Monday Postgame: The league that never sleeps
We’re not saying that Whitecaps defender Jay DeMerit broke training Sunday night, but, well, if he’s a little bleary-eyed on the pitch this morning, maybe Vancouver brass can simply look the other way.
DeMerit’s beloved Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, capping off an epic "Tweet-down" between the Whitecaps defender and Chivas USA midfielder Ben Zemanski, a staunch Steelers fan.
While those two flashed wit and wisdom all week, the league racked up news at an Usain Bolt–like clip. Preseason matches kicked off—including first action for expansion sides Vancouver and Portland— and there was an announcement about the 2011 All-Star Game. Then one of the league’s most successful franchises broke ground on a richly deserved soccer-specific stadium.
We also got a solid date for David Beckham’s return to the LA Galaxy, and—topping it all—news of a US international striker joining an MLS side for a weeklong trial in hopes of reviving his career.
Let’s roll out the barrel on Week 11.
Remember Víctor Estupiñán’s vow to score 30 goals in his debut season with Chivas USA? The 22-year-old Ecuadorian striker got right to work this past Tuesday, heading home a goal in the Goats’ first preseason scrimmage, a 2-0 win over Premier Development League (PDL) team Fresno Fuego.
Expansion side Vancouver made an even more impressive start in their first MLS action, dropping the 2009 MLS champs Real Salt Lake 2-1 on goals by 18-year-old Russell Teibert and former Manchester City product Terry Dunfield—both of whom are Canadians, appropriately enough. The Whitecaps were back in action on Friday, falling to Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders FC 1-0 on a goal by Brad Evans.
The Portland Timbers also entered the fray, drawing PDL side Ventura County Fusion 1-1 on Friday. That result may not look impressive, but Timbers fans had to be pumped to see the goal come from No. 2 SuperDraft pick Darlington Nagbe, on an assist from Jorge Perlaza, a speed-burning forward from Colombia currently trialing with Portland. The prospect of those two joining forces with Kenny Cooper in the Timbers’ attack has to whet Portland fans’ already huge appetite for the 2011 season.
In other preseason games, Toronto tied Partizan Belgrade 1-1 and then defeated Red Star Belgrade 1-0 in Turkey; Sporting Kansas City tied Columbus 2-2; and the Dynamo blanked Houston Baptist University 2-0.
Donning the Orange Hard Hats
While the Dynamo produced a modest victory on the field, they scored a massive triumph off of it with Saturday’s official groundbreaking ceremony for Dynamo Stadium, a state-of-the-art, 22,000-seat venue scheduled to open in April 2012.
The stadium design looks terrific and appears to be a seamless fit with its downtown Houston neighborhood, where it will join the Astros’ Minute Maid Park and the Rockets' Toyota Center—and become “the only urban soccer experience in Major League Soccer,” according to the Dynamo website.
The stadium—which will not cost Houston taxpayers a penny—will feature 34 luxury suites just 10 rows from the field, a 1,000-seat VIP club lounge and three canopies to provide cover for fans and atmosphere for games by capturing noise.
In other stadium news, Red Bull Arena was announced this past week as the site of the 2011 All-Star Game, scheduled for July 27. New York last hosted the midseason showcase in 1997. The MLS All-Stars’ opponent for the game will be revealed within the next 30 days.
CD in DC
One player who would like nothing more than to be on the field for that game is US international Charlie Davies, who made the news of the week by returning Stateside for a one-week trial with D.C. United.
The Sochaux forward is trying to rejuvenate his career after an October 2009 car crash—in the D.C. suburb of Arlington, Va.—that nearly took his life and did claim that of the vehicle’s driver, Ashley J. Roberta.
There is a 12-month loan deal already in place for him at United, provided he passes muster with DC’s medical and soccer staffs.
Davies played all 60 minutes of an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday, helping to create an early goal by pressuring keeper Steve Cronin into a poor clearance. After the session, DC coach Ben Olsen was understandably guarded, telling the assembled media, “We need to see more. This was a good first day, but we will continue to look at [Davies] over the next week.”
United has two friendlies scheduled Monday, against Canada’s U-20 team and Florida International University.
A Galaxy Not So Far Away?
David Beckham will make a Stateside return of his own this week after word came from Tottenham’s training ground last Thursday that the marquee midfielder would join the LA Galaxy’s preseason training on Feb 9.
When he gets back to Los Angeles, Beckham will find a new forward to swing in his trademark crosses to and an old teammate who is feeling pretty good about the Galaxy’s prospects for 2011.
The Galaxy’s prize offseason catch, striker Juan Pablo Angel, said hello to local media last Tuesday, telling them his goal was to bring an MLS Cup to the Home Depot Center. That’s something Ángel’s new teammate, Landon Donovan, believes is well within reach.
“We have the best balance that I’ve ever seen … maybe in any team I’ve seen in MLS,” the 28-year-old attacker announced last week. “This team is going to be more competitive than last year's, [and] we’re going to be deeper than last year.”
Walking the Walk
Those were strong words from Donovan, but not as strong as the Twitter verbiage flying back and forth between DeMerit and Zemanski last week.
They expanded their war of words wide enough to rope in DeMerit’s World Cup teammates Jozy Altidore and Herculez Gomez, along with 1980s wrestling star “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and references to Lil Wayne and The Office.
But it all ended peacefully after DeMerit’s Packers won 31-25 (note: Portland Timbers midfielder Ryan Pore predicted Green Bay, 31-27).
Zemanski offered a classy “congrats to you and your pack,” and DeMerit responded with “hard-fought week for the tweet-down! … till next season.”
DeMerit also re-tweeted the following from Chicago Fire winger Calen Carr: “Brett Favre just threw his remote at the TV. It was intercepted.”