tracker:

“LA -27th Minute. Goal Scored by 23-David Beckham, 1st of season. In Goal was 1-Troy Perkins. Goal scored from outside penalty area.”

Hmmm.

What the crowd at a half-empty Home Depot Center really saw was a strike of transcendent beauty, a stunning free kick from 27 yards that left goalkeeper Troy Perkins rooted to the spot and staring at the ball rippling the inside netting. This is why the MLS suits wanted Beckham.

Beckham is wearing the captain’s armband and is displaying the sort of leadership the Galaxy direly needs.

Match Tracker does helpfully tell us Beck’s has completed 13 out of 17 passes though.

He also found time to pick up a yellow card for a nasty looking foul on Moreno that would have earned some players a straight red.

Let’s hope Beckham’s ankle holds up and he comes out for the second half.

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D.C. United at Galaxy

The game just kicked off (it’s on Telefutura)

Joe Cannon is in goal as usual for the Galaxy ahead of a back four of Chris Klein (Troy Roberts is out injured) at right back, Ty Harden and Abel Xavier in the middle and Mike Randolph on the left.

David Beckham starts in central midfield in his first first competitive game for the Galaxy (let’s hope his left ankle holds up on a terrible pitch thanks to the X Games), while Kyle Martino is wide on the left opposite Landon Donovan and Kevin Harmse is the holding midfielder.

Up front: Edson Buddle and Carlos Pavon.

Ante Jazic, Kelly Gray and Alan Gordon are all suspended.

Jaime Moreno has returned for D.C. United through injury, replacing Clyde Sims who is on the bench. Defender Marc Burch is out injured with former Galaxy defender Greg Vanney getting a start in his place, but otherwise it’s the same starting line-up as in United’s last game against the Galaxy, a 1-0 win last week in D.C.

Moreno just launched a 45-yard shot in the 11th minute that Cannon punched over the bar, an early salvo that should keep him from venturing too far off his goal line.

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Wednesday Gameday

Beckham to play tonight*

About an hour after we learned David Beckham would play tonight’s SuperLiga game against D.C. United the Galaxy were already hyping his appearance in an e-mail to fans. No asterisk in the e-mail though; Beckham will not play the entire 90 minutes in a move that seems aimed at ensuring he gets picked for England’s next game more than anything.

The winner plays Pachuca in the final.

Donovan, Bornstein on U.S. squad

Chivas USA’s Jonathan Bornstein and the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan were two of just three MLS players picked Tuesday for the next U.S. game against Sweden.

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Sports Book Saturday

It was once virtually impossible to place a soccer-related bet at Las Vegas sports books outside of the World Cup.

But the Hilton it seems has ramped up its offerings.

Action is available not only for the 2010 World Cup already (Bosnia-Hertzegovina at 2500/1 to win anyone?), but the opening weekend of the Mexican Apertura, MLS games and the EPL.

As far as the Hilton is concerned, there’s only three teams with a good chance at the EPL title this season: Chelsea (3/2), Manchester United (6/5) and Liverpool ((/2), although Arsenal is enticing at 12/1.

Aston Villa, rebuilding with American cash under Manager Martin O’Neill, is available for 200/1, Fulham and its American contingent are an unlikely 2500/1 as are the likes of Derby County and Wigan Athletic.

In MLS games Sunday, the New England Revolution are a one-goal favorite over the Galaxy (apparently the experts here haven’t caught too many LA games lately), while the Red Bulls are favored over Toronto. Sigi Schmid’s improving Columbus Crew are one goal underdogs today against FC Dallas.

Possibly the best bet of the lot: the Houston Dynamo-Colorado Rapids game. Odds makers say pick ‘em, but surely the MLS champions can beat Fernando Clavijo and Co., on the road.

For those with a longer-term perspective, England is 12/1 to win the World Cup three years from now, the U.S. is 60/1 and Mexico 50/1. Brazil are the favorites at 5/1, by the way.

No odds are available on David Beckham going 90 minutes for the Galaxy Sunday though.

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Vegas Friday

I’m off to Las Vegas for the weekend so posting will be negligible (no column Tuesday either), although I will check out the EPL odds on opening weekend in the sports book.

David Beckham, nice guy that he is, got on the field for the Galaxy last night in the nation’s capital. The Galaxy still lost, however, 1-0 to D.C. in a rather tepid 10-man performance (Kyle Martino was sent off) in a downpour.

There’s close to two dozen (!) soccer games on TV this weekend, including the penultimate game Sunday in the U.S. Women’s Send-Off Series against New Zealand. The final game before the World Cup is set for Aug. 25 at Home Depot Center against Finland.

I’ve set my TiVo for Reading against Manchester United (8 a.m. Sunday on Fox Soccer Channel) and Galaxy verses New England (4 p.m. Sunday on FSN), although with any luck I’ll watch the latter game in a cabana at the pool.

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Thursday Gameday

We’ll find out tonight whether David Beckham is ready for MLS prime time when the Galaxy visits D.C. United. Kick off is at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.

Click the link for the obligatory update on Beckham’s ankle and a game preview. (And it’s worth going to the end of the story just to read the more than strained excuse for the racist chanting directed at American DaMarcus Beasley during a recent European game).

Updated 12:45 p.m.

Will Beckham play or not? Here’s a sampling of today’s headlines (in order of optimism):

Beckham hopes to make MLS debut tonight (The Examiner)
Ankle Is ‘Looking Up’ But Beckham Uncertain (The Washington Post)
Beckham appearance unlikely in D.C. (MLSnet.com)

That’s settled then.

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Wednesday Wrap

No local game for Brazil nuts

Mexico plays China Oct. 17 (that’s a Wednesday) at the Coliseum in its fifth and final game of 2007 on U.S. soil, Soccer United Marketing officials announced.

Mexico will also play Brazil in Boston Sept. 12, a game that falls on a designated international fixture date, which means such stars as Ronaldinho and Kaka will be available. The game, which will be played three days after the U.S. faces Mexico at the Azteca Stadium, begins at 5 p.m. on Telemundo.

Tickets to the local game go on sale Aug. 24 for those with Visa credit cards and to everyone else Sept. 1. Tickets start at $25.

It’s the first time Mexico has played in Southern California since beating Venezuela in May 2006 before more than 50,000 at the Rose Bowl.

Mexico has played China twice before, winning 3-2 in 1987 in Mexico and 3-0 six years later in San Diego.

UCLA ranked No. 1 (again)

Another pre-season poll, another No. 1 ranking for the Bruins’ men’s team.

Updated 3p.m.

Swiss Chivas

Swiss World Cup veteran Raphael Wicky is training with Chivas USA, club officials confirmed today.

Wicky, 30, a midfielder who was most recently with Germany’s Hamburger SV, began training with the team Tuesday.

Wicky played in all four Swiss World Cup games last year and has made more than 70 appearances for the national team since making his 1996 debut. He’s versatile and capable of playing as a holding midfielder as well as on the wing.

Wicky has also played (briefly) for Spain’s Athletico Madrid, Werder Bremen and Swiss club FC Sion.

Also on trial with Chivas USA: Colombian forward Oscar Echeverry, who formerly played for Deportivo Cali.

Neither player is eligible to play in Saturday’s friendly in Sacramento against a National Premier League All-Star squad.

Nowak named U-23 coach

This isn’t much of a surprise, but Peter Nowak, who has assisted Bob Bradley with the full national team since December, was named Under-23 coach Wednesday by U.S Soccer in addition to that job.

The former Polish international, 43, was an MLS veteran with the Chicago Fire and MLS Cup winner as coach of D.C. United.

Nowak has the soccer cred, although most journalists would describe him as taciturn. In fact, he refused to talk to the media initially upon assuming the role as Bradley’s assistant.

Let’s hope that changes in the months ahead or you can expect short articles about the Olympic team.

Qualifying for the Olympic Games begins in earnest next year; the U.S. failed to make it to Greece last time around.

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