Galaxy at Seattle Sounders

I’ve been out photographing the March to the Match and generally soaking up the wonderful football atmosphere in this incredible setting for a stadium that would make any English fan feel right at home, so am late starting blogging this afternoon as the Halloween dusk gathers.

A major change for the Galaxy this evening – Todd Dunivant has a right hamstring strain he apparently has been dealing with all week – and his absence means soon-to-retire Eddie Lewis starts at left back, his first MLS start since the opening week of the season.

It will be interesting to see if the speedy Seattle front line can take advantage of Lewis as the game wears on.

That aside, no real surprises in the Galaxy’s starting XI: Donovan Ricketts, Sean Franklin, Eddie Lewis, A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, David Beckham, Juninho, Dema Kovalenko, Landon Donovan, Mike Magee, Edson Buddle.

Gregg Berhalter is on the bench, along with Chris Birchall, Tristan Bowen, Alex Cazumba, Jovan Kirovski and yes, Chris Klein. So, there’s no Michael Stephens.

Here’s the Sounders’ lineup: Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi, Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo.

Former Galaxy striker Nate Jaqua is on the bench for the Sounders.

Refresh this page for updates as the game progresses.

We’re minutes away from the opening whistle. The game is on ESPN2.

The entire stadium – yes, the entire stadium – is standing and holding aloft a rave green scarf even before the teams emerge from the tunnel.

Seattle had the ball in the net after just 32 seconds, but Zakuani was called for offside.

The individual matchups in this one are already aapparent – Nyassi verses Lewis on the right for Seattle; Kovalenko and Alonso will battle in midfield.

Montero twice went close for Seattle in successive minutes starting in the 23rd minute.

Ricketts first pushed a low Montero shot from 20 yards around the post after he went around DeLaGarza like he wasn’t even there and then Montero got his head on the ball that Ricketts was forced to just push over the bar.

Never mind Lewis, Seattle is stretching the entire Galaxy defense who are having trouble with the Sounders’ speed and mobility.

The Galaxy’s forays forward are significantly less frequent and threatening than Seattle’s as we hit the 35th minute mark.

Sounders 0 Galaxy 1

The Galaxy have scored out of nowhere in the 38th minute, Edson Buddle with a cracking effort after getting on the end of a long Gonzalez ball. He deftly beat Ianni with one touch and with his second cracked the ball with a smashing shot from 30-35 yards that gave Keller no chance.

Halftime

This crowd has largely been silenced as the Galaxy finish what amounts to the first quarter with a 1-0 lead, after Seattle easily had the bulk of the attacking play.

The Galaxy defense soaked up the pressure well with Ricketts coming to the rescue on a couple of occasions.

What will that goal do to the Sounders’ psyche?

Key stat: Sounders have the advantage in shots on goal 7-4, but, of course, not on then scoreboard where it counts.

Attendance tonight: 35,521 – 9th highest all time for the MLS playoffs.

Thirty minutes left; not a whole lot going on in the first 15 minutes of the half. That will suit the Galaxy.

A Zakuani shot hit the post in the 64th minute – he was offside anyway.

First sub of the game in the 65th minute – the Sounders bring in former Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall for a gimpy looking Jeff Parke. He has a sprained left ankle.

Chris Birchall is replacing Kovalenko in the 70th minute. Dema was told to calm down a few minutes ago by his teammates and he’s already on a yellow.

Jovan Kirovski is replacing Buddle up front in the 73rd minute; is Arena already protecting him for the second leg next Sunday?

If the worst mistake the Galaxy make this game is mispelling Kirovski’s name – the “s” and “k” are transposed – Arena will be more than pleased.

Ten minutes to go – the Galaxy are killing this game off effectively.

Last roll of the dice for Sigi’s Sounders – it’s a Nate for Nate; striker Nate Jaqua has come on for midfielder Nate Sturgis.

Five minutes of stoppage time to go – although surely the game hasn’t stopped for that long.

Final: Sounders 0 Galaxy 1

The Galaxy take a one goal lead back home to Southern California at what is essentially halftime of this 180-minute game. The final 90 minutes will begin at 6 p.m. next Sunday at Home Depot Center.

More later.

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Seattle Sunday Galaxy gameday

Greetings from the Pacific Northwest where gloomy gray skies Saturday have given way (for now) to a freshly scrubbed blue sky Sunday.

This being Seattle, where the locals love their coffee, their sports and their city, the morning newspaper hanging on my Pioneer Square hotel room doorknob this morning dispensed with a basic preview of the Sounders-Galaxy game, in favor of a love letter to the gameday experience at Qwest Field

That’s apt because that’s one of the main reasons I’m here – somehow I couldn’t see myself jetting off to say, suburban Frisco, Texas to take in a road Galaxy playoff game.

Wandering the largely empty Seattle streets last night in a gentle rain was not only nostalgic – I attended the University of Washington in the mid-80s – but a reminder why the urban gameday experience here is so different from the car-oriented version in Carson.

Here it is easy (as I did last night) to chill over an excellent Porter at the Elysian Fields microbrewery opposite Qwest Field wander a few blocks for the mandatory clam chowder at Ivars and complete the circuit at historic Pike Place.

Add in a frenzied 35,000 fans or so who will attend today’s game and its easy to see why folks here are a more than a little smug (and mortified over their crap pointyball football team coached, one should add, by a Southern California guy). Good thing South Bay boy and Sounders coach Sigi Schmid offsets that when it comes to real football.

The Galaxy face an uphill battle against a Seattle team far hotter than the local weather to reach the next round of the playoffs.

The at times heavy rain the Galaxy trained in Saturday is expected to return tonight, which should make for a treacherous surface on the fake field here (one of the few things the Sounders need to improve upon).

I’m heading out to take in a few more sights before the game begins and plan to blog from the stadium tonight so join me then.

If you missed our coverage leading up to the game check out the earlier entries on the blog here, here, here and here.

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Seattle-bound Saturday Kicks: Galaxy update & more

I’m heading to Seattle in a couple of hours where the expected highs in the Pacific Northwest are around the lows in Southern California and rain is expected throughout the weekend. Warming microbrews at Pioneer Square and a 500-zombie performance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in the North Plaza at Qwest Field before Sunday’s 5 p.m. Western Conference semifinal should ward off the chill.

Before I go just have time to note that:

*David Beckham is as ready as he’ll ever be for the playoffs.

*And so are the Sounders.

*Also, OC resident Juergen Klinsmann is offering Toronto a Soccer Solution. Well, someone should.

In Friday’s college games:

*USC scored three second-half goals with the winner coming in the 83rd minute to beat Washington State 3-2 at McAlister Field. USC improved to 10-4-3 overall and is now 3-2-1 in Pac-10

*The UCLA women lost 1-0 to Washington; the Bruins fell to 9-7-1 overall and 2-4 in the Pac-10.

See you from Seattle.

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Waiting for the weekend: MLS playoffs & more

*The MLS playoffs started Thursday with a fairly drab opener between Colorado and Columbus.

*Here’s the television schedule for the other games this weekend:

2 p.m. Saturday Fox Soccer Channel FC-Dallas-Real Salt Lake (the Seattle-Galaxy winner meets the winner of this series in the Western Conference final)

7 p.m. Saturday Telefutura San Jose Earthquakes-New York Red Bulls

5 p.m. Sunday ESPN2 Seattle Sounders-Galaxy

I decided to splurge and head up to the Pacific Northwest Saturday on a midday flight to see the game the following day. So I will blog from Qwest Field and file a column for Monday’s newspapers (rather than Tuesday this week only).

Any Galaxy fans making the trip (or Seattle fans for that matter) who want to hang with this UW grad in Pioneer Square for a quality microbrew or two the night before (or after 9 p.m. Sunday) should hit me up on Facebook or drop me an e-mail (both links are to the left at the end of the mini bio). I’ve already heard from a couple of folks and the more the merrier (anyone know of a place that will show the evening game Saturday, which could be tough because Washington has a 4 p.m. pointyball game?).

*I know I’m looking forward to sampling the Qwest Field atmosphere in person again for a Galaxy game; David Beckham is too, his first experience playing there as a member of the Galaxy against the Sounders.

*Other televised games of note this weekend:

8 o’clock tonight FSC UCLA women-Washington

6:55 a.m. Saturday ESPN2 Chelsea-Blackburn Rovers

9:30 a.m. FSC Manchester United-Tottenham Hotspur

*In an easy CONCACAF World Cup qualifying opener Thursday Abby Wambach smashed home a hat trick and the U.S. dispatched Haiti, 5-0. Next for the U.S.: Guatemala at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Torrance’s Shannon Boxx got an assist on Wambach’s first goal. Haiti couldn’t muster a shot on target.

Notable: Halftime substitute Kristine Lilly earned her 350th cap, extending further her world record for international appearances.

U.S. lineup: 18-Nicole Barnhart; 2-Heather Mitts, 6-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 26-Rachel Buehler; 9-Heather O’Reilly (15-Megan Rapinoe, 46), 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd, 4-Yael Averbuch (13-Kristine Lilly, 46); 8-Amy Rodriguez (12-Lauren Cheney, 57), 20-Abby Wambach

Highlights:

*In college action Thursday, the Cal State Northridge women (11-8, 5-3 Big West) defeated Cal State Fullerton 2-0 at Matador Field. The win qualified CSUN for the four-team Big West Tournament for the second-consecutive season.

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Book review: “Soccerland”

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Guest book reviewer and Torrance resident Paige Brandt, 14, is a freshman at South High and a goalkeeper for the Under-16 Silver Elite Palos Verdes SC Exiles. In her spare time, she enjoys playing volleyball and reading.

We asked Paige to review the book “Soccerland” by Beth Choat, a novel aimed at teenage girls:

When trying out for the Under 15′s National Team, Flora Dupre was competing with a hundred other soccer driven girls to show coaches why they should make the national team.

The book “Soccerland” by Beth Choat gives girls the message that if you work hard you can accomplish anything. This book relates to many girls who come from a small town and have big dreams with their soccer career. The story was believable not just because the story shows you that it doesn’t matter what your background is, all that matters is that you work hard and dream big.

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I would recommend this well written book that draws you in from the first sentence to anyone who plays or loves the game.

“Soccerland” is not limited to just “soccer players”; this book shows a young girl chasing her dreams.

The book gives girls hope that if you work hard and want to go big with your soccer career anything can happen. The characters in “Soccerland” were lifelike, they all pertained to people you would meet when you went to a soccer academy.

“Soccerland” is a book to read for anyone who loves soccer or just loves to read!

The book is available here.

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Galaxy faces streaking Sounders Sunday – a revamped team that’s gone from flop to fab LA helped create

i-72fa466ac6ca227014f853926b02cc02-boysareback.jpgThe sign says it all as the Sounders huddle at the start of the U.S. Open Cup final against the Columbus Crew in Seattle. At midseason there was little evidence the Sounders would be a factor come the MLS playoffs. Now they enter the playoffs as the league’s hottest team (AP Photos).

You do remember that 4-0 home pounding the Seattle Sounders absorbed at the hands of a relentless Galaxy back in May, right?

They do in Seattle as the following story illustrates where the defeat was taken so seriously you’ll recall, supporters were given their “money back” – a comp on a game next season.

What monster has the Galaxy created? Associated Press Sports Writer Tim Booth has more here:

TUKWILA, Wash. AP) — In just a few months, the Seattle Sounders went from being one of the biggest flops in Major League Soccer to the opponent everyone was trying to avoid.

Gone are the questions about how a team considered a preseason favorite in the MLS could be so dysfunctional for the first three months of the season. The Sounders begin the playoffs on Sunday night against Los Angeles as the hottest team in the league during the second half of the season.

“Anytime you can in the middle of a season totally change your fortune, that is impressive,” veteran Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller said Thursday. “That takes a strong mindset through your whole organization. Guys picked it up. We weren’t achieving what we were capable of doing. Ownership and management made some tough decisions, put the pressure on the players to perform and the guys stepped up and made it happen.”

Los Angeles finished with an impressive 59 points and claimed the league’s Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record, but no one has been hotter than the Sounders. The Sounders went 10-2-3 over their final 15 league matches, seven points better than any other playoff team.

The home-and-home aggregate total playoff series starts in Seattle with the second half being played Nov. 7 in Carson. The Galaxy swept the season series, posting a 4-0 rout at Seattle in May that prompted the Sounders management to give season-ticket holders a one-game credit on their 2011 season tickets as a “refund” for the Sounders’ poor play.

“We’re a much different team than when we played them in the last two league games,” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, who grew up in the South Bay. “The composition of our team is different. I think the way our team plays is a little bit different as well. So from that standpoint I think we are a lot different.”

i-c847a6302951c213dbb8f7f681cc1fa7-freddieball.jpgHow bad was it for Seattle? During a 10-game stretch starting in late April and continuing into early July, the Sounders went just 2-7-1 and earned a mere seven points in the standings. Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, right, the Sounders’ first designated player, was disgruntled and looking at options elsewhere as he trained away from his teammates while trying to recover from an ankle injury. Meanwhile, the rest of the Sounders were trying find the answer for an on-field turnaround.

Keller said it’s too simplistic to look at the July 30 trade of Ljungberg to Chicago as the
answer to all of Seattle’s problems. It was actually a few weeks earlier, when the drama
between Ljungberg and the Sounders started, that Seattle finally turned the corner.

“Sometimes it takes a move to spark something. In this case it happened to be Freddie,” Keller said. “Maybe it’s not necessarily Freddie wasn’t here, but it was somebody else saying, ‘Oh man, if they are willing to make that (move) then I better step this thing up because I may be the next one to go.’ There is a lot of little factors.”

Starting with their 1-1 draw with FC Dallas on July 11, Seattle took off. They went 5-0-2 over their next seven matches to get back into playoff consideration, then closed the season with an impressive run of five wins in six matches.

And while Seattle was winning, it was flying all over North and Central America competing in the CONCACAF Champions League and winning a second straight U.S. Open Cup title.

“That, I think, is what is most impressive. It was an entire team effort, making changes on a midweek, some guys having to play a bunch of games consecutive, just a great, great team effort,” Keller said.

Helping was Seattle settling on a starting 11 that perhaps didn’t feature its top players all the time, but worked well together. Alvaro Fernandez, who played for Uruguay in the World Cup and was signed by Seattle as a designated player, has started just four of his 12 league games since arriving in late July.

Meanwhile, unheralded midfielder Nate Sturgis, a former Galaxy player Schmid swiped from Real Salt Lake, has started 16 games this season, becoming a key component to Seattle’s late-season success. Now comes the challenge of bettering last season when Seattle was dumped in the playoffs by Houston.

“For us the motivation is definitely there,” Schmid said. “We want to do better than we did last year. We got a chance to go up against the Supporters’ Shield winner and if you want to win a championship you are going to have to beat a team like that eventually.”

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Thursday Kicks: Becks on Ellen & more

Um, you do know what I mean, right?

Anyway, here’s David Beckham’s bit (ahem) on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Wednesday:

Back to your regularly scheduled soccer programming:

*The Tacoma News Tribune takes us back to the month that changed the Seattle Sounders’ season ahead of Sunday’s playoff game against the Galaxy.

*Don’t forget, the MLS playoffs begin tonight when Columbus visits Colorado at 6 o’clock on ESPN2. The Galaxy, should the club progress to MLS Cup in Toronto, wouldn’t meet either team until then, should either of them progress that far, too.

*The USWNT opens CONCACAF World Cup qualifying at 5:30 p.m. today. There’s no TV coverage of the game. Read the game basics here.

A preview of the U.S. group is here:

Watch the game here.

*How big was that big Central Coast college crowd I blogged about Wednesday? Big. Told ya.

Cal Poly won 2-1.

*Cal State Northridge fell 2-1 at home to UCLA Wednesday, in a game that saw freshman forward Victor Chavez score two goals in the first 14 minutes of the game to lead the 15th-ranked Bruins to the victory. UCLA improved to 11-4-1, while Northridge dropped to 2-12-2.

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Breaking news: Chivas USA fires Coach Martn Vsquez

i-57f0aa78dd3edfb692258362731d0786-martinv0002.jpgIt was one season at the helm of Chivas USA and out for Martn Vsquez, seen here when he was announced as the club’s coach last December (Photo: Juan Miranda/Chivas USA).

In a major shock, Coach Martn Vsquez was fired by Chivas USA Wednesday afternoon after leading the club to a 8-18-4 record in his first season in charge.

Despite the woeful record, club officials had repeatedly said they considered this a rebuilding year and insisted Vsquez would return next season. Instead, Vsquez didn’t even last 12 months in the job.

“This was a difficult decision for our organization to make,” said Chivas USA Vice President of Soccer Operations Stephen Hamilton. “Everyone at Chivas USA has a great deal of respect for Martn, both as a person and a coach. Unfortunately, after this difficult season came to a close, we decided to move in a different direction. We all wish Martn the very best in the future.”

Vsquez, a former assistant coach at the club from 2005-2007, was hired Dec. 2, 2009. He had also served as an assistant coach to to Jurgen Klinsmann at Bayern Munich in Germany.

He was the first Mexican-American head coach in MLS and remade the club’s squad, bringing in Latino players in numbers not seen since the club’s (awful) inaugural season.

But in truth the personnel and lineup decisions Vsquez made were often bewildering and did little to inspire confidence (Galaxy castoff Alan Gordon and former Utah Sunday league player Justin Braun are really MLS quality starters in attack? Really?).

Worse, the club appeared to be losing the loyalty of the relatively small fan base it boasts.

So who should take over?

Klinsmann (who lives in the OC)? Former player Jesse Marsch, now an assistant to U.S. Coach Bob Bradley? Any other suggestions?

Updated:

Steve Sampson? Octavio Zambrano?

Updated

Reporter Phil Collin had a little more in today’s dead tree edition on the firing of Vasquez. It’s interesting to note that despite public assurances from Chivas USA brass to the media that Vasquez would be retained for next season, he himself never received that assurance personally (it was me who asked the question Collin talks about in his story, by the way).

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Hartman, Ricketts, Buddle, Gonzalez named MLS awards finalists

i-59c5b01c132568003f6938e20c00849a-buddlefuture.jpgGalaxy striker Edson Buddle, up for MLS MVP, tries to peer into the future at a recent game and guess the winners (AP Photo).

But no Bruce Arena for Coach of the Year.

And why is Thierry Henry up for an award (I’m guessing former CSUDH, UCLA and Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is not casting his vote for the Frenchman).

Here’s the finalists for each award as announced by MLS this afternoon and the schedule the winners will be announced:

Goalkeeper of the Year Finalists
Kevin Hartman (FC Dallas)
Donovan Ricketts (Galaxy)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Fair Play Finalists – Individual
C.J. Brown (Chicago Fire)
Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Comeback Player of the Year Finalists
Chris Albright (New York Red Bulls)
Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes)
Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

Visa Defender of the Year Finalists
Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake)
Omar Gonzalez (Galaxy)
Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake)

MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year Finalists
Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo)
Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards)
Seth Stammler (New York Red Bulls)

adidas Referee of the Year Finalists
Mark Geiger
Kevin Stott
Baldomero Toledo

Rookie of the Year Finalists
Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia Union)
Andy Najar (D.C. United)
Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)

Coach of the Year Finalists
Hans Backe (New York Red Bulls)
Schellas Hyndman (FC Dallas)
Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake)

Newcomer of the Year Finalists
Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)
Joel Lindpere (New York Red Bulls)
Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)

Volkswagen Most Valuable Player Finalists
Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy)
David Ferreira (FC Dallas)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthqakes)

Awards Announcements Schedule:

Tuesday: Rookie of the Year, Fair Play Individual & Team of the Year, and Goalkeeper of the Year

Nov. 5: Visa Defender and adidas Referee/Assistant Referee of the Year

Nov. 8: MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year

Nov.10: Newcomer and Comeback Player of the Year

Nov. 11: MLS Coach of the Year

Nov. 15: 2010 MLS Best XI

Nov. 17: AT&T Goal of the Year and NAPA Auto Parts Save of the Year

Nov. 19: Volkswagen MVP & Commissioner’s Award

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