A Few Words With New Chivas USA Midfielder Sasha Victorine

Sasha strikes
i-04cca48118ac705045bff49a22857f43-TS28-CHIVAS_KC-SMc320.jpg

Photo by Steve McCrank

Had a longish conversation with once and former Galaxy midfielder and now and current Chivas USA player Sasha Victorine after he scored the winner in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Kansas City Wizards.

Local journalists are happy to see Victorine back for more reasons than just his play – he is thoughtful, usually more than happy to chat and generally a good quote (I feel an MLS all-quote team list coming on):

On whether he had a point to prove after the Wizards let him go reportedly in part because of “declining production:

“Obviously you go in there and say I feel like I can still get goals and get assists and help teams win games. That’s the point I wanted to prove to those guys that letting me go would hurt them. Who knows what it ultimately ends up doing to them at the end of the season, but I just feel comfortable we got our points here and we got a win at home.”

On how joining Chivas USA has been:

“First day you come into a new team it’s always a little questionable about how the guys are going to treat you and if they respect you. I’ve tried to come out to the practice field and work hard and show that I’m here to help them win and they’ve been very respectful to me helping me feel I’m part of the team quickly.”

On playing in the stadium as a member of the “other” team:

“It’s so far in the past for me. It’s weird coming back to this stadium and being in a different locker room, but I tell you what they’ve made it a great home for me so far and I’m just enjoying it.”

On being a hometown boy (his parents live in Corona) returning to L.A.:

“It’s a little weird for sure. It’s great – my family gets to watch me play and its been a few years since they got to see me play all the time, so it’s always nice to be back in California. You can’t beat these nights, this weather out here at night.”

On the economic realities of the trade:

“We’re not multimillionaires who can pick up and move very easily – my wife has a job in Kansas City and for the remainder of the year she’s going to keep working out there and making trips with my daughter out here. It’s tough, it’s hard. I’m excited because they’re here this weekend and they definitely gave me a lot of energy.”

On what was up with K.C. this year anyway:

“They’re trying to find an identity I think. My personal opinion is they like to go young (Victorine is 30) and they want guys who are fast and athletic. Sometimes that doesn’t build a great team. I think you’ve got to have guys that battle, fight every game.”

On whether the goal was extra special:

“Sure, you sit all week thinking what can I do to score a goal, how can I do anything to get something back. When it went in obviously a lot of relief, a lot of happiness. … I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the guys on the team here because they’ve made me feel welcome and accepted me on the team very quick.”

On whether Chivas USA suits his style of play;

“Before this game and the last game I was out for three weeks I hadn’t trained much. Fitness-wise hadn’t been in the best shape because I’d been out with a quad strain and a (muscle) pull and in the last two weeks … I’ve really been trying to get my game going. … What they try to do here is the quick one-two touches, the triangles moving the ball, keeping the defense from having to chase it. So I think that’s the style of soccer I like to play.”

Yeah, he was pretty happy.

i-cf8ea7604c361585943d54a95ae87e26-TS28-CHIVAS_KC-SMc328.jpg
Photo by Steve McCrank

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

John Cleese & the Art of Football

GOLTV will air this (apparently) updated comedy “documentary” stariing former Python John Cleese at 5 p.m. Wednesday that’s a couple of years old, but now includes references to Euro 2008.

From the GOLTV press release:

The documentary begins with a look at the frenzy behind the 2008 UEFA Euro in Austria and Switzerland, offering an unconventional, amusing take on the game of soccer, which attracts more viewers than the Olympics and more money than Hollywood. Cleese then presents his “alphabet of soccer” from A to Z through comedic sketches and in-depth, documentary-style vignettes.

The Art of Football also features one-on-one interviews with Cleese and superstar players like Pel, Michel Platini, Thierry Henry and Franz Beckenbauer. In addition, Cleese will talk to famous artists, musicians and politicians to capture their thoughts on the world’s most popular sport.

TiVo worthy? You decide:

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Tuesday’s Column: Galaxy Should Follow Chivas USA’s Lead

Two team’s, one season, different directions.

Passion, guts, determination – Chivas USA have embraced those qualities, the Galaxy have not. For the most part, that’s the difference between the two franchises this season.

Reading between the lines, Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena appears to agree:

“This is not a project were looking at in the short term, but building this team up over the next couple of years and getting the right kind of characters on the field and by that I mean in terms of their personalities, their competitiveness and their ability. We’ve got to get the right balance and the right combination of players. Obviously, this year we’re going to evaluate what we have and how we can make it better.”

Here’s Arena on one of the team’s major weaknesses that surfaced yet again in Chicago:

“Between (central defenders) Sean (Franklin) and Troy (Roberts) and our goalkeeper (Josh Wicks) in that game … I bet there’s not 50 league starts in there in those three positions – right down the heart of your team and that’s obviously an issue.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Monday Galaxy Bailout, College Scores & More

Storm clouds were (literally) gathering as the Galaxy practice ended Monday at Home Depot Center, the suffocating miasma of the sticky air seemingly reflecting the deepening gloom engulfing the team.

Veteran Pete Vagenas, usually one of the friendliest and most accommodating Galaxy players, walked off the field, his gaze locked at the ground straight ahead in a clear sign he was in no mood to talk.

Landon Donovan hobbled by, a leg encased in ice, a metaphor for a cold, stark season seemingly staggering to an inevitable conclusion.

I was there to gauge the mood of the team after another dispiriting loss last week to the Chicago Fire – and it wasn’t difficult to discern:

“We’re a little bothered, frustrated by our last game,” said rookie defender Sean Franklin, out of Cal State Northridge. “We’ve got four games left. I’m pretty sure we’ve got to win out or at least get three of the four. We’ve got to come up with a better mentality this weekend in Columbus.”

Franklin acknowledged the Galaxy just keep making the same old errors:

“We talked about how we had to step up to the midfielders and not give them a lot of space because they will shoot. They got space, (Rolfe) dribbled and exactly what we didn’t want to happen, happened. … We need to do a better job communicating.”

Coach Bruce Arena agreed:

“In general I don’t think we played well,” he said. “We’re too inconsistent. Our defending as a group isn’t good enough. We have some major holes open in our defense and that’s not attributed only to defenders, it’s attributed to the entire group.”

I’ll have more from Arena on the Galaxy’s psyche in Tuesday’s column and whether he can bailout the Galaxy any better than Congress could the banks today.

A couple of notes from training:
*Goalkeeper Steve Cronin practiced today for the second time since his injury.
*Defender Eduardo Dominguez was also back practicing with the team for the first time since making a flying visit to Argentina where at 12:52 p.m. Sept. 15 his wife gave birth to the couple’s first child – a son. Mateo Dominguez weighed in at about 6 pounds 6 ounces.
*Angels outfielder Juan Riviera was at practice today and had his picture taken with Donovan.
*The Galaxy reserves (1-5-2) lost 2-1 to their Chivas USA (2-3-3) counterparts Sunday, Maykel Galindo getting the winning goal in a come-from-behind victory in the 81st minute. Izzy Sesay, 18, scored the Galaxy’s opener from a Pete Vagenas cross. Newly-acquired Chivas USA midfielder Dejair assisted on Keith Savage’s equalizer.

Chivas USA reserves lineup: Lance Parker, Eric Ebert, Jim Curtin, Bobby Burling (Keith Savage 46), Gerson Mayen, Kraig Chiles, Daniel Paladini, Dejair Ferreira (Ian Etherington 66), Jorge Flores, Anthony Hamilton (Maykel Galindo 60), Roberto Nurse.
Galaxy reserves lineup: Josh Saunders, Joe Franchino (Ely Allen 46), Julian Valentin, Scott Bolkan, Vardan Adzemian, Mike Randolph, Peter Vagenas (Alvaro Pires 46), Brandon McDonald, Josh Tudela (Mike Muoz 59), Bryan Jordan, Israel Sesay.

Sunday college scores:
UCLA men 2 (2-3-3) Cal State Northridge 2 (4-3-1)
LMU men 1 (1-2-4) Oregon State 1 (3-4-2)
Cal State Dominguez Hills men 3 (9-1-1) Cal Poly Pomona 1 (3-6)

Arizona State 1 (6-2-3) Long Beach State 0 (6-3-2).
UC Irvine 2 (6-5) Pepperdine 1 (4-5-2)
Cal State Northridge 1 (6-3) San Francisco 1 (4-5-2)
Cal State Dominguez Hills 1 (6-5) Cal Poly Pomona 0

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

A Life Well Lived

When I worked at the L.A. Times’ Ventura County Bureau, every Sunday the reporter on duty was required to scour the death notices, call a relative of the deceased and write an obituary about a “regular” human being.

It was a twist on the old journalism class assignment of interviewing a person at random and writing a profile of them on the theory that everyone has a story that needs to be told. If memory serves, it was based/ripped off from the N.Y. Times, which at one time ran a regular, similar feature called “A Life Well Lived.”

I was reminded of this Saturday when my wife read an unusually long paid obituary in the Daily Breeze about 28-year-old Devon Markert, a Long Beach resident and teacher at Torrance Adult School who died earlier this month of brain cancer after her fourth surgery.

Her obituary read in part:

“She was an avid soccer player throughout her childhood and adolescence, playing on competitive traveling teams and on the 1996 Central California State Championship Buchanan High School team. She credited soccer with giving her an identity, the opportunity to develop and sustain close relations, and the strength to face tough situations with hope and confidence. She stated in a draft of her memoirs: Joining the soccer team was the single most important decision of my life. Soccer helped me forge my identity as a scholar-athlete and kept me distracted when I needed a distraction. I don’t know if I was always good, but I turned into a solid player. The lessons I learned through my various soccer teams and the relationships I made on and off the soccer field were important character-building experiences that continue to carry me through the tough times of today.”

A life well lived indeed.

Devon Markert’s obituary is here.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Chivas USA-Wizards Post-Game

Here are the results that mattered Saturday for Chivas USA:
Chivas USA 2 Kansas City Wizards 1
Houston Dynamo 1 Toronto FC 1
Colorado Rapids 5 Red Bull New York 4
Real Salt Lake 3 San Jose Earthquakes 2
Dallas plays D.C. United at noon Sunday
(Just for the sake of completeness, Sigi Schmid’s Columbus Crew beat the New England Revolution, 1-0, and lead the league. Let’s hope he doesn’t get fired)

Here’s how the Western Conference shakes out so far in the 30-game season:

Team GP PTS
Houston Dynamo 25 40
Chivas USA 26 36
Colorado Rapids 26 34
Real Salt Lake 26 34
FC Dallas 25 30
Los Angeles Galaxy 26 29
San Jose Earthquakes 25 29

Of the last four regular season Chivas USA games left, the next two are on the road (Saturday at D.C. United, Oct. 11 at the San Jose Earthquakes) and the last two at home (Oct. 19 vs. the Colorado Rapids, Oct. 25 vs. the Houston Dynamo).

Game story.

Just to expand on what eagle-eyed beat reporter Phil Collin noted in his gamer: Victorine spells his first name “Sasha,” while Kljestan spells his “Sacha;” for some reason both were spelled the way Mr. Klejstan spells his name over both players’ lockers. (I empathize with the locker room staff, BTW; you just know this reporter and others are likely to make the same mistake).

Quotable:
Peki on the team effort:

“I give my guys an incredible amount of credit. Because they fought and they’re fighting the whole year. They deserve what they’re getting. They put themselves in a good position. Hopefully we’ll take care of the business in the rest of the season.

On Sasha Victorine:

“He fits good in our system. He plays the ball on the ground. He sees things around him. He’s a smart soccer player. He can score goals. He’s good on set pieces. You could see in the 72nd minute he starts cramping, but he stuck to it. He has a good mentality that fits our group.”

Notable:
*Striker Maykel Galindo was pleased to get his first minutes since mid-July when he came on as a 77th minute sub for Alecko Eskandarian.

“Little by little I’ll keep improving and hopefully I’ll be fine for the end of the season,” he said. “I feel a little bit of pain, but I think it’s (from) the surgery I had.”

*Striker Alecko Eskandarian, who now has two goals in two straight games (“a streak,” insisted the scribe seeking an angle next to me in the press box) sounded relieved he’s continuing to work his way back into match fitness:

“I’m just very happy to be back playing. At the end of the day it was very, very frustrating to go through what I went through: six months of not knowing what was wrong with me and then doctors couldn’t find what was wrong with me and me questioning myself. And then finally with the exploratory surgery finding that my groin was torn. When they fixed that it was a huge weight off my shoulders. I put it all behind me and focused on salvaging the season and really trying to help my teammates. A lot of the guys, since I’m new here, didn’t know what I could bring to the team or if I could contribute so every day I’ve just been fighting for the respect of my teammates and seeing if I can help this team.

“I feel better every day. Obviously I’m not 100 percent and my fitness still needs work, my touches, my sharpness. When you’re out for so long you take for granted the little good habits you need to get into.”

Highlights:

Finally, the Chivas USA reserves play a make-up game 10 a.m. today (Sunday) against the Galaxy reserves on Field 4 at Home Depot Center. Originally scheduled for Aug. 15, the game was postponed due to injuries and international call-ups. The Chivas USA reserves are coming off a 3-1 loss against Real Salt Lake on Sunday, which gave them a 1-3-3 record.

I had a pretty good conversation with Sasha Victorine after the game, too, and I’ll post that Sunday.
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Final Result: Wizards at Chivas USA

Was magician David Copperfield in the house for the second half?

Despite a disappearing act worthy of a prime time special, Chivas USA hung grimly onto their two-goal half time advantage and salvaged a crucial 2-1 victory, overcoming a pretty Josh Wolff bicycle kick with 20 minutes to go.

With both Colorado and Real Salt Lake winning today and temporarily climbing above them in the standings, Chivas USA needed all three points to maintain their tenuous grip on second place in the Western Conference and remain just two points above the pair nipping at their heels by night’s end. Chivas USA even managed to close the gap to four points on leaders the Houston Dynamo, who could only tie 1-1 today with FC Toronto. There are four games left in the season for Chivas USA.

Back with more later from the locker rooms.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Half Time: K.C. Wizards at Chivas USA

It’s the Sasha and Sacha show at Home Depot Center where Chivas USA is leading the Wizards 2-0.

Sacha Kljestan has an assist, while Sasha Victorine has an assist and added the soaring second goal on his first start for Chivas USA that comes against his old club.

Ante Razov created the first in the 26th minutes, sending a telling pass that pierced a flat Wizards defense allowing Victorine to get behind it on the left wing and cutting a ball back that was met by Alecko Eskandarian from about seven yards out. It was his second goal in two games.

The second came in second half stoppage time, Kljestan passing to Atiba Harris, who made a deft touch to set up Victorine’s handsome effort from 19 yards out.

But Chivas USA’s injury woes continue, Razov coming out with a likely calf problem after just half an hour. Justin Braun replaced him.

The lone striker left on the bench, Maykel Galindo, who is struggling to recover from sports hernia surgery, is warming up. Incidentally, Roberto Nurse, largely ineffective since signing from a Mexican team, isn’t even on the bench.

Chivas USA finished the half with eight shots to the Wizards’ two, who haven’t managed to hit the target.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Kansas City Wizards (8-9-8) at Chivas USA (9-10-6)

NPR is in the building this evening preparing a story on Jorge Flores and tabbed your truly for a quick interview, so I’m a little late with the lineups.

The night’s important numbers: the Wizards have won just once on the road this season and and Colorado’s 5-4 win over the Red Bulls earlier today means Chivas USA is third in the table and seven points behind Western Conference leaders Houston, which drew 1-1 with Toronto.

Dan Kennedy continues in goal for Chivas USA, while there are two changes in the back line with Carey Talley and Jonathan Bornstein both out with concussions. Alex Zotinca returns for his first game of the season after suffering a long-term knee injury and Panchito Mendoza moves from midfield to defense alongside regulars Claudio Suarez and Shavar Thomas.

In midfield, Sasha Victorine gets his first start against the club that just traded him to Chivas USA, Jesse Marsch gets his first start after returning from a jaw fracture, while Atiba Harris and Sacha Kljestan complete the midfield.

Up front it’s Alecko Eskandarian and Ante Razov.

Maykel Galindo is on the bench.

The Wizards start former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, while Herculez Gomez resurfaces in Kansas City, too, after his recent trade from the Rapids and starts in midfield.

In attack for the Wizards – Abe Thompson and Josh Wolff.

The game is on Fox Soccer Channel.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Chivas USA Manhattan Beach Night & More

In their quest for a fan base, Chivas USA has never met a promotion club officials didn’t like (the Mexican-oriented club even had an Armenian night earlier this season) and tonight is Manhattan Beach Night.

Given the city’s connections with soccer this makes a modicum of sense (former Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid, Galaxy playmaker Landon Donovan, U.S. National Team Coach – and former Chivas USA Coach – Bob Bradley all live there, while new Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena has said he intends to move there).

While most Chivas USA fans simply hope the team beats the Kansas City Wizards tonight (7:30 Fox Soccer Channel) and continues its playoff push, it’s bonus night for residents of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach.

Residents of those communities qualify for $4 off a prime seat at midfield ($32) and $3 off one behind the goals ($15) and get a free Chivas USA hat to boot. The first 200 fans who buy a ticket will attend a meet and greet with Chivas USA holding midfielder (and Manhattan Beach resident) Jesse Marsch as well as defender Jim Curtin who lives on the border of Manhattan and Hermosa. Call Chivas USA ticket rep Mike Gratten at 310-630-4599 to get in on the action.

MB Mayor Richard Montgomery (a nice guy and soccer fan as it turns out) will conduct the pre-game coin toss and a five-minute film about the city will air on the stadium’s big screen. About 1,300 MB kids play soccer, according to the mayor, and they are invited to parade across the field before the game.

The Daily Breeze wrote about Marsch (one of the game’s nice guys as long as you don’t have to play against him) when the brat-eating Wisconsin boy moved to MB a couple of years ago. Here’s writer Bob Holtzman’s October 2006 story on his change of lifestyle:

Jesse Marsch carried his surfboard away from the water and through the sands of Manhattan Beach and gazed up at the homes of the beachside town.

It was more than 10 years ago and Marsch dreamed about watching the sun set every night across the Pacific Ocean.

The Chivas USA midfielder retold this story last week from his home on The Strand, sitting on his patio, looking down at the water and beach.

The native Midwesterner has adjusted well to the South Bay lifestyle, welcoming visitors into his home while drinking a cup of coffee while wearing black sunglasses, dark plaid skater shorts and a pink designer T-shirt. His hair is a little shaggy and he bragged about how Emerson, his 5-year-old daughter, proudly wears flip-flops everywhere she goes.

Marsch has scored two goals and had three assists for Chivas in 30 matches and will try to help Chivas advance to the Western Conference championship today at 5 p.m. in Houston.

Marsch and his wife, Kim, grew up in Racine, Wis. So far, they have no complaints about the ocean view from their house or the moderate weather that enabled them to take Emerson and their son, Maddux, who turned 3 last Monday, to Disneyland with Marsch’s parents on Tuesday.

“It makes things a lot easier when you don’t have to help the kids get on their snow pants and boots,” Kim Marsch said.

The family almost never made it to California.

They were living in Wrigleyville, the Chicago neighborhood surrounding the Cubs’ Wrigley Field, while Marsch played for the Chicago Fire. But the Fire told Marsch he wasn’t part of their plan for the future. Marsch, who will turn 34 on Nov. 8, considered retirement.

Instead of making a snap decision, Marsch consulted with an old friend and coach, Bob Bradley, who recruited Marsch to Princeton University and coached him as a rookie at D.C. United and then from 1998 to 2002 in Chicago.

Marsch liked the idea of playing for Bradley again and couldn’t turn down the chance to live in Southern California again. This time, it would be in one of those houses overlooking the ocean.

“I came out here a little early and researched it, looking at Westside Rentals and on Craigslist,” Marsch said, retracing the steps so many people do to find a rental home by the beach. “And the woman we rent from is actually from Kenosha, Wis., which isn’t far from Racine. And she took a liking to me.”

Marsch has seemed to have a bit of a blessed time during his time in Southern California. When he spent the summer working on his senior thesis, friends helped him get a job bartending for a catering company, serving drinks to “Hollywood-type people,” and living in Westwood.

He actually had a chance to work the Emmy Awards, but it didn’t work out.

“I bartended the L.A. (PGA event) Open and if I had been here another week, I would have worked the Emmys but that meant calling Bob (Bradley) and telling him I’m going to be late for preseason camp. I didn’t have the (guts) to do that.”

Decision-making like that is why Bradley has such deep trust in Marsch. Bradley said that he could tell from the first time he saw Marsch play he knew Marsch “had a soccer brain and an idea of how to play.”

Marsch has shown that knack all season for the Goats.

“My soccer career is rejuvenated,” Marsch said. “Playing for Bob again feels right. On the field, I know what he wants and expects. He’s done a fantastic job with this team. Before I got here, I thought, maybe I’ll retire. Now, I’m thinking about one or two more years, maybe a little bit longer. Of course, you’ve got to look at it year-by-year at this point.”

Kim said it took some adjusting, and was a little confused when people would ask where she was from.

“I thought do I look that different?” Kim said. “People would tell me they know I’m not from here because I’m too talkative, too nice.”

Marsch is doing his best to fit in, though. He’s got a surfboard in his bedroom and the ocean is just steps away.

Not that everyone is completely buying this transition from the Midwest to West Coast. Fellow midfielder Sacha Kljestan grew up in Huntington Beach and he’s not convinced that Marsch has fit right in just yet, either.

“He tries to think he’s SoCal with his shaggy hair,” Kljestan said. “He’s still got no style, but we love him anyway.”

Chivas midfielder Jesse Marsch enjoys walking with his wife, Kim, along The Strand behind their home in Manhattan Beach. The winters are more enjoyable in the South Bay than in Chicago, where he used to play.
i-f4379feb46210db866943a275aaacd12-SPT-Marsch-102406-015.JPG
Photo by Scott Varley

Here’s more on the game from a Kansas City point of view.

I’ll blog from the game as usual.

There was plenty of local college action Friday:
*No. 5 USC 3 LMU 0 (The sixth consecutive home win for the Trojans (8-1-0), which also set a program record with what’s now a 15-game home unbeaten stretch. LMU is now 4-4-2).
*Pepperdine 6 Idaho State 0 (Amanda Rupp of Encinitas, a La Costa Canyon High grad, had two goals and three assists as Pepperdine moved to 4-4-2).
*Long Beach State 2 Arizona 0 (Lindsay Bullock scored two goals as Long Beach State improved to 6-2-2).
*Cal State Dominguez Hills women 1 Cal State San Bernadino 0 (Sophomore Kristan Boyle of Long Beach’s Wilson High headed home a cross from Jessica Murphy of Torrance’s West High with just two seconds left in regulation for the win. The Toros evened their record at 5-5).
*No. 9 Cal State Dominguez Hills men 1 Cal State San Bernadino 0 (CSUDH moves to 8-1-1 on the season).

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email