Los Angeles Soccer: Gale Agbossoumonde
Chivas USA should have gotten more from its early dominance in Tuesday's night's U.S. Open Cup clash, but that's to be expected. The Goats have a knack for not taking advantage of their chances -- or not creating chances from their possession.
They got one goal, a beautiful header from Juan Agudelo, and then ran into some fortune at the finish, and so they'll play on into the quarterfinals of the 99-year-old knockout tournament, and do so at home.
Juan Pablo Angel converted a penalty kick in the third minute of stoppage to deliver a 2-1 third-round triumph over the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C. The Goats advance to a June 26 final-eight matchup with the Charlotte Eagles, a third-tier side from the USL Pro that beat the second-division San Antonio Scorpions, 2-1, in overtime.
Chivas' victory was neither simple nor particularly impressive, at least not after the break.
“I thought we started well,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “We created quite a few chances, were able to put them on their heels. We probably didn't do well enough with our opportunities early on. ... We came out the second half and didn't put together a whole lot, but real credit to the group for coming out with a lot of resiliency after their goal.”
The Goats looked good in the first half, moving the ball swiftly through Peter Vagenas in midfield and feeding off a sensational first half-hour, especially, from Agudelo. The big teenager's movement flummoxed the RailHawks, and his strength overpowered them.
He generated several opportunities -- the best: setting up Laurent Courtois to fire just over the crossbar in the 16th minute, firing to force a tough save by former FC Dallas goalkeeper Ray Burse a minute later, nodding a cross that Burse somehow kept out in the 25th -- and should have scored in the 18th, when he delayed his shot and the opening disappeared.
Agudelo tallied in the 31st from a Courtois cross with a sharp, glancing header from the edge of the 6-yard box across the goalmouth and into the right-post netting.
“He was finding a lot of good spaces,” Fraser said. “He was very, very difficult for them to deal with, running in behind, holding off guys, running at guys. That activity was very important for us.”
The Galaxy heads into Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup game in North Carolina without seven starters, and that includes David Beckham, all three established backliners and those two big names who are off playing for their national teams.
It's a reserve side they'll field for the third-round game against the Carolina RailHawks, but that no reflection on how much L.A. wants to win. Nor the clamor to watch them try to do so.
Winning a third title in America's biggest cup competition would be nice, sure, but the Galaxy could use any sort of victory about now. They're at the bottom of Major League Soccer's Western Conference (at 3-8-2) after failing to win in their last seven MLS games -- with four losses in their last five outings.
And stars or no stars, the fans around Raleigh and Durham snapped up the tickets as soon as they went on sale, all 8,000-plus, with the RailHawks adding a temporary stand to increase capacity at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
“We know it’s a tough environment to play against,” Galaxy forward Edson Buddle told media in Cary on Monday. “I heard there’s going to be a few more people at the game than normal. ... It seems every team we play against, they really look forward to this game, and they raise their game.”
The RailHawks will need to. They're 0-4-5 in the second-tier North American Soccer League, and they've been struggling since former manager Martin Rennie, two-thirds through last season, was announced last August as the Vancouver Whitecaps' future coach, a deal took effect in November. Carolina was the NASL's best team at the time, and it is 4-10-6 since.
Colin Clarke, who guided the Puerto Rico Islanders (with Galaxy goalkeeper Bill Gaudette) past L.A. in the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round two years ago, is trying to restore some luster to the RailHawks. He's got an experienced roster, with nine former MLS players -- including veteran forward Jason Garey, who spent five years with Columbus and last season at Houston, plus former FC Dallas/Columbus goalkeeper Ray Burse and former New England forward Zack Schilawski -- and former U.S. youth national team star Gale Agbossoumonde, on loan from Portugal's Estoril Praia.
“We have a lot of talent, a lot of guys who played in MLS,” former Colorado/San Jose/Kansas City midfielder Amir Lowery told local media. “We’re not necessarily strangers to that level, so we’re not afraid of anybody.”
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena understands the lower division-versus-upper division dynamic that will be at work.
“It always does play a role [in these games],” he said. “Every time you play a lower-division team, they're certainly going to be ready to play, and the game means a lot to them.”
Galaxy captain Landon Donovan and Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach, as expected, are U.S Soccer's Athletes of the Year, the federation's top honor for players.
Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS), an MLS Best XI selection who was the pivotal figure in the U.S.'s run to the World Cup round of 16, becomes the first four-time winner of the men's award. He previously was honored in 2003, 2004 and 2009.
He's also the frontrunner for the Honda Player of the Year award, the most prestigious American soccer honor, which syndicated Spanish-language radio network Futbol de Primera will announce early next year. Donovan has won the award six times, including the past three years.
Wambach, a Washington Freedom striker who scored 16 goals in 18 games for the U.S. women's national team this year -- with a tournament-best eight in CONCACAF's qualifiers for next year's Women's World Cup -- is a four-time winner of U.S. Soccer's women's award. She won in 2003, 2004 and 2007.
Portugal-based defender Gale Agbossoumonde, who made his full international debut in November, and Santa Clara University goalkeeper Bianca Henninger, who was in the nets for the U.S. at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, captured U.S. Soccer's Youth Athlete of the Year awards.
U.S. Soccer unveiled its Athlete of the Year finalists Wednesday, with a healthy number of local players up for awards -- and Galaxy captain Landon Donovan looking like a shoo-in for the top honor.
Online votes count for 50 percent of the balloting, with media and U.S. Soccer coaches and directors accounting for the other half. To vote, go here. (You'll need a free U.S. Soccer account to participate.)
MALE ATHLETE: Donovan, a three-time winner (2003, 2004 and 2009), has to be the frontrunner. He was the best American player at the World Cup (Michael Bradley, too, was outstanding), was revelatory during a loan spell at Everton and was an MVP candidate in Major League Soccer.
Clint Dempsey won the honor in 2007.
F/M Landon Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS), L.A. Galaxy
D Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA), Saint-Etienne (France)
M Michael Bradley (Manhattan Beach), Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany)
D Steve Cherundolo (San Diego), Hannover 96 (Germany)
F/M Clint Dempsey (Nacogdoches, Texas), Fulham (England)
FEMALE ATHLETE: A fairly open race, although Abby Wambach's performance at CONCACAF's Women's World Cup qualifying tournament might have sealed her fourth award.
M Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS), unaffiliated
D Rachel Buehler (Del Mar, Calif.), unaffiliated
D Amy LePeilbet (Crystal Lake, Ill.), Boston Breakers
F Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC), Philadelphia Independence
F Abby Wambach (Hermosa Beach), Washington Freedom
YOUNG MALE ATHLETE: A couple of very good U17s to consider -- Alessandro Mion and Andrew Souders -- but how do you pass up on Togo-born Gale Agboussoumonde, who plays in Portugal and made his full U.S. national team debut last week?
D Gale Agbossoumonde (Syracuse, N.Y.), Estoril (Portugal)
G Zac MacMath (St. Petersburg, Fla.), University of Maryland
D Alessandro Mion (Miami), Miami FC Kendall
M Dillon Powers (Plano, Texas), University of Notre Dame
D Andrew Souders (Amherst, Ohio), Columbus Crew Academy
YOUNG FEMALE ATHLETE: The big question: Where's Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS), the only college player (Cal) seeing regular time for the U.S. national team? She'd get our vote, but we're also high, of course, on Stanford's Christen Press. And on U.S. U-17 standout Morgan Brian, whom we had the pleasure of discovering at the U.S. Soccer U-14 identification camp a few years ago at Cal Poly Pomona.
M Morgan Brian (St. Simons Island, Ga.), Ponte Verde Storm
D Crystal Dunn (Rockville Cente, N.Y.), University of North Carolina
G Bianca Henninger (Los Gatos, Calif.), Santa Clara University
F Sydney Leroux (Vancouver, British Columbia/Phoenix), UCLA
F Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School), Stanford University
AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam
U.S. players celebrate after Juan Agudelo's goal lift them to a 1-0 victory over South Africa.
The best thing about the U.S. national team's trek to South Africa wasn't Wednesday's 1-0 triumph in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Cape Town -- although that certainly was nice and was rewarded with a sweet trophy -- nor any of the philanthropic activities, and not even Thursday's scheduled sit down with Mandela himself.
It was the way in which a young U.S. side asserted itself, and what that might mean going forward.
Four players 20 or younger debuted in the triumph over Bafana Bafana, and all fared well as the Yanks, missing nearly all of their first-choice players, had the better of play against an experienced side playing at home in front of 52,000 vuvuzela-blowing fanatics.
Big props especially to Colombia-born forward Juan Agudelo, who six days shy of his 18th birthday became the youngest player ever to score for the U.S., and Norway-born and -bred midfielder Mikkel Diskerud, who combined with Agudelo on the goal and repeatedly made mature, important defensive decisions.
Former Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein got the call this week: He's heading back to South Africa with the U.S. national team.
Bornstein is one of five players from last summer's World Cup squad that U.S. coach Bob Bradley placed on his roster for Wednesday's "Nelson Mandela Challenge" friendly against South Africa in Cape Town. The former Los Alamitos High School, Cal Poly Pomona and UCLA standout, who will join Mexico's UANL Tigres in January, is the most experienced player on the roster, with 34 international appearances.
Bradley also called in Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who played for the coach when he was in charge at Chivas USA, West Ham United defender Jonathan Spector, Orebro midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, and Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley from the World Cup team.
Columbus Crew winger Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS), who was on the U.S. preliminary World Cup roster but did not go to South Africa, also is on the team.
Six uncapped players are on the roster. The most intriguing is Kansas City Wizards forward Teal Bunbury, who has turned down invitations to play for his native Canada, saying he has a better chance to realize his goal of playing in a World Cup by declaring for the U.S. That he does.