Wednesday June 20th, 2007


Christian Petersen/AFP/Getty Images
Alexi being Alexi
Say this about Alexi Lalas: He's a master salesman. Nobody outside of David Beckham can get MLS into national headlines in both England and the U.S. like the outspoken L.A. Galaxy president did Tuesday with one eyebrow-raising interview with London newspaper The Guardian. Lost in the hoopla over "Inferior-gate" is that people are missing the point of his message. There's no question level of play in England is in another, well, galaxy. But it's clear Lalas, a staunch defender of all things U.S. soccer if there ever was one, wasn't out to deride the Premiership as much as he was trying to boost and defend MLS. Of course, English columnists were all too quick to laugh off this "Mickey Mouse" and "retirement" league after watching L.A.-Real Salt Lake, probably the first MLS match most of them had even bothered watching. (Hey, let's judge the EPL after seeing Watford-Charlton, without Darren Bent.) So here's the truth about MLS: The biggest gaps between the league and bottom-of-the-table Premiership teams (let's leave the Big Four out of this discussion) or teams in the Coca-Cola Championship are in four main areas: depth, quality crossing, ability to maintain possession in the midfield and consistent marking. The speed and physicality of MLS are often underrated. Even Juan Pablo Ángel, who is tearing up MLS after having success at Aston Villa (then again, he wasn't able to crack the First XI last season), said he was surprised by the demands of this league. Could teams such as the Wizards, D.C. United or the Red Bulls compete with a Watford (relegated from the Premiership) or a West Brom (a team that lost in the Championship final)? Perhaps. But that's not the point. It's all about attracting attention and changing outdated opinions of a fast-improving league, even if it takes some outlandish words to do so. There's no such thing as bad publicity, as they say.
Salt in the wounds
Few things have gone right for Real Salt Lake this season. Really, few things have gone right in the franchise's history. But this season is shaping up to be particularly painful. It all started on opening day when RSL was seconds away from a victory before a 94th-minute strike by Carlos Ruiz gave FC Dallas a stunning 2-2 draw. Salt Lake hasn't been close to winning since. Nothing has worked. John Ellinger was fired. Jeff Cunningham was traded. Freddy Adu is clearly frustrated, as evidenced by his arm-flapping display in last Thursday's 1-0 loss to FC Dallas. In all, RSL's winless streak is now at 15 games, MLS' longest since, you guessed it, RSL's 18-game slide from 2005-06. "We are just a few plays on either end in games from winning a game," RSL midfielder Chris Klein said after RSL's latest loss, 3-2 to the Galaxy on Sunday. "That might sound like a comment from a guy that hasn't won a game this season, but that's where we are at." RSL actually has played better soccer at times since Jason Kreis took over for Ellinger at the beginning of May, leading the team to four draws in his first five before last week's two-game slide. Now Adu will be gone for the next month for the Under-20 World Cup. Heck, things can't get much worse in Salt Lake. It's just tough to fathom how a team can have two long winless streaks in two years in a league with so much parity.
Other random thoughts from around the league
Fired by the Fire: It's little surprise that Dave Sarachan was let go Wednesday with all of Chicago's problems. But president/CEO John Guppy deserves more than his share of the blame. Fire fans want him gone yesterday. ... Check out these scores from last week's games: 3-3, 3-3, 4-0, 3-2, 3-1, 2-0 and 1-0. It was the league's highest-scoring week of the season. Who says MLS is missing out with most of its biggest stars away on international duty? ... Since the middle of the '05 season, six of the 11 goals Edson Buddle has scored have come against Real Salt Lake. Buddle scored his first goal this season in his debut with the Galaxy. ... Seven matches into his MLS career, Ángel has scored in six straight, which is now just one shy of the league's record held by Raúl Díaz Arce (1997), Wolde Harris ('00) and Carlos Ruiz ('06). ... Is there any more entertaining passer in the league than Kansas City's Carlos Marinelli? He's fun to watch.
RankLW Team
11
Kansas City Wizards (6-2-2)
After that rally, tough to lose two points on 89th-min. PK
24
D.C. United (5-3-2)
Gotta love Luciano Emilio's 'matador' goal celebrations
33
New York Red Bulls (6-3-2)
Midfield giveaways are dogging 'em as much as injuries
42
New England Revolution (5-2-4)
Does New England miss Parkhurst more than Twellman?
56
Chivas USA (5-3-2)
G-Force: Galindo and Guzan can carry these Goats far
65
FC Dallas (7-6-1)
First clean sheet in 19 games. Then gave up four to TFC
79
Toronto FC (4-6-1)
The big test: six straight matches away from BMO Field
87
Houston Dynamo (5-5-1)
Orange rust: lost three straight matches after last layoff
98
Colorado Rapids (4-5-3)
Conor Casey has been a disappointment since his arrival
1010
Chicago Fire (4-6-2)
Chicago's two-week layoff couldn't come at a better time
1111
Los Angeles Galaxy (2-4-3)
Good to see Cobi Jones score a goal on his 37th birthday
1212
Columbus Crew (1-4-6)
Have twice swiped points from Revs in '07 with late goals
1313
Real Salt Lake (0-5-6)
At least their new stadium (set to open in '08) looks nice

1. Yura Movsisyan
Kansas City Wizards

2. Brad Guzan
Chivas USA

3. Adam Cristman
New England Revs
Wednesday, June 20
Kansas City 3, Columbus 1 -- Columbus is trying to snap a seven-game winless skid
Thursday, June 21
Chivas USA 1, Houston 0 (ESPN2) -- Goats' defense gets it done in key Western clash
Saturday, June 23
Toronto FC 2, New England 1 -- Dichio (says he'll play), Cunningham clicked quickly
FC Dallas 1, Colorado 1 -- You can bet Rapids fans will be ready for Dario Sala, Hoops
D.C. United 3, Real Salt Lake 1 (FSC) -- Adu misses his first shot vs. former team
Los Angeles 2, Columbus 2 (HDNet) -- More goals from Buddle, Jaqua too much to ask?
Sunday, June 17
Houston 2, Kansas City 1 (TeleFutura) -- Houston gets some of its Gold Cup group back

Last Week: 4-3; This season: 28-37
Behold, one English columnist at the Guardian who doesn't trash MLS or U.S. soccer at will. Worth the read.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.