Los Angeles Soccer: Alvaro Saborio
The Galaxy let a late two-goal lead slip away in a 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake in their Major League Soccer opener three months ago, the first big stumble in their horrid start to 2012.
L.A. got payback Wednesday night, rallying from a two-goal first-half deficit for a 3-2 victory in Sandy, Utah, notching back-to-back victories for the first time in a month and just the second time all year.
It's just the second Galaxy win in 10 Utah meetings and their first at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Landon Donovan ran onto a brilliant ball from Mike Magee and finished into an open net in the 68th minute to deliver all three points to the Galaxy (5-8-2), who ended a seven-game MLS winless streak with a win Sunday over Portland.
“That's a good win, man,” Donovan said on KDOC's telecast. “We felt a little unjust by what happened at our place a little earlier in the year when they won, and we wanted to get a little revenge. And then we also know if we can manage to get into the playoffs, which we're still pushing for, this might be a place we have to come later, so we wanted to put on a good show.”
Real Salt Lake (10-4-2) remains atop the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield standings. The Galaxy climbed from seventh to sixth place, but will drop back if Chivas USA draws or beats Montreal in a late game Wednesday. That game is tied, 1-1, at halftime.
This Galaxy victory wasn't as simple as Sunday's: Uncharacteristic errors by RSL's backline let L.A. back into the game after falling behind, 2-0, by the 24th minute, and it was on the back foot mostly until Magee netted the equalizer five minutes into the second half.
Defensive breakdowns cost the Galaxy, which went behind in the ninth minute when Kyle Beckerman finished a low cross from Fabian Espindola, who also fed Alvaro Saborio for the second goal in the 24th.
CARSON -- Chivas USA has been punished for mistakes all season -- it's a recurring theme for the Goats, and so is how they create so little from a goodly amount of possession.
Both were at play Saturday night, when they ran into a stronger, more precise and -- because of Chivas' unexpected win back in March -- more pumped up Real Salt Lake side, which used its every advantage to post a 3-0 victory before an announced 13,816 at Home Depot Center.
Fabian Espindola scored on each side of halftime and Will Johnson added a stoppage-time strike as RSL (10-3-2, 32 points) extended its unbeaten streak to seven games, became the first MLS club with double-digit wins and restored its lead atop the Supporters' Shield standings after D.C. United had grabbed the top spot a few hours earlier.
An uncharacteristic error from goalkeeper Dan Kennedy led to the first goal, RSL's transition game tore a hole in Chivas' midfield for the second, and the Goats had no answer, struggling again to accomplish something worthwhile in the final third.
“That's been, I'd say, our Achilles all year,” said left back Ante Jazic, who was involved in the error on RSL's opener. “I mean, we do a great job getting to the final third, and then that last pass or the final cross or the final product is lacking.
“It's coming. I think we're playing better as a team in general, but the toughest thing to do in this game is score, and we definitely have to start scoring some goals.”
It's the sixth time in 14 games Chivas (4-7-3, 15 points) has been shut out this season -- and the fifth time in eight home games. Only Toronto FC and Philadelphia, the two worst teams in MLS, have fewer than the Goats' nine goals.
Chivas created virtually nothing worth noting until it was down by two goals, and only Juan Agudelo's 85th-minute header from a Ryan Smith cross tested RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“Certainly, we have players that we think are good players, and we have to be able to execute,” Goats coach Robin Fraser said. “Tonight we didn't execute in the attacking end, and we took stretches of possession and didn't turn them into dangerous chances.
“I do feel like we've had this conversation many times.”
CARSON -- Bruce Arena figured he'd made a mistake almost from the start. The fatigue in his team, most of which had gone the distance three nights earlier in a more vital match at Toronto, was evident, the opponent was good, and he had only three substitutions in his arsenal.
With sharper play in front, the Galaxy might have been ahead by three or four goals, perhaps more, by the time they finally struck, with about 20 minutes to go. Not two minutes later, Real Salt Lake had pulled even, and then things fell apart.
Arena took the blame for Saturday night's 3-1 loss in L.A.'s Major League Soccer opener, a defeat that ended a 25-match Home Depot Center unbeaten streak, spoiled a celebratory occasion -- with the club unveiling banners commemorating last year's MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield triumphs -- and revealed weakness where there was none in its championship campaign.
Sean Franklin's 73rd-minute own goal, off a dipping, spinning cross by Sebastian Velasquez, was followed in quick succession by goals from Javier Morales and Fabian Espindola as the Galaxy, so good at killing games the past three years, crumpled at the finish.
“We were obviously a tired team tonight,” Arena said after L.A. dropped its first opener since 2007, when Frank Yallop was in charge. “I think we still could have won this game, and I think this game is on me. It's my fault. I should have used fresher bodies. We hit the wall and made mistakes attributable to fatigue.
“I think the travel [to and from Toronto] and two games this week added up to being a pretty tired team over the last 20 minutes, and it cost us the game, and I take full responsibility for that.”
Arena's sin? Not rotating his lineup nearly enough from the side he sent out for Wednesday night's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg in Toronto. The Galaxy rallied for a 2-2 draw in that game, and nine of the players who went the full 90 on Rogers Centre's artificial turf were given another full 90 against RSL.
“This time of year,” Arena conceded, “players aren't fit enough to be playing that much.”
CARSON -- David Beckham hooked up with Mike Magee for the third straight playoff game, and the Galaxy is headed back to the MLS Cup final.
Magee's header 13 minutes into the second half broke open a tight tactical battle and sent the Galaxy toward a 3-1 triumph over Real Salt Lake in Sunday night's in the Western Conference final at Home Depot Center.
Robbie Keane tallied on a breakaway in the 68th minute, outbattling surprise starter Jamison Olave to finish inside the right post to increase the lead.
Landon Donovan converted a 23rd-minute penalty kick after Andy Williams bundled into Omar Gonzalez from behind as he nodded a Donovan cross over the bar. RSL pulled even less than two minutes later when Olave, who passes a pregame fitness test, nodded Javier Morales' corner kick into the center, and Alvaro Saborio headed it home.
Fabian Espindola nearly tied the score again seconds after Magee's strike, but his blast from the left caromed off the crossbar and out of danger. Keane and RSL's Kyle Beckerman hit posts in the first half, and Josh Saunders made a superb reaction save on Robbie Russell after a Morales corner kick.
Magee, who scored from Beckham serves in both first-round playoff victories over New York, scored the lone Galaxy goal in a penalty-kicks loss to RSL in the 2009 MLS Cup, the last time L.A. got so far.
The Galaxy, who will make their seventh title-game appearance looking to add to trophies captured in 2002 and 2005, take on the Houston Dynamo in the Nov. 20 championship at HDC. The Dynamo beat Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, in the Eastern Conference final but lost MVP candidate Brad Davis to a season-ending thigh injury.
AEG, the Galaxy's owner, owns about half of the Texas club, along with a group led by boxer Oscar de la Hoya.
Alvaro Saborio scored twice and Real Salt Lake came out winners in their Major League Soccer playoff opener Saturday, routing visiting Seattle, 3-0, in the first leg of the most widely anticipated first-round series.
Saborio finished a Chris Wingert feed in the 41st minute, on a play in which he appeared offside, then scored a glorious second goal in the 53rd, backheeling into the net Javier Morales' ball to the near post despite blanket coverage by Sounders defender Jeff Parke.
Ned Grabavoy added the third in the 88th.
Real Salt Lake finished third in MLS's overall standings, and Seattle was second. The winner of the the home-and-home, total-goals series will meet the Galaxy or New York in the Nov. 6 Western Conference final.
Both of Real Salt Lake's central defenders -- Jamison Olave (quad strain) and Nat Borchers (knee strain) -- departed with injuries, and their statuses for Wednesday's second leg in Seattle are uncertain.
The Sounders should be facing more of a handicap than just a three-goal deficit. Osvaldo Alonso should have been red-carded for shoving Saborio in the face away from the ball in the 54th minute, but referee Mark Geiger pulled out the yellow card. The league could assess a suspension for the second leg.
CARSON -- Chivas USA gave up a horrid early goal, went a man up not long afterward and followed with perhaps their finest possession soccer of the season in a debilitating 1-0 loss Saturday night to visiting Real Salt Lake. It didn't add up to much.
There was a lot of good and just enough bad to derail the Goats in the disappointing loss, a result that leaves them scrambling as they seek some way into Major League Soccer's playoffs.
Chivas (7-10-10), which with a victory would have vaulted into 10th place -- just inside MLS's postseason zone -- finds itself in 12th with just one win in its last six games and no goals in five of its last eight.
“We're not doing ourselves any favors ...,” said left back Ante Jazic, whose misplayed back pass led to Alvaro Saborio's 11th-minute goal for RSL. “We still hold our fate in our own hands, but we have to start picking up points soon. That's for sure.”
Chivas was superb from the moment Saborio fired into an open net until the halftime whistle blew, holding nearly constant possession -- especially after RSL center back Nat Borchers was red-carded in the 24th minute for a last-man foul on Nick LaBrocca just outside the Utahns' box.
They had some chances -- the best: Juan Pablo Angel hit the crossbar, and his late blast and LaBrocca's glancing header tested RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando -- but not nearly enough for all the time they had the ball, and nearly nothing in a chaotic second half.
“You can't be a man up for that long and not score a goal,” said Chivas coach Robin Fraser, who fell to his old boss -- RSL coach Jason Kreis -- for the second time this season. “That's the story of the game.”
Even worse, the Goats lost star center back Heath Pearce to a probable torn right hamstring in the second half.
A quick look at Chivas' defeat:
BEST PLAYER: Chivas got outstanding performances in the first half from midfielders LaBrocca, Blair Gavin and Simon Elliott, who set the tone for the Goats' domination by winning nearly every battle they entered and with precise, pretty ball movement that kept RSL on its heels from when they scored until halftime.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez's tournament-best sixth goal, a nifty little backheel in the 66th minute, sent El Tri to a 2-1 triumph over surprising Guatemala. The Chapines scored early and bunkered in, but they couldn't keep Mexico's high-power attack dormant beyond halftime in front of 78,807 in East Rutherford, N.J.
Honduras prevailed in the best game so far in the Gold Cup, clipping fellow Central American giant Costa Rica on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio takes the brunt of blame for the Ticos after missing a second-half spot kick and again in the tiebreaker.
A quick look at the 14th day in the region's championship:
CHICHARITO, OF COURSE: Hernandez, the Manchester United star who just turned 23, is CONCACAF's biggest star and best player, and his cheeky winner was his 20th goal in just 27 international matches.
Former Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz, now with the Philadelphia Union, gave Guatemala a fifth-minute lead, but the Chapines' defensive tactics couldn't close off the Mexicans, who dominated most of the action to advance to Wednesday's semifinals in Houston against Honduras.
Ruiz volleyed over goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera as he fell at the top of the box, a superb use of his body to place the ball inside the right post after beating Rafa Marquez to a long ball into the box.
Aldo de Nigris, a halftime substitute, scored the equalizer less than three minutes into the second half, slipping home a rebound after goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez rejected Hector Moreno's header and defender Carlos Gallardo swept Moreno's follow-up off the goal line.
COSTA RICA SPOT OFF: Honduras reached the final four primarily because its exactness at the penalty spot couldn't be matched by Costa Rica. The Catrachos weathered one penalty kick in regulation and prevailed on the PK shootout at the end when their Central American rival twice struck the crossbar.
Group A favorites Mexico and Costa Rica were big winners in Texas tournament openers as day one of the CONCACAF Gold Cup failed to provide much in the way of competition.
Both romped to 5-0 victories Sunday in front of 80,000-plus at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to take command of the group, setting up already a June 12 showdown in the group finale in Chicago.
A quick look at the first day of group play in the region's nations championship:
CHICHA-GOL-GOL-GOL: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez capped Mexico's 5-0 drilling of El Salvador with a hat trick -- his 15th, 16th and 17th international goals, in just 24 appearances -- but things were far tighter than that suggests.
El Tri didn't score until a fortunate bounce off Efrain Juarez provided a 55th-minute lead, and they netted three more in the next 12 minutes.
Worth noting: Aldo de Nigris tallied less than a minute after coming on as a second-half substitute, and Hernandez wrapped his trio with a penalty kick deep in stoppage after El Salvador's Marvin Gonzalez was red-carded for bowling him over.
TICOS TOO FAST: Costa Rica's 5-0 rout of Cuba was even more emphatic, with the Ticos repeatedly sprinting past the islanders' backline and making the runs count.
All five goals came on quick counterattacks, the last four from through balls or passes over the top that left, in order, Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio, Marcos Ureña (with his second of the evening), Heiner Mora and Mora again one-on-one with Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina.
The finale was the goal of the night, with Joel Campbell smashing Mora's cross first-time from an abrupt angle into the top corner at the far post.
DAY 2 HIGHLIGHT: Jamaica and Honduras both have designs on semifinal berths or better. Expect them to impress like Mexico and Costa Rica, be disappointed if they don't.
- THE GAMES
Group A (at Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas)
Costa Rica 5 (Ureña 9, 46, Saborio 41, Mora 47, Campbell 71), Cuba 0
Mexico 5 (Juarez 55, de Nigris 58, J. Hernandez 60, 67, pen. 93+)
Group B (at Home Depot Center, Carson)
Jamaica vs. Grenada, 6 p.m. TV: Galavision
Honduras vs. Guatemala, 8 p.m. TV: TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
Group C (at Ford Field, Detroit)
Panama vs. Guadeloupe, 3 p.m. TV: Galavision
United States vs. Canada, 5 p.m. TV: Fox Soccer Channel and TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
The CONCACAF Gold Cup begins Sunday, with a Costa Rica-Cuba/Mexico-El Salvador doubleheader in front of a sellout crowd at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and plenty is at stake.
There's the trophy, to be sure, plus the berth in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup -- that's the real prize, as the U.S., a 2009 Confederations finalist, can report -- and spirited competition to prepare for the start of qualifying for the next World Cup.
More vital could be the tournament's role in restoring credibility to CONCACAF, which is on its third president in a week after FIFA's corruption scandal exploded in the Caribbean.
HEAVY INTRIGUE: It's been a wild week in the soccer world, and especially the confederation's New York offices, since a FIFA investigation into charges levied by CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer that CONCACAF President Jack Warner, of Trinidad & Tobago, and fellow FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hamman offered cash to Caribbean officials in exchange for votes in Wednesday's FIFA presidential election.
Warner and bin Hamman were suspended last weekend by FIFA's Ethics Committee -- bin Hamman was forced to withdraw from the election, and Sepp Blatter, unopposed, was reelected -- and Barbadan Lisle Austin took over as acting CONCACAF president. His first order was to dismiss Blazer, an American, leading to a legal skirmish, with the confederation telling Austin he didn't have the power to fire Blazer and Austin accusing Blazer of trespassing and stealing company resources by continuing at his job.
It hid a head Thursday, with Austin suspended -- and claiming his suspension wasn't legal -- Honduran Alfredo Hawit taking charge, and Blazer still on the job. Expect more fireworks shortly.
Chivas USA failed at the finish Saturday, and no shame in that. They had held mighty Real Salt Lake scoreless on the road into the 87th minute despite playing most of the game with only nine men.
Red cards, both deserved, defined Robin Fraser's Salt Lake City homecoming, with Chivas' impressive defensive display shuttled on Will Johnson's finish with five minutes to go, stoppage included.
The Goats (2-3-2) looked good before losing center back Andy Boyens to a second yellow card after just 25 minutes and Marcos Mondaini to a straight red in the 38th for a gruesome foul that cost Major League Soccer its third major star in little more than two weeks.
Real Salt Lake playmaker Javier Morales suffered what the club's doctor called a “fracture dislocation of his left ankle and accompanying ligament tears,” will require surgery and be out an expected four months. He follows to the sidelines Seattle's Steve Zakuani, out for the year because of a broken leg, and FC Dallas' David Ferreira, done for three months because of a fractured ankle.
This one wasn't nearly as ugly as Colorado midfielder Brian Mullan's attack on Zakuani, which drew a 10-game ban, but it was as difficult to watch -- and, like Zakuani's injury, was televised on a national network. (Spanish-language TeleFutura, which regaled/sickened viewers with repeated replays.)
Morales, MLS's premier attacking midfielder, was dribbling right to left above the Chivas USA box with his Argentine countryman Mondaini in pursuit but getting nowhere near position to knock the ball away. Finally, Mondaini swept Morales from behind, folding the RSL star's left leg underneath as they fell forward. Morales' foot bent sideways as he wailed in torment.
Referee Paul Ward initially gave Mondaini a yellow card -- ridiculous; the challenge was from behind, and that's a red card -- switching colors only after seeing the extent of Morales' injury. The expulsion is accompanied by a one-game suspension, but MLS's disciplinary committee can, and likely will, add a few games to the total. The league wants to appear strong on these kinds of tackles, and it has set a standard with Mullan's penalty.
Not even RSL thinks the fouls compare.
“To be honest, I didn’t think it was the most flagrant of fouls,” coach Jason Kreis told media afterward. “It was from behind, which we’re trying to get out of the game. It’s in the attacking third, and Javi was clearly getting ready to shoot. I understand the urgency of the situation from the defender trying to make the play, and I really don’t think it was that egregious.”
Landon Donovan is gone. So is Alvaro Saborio. You call this a marquee match?
It's hardly the ideal circumstances for a start-of-the-season showdown between Major League Soccer's two best teams, but the Galaxy isn't worrying that their captain and most influential player is missing for Saturday night's game at Real Salt Lake.
“If you're worried about missing players, then we shouldn't have played the first two games,” said head coach Bruce Arena, who was without four starters for last week's season-opening win at Seattle and without three for the draw with New England that followed. “Nothing changes. You just go along with your business.”
Donovan is off with the U.S. national team, which has CONCACAF Gold Cup preps Saturday against Argentina in East Rutherford, N.J., and Tuesday vs. Paraguay in Nashville, Tenn. Saborio, Real Salt Lake's primary goal-getter, also is on national-team duty, with Costa Rica.
Most leagues take off during FIFA's international fixture dates, when national team matches are scheduled, but MLS hasn't been able to match its calendar to FIFA's.
“It's wrong. There's no two ways about it,” David Beckham, who will serve as captain in Donovan's absence, said following practice Thursday. “You shouldn't have international games while league games are going on, it's simple as that. But it happens, unfortunately, and you have to accommodate that. …
“I think we've got players in the squad that will come in and do a great job and do a job that Landon would be proud of, as well. I think it's important that we don't worry about the players that we're missing (but rather) concentrate on the players that will be playing and starting.”
With the Major League Soccer season more or less behind us -- more trades to come from the expansion draft perhaps, and there's the re-entry draft coming up, and the Galaxy still has the friendly in Australia, but other than that -- here's one man's All-Major League Soccer 2010 selections:MVP
David Ferreira (FC Dallas)
The most important player in the league couldn't quite get his club to the MLS Cup title, but he came close. The Colombian playmaker was at the heart of everything the Hoops accomplished.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Schellas Hyndman (FC Dallas)
I was all for New York's Hans Backe until the Red Bulls choked at home against San Jose and Hyndman unveiled a perfect game plan to beat the Galaxy in the Western Conference final. His 2½-year rebuild of FC Dallas was absolutely masterful.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Kevin Hartman (FC Dallas)
The Palos Verdes product (Peninsula HS/UCLA) had the greatest goalkeeping season in league history, his record 0.62 goals-against average merely hints at how good he was. Nobody made bigger, more brilliant saves.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)
The Costa Rican forward added dimensions to RSL's attack, turning MLS's champion into, arguably, its best team. He netted a dozen goals in MLS play, plus another six to prod the Utahns to next year's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Andy Najar (D.C. United)
The most electrifying player in MLS is a 17-year-old Honduran winger who might soon be starring for the U.S. national team. Oh, we hope so.
SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR
Steve Zakuani (Seattle Sounders FC)
The Congo-born, London-raised, Akron-educated winger needed one full season to get his bearings in MLS, but he took over in year two, scoring 11 goals to lead the Sounders' attack. A rare blend of speed, power, skill, brains and incomparable self-confidence.
GK Kevin Hartman (FC Dallas): For all Ferreira did, with no Hartman, Dallas doesn't come near MLS Cup.
D Heath Pearce (FC Dallas): Turned his disappointment over missing the World Cup into a stellar season -- and on the right rather than at his usual spot at left back.
D Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake): Smart, regal center back provided the foundation that enables the MLS Defender of the Year next to him to do all the risky stuff that attracts so much attention.
D Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake): Tremendous athlete willing to try things other defenders won't. When it doesn't work, it's ugly; when it does, glorious.
D Jair Benitez (FC Dallas): Hoops' right back was the best attacking back in the league.
M Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes): Won the Golden Boot with 18 goals to carry, almost single-handedly, the Quakes into the postseason for the first time since the relaunch.
M Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids): His partnership in the middle with Pablo Mastoeni provided the foundation for Colorado's success. And nobody was better in the MLS Cup final.
M David Ferreira (FC Dallas): The league's premier playmaker wonderfully orchestrated the Hoops' dynamic attack. Virtually unstoppable.
M Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy): Played provider more than scorer and led the league in assists (with 16), but more impressive: His defensive play and his peerless ability to turn the transition.
F Edson Buddle (L.A. Galaxy): Big, strong, fast and technical, Buddle was the best finisher in the league, scoring 19 goals (playoffs included) and winning a role at the World Cup in South Africa.
F Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids): The Jamaican forward's pace made him the most feared attacker in MLS, and his connection with Conor Casey was pivotal in the Rapids' stunning championship run.
Others we liked ... a lot:
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Sean Franklin (L.A. Galaxy), Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas)
Midfielders: Daniel Hernandez (FC Dallas), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia), Joel Lindpere (New York), Steve Zakuani (Seattle), Bobby Convey (San Jose)
Forwards: Fredy Montero (Seattle), Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake), Conor Casey (Colorado)
San Jose winger Bobby Convey, whose phenomenal performance last week prodded the Earthquakes past the New York Red Bulls and into Saturday's Eastern Conference final against the Colorado Rapids, is the Comeback Player of the Year. Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio, who scored 12 league goals and six more to lead the Utahns into next year's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, is Newcomer of the Year. New York midfielder Seth Stammler is Humanitarian of the Year.
There were no Galaxy or Chivas USA finalists in any of the categories. L.A. forward Edson Buddle and Chivas midfielder Michael Lahoud were nominated for the Humanitarian honor.
Fan voting for Goal of the Year and Save of the Year continues through 8:59 p.m. PT on Thursday.
Major League Soccer's playoffs kicked off Thursday night, and it went just the way so many of us expected, with Omar Cummings running riot over the Columbus Crew.
Cummings' Colorado Rapids are a popular pick to reach the Eastern Conference final, even go further. That would fit nicely into an enduring (and somewhat aggravating) theme: The rise of the minnow.
The past two MLS Cup finals featured “crossover” clubs -- teams that were shuttled over to the other conference's postseason bracket after finishing outside the top four in its conference, then, somehow, pulled off two upsets to get through.
New York was fifth in the East in 2008, but it was the “Western” champ after stunning defending champ Houston and beating Real Salt Lake before falling to Eastern rival Columbus in the title game at Home Depot Center. Real Salt Lake's championship run last year started in the East -- the Utahns were fifth in the West -- with upsets of the Crew and Chicago before the penalty-kicks triumph over the Galaxy in Seattle.
Teammate Landon Donovan, who won the award last year and led MLS in assists this season, isn't.
Buddle, who won the Galaxy's MVP honor over Donovan, is contending with FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira and San Jose forward/midfielder Chris Wondolowski for the league's top award. It's a wide-open contest. My vote went: 1. Ferreira; 2. Donovan; 3. Wondolowski.
Omar Gonzalez is a finalist for Defender of the Year, with Real Salt Lake's Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers (my vote: 1. Olave; 2. Borchers; 3. FCD's George John), and Donovan Ricketts is up for Goalkeeper of the Year with UCLA products Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS) of FCD and Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS) of RSL (my vote: 1. Hartman; 2. Rimando; 3. Ricketts).