U.S. Leading Scorer Abby Wambach To Miss Olympics With Broken Leg

Abby Wambach, the top scorer for the U.S. Women’s National Team broke her leg in the final game before the Olympics against Brazil Wednesday in San Diego, and will miss the games in China.

“Obviously, it’s devastating, but above everything else, I’m only one player, and you can never win a championship with just one player,” said Wambach, a resident of Hermosa Beach. “I have the utmost confidence in this team bringing home the gold.”

Laudable comments from Wambach, but this is nothing short of a disaster for the U.S.

As the U.S. Soccer press release points out:

Wambach is the USA’s leading scorer this year with 13 goals and 10 assists. She has led the team in scoring in the last three world championships and is one of the top scorers in U.S. history with 99 goals in 127 games.

In other words, Wambach is quite simply irreplaceable and the American gold medal hopes have been dealt a crushing, and potentially fatal, blow.

It’s almost irrelevant, but the U.S. won the game 1-0.

Here are more details on what sounds like a particularly nasty injury and the game from the Associated Press.

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MLS Lost in Las Vegas, Becks on Leno Tonight & More

Just in case any reminder was needed regarding the peripheral role MLS plays in the sports mainstream in this country, a trip to Las Vegas on the opening weekend of the season provided it.

Avoiding news about MLS (so I could watch TiVo’d Galaxy and Chivas USA games Monday night and this morning respectively) was disconcertingly easy.

No mention of MLS on the ESPN bottom of the screen crawl during March madness on the ubiquitous televisions in casinos (and this is the league’s alleged broadcast partner?).

Most sports books don’t take bets on MLS games (the Station Casino chain is an exception).

And Fox Soccer Channel and others that carry the game simply aren’t one of the options at the gazillions of television choices at sports books.

So it wasn’t until Monday night I learned the Galaxy’s new look team looked a lot like their old ones in a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Colorado Rapids. That was L.A.’s worst loss since the waning days of the Steve Sampson era (May 6, 2006 to be precise). Exactly a month later, Sampson was fired.

Are you listening Ruud Gullit?

Perhaps even more drastic action needs to be taken in the case of increasingly embarrassing cart horse defender Abel Xavier, who is slowing down almost visibly with every game and was to blame on several of the goals. And I wasn’t thinking he needs to be put out to pasture.

Let’s see David Beckham laugh that one off at 11:35 p.m. this evening with Leno on “The Tonight Show.”

Meanwhile, the Galaxy announced today they will host a U.S. Open Cup qualifying game Tuesday May 27 against those same Rapids. Let’s hope Colorado doesn’t play another (ahem) “weakened” line-up. Tickets are on sale now for the 7:30 p.m. game.

Good thing Maykel Galindo and Chivas USA are likely to be a lot more diverting than the Galaxy again this year, the Cuban saving the point against Dallas Sunday with a late equalizer.

Condolences to classy Mexican veteran defender Claudio Suarez, a resident of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, who missed the game due to the death of his father.

Congrats to Downey High junior Briant Reyes, 16, named the winner of the Los Angeles portion of “Sueo MLS 2008: The Dream Continues.” The Salvadorian-American joins the Under-16 Chivas USA team.

And farewell to reserve Chivas USA forward John Cunliffe who got shipped off to San Jose for Canadian defensive midfielder Chris Pozniak.

Lastly, Shannon Boxx of Torrance, USC’s Amy Rodriguez and UCLA’s Lauren Cheney were all named Monday to the U.S. Olympic qualifying squad.

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Olympic Qualifying: Mexico Out, U.S. to Play Canada

Despite beating nine-man Haiti 5-1 Sunday night at Home Depot Center, Mexico crashed out of Olympic qualifying on goal difference.

The result means Canada, the second place finisher in Group B, plays the U.S. Thursday, while Guatemala faces Honduras.

In a game that featured wave after wave of Mexican attacks, El Tri could have scored several many more goals, but missed a penalty while Toluca’s Santiago Fernandez missed two point-blank chances within two minutes.

Cruz Azul’s Cesar Villaluz opened Mexico’s account with a diving header in the 18th minute before 12,824 mainly Mexican fans.

Edgar Andrade of Cruz Azul made it two in the 61st minute, while Haiti pulled a goal back two minutes later as Mexico got caught pressing forward.

Fernandez claimed Mexico’s third in the 70th minute and Club America’s Enrique Esqueda made it 4-1 seven minutes from the end of regulation.

Luis Angel Landin of Morelia scored Mexico’s fifth in the 90th minute, but despite five minutes of stoppage time, El Tri couldn’t score the sixth that would have propelled them to the semifinals.

Mexico finished with 24 attempts on goal to 14 for Haiti, with shots on target 14-4. Mexico was called offside 14 times.

Updated:

Well, Mexican Coach Hugo Sanchez didn’t resign after the game, though Mexican Football Federation officials held a press conference and said his contract would be discussed at a March 30 meeting. Still, they also observed Sanchez has a contract through the 2010 World Cup.

“Obviously, this is a failure,” Sanchez said. “I don’t like to use that word, but you guys are going to keep bringing it up until I do so I will.”

“We had hoped to make history,” he added. “Mexico has never won an Olympic gold medal (in soccer).”

Sanchez lamented the absence of his four European-based players their clubs wouldn’t release and then noted the U.S. and Canada had their European-based players for the competition, which isn’t quite true (the U.S. couldn’t secure the release of Michael Bradley from his Dutch club, for instance).

His counterpart, Haiti’s Wilner Etienne, was quite blunt about the performance of some of his team.

“There are some players who can play at a high level and there are some players you can’t count on,” he said.

Canadian Coach Nick Dasovsic, who had said he wouldn’t comment on the U.S. until after the Mexico game, was quite voluable when I bumped into him in the Stadium Club en route to the Mexico-Haiti press conference. It probably helped he was on his third beer.

“When (Haiti) went down to nine men, I thought we were done,” he said. “I think I died eight times. It was like something out of a movie. We’re through, though, we’re going to Tennessee.”

“It’s a one-game cup final and (if we win) we go to the Olympics,” he added. “The guys will be up for it.”

“They’ve got quality,” he said of the U.S. “It’s going to be huge for the guys.”

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Mexico Faces Almost Impossible Task to Reach Semifinals of Olympic Qualifying

Canada beat Guatemala 5-0 Sunday afternoon in the penultimate group game of Olympic qualifying at Home Depot Center, meaning Mexico must beat Haiti in the second game of the doubleheader by at least five unanswered goals to retain any hope of reaching the semifinals Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.

Even then, Canada and Mexico would need a coin toss to send one team through since the two would be tied on goal difference and goals scored. The Mexicans must score at least six goals without reply to go through.

The Mexicans have scored just two goals in two games during the tournament and unlike Guatemala, who had already qualified, the Haitians are motivated; a win would send them through to the semifinals.

Guatemala didn’t look particularly enthusiastic about the game, raising more than a suspicion they would be perfectly happy to see Mexico exit the competition.

Canada, not exactly renowned for their goal-scoring prowess, got two goals from former Chicago Fire forward Will Johnson, back from a one-game suspension after being sent off in Canada’s opening game, a pair from Tosaint Ricketts and the fifth from substitute Kyle Hall deep into second half stoppage time.

Guatemalan fans celebrated after the game as if they had won.

Updated:
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think we could win 5-0,” said Coach Nick Dasovic, who paid tribute to his players. “They were extraordinary.”

Player of the game Will Johnson said he was seeking a measure of redemption in this game: “Any time you get a red card you feel you let your teammates down a bit,” he said. “I was fresh today, I was a lot fresher than the other guys, so I took it upon myself to make a difference.”

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Olympic Qualifying Result: Guatemala 2 Mexico 1

After the game with Canada two days ago Mexican Coach Hugo Sanchez said he wasn’t worried because his team hadn’t lost.

He’s worried now.

Despite out-shooting its opponents 17-10, Mexico was upset by Guatamala 2-1 Friday night before 19,638 fans at the Home Depot Center.

“They’re just another team,” said Guatemalan Coach Rodrigo Kenyon.

The result means Mexico must win Sunday against Haiti and either hopes Canada doesn’t win or scores fewer goals (or allows more) in their game against Guatemala. Because if the two teams are even (as they are now) on goal difference and goals scored it will come down to a coin flip.

“We’re under fire, we have to show what this team is capable of and we have to attack,” Sanchez said.

The only Mexican goal came from American-born Edgar Castillo in the ninth minute after the Guatemalan defense failed to clear its box, leaving one to wonder what Sanchez is thinking now considering his criticism of his predecessor for using naturalized American citizens on the team.

But Guatemala doggedly stayed in the game five minutes before half time when a long ball from Jean Marquez caught the Mexican defense napping and Carlos Villa, one of a half dozen CSD Municipal players on the roster, raced through to score.

Guatemala sealed victory in the 67th minute on a Maynor Ignacio Lopez header from a corner kick.

“They were more effective in their finishing,” said Sanchez, calling his opponents “just conquerors.”

He also blamed the media for giving his players “bad vibes” for getting on them for not scoring goals.

“We’ve done good things, not everything has been bad,” he protested.

True.

Just most things, Hugo.

More here.

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Olympic Qualifying Final From Carson: Haiti 2 Canada 1

Haiti scored two goal in 12 minutes to seal a shock come from behind 2-1 victory Friday night in the first game of a doubleheader at Home Depot Center.

The Canadians, on the defensive for much of the second half after opening the scoring through Tyler Rosenlund (who doesn’t have a club, but might after tonight) in the 17th minute, only had themselves to blame.

The first Haitian goal came after Canadian Nikolas Ledgerwood went down injured in the 72nd minute and a teammate put the ball out of play. The Canadians expected Haiti to give the ball back to them as is customarily done in soccer, but instead Leonel Saint-Preux passed to wide-open substitute Alain Gustave who volleyed home a first-time shot from 17 yards.

Canadian Coach Nick Dasovic was not amused.

“For our fair play we got it in the backside you might say,” he said. “It was atrocious.”

Haiti sealed the win in the 84th minute with a beautifully taken long-range shot from at least 35 yards out that soared into the top corner and caught Canadian goalkeeper Josh Wagenaar, on trial with Toronto FC, off-guard and out of position.

The Canadians had seen a chance for a second goal evaporate in the 54th minute when Andrazes Ornoch hit the bar from 17 yards out, but Dasovic blamed a lack of fitness and inexperience for the loss that sent his team spiraling to the bottom of Group B.

“We knew the Haitian team has a strong team physically and they were obviously emotionally driven,” he said. “I think our boys were a little bit naive. … I kept yelling to them a draw is good, we didn’t need to win today.”

But Canada needed to avoid losing – and didn’t.

Next up tonight: Mexico-Guatemala.

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Olympic Qualifying: Soccer Shocker in Carson & Defecting Cubans

i-9176c76a66b35687bcb0cfe2e0229737-newcanada2.jpgCanada’s Dejan Jakovic slide tackles Mexico’s Cesar Villaluz during the second half.

In what is becoming an Olympic qualifying full of surprises, Canada held supposedly mighty Mexico to a 1-1 draw at Home Depot Center Wednesday night in a game that also saw both goal scorers sent off.

Canada struck first after just three minutes, temporarily silencing the overwhelmingly pro-Mexico crowd, after former Chicago Fire striker Will Johnson stabbed home a close range shot when Mexico failed to clear.

Morelia striker Luis Angel Landin equalized for Mexico in the 22nd minute from the spot after what appeared to be a dubious penalty call.

Mexico gradually asserted control, but saw Landin ejected midway through the second half. Canada was unable to score on the resultant power play and Johnson followed him down the tunnel about 10 minutes later.

Mexico dominated with Canada hanging grimly on – the Canucks didn’t have a shot in the second half – but El Tri couldn’t break down the stubborn defense.

Chants of “Lavolpe” – a reference to former Mexico Coach Ricardo Lavolpe – could be heard emanating from the crowd of 9,949 toward game’s end.

Guatemala beat Haiti 1-0 in the opening game of the night to take an unexpected lead in Group B.

Updated: Canadian Coach Nick Dasovic observed after the game that considering the nation had played precisely zero Under-23 games in four years, his back four was playing together for the first time ever and he had his full roster together just 24 hours before the start of the game, this was a “baptism of fire.”

“I wish we could play Mexico every week,” he said jokingly. “After three minutes I thought ‘sheesh, we pissed off the Mexicans.'”

He added: “This was a confidence builder.”

While, Dasovic was happy with the result, Mexican Coach Hugo Sanchez was not pleased.

“We showed we were superior on the field,” he said.

Sanchez was asked if he was worried by the result.

“No, I would have been worried if we would have lost,” he said.

Meanwhile, the latest on the defecting Cubans confident of getting a job in MLS after seeing the state of the American team is here.

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Olympic Qualifying Preview: Canada-Mexico & Word on the MLS All-Star Game

The crowds are already waiting for the gates to open at Home Depot Center for the first of two Olympic qualifiers there tonight, Guatemala against Haiti.

Top billing though goes to the 8 p.m. game between Mexico and Canada.

The San Diego Union-Tribune caught up with Mexico while the team trained in that city while The Toronto Star provides the Canadian perspective.

The Star is also reporting on the opponent for the MLS All-Star Game in Toronto – England’s West Ham United.

I’ll have more tonight from Carson.

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Monday Night Football

Light and late blogging, let’s play catch-up:

All three games – another against a Hong Kong team was added today – on the Galaxy’s Asian tour are televised on Fox Soccer Channel.

From the Galaxy’s press release:

The LA Galaxy announced today that they will play a preseason friendly 11 p.m. March 9 against the Hong Kong Union in Hong Kong in the third and final match of the clubs Asia Tour 2008.

Fox Soccer Channel begins coverage 11:30 p.m. Saturday with the Galaxy-FC Seoul match, followed four days later by an 8 p.m. tape delayed broadcast of the game against Shanghai-Hong Kong United.

Also, former Galaxy flop Santino Quaranta has resurfaced in D.C.

Fontana’s Maurice Edu is profiled.

The Women’s Olympic Qualifying groups are set, although you don’t really need to pay attention (read the last graf). From the U.S. Soccer press release:

The U.S. has been drawn into Group A along with Jamaica and Mexico for 2008 CONCACAF Womens Olympic Qualifying from April 2-12 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The U.S. will open the tournament April 4 against Jamaica before facing Mexico April 6. Both games will be played in the Estadio Olmpico Benito Juarez, which will host all 10 games during the qualifying tournament.

The top two teams from Group A will advance to the semifinals, where they will cross over to face the top two teams from Group B, which includes Canada, Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago. The winners of the April 9 semifinals will qualify for the 2008 Olympics.

The U.S. has only faced Jamaica once previously, a 10-0 victory 14 years ago in a FIFA Womens World Cup qualifying match in Montreal, Canada. Mexico is a more familiar opponent for the U.S., with the teams having faced each other 22 times previously. The U.S. has dominated the rivalry with the qualifying hosts, winning the first 21 meetings before Mexico earned a 1-1 tie on Oct. 20, 2007.

Finally, (and this is sorta old, but so is the rest of this post) from this link you’ve gotta wonder who is getting traded next.

Tuesday’s column: Chivas USA Cuban defector Maykel Galindo and the departure of Castro.

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Sunday Soccer: Sueo MLS 2008, Guzan Update & More

Sueo MLS 2008

Should American soccer fans rejoice that last year’s winner of Spanish-language reality television show Sueo MLS, Anaheim’s Jorge Flores, latched on with Chivas USA or worry that the domestic scouting system can’t unearth players like that (especially Latinos) in more conventional ways?

In any event the show returns at noon today on Univision for a second season.

More details in this (edited) press release:

Sueo MLS, the nationally-televised search for Americas best undiscovered young soccer player, attracted in its inaugural year of 2007 an overwhelming 2,000 hopefuls from across the U.S. and several foreign countries to Chivas USAs open tryout. After six weeks of intense competition, forward Jorge Flores, a 17-year old high-school senior from Anaheim, CA, was crowned the winner. Flores not only earned a spot on Chivas USAs roster, but he was later called up to the United States Under-20 National Team.

Today, the dream continues for thousands of aspiring players around the nation as Major League Soccer unveils plans for Sueo MLS 2008. The program returns to Los Angeles as Chivas USA searches for the next Jorge Flores. Simultaneously, Sueo MLS will also take place in Dallas, providing an opportunity for another set of aspiring young soccer players to showcase their talent in an effort to earn their way onto the FC Dallas roster.

Celtic or Aston Villa for Guzan?

Chivas USA and U.S. international goalkeeper Brad Guzan has reportedly been offered a contract with Scottish powerhouse Glasgow Celtic by Manager Gordan Strachan and is mulling the offer, although there is at least one report claiming Guzan is headed to England’s Aston Villa. Keep in mind though, the source is the breathless News of the World, among the worst examples of the English gutter press.

For what it’s worth, here’s what the newspaper reported:

The Celtic gaffer will miss out on American goalie Brad Guzan after Aston Villa’s last-ditch 2million swoop.

(Snip)

Yank Guzan’s apparent snub comes as a huge blow though. Celtic had identified him as a successor to Artur Boruc.

Last week we revealed the USA international was jetting in to join up with the Hoops at their Lennoxtown base.

The 23-year-old, voted the best goalie in the MLS last season, took just one session to convince Strachan and his coaching staff he was the real deal and well worth the 1.5m the MLS wanted.

At his weekly press conference, Strachan confirmed chief executive Peter Lawwell had offered Guzan a contract and the player was heading home “to think about things”.

But it’s understood he headed instead for hush-hush talks with Villa representatives, and is on the verge of signing a pre-contract.

Galaxy Head (Far) East

Details are emerging about the Galaxy’s preseason trip to Korea and China. More here.

Argentina-Guatemala at Coliseum Feb. 6

Tickets start at $25 to see what is apparently Argentina’s Under-23 or Olympic team play the senior Guatemala team at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

Among the over-age players Argentina is bringing are Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano and former Barcelona midfielder Juan Romn Riquelme. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is recovering from injury, in case you were wondering.

Full squad is here.

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