Special One Sunday Soccer, Chivas USA & more

Considering I spent Saturday watching no fewer than four soccer games, it feels odd to say I was taking a break from the game, but that’s what it felt like.

i-fc4665b829c3cf0444f3789188e20103-specialvictory.jpg Saturday’s UEFA Champions League title was a special one for Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho (AP Photos).

After watching another exceptional coaching job by Inter Milan’s Jose Mourinho in the UEFA Champions League final with a Bayern Munich-dominant set of fans at Alpine Village near Torrance (there’s nothing like a middle-aged frauline handing you a beer while saying in heavily-accented German “Arrogant Bastard” – I think she was referring to the microbrew I was drinking – as she does so), and watching the U.S. women score their biggest win over the Germans in 14 years I thought I’d play hooky from the Home Depot Center.

I’m glad I did after Chivas USA (3-6-1) went down to a third consecutive loss in a mostly forgettable game against defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake with the main highlight for the home team being Justin Braun’s well-taken third goal of the season.

i-6c9584056ee55c006f057b49d67205da-brauntackled.jpgReal Salt Lake successfully tackled Justin Braun and Chivas USA Saturday in Carson.

Quotable: Chivas USA Coach Martin Vasquez succinctly summed up the game –

“We came back in the second half and we were able to get a nice goal and play better, but we lost our focus in the 89th minute – and we lost the game.”

Notable: Chivas USA defender and Anaheim native Carlos Borja made the first start of his MLS career.

Highlights:

Chivas USA lineup: Zach Thornton, Mariano Trujillo, Daro Delgado, Michael Umaa, Carlos Borja, Jess Padilla (Chukwudi Chijindu 77), Ben Zemanski, Marcelo Saragosa, Michael Lahoud (Jos Macotelo 54), Blair Gavin, Maicon Santos (Justin Braun 63).

Next for Chivas USA: at D.C. United Saturday.

There’s more soccer locally today, in what is likely to be a collection of Galaxy reserve players taking on Argentina’s Boca Juniors (missing their two biggest stars) at 5 p.m. in an exhibition at Home Depot Center.

The game is also on FSN – and that’s where I’ll be watching it.

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SoCal style UEFA Champions League final preview

The soccer high point of the weekend is the UEFA Champions League final between Germany’s Bayern Munich and Italy’s Inter Milan.

And the best place to watch it in Southern California might well be German-themed Alpine Village near Torrance.

Not only is it conveniently located smack dab next to the Torrance Boulevard off-ramp from the Harbor (110) Freeway, but the new management there is trying to reclaim its long-lost crown as the preeminent spot to watch soccer in the South Bay.

How? In part, by emphasizing the only thing soccer fans universally love more than the game itself – beer.

Alpine Village (which, by the way, is adding comfortable booths and generally trying to update its dingy, out-dated appearance) now has 15 German-style beers on taps – considerably more than it previously boasted – most of them imports, but others from such Southern California’s microbreweries as Stone and Redlands’ Hanger 24.

And the price is right, too; beer specials will run $2 for a 12 oz glass (regularly $4.25), $4 for a 22 oz glass (regularly $7.50), while 32 oz pitchers are $6 (regularly $10).

Kickoff, by the way, is at 11:30 a.m. on Fox, the first time the game has ever been played on a Saturday AND on network TV in the U.S. Oh, and Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena is an analyst on the broadcast; I’m told he’ll return from Madrid in time for Sunday’s Boca Juniors friendly in Carson.

Cheers.

Here’s a preview to, um, wet your appetite:

MADRID (AP) — The Champions League final is so evenly matched that the title could come down to a coaching decision by Bayern Munich’s Louis van Gaal or his one-time assistant, Inter Milan’s Jose Mourhino.

Two of the most successful coaches of recent years, they both were at Barcelona more than a decade ago when van Gaal was the head coach and Mourinho part of his backup team. Each team won its domestic league and cup titles and is striving to end the season with triple successes.

i-b2e3006f665df9fc3bf0680123760e65-Bayern's Louis van Gaal.jpg“We worked together for three years,” van Gaal, right, said Friday. “He was an excellent coach and trainer and carried out all analyses for Barcelona and studied our opponents and did an excellent job.

“Little did I know that he would turn out such a great coach. He’s one of the best in the
world.”

The cool, more-experienced van Gaal has won 15 major titles to 13 for the feisty Mourinho, the self-proclaimed “Special One.” Van Gaal will aim to show why he’s still the master on Saturday in the first Champions League final broadcast by a U.S. over-the-air network.

Mourinho has refused to say he will remain at Inter for next season, leading to speculation the former Porto and Chelsea manager will move on to Real Madrid.

While Mourinho, below, has a hugely experienced defense at Inter with the likes of Argentines Javier Zanetti and Walter Samuel, and Brazilians Maicon and Lucio, van Gaal looks to Arjen Robben to attack them with his bursts of speed and powerful, long-range shooting with his left foot.

i-28378ebac9a8ad92bf494e7125503f30-joseuefa.jpgAlthough Franck Ribery is suspended, Bayern has the talent to unlock Inter’s defense with Croatian striker Ivica Olic aiming to follow up his hat-trick against Lyon, which put the team into its eighth final.

Bastian Schweinsteiger has switched from a right-sided attacking midfielder and is supporting the forwards from behind and, with 20-year-old Thomas Mueller playing just behind Olic, van Gaal has the luxury of putting German national team forwards Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez on the bench.

“My philosophy is always to attack an opponent on the pitch,” van Gaal said. “Mourinho is more defensive, that’s his tactic, but he has good players who can decide the match.”

Diego Milito will be Inter’s main attacking force, with Samuel Eto’o close by and Wesley
Sneijder supporting as the playmaker.

But Inter’s real strength is how it copes when the other team has possession. With Thiago Motta suspended, a lot will depend on Esteban Cambiaso to protect his defenders in the same way he helped to keep Barcelona’s Lionel Messi so quiet in the semifinal.

Trying to become the first coach since Helenio Herrera in 1965 to take the title back to Inter Milan, Mourinho may well move Zanetti out of defense and alongside Cambiasso to nullify the threat of Robben. But such negative thinking might well be his undoing.

If Inter concentrates too much on the Dutch star, Schweinsteiger may well get more room to attack through the center and support the two front men, opening up space for Olic and Mueller to score.

Van Gaal, who won the title in charge of Ajax in 1995, believes his Bayern team is catching up with the very best in Europe.

“Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona are the best teams in Europe. Nevertheless we can win the title. Of course, we have had a little bit of luck but I think it was deserved,” he said in reference to a controversial goal against Fiorentina and the harsh red card given to Manchester United defender Rafael in the quarterfinal.

“It’s also possible that a lower level club wins,” he said. “That’s sport.”

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Wednesday Kicks: Messi, Reyna, Mathis, Backe & Ching

If, like me, you are still getting over Lionel Messi’s incomparable four-goal blitz Tuesday for Barcelona over a hapless Arsenal (who play some pretty football themselves under Arsene Wenger) in the UEFA Champions League, you’ll want to circle this game on your calendar this weekend if you haven’t already – the 1 p.m. Saturday SuperClasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid that will air on GolTV.

I don’t often link to non-So. Cal related videos, but if you haven’t seen Messi’s one-man show, check it out below. This is mandatory viewing:

One thought: the 2010 World Cup could be Messi’s similar to the way Maradona dominated in 1986. Bring it on.

In other soccer news:

*Claudio Reyna will be formally introduced today by U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati as youth national teams technical director.

*Houston’s Brian Ching will miss Saturday’s game against the Galaxy in Texas and be out four to six weeks after injuring his hamstring in last week’s opener against Real Salt Lake. More here. Incidentally, I haven’t had a chance to mention this but the Galaxy’s Clint Mathis looked sharp Monday at practice, cracking home a volley that rolled the clock back about 10 years. I wonder if we’ll get a glimpse of him this weekend?

*Red Bulls Coach Hans Backe, who missed Saturday’s win over Seattle and subsequently underwent surgery Monday is likely to miss the 1 p.m. Saturday game against Chivas USA at Home Depot Center:

“The medical team is confident that he will make a full recovery over the coming weeks,” Red Bull New York said in a statement released Tuesday. “He will spend the next few days resting at home. In his absence, the squad will be managed by our experienced coaching staff.”

More details here.

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No New Order for Beckham in Manchester

i-526d66e2f153d400c813d6166e0eb731-beckssalute.jpgOn-loan Galaxy midfielder David Beckham salutes the crowd at Old Trafford today after the final whistle (AP Photo).

Apologies up front for the semi-obscure Mancunian music reference.

But it seemed semi-appropriate as David Beckham and AC Milan were comprehensively beaten 4-0 on the night and 7-2 on aggregate by Manchester United and exited the UEFA Champions League today on his first return to the club.

Becks received a standing ovation when he entered the game with slightly less than 30 minutes to play as a second half sub. By then the score was 3-0 and the game was already out of the Italian club’s reach.

Beckham gave a good account of himself, connecting with a ferocious volley that was saved by United keeper Edwin van der Sar and also putting in a tantalizing cross that needed just a final touch for Milan to get a consolation goal in second half stoppage time.

But he also made a bad back pass to a defender that could easily have led to yet another United goal.

All in all a Blue Monday wednesday for Beckham.

More here.

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Galaxy (and Beckham) Wednesday gameday

Two games for Galaxy fans to pay attention to today, one locally and one in England.

i-ee17505a68b087447bbc3d93244c5ac1-traffordbvecks.jpgFirst, David Beckham figures to be the center of attention today – he’s seen here practicing with his AC Milan teammates at Old Trafford Monday – when he returns to Manchester United’s home stadium for the first time since leaving for Real Madrid in the second leg of the teams’ UEFA Champions League game (AP Photo).

The game is live at 11:30 a.m. on Fox Soccer Channel. Beckham hasn’t been starting for Milan of late, but you’ve got to figure he’s going to see some action today.

Full coverage is here.

Here’s Beckham arriving in Manchester.

Closer to home the Galaxy play their first preseason game against Puntarenas FC of Costa Rica at Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal State Fullerton. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Student journalists from the Daily Titan were out at the Galaxy’s practice Monday and filed this report.

The Costa Rican club’s roster is here.

Galaxy striker Edson Buddle will be looking to get off the mark tonight.

I plan to blog from the game, so if you can’t be there tonight check back in here.

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Monday Catch-up: Becks, Chivas USA & More

With the holiday it’s a slow day for soccer news.

The USMNT has an off day at training camp in Carson and Chivas USA is in Mexico (although I saw Claudio Suarez and a few other players who were left behind doing fitness work today at Home Depot Center).

The Galaxy practiced this morning and I talked to player’s union reps Todd Dunivant and Chris Klein for their perspective on the new collective bargaining agreement that’s under negotiation. I’ll have more on that in Tuesday’s column.

BTW: Clint Mathis is on Fox Football Fone-In at 5 p.m. on Fox Soccer Channel.

A couple of other things to pass along:

*David Beckham plays against Manchester United Tuesday for a UEFA Champions League game with AC Milan for the first time since leaving the club for Real Madrid.

Beckham has spent much of AC Milan’s last two games watching from the bench, but there are rumors today he will start the game against United. You can see for yourself beginning at 11:45 a.m. 2 p.m. Tuesday when Fox Soccer Channel airs the game live.

Here’s more on the game from today’s press conference.

Also, Chivas USA beat Mexican team Irapuato 3-1 Saturday, scoring three unanswered goals in the first 38 minutes before a crowd of 15,000.

Maykel Galindo had a brace inside seven minutes and Irapuato also conceded an own goal.

Newly-signed Chivas USA midfielder Osael Romero of El Salvador saw his first action for the club, coming on at halftime.

Chivas USA – Dan Kennedy (Jon Conway 45), Mariano Trujillo, Carey Talley (Emilio Viades 45), Carlos Borja (Miguel Sanchez 87), Ante Jazic (Kevin Tangney 45), Marcelo Saragosa (Ben Zemansky 45) Michael Lahoud, Blair Gavin (Artur Aghasyan 61), Jorge Flores, Maykel Galindo (Osael Romero 45), Justin Braun.

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Friday Football: Landon Donovan is a Toffee (& More)

i-41faed43c16f5e3c353a29e2c0909a3b-uefatrophy.jpgWhat they’re playing for: the UEFA Champions League trophy pictured today at the draw for the final 16 teams in Switzerland. (AP Photo)

Donovan’s loan deal with Everton was officially announced today.

Meanwhile, AC Milan and sometime Galaxy guy David Beckham will face a familiar foe in the next round of the Champions League.

Quotable:

“I think David wanted this match and destiny looked after him,” Milan director Umberto Gandini told the Associated Press at UEFA headquarters.

The first legs will be played Feb. 16-17 and 23-24, and the return matches are set for March 9-10 and 16-17.

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Tuesday’s Column: Soccer TV Coverage Scores Big

Did you know that for the first time ever on American television the English Premier League, the most popular soccer league (in terms of ratings) in this country, can now be seen almost weekly in hi def?

Did you know that coverage of the UEFA Champions League has taken a quantum step forward from announcers calling games in some distant studio rather than being there live, that there is no longer an extremely limited selection of games on TV and that you’ll never have to hear the over-used “bulge in the ol’ onion bag” phrase ever again?

You do now. (Can you tell I’m just a tad excited about these developments?).

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Televised Soccer Update: UEFA Champions League & EPL

This morning is a reminder of how quickly we’ve gone from famine to feast when it comes to watching televised soccer in this country.

Here it is around noon on Wednesday and as a DirecTV subscriber I have a choice of a UEFA Champions League mix on Channel 461 although at the moment it’s only showing two of up to eight games (why I’m not seeing the game between Moldova’s FC and Greece’s Olympiakos since I subscribe to Fox Soccer Channel is a mystery to me though).

DirecTV channels are showing games (for the first time ever) so I could check out Timisoara-Stuttgart on Channel 462 or Copenhagen-Apoel Nicosia on Channel 463 if I was so inclined. (DirecTV channels 461-466 will show games live).

Up on Fox Sports Southwest on Channel 676, (yup, Fox channels other than FSC are now showing games, too) it’s Celtic-Arsenal in hi def.

And ESPN channels will continue showing games as they have in year’s past.

Indeed, it’s become so difficult to keep track of what’s on where and when that Fox has unveiled a television schedule and dedicated UEFA Champions League news Web site here.

BTW, the UEFA Champions League has a slightly different format this year. Here’s a primer.

This latest television soccer development comes just five days after ESPN announced hours before the curtain rose on a new EPL season that the league would return to the network after an absence of more than 10 years (games will also continue on FSC and other outlets).

There will be almost 50 games in hi def on ESPN2, something that will hopefully spur FSC on to do the same sooner rather than later.

For instance, next up at 7 a.m. Saturday is Wigan-Manchester United, followed at noon Monday, Aug. 24 by Liverpool-Aston Villa.

Don’t let the batteries in that remote control run out.

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Wednesday Soccer: Galaxy’s Franklin Out Up to Six Months & More

The not so surprising news this afternoon was that Galaxy midfielder/defender Sean Franklin, hobbled much of this season by a problematic hamstring, is now done for the next four to six months after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a torn right upper hamstring tendon.

So he’s pretty much gone for the season then.

Last year’s MLS Rookie of the Year started eight games for the Galaxy this season and frankly looked much better going forward on the right side of midfield in several games than at right back.

In other news:

*ESPN released its Confederations Cup schedule.

ESPN will show four and ESPN2 eight of the 16 games live generally at 7 a.m. and 11:25 a.m. June 14-28 from South Africa.

The U.S. opens against Italy at 11:25 a.m. June 15.

* Cal State Northridge released its men’s soccer schedule.

*There was also a UEFA Champions League thingie today. Manchester United played for 10 minutes then stopped when Barcelona scored. Barca won 2-0. Messi scored the second, which must be worth a buck or two. You can read more about it * here.

The big winners locally were the Galaxy, which put tickets on sale today to their * Aug. 1 game in Pasadena against the now reigning European Champions.

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