After Sporting Kansas City, the MLS East is wide, wide open


I’m in the writing business, not the prognostication business. Heck, if I were better at predicting winners and losers in sports, I could probably make a little scratch on the side – and give up my night job as towel boy at the local tub club. (It ain’t pretty, believe me.)

That said, sometimes the writing business and prediction business do cross streams, which is always dangerous, as we know. It’s especially dangerous when it comes to Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference this year. It’s Sporting Kansas City’s title to lose; after that, it’s a big ol’ nine-team grab bag. It’s wide, wide open.

Anybody who says they know what’s going to happen in the 2012 version of MLS Eastern Promises is probably fibbing a bit.  Fact is, they’re just guessing. Just like I did when I put together my Eastern Conference preview for  They are educated guesses, but guesses just the same.  I noticed that one of the best in the business,’s Kyle McCarthy, likes New York and Columbus just a little more than I do.  Here’s Kyle’s complete, comprehensive Eastern Conference preview.

My worries about New York have everything to do with some untested pup standing between the pipes and a back line that may yet be very good – but it’s newly assembled and still needs to prove that to me. Bottom line … well, here’s what I said in my own Eastern preview:

It’s really hard to say which way things might go around Red Bull Arena. So much depends on chemistry (i.e. Marquez) and the health of a certain Frenchman (Henry). He’s 34, and those bothersome heel issues probably aren’t in for a drastic improvement. If Henry falls in form or misses time due to injury, a dandy offense suddenly looks more mortal.

I like Houston for second, but Dominic Kinnear’s crew  must dodge the slow starts that have afflicted Orange versions past. The Dynamo did manage a pretty good start last year (3-1-3 in March and April), but they’ll be stretched this year with seven on the road to get going. (BBVA Compass stadium, just outside downtown Houston, opens May 12.)

The rest of my guesses picks went like this:

  • 1. Sporting Kansas City
  • 2. Houston Dynamo
  • 3. Chicago Fire
  • 4. New York Red Bulls
  • 5. D.C. United
  • 6. Philadelphia Union
  • 7. Toronto FC
  • 8. Columbus Crew
  • 9. New England Revolution
  • 10. Montreal Impact

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.