Chivas USA Saturday Gameday & more

There’s a heightened element of intrigue about tonight’s game at Home Depot Center where two teams at opposite ends of the MLS standings meet.

The Columbus Crew (10-3-4) have scored five and conceded no goals in their last two games since an upset 1-0 loss at home to Kansas.

But the Crew haven’t won at Home Depot Center against Chivas USA (4-9-3) in five years and will likely feature a rookie defender in the lineup for a second consecutive game.

Meanwhile, Chivas USA return from an encouraging road draw against defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake that left them undefeated in their last three games.

Chivas USA will likely give home MLS debuts to the returning Paulo Nagamura, midfielder Rodolfo Espinoza and striker Giancarlo Maldonado, while new signing Sal Zizzo out of UCLA could also see his first minutes off the bench.

Goalkeeper Zach Thornton and defender Jonathan Bornstein are both out injured.

In other soccer news:

*More than 50,000 tickets have been sold for the U.S.-Brazil game on Aug. 10 in New York.

*Since the World Cup, the marketing dynamics of Landon Donovan have changed.

*Javier Hernandez scored the opening goal Friday for his old club in a game against his new one in Guadalajara:

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A Few Words With two Ajax America veterans on the eve of the WPSL championship weekend

Ajax America Women of the Women’s Premier Soccer League team play the Oklahoma Alliance in the final four Saturday in Dallas. On Sunday, the victor faces the winner of the Boston Aztec Breakers Reserves-F.C. Milwaukee Nationals semifinal.

On Friday defender Dani Bosio of Ajax America (and midfielder Ann Marie Tangorra of LAFC Chelsea) were named Pacific Co-Player of the Year. Bosio and 2009 Pacific Conference Co-Player Of The Year Shannon Cross spoke about the veteran core of Rolling Hills Estates-based Ajax that has propelled the team to a record fifth consecutive final four this year.

Question: Ajax stumbled into the Pacific playoffs this year with a 1-2-1 record in the last four matches. Then, the playoffs start and Ajax beats two top teams to make the final four. What happened? Did the proverbial “light” turn on?
Bosio answers: The second half of the season was a little rough – (I’m) not going to lie. We definitely made the road to the playoffs quite difficult with our performance in the latter half of the season. I think the problem was that we weren’t playing as a cohesive unit. We were focusing on our individual games instead of collectively working together as a team.

Finally, the week before playoffs, the “old timers” (Ajax veterans) came together and decided that we would not let this year pass us by. Our team this year is quite young and a lot of the younger players needed to be taught the Ajax mentality: “Work hard for each other on the field and have fun doing it!” I think we’ve got everyone on the same page now and it’s definitely evident on the field.

Cross answers: This year we had a lot of changes to the roster and while the level of talent was never the issue, the veteran players did need to get everyone on the same page. Ajax has a lot of history that goes beyond what any of us current players have been a part of. We needed to remember and honor that and I could not have been more proud of the way our team stepped up this past weekend versus California (in a 3-0 win in the Pacific Final).

Q: Ajax is making their fifth consecutive Final Four appearance – a WPSL record. How has the team been able to string together such an impressive run of play?
Bosio answers: Since the moment I joined Ajax in 2006, I was indoctrinated with the Ajax mentality that I referenced above. I play soccer because I love it and I love spending time with my teammates. It’s easy to lose touch with that notion when you get caught up in the intense demands of coaches, playing time and pressure of performing at the highest levels in the game. We’ve been able to string such an impressive run of play because we all share the same mindset. … I get to take a little vacation each weekend from my chaotic work week schedule to play soccer with a group of my best friends and we have a blast together both on and off the field. This camaraderie is the essence of our success! Sure we’re all fantastic soccer players, but I don’t think we’d be as successful as we are without our communal passion for soccer and our friendships.

Cross answers: It is tough keeping a team together and successful that isn’t bound by school or professionalism. Ajax has been able to do that for years. … It is the love of the game that keeps us together and keeps us successful. The large majority of us have graduated college, have jobs, some have families and as a result – soccer can’t be our No. 1 priority all of the time, but we share the same passion and love for the game. So for at least two days a week, we can forget everything else, just play and play with and for our teammates that have become friends and family. Some players come and go. Some have been playing for this string of five consecutive Final Fours, but it is the leadership of the veterans and mentality we all share that keeps the winning tradition alive.

Q: Ajax Coach Brian Boswell may be one of the best women’s soccer coaches in the world. What influence has he had on your career?
Cross answers: I have known Brian since I was 11 or 12 years old, and he has always been a calm and steady influence. He trusts his players, their experience and ability. If things aren’t working or players make a mistake, it doesn’t turn to panic. It isn’t a matter of if – but when – things will turn around. As a result, everyone is able to be more relaxed and confident. Brian is thus able to get the most out of every player.

With Ajax he knows we can’t dedicate as much time or energy as we all would like. Therefore, when we are out there the reasons we are there – fun and love for the game and team – are never allowed to be forgotten. It is amazing how much better people play when they are truly enjoying what they do.

Lastly, here’s the All-Pacific Conference First Team announced Friday:

goalkeeper Cori Alexander (California Storm); defenders Dani Bosio (Ajax America), Haley Abbott (North Bay Wave FC), Elise Britt (LAFC Chelsea); midfielders Ann Marie Tangorra (LAFC Chelsea), Keri Sanchez (Ajax), Marissa Mykines (Spokane Black Widows), Nina Watkins (North Bay Wave FC); forwards Anessa Patton (Clovis Sidekicks),
Fiona O’Sullivan (Storm), Nicole Wilcox (BSC Portland Rain)

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Would you pay $50 to watch a Real Madrid training session?

The Galaxy is betting there are 200 fans out there who will ahead of the Spanish club’s Aug. 7 friendly at the Rose Bowl.

The training session is limited to 200 people and proceeds benefit the Galaxy’s own charitable foundation. It’s scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday at UCLA.

There’s no word on how long the training session will last, although it had better be of a decent length because spectator check-in begins an entire hour before the session gets under way at 5 p.m.

Personally – and I don’t care who the players involved are – watching training is often akin to watching paint dry. Certain scrimmages can be interesting, but too often it’s sweaty guys jogging around a field.

And don’t count on taking little Bobby along in hopes of getting Cristiano Ronaldo’s autograph either. There was no mention of players signing autographs in the press release, although it’s possible, I suppose.

What will spectators get for sure? “A commemorative LA Galaxy/Real Madrid poster. ”

Still want to go to what’s being billed as a “once in a lifetime event” ?

Click here.

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Friday Kicks: Sounders misfit Ljungberg traded to Fire, could make Chicago debut Sunday in Carson & more

i-c5cddc8568ba9206b6561b9144bc4117-Freddiesounders.jpgFreddie Ljungberg and the Sounders in happier times, Oct. 2008, when he signed with Seattle (AP Photo).

The Seattle Sounders today dumped their biggest star – and biggest headache – trading estranged designated player Freddie Ljungberg to the Chicago Fire, who play the Galaxy Sunday in Carson.

Ljungberg is “available for selection by Fire Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos this Sunday,” Chicago officials said, so it sounds like the alleged injury (ahem) that was the supposed reason for his absence in the Sounders lineup of late has cleared up.

The 33-year-old former Arsenal player had reportedly alienated teammates and management alike in Seattle this season with his attitude and his trade comes as no surprise. Ljungberg has been a notable absentee for Sigi Schmid’s Sounders in practice sessions and games in recent weeks as the Sounders sought a way out of the mess.

Naturally, both parties were playing nice today.

“I want to start off by saying how proud I am to have been part of the most successful new franchise in MLS history, the Seattle Sounders FC,” Ljungberg is quoted as saying in a Sounders press release. “I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I first came to Seattle, but I have to say that how the city and the fans have embraced me has gone beyond my wildest dreams and for that I am forever grateful. I also want to thank my teammates who are absolutely great on and off the pitch. I have made some very close friends who I know I will be in contact with forever.”

But not too many apparently and, of course, if things were as peachy as the Swede claims, he wouldn’t be going anywhere. This is the first trade of a desingated player in MLS history, proving no one is expendable. Let’s hope David Beckham is listening.

Back to the gushing.

“Freddie is a tremendous individual and an exceptional player who contributed greatly to the huge success of Sounders FC, both on and off the field, in the past year and a half,” said Adrian Hanauer, Sounders general manager. “Freddie, along with Kasey Keller, gave this club immediate stature in the world’s game, and we are grateful for his service. We wish him all the best in Chicago.”

That’s nice, isn’t it?

By the way, Ljungberg leaves in exchange for a “conditional selection in the 2011 or 2012 SuperDraft” so it doesn’t sound like the Fire is taking any any big leap of faith in their newest aquisition either.

Also, in a nice piece of serendipity guess who Ljungberg is likely to face in his first home game Aug. 8 for the Fire? Yup, former Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls.

Also today:

* Tthe U.S. Under-20 men’s national Team beat Nigeria 3-0 in Northern ireland to lift the Milk Cup, the trophy awarded in one of the world’s most prestigious youth tournaments.

Locals on the team were Bell resident Bryan De La Fuente, who plays in the Chivas USA youth system, and Fontana’s Adrian Ruelas, who plays for Santos Laguna.

*Southern California fans can expect a glimpse of Real Madrid’s latest signing next month at their Rose Bowl game against the Galaxy after his transfer was finalized today.

*Red Bull New York announced today that former Galaxy striker John Wolyniec was waived. Wolyniec, 33, scored one goal in 10 games for the Galaxy in 2006.

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A reminder we live in Soccer City

There I was this morning, stopping in at the Borders coffee shop across the parking lot from the Daily Breeze offices in Torrance, when who should be sitting there but the Columbus Crew’s Robbie Rogers, Steven Lenhart and playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

The Crew are, of course, in town to face Chivas USA Saturday and visiting MLS teams usually stay in the Torrance Marriott, which is adjacent to Borders.

Schelotto immediately busied himself with his cell phone, but I chatted briefly with Rogers, who grew up in nearby Rolling Hills Estates and I’ve known since he was a teenager.

Incidentally, Rogers, a close friend of ex-Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan, said the now-Anderlecht player is loving it over there in Belgium, ensconced as he is in a cool apartment with his model girlfriend (who wouldn’t, given those circumstances?).

Also, the following report doesn’t tell us anything new about the status of the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan (he’s been saying exactly this all along), but since AP moved a brief story and I’ve seen it elsewhere, it’s worth reprinting:

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Landon Donovan says he still wants to return to Everton and the English Premier League.

The 28-year-old U.S. forward scored twice in a 13-game spell for the team in northwest England while on loan from the Galaxy between January and March.

Donovan returned to the Galaxy but has repeatedly spoken of his desire to return to Everton, where he was an instant hit with fans.

Donovan says on Everton’s website Friday he “would love to go back … I love the people there.”

Donovan added that other clubs had made approaches, but that any interest in signing him was “only preliminary.”

He made the statements after the MLS All-Stars’ 5-2 loss to Manchester United on Wednesday night.

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Friday Football: Waiting for the weekend

There’s a full slate of weekend games while we await U.S. Coach Bob Bradley – who is either a lame duck or the man for the next four years – to reveal his roster Monday or Tuesday for the Brazil game next month.

Both local MLS clubs are at home this weekend. Chivas USA (4-9-3) hosts the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew (10-3-4) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Home Depot Center (live on Prime), while the MLS-leading Galaxy (12-2-4) seek to right the ship after their dreadful midweek CONCACAF Champions League performance against the struggling Chicago Fire (4-5-5) at 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Carson (live on Fox Soccer Channel).

Meanwhile, Women’s Premier Soccer League team Ajax America Women (8-3-1, Pacific Champion) face the Oklahoma Alliance F.C. (8-1-0, South Champion) in the final four Saturday in Dallas. The victor faces the winner of the other semifinal, which features the Boston Aztec Breakers Reserves (10-1-1, East Champion) verses the F.C. Milwaukee Nationals (10-1-0, Midwest Champion), in the title game Sunday.

The other national women’s soccer league that occupies the rung just below WPS, the W-League, has its championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday in Santa Clarita at Harry Welch Stadium at Canyon High. Admission is $10 and the game is also live on Fox Soccer Channel.

The Vancouver Whitecaps, which beat the Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues 3-1 Thursday, will take on the Buffalo Flash, which downed the Atlanta Silverbacks by the same score on the same evening.

In the Premier Development League playoffs Saturday, the defending champion Ventura County Fusion are at the Kitsap Pumas while the Hollywood Hitmen take on the Portland Timbers Under-23 squad. Both games are in Bremerton, Wash.

For those of you who don’t want to budge from the TV at home click at top right for a full roundup of what’s on TV where, but the pick of the bunch IMHO is Herculez Gomez and Jose Torres of Pachuca visiting defending league champion Toluca at 10 a.m. Sunday on KVEA.

Have a great weekend.

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Fire introduce Mexican international Castillo who is expected to make MLS debut Sunday against Galaxy

i-e4a30750a79ade417a4488ff63a79833-castillo introduced.jpgTroubled team, troubled player: New Chicago Fire designated player Nery Castillo, left, talks with head coach Carlos de los Cobos in training today after his introduction to the media (AP Photo).

The underperforming Chicago fire are a mediocre 4-5-5.

Once promising Mexican Nery Castillo, 26, who failed to make his nation’s World Cup squad, his career derailed by injuries and other issues, joined his fourth team in five years today on a year-long loan from Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukraine.

And the Galaxy are likely to face both at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Home Depot Center.

Castillo will wear the coveted No. 10 shirt, so it’s immediately apparent what’s expected of him.

“Castillo is a player who will have an immediate impact on our team,” said Fire Coach Carlos de los Cobos. “A player of his caliber should help us as we work to win games, gain points and fight for a playoff spot.”

He should do that, whether he will is another matter; the Fire are making some badly-needed midseason changes and need help.

But Castillo has well-documented attitude issues – he once insisted upon taking a penalty, promptly missed and was immediately subbed out, for instance – and has consistently disappointed with his performances in recent seasons.

From the Fire press release:

Castillo joins the Fire after spending eight seasons with FC Olympiakos where he tallied 30 goals in 105 appearances leading the team to four Greek Super League Championships (02/03, 04/05, 05/06 and 06/07) and two Greek Cups (2005 and 2006.) Following his departure from the Greek side, Castillo spent time with Ukrainian clubs Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, in addition to English Premier League club Manchester City.

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Chicharito follows script on United debut at MLS All-Star Game

i-42b05c9fa45bfba8e9143b952f8a5524-Javierutddebut.jpgNew United hero? Javier Hernandez, the first Mexican to play for Manchester United, scores on his debut in front of an adoring Mexican-American crowd in Houston and the Red Devils head to Guadalajara to sell replica jerseys with his name on the back to play Chivas Friday in a match that was a condition of his transfer from the club (AP Photo).

In a spectacle more about marketing than soccer, Manchester United smoothly dispatched the MLS All-Stars 5-2 Wednesday in Houston with a minimum of fuss and heightened the anticipation for their impending arrival in Guadalajara by sending on Mexican international Javier Hernandez who duly applied the finishing touch with a goal that oozed class in the 84th minute on his Red Devils debut.

Edson Buddle had a good game though, didn’t he?

Hey, it was better than Kevin Alston’s “indecisive decision” (as John Harkes put it so eloquently) seconds into the game.

Read the game story here.

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Real Madrid travel roster released

i-bb5b318609086ea84b6fa94980ec6258-Ronaldoarrives0022.jpgCristiano Ronaldo and (some) of his fellow Real Madrid players arrived at LAX this afternoon on a charter flight at a private terminal. (Photo by Roberto Mora/LA Galaxy).

Real Madrid have released a 28-player roster for their U.S. tour, which includes games in the Bay Area and Pasadena’s Rose Bowl on Aug. 7:

goalkeepers – Iker Casillas*, Jerzy Dudek, Antonio Adn

defenders – Raul Albiol*, Alvaro Arbeola*, Royston Ricky Drenthe, Ezequiel Garay, Pepe, Nacho Fernndez, Sergio Ramos*, Marcelo

midfielders – Xabi Alonso*, Sergio Canales*, Lassana Diarra, Mahamadou Diarra, ngel Fabian Di Mara*, Fernando Gago, Esteban Granero, lex Fernndez, Kaka*, Pedro Leon, Marcos Tbar, Rafael van der Vaart*

forwards – Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain*, lvaro Morata, Juanfran Moreno, Cristiano Ronaldo

The team arrives today at LAX, with the exceptions arriving later denoted by an asterisk above.

From the Galaxy press release:

Tickets for this game are on sale now starting at just $40 by calling 1-877-3GALAXY (342-5299) and at all Galaxy Tienda and Ticketmaster locations.

For fans of Real Madrid, additional supporters sections have been added for the visiting club. Fans wishing to sit with fellow Real Madrid fans are asked to request tickets in these sections when purchasing their seats.

The Galaxy are urging fans to arrive at the stadium early to avoid getting delayed in traffic. Parking lots open at noon. Tailgating is encouraged and the Galaxy SoccerFest in Lot H will have food, interactive activities and live music beginning at 3 p.m. Arrive early, carpool, ride the free shuttle from Old Pasadena or use public transportation. For more information on traffic, parking and directions please click here.

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