Los Angeles Soccer: Jeff Larentowicz
Chivas USA's match Saturday night at Colorado was following form: decent ball movement, not enough chances, zero finishing and a fifth one-goal loss on the horizon.
The Rapids turned a tight clash into a farce at the finish, scoring three goals in the final dozen minutes to romp to a 4-0 triumph, a scoreline that reflects only the conclusion.
Three quick thoughts on the Goats' first loss in four road games:
- 1. NO OFFENSE
Chivas had better possession, as is customary, especially in the second half, and it unleashed 14 shots, four of them on target. Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens came up big a few times -- especially on diving back-to-back saves in the 30th minute against Laurent Courtois and Juan Pablo Angel -- and a Courtois header bounced off the underside of the crossbar in the 55th.
Ryan Smith offered a bit of life immediately after coming on about 15 minutes into the second half, his penetrating pass creating a chance Nick LaBrocca placed across the goalmouth and past the right post. Chivas could have used more from him.
Juan Pablo Angel, acquired from the Galaxy at week's start, added a needed dimension to the Goats' attack and scored on a superb first-half strike as Chivas twice rallied from deficits to score a 2-2 draw with the Rapids at DSG Park.
For a team that was surrendering leads at nearly every opportunity earlier this season, rallying on the road felt good.
“It’s the amount of points that we wanted,” Lahoud told media following the game. “Considering the time of the year, it’s all about results. But we’ll take this draw. Coming back twice to grind out a result in a very tough place to play against a team that’s been on a hot streak, you have to take what you can get here.”
Caleb Folan and Jeff Larentowicz scored for the Rapids, headers off crosses from the right flank (Larentowicz's from a corner kick) against poor marking, and Macoumba Kandji nearly gave them a victory deep into stoppage, booting the ball after a corner kick, but Heath Pearce knocked the ball away as it sailed toward the net.
Angel was active and involved and connected with teammates even as Chivas struggled to get its game going in the first half. The Goats were hit and miss much of the night, despite holding 56 percent possession and winning the vast majority of duels. It will take a little time for Angel and his new teammates to acclimate to each other, but this was a good start -- and the Colombian striker's goal was sensational.
“It was a great feeling, a great play from a great pass and a great moment for me,” he told the league's website. “I know what I can do, and my challenge is to help this team in the last stretch of the season, and I’ll try to play well for them.”
Robin Fraser certainly was happy.
“He added quite a bit to us,” Chivas' coach told the MLS website. “It took us a while to get in sync, but as the team got better, we were able to find him with the ball quite a bit, and he was very instrumental in helping us build out of the back and get into a bit more of a rhythm.
“Certainly, his alertness on the goal and the quality of his finish was excellent. I thought, overall, it was a great debut for him.”
A quick look at Chivas' draw:
BEST PLAYER: We've got three.
Juan Pablo Angel scored a brilliant goal in his Chivas USA debut, and another newcomer came up huge at the finish Saturday night.
French midfielder Laurent Courtois, making just his third appearance for the Goats, tallied in the 86th minute to deliver a 1-1 draw with MLS Cup champion Colorado at DSG Park in Commerce City, Colo.
Courtois got behind the Rapids' defense, took a feed from Michael Lahoud and slipped it past goalkeeper Matt Pickens to give the Goats (7-8-10) a share of the points and extend their unbeaten streak to three games. Chivas has lost just once in its past nine matches.
Colorado (10-6-11), which hasn't lost in its past six games, twice went ahead, through Caleb Folan in the 13th minute and Jeff Larentowicz in the 69th.
Angel pulled the Goats even late in the first half. Nick LaBrocca, in the midfield circle and heading toward the left sideline, flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot past six defenders and into space for the Colombian striker, who was acquired this week from the Galaxy.
The reigning MLS Cup champs, with neither Omar Cummings (off with Jamaica's national team) nor Conor Casey (tightness in his calf) in the starting XI for the first time since October 2008 -- a span of 67 league games -- managed just two scoring opportunities, and Quincy Amarikwa made the first count, finishing a counterattack in the 32nd minute for the only goal.
A quick look at Chivas' loss:
BEST PLAYER: Take your pick from these three Rapids: central midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, left back Anthony Wallace or center back Drew Moor.
Larentowicz was a force in the middle for Colorado, more so defensively, his energy key as Chivas (0-2-0) failed to penetrate despite decent stretches of possession. Wallace made several big plays and kept whichever winger he was matched up with -- Marcos Mondaini, so good in the Goats' season-opening loss to Sporting Club Kansas City, and Justin Braun -- from making impacts. Moor was nearly perfect in the middle, anchoring a superb defensive effort that had the Rapids in charge from the start.
Best for the Goats? We'll go with central midfielder Nick LaBrocca, who won balls and distributed nicely, playing major roles when Chivas kept possession in the first half and applied pressure in the second.
BEST GOAL: There was only one, and it wasn't a very good one, from Chivas' viewpoint. Blame another defensive breakdown: The Goats' backline was pushed forward, failed to corral Jamie Smith on the left flank, and his ball toward the box for Amarikwa to run onto found gaping space.
Seventeen of the 24 players on the U.S. roster are either uncapped or have made just one international appearance -- four of them debuted in the Americans' last game, at South Africa in November -- and none have more than six caps.
The only real veterans: Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA), who has played four times for the U.S., and Pasadena-born Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who has never been on the field for the Yanks.
The opponent in the Jan. 22 friendly that concludes the camp is nearly as young and nearly as inexperienced.
Marcelo Bielsa, who guided Chile to two victories last summer in South Africa -- the country's first World Cup wins in 48 years -- has devised a 16-man domsestic roster for the Home Depot Center clash that includes 10 players younger than 25 and nine with two or fewer caps.
Only forward Esteban Paredes was part of the World Cup squad -- he played against Switzerland and Spain -- and only two others, midfielder Jose Pedro Fuenzalida and defender Luis Pedro Figueroa, join Paredes with more than 10 international appearances.
Others might have a future with the national team: Midfielder Fernando Meneses was Fuenzalida's teammate at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup; forward Daud Gazale has drawn interest from Paris Saint-Germain Real Betis; and defender Paulo Magalhaes has featured extensively for Chile's youth national teams.
Then there's midfielder Felipe Seymour, who was discovered on a reality television show and scored two stunning, long-range goals for Universidad de Chile in last year's Copa Libertadores.
Bielsa's future is uncertain. The Argentine coach resigned two months ago, after Spanish-born businessman Jorge Segovia's election as president of the Chilean federation, but the results were thrown out and another election will be held Friday.
A.J. DeLaGarza, so impressive during Major League Soccer's stretch run, gets his first call-up to the national team; he'll be joined by Galaxy backline mates Sean Franklin (Palmdale/Highland HS and Cal State Northridge) and Omar Gonzalez in the Jan. 4-22 camp at Home Depot Center.
Chivas USA forward Justin Braun and three players with local ties -- Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA) and Colorado Rapids defender Marvell Wynne (UCLA) and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (born in Pasadena) -- also are on the 24-man roster, from which Bradley will draw his lineup for the Jan. 24 friendly against Chile at HDC.
The annual January camp, always at HDC, usually is used to scout younger players -- including those who emerged during the previous MLS campaign -- and give U.S.- and Scandinavia-based veterans a foundation to build fitness before their seasons begin in the late winter or spring.
This time Bradley called in very few veterans. Sweden-based midfielder Alejandro Bedoya is the only player from the U.S. pre-World Cup training camp on the roster, and none who went to South Africa is involved. A dozen players are uncapped, five more have just one cap, nobody has made more than six international appearances -- across the roster, there are only 28 caps.
A rundown on the two dozen players coming to HDC:
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)
Sunday's 15th MLS Cup, which kicks off at BMO Field a little after 5:30 p.m. (ESPN and Galavision), could be a classic. Dallas and Colorado are fast, athletic, attacking sides capable of producing scintillating stuff.
There will be abundant goal opportunities, but with Palos Verdes' Kevin Hartman (Peninsula HS/UCLA) in the FC Dallas nets, there's no certainty of scoring. At least at one end.
Both teams attack so well, especially off the counter, that defensive approaches ought to be decisive. The team that does the best job closing space and preventing its opponent's attacking speed from making a difference is likely going to prevail.
Three keys to victory:
The Galaxy was mightily impressed by FC Dallas' victory in last weekend's Western Conference final, and a lot of their players think the Hoops' success will continue in Sunday's MLS Cup final against Colorado in Toronto (ESPN and Galavision, 5:30 p.m. PT).
Here's what a few had to say when asked to predict a winner:
GOALKEEPER DONOVAN RICKETTS: “The team that beat us, 3-0. Dallas. They play pretty good football, so I pick Dallas. But I have to care for my Jamaican man, [Colorado forward Omar] Cummings. My head tells me Dallas, but my heart goes to Cummings.”
MIDFIELDER CHRIS KLEIN: “I think I would pick Dallas just because they're very difficult to beat. When you have the attacking weapons that they have, I think that maybe they have a little bit of an advantage. But you look at Colorado and you look at their two forwards [Cummings and Conor Casey] and you look at who they have in the center of the park [Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz], and I think it will pose a big challenge for [Dallas].”
DEFENDER TODD DUNIVANT: “I think it will be a good game, but I would think it will be Dallas. I mean, they've only lost four games this season, and they've kind of done so under the radar. … Not a lot of people were talking about Dallas, and they've only lost four games in, what, 33 now? That's pretty incredible. That's an unbelievable record. That means they have a good team. I think they're obviously the favorites, but when you have Casey and Cummings up top, that's an unbelievable combo that can hurt you any time. It'll be a good game.”
FORWARD/MIDFIELDER LANDON DONOVAN: “It's going to be a good game. Mmmm. There's no two players playing better this season than Conor and Omar together, but in my opinion there's no one player who's more important to a team than [FC Dallas's David Ferreira]. It's going to be interesting. My guess is whoever scores first is going to win, because they're both very good counterattacking teams, and if you have to come at them and open yourselves up, Conor and Omar can make you pay, and Ferreira can make you pay going the other way. … Umm. I've got to say Dallas because we lost to them.”
Yes, rosters will be expanded, from 24 to 30 players, with more slots for those 24 and younger. Yes, there will be a reserve division again. And if neither of these moves were unexpected -- the reserve-league thing was a done deal weeks ago -- that doesn't diminish their impact on the league and, especially, the league's role in developing talent.
Larger rosters will enable teams to better weather injuries, international call-ups and crowded schedules, and a reserve league -- this one, Garber promises, has been better thought out than the 2005-08 effort -- will provide needed game time for those players, mostly younger, at the bottom of each team's roster.
More opportunity for players, better opportunity for teams.
"I think it's great ...," Chivas USA director of soccer Stephen Hamilton said of 30-man rosters Tuesday. "It allows you to have the necessary depth to get through a grueling campaign. Next year we’ll have the Open Cup and the regular season and, hopefully, the playoffs to get through, and having those extra slots allows us to do some things."
"It helps in terms of developing players," Galaxy general manager/head coach Bruce Arena said. "In theory, it probably will not have an affect on your first team, except you have injuries and that type of thing, and supplemental games. ... I think the more players, you have potentially the opportunity to have a little more of a rested team."
Major League Soccer righted a real wrong and awarded Landon Donovan a spot on its Best XI all-league team Tuesday -- as a midfielder.
Donovan, who led the league with 16 assists, is fully deserving the honor, but he was listed on the ballot as a forward, and with only two forward slots on the Best XI -- and teammate Edson Buddle and San Jose's Chris Wondolowski shoo-ins for those slots -- the Galaxy captain was looking like a no-go.
“We need to do the right thing,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said during his state-of-the-league conference call Tuesday morning, “and it's certainly right to have Landon [on the] Best XI.”
Donovan, one of four Galaxy players among the 11, played up front and in midfield for the Galaxy this season, seeing nearly twice as much time as a midfielder. The Galaxy submitted his name as a forward.
“Landon's basically played as a forward half the time and as a midfielder half the time,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said late last month. “If we had to nominate two forwards on the ballot, who are we going to nominate? You know the answer.”
Donovan had said he would be “bummed” not to make the Best XI.
Buddle, defender Omar Gonzalez and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts also are on the all-league team.
A look at Saturday's postseason action:IN BRIEF: The reigning champs are dead, and it's an all-Western final four. … FC Dallas scored an early goal and held off 2009 MLS Cup champ Real Salt Lake's late onslaught for a 1-1 draw, enough to send the Hoops into the Western Conference final -- against the Galaxy or Seattle -- with a 3-2 aggegate triumph. … Colorado knocked off the East's No. 2 side, rallying to force overtime, then winning on penalty kicks in Columbus, and will be home against Western rival San Jose in the, yes, Eastern Conference final.
BEST PLAYER: Before his bizarre knee injury, Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA) was getting his share of MLS MVP talk. He reminded us why with a masterful performance in the nets for FC Dallas, making two game-saving stops and parrying balls from danger throughout the second half to make Dax McCarty's 17th-minute goal (from a great Brek Shea chest pass) stand up for the Hoops.
BEST GOAL: Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS) finished beautifully in the 70th minute to give Columbus a 2-0 lead (and 2-1 edge on aggregate), running onto Emmanuel Ekpo's ball into space, positioning himself between the ball and Rapids defender Anthony Wallace, taking it into the box and left-footing past Matt Pickens. Bigger, and just as good, was Conor Casey's emblematic one-touch finish in the box from Omar Cummings' cross in the 84th to even aggregate at 2-2.
BIGGEST STOP: Take your pick from Hartman's collection. We'll go with two, both on Fabian Espindola, both foot saves as he dove one way and Espindola shot the other way. The second, a stoppage-time stop after Espindola redirected Andy Williams' blast from outside the box, ended RSL's comeback hopes.
FROM THE SPOT: It was going to take a miss rather than a save to decide the Columbus-Colorado shootout. All five Rapids shooters were on target, four of them with hard-hit, well-placed shots -- Macoumba Kandji's poor attempt should have been stopped by Andy Gruenebaum, who fumbled the ball off the post and in -- and Columbus made its first four just as impressively while Pickens looked well out of sorts. Brian Carroll, shooting fifth for the Crew, skied his well over the crossbar, igniting Colorado's celebration.
WORTH NOTING: Hartman, not fully fit following six weeks' absence after Thierry Henry's ill-advised goal celebration left the former Galaxy keeper with a sprained right medial collaterial ligament, did not take his own goal kicks. … Previous MLS Cup appearances for the five remaining clubs: Galaxy 6 (1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2009, with triumphs in 2002 and 2005), San Jose 2 (2001 and 2003, both triumphs, both with the team that moved to Houston after the 2005 season), Colorado 1 (1997, lost to D.C. United), FC Dallas and Seattle 0. ... Real Salt Lake's home MLS unbeaten streak, dating to May 2009, remains intact.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We said before the game we are not so sure that many people care about us, but we care about each other. We definitely fight for each other. At this point, we have come together and there is real cohesion.” -- Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz.
at Columbus, Ohio
Columbus 2 (Gaven 22, Rogers 70), Colorado 1 (Casey 84)
(aggregate 2-2; Colorado wins on penalties, 5-4)
Penalties: Colo -- Casey G, Kandji G, Larentowicz G, Lopez G, Smith G; Clb -- Schelotto G, Garey G, Gaven G, Brunner G, Carroll H
at Sandy Utah
Real Salt Lake 1 (Findley 80), FC Dallas 1 (McCarty 17)
(FC Dallas wins on aggregate, 3-2)
SUNDAY'S SECOND LEG
L.A. Galaxy vs. Seattle at Home Depot Center, 6 p.m., ESPN and ESPN Deportes. First leg: Galaxy, 1-0
West: Galaxy/Seattle vs. FC Dallas, date, time and site TBA, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes
East: San Jose at Colorado, Nov. 13, 6:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes
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.