Today’s Column: Chivas USA Limp Through Pre-season (& More)

Chivas USA faces the Premier Development League’s Ventura County Fusion at 5 p.m. Sunday at Cougar Stadium at the College of the Canyons in Valencia, in what is becoming an annual benefit for the non-profit Michael Hoefflin Foundation, which provides financial and emotional support to children with cancer and their families. (Tickets are $20 or $40 for a family pack of two adult tickets and two for kids – call 661-250-4100 for info).

But some key players will be absent this weekend as the column points out. Chivas USA is continuing to struggle with injuries that severely hampered its season last year. And the opening game of the MLS season is less than a month away. (Atiba Harris is also out injured, it should be noted).

Read the column here.

I always collect more material than can fit in a column; below are some leftovers.

Here’s Preki on why Ante Razov is back with the team after saying in no uncertain terms at the end of last year he didn’t expect to return:

“He was out of contract. When you’re out of contract you always want to keep your options open.”

Here’s co-owner, President and Chief Executive Officer Shawn Hunter on the team’s financial status in the contracting economy. The club is still losing money, but the gap between revenues and expenses is narrowing, a trend expected to continue this year:

“Last year we went up 10 percent in revenues and this year we’re expecting to do the same,” he said, adding the franchise is focused on retaining its season ticket base rather than expanding it.

“We should hold steady at around 2,000 (season ticket holders),” he said. “We made a jump from about 800 in 2007 to about 2,000 last year. The first three years (of the club’s existence) Chivas never renewed more than 50 percent of its season ticket base. … “We’re doing a better job of not only getting fans, but keeping them. We’re projecting about a 75 percent to 80 percent retention (rate) and that will get us back to the 2,000. We could be a little bit higher or a little bit lower, but we feel like were holding ground.

“Over the last few years we’ve been the stabilizing brand for soccer in this marketplace and where this brand got off to a very rough start on the pitch and off we repaired that.”

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Monday Update: Galaxy’s Cronin to Portland, Chivas USA’s Flores Named to U.S. Under-20 Squad

A club source tell me the deal hasn’t yet been finalized, but the Galaxy’s Steve Cronin is indeed off to the USL Portland Timbers, which is apparently exactly what he told a member of the Big Soccer message board Sunday.

Anyone who saw goalkeeper Josh Saunders’ performance in the final of the Pan-Pacific Championship Sunday – or Cronin’s contribution to the Galaxy’s season last year – will know why. Saunders looked far less shaky than Cronin did in the net and made one outstanding save Sunday that prevented what appeared a certain goal. (As an aside, Saunders’ wife was at the game and players don’t usually bring along relatives if they don’t think they will hang around long with the team they’re trying out with).

Also, I understand the Galaxy will announce some player cuts in the next couple of days (the team and most staff had today off). I’m betting goalkeeper Josh Wicks goes, too, leaving Saunders to back up Jamaican Donovan Ricketts.

In other local MLS news, Chivas USA had midfield Diego Scotti training with the team for the first time today in Carson. He and Mexican forward Eduardo Lillingston (who was given a couple of days off to attend to personal matters south of the border) are the only two players remaining on trial with the team in its 29-player strong camp.

On player still absent from camp is veteran Mexican defender Claudio Suarez who is negotiating a new contract with the team.

I will have much more on Chivas USA’s preparations for the new season in Tuesday’s column.

Lastly, UCLA goalkeeper Brian Perk and Chivas USA reality show winner Jorge Flores were named today to Thomas Rongen’s U.S. Under-20 squad for the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, set for March 6-15 in Trinidad & Tobago.

Four of the eight teams in the tournament will qualify for the U-20 World Cup scheduled for Sept. 24-Oct. 16 in Egypt.

The full U.S. roster:

goalkeepers – Sean Johnson (Central Florida; Lilburn, Ga.), Josh Lambo (FC Dallas; Middleton, Wis.), Brian Perk (UCLA; Rancho Santa Margarita)

defenders – Gale Agbossoumonde (Unattached; Syracuse, N.Y.), Kyle Davies (Southampton; Danville, Calif.), Jorge Flores (Chivas USA; Anaheim, Calif.), Aaron Maund (Notre Dame; Dorchester, Mass.), Amobi Okugo (San Juan Lightning; Sacramento, Calif.), Anthony Wallace (FC Dallas; St. Petersburg, Fla.), Sheanon Williams (Unattached; Boston)

midfielders – Bryan Arguez (Hertha Berlin; Miami), Danny Cruz (Houston Dynamo; Glendale, Ariz.), Dilly Duka (Rutgers; Montville, N.J.), Jared Jeffrey (Club Brugge; Richardson, Texas), Brian Ownby (Virginia; Glen Allen, Va.); Brek Shea (FC Dallas; College Station, Texas)

forwards – Sam Garza (Denver; Highland Village, Texas), Peri Marosevic (FC Dallas; Rockford, Ill.), Billy Schuler (North Carolina; Allentown, N.J.), Tony Taylor (Jacksonville; Jacksonville, Fla.) .

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A Few Words With New Galaxy Signing Mike Magee

I’d never really spoken to Mike Magee before when he was with New York, but after he converted two penalty kicks Saturday in the Pan-Pacific alleged Championship and appears likely to make the roster I figured I should get acquainted:

Question: What did you think of the team’s performance tonight compared to Wednesday?
Answer: I thought it was a little more inconsistent today. Last game we were pretty solid across the board and I think today our legs kind of showed a little bit. Some guys were a little bit heavy. They started maybe five or six new guys and I think we only started three, so that kind of showed. I thought we were a little bit inconsistent and that has a lot to do with Wednesday’s game. I thought in the second half we picked it up a little bit and we gave ourselves the chance to win the game.

I thought Wednesday we were a little bit better. I think maybe in the final third today and Wednesday we were a little bit off. Our crossing, our finishing, our through balls were a little bit off.

Q: How is your comfort level?
A: It’s getting there. Fitness has been a little bit of a problem for me the last couple of years, but I’m finally getting fit, y’know. … The guys are great. Bruce is an incredible coach. I’ve been welcomed with open arms. I couldn’t think of a better place to be.

Q: Was Arena a big reason for you coming here?
A: Bruce is great. I’m not sure why New York didn’t work out for him. But he’s a great manager, a great coach. He’s a great man and he’s definitely righting the ship here in L.A., I believe.

My contract had expired in New York and things weren’t going as well as I would have liked there. And I needed a fresh change and Bruce expressed some interest in me and I told him if he could get me here I’d love to be here.

Q: How does Bruce seeing you contributing to the team?
A: He saw me as a kind of versatile player. He knows I like being by the goal – I’m not too defensive-minded. Obviously, I’ll put in the work like anybody else, but he said he was going to try me at forward, or play me in midfield, wherever the team needs me at the time or wherever he feels I am at the time. Last year I was healthy on and off and he didn’t really have too much to judge from last year. He was, more or less, taking it from the couple of weeks we had in New York.

Q: How did you guys view the Galaxy last year?
A: Whenever you guys came to us there were about 65,000 people in the stands cheering for you guys so, we didn’t like you guys too much.

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Sunday Soccer

A stream of “interesting,” but ultimately ineffective crosses from David Beckham and a Clarence Seedorf goal gave AC Milan a narrow 1-0 win over Cagliari today.

Becks is still holding out hope of a transfer.

But tragic news from his other half; Posh is dehydrated from eight trips to Milan in the last month.

Can you imagine the amount of moisturizer she’s using? Will this Italian opera never end?

Meanwhile, Chivas played two scrimmages Saturday against Sweden’s Hanmmarby and UCLA, emerging undefeated. Video and details here.

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Final Result: Galaxy-Bluewings

The Galaxy lost the oh so prestigious Pan-Pacific Championship final 4-2 on penalty kicks tonight, Edson Buddle responsible for a horrendous opening kick that narrowly missed entering orbit and draft pick Kyle Patterson sealing the defeat by fluffing the fourth PK.

A 10-man Galaxy – defender Sean Franklin was issued a straight red for a foolish studs up tackle right in front of the referee in the 79th minute – forced penalty kicks by converting a spot kick 10 minutes after the ejection. Buddle was held from behind at the near post by a defender and Mike Magee scored.

In the end justice was done; the Bluewings out shot the Galaxy 17-9 despite what was a far better performance for the home side than Wednesday, which is what Bruce Arena will be most concerned about.

Attendance: 9,160.

More after the press conference.

Updated: This is why I dislike mixed zones, which means reporters wait in the tunnel and hope a player wanders by. But tonight most chose to slip out by another door, save for a personable Mike Magee who chatted for quite a while. I’m short on time tonight, so I’ll post that Q&A later.

For now, here are some quotes from Coach Bruce Arena, who observed that the Bluewings were more experienced than a young Galaxy team and it showed.

“The first half we struggled with the speed of play,” he said. “The Suwon team put us under a lot of pressure, they did a great job stepping to the ball. We weren’t quick enough technically or mentally to deal with it. I thought they really had the better of us in the first half. In the second half I thought our team played much better and obviously the game had slowed down and it benefited us.

“Today we had an opportunity to play a lot of young kids – I thought Omar Gonzalez had a great game. Yohance Marshall did well and A.J. DeLaGarza. And these are young kids who have just played their first couple of games professionally, so I was impressed by that.

“We still haven’t passed the ball very well. Our passing was not good – that needs improvement. We need a little bit more speed in attack; (Landon) Donovan will give us that when he gets back.

“Defensively we were actually pretty solid compared to last year.”

BTW, Eddie Lewis, projected as the starting left back, has a strained hamstring and “will be out a few weeks,” Arena said. It’s the first time in his career the 34-year-old has had a hamstring injury.

Galaxy trivia question (and I’ll not take credit for recalling this) suggested by the resident stats guru on the Galaxy PR staff who remarked as the club chased a one-goal deficit in the game: when was the last time the Galaxy were down by an own goal late in a “championship” match played at Home Depot Center and what happened? I had to think for a moment about this one – and it was an unforgettable ending to a great game.

First to answer in the comment section gets a copy of oh, how about the Official Pan-Pacific Championship Program so you can truly experience the tournament in all its glory.


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Half Time: Galaxy-Bluewings

Galaxy 0 Bluewings 1

The Galaxy went behind on a freak goal in the 39th minute when Bluewings captain Kim Dae-Eui made a long pass from inside his own half that connected with the top of Sean Franklin’s head from 20 yards out, the ball looping over goalkeeper Josh Saunders who was well off his line. Franklin was under pressure from midfielder Choi Sung-Hyeon at the time, but didn’t look like he knew a whole lot about the own goal.

Left back Eddie Lewis left the game in the 32nd minute with a left hamstring issue. He’s being evaluated by medical staff.

A sharper looking Galaxy tonight had several looks at goal, but it’s Suwon Samsung that leads at the break both on the scoreboard and on the shot tally; the Galaxy had three shots, but didn’t force the opposing goalkeeper into a save, while the Bluewings responded with eight.

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Pan-Pacific Championship Final: Galaxy-Suwon Samsung Bluewings

First, a little news: 24-year-old Honduran central defender Osman Chavez confirmed Friday to media in the Central American country he is considering an offer from the Galaxy. Chavez said he had other offers, including one from China, but wanted to play in MLS so he could continue his national team career and play with David Beckham (assuming I suppose, he returns). I’ll ask Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena to comment after the game.

Arena has made three changes to the lineup from Wednesday’s team that defeated Japan’s Oita Trinita: Josh Saunders comes in for Josh Weeks in goal, while Stefani Miglioranzi and Ely Allen move into midfield in place of Josh Tudela and Jovan Kirovski. Edson Buddle is on the bench tonight though and Kirovski will play as a striker.

No sign of the still apparently injured goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

The 4-4-2 lineup then is: Saunders, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Tony Sanneh, Eddie Lewis, Chris Klein, Dema Kovalenko, Miglioranzi, Allen, Alan Kirovski (at least that’s how he’s listed on the lineup just handed out in the press box) and Alan Gordon.

Oita Trinita just beat China’s Shandong Luneng Taishan 2-1 in the first game of the doubleheader, with both teams ending the game with 10 men.

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Saturday Galaxy Pan-Pacific Championship Gameday & More

The Galaxy play for a trophy tonight in Carson.

The opponent is Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings FC. Kickoff is 8 p.m. Lots of tickets available (I’m hearing rumors the Galaxy are allowing all season ticket holders in for free in a bid to boost the microscopic attendance of 5,000 or so of Wednesday – and presumably they’ll recoup cash with their gouging $15 parking fee). The game is also live on Fox Soccer Channel – and on this blog.

An unimpressive Galaxy beat a bad opponent Wednesday to reach the final, but at least they won.

Still, the game illustrated how badly the Galaxy miss playmaker Landon Donovan.

Presumably, that won’t be for long; Donovan came on at half time today for Bayern Munich, but was unable to prevent them slumping to a shock defeat at home to lowly Cologne. Donovan’s most significant contribution: clearing a ball off Bayern’s goal line.

Meanwhile, that other Galaxy player in Europe may also be returning sooner rather than later – at least until the end of the MLS season.

Updated: Galaxy officials tell me all season ticket holders are receiving tonight’s doubleheader as part of their season ticket package. It’s bonus game No. 1.

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Friday Football: Leiweke Spouts Off on Beckham & More

OK, I know we all have serious David Beckham fatigure, but Anschutz Entertainment Group head honcho Tim Lieweke has finally erupted, telling an Italian newspaper no talks between AC Milan and the Galaxy are scheduled and that the club wants between $10 and $15 million for Becks and not the “ridiculous” offer of $3 million received so far.

“With that figure, Galaxy don’t even cover the damages deriving from the shortfalls of not selling his shirts,” Leiweke is (tellingly) quoted as saying.

Which, of course, is what Beckham is all about, rather than what he does on the field. (Hey, Tim, why don’t you just do a swap for Ronaldinho?).

More here.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy-less Beckham play for the Pan-Pacific Championship trophy Saturday at 8 p.m. against Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings. China’s Shandong Luneng Taishan FC faces Japan’s Oita Trinita in the first game at 5:30 p.m. Tickets to the Home Depot Center doubleheader start at $15 (that’s the same price it was Wednesday to park your car – and it doesn’t get to see the game). A cheaper alternative: watch for free on Fox Soccer Channel or drop by and read this blog.

In non-Beckham related news:
*Chivas USA returned home from its Mexican trip to practice Thursday at the HDC with two new trialists: Mexican midfielder Rafael Rodrguez, whose prior clubs include Chivas and Tecos, and 38-year-old Argentine defender Leonel Gancedo, who has played for the likes of Spain’s Osasuna and Argentina’s River Plate.

*Chivas USA has put its single game tickets on sale for the season (see schedule at top right of the blog) starting at $15 a seat. It also has a five-game pack that works out to just $10 a game. Call 1-877-CHIVAS-1 for more info.

*Chivas USA plays two scrimmages Saturday at the HDC on university field No. 2 against Sweden’s Hammerby (11 a.m.) and UCLA (1 p.m.).

*Also this weekend is the annual Cal South Soccer Expo at the convention center in downtown L.A. Lots of exhibitors, giveaways and Chivas USA, Galaxy, Sol and other players on hand. Best of all – admission is free.

*For those not wanting to leave the comfort of their living room, games on TV this weekend include Bayern Munich-Cologne (8:30 a.m. Saturday GOLTV); Manchester United-Blackburn Rovers (9:30 a.m. Saturday Fox Soccer Channel); Monarcas-CD Guadalajara (5 p.m. Saturday KAZA); Tigres-Club America (5 p.m. Saturday KVEA); Manchester City-Liverpool (7 a.m. Sunday FSC); and AC Milan-Cagliari (9 a.m. FSC).

*L.A. WPS entry the Sol has announced the club will open training camp March 2 and has scheduled preseason games against USC March 10, FC Gold Pride March 14 and 17 and an opponent to be determined March 21. The Sol opens its season March 29 at the HDC. The club also announced Thursday the signing of French midfielder Camile Abily (46 caps/eight goals), Chinese forward Han Duan and Swedish defender Johanna Frisk.

*Oh, and tickets for next year’s World Cup went on sale today. It will be interesting to see how sales go with a crummy economy and the event in far-off South Africa.

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I took the day off (in case you didn’t notice), but wanted to acknowledge the efforts of Web master Chris Berry in adding several links on the right hand column of the blog over the last few days.

Among them: 2009 schedules for the Galaxy, Chivas USA, Sol, MLS and WPS – handy links to help plan your soccer year.

In addition, several other links were added – including the popular Soccer by Ives blog and Galaxy fan group Angel City Brigade (happy now guys?).

More refinements are on the way as time and motivation permits, but suggestions are welcome.

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