Los Angeles Soccer: Kasey Keller
Robbie Keane's loan deal to Aston Villa hasn't yet been finalized, but the Galaxy's striker is in Birmingham and trained Monday with the Villans' first team.
The Irish forward is expected to join the English Premier League club on a seven-week loan sometime Monday. Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish told reporters over the weekend that “red tape” with the Galaxy was holding up the deal.
Keane figures to debut for Villa in a league game Saturday at Everton, where Galaxy captain Landon Donovan is on loan.
Keane, who joined L.A. in August, is preparing for the start of the Major League Soccer season, the Galaxy's knockout-stage matches in the CONCACAF Champions League and -- most of all -- for this summer's European Championship in Poland and the Ukraine, where Ireland faces Spain, Italy and Croatia in Group C. The Galaxy opens its season March 7 in a Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Toronto FC and plays its MLS opener three days later against Real Salt Lake at Home Depot Center.
Major League Soccer unveiled the tally for the season's best goal Wednesday, and it wasn't Eric Hassli's flip-and-volley-to-the-far-post that so thrilled, well, everyone except the Seattle Sounders.
The Vancouver forward's remarkable strike was bested by one just as jaw-dropping: Portland rookie Darlington Nagbe's chip-juggle-and-volley-a-rising-laser in a July loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Retiring legend Kasey Keller picked up the Save of the Year honor for the second straight year, awarded for a series of four stops in Seattle's 2-1 victory over San Jose in his final regular-season home game, played in front of 64,140 at CenturyLink Field.
The sequence received 41 percent of an online fan vote after 32 nominees had been whittled to four finalists. Two stops by Portland's Troy Perkins finished second and third, with 32 and 14 percent of the vote.
Nagbe's goal got 42 percent of the count, with Hassli's June 11 strike against Seattle receiving 31. Seattle's Fredy Montero finished third, at 23 percent, for a Sept. 24 goal at Vancouver.
Keller, the American legend whose career closed with Seattle's playoff loss nearly two weeks ago, was honored as the league's Goalkeeper of the Year. Rosales, the Argentine wing-playmaker who made such a huge impact for the Sounders after Steve Zakuani's season-ending leg injury, is the Newcomer of the Year, which goes to first-year MLS players with previous professional experience.
Keller is the last of the Americans' great quartet of goalkeepers the past 20 years to win the netminding award. Former UCLA star Brad Friedel won with Columbus in 1997, Tony Meola with Kansas City in 2000, and Tim Howard with New York in 2001.
Keller won among all three constituencies -- media, club management and players -- but it was close between him and Philadelphia's Faryd Mondragon among the players.
The weighed score for Keller was 73.97, with Mondragon at 49.75. Two former UCLA goalkeepers, FC Dallas' Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS) and Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS), finished third and fourth (31.67 and 30.43), and Chivas USA's Dan Kennedy (Placentia/El Dorado HS and UC Santa Barbara) was fifth (19.04).
Previous winners include Hartman (with the Galaxy in 1999) and L.A.'s Donovan Ricketts (last year), Chivas USA's Zach Thornton (in 2009 and 11 years earlier in Chicago), and former Chivas USA keeper Brad Guzan (in 2007).
Rosales crushed the competition for the Newcomer honor, finishing with a weighted 85.15 score. New York's Luke Rodgers (34.63) was second, followed by Vancouver's Eric Hassli (31.45), Mondragon (26.25) and Sporting Kansas City's Omar Bravo (22.02).
Rosales is the fourth South American to win the award since its 2007 inception. Only Luciano Emilio (D.C. United, 2007) doubled as MVP.
David Beckham? No surprise. Landon Donovan? Been here before. Omar Gonzalez? The man is MLS's Defender of the Year.
Their inclusion in Major League Soccer's Best XI was more or less expected. That left back Todd Dunivant joined them on the league's postseason all-star team was the real reward for the Galaxy.
Dunivant, 30, has enjoyed his finest season as a pro, but his selection to the Best XI comes as a little bit of a surprise after he finished fifth in the Defender of the Year balloting. He leapt past the third- and fourth-place finishers in that vote -- Real Salt Lake's Nat Borchers and Philadelphia's Carlos Valdes -- to join Gonzalez and RSL's Jamison Olave on the all-league side. He's the only outside back on the XI.
Beckham, a first-time Best XI choice after an MVP-quality season, and Donovan, the Galaxy's leader, were expected to make the side, although Donovan's lack of late-season production could have cost him in a deeper than normal field of candidates.
Gonzalez, who was a Best XI choice last year, also was a slam-dunk pick.
Here's the full XI:
Kasey Keller (Seattle Sounders): The former U.S. national team star wrapped a legendary campaign by leading Seattle to the second-best record in the league.
Todd Dunivant (Galaxy): L.A.'s left back is rewarded for a marvelous campaign in which he established himself as MLS's best outside back.
Omar Gonzalez (Galaxy): The MLS Defender of the Year had a mammoth campaign, taking a huge stride forward to make the Best XI in back-to-back years.
Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake): The big Colombian is MLS's most physically dominant backliner, blending athleticism and guile in an explosive package.
Osvaldo Alonso converted a penalty kick and Lamar Neagle finished from Fredy Montero's pass five minutes later as the Sounders posted a 2-0 victory in the second leg, not quite enough after RSL romped, 3-0, in its home leg of the two-games, total-goals series Saturday night.
The result knocks out MLS's second-best team this season and ends retiring goalkeeping legend Kasey Keller's career while potentially setting up a rematch of the 2009 MLS Cup final in Sunday's Western Conference final. The Galaxy take a 1-0 advantage into the second leg of their first-round series and will be home Sunday with a draw or better Thursday night against New York.
A one-goal Galaxy loss would force overtime and, to follow, penalty kicks, and New York will head to Sandy, Utah -- a rematch of the 2008 Western Conference final -- with a two-goal victory Thursday at HDC.
Real Salt Lake beat the Galaxy on penalties in the 2009 MLS Cup title game. New York beat RSL in 2008 en route to a MLS Cup loss to Columbus at HDC.
Defending champion Colorado also was eliminated, dropping a 2-0 decision at Eastern Conference regular-season champion Sporting Kansas City, which prevailed, 4-0, on aggregate.
Robin Fraser's first season in charge of Chivas USA ended as it started, in defeat, with the Goats dropping a spot in the standings and failing to surpass last year's victory total.
The Seattle Sounders, preparing for its playoff run, scored three second-half goals en route to a 3-1 triumph Saturday night at Home Depot Center, a deserved victory that sets up a first-round playoff series, starting next weekend, against Real Salt Lake.
Fraser and his staff now embark on postseason assessments, selecting which 11 players to protect before next month's Major League Soccer expansion draft, determining which players to invite back (and which to jettison), and taking the initial steps toward the 2012 season following an 8-14-12 campaign.
The loss, coupled with San Jose's victory over FC Dallas, sends the Goats from seventh to eighth in the Western Conference table, two points behind the Earthquakes and eight in front of last-place Vancouver. Chivas fell from 14th to 15th in the overall standings.
An Andrew Boyens own goal and fine finishes by Alvaro Fernandez and Riverside's Sammy Ochoa sent Seattle to a three-goal lead. Victor Estupi˝an's header -- after Marcos Mondaini nodded back into the goalmouth a Mariano Trujillo cross from the right flank to the far post -- ended the Sounders' shutout bid in the 83rd minute.
Seattle (18-7-9), which finished second in the Supporters' Shield and Western standings to the Galaxy, suffered a potentially damning blow just five minutes into the game, when Ben Zemanski knocked knees with league MVP candidate Mauro Rosales, who just returned from an MCL sprain.
Rosales was stretchered off, holding his face in his hands, and pulled from the game (and Zemanski was yellow-carded, the first of several dubious decisions by overmatched referee Ricardo Salazar). Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said on the Sounders' telecast that he didn't think the injury was “as bad as last time.”
“It's a little more precaution than anything else,” he said. “Obviously, you're on high alert and you're concerned. Going into the game, you don't want anything [injury-wise] to happen, so that's important.”
A quick look at Chivas' defeat:
The most noteworthy thing in Chivas USA's season finale Saturday night at Home Depot Center: It's Kasey Keller's final regular-season game.
Keller, an American soccer legend whose 20-year career has taken him from Olympia, Wash., to the University of Portland to clubs in England (Millwall, Leicester City, Tottenham, Southampton and Fulham), Spain (Rayo Vallecano) and Germany (Borusssia M÷nchengladbach), three World Cups and, with the Seattle Sounders' 2009 establishment in Major League Soccer, back to his roots. He'll retire when Seattle wins this year's MLS Cup title or is eliminated in the playoffs.
There are four goalkeepers, all recent, that stand tall in American soccer's annals: Keller, Tony Meola, Brad Friedel and current No. 1 Tim Howard. Keller might stand tallest, and his greatest performance -- spectacularly shutting out Brazil in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals; he was so good that Romario shook his hand after one save -- might be the finest moment in U.S. Soccer history.
We asked five people, from Chivas USA and the Galaxy, who have played with or coached Keller, their impressions of the 41-year-old netminder.
Chivas USA's head coach played in central defense for the U.S. national team, with Keller barking orders behind him.
“Kasey's been big in this country. He's been big for this country. He's done extremely well wherever hes been. It's obviously good to see him ending his career on a high point with a team that's doing well. ...
“Kasey is a good shot-stopper. I think to make it at as high a level as he has for as long as he has, you have to have a sheer determination, a sheer will to win. I think he's got that.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber opted for frontline firepower with his two selections for the July 27 All-Star Game against Manchester United in Harrison, N.J., which were announced Saturday afternoon.
Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller is expected to be in action in Panama the night before the All-Star Game, leading the Sounders against San Francisco FC in a first-leg preliminary-round clash in the CONCACAF Champions League. FC Dallas winger Brek Shea has a game in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the night after the midseason exhibition, a Champions League opener against Municipal.
New York coach Hans Backe, who will guide the All-Stars, last week ruled out his Mexican defender, Rafa Marquez, who has been sidelined since the CONCACAF Goldb Cup final because of a hamstring strain.
Keller, Shea and Marquez were on the First XI, selected in a fan vote. So were Galaxy stars Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin.
Garber told Fox Soccer Channel his reasons for choosing the Colombia-born Agudelo, a rising star with the U.S. national team, and Bravo, a Mexican star.
“I thought Juan was a no-brainer ...,” he said. “Great young player and really an exemplary product of our MLS academy system, so, you know, here's the guy that's proving the system is working. Sitting where we sit, this is an opportunity for Juan to continue his development ... allow him to get into a big-time game and hopefully learn from that experience.”
Of Bravo, he said: “What we really need to do here is play well against Man U, and Omar's a guy that has a lot of big-time experience. He's been there before. This is not a guy that's going to to get flustered. He's playing in games where there have been superclubs, and Omar has performed in those competitions. ... It doesn't hurt that Omar has a real ability to impress this audience of ours, which is increasingly Hispanic.”
Backe and the league will announce the rest of the team Monday.
Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the right side of the Galaxy's backline is headed to Major League Soccer's All-Star Game.
Defenders Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin will join L.A.'s superstars in Harrison, N.J., for the July 27 match against Manchester United after their selections to the First XI in balloting by fans. The league announced the list Sunday afternoon.
It's the 11th straight selection for Donovan, the second for Beckham and Gonzalez, and Franklin's first.
Donovan was asked after Saturday's victory over Chicago about what his expected selection would mean, but he appeared unaware of a shift this season from a player/coach/media/fan ballot to strictly fan voting via MLS's website, Twitter and through text messaging.
“For me, it's an honor because the players and coaches vote on it, too,” he said. “If it was fan voting, which it partially is, but if it was only fan voting, it's a little different. Sometimes, more popular teams with bigger fan bases get players in.
“It is something that means a lot to us, and I think we have a lot of guys here who are deserving.”
Donovan is correct about popularity. MLS's two biggest clubs -- the Galaxy and New York Red Bulls -- dominate the First XI, and fan favorites Jack Jewsbury, the Portland Timbers' captain, and retiring goalkeeping legend Kasey Keller, from the Seattle Sounders, also made the list.
The Red Bulls are represented by French forward Thierry Henry, Mexican defender Rafa Marquez and second-year defender Tim Ream. The others are San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski, last year's Golden Boot winner, and FC Dallas winger Brek Shea, who is having an enormous year.
A 12th player -- Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler -- was the 12th selection, based on receiving the most text votes.
New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe, who will guide the All-Stars, is not bound by the vote when he chooses his starting lineup -- these are, true to their name, the first XI chosen for the team. Commissioner Don Garber's two selections will be announced Saturday, and the remainder of the team will be announced July 18. The starters will be determined from the full roster.
The U.S. and Mexico haven't met in the L.A. area since a 2000 friendly at the Coliseum, and if you want to lay blame for that, target CONCACAF (just one Gold Cup final in L.A., until this one, and Mexico didn't make it) and U.S. Soccer (no desire to play in front of 85,000 or so El Tri fanaticos).
So Saturday's Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl hearkens back to a tradition that went strong for a decade -- seven meetings here from 1991 through 2000, four of them friendlies) -- and dates to 1957, when Mexico drilled the Yanks, 7-2, in a World Cup qualifier in Long Beach.
In all, they've played a dozen times in L.A., Pasadena or Long Beach. Here are five of the best showdowns:
Nov. 6, 1960
United States 3, Mexico 3
Salvador “Chava” Reyes, the great Mexican hero of the 1950s and '60s (later part of Chivas USA's academy administration), scored twice as El Tri took a 3-0 lead in the first 21 minutes of a World Cup qualifier first leg before 8,000 at old Wrigley Field. The U.S. rallied as Helmut Bicek, Carl Fister and Al Zerhusen scored goals, then fell, 3-0, a week later in the second leg in Mexico City.
July 5, 1991
United States 2, Mexico 0
The Americans' triumph in the first Gold Cup was fueled by a surprise victory in a Coliseum semifinal as John Doyle (now GM of the San Jose Earthquakes) and Peter Vermes (head coach of Sporting Kansas City) netted second-half goals in front of 41,103 fans. El Tri's lineup included Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, now its coach.
Their link goes far deeper than that.
Sanchez was a midfield creator and Gonzalez a backline anchor for Cal State L.A.'s men's team in the early 1990s -- a breeding ground, it turns out, for outstanding coaches.
They're among several Golden Eagles from the era, all prodigies of former Mexican national-teamer Leo Cuellar, who have gone on to guide title-winning teams, and the jobs they've done this year -- no matter what occurs this weekend -- have been among their best.
Sanchez returned just five players from last year's champions for what was supposed to be a "restructuring" campaign. His Mounties are 17-1-4, ranked second in the state and fourth in the nation, and one victory -- Friday morning at 10 against Northern California's West Valley College (16-4-2) -- from an opportunity to defend their title on Sunday.
Gonzalez's Falcons (22-1-2) have more experience but are somewhat of an underdog, forced to knock off the nation's Nos. 1 and 3 teams to reach the final four. They're no favorite at Canyons, either: NorCal powerhouse Santa Rosa (17-0-5), the state's lone unbeaten side, is their foe in Friday's 4 p.m. semifinal.
The other games: Canyons (16-5-2) vs. Fresno City (15-4-3) in a men's semi at 1 p.m., and San Bernardino Valley (17-1-3) vs. Fresno City (19-2-2) in a women's clash at 7 p.m.
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
The Galaxy's David Beckham, right, says of his first assist off a corner kick: "The ref pointed over to the side where I went." Seattle coach Sigi Schmid says Beckham outsmarted the referee to give himself a more favorable position.
CARSON, Calif. -- It was certainly a frustrating playoff series for Seattle coach Sigi Schmid. The Galaxy's defensive mindset greatly limited what his usually dynamic attack could do, and when chances showed up, the finish left much to be desired.
But the former Galaxy coach, who grew up in L.A. and Torrance, played at Bishop Montgomery High School and played and coached at UCLA, was not in a generous mood after either of the Sounders' losses.
After the first game, in Seattle, he called Edson Buddle's sensational strike in a 1-0 Galaxy victory “fortunate,” dismissing it as a shot in which “he just turns and hits the ball in basically the direction of the goal. It can go anywhere, and it went in.”
After Sunday's loss in another game largely defined by the Galaxy's superb defensive effort over the first hour, he said that he “thought we did more things to ourselves in the first half” than the Galaxy did, then expressed his dismay that referee Baldomero Toledo and his linesmen let the craftier Galaxy get away with gamesmanship.
He's right, in part. L.A. was the craftier side, the more veteran side, just as the Galaxy were in the first leg a week ago. It was the foundation of their defensive superiority and their ability to attack more effectively with fewer chances.
Schmid was especially unhappy with the Galaxy's first goal Sunday, a David Beckham corner kick that floated over three players -- 6-foot-5 Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez and Sounders defender Patrick Ianni and forward Blaise Nkufo -- to Buddle, who shook off Tyrone Marshall to nod the ball powerfully past goalkeeper Kasey Keller and into the net.
Dema Kovalenko of the Galaxy dribbles against Nathan Sturgis (12) of the Sounders during Sunday's playoff game.
SEATTLE -- The Galaxy heads home for the second leg of their first-round Major League Soccer playoff series against the Seattle Sounders with a 1-0 advantage after a near-perfect performance in an encounter so ugly it was, well, beautiful.
You'll find little agreement on that among anyone who watched -- especially the disappointed 35,521 packed into Qwest Field -- and few who played. Saturday's was a chippy, disjointed affair that favored the Galaxy on two fronts: Edson Buddle's miracle goal in the 38th minute and Donovan Ricketts' stalwart performance in the nets.
The beauty was in the precision with which the Galaxy engineered its disrupt-and-disgust game plan and how effectively it took the Sounders out of their game.
How did L.A. pull it off? Here are three reasons:
1. DEMA'S BOOTS
Ukrainian-born Dema Kovalenko is the fiercest (opponents might say dirtiest) tackler in MLS, and he was going to kick shins and keep kicking shins until referee Ricardo Salazar finally produced a yellow card.
It took Salazar, who had several conversations about tactics with the Galaxy defensive midfielder, until the 65th minute, and by then Kovalenko had forced the Sounders -- looking to play fluid, passing soccer on the slick, quick artificial turf -- completely off their game.
“I think they thought they'd have an easy game,” Kovalenko said. “You know, [Osvaldo] Alonso likes to get the ball and spray and this and that, but not today, my friend. Not today.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid declined to talk about the brutality -- “The refs are the refs,” he offered -- but he had a word with Salazar.
“This guy went to the referee and said I should be out of the game. I heard him saying it, you know what I mean?” Kovalenko said. “He can say what he wants, it doesn't matter.”
Frustratring foes is Kovalenko's game. It's, he said, “what I had to do. It's physical. … If the referee thinks its a yellow card, it's a yellow card. But you don't have to tell him what's going on. So I told [Schmid] something, too, you know what I mean?”
Once cautioned, Kovalenko's effectiveness was done. A second yellow is a red card, and he'd have been out of next Sunday's second leg at the Home Depot Center. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena pulled him five minutes later.
Landon Donovan takes the leadership role for L.A., and Seattle looks for Fredy Montero to call the shots.
WHAT: Sunday's opener in a home-and-home, first-round Major League Soccer playoff series between the L.A. Galaxy (18-7-5) -- the Western Conference champion, top-seeded team and winner of the Supporters' Shield for best regular-season record in the league -- and Seattle Sounders FC (14-10-6), the West's No. 4-seeded team.WHERE: Qwest Field in Seattle, with about 40,000 fans expected.
WATCH: ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes at 5 p.m.
HISTORY: The series is even, at 2-2-1 in all meetings, since the Sounders joined MLS last season -- there also were two U.S. Open Cup meetings with Sounders-related teams, both Galaxy victories, when Seattle was in the second-tier league. The Galaxy twice won this season in league matches (4-0 on May 8 in Seattle, 3-1 on July 4 in Carson). Seattle captured a U.S. Open Cup showdown (2-0 on July 7 in Tukwila, Wash.), with both teams fielding largely reserve lineups.
CONNECTIONS: It's pretty much one-way traffic here. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid (Torrance/Bishop Montgomery HS and UCLA) was the Galaxy's coach from 1999 to 2004, guiding them to the 2002 MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield, 2001 U.S. Open Cup and 2000 CONCACAF Champions Cup titles. … Reserve midfielder Peter Vagenas (Pasadena/St. Francis HS and UCLA) played in 183 MLS games (plus 19 playoff encounters) from 2000 to 2008, captaining the 2005 MLS Cup/U.S. Open Cup winners. … Reserve defender Tyrone Marshall also was part of both Galaxy MLS Cup winners; the Jamaican national-teamer was in L.A. from 2002 to 2007. … Reserve forward Nate Jaqua spent 10 games with the Galaxy in 2007, scoring twice. … Starting midfielder Nathan Sturgis started his pro career in Carson, playing 24 times in league games for the Galaxy in 2006-07.
The Galaxy's dominance of its series with Seattle this season has some of the Sounders clamoring for revenge. Bruce Arena doesn't think a whole lot of that kind of talk.
L.A.'s 4-0 rout May 8 at Qwest Field was comprehensive. The 3-1 triumph July 4 at Home Depot Center was nearly as one-sided.
“I wanted L.A. from the beginning,” Sounders winger Steve Zakuani said earlier this week in The Seattle Times. “Of course, it's going to be very tough. They beat us twice in the regular season, but I think we owe them one, and we're ready.”
The Sounders of May and July bear little resemblance to today's team:
- Gone is Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, sent to Chicago in a midseason trade after dividing the Sounders' locker room.