Philadelphia Franchise a Reality

Major League Soccer has awarded its 16th franchise to the city of Philadelphia, ending months of competition between the City of Brotherly Love, St. Louis, and - most recently - Miami for the increasingly coveted spot in the league. The news was made official at a press conference on Thursday with key members who made the deal possible, including the 1,000-member-strong supporters club Sons of Ben.

"It took us 12 years to bring the world's most popular sport to the City of Brotherly Love," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "Today I am proud to officially announce that in 2010, Philadelphia will be joining Major League Soccer as the league's 16th team."

The new club will play their home games in a brand-new waterfront stadium to be built in the Philly suburb of Chester, following the model of other cities that have chosen to build soccer-specific stadiums in suburbs within shouting distance of their major metropolitan areas. The plan is for a 20,000-seat arena that will cost roughly $115 million, the centerpiece of a broader $500 million development project.

"We're going to build a team, a stadium, and we're going to lift some trophies along the way, and have some fun, so get ready," said Nick Sakiewicz, chief executive officer of the triumphant ownership group. "The Philadelphia area wanted soccer, and today they got soccer."

Though the team won't play their first game for another two years, season ticket deposits are currently being accepted at www.MLSPhilly2010.com, as well as at (877) MLS-2010.

Crew Trade Ward for Nico

The Columbus Crew have acquired forward Nicolas Hernandez from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for Generation Adidas defender Tim Ward and a third-round pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.Hernandez, 28, is coming off a down year with the Rapids in 2007, scoring just once and adding a single assist in 21 games with 17 starts. In the previous year, it was a different story, as the Argentinean forward racked up seven goals and six assists in 30 games. Nico's performance in his first year with Colorado earned him the team's MVP award.

"He is busy and a very active player who can play a number of positions," said Crew head coach Sigi Schmid. "We felt he was a dangerous player, a good acquisition, and the price was right. We think of him more as a striker, but a striker who can combine well with Guillermo (Barros Schelotto). He's going to have the ability to read what Guillermo is doing and play off that."
Ward, 21, has struggled to see playing time with the Crew defense, appearing in just six games in 2007. He has posted three assists in 30 career games going back to his days with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 2005. He has also represented the United States at various youth levels, including at last summer's Under-20 World Cup.

"Timmy is a player who needs to play now," said Schmid. "Looking at the options we have at outside back, we didn't think we could give him the playing time that is appropriate to what he needs."

Earthquakes Land O'Brien

The San Jose Earthquakes have added a key offensive weapon to their arsenal, trading away their first-round pick in 2009 and an undisclosed amount of cash to Toronto FC for All-Star midfielder Ronnie O'Brien.
For O'Brien, 29, it will mark his second-straight campaign with an expansion team, having played for Toronto in their inaugural season last year. Prior to being traded to TFC, the right-sided Irish midfielder played for FC Dallas from 2002 - 2006. He has made 121 career appearances in Major League Soccer, scoring 12 goals and contributing 42 assists. In 2007, a knee injury limited O'Brien to 13 games (0 goals, 4 assists). He has also been named to the MLS All-Star Team for four years running.

"He's not afraid to shoot, not afraid to take players on," Quakes General Manager John Doyle said. "He's an offensive player. He's another player in this league that you pay to come watch."

Toronto has expressed concern over O'Brien's fitness, with Mo Johnston indicating that the player's health was one of the main reasons that the club decided to part with him.

"Ronnie's a hell of a player when he's healthy," said Johnston. "He's one of the best in the league, if not the best. But he was injured a lot last season. (The trade) gives us an opportunity next year to go into the market again and have two first-round draft picks," Johnston continued.


Olympic Qualifying Roster Announced

United States U-23 Men's National Team head coach Peter Nowak has called 24 players into camp in preparation for the upcoming 2008 Olympic qualifiers. Headlining the roster are several players who have seen time with the senior squad, including Benfica's Freddy Adu and MLS sensation Jozy Altidore.
In 2004, the United States failed to make the Olympics after losing to rivals Mexico in the semifinals of the qualification stages. This time around the Americans' path to Beijing begins on March 11 against Cuba, a game that will be played in Miami. Their next opponent will be Panama on March 13, and they will close out the group stage of qualifying two days later with a date against Honduras.

Seventeen players were picked from Major League Soccer, two from Germany, and one each from leagues in Denmark, Mexico, Sweden, Portugal and England.

Nowak will commence camp in Bradenton, Florida on March 1st.

GK: Dominic Cervi (Chicago Fire), Tally Hall (Esbjerg fB), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)

DF: Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Kamani Hill (Vfl Wolfsburg), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Mike Randolph (LA Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

MF: Arturo Alvarez (FC Dallas), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)

FW: Freddy Adu (Benfica), Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)


Fire in Mexico, Conde Not

The Chicago Fire are in Mexico as part of their preseason training, which means throngs of fans are surrounding the team in hopes to get a better glimpse of Floyd Franks, Jeff Curtin and the rest of the club. They may also be interested in following midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco, but I'm not sure.

One person who is not in attendance as the Fire continues preparing for the start of the regular season is Colombian defender Wilman Conde, who is demanding that the club release or trade his rights to the New York Red Bulls so that he may rejoin Chicago's former coach Juan Carlos Osorio.As you may recall, Osorio was lured away from the Windy City in the offseason, shocking many Fire fans and players. Since Juan Carlos was responsible for single-handedly convincing the club's ownership to shell out a transfer fee to bring Conde to the team, it comes as no surprise that he would want to continue reaping the benefits of the defender's services at his new home in the Big Apple.

The problem is, Chicago still feels a bit jilted - and rightfully so - over JCO's hasty departure, and the last thing they would want to do is to help strengthen the weak defense of a fellow Eastern Conference team. Conde was benched for the Fire's preseason match against Toronto and did not even participate with the second team, leading many to wonder whether Conde will see the field at all this year if Chicago refuses to trade him.

According to the team, Conde is not in Mexico because of a paperwork issue.


Osaka Crowned Pan-Pacific Champions

In a result few people saw coming, Gamba Osaka rolled to a stunning 6-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo in the final of the inaugural Pan-Pacific Championship. Brazilian striker Bare put on a show for the 23,087 in attendance - the largest crowd to watch a professional soccer game in Hawaii - by scoring four times for the J-League side, two in each half.
The Dynamo looked set to continue their impressive form in the tournament in the opening minutes. U.S. international Ricardo Clark drove home a diving header from a hard angle in the 11th minute to stake the defending MLS champs to an early lead.

But Bare could not be contained on this night, firing back seconds later with a goal of his own and doubling up just three minutes later with what would prove to be the game-winner for Gamba Osaka. Though the game would go into halftime at 2-1, the game was quickly put out of reach in the 2nd half via another pair of goals from Bare, as well as strikes from teammates Lucas and Mazato Yamazaki to cement the final scoreline at 6-1.


Earlier in the evening, the Los Angeles Galaxy bested Sydney FC in the tournament's third-place match, 2-1. Rookie Ely Allen scored on a volley from a David Beckham cross and Josh Tudela would mop up on a spilt ball by Sydney keeper Ivan Necevski in front of goal for the game-winner.


Red Bulls on Parade

There are several newsworthy Red Bulls items coming out of New York this morning, provided to us from omnipresent MLS snitch Ives Galarcep.
Firstly, the club has traded Dema Kovalenko to Real Salt Lake. In return, New York will receive an undisclosed draft pick in the 2010 SuperDraft.Kovalenko, 30, is an experienced midfielder who has appeared in over 225 MLS games, including stints with the Chicago Fire and D.C. United. He is a three-time All-Star who has contributed 41 goals and 39 assists over his nine-year career, though his production dropped significantly after joining the Red Bulls in 2006 (2 goals, 1 assist in 35 games).

2007 salary: $197,375

Also, the club has waived Liberian forward Francis Doe. The 22-year-old made eight appearances for New York last season - four starts - scoring two goals and adding an assist.

2007 salary: $48,000


This one had been rumored for some time, but Ives is now confirming that the Red Bulls will indeed host Spanish giants FC Barcelona for an exhibition at Giants Stadium on August 7th. The two sides previously met two years ago, with Barca downing the MLS outfit by a score of 4-1 in front of over 79,000 fans.New York was also trying to stage a similar exhibition with Real Madrid around the same time, but Los Merengues have opted to do a tour of the West Coast instead.


Galaxy, Dynamo Going in Opposite Directions

Sure, the MLS preseason only got underway in the last few weeks, but the opening round of the inaugural Pan-Pacific Championship offered a little glimpse of what we might be able to expect from the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo in 2008.For Los Angeles, a shaky defense didn't show any signs of improvement. In the 3rd minute of play, Troy Roberts was beaten on a harmless through-ball that new Galaxy #1 keeper Steve Cronin couldn't keep out of the back of the net. Like the second half of last season, the rest of the game feature flashbulbs popping every time David Beckham got near the ball and absolutely nothing to celebrate on the offensive end. To be fair, LA was missing two big weapons to injury: Landon Donovan and Carlos Ruiz.

"I think we played an excellent game," said new Galaxy head coach Ruud Gullit. "It took us a bit of time to adjust but after 20 minutes we started to play well. We made some mistakes but it is valuable to spend this kind of time with the players."

Los Angeles Galaxy 0 - Gamba Osaka 1


On the other end of the spectrum, the reigning back-to-back MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo looked ready to begin their conquest for a third-straight league championship, as Dwayne De Rosario, Stuart Holden and Chris Wondolowski all struck before halftime to stake the Dynamo to a 3-0 victory over Sydney FC. Hawaii's native son Brian Ching celebrated two assists on the night, on the club's first and third goals, pleasing the Honolulu crowd.

"It was fantastic for me to be able to play in front of my home crowd," said Ching. "For us to get the win and produce a good performance was even better. Hopefully I am saving my goals for the final and we can go on and lift the trophy on Saturday."

Houston Dynamo 3 - Sydney FC 0

The results mean Houston has advanced to Saturday's final and will square off against Gamba Osaka for the championship. Los Angeles and Sydney will meet in the third-place game, a re-match of last November's exhibition in Australia, a game Sydney prevailed in by a score of 5-3.


Money Trouble in Tinseltown

Billy Witz of the LA Daily News recently wrote a story about how the Los Angeles Galaxy continue to face salary cap problems. As part of that story, he interviewed defender Abel Xavier, who offered some insight into the issue.

"Luis (Figo) is my close friend. He would like to come to join the Galaxy," Xavier said. "Alexi Lalas is aware of that but there is a restriction on (designated) players.

"Players want to come here," he continued. "Perhaps some players don't realize the situation in MLS. They think it is very easy to come, but then there are the restrictions. If you want to target outside players, you must open the market. I can bring (Chelsea's Claude) Makelele, Figo, everybody who wants to come here, but as long as you have this rule, it's not possible."

The Galaxy's trio of Designated Players - David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Carlos Ruiz - will account for 1/2 of the club's salary cap in 2008, a move that has GM Alexi Lalas looking at trimming the fat from the roster. Current efforts to pare down the current roster in order to somewhat comply with the MLS salary cap have some of the Galaxy's biggest contributors from 2007 worried about their future with the club.

Midfielder/defender Chris Klein said he has spoken to Lalas and head coach Ruud Gullit, who assured the 2007 Galaxy MVP that he is in their future plans.

Kyle Martino's future with the club seems to be more in doubt, as the 2002 MLS Rookie of the Year was left off the team's active roster for the Pan-Pacific Championship, even though he's perfectly healthy. Forward Carlos Ruiz will be making the trip to Hawaii, even though club officials acknowledge that there is no chance El Pescadito will see playing time in the tournament. It should be noted that getting rid of Martino would only save the club $55,297.

Pete Vagenas, once the team's captain, prefers not to discuss his place in the team with Lalas anymore; he was nearly traded to the Columbus Crew last year.

"I've always viewed this as a day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year thing," said Vagenas. "We try to stay away from Alexi. Usually when you're talking to Alexi, it's bad news."

Money issues led to the departure of defender Chris Albright last month. One of the Galaxy's most popular players, the U.S. international was traded to the New England Revolution for cash, a move that also rid the Galaxy of his salary ($142,500 in 2007) for the upcoming season.

Here's a list of several other Galaxy players who could be facing the ax, merely for monetary reasons:

Chris Klein - $187,250
Abel Xavier - $156,000
Edson Buddle - $150,000
Peter Vagenas - $131,875
Ante Jazic - $114,000 (injured)


Kilmarnock Signs Dalglish

Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock has signed former Houston Dynamo forward Paul Dalglish to a short-term contract.

The well-traveled Scottish striker played a big part in the Dynamo's first championship run in 2006 after joining the club late in the season, scoring two goals in the Western Conference finals to send the club to MLS Cup. But injuries limited Paul to just five appearances throughout the 2007 season, leading to his release. In all, Dalglish appeared in 15 games for the club over two seasons, adding four goals and one assist.

Here's Dalglish's resume, courtesy Wikipedia:

Musampa In Toronto Trial

Former Manchester City midfielder Kiki Musampa is on a one-week trial with Toronto FC while the club continues preseason training in Florida.

His trial got off to a good start over the weekend, as Musampa helped TFC earn a 3-1 victory over the U.S. U-17 national team by scoring from the penalty spot and setting up another late in the game.
Musampa, 30, is currently a free agent after being released from his contract by Dutch club Az Alkmaar on January 1st. He has also had stints with Ajax, Bordeaux and Atletico Madrid in his career; his longest stay at one club was with La Liga outfit Malaga CF from 1999-2003 (96 appearances, 22 goals).

There has also been wide interest in the Dutch midfielder from Asian clubs, particularly in Korea and Japan.


Dynamo Stadium Plan Advancing

The city of Houston has offered $15.5 million to purchase five downtown blocks that could become the future site of a new stadium for the Dynamo. Located east of U.S. 59, the tract of land is located in the city's so-called "warehouse district" which has seen some recent loft-style residential development.

The city council could vote on the proposal as soon as Wednesday, but even if it passes, it doesn't necessarily guarantee that the land will be used to build a new home for the back-to-back MLS Cup winners. Mayor Bill White has said in the past that he doesn't want taxpayer money to be involved in the construction of a stadium. Therefore, the team would have to make a deal with the city to acquire the space.

"They identified this tract of land as one in which they would be interested," said Andy Icken, deputy director for Public Works and Engineering.


Weekend Bits

- MLS Rumors is reporting that a Philadelphia expansion announcement is forthcoming and will take place on Thursday, February 28th. The team would commence play in their own stadium for the 2010 season.

- The New England Revolution have signed Honduran left midfielder Mauricio Castro, who could join the team for traning in Bermuda once his visa is approved. He had been playing for CD Olimpia (Luciano Emilio's old club).

- Colombian defender Wilman Conde is asking to get out of his contract with the Chicago Fire so that he can join up with the New York Red Bulls and former head coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

- Speaking of those Red Bulls, Ives Galarcep reports that the club has already signed Colombian forward Oscar Echeverry.

- Benny Feilhaber is rumored to be coming to America once again, but Houston is ruling themselves out of the chase for the Derby County midfielder. Maybe San Jose or Chivas USA could be in the Irvine, CA native's future?

Galaxy Land Defender Vanney

The Los Angeles Galaxy have continued their offseason wheeling and dealing, sending midfielder Quavas Kirk to DC United in exchange for veteran defender Greg Vanney, a three-time MLS All-Star.
For Vanney, 33, it marks a return to where his professional career started; he was originally selected by the Galaxy as the 17th overall selection in the 1996 MLS College Draft out of UCLA and made 194 appearances for the club between 1996-2001. Following a three-year stint with French Ligue 1 outfit Bastia, Vanney returned to MLS with FC Dallas in 2005. In 2007, he was traded to the Colorado Rapids, making nine appearances before being traded to DC in June.

"Greg is coming back to our club a stronger and more experienced player," said Galaxy Director of Soccer Paul Bravo. "Ruud and the entire coaching staff are pleased to be acquiring a true professional such as Greg."

General Manager Alexi Lalas echoed those sentiments.

"He's as good as a lot of defenders in this league and he's somebody I know who will bring a level of professionalism that, quite honestly, we need more of."

Kirk, 19, has made 33 appearances over three seasons for the Galaxy. The Generation Adidas product has yet to score a goal in his professional career after showing immense promise at the U-17 level by scoring 22 goals in 53 games. His only goal in a Galaxy uniform came in a 2-0 victory over Roma FC in the Fourth Round of the 2006 U.S. Open Cup.

"Quavas is a versatile player who has solid experience competing in our league," said United General Manager Dave Kasper. "He has terrific athletic qualities and approaches the game with energy and professionalism. We believe he will be a solid contributor for our club and are excited about his future at D.C. United."

United acquired Vanney in exchange for Facundo Erpen last season in hopes of solving the club's defense problems. However, his higher salary and advancing age made him less of an option for the team this season, especially after D.C.'s recent South American additions.

Kirk's salary ($111,000 in '07) won't count towards the salary cap as he is still a Generation Adidas player. Since United had little intention of re-signing Vanney, by trading the out-of-contract player to Los Angeles, D.C. has added a young prospect to their roster at literally no cost to the club.


Herron Returns to Fire

The Chicago Fire have signed forward Andy Herron to a contract after arranging a trade for his domestic rights with the Columbus Crew. In exchange for the rights, Columbus will receive Chicago's 4th-round pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.Herron, 29, appeared in 48 games for the Fire between 2004-2006, scoring 15 goals and three assists. The Costa Rican striker was traded to Columbus in 2007, appearing in 18 games (10 starts) for the Crew. Despite only playing 794 minutes, Herron still managed to score four goals and add two assists. In the offseason, he returned to Central America and played with Puntarenas FC of the Primera Division de Costa Rica, but was persuaded to come back to Major League Soccer by his old club.

"In regard to Andy, it was a simple situation of picking up the rights to a player we know very well," Fire coach Denis Hamlett said. "We feel that Andy has shown that he can be a scoring threat in this league. The opportunity to sign him is significant as we continue to look for more options in the final third."

Another Yank Returns Home

American Soccer Daily is reporting that Nat Borchers is coming home to play in the United States, as Real Salt Lake landed the defender via a special allocation lottery. Making the move from Odd Grenland, Borchers is the second ex-MLS player to leave Norway in favor of rejoining Major League Soccer, Ramiro Corrales, who was nabbed by the San Jose Earthquakes earlier this week.
Borchers originally played for the Colorado Rapids from 2003-2006, making 87 appearances and scoring three goals. The Tucson, AZ native played two years in Norway, but desired a return home after his team was relegated.

"Odd Grenland and the MLS reached a deal late last week regarding a transfer fee and I signed my contract with MLS yesterday," said Borchers. "I felt that after two years abroad I was ready to come back and play in the States."

RSL officials were very pleased after winning the defender's services through the special lottery.

"We are ecstatic to bring Nat Borchers on board as a member of Real Salt Lake," RSL General Manager Garth Lagerwey said. "He is a defender who has already had success in our league, has enjoyed success abroad, and is someone that should continue to succeed upon his return to MLS. This acquisition is consistent with our goal of building a core of talented players that can contribute now and for the long term as well. We think we've added a tremendous and experienced talent today that will make our team better immediately."

Galaxy Defender Walks Away From Soccer

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Ty Harden has decided on a very early retirement, reportedly walking away from the game of soccer to pursue a business opportunity with his family."I'm not sure what's going on, other than it's personal reasons and we know he's in good health," said Galaxy forward Edson Buddle. "As far as I know, nothing's finalized, but I don't know a lot."

Harden, 23, was drafted out of the University of Washington by Los Angeles in the 2nd round of the 2007 MLS SuperDraft (23rd overall). Earning a starting position immediately, the Junction City, OR native developed from unknown rookie defender to a solid contributor for the Galaxy over the course of the season, making 24 appearances and logging 2,086 minutes total.

Signed to a developmental contract, Harden's painfully-low starting salary of $17,000 made headlines around the soccer world by those astonished that a professional athlete could make such a small amount. At one point during the season, it was even revealed that Harden actually had a second job to supplement his income - cleaning pools. He eventually got a raise to $30,000 per year, but it apparently wasn't enough to keep his interest in soccer.

It should be noted that Harden's father, Rob Harden, is CEO and president of Goodwill Industries of Lane County in Oregon. It is unclear at this time if that is the business to which Ty is referring.


Earthquakes Felt Once Again

The San Jose Earthquakes return has been made official, as the expansion team hosted the Houston Dynamo for a pre-season friendly last night.A respectable crowd of 3,182 fans turned out to PAL Stadium to welcome back professional soccer to the Bay Area, though the host Quakes lost the exhibition by a 1-0 score to a Houston club that boasted several players from the old San Jose days.

The game's only goal was scored by U.S. international Ricardo Clark, when the Houston midfielder received a pass from Chris Wondolowski and beat keeper Joe Cannon at the end of the first half.

Still, San Jose coach Frank Yallop sounded optimistic about what he saw on the field after only eight days of training camp.

"We have a solid core right now and we need to keep building," said Yallop. "I am happy with where we are at right now and we just need to keep getting better from here."

One such improvement was revealed yesterday, as the Earthquakes announced a trade with the Houston Dynamo for rights to defender Ramiro Corrales in exchange for allocation money.

It will be the third go-round in San Jose for Corrales, 30, who previously was a member of the San Jose Clash (1996-97) and Earthquakes (2001-04). The Salinas, California native spent the last three seasons playing in Norway with Ham-Kam and, most recently, SK Brann. He has also made six appearances for the US Men's National Team, including last week's 2-2 tie against Mexico.


Updated FIFA Rankings

The February 2008 FIFA rankings have just been released. While there was little movement at the top, several countries did post noteworthy gains/losses. Many of the big movers are African countries, due in part to the recently completed African Cup of Nations.

* 14th - Ghana - gained 29 spots
* 24th - Ivory Coast - gained 14 spots
* 26th - United States - lost 6 spots
* 38th - Australia - gained 10 spots
* 45th - Nigeria - lost 26 spots
* 47th - Guinea - lost 14 spots

The top nine spots remain unchanged, but Croatia fell out of tenth place, allowing Greece and England to each inch up a spot.

World Rankings:
1. Argentina
2. Brazil
3. Italy
4. Spain
5. Germany
6. Czech Republic
7. France
8. Portugal
9. Netherlands
10. Greece
11. England
12. Croatia

16. Mexico
26. USA
50. Honduras
58. Canada
63. Panama
71. Costa Rica
88. Cuba
90. Jamaica
94. Guatemala
98. Trinidad & Tobago
100. Haiti

ESPN Classic to Air Pan-Pacific Championship

ESPN Classic and ESPN360.com will be airing all four matches of the upcoming Pan-Pacific Championship live from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Major League Soccer will be represented by two teams in the tournament. David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy face J-League champion Gamba Osaka in the first-round (Feb. 20, 11:00 p.m. EST), while the defending MLS champion Houston Dynamo square off against Sydney FC of Australia's A-League (Feb 21, 1:30 a.m.). The winners of those two games will meet in the championship on February 23 at Aloha Stadium, while the losers will meet in a third-place game.

Sydney FC and the Galaxy have meet once before, in an exhibition last fall in front of over 80,000 fans. The Australian side prevailed by a score of 5-3, but Beckham stole the show by converting a trademark free-kick just before halftime.


Premier League's 'Global Round' In Doubt

The English Premier League's newly-proposed "global round" is already encountering fierce resistance around the world.

As part of the plan floated by EPL chief executive Richard Scudamore, five international cities would be chosen to host two games each over the course of a weekend, with one game on Saturday and one on Sunday. The plan would add this 39th game to the schedule which would count toward official league standings.

But United States Soccer Federation head Sunil Gulati is already expressing concern over potentially hosting any such games.

"We've been reluctant to have official games played in the US," Gulati told BBC Sport. "We'll be guided by FIFA on this matter. But if it's not in line with its rules then we won't sanction it. We understand it's a global sport but it's about nurturing the home game.

"We have got a great relationship with the English FA and there's a lot of good reasons to look at it," Gulati continued. "But there are also some issues that we have got which would cause us to be very hesitant."

FIFA will look into the proposal at their executive committee meeting on March 14th. Several other countries have expressed broad opposition to hosting the games, mostly due to the negative impact it might have on each country's domestic league.

Asian Football Confederation chief Mohammed Bin Hammam has also spoken out against the plan in recent days.

"I always welcome the exchange of knowledge and expertise between foreign football associations and clubs, and support matches organized between AFC and other confederations which benefit the development of our clubs here in Asia," he said in a statement.

"But at the present time, I can't see the wisdom in the proposed plans," he continued. "My recommendation to the AFC executive committee would be to reject any initiatives of this nature. And we would urge the AFC member associations to protect their own national leagues and clubs within their territories. This is our position."

Turf Possible for 2010 World Cup

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has admitted that there is a possibility of games being played on artificial turf at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"We have envisaged, though it's not yet a final decision, that the 2010 World Cup could be played on artificial turf," Blatter told BBC Sport. "I think it's now time in this region to think about artificial turf."Under the "Win in Africa with Africa" project, FIFA is laying an artificial pitch in all of its 53 member nations on the African continent, with the only exception being South Africa. Due to the extreme climates, many fields can be damaged or even unusable. Blatter suggests that playing on an artificial surface would equal the playing field as all countries would have the same field conditions, no matter their climate.

"An artificial pitch gives you the same conditions during the whole year," said Blatter, who expressed his concern over the quality of the 2008 Nations Cup pitches in Ghana.

"Artificial turf is a solution to the owners of stadiums - you can use it more than just once a week, you can use it for other sports," he suggested. "I think it's better than uneven ground, where control of the ball is not easy."

Several of Major League Soccer's clubs use artificial turf, including the New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake, though New York and RSL are currently construction their own grass-field stadia. Many critics of the surface claim it is responsible for odd bounces and takes a greater toll on the athletes' body.

David Beckham famously spoke out against the surface last year when trying to recover from a myriad of injuries, saying the FieldTurf surface was one of the things "not right" about Major League Soccer. He later issued an apology after realizing that FieldTurf is an actual company and not just the name of the surface. The English soccer star also admitted that three FieldTurf pitches are in use at one of his youth academies.

"It's difficult but it's something we have to deal with," said the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder. It's part of the MLS and we have to come to terms with it and I'm sure it will be fine."


Busy Spring On Tap for Nats

The U.S. Men's National Team is gearing up for a busy spring, as the United States Soccer Federation has lined up friendlies with three top 15 countries in late May and early June.
Ives Galarcep is reporting that the USMNT has agreed to face England (ranked #12) in a friendly on May 28 at Wembley Stadium. The meeting looks to be the perfect opportunity for new head coach Fabio Capello to give David Beckham his 100th cap, if he hasn't already earned it by that point.

Already confirmed, the US will take on Spain at a yet-to-be-determined site on European soil on June 4th. La Furia Roja are currently ranked fourth in the world, placing them between Italy and Germany in the latest FIFA rankings.

Less than a week later, it looks as if the US will host Argentina sometime around June 8th in the northeastern US. The Albicelestes are currently the top-ranked team in the world, edging out Brazil in the latest rankings.

If all of these friendlies go ahead as scheduled, Bob Bradley's squad could face three of the top 12 teams in the world in a two-week span leading up to their first World Cup qualifier. That kind of schedule stands in stark contrast to what we got used to under former head coach Bruce Arena. In the days and weeks leading up to the 2006 World Cup, the U.S. played a three-game "send-off series" against the likes of Morocco, Venezuela and Latvia.


Corrales Ready to Make MLS Return

US international Ramiro Corrales has opted to return to Major League Soccer, according to a report from American Soccer Daily.

"We made a deal with the league," said Brann press officer Gorm Natlandsmyr. "Ramiro is now playing for one of the teams in MLS, but for which I do not know."
The Brann defender, playing in Norway's top division for the past three seasons, has seen a resurgence with the US men's national team under Bob Bradley, most recently appearing in his country's friendlies against Sweden and Mexico. He has received a total of six caps since he was first called up in 1996, and also represented the U.S. admirably at the U-20 level.

The rights to Corrales are currently held by the Houston Dynamo, but the expansion San Jose Earthquakes have also expressed interest in the defender. Corrales was with the Earthquakes from 1996-1997 and then again from 2001-2004, part of Frank Yallop's two-time MLS Cup winning squad. He has also suited up for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (56 appearances) and Miami Fusion (1 appearance), in his MLS career.

FC Dallas Update: Denilson, Gbandi Out

FC Dallas' first Designated Player experiment has officially come to an end as four-time Brazilian champion Palmeiras has inked the World Cup veteran to an agreement that will last through the end of the year.
Denilson, 30, had a much-less-than-desired effect in his time at Pizza Hut Park, scoring a single goal (on a penalty kick) in eight appearances for the Hoops. Signed in August of 2007, many were skeptical of whether the midfielder would be willing to put in the work required to be successful, assuming he was just here to collect a big payday.

In two short months, Denilson had worked himself out of the FCD lineup. When the season ended, Dallas announced that they would be declining the option on Denilson's 2008 contract, leaving open the door for the Brazilian to re-sign for much less than DP-money. Apparently that wasn't an option, as Denilson's MLS career has officially come to a close already.


FC Dallas also announced this week that defender Chris Gbandi has formally transferred to FK Haugesund of the Norwegian Second Division. Rumors put the transfer fee for the 29-year-old Gbandi in the $100,000 range.
"We're proud that Chris was able to develop as a professional here in Dallas," said GM Michael Hitchock. "We want to thank him for his service to our club, both on and off the field, and wish him all the best in Norway."

Gbandi was selected by the club as the first overall selection in 2002 MLS SuperDraft after a successful collegiate career at the University of Connecticut. He went on to make 117 appearances for Dallas, scoring three goals and adding ten assists.

In 2004, he accepted an offer from the Liberian national team to compete in the 2006 World Cup Qualifiers, ending speculation that he might cap for the USMNT. However, he has yet to make a second appearance for the Lone Stars.

Yet Another Galaxy Friendly

Look up the definition of 'overexposure' in the MLS dictionary and the first thing you will see is this:
As if last year's hectic second-half schedule/post-season tour wasn't enough of a lesson to the club, the Los Angeles Galaxy have already booked an aggressive agenda for the pre-season, including trips to Hawaii, China, Korea, and now Canada.

The latest stop announced in the ongoing David Beckham world tour is a late April/early May exhibition against the Vancouver Whitecaps... in Edmonton, which makes complete sense, since the Galaxy begin their MLS schedule in late March. The Edmonton Journal says an exact date will be confirmed next week, and the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (the pointy kind) will be involved in promoting the event.

"It's an event," said a source familiar with the negotiations aimed at bringing the Galaxy to Edmonton. "It's a one-off and he is one of the top five most recognized athletes in the world and he's a class act, a great ambassador for the sport."

The Galaxy have already played the Whitecaps once in the past three months, playing the USL team to a scoreless draw on November 7th. That game was played in Vancouver in front of 48,172.

Here are the non-MLS-related dates on the Galaxy's calendar for this spring:

Feb. 20 - Feb. 23: Pan-Pacific Championship - Honolulu, Hawaii

Mar. 1: vs. FC Seoul - Seoul, South Korea

Mar. 5: vs. China All-Star Union - Shanghai, China

April/May: vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


It's Official: Gomez to Rapids for DP Spot

The long-awaited trade sending Christian Gomez from D.C. United to the Colorado Rapids has been finalized, with the former MLS MVP introduced by club officials earlier today. He reportedly signed a two-year deal, with an option for a third, worth about $400,000 per season, which will keep him just under the league maximum for a non-DP player. In exchange, D.C. will receive Colorado's first-round pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and "future considerations" from the club.
Steven Goff is reporting that those "future considerations" may include Colorado's Designated Player slot for the next two years.

Gomez sounded an optimistic tone during Friday's press conference, promising to lift the team above what was a disappointing 2007 season.

"I feel like I can make a difference here and take it to another level," said Gomez through an interpreter. "I welcome a new period for the Colorado Rapids, where we're going to reach new heights and levels."

Head coach Fernando Clavijo couldn't be more pleased with the signing, perhaps hoping that Gomez will lead the team into contention and get Clavijo off of the hot-seat.

"Having a player of this caliber coming to the lineup is going to make us all better," said Clavijo. "He's going to be able to link with everybody else that we have up front. He's going to be able to find the back of the net. He's going to help us win games, and that's exactly what he's here for. He's a proven commodity in our league and we're really excited to have him."

The addition of Gomez should provide a badly-needed shot in the arm to the Rapids, with an offense that struggled mightily last season. Colorado found the back of the net just 29 times in 30 games last season, ahead of only the woeful Toronto FC offense (25).

"This is a great place with a beautiful stadium where I've come to play before," Gomez said. "You'll see me running, fighting for the ball until the very last minute. I'm going to leave it all on the field. I'm a dedicated soccer player. We have great players, we have a great base to build on this year. We're going to fight until the very end."

Team captain Pablo Mastroeni, rumored to be on his way out of Colorado this off-season, also expressed excitement over the signing.

"I think it's phenomenal," he said of the addition of Gomez. "It shows the commitment of the club to get results, to get a guy of his caliber that's proven himself year after year."

Ze Roberto to MLS? Not Yet

Bayern Munich star José Roberto da Silva Júnior has revealed that he does not plan to extend his contract with the German club when it runs out in 2009. Instead, the Brazilian better known as Zé Roberto has insisted that he would like to come to America to end his playing career."I don't want to and I can't stay," he told Kicker. "I've spent long enough in Europe - 2009 will be the end for me at Bayern. I have contacts with a team in America and that is a possibility for 2009," he continued.

Zé Roberto, 33, has been capped 84 times for his country between 1995 and 2007, but the left-footed winger recently retired from the Selecao to concentrate on his club. He was included on the roster for the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and 2006, scoring against Ghana in the second-round of the latter competition in Germany.

On the club side, Zé Roberto started off in Brazil with Portuguesa in 1994 until his move to Real Madrid in 1997. After 15 appearances at the Bernabéu, he returned to his home country for a brief stint with Flamengo, but would soon be off to Germany, playing for Bayer Leverkusen from 1998-2002 (113 appearances). His first run with Bayern Munich lasted from 2002-2006, broken up by another return to Brazil with Santos FC. In June of 2007, he signed a two-year deal to return to Allianz Arena.

MLS Defender Marshall Delivers

Jamaica's Tyrone Marshall scored in the 88th minute of an international friendly on Wednesday, lifting his country to a 1-1 draw with Costa Rica at the National Stadium in Kingston. Marshall, currently with Toronto FC of MLS, rose above a pair of defenders to meet a cross from Marlon King and was able to beat goalkeeper Ricardo Gonzales for the equalizer, coming ten minutes after Costa Rica first took the lead through a William Sunsing strike that came against the run of play.
"It was a good start to our campaign for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa," Jamaica's Brazilian coach Rene Simones said. "The boys played well and we could have won the game if we had taken those chances."

Marshall, 33, was the 11th overall pick in the 1998 MLS College Draft, selected by the Colorado Rapids. The central defender played only one game for the club before being traded to the Miami Fusion. After three seasons with Miami, that team folded and Marshall went to the Los Angeles Galaxy through the Allocation Draft. From 2002-2007, he was a mainstay on the backline of the G's, but was traded to Toronto FC eight games into the season after breaking Kenny Cooper's leg with a slide tackle in his last appearance with Los Angeles.

He has also made 60 appearances for Jamaica's national team, scoring three times, including the game winner against Trinidad & Tobago int he final round of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Next up for 98th-ranked Jamaica is a friendly against aforementioned T&T on March 26, the last tune-up for The Reggae Boyz before entering the second round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


Jozy Subject of Secret Transfer Attempt

Lost in all the transfer talk surrounding Brad Guzan and Eddie Johnson, reports are now surfacing that New York Red Bulls and USMNT star Jozy Altidore was also very close to an overseas move, nearly joining Reading of the English Premier League just before the close of the winter transfer window. The story was kept so quiet that even MLS insiders Ives Galarcep and Steven Goff were unaware of what was transpiring.Reading, already the home to two Americans (Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahnemann), had been scouting young Jozy for the past two years and were prepared to bring the youngster on board, as the club is in the midst of a relegation fight. The deal hinged on Reading's ability to sell off one of their other players and, when they failed to find a buyer, the transfer for Altidore fell apart.

"I've heard a lot about the club and it was an up and coming club that was interested in me," said Altidore. "It looked like it was something that was going to be a good idea for me but the Red Bulls are where I'm going to be.

"This is where my home is going to be right now," Altidore said. "I'm committed to the team and I'm not even worried about what happened."

Altidore's future has been the subject of constant speculation for New York Red Bulls and MLS fans, and his emergence on the national stage has only fueled those rumors. European clubs from Spain to England have come calling for the 18-year-old, with Real Madrid making it clear that they would welcome Altidore with open arms.

As with Guzan, MLS will not be able to hold on to Altidore for much longer if he does not want to stay. Jozy made $108,333 in guaranteed compensation last season, but stands to make much, much more by moving to just about ANY other league in the world. For now, he remains with the Red Bulls and is still in good spirits.

"I'm still happy to be with New York because I've watched this team since I was growing up. This is the team I wanted to play for in the beginning and the team I'm playing for now and I wouldn't have it any other way."

2008 MLS Schedule Revealed


Saturday, Mar 29
Toronto FC at Columbus Crew 4:00
Chicago Fire at Real Salt Lake 6:00
Houston Dynamo at New England Revolution 7:30 FSC/FSE
D.C. United at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado Rapids 9:30 FSC/FSE & HDNet

Sunday, Mar 30
Chivas USA at FC Dallas 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Apr 03
New England Revolution at Chicago Fire 8:00 ESPN2
San Jose at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Apr 05
Toronto FC at D.C. United 7:30
Columbus Crew at New York Red Bulls 7:30 FSC/FSE/FSE
Colorado Rapids at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
Real Salt Lake at Chivas USA 9:00 HDNet

Sunday, Apr 06
FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo 3:00 TeleFutura

Wednesday, Apr 09
New England Revolution at Kansas City Wizards 8:00

Saturday, Apr 12
Chicago Fire at San Jose 4:30
Chivas USA at Columbus Crew 7:30
Colorado Rapids at New England Revolution 7:30
Houston Dynamo at Kansas City Wizards 8:00 HDNet
New York Red Bulls at FC Dallas 8:30
D.C. United at Real Salt Lake 9:00

Sunday, Apr 13
Toronto FC at Los Angeles Galaxy 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Apr 17
Columbus Crew at D.C. United 8:00 ESPN2

Saturday, Apr 19
Real Salt Lake at Toronto FC 3:30
New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls 7:30 HDNet
San Jose at Colorado Rapids 9:30 FSC/FSE
Houston Dynamo at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30

Sunday, Apr 20
Kansas City Wizards at Chicago Fire 3:00 TeleFutura
FC Dallas at Chivas USA 8:00

Thursday, Apr 24
New England Revolution at FC Dallas 8:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Apr 26
Kansas City Wizards at Toronto FC 3:30
Houston Dynamo at Columbus Crew 7:30
Real Salt Lake at D.C. United 7:30
Colorado Rapids at Chicago Fire 8:30 HDNet
Chivas USA at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30 FSC/FSE

Sunday, Apr 27
San Jose at New York Red Bulls 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, May 01
New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC 7:00 ESPN2

Saturday, May 03
Kansas City Wizards at Columbus Crew 7:30 FSC Chicago Fire at New England Revolution 7:30
Chivas USA at Houston Dynamo 8:30 HDNet
Los Angeles Galaxy at Real Salt Lake 9:00
FC Dallas at San Jose 10:00

Sunday, May 04
D.C. United at Colorado Rapids 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, May 08
Chicago Fire at D.C. United 7:30 ESPN2

Saturday, May 10
Colorado Rapids at Houston Dynamo 8:30 FSC/FSE
FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake 9:00
Columbus Crew at San Jose 10:00
New York Red Bulls at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30 HDNet

Sunday, May 11
New England Revolution at Chivas USA 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, May 15
Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids 9:30 ESPN2

Saturday, May 17
Columbus Crew at Toronto FC 3:30
San Jose at New England Revolution 7:30 HDNet
Kansas City Wizards at New York Red Bulls 7:30
Houston Dynamo at Chicago Fire 8:30
D.C. United at Chivas USA 10:30 FSC/FSE

Sunday, May 18
Los Angeles Galaxy at FC Dallas 3:00 TeleFutura

Wednesday, May 21
D.C. United at Toronto FC 7:30

Thursday, May 22
Houston Dynamo at San Jose 10:30 ESPN2

Saturday, May 24
Toronto FC at D.C. United 7:30
New England Revolution at Columbus Crew 7:30 FSC/FSE
Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas 8:30
Chivas USA at Colorado Rapids 9:30
Kansas City Wizards at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30 HDNet

Sunday, May 25
Chicago Fire at New York Red Bulls 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, May 29
D.C. United at New England Revolution 7:30 ESPN2

Saturday, May 31
Los Angeles Galaxy at Toronto FC 3:30
New York Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo 8:30 HDNet
San Jose at Real Salt Lake 9:00 FSC/FSE
Columbus Crew at Chivas USA 10:30

Sunday, Jun 01
FC Dallas at Colorado Rapids 3:00 TeleFutura

Wednesday, Jun 04
Houston Dynamo at D.C. United 7:30

Thursday, Jun 05
Chivas USA at New York Red Bulls 7:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Jun 07
San Jose at Columbus Crew 7:30 HDNet
D.C. United at Chicago Fire 8:30 FSC/FSE
Toronto FC at Houston Dynamo 8:30
Kansas City Wizards at Real Salt Lake 9:00
Colorado Rapids at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30

Sunday, Jun 08
FC Dallas at New England Revolution 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Jun 12
New England Revolution at Houston Dynamo 9:00 ESPN2

Saturday, Jun 14
New York Red Bulls at D.C. United 7:30 HDNet
Columbus Crew at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
Toronto FC at Colorado Rapids 9:30
Los Angeles Galaxy at San Jose 10:00 FSC/FSE
Real Salt Lake at Chivas USA 10:30

Sunday, Jun 15
Chicago Fire at FC Dallas 3:00 TeleFutura

Wednesday, Jun 18
San Jose at Real Salt Lake 9:00

Thursday, Jun 19
Chicago Fire at Chivas USA 10:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Jun 21
Kansas City Wizards at Toronto FC 3:30
FC Dallas at New York Red Bulls 7:30 FSC/FSE
Houston Dynamo at Colorado Rapids 9:30 HDNet
New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake 9:30
Columbus Crew at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30

Sunday, Jun 22
San Jose at D.C. United 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Jun 26
FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo 9:00 ESPN2

Saturday, Jun 28
Colorado Rapids at Columbus Crew 7:30 FSC/FSE
Toronto FC at New England Revolution 7:30
Real Salt Lake at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
San Jose at Chicago Fire 8:30
New York Red Bulls at Chivas USA 10:30 HDNet

Sunday, Jun 29
Los Angeles Galaxy at D.C. United 12:00 ABC (2.5 hour telecast)

Thursday, Jul 03
Houston Dynamo at Real Salt Lake 10:00 ESPN2

Friday, Jul 04
Kansas City Wizards at FC Dallas 7:00 HDNet
New York Red Bulls at Colorado Rapids 9:30
New England Revolution at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30

Saturday, Jul 05
Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew 8:00 FSC/FSE
San Jose at Chivas USA 10:30 FSC/FSE

Thursday, Jul 10
New York Red Bulls at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
Chivas USA at Los Angeles Galaxy 11:00 ESPN2

Saturday, Jul 12
Colorado Rapids at San Jose 4:00
Toronto FC at Chicago Fire 8:30 FSC/FSE
Columbus Crew at Real Salt Lake 9:00 HDNet

Thursday, Jul 17
Kansas City Wizards at Columbus Crew 8:00 ESPN2

Saturday, Jul 19
San Jose at Toronto FC 3:30 HDNet
Los Angeles Galaxy at New York Red Bulls 6:30 FSC/FSE
Real Salt Lake at Chicago Fire 8:30
Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas 8:30

Thursday, Jul 24
MLS All-Star Game 7:00 ESPN2, TeleFutura

Sunday, Jul 27
New York Red Bulls at San Jose 3:00 TeleFutura
Los Angeles Galaxy at FC Dallas 7:00
Chicago Fire at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
Columbus Crew at Colorado Rapids 9:30

Monday, Jul 28
Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake 9:00

Saturday, Aug 02
Kansas City Wizards at D.C. United 7:30
New York Red Bulls at New England Revolution 7:30 FSC/FSE
Chivas USA at Chicago Fire 8:30 HDNet
Columbus Crew at Houston Dynamo 8:30

Sunday, Aug 03
Los Angeles Galaxy at San Jose 3:00 TeleFutura
FC Dallas at Toronto FC 7:00

Saturday, Aug 09
Colorado Rapids at Toronto FC 3:30
Chicago Fire at New England Revolution 7:30 HDNet
D.C. United at New York Red Bulls 7:30
Chivas USA at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas 8:30 FSC/FSE

Thursday, Aug 14
Los Angeles Galaxy at Chivas USA 10:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Aug 16
FC Dallas at Columbus Crew 7:30 FSC/FSE
D.C. United at Chicago Fire 8:30
Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo 8:30
Kansas City Wizards at Colorado Rapids 9:30
New England Revolution at San Jose 10:00 HDNet

Sunday, Aug 17
Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls 5:00

Wednesday, Aug 20
D.C. United at New England Revolution 7:30
Chivas USA at Houston Dynamo 8:30

Thursday, Aug 21
Chicago Fire at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Aug 23
Real Salt Lake at Columbus Crew 7:30
Colorado Rapids at D.C. United 7:30
New England Revolution at Toronto FC 7:30 FSC/FSE
FC Dallas at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
San Jose at Chivas USA 10:30 HDNet

Sunday, Aug 24
Houston Dynamo at New York Red Bulls 3:00 TeleFutura

Friday, Aug 29
Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake 9:00

Saturday, Aug 30
New York Red Bulls at D.C. United 7:30 FSC/FSE
Los Angeles Galaxy at New England Revolution 7:30 HDNet
Columbus Crew at FC Dallas 8:30
Kansas City Wizards at San Jose 10:00
Toronto FC at Chivas USA 10:30

Sunday, Aug 31
Chicago Fire at Houston Dynamo 7:00

Thursday, Sep 04
Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas 8:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Sep 06
Chivas USA at Toronto FC 3:30
New England Revolution at Columbus Crew 7:30 HDNet
New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire 8:30 FSC/FSE
D.C. United at San Jose 10:00
Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles Galaxy 10:30

Sunday, Sep 07
Kansas City Wizards at Houston Dynamo 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Sep 11
Chivas USA at New England Revolution 7:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Sep 13
Columbus Crew at Toronto FC 3:30 Houston Dynamo at San Jose 4:00
Real Salt Lake at New York Red Bulls 7:30
FC Dallas at D.C. United 7:30 FSC/FSE
Los Angeles Galaxy at Kansas City Wizards 8:00 HDNet

Sunday, Sep 14
Chicago Fire at Colorado Rapids 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Sep 18
New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew 7:00 ESPN2

Saturday, Sep 20
Toronto FC at Kansas City Wizards 8:00 HDNet
San Jose Houston Dynamo 8:30
Chivas USA at Real Salt Lake 9:00
New England Revolution at Colorado Rapids 9:00
D.C. United at Los Angeles Galaxy 11:00 FSC/FSE

Sunday, Sep 21
FC Dallas at Chicago Fire 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Sep 25
Los Angeles Galaxy at Chicago Fire 9:00 ESPN2

Saturday, Sep 27
Houston Dynamo at Toronto FC 3:30
Colorado Rapids at New York Red Bulls 7:30
Columbus Crew at New England Revolution 7:30
Real Salt Lake at San Jose 10:00 HDNet
Kansas City Wizards at Chivas USA 10:30 FSC/FSE

Sunday, Sep 28
D.C. United at FC Dallas 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Oct 02
San Jose at FC Dallas 8:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Oct 04
Los Angeles Galaxy at Columbus Crew 7:30 HDNet
Chivas USA at D.C. United 7:30 FSC/FSE
Real Salt Lake at New England Revolution 7:30
Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls 7:30
Houston Dynamo at Colorado Rapids 9:30

Sunday, Oct 05
Chicago Fire at Kansas City Wizards 3:00 TeleFutura

Thursday, Oct 09
New York Red Bulls at Real Salt Lake 10:00 ESPN2

Saturday, Oct 11
New England Revolution at Kansas City Wizards 8:00
Toronto FC at FC Dallas 8:30 FSC/FSE
Chivas USA atSan Jose 10:00 HDNet

Sunday, Oct 12
Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire 3:00 TeleFutura
D.C. United at Houston Dynamo 7:00
Colorado Rapids at Los Angeles Galaxy 8:00

Thursday, Oct 16
New England Revolution at D.C. United 7:30 ESPN2

Saturday, Oct 18
Chicago Fire at Toronto FC, 3:30, HDNet
Columbus Crew at New York Red Bulls, 7:30
San Jose at Kansas City Wizards, 8:00
FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake, 9:00, FSC/FSE

Sunday, Oct 19
Colorado Rapids at Chivas USA, 3:00, TeleFutura
Los Angeles Galaxy at Houston Dynamo, 7:00

Thursday, Oct 23
New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire, 9:00, ESPN2

Saturday, Oct 25
Kansas City Wizards at New England Revolution, 7:30
Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids, 9:30, HDNet
Toronto FC at San Jose, 10:00
Houston Dynamo at Chivas USA, 10:30, FSC/FSE

Sunday, Oct 26
FC Dallas at Los Angeles Galaxy, 3:00, TeleFutura
D.C. United at Columbus Crew, 5:00
Conference Semis 1
Thursday, Oct. 30 - Sunday, Nov. 2, TBD
Conference Semis 2
Thursday, Nov. 6 - Sunday, Nov. 9, TBD
Conference Championship
Thursday, Nov. 13 - Sunday, Nov. 16, TBD
MLS Cup 2008
Sunday, Nov. 23, 3:30, ABC/TeleFutura

News Briefs - February 7th

While we all try to recover from last night's thrilling 2-2 tie between Mexico and the US, here are a few items making news today.

- Recap of last night's game from the Houston Chronicle's Bernardo Fallas.

- 2008 regular season schedule to be unveiled today.

- Colorado Rapids are planning a formal announcement of a player acquisition tomorrow - almost certainly D.C. United's Christian Gomez.

- FC Dallas rumored to be after Derby County midfielder Bob Malcolm and Wycombe Wanderers defender Sam Stockley, according to MLS Rumors.


USA vs Mexico - Running Blog

90 - Last-chance free kick from Donovan turned away; game ends in a 2-2 draw.

90 - Announced attendance: 70,103 (sold-out)

90 - Mexico substitution - Arce out, Villaluz in.

88 - Everybody looks out of gas on the pitch. Corrales draws an unfortunate yellow card, setting up a free kick from the right side. Mexico's free kick is headed out by Gooch. Both teams look content with a tie.

83 - Players are dropping left and right. Lewis was down in the box; also Feilhaber is holding his hand. On the other side, Arce took some time getting up. Play is continuing now.

80 - Onyewu offside on a Donovan free kick; the defender's header traveled wide anyway.

79 - USA substitution - Rico Clark out, Mo Edu in.

77 - Altidore earns yellow card for repeated shoving. Dos Santos shot blocked in traffic.

71 - Mexico substitution - Bautista and Vela out, Zinha and Dos Santos in.

70 - USA substitution - Convey out, Eddie Lewis in.

69 - Yellow card on Onyewu.

67 - Mexico substitution - De Nigris out, Cacho in.

65 - De Nigris shot weakly on frame, no trouble for Howard.

63 - Substitution USA - Adu and Feilhaber in, Dempsey and Bradley out.

60 - Vela shot at an open net deflelcted in front by Drew Moor, denying Mexico their first lead of the game.

58 - Another bad giveaway by Bradley in the midfield; Bofo Bautista eludes two defenders and then draws a foul 30 yards away from the goal. Subsequent shot is covered by Howard.

55 - Fireworks erupt as De Negris crashes through Tim Howard. A minor scuffle ensues as play advances down to the other end of the field. Dempsey tries to do too much with the ball and a pair of defenders takes him out.

53 - Altidore threatens to get a second goal of his own, but his header flashes wide of the far post as he's taken out from behind.

47 - MEXICO GOAL - Magallon scores again on a set piece, as Vela's corner kick got flicked on before Magallon put it away in the roof of the goal. The two sides are again even, 2-2.

46 - A quick start to the half as Carlos Vela fires a low shot just wide of the net.

A slow start to the game built throughout the half, with the U.S. actually creating some decent chances over the last 15 minutes. The score should definitely be 3-1, but due to some horrendous officiating, the U.S. lead stands at one as the second half gets underway.

Update: Bob Bradley says referees called the Dempsey goal back because of offsides, though there was clearly never a point in the play where such a call would have made any sense. Awful call. Terrible.

45 - Bradley draws yellow just before the halftime whistle. Game heads into halftime with US leading 2-1.

44 - Corrales goes down, giving both sides a chance to calm the chaotic play of the past 10 minutes.

42 - USA goal from Clint Dempsey called back; Deuce turned and fired a bouncing shot past Ochoa from the top of the box - still unsure why the goal was called off. Game remains tied.

40 - USA GOAL - Jozy Altidore with a screaming header on a spot-on cross from Moor. US retakes the lead minutes before halftime.

38 - Salcido draws a yellow card for a harsh tackle on Donovan, taking the Galaxy star out at the ankles.

37 - Howard again called to make a save on a circus shot from Arce.

35 - MEXICO GOAL - Pardo free kick from the right side is put away by Magallon. It looks like Drew Moor is the one who lost his man in the scrum.

29 - USA GOAL - Oguchi Onyewu. Following a long throw-in from Gooch that Ochoa punched away, Donovan sends a looping ball back into the box, where Onyewu's awkward header finds the corner of the goal past a stunned Ochoa.

27 - Dempsey turns and shoots from the right side of the box, but Ochoa is easily able to smother the attempt.

23 - Defensive lapse by Drew Moor leads to another Mexican scoring opportunity, but the resulting shot is skied over the bar.

22 - Salcido's 25-yard rocket shot from the left side stopped by a diving Howard. The Everton keeper is forced into making a save on a De Nigris shot from the right just seconds later.

18 - Parkhurst is warming up on the sidelines, but Bocanegra is now up and appears to be able to continue.

17 - Bocanegra and Howard collide on a dangerous ball into the box. The Fulham defender is still down.

16 - Altidore appeared to beat Marquez to a ball over-the-top, but a timely dive by the Mexican defender drew a late whistle.

12 - US struggling to hold the ball for more than five consecutive touches; Deuce run down the left broken up by a pair of El Tri defenders.

9 - Donovan free kick fails to clear the first defender; subsequent attack leads to US shot, deflected in traffic.

8 - The absence of DaMarcus Beasley is already being felt; Bobby Convey tried to take on a defender one-on-one on the left side, but got completely stuffed.

6 - US has committed a series of bad fouls early; Mexico is ratcheting up the pressure.

3 - Both teams feeling each other out; Mexico has had the majority of possession, but can't string anything together yet.

Pre-game preparations are underway. Here are the starting lineups from Houston.

GK - Tim Howard
D - Drew Moor
D - Oguchi Onyewu
D - Carlos Bocanegra
D - Ramiro Corrales
M - Ricardo Clark
M - Landon Donovan
M - Michael Bradley
M - Bobby Convey
F - Clint Dempsey
F - Jozy Altidore

Ochoa, Salcido, Marquez, Magallon, Castro, Arce, Pardo, Torrado, Vela, De Nigris, Bautista

My prediction: USA 2 - Mexico 1

Aston Villa Still Want Guzan

Though Brad Guzan's move to Aston Villa was thwarted due to his inability to secure a work permit, the English club has revealed that they will continue pursuing the Chivas USA goalkeeper, with an eye on landing the 23-year-old during the summer transfer window. Head coach Martin O'Neill has also expressed frustration over the process that denied the young American a move to his club."We wanted to try and get Brad Guzan in because I believe he has got really good ability," said O'Neill. "He wanted to come to Aston Villa, which was really encouraging, but his appeal for a work permit was turned down. They do not tell you why, six people sit in on it and take a vote. I am certainly going to have a look at it again in the future. If you are talking about the keepers that America has produced, then he is in line with those."


Tomorrow: US vs MEX Running Blog

Update: For those of you who won't be close to your television sets tomorrow night, The MLS Zone will be offering a running commentary and analysis of the minute-by-minute action in the U.S.-Mexico clash. The match is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. CST and will air on ESPN2.

Last Season for Diego Gutierrez

Chicago Fire midfielder Diego Gutierrez said on Monday that the 2008 season will be his last. One of just two players on the club's current roster who was also with the Fire during their inaugural season in 1998, the 35-year-old Gutierrez has announced that he will retire after this season.
"I was very close to calling it a career three weeks ago," said Gutierrez. "I was done, mentally speaking. I wasn't sure which direction the franchise was going at that point and the roster looked a lot different. I had a lot of opportunities for other business ventures as well.

"When [the Fire] put the coaching staff together, I decided it was maybe time to give it one more run. Denis and I see soccer in the same way. I'm more excited for this season than I have been for any other season since coming into the league.

"I'm happy I will retire with the Fire jersey. I have the Fire logo tattooed on my heart."

The Bogota, Colombia native has split his 12-year MLS career between the Fire and the Kansas City Wizards, making 296 appearances and scoring 13 goals with 45 assists. He was selected to the All-Star team in 2001, playing the entire second-half of the game, and has made it to the post-season in all but two of his years in the league. He will be looked upon in 2008 to bring veteran leadership and solid play to the midfield under new head coach Denis Hamlett.

Friedel Gets Contract Extension

American goalkeeper Brad Friedel has agreed to a contract extension with Blackburn Rovers, a move that will keep him playing at Ewood Park until at least June of 2010, reaching a decade with the club.

"I'm delighted to have extended the agreement by a further 12 months," said the 36-year-old Friedel. "It was not a difficult decision to make. Blackburn Rovers is home to me. This is my club and I have a special affinity with it."Friedel has been with the Premier League outfit since 2000 and recently celebrated his 300th appearance in the league. He has played every minute of league action for the club this season, leading them to a 10-6-9 record, good for eighth-best in the league.

He was a force in American soccer in the late '90s and early '00s, making 82 appearances for the US MNT between 1992-2005. He was also named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year while with the the Columbus Crew in 1997 and U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year in 2002.

Bid to Block KC Development Project Abandoned

The petition drive to block Kansas City's Bannister Mall redevelopment has been abandoned by organizer Richard Tolbert due to a stunning lack of support. Of the 8,475 signatures required to call for a vote on blocking the project, businessman Tolbert turned in two - yes, just TWO - and informed the city clerk that there would be no other signatures forthcoming.The city council recently approved the near-$1 billion plan, which calls for the construction of an 18,500-seat soccer stadium that would become the home of the Wizards, as well as 12 youth fields, a hotel, and retail and office space by 2010.

Tolbert had said that he and other business owners had joined together in the bid to resurrect the run-down mall site, insisting that the area could be turned into a thriving black business hub with proper management.

"This seemed like it was all a game to Mr. Tolbert," said Councilman John Sharp. "I think people were extremely upset that a group that didn't even live in this area could hold up a project so important to us by turning in two signatures."


QPR Picks Up Pickens

Luis Arroyave is reporting on his blog The Red Card that goalkeeper Matt Pickens has signed with Queens Park Rangers of the Football League Championship after turning down an offer from the Chicago Fire.Pickens, 25, had been with the Fire since 2004 but wasn't a regular starter until last season. In 27 games, he posted a 9-8-10 record to go along with a 1.15 GAA in 2007, a good enough performance to merit the attention of U.S. MNT coach Bob Bradley last month. While in his first camp with the senior national team, however, he decided to leave early to go on trial with a handful of English clubs, a move that has apparently paid dividends for the 19th overall selection in the 2004 SuperDraft.


While the international transfer window closed last week, Major League Soccer operates by a slightly different set of rules. The league's transfer window runs through April 15, meaning MLS teams are still free to sign and negotiate transfer fees for players from other clubs before that deadline. For instance, Chivas USA completed the transfer of Raphael Wicky from FC Sion just today.

With that in mind, there are stories linking several international players with an MLS move this morning. Here are the links to a few of them.

Andre Rocha - Clube Atletico Paranaense to FC Dallas (loan)

Lars Ricken - Borussia Dortmund to Columbus Crew

Tomasz Frankowski - unaffiliated to Chicago Fire (trial)


McBride Makes Return

American striker Brian McBride has made his return to the Fulham lineup, coming on in the 70th minute of his club's vital 2-1 victory over Aston Villa this weekend.McBride, 35, had been sidelined since mid-August with a dislocated left kneecap, but showed no signs of the injury in a mid-week friendly against Cardiff City, prompting manager Roy Hodgson to bring the former U.S. international on late in the second-half.

"Brian has done extremely well to be back so early from the injury," said Hodgson. "He's worked very, very hard at it. It was good that he played 90 minutes on Wednesday and I thought the longer the game went on the happier he looked on the field."

McBride has become one of the Cottagers most popular players, and led the club with 12 goals last season. They will look to him - as well as fellow Americans Eddie Johnson, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Kasey Keller - to lead a late-season resurgence needed to keep the club from being relegated. Their win on Sunday moves the club to within a single point of Reading, who currently holds the last spot in safety.

Budding Supporters Groups

With the topic of MLS expansion on everyone's radar, we thought we'd pass on links to three budding supporters groups, in case you live in the area and are interested in joining their cause. Also, check out MLS Underground - a fantastic sounding board for supporters groups on the net.

If you have a supporters group in a city that does not currently have an MLS team, send The MLS Zone your website's link and we'll gladly pass it on to our readers.

Here are a few that have been brought to our attention:

Miami - www.miamisoccerfan.com

Philadelphia - www.sonsofben.net

St. Louis - www.gatewaycitysupportersclub.org

New York - www.boroughboysnyc.com


Rumor: Raphael Wicky to Chivas USA

Several reports tonight indicate that Chivas USA is prepared to sign defensive midfielder Raphael Wicky.
The 30-year-old Swiss international is currently playing for FC Sion in his native Switzerland after losing his place in the first team at Hamburger SV. He has also played for Werder Bremen and Atletico Madrid in his career, but is preparing to move to Major League Soccer at this hour. Wicky actually trained with Chivas in August of last year, but ultimately returned to Europe, despite drawing interest from several MLS teams.

Wicky has been capped 75 times for the Swiss national team and performed well for the Nati in World Cup 2006, as Switzerland was the only team in the tournament that did not concede a goal during regulation - though they were ultimately dumped out of the tournament in penalty kicks by Ukraine in the round of 16. Wicky was also called up for the European Championships in 1996 and 2004, and could again appear in the competition this year, as Switzerland automatically qualified for Euro '08 as a co-hosting country.

Section 8 to Expand

Members of the Chicago Fire supporters group rejoice: Section 8 will be expanding to two seating sections for the 2008 season. Section 117 will be added as the newest part of the standing-room-only home of Section 8 supporters, joining current location Section 118, which sold out for 13 of the Fire's 15 home games last year, prompting the addition."By expanding our supporters seating, we recognized the growing passionate support that you'd expect from fans of the Chicago Fire," said team president John Guppy. "We hope that, in time, Toyota Park will be filled to the brim with the same energetic, diehard fan base we've come to expect from Section 8.

If you live in the Chicago area and are interested in joining the group or finding out more about them, check out www.section8chicago.com.