Mexican Voodoo Aims to Stick it to U.S.

I kid you not.

How do you spell D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E in Spanish?

Read on:
MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexican soccer fans are turning to voodoo to beat the United States, with help from an American electronics company.

The teams meet Feb. 11 in Columbus, Ohio, in the first game of the final round of
regional qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Mexico has not beaten the United States
on American soil in 10 years.

An advertisement in the sports newspaper Record on Tuesday invited fans to clip
coupons and redeem them at their local Radio Shack store for a voodoo-doll likeness
of a U.S. player. The hope was that a little black magic might help Mexico break its
decade of futility.

“Help end the losing streak so Mexico advances,” the ad read.

An illustration showed a pair of scissors slicing off the leg of a doll in a U.S. jersey that
was bruised, crying out in pain, leaking stuffing and stuck with pushpins.

“We imagine a group of young people gathered around the TV supporting Mexico and
applying punishments to our rivals so that the team can qualify,” Record said in a

Daniel Paz, marketing manager for the newspaper, told The Associated Press the
promotion was a lighthearted attempt to make next month’s rivalry game more
enjoyable for fans.

“It’s a toy,” Paz said. “There’s no intention of being anything serious.”

The media office of Radio Shack in Fort Worth, Texas, did not immediately return
phone calls and e-mails, but the company’s Mexico office confirmed its

Record said it has created 10,000 dolls and plans to expand the promotion to include
effigies representing the other finalists in North and Central America and the
Caribbean: Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Trinidad and

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A Few Words With Top Galaxy Draft Pick Omar Gonzalez

A prophetic statement by Omar Gonzalez’ college coach on his Maryland player profile at the start of the 2008 season came true and the huge central defender was made the Galaxy’s top draft choice.

Born and raised in Dallas, Gonzalez learned just a couple of days before the draft that the Galaxy were interested in him.

I spoke with Gonzalez (briefly) Monday after his first day of practice with the team:

Question: How was your first day as a professional?
Answer: Coming out here from East Coast and the cold weather to the nice warm weather, it takes a beating on you. I think the first morning session went pretty well. I struggled a little bit with the quickness of play, but I’m sure I will bounce back really quick and hopefully within the next week I’ll be at my best.”

Q: Some critics raised concerns before the draft about your mobility and quickness given your size. How do you respond to that?
A: I’ve really just got to go on the field and show them I can be agile and be quick on my feet, which I believe I am. So I just have to go in day in day out and show them what I’m made of.

Q: Given the Galaxy’s well-documented problems at central defense, Coach Bruce Arena has already apparently penciled you in at that position. What’s your reaction to that?
A: I’m really happy he has me in his mind to go in right away and start. There’s a lot of good players here, so I’ve just to fight for my position and really show them I can play and I’m ready to play against most elite players out there.

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Tuesday’s Column: Arena’s Galaxy Rebuilding Job so Far & Will Beckham Leave?

Given that Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena is exactly halfway chewing through the roster he inherited, it seemed a good time – a few days into preseason camp – to address the changes he’s made so far.

Read the column here.

As you can tell by the tone of the piece, I remain unconvinced. Still, it’s early in preseason, there are some big questions yet to be answered and time is still on Arena’s side.

There are some bright spots.

For one, Arena sounds more impressed with David Beckham’s form over in Italy than I am. Check out this quote from Monday that didn’t make it into the column (and Arena also inadvertently answers the question many of us were asking toward the end of last season – is Becks injured?):

“I’m happy to see he’s moving forward. He struggled with injuries over the last three months of our season. I’m happy to see he’s getting back in form, his fitness is improving and certainly his touch on the ball has gotten better. I think he’s fully comfortable now and that’s a real plus.”

Certainly it is for AC Milan; it remains to be seen whether that’s true of the Galaxy, too.

And as if on cue (guess they were listening to Arena), this morning AC Milan officials said they want to formally negotiate with the Galaxy over signing Beckham for good.

What do you think of Arena’s rebuilding job so far? Is he on the right track? Could this team survive the loss of Landon Donovan and/or David Beckham?

Leave a comment below.

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Chivas USA Camp Update: Preseason Roster Released

Chivas USA have released their preseason camp roster ahead of Wednesday’s opening day, which includes Charleston Battery defender Nelson Akwari, Cuban defector Reinier Alcantara and Atlanta Silverbacks midfielder Tony McManus.

The club also announced today they have signed Swiss international Raphal Wicky to a new, presumably more inexpensive contract after the 31-year-old missed virtually all of last season with injury.

And Ante Razov is back even though he sounded at the end of last season as if he didn’t want to be.

Goalkeepers: Dan Kennedy, Zach Thornton, Lance Parker, Doug Warren

Defenders: Nelson Akwari, Jonathan Bornstein, Bobby Burling, Jim Curtin, Dan Gargan, Ante Jazic, Claudio Surez, Shavar Thomas, Lawson Vaughn, Raphael Wicky

Midfielders: Jamie Franks, Sacha Kljestan, Michael Lahoud, Jesse Marsch, Gerson Mayen, Tony McManus, Paulo Nagamura, Carey Talley

Forwards: Reinier Alcantara, Justin Braun, Kyle Christensen, Alecko Eskandarian, Jorge Flores, Maykel Galindo,Atiba Harris, Nick Perera, Ante Razov.

Chivas USA’s pre-season schedule includes:
*Feb. 7 scrimmage vs. Opponent TBD at the HDC
*Feb. 21 scrimmage vs.Hammarby & UCLA at the HDC
*March 1 Michael Hoefflin Foundation game, College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita
*March 4 scrimmage vs. San Jose Earthquakes at the HDC

Chivas USA opens their season March 21 against the Colorado Rapids at the HDC.

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Arena Rubbishes Owen to Galaxy Report & Other Camp Updates.

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena scoffed Monday at a report by England’s Sunday Mirror – one of that nation’s trashiest tabloids and not exactly regarded as a paragon of journalistic credibility – that the club was after Newcastle United’s Michael Owen as a replacement for Landon Donovan, should he move to Bayern Munich for good.

“I can promise you we have had zero contact with him so there’s probably zero percent accuracy in that report, which is kind of standard,” Arena said, observing wryly that the likes of Owen and another alleged Galaxy target, Italian defender Alessandro Del Piero, would end up “fitting beautifully under our salary cap.”

Arena would also not be drawn by recent comments attributed to Donovan in Germany that included the statement, “I want to make it here. It is my dream. I want to stay here a few years.”

Arena observed Donovan has been making similar statements since last November:

“We’re very generous and supportive of Landon – we agreed to allow him to go on loan for free and we’re going to hold ourselves to that loan agreement … I don’t believe management should be commenting on a player who is ours and if either club has an interest in the player they should go through formal channels and do that properly.”

That last statement was made partly in regard to the latest pronouncement by an AC Milan official – this time the club’s lawyer, of all people – that the Italian team would like David Beckham to stay beyond March:

“I’m not sure its appropriate for club officials at the biggest clubs in the world to be making comments without having contact with us, but having said that we don’t know if anything is accurate at the other end either, so I’ll leave it at that.”

So that’s settled then.

In other training camp news, top draft pick Omar Gonzalez participated in his first practice today. I spoke with him – as well as Van Nuys youngster Tristan Bowen – and will post items on those two later in the day, once I’ve finished Tuesday’s column.

Finally, Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts has received his visa and is set to join the Galaxy camp for the first time Wednesday.

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U.S.-Sweden Post-Game

Game story.

Naturally, much of the media were talking about Sacha Kljestan going to Glasgow Celtic for good, especially after that sterling performance:

“As far as Celtic, I just took it as a training experience and whatever happens happens and I’m trying not to think about that right now,” he said.

Here’s Kljestan on his three goal performance:

“Getting a hat trick is pretty special to me. I’ve never scored more than one goal as a professional before.”

Coach Bob Bradley addressed the performance of his starting back four:

“I thought that defensively so far we were pretty solid. The positioning of the group was good. Danny Califf is a player who is always good in the air – that’s an area where Michael Parkhurst has to improve, but I thought there’s still work to be done. I think both Marvell (Wynne) and Jonny (Bornstein) got a little bit tired and when they got tired their positioning was not as good.”

Palos Verdes’ John Thorrington reflected on playing his fourth game for the national team in the South Bay after making his debut way back in 2001:

“There were a lot of people here tonight that have been here from the beginning and seen the ups seen the downs and it was a great moment for me to kind of start this year off and share that moment with them.”

“To have two guys from Palos Verdes to start a national team game for such a small place is pretty cool and Danny Califf and me both played on the same club team so it was cool. And then, obviously, all three of us were playing in front of family and friends, which is a huge bonus for all of us.”

Robbie Rogers of Rolling Hills Estates on his national team debut:

“It’s my first cap. I was trying not to make too many mistakes.”

On the Kljestan free kick:

“He just told me to run over it. We’ve been working on free kicks a lot this off-season. So he’s been practicing so he can hit it with that dip. It paid off so he got a hat trick and both of our families are here so it’s pretty great.

“He just told me that’s the first one he’s scored since he was 12, so that’s a great time to score.”

Here’s Bob Bradley on Robbie Rogers:

“We’re scratching the surface as far as getting him to understand now the demands of playing the international game … He’s a gifted player. He’s very fast, really a two-footed player, he’s capable of doing some good things, we saw that with Columbus last year. But we’re scratching the surface now so he understands the demands of playing the international game. The concentration has to go up, physically you just have to put more into it. To be a good team at an international level you need all players to be part of the game at all times, you can’t have players that are just in and out of the game. I think he made progress in this game – it was nice now he was getting a start. And I think it’s also a little bit special that it’s here he gets a start at Home Depot Center in front of for him family and friends. And again, at the end of it all we’ll make sure he doesn’t get carried away because there’s a long way to go.”

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Final Result: U.S.-Sweden

Chivas USA’s Sacha Kljestan may not have the nickname, but he has the moves.

Kljestan scored a hat trick Saturday night at Home Depot Center – the first three goals he has ever scored for the national team; he become the first player to achieve that feat since Aldo “Buff” Donelli in 1934.

Donelli apparently went on to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers, BTW, something Kljestan is unlikely to duplicate.

No matter, Kljestan’s 75th minute third came courtesy of a clever Brian Ching move, who deftly brought down a long pass from Danny Califf, controlled it and slid it over to Kljestan for the third and final goal in the 3-2 win.

The scoreline was flattering to the Swedes, who scored twice in the last 16 minutes.

Sweden threatened more in the second half than in the opening 45 minutes, but save for Jonathan Bornstein getting beaten on the first goal the U.S. back four was largely flawless.

Troy Perkins should have done better on the second goal, failing to get down quick enough to prevent the ball rebounding off the post directly into the net.

Former Galaxy defender Ugo Ihemelu, a late sub for Michael Parkhurst, cleared a likely Swedish equalizer off the line three minutes from the end of regulation.

Robbie Rogers had a fairly quiet night on his national team debut.


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Half Time: U.S.-Sweden

Sacha Kljestan hopes Glasgow Celtic watched his first half performance.

The Chivas USA midfielder, who just returned from training with the Scottish powerhouse, scored with a 35-yard blast of a free kick in the 17th minute and followed up with a 40th minute penalty kick after defender Marvell Wynne was brought down by Swedish defender Adam Johansson.

It was his first two goals for the senior team – the first time that’s happened in one game since August 1988 when Frank Klopas grabbed a pair for the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica – and the first in particular was a sight to behold, soaring unstoppably into the top right hand corner.

The U.S. handled the meek Swedes easily, holding them to just one shot on target.

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