Thursday, March 19, 2009

2009 MLS Season Begins

Today, most of the American sports media will be focused on the opening day of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, but in the Pacific Northwest, another media storm is brewing. Tonight, about 32,000 fans will pack Qwest Field to watch their expansion Seattle Sounders FC play their first-ever game as they take on the New York Red Bulls in the first game of the 2009 MLS season. It is definitely an exciting time for soccer in the Pacific Northwest, with the opening of the Sounders' season as well as the news yesterday that MLS will have an expansion team in Vancouver in 2011. With talk that Portland could become team #18 in MLS (with competition coming from St. Louis), tonight's game is the start of a bright future of soccer up there.

While this game should be plenty exciting, it's unfortunate that it will take place on the opening day of the NCAA Tourney, which is probably the most watched tournament in the world outside of the World Cup and the Euros. However, it will be interesting to see how Seattle plays in their first game. While Freddie Ljungberg, their heralded signing, is not expected to play tonight due to injury, Seattle has a decent looking side, anchored by Kasey Keller in net. Once Ljungberg enters the fold, they could possibly turn some heads with their play.

The MLS season should be a fantastic one, and I'm expecting it to be the best season yet. I will be keeping my eye on this game tonight along with all the basketball there is to offer over this weekend. Welcome to another year of Major League Soccer!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Another CL Fail

Real Madrid, probably the greatest club in the history of soccer/football/fĂștbol/calcio, suffered one of its biggest defeats in the Champions League yesterday, falling 4-0 to Liverpool at Anfield Park and succumbing to a 5-0 aggregate defeat in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. This marks the 5th straight year Real has been beaten in the Round of 16, but this was definitely the most crushing defeat of them all. Until the Round of 16 legs rolled around, Real was on a roll, winning 10 games in a row in La Liga until their 1-1 draw last weekend in the Madrid derby against AtlĂ©tico. Yet, they completely phoned it in against Liverpool in the 2nd leg, one where a couple of goals would have changed the tone of the match. Casillas saved enough shots to know that the score would have been 8-0.

What this signifies is that Real Madrid really needs to shake up their roster in the offseason. Too many players aren't cutting it on the world stage, and Real is a team that expects nothing but the best results on the world stage. Almost everyone on the team yesterday looked lost, save for Lass and Casillas. Shaping up the defensive core is the first step, getting another quality defensive midfielder to be the quarterback, and a playmaking attack midfielder or striker who can make things happen up front. Needless to say, I'm very disappointed in my team and their 2nd round exit, but what they need to do now is focus on doing everything in their power to get the La Liga crown for the 3rd straight year. They're currently 6 points down to archrival Barcelona, and a year without silverware could mean the end for many players and administrators at the Bernabeu.

My team will survive, but it's clear that something's not clicking on the European stage for Real Madrid. It's time to work out those kinks, because I'm never happy with 2nd round exits from the Champions League, much less a performance like the one they phoned in yesterday. They shouldn't be happy either.