No column today

In observance of Memorial Day.

But here’s three links to chew on for Tuesday:

*Here’s more on the status of the Whitecaps ahead of Vancouver’s game Wednesday night against Chivas USA in Carson.

*New disclosures today on the scandal enveloping CONCACAF head Jack Warner.

*Former Chivas USA defender Claudio Suarez claims Mexican soccer is 100 years ahead of the U.S., which probably says more about the state of the game there than here.

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Monday kicks: FIFA’s Blatter in denial & more

i-649aca6d912a928be78cca4c62891dc4-ethicalblatter.jpgBrandishing the (apparently all but worthless) FIFA Code of Ethics, a not exactly contrite Sepp Blatter went on the offensive in Switzerland today, scolding reporters and upbraiding some fellow FIFA officials (AP Photos).

*FIFA President Sepp Blatter may deny it, but the world’s governing body has been shaken to the core and no resolution is in sight. Is the Qatar World Cup now in doubt? Associated Press sports writer Raf Casert has the details of this unfolding morass:

ZURICH (AP) — With FIFA facing its worst scandal in its 107-year history, a seething Sepp Blatter denied his organization is in crisis Monday as he moved closer to a fourth term as president of soccer’s ruling body and the crisis spread to the vote for the 2022 World Cup.

With his only challenger, Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, suspended along with FIFA Vice President Jack Warner because of bribery allegations, Blatter acknowledged two days before the election that the two had done “great damage” to soccer.

During an impromptu and sometimes raucous news conference at FIFA headquarters, Blatter gave staccato answers and lectured journalists to behave with “respect” and “elegance” when questioning his 13-year rule.

“You are not in a bazaar here, you are in the FIFA house,” Blatter scolded one reporter.

Blatter ended another turbulent day by promising to restore order, and dismissed evidence that FIFA’s second in command had suggested Qatar “bought” the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

The 75-year-old Swiss executive spoke a day after bin Hammam and Warner were sidelined by an ethics committee over allegations that Caribbean soccer leaders were paid $40,000 each to back bin Hammam’s now-abandoned presidential bid.

“Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis,” Blatter said. “We are not in a
crisis, we are only in some difficulties and these difficulties will be solved — and they will
be solved inside this family.”

Highlighting the unease within a sport that has long learned to live with scandal, leading
sponsor Coca-Cola joined sporting goods giant Adidas in criticizing the state of soccer.

Coca-Cola said in a statement to The Associated Press that the allegations are “distressing and bad for the sport,” adding the company has “every expectation that FIFA will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner.”

To make matters worse, Blatter failed to come out in defense of FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who admitted he had written an email to Warner saying bin Hammam might have been thinking that “you can buy FIFA as they bought the WC.”

When asked for a reaction, Blatter said, “I don’t answer this question,” before adding, “we
will come back inside the FIFA on that.”

Qatar’s World Cup organizers swiftly and “categorically” denied Valcke’s claim. They said they were “urgently seeking clarification” from FIFA and are “taking legal advice to consider our options.”

Valcke attempted to clarify his remarks Monday, saying that by using the word “bought” he meant that Qatar was using the “financial strength” of an energy-rich nation to lobby for backing, but did not mean to claim any unethical behavior on its part.

“I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any reference to any purchase of votes,” Valcke said in a statement about his email to Warner.

Bin Hammam said he would appeal his provisional suspension, saying the proceedings were “absolutely not compliant with any principles of justice” and had been “defined from the very beginning.”

The 62-year-old Qatari, who is suspended from his role as president of the Asian Football Confederation, acknowledged on his personal website that he provided $360,000 for “travel and accommodations” of the 25 Caribbean Football Union members attending a May 10-11 meeting in Warner’s native Trinidad.

The crisis was sparked by evidence submitted by Chuck Blazer, the American general secretary of the regional soccer group representing North and Central America and the Caribbean and a longtime FIFA executive panel member.

Blazer said there was “much more evidence” to come detailing what happened when bin Hammam and Warner arranged the May 10-11 meeting.

FIFA’s suspension of bin Hammam has met with widespread anger in the Middle East. Yousuf al-Serkal, an Asian Football Confederation vice president and an ally of bin Hammam from neighboring United Arab Emirates, said he didn’t believe the charges and saw them as a bid to remove him from the presidential race.

“Bin Hammam has been mistreated,” al-Serkal said. “Bin Hammam is the right person who should have been elected.”

“All the allegations were just from a report,” he added. “I feel sorry for the person I have
known for long time as a decent person.”

Newspapers in Egypt were especially critical of Blatter. The Al-Dustour daily said bin Hammam had “surrendered to the tyranny of Blatter.” Al-Gomhuria called Blatter a “sly fox who cannot be easily hunted” and compared him to that country’s longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted from office earlier this year.

AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar and Rob Harris in Zurich and Michael Casey in Dubai contributed to this report.

*Meanwhile, Chivas USA have another golden chance to bank some much-needed points against another struggling MLS club, which they meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Home Depot Center:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The struggling Vancouver Whitecaps have fired coach Teitur Thordarson.

i-5b7bfbcb9ed8adcb61baf983b7547260-thor.jpgThe Major League Soccer club also fired goalkeeper coach Mike Salmon on Monday.

Director of soccer operations Tom Soehn will take over as coach for the rest of the season.

The expansion Whitecaps have not won since their opener March 19 — when they defeated Toronto FC 4-2 — and have a 1-5-6 record.

CEO Paul Barber says “we feel that today’s changes are necessary in order to accelerate the process of turning around our difficult start to the season.”

Soehn will have help from assistant coaches Denis Hamlett and Colin Miller.

Thordarson, a native of Iceland, took over as the Whitecaps coach in December 2007.

*Alejandro Bedoya has been called into the U.S. camp while an injury to Benny Feilhaber is evaluated.

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Revs roll over for Galaxy, Chivas USA self-destruct & more

*For the second successive game the Galaxy’s opponents – this time the New England Revolution – barely fashioned a credible goal scoring opportunity, and that was enough for the three points.

Notable: Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts got another shutout (three in a row now) and the Galaxy scored once in the win (for the third game in a row).

Game story.

Highlights:

Next for the Galaxy: Against D.C. United at 8 p.m. Friday at Home Depot Center.

*Chivas USA took and lost a one-goal lead on three occasions in a 3-3 tie with the Crew in Columbus Saturday, Jorge Flores going from Sueno to nightmare after getting sent off for a completely unnecessary second yellow card with 20 minutes still to go after scoring Chivas USA’s third goal. The ejection took the wind out of Chivas USA’s sails condemning them to a tie rather than a win against a vulnerable opponent.

Quotable:

“I’m pretty disappointed with the tie to be quite honest,” said Chivas USA Coach Robin Fraser. “I think we all are. At the end, I’m happy to get a point. I’d rather have a point than no points, but certainly I felt like we played well enough to get all three points. We really made some mistakes at the end but coming off the game last week where we didn’t play very well. I felt we did extremely well in terms of possession and then in turning the possession into chances. In the end, we’ll take the draw on the road but it’s a game we felt we could’ve won.”

Game story.

Highlights:

Next for Chivas USA: against the Vancouver Whitecaps at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Home Depot Center.

Chivas USA will be without joint leading scorer Alejandro Moreno for the game who will be representing Venezuela against Guatemala that night, Andrew Boyens and Simon Elliott will also be on duty for New Zealand Wednesday against Mexico in Denver, while Jorge Flores misses the game through suspension.

Boyens and Moreno won’t return to club duty until the June 11 game in Houston against the Dynamo.

In other games:

* Mexico 1 Ecuador 1 in Seattle.

Excellent photo gallery here.

*Chicharito was elsewhere, although Barca were simply better.

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UEFA Champion League final preview: Barcelona-Manchester United

i-716f6241e43007d2ac43ab047bd45594-riosiralex.jpgMeet the Press: A United Rio Ferdinand and Sir Alex Ferguson speak at a news conference today ahead of Saturday’s UEFA Champions League finale (AP Photos).

Let’s hope I’m not jinxing the occasion or over-hyping it, but all the signs are pointing to a game for the ages when this one kicks off at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday on Fox and I’m not alone in thinking that. Associated Press writer Stuart Condie has more:

WEMBLEY, England (AP) — Alex Ferguson believes the Champions League showdown between Manchester United and Barcelona could be the best final in the last 10 years.

With Barcelona lauded as one of the greatest clubs in soccer history and Ferguson insisting his players are better prepared than when the teams met two years ago, the United manager said Friday the ingredients are in place for a classic.

Barcelona has already clinched a third straight Spanish title, and such is the fashion in
which Lionel Messi and his teammates routinely dismantle opponents that United is a clear underdog Saturday despite having reached a third final in four seasons.

“The success both teams have had in the past decade has been enormous,” Ferguson said. “It really could be the best final of the decade. The attraction of two teams with such history is obvious. Anything could happen in this game.”

The coaches are agreed on one thing: Each team will give a better account of itself than it did in the 2009 final, when United was rattled by Barcelona’s early goal and went down
2-0.

“I’m very happy with winning in Rome,” said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who as a player helped Barcelona win its first title in 1992. “But let’s be honest, we have to play better than we played in Rome and I have told my players that repeatedly.”

Barcelona has done that for much of this season, with the likes of world champions Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets helping their team control close to two-thirds possession in this season’s Champions League — against supposedly Europe’s best teams.

“Fans want us to be faithful to the way we play, to our philosophy, and we will be,” goalkeeper Victor Valdes said. “If we are to win, that’s the only way we can get there.”

Ferguson acknowledged that he had consulted Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho for ideas on how to approach the game. Ferguson’s friend is one of the select few to have engineered a victory — albeit one that was followed by a humbling defeat in the Champions League semifinals — over Barcelona this season.

“I’ve had a small conversation with him and he’s wished us all the best,” Ferguson said. “He knows we’re prepared.”

United enters the game coming off a record 19th English title. It also advanced to the final without conceding an away goal and is drawing close to two decades of dominance in England. Still, it is the biggest long shot in a Champions League final in more than a decade.

i-24b49538764fa2551c73309d11e63b43-peptalks.jpgPep talks: Barcelona Coach Pep Guardiola may lead a club team out against Manchester United that frighteningly enough may not reach its full potential for several years.

“We are proud that in the future — in the next four, five, 10, 15 years — some guys will
remember this team playing right now,” Guardiola said. “If they say, ‘One time I saw this team and they played good for us,’” we are glad. But to say we are the best team ever is
impossible. It is not true.”

With a penalty-kick shootout to follow if neither team wins through regulation or extra time, one club will leave Wembley tied with Bayern Munich and Ajax with four titles. Only Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool have won more.

Barcelona won its first title at Wembley in 1992 before picking up two more titles in the past five years. United also won its first at the north London stadium in 1968 in a 4-1 victory over Portugal’s Benfica with George Best at his dazzling best.

“It’s at Wembley and that gives you an awareness that this is a big game,” said Ferguson, the most decorated manager in English soccer. “And I like big games.”

Ferguson’s players want some payback for 2009.

“It doesn’t bother us who is favorite and who is not,” United midfielder Michael Carrick said. “It is about performing in a one-off game. We respect them for what they are, the way they play the game and the strengths they have.”

Carrick is likely to start, with the veteran Ryan Giggs or more defensive Darren Fletcher
alongside him. England striker Wayne Rooney is likely to sit deep behind Mexican international Javier Hernandez, with Antonio Valencia and Park Ji-sung occupying the wide positions.

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol said he is fit following the knee injury that restricted him to a handful of games since January. Guardiola said fullback Eric Abidal is available and free from the aftereffects of a liver tumor this season.

“Anyone coming to a game of this nature doesn’t care what the experts say or the bookmakers say,” Ferguson said. “We will be going out there with a genuine chance.

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U.S. Gold Cup preview

A modest one, courtesy of the Associated Press:

CARY, N.C. (AP) — The U.S. men’s national team will be trying to follow a well-traveled path to more World Cup success in a few years.

Four years ago, the Americans won the Gold Cup to earn an automatic bid to the 2009
Confederations Cup. They reached the finals of that World Cup dry run to set up last year’s run to the second round of soccer’s biggest stage in South Africa.

A strong showing in next month’s Gold Cup could help the U.S. make even more noise when the World Cup goes to Brazil in 2014.

“The opportunity we have is to take back that Gold Cup trophy,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “We pride ourselves on what we can accomplish in CONCACAF play.”

Ten players worked out Friday in North Carolina, where they also spent a few days practicing two months ago, and all 23 will arrive by Tuesday. They play Spain in a friendly next weekend in Foxborough, Mass., in advance of the Gold Cup.

The U.S. opens group play against Canada on June 7, and then plays Panama four days later and Guadeloupe three days after that. Twelve U.S. players will make their Gold Cup debuts.

“You’ll see some (new players) that can make an impact,” defender Oguchi Onyewu said. “It’s probably unfair to say you’ll see it next week or in the Gold Cup, but maybe in the long run.”

This cycle feels different.

“The last time around, the big thing was establishing a way of doing things and building a
foundation,” Bradley said. “This time we’re building on experiences we’ve had. We’ve been in tough situations. We know each other better.”

Beating Spain two years ago in the Confederations Cup semifinals counted as one of those experiences. So did losing to Mexico in the 2009 Gold Cup final and coming from two goals behind to tie Slovenia in World Cup group play.

“Prior to (the last 30 minutes against Mexico), we felt very good about the way we had moved forward in that tournament,” Bradley said last week. “There was a lot at stake, a great crowd at Giants Stadium and it was a tough way for us to finish. That sticks with us.”

In that last meeting, the Americans handed the Spaniards their first loss in 35 games.

“At that time, we had such a good team and that gave us momentum going into the World Cup,” said U.S. forward Jozy Altidore, who scored the first goal of that game. “We were so strong, identifying what we needed to do on the pitch and then doing it.”

Onyewu calls Spain “the best team in the world,” but wants to keep it in perspective.

“It’s only a friendly game, but it’s important when you think of the Gold Cup,” he said. “We
have a big opponent, so we want a great result for the program and our fans and the
country.”

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Friday Football: Waiting for the long UEFA Champions League Final weekend

i-5fa21ba650b8621b473f287be0c372b8-uefe2011wembley.jpgMoore football: London’s Wembley Stadium stands ready for Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final dream match-up between Barcelona and Manchester United. That’s a statue of late England captain Bobby Moore in front of the stadium in case you were wondering (AFP Photo).

The greater LA area tends to empty out on long summer weekends, which is why the Galaxy and Chivas USA avoid scheduling home MLS games in Carson.

That will allow Southern California soccer fans to give their (almost) undivided attention to the highly-anticipated meeting Saturday of two of the most storied names in soccer, Manchester United and Barcelona, in the richest UEFA Champions League final ever.

Coverage begins at 5 p.m. today with a preview show, cranks up again at 10 a.m. on Los Angeles-based Fox Soccer Channel and switches to Fox at 11 a.m. with the kickoff itself about 11:30 a.m. (it’s also live on Fox Deportes). The network is expecting a much larger audience over last year’s game, the first time it was shown on network television in the U.S.

“This is a dream final for a lot of people, myself included,” said Eric Wynalda, Fox soccer analyst. “When this competition started this year, and we saw the caliber of the teams, I think this is the kind of final we not only expected, but demanded as fans. The reality is that we have two teams that have won their respective leagues, are playing great football, and are both mentally and physically prepared for this game. This is a rarity, and it’s fantastic.”

There’s plenty of football friendly watering holes fans can gather to watch the game in Southern California.

Barcelona fans will congregate in Hollywood as usual, while Manchester United fans will meet a short distance away at this Hollywood location.

Both sets of fans will attend Galaxy-sponsored viewing parties of the game at Alpine Village near Torrance and at ESPN Zone at LA Live downtown.

I’ll post a game preview later today.

In other games this weekend:

*Mexico play Ecuador in Seattle at 1 p.m. Saturday on Univision.

*Chivas USA visit the Columbus Crew at 4:30 p.m. Saturday live on Prime

*The Galaxy take on the New England Revolution at 5 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports West and Galavision.

Finally, FIFA continued to scrape bottom with word today that soccer’s governing body will now pursue an ethics investigation of its own president, Sepp Blatter (y’know, the guy who pledged to root out corruption in the game). Here’s how FIFA played down reported that news today.

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FIFA bribery scandal driven by U.S. allegations continues to degenerate

i-10144254700b4c521359dc6b093f3f88-warnerbinHammam.jpgSoccer scoundrels? Mohamed bin Hammam, right, of Qatar, chief of the Asian Football Confederation, is accompanied by FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF official Jack Warner, of Trinidad & Tobago, during a meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago earlier this year. The pair have been summoned to FIFA headquarters Sunday to discuss possible wrongdoing (AP Photo).

Now major FIFA sponsor adidas is rightly voicing concern about the accusations of bribery, “public humiliation” and who knows what else that’s being tossed around.

How can these guys run the world’s biggest sporting event?

Read more about the deepening FIFA morass here in this AP story by sports writer Graham Dunbar:

ZURICH (AP) — In a FIFA presidential election blighted by a bribery scandal, Mohamed bin Hammam hugged Sepp Blatter on Thursday, then attacked his campaign.

Their contest for soccer’s top job turned increasingly hostile the day after bin Hammam was accused by the governing body of bribing voters in the Caribbean.

The Qatari challenger flew to Zurich for a FIFA finance meeting and faced the opponent he suspects plotted to wreck his chances in Wednesday’s vote of 208 soccer nations. Their warm embrace, witnessed by a select few of FIFA’s inner circle, disguised deeper passions.

Hours later, bin Hammam issued a statement urging the same FIFA ethics committee that is investigating him to also examine Blatter for breaching its behavior code.

Blatter, meanwhile, talked up his opponent’s “public humiliation” in his regular campaign
column for a soccer website. He denied conspiring to remove his former ally from the
ballot.

The dysfunctional spectacle finally prompted disapproval from a major sponsor that helps
bankroll FIFA’s billion-dollar annual income. The sporting goods firm Adidas, a top-tier
backer since the 1970s, lamented the “negative tenor” of FIFA’s debate.

Soccer’s increasingly discredited ruling body already has eight of its 24-man executive
committee under investigation. Blatter would be the ninth if, as bin Hammam requests, he is brought before an ethics hearing in Zurich on Sunday.

Bin Hammam has been summoned along with his fellow confederation boss Jack Warner, a FIFA vice president, for allegedly offering bribes to 25 Caribbean soccer leaders on a May 10-11 campaign trip to Warner’s native Trinidad.

While rejecting the bribery allegations, bin Hammam said FIFA’s evidence showed Blatter broke its ethical code by not reporting an apparent corruption attempt.

“The accusations also contain statements according to which Mr. Blatter, the incumbent FIFA president, was informed of, but did not oppose, payments allegedly made to members of the Caribbean Football Union,” bin Hammam said in a statement.
Bin Hammam insisted the scandal is a “plan to damage” him and, like Warner, has questioned the timing.

Blatter wrote that he was “shocked” by the corruption claims against bin Hammam that shed a “very bad light on FIFA yet again.”

“It gives me no pleasure to see him suffer public disgrace before an investigation would even have started,” Blatter said in a column for Inside World Football. “To now assume that … this entire matter was somehow masterminded by me is ludicrous and completely
reprehensible.”

The ethics panel can, in effect, hand Blatter victory by suspending bin Hammam from all soccer duty. The panel could rule there was wrongdoing or it could provisionally bar bin Hammam if it requests more time to study evidence compiled by a federal prosecutor from Chicago who works for Warner’s regional soccer body of CONCACAF, which represents North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Blatter expressed admiration for American official Chuck Blazer’s “civic courage” in raising the alarm. Blazer joined the FIFA ruling panel alongside bin Hammam 15 years ago and had been Warner’s closest regional ally for even longer.

The FIFA civil strife extended to CONCACAF’s home city of New York. Manhattan lawyer Burton Haimes stepped aside from the FIFA ethics panel, citing a conflict of interest from his long-standing relationships with Blazer and Warner. Ethics chairman Claudio Sulser recused himself Wednesday because he shares Swiss nationality with Blatter.

The former international player passed sentences last November on FIFA executive
members Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii. They drew three- and one-year bans respectively after an investigation into World Cup vote-selling. Sunday’s hearing will be chaired by Sulser’s deputy, Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb.

Blatter, who joined FIFA in 1975 and has been president for 13 years, acknowledges that FIFA helped create this stormy climate.

The 75-year-old Swiss pledged to “open the doors, reinforce dialogue, improve our corporate governance and handle our public affairs with the kind of priority it deserves” if he gets a fourth and final four-year term.

Adidas, which is in talks to extend its backing beyond the 2014 World Cup, appears to expect nothing less. It described FIFA’s issues as “neither good for the sport of football nor for FIFA as an institution and its partners.”

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Galaxy-Houston Dynamo Post-game

i-4e19d84264152033934e501dd3313ad1-birchallshoots.jpgChris miss: Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall takes one of 10 second half LA shots against out-gunned Houston. The less than Dynamic Dynamo were officially given credit for one shot on target all night (the Galaxy had three) but that was being generous (AP Photo).

A perfunctory win gets a perfunctory blog post:

*Reporter Phil Collin has the game story.

*Notable: Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena allowed that had David Beckham been playing the Galaxy very well could have unlocked the Houston defense and found the insurance second goal they wanted.

I thought the Galaxy midfield looked far more mobile without Beckham and that if he had been in the lineup Houston could have tested the Galaxy more often.

Same coin, different sides, I guess.

*Quotable:

“We knew we wanted to prevent their service first and foremost,” said Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant. “If we did that their big guys wouldn’t get service and they didn’t have a lot of opportunities because of that. So that was kind of the first object. In the first half especially we did a good job of keeping the ball and putting them on their heels. (Brad) Davis and (Colin) Clark had to do a lot more defending than they did attacking and I think that was to our advantage.”

*Arena said he subbed out Juan Pablo Angel in the 61st minute because he “looked tired.”

*With few real talking points in the game, I would be remiss for not acknowledging that veteran full back Dunivant, 30, made his 200th MLS appearance tonight in a season that has seen him become the only Galaxy player to play every minute of every game so far this year.

“It crept up on me, I didn’t know about it until this week,” he said. “It’s cool. I guess I’m doing something right if I can play 200 games.

Incidentally, his first stint with the club (he’s also played for San Jose, New York and Toronto) saw him ever-present in all 32 games in 2005.

Can he do it again (although the Galaxy could play around 40-plus games this season)?

“In my rookie year I played all but 12 minutes (of the season). I like to be the consistent guy in there and do the job for the team,” he said. “We’ve played a lot (this season); we’ve had a very front-loaded schedule to pave the way for the (CONCACAF) Champions league later on. I think it will pay off in the end. I’m feeling good. With the (hernia) surgery I had in the off-season I had a little more time to rest, recover and I think that actually helped me.

“Who wouldn’t? (like to play every game this season),” he added. “It might be tough when you talk about (U.S.) Open Cup,. Champions League and all that when you’re talking three games every week. That’s a lot. We’ll play it by ear. Whenever I can get in there and help the team and be a steadying force in there that’s what I want to do.”

*When I wrote a column earlier this week taking U.S. Coach Bob Bradley to task for his unimaginative player selection for the Gold Cup, Todd Dunivant was one of the players that came to mind.

Why has a self-described “not the flashiest guy in the world and quite honestly I don’t get a ton of credit – that’s kind of the way I play,” not added to his meager total of two national team, caps he achieved five long years ago (aside from the fact he isn’t flashy as virtually no defender this side of Roberto Carlos should ever be). Do you ever think about the fact you haven’t had more chances at that level, I asked?

“I do think about that,” Dunivant said. “I think I was in three January camps in a row in ’06, ’07, ’08. (I) was an alternate for the World Cup team in ’06, but I tore my quad leading up to that. I had two caps in those games, had a couple of assists and did very well. The chances that I’ve gotten I’ve done well.

“I haven’t gotten the chance (to play for) Bob Bradley yet. You see the same guys getting called up over and over. I’m just going to continue doing what I do and if I get a chance I’m going to take advantage of it.”

Yeah, you do see the same guys getting called up over and over. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the same results over and over.

(Climbs off soapbox).

Next for the Galaxy: at New England Revolution Saturday (and yeah, Arena is not thrilled about trekking across the country after a midweek game). Hard to blame him on that.

Here are the highlights from the game (such as they are). How the person who edited this managed to find seven minutes of highlights is beyond me:

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Live: Houston Dynamo (3-3-5) at Galaxy (6-2-5) from Home Depot Center

Final: Galaxy 1 Houston Dynamo 0

Todd Dunivant just finished his 200th MLS game, the alleged crowd of 14,458 get a free Pollo Campero meal for the shutout and the Galaxy has win number seven to pocket another three points in an uneventful game.

The Galaxy retain their five-point lead over Dallas in the Western Conference despite the Texans winning 1-0 in Seattle from a Brek Shea goal.

More later, but not much. What’s to ask?

*********************************
Chris Birchall looked like a world-beater for about 20 seconds in the 85th minute, leaving three Houston defenders in his wake as he burst through the defense. Then he shot wide.

************************
Just under 20 minutes to go and this game appears to be petering out. The Galaxy are content with the one-goal lead; Houston look unlikely to get near the goal let alone score.

Miguel Lopez has come on for Chad Barrett in the 74th minute.

Mike Magee sent a left-footed shot whistling past a Houston post in the 75th minute.

***************************
The always dangerous Mike Magee (ahem) has replaced the ever-dangerous Juan Pablo Angel (ahem ahem) in the 61st minute.

***************************
There was one shot on target in the first half by either team – Donovan’s goal – and neither goalkeeper made a save.

*************************
Landon Donovan scored his league-leading eighth goal in 10 games on the stroke of halftime, converting from the spot after Lovel Palmer was adjudged to have handled a Chris Birchall blast from about 23 yards out.

***************************
The best chance of the game materialized in the 40th minute for the Galaxy, Dynamo defender Hunter Freeman clearing a low Chris Birchall cross two yards or so from the goal line, Landon Donovan lurking with intent behind him. Nothing came of the resultant corner.

*****************************
Referee Chris Penso has made two obvious errors already that have gone against the home team and this game is only just over 30 minutes old: The latest example – he gave the Dynamo a corner when no Galaxy player came anywhere near the ball. I’m told he’s officiated just three MLS games; at this rate it will be his last.

***************************
Several largely hopeful crosses in this game with just over 20 minutes gone, but no clear cut chances for the Galaxy. And as I write that, Chad Barrett just had a shot blocked by Lovel Palmer that went out for the corner. That would have been on target, which would have been the Galaxy’s first.

Houston, like many visitors to the HDC do, is packing the defensive third with seven-eight players behind the ball. The Galaxy will have their work cut out to break them down.

Updated

We’re just over 15 minutes in and waiting for a soccer game to break out.

Updated

Trivia time. When was the last time the Galaxy played at home in their usual away blue kit?

It was 2007 when they played Real Salt Lake, a Galaxy PR type reminds me; that’s because RSL only brought their white kit to the game.

********************************

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena has made two changes from the side that beat Chivas USA 1-0 last weekend with Chris Birchall and Michael Stephens coming in for the absent David Beckham and Mike Magee dropping to the bench.

A Galaxy spokesman pointed out that it’s the same midfield as we saw in Philadelphia on a Wednesday when Beckham was rested and the personnel will have the same roles: Landon Donovan will play as a withdrawn striker behind Juan Pablo Angel and Chad Barrett with the trio of Juninho, Birchall and Stephens in midfield.

The Galaxy XI: Ricketts-Franklin, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Dunivant-Donovan, Birchall, Juninho, Stephens-JPA, Barrett

Paolo Cardozo and Miguel are among the options off the bench.

The Dynamo, hoping to put a dent in the Galaxy’s record of one loss in their last 10 games, but winless on the road this season, start Spanish striker Koke up front in place of usual starter Cam Weaver, who is on the bench after being listed as questionable coming into the game with a sprained ankle.

Dynamo XI: Tally Hall-Hunter Freeman, Bobby Boswell, Andre Hainault, Corey Ashe-Brad Davis, Lovel Palmer, Geoff Cameron, Colin Clark-Will Bruin, Koke

The game is on Prime.

Refresh this post for updates throughout the game.

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