Wednesday July 25th, 2007

Landon Donovan
Robert Mora/MLS/
A Super beginning
I didn't know what to expect from the inaugural night of SuperLiga, a Champions League-hybrid tournament featuring the four of the top club teams from MLS and the Mexican First Division. But its debut night was a winner -- especially for MLS. Highly entertaining. Passionate. Fast-paced. Great goals (How about that gorgeous chip over the 'keeper by FC Dallas' Arturo Alvarez?) MLS sides went 1-0-1 on Tuesday, with David Beckham-less L.A. beating Mexican champion Pachuca 2-1 at the Home Depot Center and FC Dallas earning a controversial 1-1 draw against CD Guadalajara, which scored its lone goal after a blatant handball. The tourney continues Wednesday night when D.C. United meets Morelia and Houston plays host to Club América. Granted, the Mexican sides are in preseason form, they didn't feature their strongest sides and they will not play difficult road games south of the border, but don't overlook the importance of doing well in tournaments like these (as well as the CONCACAF Champions' Cup). For all the talk about building MLS via Brand Beckham, earning respect and credibility in the Hispanic market is just as important for the long-term success of the league. And SuperLiga can go a long way toward pulling that off. It was just one night, but all in all, it was a banner one for MLS.
The Guille Show
It's not Beckham or Blanco. Or Ángel or Toja. The new arrival who has made the biggest impact on MLS this season didn't even make the All-Star team. But Columbus' Guillermo Barros Schelotto has to be in the conversation for league MVP. With little fanfare, Schelotto has sparked the Crew's rise up the Eastern Conference standings. Despite starting the season with just one win in its first 11 games, Columbus is just two points out of the East lead following its 5-1-1 stretch. And there's little question Schelotto has been the engine behind the Crew's resurgence, scoring four goals -- including two in the 2-0 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday -- and hovering near the league lead with seven assists. "I was comfortable from the first minute," Schelotto said after the match. "Obviously, as time goes by I feel even more comfortable, not only with the team, but also with the language and teammates and things like that." He entered MLS with a reputation as a winner; so far Guille has not disappointed.
News and views from around the league
One more thing MLS needs to take the next step in the respect department: more consistent officiating. Sunday's Colorado-Kansas City match got out of hand, with 32 fouls, eight yellow cards, one red and another blatant elbow by Mehdi Ballouchy (one that should earn the new Rapids midfielder a suspension) that somehow was missed. Wizards coach Curt Onalfo sounded off on his displeasure in his brutally honest postgame interview. ... The Dynamo's MLS-record shutout streak ended Sunday at 726 minutes -- they then proceeded to concede three goals in 34 minutes to New England in one of the MLS' best games of the season. ... Cuauhtémoc Blanco is ready to make his full league debut and Chris Rolfe is expecting to return the first week of August; now add the impending arrival of Paolo Wanchope and Chicago will be a compelling team to watch down the stretch. The Fire may be in last place in the East, but they still are only eight points out of the final playoff spot. ... The Red Bulls say they've sold more than 40,000 tickets for David Beckham's trip to the Meadowlands on Aug. 18.
RankLW Team
Houston Dynamo (10-5-4)
De Rosario's strike the latest brilliant goal from Houston
New England Revolution (7-3-6)
Twellman: The Revs have "given away 10 points" in 2007
FC Dallas (9-6-3)
Hoops keep raiding S. America -- this time for Ricardinho
Kansas City Wizards (7-5-5)
EJ has scored as many goals as RSL -- in 4 fewer games
New York Red Bulls (8-6-3)
It wasn't pretty, but those 3 points vs. D.C. were massive
D.C. United (7-6-3)
Its first loss in Giants Stadium in more than three years.
Columbus Crew (6-5-7)
Danny Szetela looked good in his return from the U-20s
Chivas USA (7-5-3)
Two big chances to silence doubts on road (at N.Y., K.C.)
Toronto FC (5-8-4)
Taking home a decent six points (1-2-3) after long trip
Los Angeles Galaxy (3-5-4)
Acquitted themselves quite well in the match vs. Chelsea
Chicago Fire (4-8-4)
Blanco to the rescue? Fire have scored 1 MLS goal in July
Colorado Rapids (4-8-6)
Scored more than once in a game for 1st time since April
Real Salt Lake (1-8-6)
Two wins in international friendlies. One win in MLS play.

1. G. Barros Schelotto
Columbus Crew

2. The entire thrilling
Dynamo-Revs match

3. Cuauhtémoc Blanco
Fire (*friendly)
Thursday, July 26
New York 1, Chivas USA 1 (ESPN2) -- Parke's injury may prove costly vs. Galindo, Razov
Saturday, July 28
New England 2, Real Salt Lake 1 (FSC) -- Ws at RSL have been tough for East's top sides
Sunday, July 29
Toronto 2, Chicago 1 (TeleFutura) -- A similiar result, but without the flying seat cushions.
Kansas City 2, Chivas USA 1 -- Not the best matchup for the Goats in a hectic travel week

Last Week: 3-2; This season: 40-49
Was there a 'Beckham bump' in attendance around the league? Not so much. Sunday's four games averaged only 12,472 fans -- more than 2,500 fans below MLS' season average of just under 15,000 per game.

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