Los Angeles Soccer: Schellas Hyndman

CHIVAS: No expectations vs. lowly Hoops

June, 22, 2012
Chivas USA spent most of the last month taking points off Major League Soccer's biggest sides, then climbing to within a point of the Western Conference's playoff zone with an impressive victory over a pretty good Montreal side.

Now they get a taste of the American soccer's ghetto.

The Goats (5-7-4, 18 points) are in Texas on Saturday to take on an FC Dallas team that has been decimated by injuries, red cards and suspensions, hasn't won in two months and sits at the bottom of the Western standings.

That doesn't mean a whole lot, says head coach Robin Fraser, whose team has lost just once -- last weekend to Real Salt Lake -- in its last seven games, all competitions.

“For us, it doesn't matter who the next opponent is, we have to improve,” Fraser said. “There are some things that we could he better and sharper at. Regardless of who we play, there's going to be that challenge. Dallas is a very talented team. They've certainly not gotten the results that they're capable of.”

Everything has been tough for the Hoops, who played in the MLS Cup final two seasons ago and reached the playoffs last year. 2010 MVP David Ferreira is still out after last year's injury, and nearly a dozen players have joined him on the bench at one time or another.

They're missing starting center backs George John and Ugo Ihemelu, influential midfielder Ricardo Villar and top scorer Blas Perez with one ailment of another, and star winger Brek Shea is just getting back from a foot injury.

And Jair Benitez is suspended after a red card, for an off-the-ball elbow to Colin Clarke's head, in last weekend's loss at Houston. That's five red cards in 16 games for the Hoops (plus another in a U.S. Open Cup loss), plus a three-game suspension to Shea last month for kicking the ball at a linesman.

The red cards have been largely stupid and costly: Dallas watched a lead turn to a loss following Zach Loyd's second yellow card at Columbus last month, and twice it has given up decisive goals in defeat following dismissals.

The Hoops have lost seven of their last eight games, including the Open Cup, are winless in their last 11 games -- and in five of them, they scored first.

“I think that game is there for the taking,” Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said after Wednesday's 2-1 win over Montreal. “It's not like they're on fire and unbeatable. When you win, it can become contagious, and you can build momentum with it, so that's what we need to do.”

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GALAXY: On the spot before big finish

April, 28, 2012

CARSON -- The Galaxy are living and dying from the penalty spot these days, and after the turn of events early in the second half Saturday night, it didn't look as if there was a whole lot of life in them.

Ah, appearances can be deceiving.

Pat Noonan netted a huge first goal with L.A., finishing a stoppage-time scramble in FC Dallas' box to deliver a 1-1 draw in an often invigorating clash that was otherwise defined by Bill Gaudette's fine play in the nets and a pair of penalty kicks that looked certain to doom the Galaxy to another home defeat.

They instead pulled out a point with an ending that, if not enough to nail down a third successive victory, could be as galvanizing as Josh Saunders' penalty-kick stop to beat Colorado a week ago.

“We getting a goal in extra time, can't be complaining about the point,” said head coach Bruce Arena, who might have had reason to complain anyway. “It's that simple. We missed a penalty. We had some good chances during the game. There weren't a whole lot of chances in the game for either team, but we had enough to get ourselves two or three goals and didn't. ... The team plays that hard and gets a point at the end like that, I think that's a positive.”

Robbie Keane missed the penalty kick, with a chance to take the lead in the 49th minute, and Brek Shea converted from the spot 12 minutes later to provide Dallas an advantage that lasted almost to the finish. But Arena made smart substitutions -- Adam Cristman, Chad Barrett and Noonan, all of them second-half submissions, combined on the winning goal -- and L.A. (3-3-1) got more than they might have on a night in which they weren't quite crisp enough.

Gaudette, making his first-team debut for L.A., was outstanding in place of Saunders, who bowed out to deal with what the team called “personal matters.” The veteran keeper has a history at HDC -- he made his first MLS appearance here in 2005 for Columbus and two years ago helped the Puerto Rico Islanders to a 4-1 win over the Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round -- so when he saw his name on the board when he walked into the locker room Saturday afternoon, he was ready.

He made three huge saves -- diving to stop George John's quick deflection of a Daniel Hernandez free kick in the 18th minute, parrying Shea in the 21st and leaping to tip away a looping, off-balance Blas Perez header moments after Keane's miss -- but committed the foul that gave Shea the ball at the spot.

Most of the blame on that play goes to David Junior Lopes, making his third start since arriving in a trade from Chivas nearly three weeks ago. Lopes struggled with the ball at his feet the entire match and made several mistakes, none as debilitating as his poor attempt to chest the ball from a Jair Benitez cross back to Gaudette.

Perez raced past him to take possession, and Gaudette took him down. Shea's shot left Gaudette no chance.

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FC Dallas' Ferreira to rehab in L.A.

April, 24, 2012

David FerreiraOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesDavid Ferreira of FC Dallas is in Los Angeles to rehabilitate an injury.

David Ferreira, the skilled midfielder voted Major League Soccer's MVP as he led FC Dallas to the MLS Cup 2010 title game, is coming to L.A., and not because the Hoops are meeting the Galaxy this weekend at Home Depot Center.

The Colombian playmaker, who has been out since last April because of a broken foot and following several setbacks during preseason, underwent another foot surgery a few weeks ago and will do his rehabilitation at Athletes' Performance's L.A. location at Home Depot Center, ESPN Dallas' “3rd Degree” blog reports.

“Our mentality right now with David is he just got the OK for rehab,” FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman told ESPN Dallas. “What we’re going to do is send him out to L.A. and get intensive rehab out there where some of the better athletes, like [David] Beckham, [Landon] Donovan and some of those guys when they’re injured, they get their rehabs.

“We felt like a change of environment was very important for David. We didn’t want to send him to Brazil, to Colombia or anything like that because we want him to still be a part and focus for this. But if everything goes the way we think it will go, he could be back in six weeks.”

GALAXY: Becks' crosses cripple Dallas

August, 6, 2011

CARSON -- David Beckham is celebrated the world over for his ability to put a ball in specific spots, and he was at his best in doing so Saturday night at Home Depot Center.

The Galaxy's biggest name had its biggest game in the biggest showdown of the season, at least so far, delivering three beautiful balls for goals in a 3-1 triumph over FC Dallas that extended L.A.'s lead over the Hoops in the Supporters' Shield and Western Conference races to six points.

Six big points.

The victory also gave the Galaxy (13-3-9) the advantage in the tiebreaker, which means they'll get the trophy should Major League Soccer's two best sides finish on even terms when the regular-season ends in another 2½ months.

“We've got our own goals that we've set, and the first one is winning the Supporters' Shield,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said, “and this was really a big step in the right direction.”

It was a chippy, sometimes ugly game, filled with fouls and cautions, but it was beautiful for L.A., which needed to show character after a horrid performance in Wednesday's loss at Portland. It didn't start well, with Marvin Chavez providing FC Dallas (12-6-6) a ninth-minute lead, but once the Galaxy found their step -- perhaps a half-hour in -- they were the dominant side.

All three goals came from Beckham's service, with Omar Gonzalez finishing a free kick in the 32nd minute (after Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman swung and missed while trying to punch away the cross), Juninho volleying home after a corner kick in the 62nd (when Gregg Berhalter inadvertently nodded the cross back to the top of the box) and Mike Magee heading home clinically from an 81st-minute free kick.

Said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena: “Obviously, he's made quite a reputation for himself over the years on set pieces, and he continues to have the abuility to serve the ball in dangerous spots. ... Teams that can score goals off set pieces often win a lot of games. Obviously, it's an important part of our attacking scheme.”

A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:

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GALAXY: Two losses to throw away

August, 5, 2011

CARSON -- The Galaxy has no doubt that Wednesday's brutal loss in Portland isn't going to affect them when they meet their nearest pursuer in Major League Soccer's regular-season race, unless it helps.

L.A.'s performance in the 3-0 defeat, more so than the loss itself, is something that has to be put in the past. Everyone vows that will happen, no problem.

It better. Saturday night's Home Depot Center encounter with FC Dallas could, as Landon Donovan pointed out, “be the difference between finishing first or not.”

The Galaxy (12-3-9) sits three points ahead of FC Dallas (12-5-6) and has played one more game. A third successive defeat -- following the Hoops' playoff romp last year at HDC and their odd, lightning-delayed triumph May 1 -- would drop the Galaxy into second place in the Supporters' Shield and Western Conference standings and give Dallas the advantage if they finish even on points.

“We know they've been chasing us all year, and they're right at our tail now,” Donovan said. “We've got to make sure that we're ready. The Portland loss actually comes at a good time, because it makes us refocus and readjust, and we know they're flying and they've been playing well.”

David Beckham says he hopes “it's a kick up the backside for us” “that “kicks us back into the way we have been playing.”

Wednesday's defeat was the first in 15 league games for the Galaxy, since that loss in Dallas -- and that one, which Donovan called “bizarre” and Beckham termed “a weird night” -- might hold more sway over L.A.'s emotions than what happened up north.

They deny it, but head coach Bruce Arena, not one, generally, to go off, expressed his bitterness over the 2-1 defeat following L.A.'s practice Friday.

“It was a pretty stupid exercise, I thought, that whole thing where we stat around for over an hour, then replayed it,” he said when asked his memories of the game. “Unfortunately, they made a play in that little mini-game we had, and it turned out to be a big three points.”

The game was halted in the 83rd minute, tied at 1, by torrential rains and lightning, and after an hour the Galaxy had packed up and was ready to head back to their hotel. The decision to resume the game came down not long after, and Brek Shea scored two minutes into the final seven with a flighty cross that roamed into the net.

It was a result that, to paraphrase Donovan, could be the difference in who gets the Supporters' Shield.

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CHIVAS USA: Pearce takes on old 'mates

June, 17, 2011
Heath Pearce has made an enormous impact on Chivas USA's backline this season, and it wouldn't have been possible if not for an odd falling out of sorts he experienced last year with FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman.

It occurred as the Hoops were preparing for its MLS Cup final in Toronto against Colorado, when Pearce, finally healthy after a month-long hamstring injury, was left off the active roster for the game and tweeted his frustration.

It led eventually to a mid-February trade -- an absolute steal for the Goats, who parted with allocation money to pick up the left-footed defender-- and lots of positives for Chivas, with Pearce turning in superb performances in the middle after moving from the flanks when injuries began hammering defensive depth.

He'll get a chance Saturday night to show Hyndman how big a mistake he made when FC Dallas (7-4-4) visits Home Depot Center to take on the Goats (4-5-4).

Hyndman this week said Pearce, among other contributors, was dealt to open roster and cap space so the Hoops could diversify their attack after falling to the Colorado Rapids in overtime in November's MLS Cup showdown.

“All moves are difficult moves when you’re dealing with people, characters and personalities,” Hyndman told reporters in Texas. “We as an organization felt it was the best move for us to be able to bring in a [Fabian] Castillo or somebody like a Castillo.

“You look at how well our defense has done up to now, you would say Castillo has helped, and our defense has survived. We don’t have the depth. You can’t continue to have very high-profile, expensive players and then leave another segment of your team not completed.”

Pearce was stunned by the trade, but he has been a terrific addition for the Goats and might be the team's MVP. He'll wear the captain's armband Saturday.

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GALAXY: No Ferreira? No fire

May, 1, 2011

The Galaxy faces FC Dallas for the first time since their MLS Cup dream was demolished last November, and they're not talking revenge.

Last year has nothing to do with this year, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena will testify, and the 3-0 defeat in the Western Conference title game will play no part in what occurs Sunday in Frisco, Texas.

Of greater import is who's missing from this rematch and the impact that will have on the game and, more so, on the path FC Dallas takes the next few months. Reigning Major League Soccer MVP David Ferreira, through whom the Hoops' attack flows, suffered a fractured ankle in a victory last weekend at Vancouver and could miss as much as three months.

Ferreira, a playmaker from Colombia, is architect of nearly everything Dallas does going forward -- he has three goals and an assist in five games this year, 21 and 24 in two seasons-plus -- and his absence will require the club to change things substantially.

It's doubtful they'll be better -- teams don't improve by losing their best players -- but there's mystery about how they'll approach the match that could cause the Galaxy some trouble.

“We'll see. It's hard to know” how Dallas will play without Ferreira, L.A. captain Landon Donovan said. “Obviously, formation-wise, we don't know what they'll do. Stylistically, who knows how they play? When you have a player that's that dynamic, that can pull off special plays, it influences the way you play, and now without him, we'll be curious to see how they'll play.”

So will the Hoops. Head coach Schellas Hyndman said all the right things, about how this is an opportunity for players to step forward and make a real mark, about how this doesn't change the aim, which is to win soccer games.

“Athletics is always involved with some good moments and some bad moments,” he told told media last week. “All players will get injured at some point in time. They can’t choose the time and they can’t choose the injury. For [Ferreira], it was very disappointing, but at the same time, we know he will be back.”

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MLS Power Rankings, Week 5: FC Dallas makes its point(s)

April, 13, 2011
FC Dallas was Major League Soccer's best team for a good portion of last season, and had Macoumba Kandji's ball ricocheted differently off George John last November, it might have been the Hoops celebrating an MLS Cup title on that chilly Toronto evening.

Last week's 3-0 romp over Colorado in a title-game rematch could serve as a spark for FC Dallas, which started the season slowly after head coach Schellas Hyndman, a deserving MLS Coach of the Year in 2010, tossed out some key players during the offseason.

We've had the Hoops as low as 13th in our power rankings, mostly wondering whether Hyndman's moves -- especially letting go linking midfielder Dax McCarty (to D.C. United, through the expansion draft), speedy forward Atiba Harris (to Vancouver in the expansion draft) and versatile defender Heath Pearce (in a trade with Chivas USA) for, well, nothing -- had destroyed the balance and chemistry that served the club so well in last year's run.

Friday night's victory showed Dallas in the best light, with reigning league MVP David Ferreira scoring twice, then celebrating with a pacifier and by “rocking the baby” to let the world know his wife is pregnant. Colorado was missing some key personnel, but if Ferreira is back at his best, FC Dallas is capable of anything. We've got them sixth this week.

This week's rankings:

1. REAL SALT LAKE (3-0-0), Last week: 1
Week 4:
Takes its B team to Foxborough and cleans up, 2-0, on the Revolution
Remark: RSL would be a contender with its second team
Star of the (coaching) staff: Head coach Jason Kreis scored 108 goals, won 1999 MLS MVP with Dallas in 1999
Next: Wednesday vs. Colorado, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

2. GALAXY (2-1-2), Last week: 3
Week 4:
Get robbed on Charlie Davies' end-of-game dive for 1-1 draw at D.C. United
Remark: Landon Donovan offers Davies some pool gear, via Twitter; maybe he could give the Galaxy a few goals
Star of the (coaching) staff: With Cobi Jones off with the Cosmos, the honor falls to assistant Gregg Berhalter, a two-time World Cup selection who would be starting on L.A.'s backline if healthy
Next: Wednesday at Toronto FC, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Sunday at Chicago, 1 p.m. (Galavision and Fox Sports West)

3. COLORADO RAPIDS (3-1-0), Last week: 2
Week 4:
No match for FC Dallas in 3-0 defeat
Remark: Pablo Mastroeni's absence plays huge role in MLS Cup rematch
Star of the (coaching) staff: Former Galaxy director of soccer Paul Bravo, the Rapids' technical director, was a star forward in San Jose, Colorado
Next: Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)

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Heath Pearce: 'I thought it was paranoia'

February, 16, 2011
We caught up with new Chivas USA defender Heath Pearce on Wednesday from Arizona, where he had just finished his first training with the club, which on Tuesday acquired him from FC Dallas for allocation money.

Here's some of the conversation:

Were you surprised when you heard?

I kind of had a feeling something was happening the last few days. I thought it was just a little bit of paranoia, something like that. I'd been told two weeks prior they were not going to trade me, that they had plans and I should rest assured I won't be traded. I was told they expected big things from me.

So in that sense, it was a bit of a shock to hear. But I'm really excited about this.

Chivas has a coaching staff of defenders: Robin Fraser, Greg Vanney, Carlos Llamosa. Are you excited about that?You look at Robin Fraser, he obviously was one of the better defenders in the league of all-time. Greg Vanney as well. And Robin is coming from [Real] Salt Lake, where they play an attacking style. He has quite an understanding of the game -- I got that from our meeting -- and I'm excited to play in his attacking [scheme].

You come in as a defender, and the two main coaches [Fraser and Vanney] are former players at the international level. It's a great opportunity for me to come in, learn a lot and develop.

You leave an MLS Cup runner-up, a club that is expected to contend again this year, for a team that is rebuilding nearly from scratch. It's a very different situation at Chivas USA.Definitely, and I think the attitude because of that is really positive. Everything's been forgotten in the past, everyone is focused on the present and future. … You look at Dallas, they've lost at this point four contributors, three starters [Pearce and midfielders Dax McCarty and Atiba Harris] and the other started a lot of the season [top scorer Jeff Cunningham]. They're not the same team as last year. It's a give-and-take type of league.

What are your expectations with Chivas? How do you see yourself fitting in?I'm not sure. One of the outside back positions, hopefully competing to start on either side. I'm not sure of their exact plans. I'm just trying to get transitioned as quickly as possible and make a case for myself for a starting position.

Do you have a preference to play on the left, as you have most of your career, or on the right?Not particularly, no. I wasn't a right back prior to last year, but I'm comfortable on both sides. At this point we're trying to find out -- if and when the team needs me on the field.

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Chivas USA trades for Heath Pearce

February, 15, 2011

Chivas USA's backline rebuild turned serious Tuesday when the club sent allocation money to FC Dallas for veteran outside defender Heath Pearce.

The U.S. national-teamer -- he was on the preliminary roster but not the final roster for last year's World Cup in South Africa -- was among Major League Soccer's elite right backs last season before a hamstring injury knocked him out for FC Dallas' run to the MLS Cup final. He's played left back for the national team.

Pearce's arrival dramatically improves the Goats' depth along the backline -- and might signal that Chivas USA's coaching staff isn't certain top draft choice Zarek Valentin will be ready to start at right back early in the coming season.

Valentin, a center back at the University of Akron, has been battling incumbent Mariano Trujillo for the starting job on the right, but Pearce is a definite step up at the position. Canadian veteran Ante Jazic is the returning starter at left back, and winger Jorge Flores (Anaheim/Anaheim HS) has been his backup.

Chivas also has brought in central defenders Jimmy Conrad (via the re-entry draft) from Sporting Kansas City and New Zealand national-teamer Andrew Boyens (a free-agent signing) from the New York Red Bulls.

Starting defenders Jonathan Bornstein (gone to Mexico) and Dario Delgado (released) and backup Yamith Cuesta (released) have departed since last season ended.

Pearce, 26, who is from Modesto in the Central Valley, joined FC Dallas in 2009 following four seasons in Europe, with Denmark's FC Nordsjælland and Germany's Hansa Rostock. He's made 33 international appearances.

Pearce's relationship with Schellas Hyndman suffered when he wasn't used in the MLS Cup title-game loss to Colorado in November, and FC Dallas' coach offered stinging criticism as the Hoops' preseason preparations intensified about two weeks ago.

“I think Heath’s got a lot of things he needs to get done this season,” Hyndman told ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth's 3rd Degree blog. “He’s one of our more highly recognized players, and we went through the whole playoffs without him. How much better would we have been if we had been there? He picked up his silly fifth yellow in the last minute of a game. And then when he wasn't with the team, he did some extra sprints to pull his hamstring. And then he felt like he was ready to play in the championship game, which he wasn’t.

“Obviously, if he didn’t go into national camp [in January], he wasn’t ready for that. I think he’s got some things he needs to get done for us this year.”

Hyndman on Tuesday told 3rd Degree: “[The trade] was really [about] flexibility with roster and roster spots. These are the tough things that we do. Sometimes they don’t like it, but, at the same time, we try to make the team a better team.”

We'll hear later today from Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser.

MLS youngsters beat Real Madrid … reserves

December, 2, 2010

Major League Soccer's Generation Adidas trek to Madrid started off swell, with a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid's reserve team Thursday.

Galaxy forward Tristan Bowen (Van Nuys), former UCLA standout Amobi Okugo and rising star Luis Gil (Garden Grove/Santiago HS) are among 19 players -- all either in MLS' developmental Generation Adidas program or recent grads -- on the team guided by FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman.

Injured Chivas USA midfielder Blair Gavin is one of two current GA players who are missing the trip.

Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury, who last month made his U.S. national team debut, and Columbus midfielder Dilly Duka scored for the MLS side. Okugo, who plays for Philadelphia, was a standout in midfield, and Real Salt Lake's Gil came on in the second half.

Others on the roster include national-teamers Juan Agudelo (New York) and Brek Shea (FC Dallas). The team will face the reserve teams from Rayo Vallecano on Tuesday and Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

My MLS bests ...

November, 25, 2010

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

MLS CUP: Perfect finish for Dallas' difference-maker

November, 21, 2010

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman of FC Dallas applauds the fans after the Western Conference Finals of the MLS playoffs against the Galaxy at Home Depot Center.

TORONTO -- Kevin Hartman thought it might be time to go on to something else when the Kansas City Wizards told him as kickoff neared for the new season late last winter that his services no longer were required.

The veteran goalkeeper had few options: The other Major League Soccer clubs' goalkeeping hierarchies were in place, and most weren't looking to make a chance, no matter the former UCLA star's pedigree.

Schellas Hyndman , who had what he believed a title contender after a 21-month rebuild of FC Dallas' roster, was intrigued. And Hartman thought he had more to give.

Theirs turned out to be the perfect partnership, and it's led to Sunday night's MLS Cup in Toronto (ESPN and Galavision, 5:30 p.m. PT), where the Hoops or Colorado Rapids will claim their first league title in what could be the most dynamic of the league's 15 championship games.

Hartman could be -- should be -- the difference.

The Palos Verdes product, who played at Palos Verdes and Peninsula high schools and started his college career at Cal State Dominguez Hills, was the final, and perhaps most important, piece of Hyndman's remake. He rewarded the coach with often spectacular play that sparked a league single-season record 19-game unbeaten streak, saw FC Dallas lose just four times -- tying an MLS mark -- and took the club into its first MLS Cup final, the last of the surviving remaining original clubs to do so.

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MVP: It's David Ferreira (Edson Buddle finishes second)

November, 19, 2010

TORONTO -- No surprise when David Ferreira popped out to pick up Major League Soccer's MVP trophy Friday afternoon at BMO Field. The FC Dallas playmaker was the clear frontrunner for the honor -- he got my vote -- and, also, Commissioner Don Garber inadvertently gave it away on his state-of-the-league teleconference the other day.

Ferreira, who scored the first goal in the Hoops' 3-0 romp over the Galaxy in last weekend's Western Conference final, received 20 percent of the vote among MLS players, coaches, GMs and media.

The Galaxy's Edson Buddle finished second, with 18.3 percent, and Landon Donovan was fourth, with 11.9 percent. San Jose's Chris Wondolowski (14.6) was third and Philadelphia's Sebastien Le Toux (8.9) was fifth. Strong arguments could be made for all five.

Ferreira, a 31-year-old Colombian who stands just 5-foot-5, 152 pounds, was most deserving because of the skill, vision and inspiration and exceeding class he provided to FC Dallas, which Sunday will become the last of the surviving original clubs to reach the MLS Cup final, taking on the Colorado Rapids (ESPN and Galavision, 5:30 p.m. PT).

“What he brings is a really true professionalism,” Hoops head coach Schellas Hyndman said. “Every team he's been involved with has found a way to find success. … He's a very quick thinker. I think he thinks ahead of the game. And even though he's 5-foot-5, he's a solid 5-foot-5. Thats why they call him the 'Little Bull.' He's hard to knock off the ball, and he's got a quick couple steps on you, so he'll get in front of you. He plays with a lot of courage as well. ...

“The one area that surpasses everything in a professional athlete is character. And talent can only take you so far; character can kp you there. And he exemplifies that.”

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GALAXY: A disappointing (but most deserved) end

November, 15, 2010

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, now the starter in Dallas, is a major reason why L.A. lost Sunday at home.

CARSON, Calif. -- It's fair to say that had Kevin Hartman not been so spectacular Sunday night, the Galaxy would be packing right now for an MLS Cup trek to Toronto.

The Palos Verdes product made four huge first-half saves -- on Mike Magee, Juninho, David Beckham and Landon Donovan -- and had half of them found the net, the Western Conference final would have turned out very differently.

But Hartman is just one of several reasons FC Dallas dumped the Galaxy, 3-0, at the Home Depot Center to snare a spot in its first MLS Cup final, next Sunday against the Colorado Rapids in Toronto.

Here's what made the difference:


The Galaxy wasn't all that bad. They limited Dallas to eight shots, just five on target, created some outstanding chances in the first half-hour or so, and battled hard from start to finish.

But they couldn't match the Hoops.

“We have no excuses ...” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said to open his postgame news conference. “We were outplayed. We were beat on most matchups on the field, and we were outcoached. Dallas deserved the victory.”

The Hoops utilized space better than L.A. did, using a quick transition and its speed on the flanks -- with both Marvin Chavez and Brek Shea making big imprints -- to stretch the Galaxy, especially after David Ferreira's 26th-minute opener against the run of play.

From that point on, it was FC Dallas' game.

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