Galaxy’s Vanney: MLS Going Through Growing Pains

Greg Vanney takes the captain’s armband from David Beckham for the final minute of his final game and moves on.i-0903bbe4ebd7048232d42a82ac30605f-TS27-Galaxy.SV-778.jpg

Photo by Scott Varley

Conventional wisdom holds MLS has improved since its 1996 debut, but now retired Galaxy defender Greg Vanney has a different perspective.

With almost his last words at a post-game press conference Sunday, the self-described “soccer junkie” who will now forge a coaching career in Arizona gave a thoughtful, cogent analysis of the state of MLS.

His words will have greater resonance for Galaxy fans who have suffered through a season of disparity in the ability and experience of veterans compared to inexpensive youngsters whose greatest attribute it sometimes seems is their willingness to take small paychecks and fit under the salary cap.

Here’s the (virtually unedited) view of a player who believes he “survived in the sport more because of my brain than my athletic ability” and credits discussions “on a different level” with veteran players for being a huge part of his development as a player:

“The league early on was more of a veteran league and there were more guys who had experience and were role players and understood what their role was within the team. And there were certain guys who had special qualities, but they still all fit within the team.

“I think in the (time) when I was here, when I left and when I came back a lot of those sort of role players, those guys who had six, seven, five years experience were replaced with young guys who had potential.

“To me, potential is a frightening word.

“So, we had a lot of guys out there who are talented in their own right, but maybe the thinking side of the game, the decision-making and all that side isn’t quite there yet.

“So, for me, the game is hectic now, it’s wide open, it’s all over the place. I don’t remember that as a young player, when the game made sense, and players did their job and there were roles. The game was much more fluid and now it’s just up and down and all over.

“And to be fair part of the reason I’m sitting here today is because in today’s game, the way its become in this league, I don’t survive very well in this game. Had the game continued where it was going and we wouldn’t have replaced the seven, eight year veterans who understood their day to day jobs with a scheme that’s very fast, almost out of control at times, who knows what would be around.

“That to me is the difference: we’ve replaced the good solid professional with potential.

“Maybe this league will be great in the future, but right now I think it has some growing pains it has to go through in order for it to get there and expansion is not going to change that at all because we’re talking about what, three to four teams in the next few years. And that’s just going to bring more younger players into the league.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I think it’s a growing pain thing. It’s a process we have to get through and it’s a teaching and education process. Now college players go from college to what would be the premier league in this country and there’s no step in between for them to learn what it takes to be a professional.

“They’re thrown out on the field and expected to have an impact. That’s tough, we’re asking a lot of those young guys.”

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(Late) Monday Morning Buzz: MLS Playoff Schedule & More

The MLS playoff schedule:

Conference Semifinals, Game 1:

4:30 p.m. Thursday – Chicago Fire at New England Revolution on ESPN2/Deportes.

1 p.m. Saturday – Houston Dynamo at New York Red Bulls on Direct Kick.

3 p.m. Saturday – Chivas USA at Real Salt Lake on Fox Soccer Channel/Fox Sports en Espanol.

5 p.m. Saturday – Columbus Crew at Kansas City Wizards on HDNet/Direct Kick.

Conference Semifinals, Game 2

5:30 p.m. Nov. 6 – New England Revolution at Chicago Fire on ESPN2/Deportes.

4:30 p.m. Nov. 8 – Kansas City Wizards at Columbus Crew on HDNet/Direct Kick.

7:30 p.m. – Real Salt Lake at Chivas USA on Fox Soccer Channel/Fox Sports en Espanol.

Noon Nov. 9 – New York Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo on TeleFutura.

The format:

The team that scores the most goals in the home-and-home series advances to the single elimination Conference Championship. If the teams are tied after 180 minutes in the Conference Semifinal series, a 30-minute extra time period (divided into two 15-minute periods) will be played followed by kicks from the penalty mark, if necessary. The team with the higher seed between the two Conference finalists will host the Conference Championship game.

U.S. Under-20 World Cup Squad Named
Bruin striker Sydney Leroux was the lone player from a Southern California school named to the squad today by Coach Tony DiCicco. She played in the 2004 version at age 14 – for Canada.

The complete roster:

goalkeepers Chantel Jones (Virginia), Alyssa Naeher (Penn State), Cat Parkhill (Minnesota); defenders Kiersten Dallsteam (Washington State), Kaley Fountain (Wake Forest), Lauren Fowlkes (Notre Dame), Liz Harkin (Arizona State), Meghan Klingenberg (North Carolina), Nikki Marshall (Colorado); midfielders Gina DiMartino (Boston College), Becky Edwards (Florida State), Christine Nairn (Bowie, Md.), Elli Reed (Portland), Ingrid Wells (Georgetown), Keelin Winters (Portland); forwards Michelle Enyeart (Portland), Sydney Leroux (UCLA), Alyssa Mautz (Texas A&M), Alex Morgan (California), Nikki Washington (North Carolina).

The U.S. opens against France Nov. 19, faces Argentina Nov. 22 and concludes group play Nov. 26 against China. The tournament is in Chile.

Sunday College Soccer Scoreboard
UCLA men 1 (7-4-5 overall, Pac-10 5-1-1) Oregon State 0 (5-8-3, 2-4-1)
The Pac-10 leading Bruins, unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 games, posted their fourth consecutive shutout and won on a 14th minute goal by defender Brad Rusin over 10-man OSU, who had a player ejected in the 28th minute.

Pepperdine 2 (7-9-2, WCC 2-3) Santa Clara 1
Alexis Farler scored her first goal of the season and Amanda Rupp (La Costa Canyon High) her ninth to seal the win.

Loyola Marymount women 0 (8-6-3, WCC 3-2) San Diego 1 (13-3-0, WCC 5-0-0)
WCC-leading San Diego won its sixth-straight game to snap LMU’s 17-match home unbeaten streak on a goal 10 minutes from the end of regulation.

Loyola Marymount men (4-6-5, WCC 2-4-1) 0 San Diego 3 (6-6-3, WCC 6-1)
Conference-leading San Diego handed LMU its third straight loss. Seeing his first action since Sept. 7, redshirt freshman goalkeeper Jack McCormack (Manhattan Beach)
made one save.

Long Beach State 5 (11-4-3, Big West 5-0-1) Cal State Northridge 0 (7-8-2, Big West 2-3-1)

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FC Dallas-Galaxy Post-Game

Galaxy 2 FC Dallas 2
Edson Buddle scores the Galaxy’s first goal
i-6b3b67a5d0909ce24706e76db4416de9-TS27-Galaxy.SV-214.jpgPhoto by Scott Varley

Game story.

There was a lot to talk about in the post-game press conference.

Retiring Dallas midfielder Bobby Rhine (captain for the day) and retiring Galaxy defender Greg Vanney (captain at game’s end) both spoke and summed up their respective careers

The two opposing coaches, the Galaxy’s Bruce Arena and Dallas’ Schellas Hyndman, spoke about their massive respective off-season rebuilding jobs.

And Landon Donovan and David Beckham addressed the next phases of their careers.

Below is just a sampling of what they had to say. I’ll update with more later.

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena on the strides the team has made since he took over:

“As the season ends, am I pleased competitively where we are right now? No, not at all. The work starts immediately now to improve this roster, improve this team. To improve the philosophy, to improve the leadership, to improve the commitment and make everything better.

On how the team has improved and how it can get better:

“We have, oddly enough, improved defensively. However we’re not good enough positionally in a lot of spots on the field. …I know this roster very well now. And I know what needs to be done. … It’s pretty obvious the kind of changes we need to make to get better. And I think we can accomplish most of that, although it’s going top take a little bit of good bookkeeping. We have to deal with issues with salary cap.

On Beckham’s performance:

Those of you who might doubt the commitment of David Beckham – he played hurt today. We weren’t sure he’d be able to play. I applaud David for his effort on the field today because he was not 100 percent.”

Greg Vanney on receiving the captain’s armband from Beckham when he came on (very) late:

“David’s decision to give me the armband was just spur of the moment – he did it. I don’t think there was any premeditation or anything on that level so I think (it was) just a very respectful move by him. We’ve gotten to be fairly close this year. I think it was a great move, I was touched by it. That was one of the highlights of my day, actually.

On when he decided to retire:

“I’ve been considering it for, who knows, throughout the year. I’ve had a difficult run the past few years. I’ve moved probably four or five times the last two years alone, the last 18 months probably. That type of thing, along with non-guaranteed contracts as well as the difficulty every off-season with MLS and the uncertainty – this club probably rebuilding anew a little bit. I tried to make the decision that was best for me. I kind of came to that conclusion in the last few weeks.’

David Beckham on his quad injury and his immobility the last few games:

“It’s just my age maybe. I’ve had it three days; I haven’t been able to train the last two days. My quads were burning, but I got through the game.”

On the quality of MLS officiating:

“As a professional, it’s frustrating because we try and do our jobs and we expect other people to do their’s as well and do it in the right way. And the majority of the time it’s so inconsistent. It’s simple plays that are affecting the game – and ruining the game. … I’m fed up with sitting up here and talking about that. … It can only get better. It can’t get any worse.”

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Final Result: FC Dallas at Galaxy

The game ended 2-2, Eddie Lewis drawing a clumsy challenge from Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala to win a penalty kick in the 79th minute.

Landon Donovan converted for his 20th goal of the year and finish the season as MLS’ top scorer.

Edson Buddle could of and probably should of scored with a 83rd minute header that flashed wide.

Dallas played with 10 men from the 50th minute when Aaron Pitchkolan was sent off.

Greg Vanney made his final MLS appearance, but Coach Bruce Arena didn’t bring him on until stoppage time (there’s respect for you).

Becks gave Vanney – a Galaxy original in 1996 and former Bruin – the captain’s arm band when he came on in a classy gesture.

Oh, and the Galaxy are still tied for last (on points) in MLS.

More later

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Half Time: FC Dallas at Galaxy

Ill-disciplined, ill-timed and generally inept, the first half essentially summed up the Galaxy’s season: Dallas scored two consecutive goals in five minutes, Brazilian Alvaro Pires received a straight red for a studs up challenge just before half time and David Beckham earned a yellow card for mouthing off/having one of his increasingly tiresome petulant little meltdowns.

Things had started brightly for the Galaxy.

Eddie Lewis slung a long ball the width of the field over to Beckham and he crossed to Edson Buddle, standing unmarked right in front of the goal, who headed in his 15th of the season.

It was Becks’ first assist since the 5-2 win over Dallas on Sept. 20.

Drew Moor and Victor Sikora scored for Dallas.

The first goal was a gift from Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Wicks, who failed to catch a ball from a corner kick.

The second was presented by the Galaxy defense who froze when confronted by a long ball out of the back from Dallas left back Duilio Davino and allowed Sikora to wander through alone for his first MLS goal.

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FC Dallas (8-10-11) at Galaxy (8-13-8) & Vanney Retires

His legs and a once blistering shot clearly gone as Galaxy fans have seen this season, defender Greg Vanney called time on a 13-year professional career today, announcing his retirement before the game.

Vanney spent 10 years in MLS, including seven in two stints for the Galaxy, and played another three seasons in France.

“While it is a bittersweet feeling to be ending my career today, I’m happy that I am able to do so with the Galaxy where I started my career,” he said.

He also played 37 times with the U.S. National Team.

But the post-Vanney era clearly can’t come soon enough for Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena – Vanney doesn’t get the start in the last game of his career; Julian Valentin, making his MLS debut, is preferred in central defense.

Josh Wicks in back in goal, with Steve Cronin on the bench, behind a defense that also sees Mike Randolph make his first second start under Arena, with defender Sean Franklin (Galaxy defender of the year, it was announced before the game) the third of three defenders listed on the team sheet.

The midfield: Chris Klein, Alvaro Pires, David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Eddie Lewis.

Up front: Edson Buddle and Alan Gordon.

Vanney is, at least, on the bench.

The Galaxy award winners announced this morning includes Donovan, who needs one goal and one assist to become the first MLS player ever with 20 goals and 10 assists, not surprisingly named MVP.

The L.A. Riot Squad named Chris Klein as their player of the year award and will present him with it at game’s end.

Dallas has Jeff Cunningham and Kenny Cooper up front, who is one behind Donovan in the MLS scoring race.

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Sunday Galaxy Gameday

This is it.

The final Galaxy game. Team awards will be handed out. And players will shuffle off into the sunset.

So we’ll keep this simple.

Game preview.

Notable: There should be a bigger discount at the Team LA Store. All Galaxy merchandise is off 40 percent today – but they’ve been off far more than that this season.


“It’s certainly a team that needs to be reconstructed, if you want to use that word,” said Coach Bruce Arena. “We have an odd balance on our team on the field. We have an odd balance age-wise. And we certainly have some issues that need to be resolved with the salary cap.”

Here’s Arena on what a great job Anschutz Entertainment Group has done as owners (ahem):

“They’re passionate. They put their money where their mouths are. Phil Anschutz has carred this league on his back .Tim Lieweke has done a passionate job in the process. Hey, they’ve done a fabulous job. Where we’ve screwed up is we in management and the front office in getting this team better and the players. That’s where the problem lies – we’ve got to get it better. That’s my job and the players job – that’s why I’m here. It hasn’t been good enough. If you’re grading just on ownership we won the league a long time ago. … We’re not getting it done on the field. Let’s be fair about that. I wish I could blame our performances on ownership.”

Let’s leave it on that surreal note.

The game begins at noon on FSN.

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Houston Dynamo-Chivas USA Post-game

The story of the night: Dynamo striker Nate Jaqua and Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy battle
i-7a88350055fbfe8cebb379574f80d282-TS26-Chivas-Houston-sh-328.JPGPhoto by Sean Hiller

Last year Chivas USA exited the playoffs early because they were unable to replace Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov up front; this year they will be without goalkeeping revelation Dan Kennedy after he received a unforgiving red card in the 1-1 draw Saturday with Houston.

Game story.


Dynamo Coach Dominic Kinnear on why he remonstrated with the fourth official after the penalty call:

I didn’t want to see the guy get sent off that was it. I thought the Kennedy guy was trying to play the ball. … I know what the rule is – you don’t want to see a guy miss his first playoff game.

But he thought it was a PK:

“I saw a guy breaking through and then kind of knocked it by him and he kind of blocked his path and ran into him. They both stumbled. I think it was a collision. I just don’t think he took him down. … I thought it was a penalty for sure.”

Former Galaxy striker Nate Jaqua sounded less sure:

“He got me very, very minor. … It was a harsh PK.”

Jim Curtin on his goal:

“Cary put a hard ball in behind the defense I know any time that happens it’s tough to handle and it can bounce off anybody. I think it hit Dynamo goalkeeper Pat) Onstad and then somebody else it deflected off of and then there was just kind of a race to it between me and (Wade) Barrett – he may actually have got their first, but I kind of slid it in. it was kind of an ugly goal, but it gets the job done, I guess.”

On making a statement:

“Both of us wanted to come out and show each other, because there”s a good chance we’re going to meet in the playoffs.”

Brian Mullan and Shavar Thomas battle for the balli-877f11d207e6e87a258846e932d5e78b-TS26-Chivas-Houston-sh-243.JPGPhoto by Sean Hiller

Preki on the referee making the PK call: “I thought he spoilt the game. … It’s disappointing that in a game that doesn’t basically mean anything, but three points and a little bit of prestige that we get these kinds of things. He told the guys (Kennedy) was the last man. Watching the replay if that was a contact, it was a very minor contact. … even if the referee decides to call a penalty that’s not a red card. i disagree with the call.”

Phil Collin had more from Jesse Marsch on the PK/red card:

“He couldn’t say anything. He tried backpedaling the whole time and then saying he had to give the red and his linesman was even trying to flag him over and say you know I don’t know what he wanted to say to him. I suspect it was to probably that shouldn’t have been a red but he already gave a red. He already made a horrible, horrible mistake. That is a ridiculous mistake that no professional referee should ever make. I mean, it’s so disappointing that for the second year in a row we’ve got to deal with this.

“Again, I’m embarrassed, it’s ridiculous and now we’ve got to go into the playoffs without one of our key guys.

“Listen. It was a breakaway and Nate Jaqua dribbled around him and literally – I played with Nate and Nate starts stumbling like he does often times. And if a referee understands anything about players in the league, he understands that Nate Jaqua is clumsy. (laughs) That’s the bottom line. He’s clumsy. And he started falling, falling and then he just fell down and he could have stayed up and the referee just bailed him out, bailed their team out, sends our goalie off the field off for the playoffs. It’s a joke, it’s embarrassing. He should be done for the year, done for the year with a play like that.”

Phil also caught up with a crestfallen Dan Kennedy:

“He came in one on one and in those situations you try not to over commit and you try to make it hard on them. He decided to dribble me. Really, I thought I did a good job closing him down. He touched it wide to try to touch it around me. I mean his touch was really far out wide. And I did my best to get out of the way and turn and run with him. There is such minimal contact for even a penalty to be called in my mind.

“I was in disbelief that I even heard a whistle.

“For me I’m just so disappointed and I’m disheartened. We’ve done a really good job as a team to get into the playoffs and I’ve really been looking forward to that and I feel it’s been stripped away from me.

“In moments like this you try to accept that some things just happen for a reason and got to move on. I’m gutted.”

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Final Result: Houston Dynamo at Chivas USA

Chivas USA salvaged a 1-1 tie with a Jim Curtin goal being bundled over the line in the 90th minute, but events early in the second half that will result in the absence of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for their playoff opener overshadowed the result.

Kennedy was sent off in the 52nd minute after referee Terry Vaughn appeared to believe Nate Jaqua was deliberately pulled down by the last man back. But Jaqua was jumping over Kennedy and the two collided in midair, making the call an extremely harsh one, if not completely and utterly wrong.

Dwayne De Rosario scored from the resulting spot kick, sending sub Zach Thornton the wrong way.

We’ve requested an explanation about exactly what the infraction was from the ref – I’ll let you know what he says.

More after an undoubtedly angry Preki lets it rip.

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