Author: Richard Farley


Clarence Goodson set to miss eight more weeks

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A left toe problem has cost San Jose center back Clarence Goodson four out of the Earthquakes’ last five games. Now, former starter Jason Hernández’s place in the team’s first XI is about to be prolonged. According to Major League Soccer’s website, Goodson will miss the next eight weeks, with his foot set to spend four weeks immobilized while his toe heals.

Through injury and time with the U.S. national team, Goodson’s been limited to 10 league appearances, his first full campaign since returning to MLS from Europe. If the timeline head coach Mark Watson quoted at today’s practice holds up, Goodson will miss the same number of games over the next two months, with an eight-week layoff leaving him ready to comeback Sept. 28 at Colorado.

According to Watson, the eight-week projection includes time it will take to regain match fitness.

“We’ve been told eight weeks for the isolation and the rehabilitation side combined,” Watson said, via the league’s website, with isolation referring to the period Goodson’s foot will have to be immobilized. Watson also conceded forward Steven Lenhart, suffering with a knee injury, could undergo minor surgery that could sideline him up to four weeks.

As is the case up top, San Jose has enough depth to cover in central defense, where Hernández can temporarily resume his former starter’s role.

“You have two national-team center backs that are very good players,” Watson said, referring to Goodson and Honduran partner Víctor Hernández, “but the other guys have done well and deserve to play. We’re fortunate enough that we have an incredible amount of depth at that position.”

In this case, the quality is as important as the depth. Though Hernández may be a step down from Goodson, the extent of that step is debatable, let alone whether that extent will matter over the small part of the season. San Jose’s gotten by with Hernández before. There’s no reason that can’t do the same now.

The more interesting question is where this leaves Goodson. If the injury heals without issue, it will leave him back where he started: In San Jose’s starting lineup. Still, this is a guy who turned 32 in May, somebody who we hampered by injuries at the beginning of the season, too. Though he’s been strong in central defense for the Earthquakes, he’s also decidedly in the last phase of his career, one which could involve more injuries, if not an entirely missed step.

Maybe this is why Hernández, capable of starting for a number of teams, is still in San Jose. Particularly given Bernárdez’s place in the Honduran set up, central defense for the Earthquakes may not be a true two-man job any time soon.

Second thing Brian Ching doesn’t like: NWSL cooling breaks

Brian Ching 2

Former Houston Dynamo forward Brian Ching has already been in the news once today for criticizing Eddie Johnson, but given his role as Managing Director of the NWSL’s Houston Dash, a tweet from the former U.S. international has provided another bit of news. Though the idea of cooling breaks seems to have been met with a positive reception by the league’s fan base, the Dash executive questioned the need for the league’s new policy.

The comments came after Wednesday’s announcement the women’s first division had implemented a procedure that would allow for 30th and 75th minute breaks should the heat index at a match reach 89 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured one hour before kickoff.

Referencing seven years’ playing experience with the Dynamo, Ching questioned the need for the procedure, which saw Wednesday’s meeting between the Dash and league-leading Seattle Reign fall under the guidelines.

It’s strange to see a league executive speak out against what’s supposed to be a safety measure, though there are some valid criticisms of the league’s decision. Whether 89 degrees is the right threshold has been the strongest.

Ching’s comments, however, reference something different. There’s a clear “two miles in the snow” feel to his tweet, with his “back in the day” appeal implying soccer was just fine the way it was. The World Cup puts some new-fangled idea in people’s heads, and all of a sudden the rest of us have to follow?

Of course, it’s not great logic, nor should we expect Twitter to be filled with thought out, cogent appeals. Still, there’s a closed-mindedness to this that becomes unsettling when we’re talking about issues to player safety. “Back in the day” doesn’t work regarding two-footed tackles, concussion protocol, or dehydration issues, particularly when the view’s coming from one of the league’s decision-makers. Whether Ching walked barefoot through his snow is irrelevant.

Perhaps the NWSL’s threshold is too low. Maybe the league can listen to dissent and raise the bar. But again, that’s not what Ching’s tweet is about. To him, what was good enough for 2007 Brian is good enough for the 2014 NWSL. While that isn’t the worst argument ever, it’s a mindset that would keep the game from evolving in the face of new information.

For somebody who’s setting policy at a club-wide level, it’s a discouraging point of view.

Ignacio Piatti’s move to Montréal may cost him a place in Copa Libertadores’ final

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Every MLS team is getting their own Argentine these days, but whereas San Jose just confirmed theirs today, Montréal announced Ignacio Piatti’s impending arrival earlier this month. During that time, Piatti has stayed in Argentina, where he’s helped San Lorenzo to the Copa Libertadores final. The ability to play through CONMEBOL’s club championship was a major part of the 29-year-old’s negotiation with Montréal.

Unfortunately, the fun that is international transfer windows is about to call time on the teams’ goodwill. On Aug. 7, North American’s transfer window closes, preventing Montréal from registering players from other countries. With Copa’s two-legged final scheduled for Aug. 6 and 13, Piatti will have to join his new club before seeing out San Lorenzo’s continental campaign.

According to Major League Soccer’s website, the two teams pursued a FIFA exemption that would allow Piatti to complete Copa with San Lorenzo. Per Montréal owner Joey Saputo, that path fell short.

“What FIFA told us is that it’s something they’ve never done,” Saputo told reporters on Wednesday. So it would be very tough for him to get an exemption, and his club, San Lorenzo, know it. They don’t have a choice; he has to come here before August 7. I don’t know if he plays on August 6, but honestly, I don’t think so. He’ll be here before the window closes.”

Can’t we just turn a blind eye to this one? Both clubs are on board, as is the player. And we’re not talking about a huge amount of time to forgive. It’s six days.

Paraguay’s Nacional, San Lorenzo’s opposition, might have an issue with it, but their case would have to rest on a slippery slope argument that envisions finalists playing with rosters overloaded with players destined for leagues with Aug. 7 transfer deadlines. Would it be to terrible for us to wait until that world is more than a hypothetical?

At least, that’s one point of view. The other: This is a situation the teams clearly saw as a possibility, yet all sides elected to move forward with the deal. San Lorenzo had the ability to go out and get another player to address this need. Just because Piatti really wants to play next week doesn’t mean anybody should rewrite their rules.

This is an oddity, not a tragedy, though it’s still unfortunate for Piatti. Libertadores was clearly important to him. Unfortunately, his move north had to take priority over the chance San Lorenzo would make the final.

Matías Pérez García announced, becomes third Designated Player in San Jose history


Monday’s rumors have come to fruition, something that should be met with delight from fans of the San Jose Earthquakes. Becoming the third designated player in franchise history, 29-year-old Argentine Matías Pérez García is on the verge of joining the 2012 Supporters’ Shield winners, with only the arrivals of his visa and international transfer certificate standing in the way of a new life in Northern California.

San Jose announced the signing on this afternoon, with the now former Tigre playmaker set to join current DP Chris Wondolwski as focal points of Mark Watson’s attack. In the process, Pérez García, who has recorded 13 goals over the last two Primera División campaigns, gives the Earthquakes’ head coach the ability to give the team’s attack a much-needed facelift.

“We’re very excited to sign Matias,” Watson said, via San Jose’s website. “He adds a very experienced, technical attacking quality that will be a great complement to the squad we already have. We look forward to having him join the team.”

[ RELATED: San Jose about to bring in its own South American playmaker ]

Complement is a great word for it. Typically operating behind a lone striker, Pérez García had become Tigre’s most-reliable scorer, partially because of the rotating cast in front of him. Functionally, he operates as a playmaker, giving San Jose the type of Argentine maestro that’s been so successful in places like Salt Lake (Javier Morales), Columbus (Federico Higuaín), and Portland (Diego Valeri).

“It’s a monumental moment for the club,” general manager John Doyle said. “Matias is a dynamic, attacking player that will create chances for teammates as well as himself. I’m very excited to see the impact that he can have on this league for years to come.”

According to earlier reports from ESPN Deportes, Pérez García’s transfer fee could be $2 million. San Jose, per league policy, did not reveal details of the move.

We’ve already talked about some of the signing’s implications (link, above), but before the transaction became official, we skipped many of the on-field implications. With Pérez García confirmed, we can talk about the impact on San Jose’s squad – an influence that could evolve into a turning point in how the Earthquakes go about their soccer.

Unless Watson institutes a huge change in formation, you can expect Wondolowski to start up top with Pérez García in support. Yannick Djaló’s versatility will allow him to move wide, opposite Shea Salinas. Sam Cronin and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi should man the middle, and when Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon are available, Watson will have the option to go with more typical number nine up top, potentially dropping Djaló to the bench.

It’s a more flexibility team than Watson had yesterday, giving the team hope of creating more scoring opportunities without relying on set pieces and crosses (the Earthquakes are next-to-last in the league in open play goals). While their ability to generate chances that way can remain a strength, the accumulation of players like Pérez García and Djaló give Watson another option.

Perhaps as importantly, it will improve perception, something that’s important when you’re moving into a new venue. Soccer purists can argue all they want about the virtues of a more pragmatic approach, but at some point, people want to be entertained, and while not everybody enjoys the same style, people tend to enjoy it when the more skillful, technical side comes out. To this point, San Jose’s strengths have lied in other areas, a balance that becomes more difficult to justify when pragmatism does not lead to results. Ultimately, pragmatism isn’t always that practical.

With Pérez García, San Jose may try to strike a different balance, but will it lead to better results on the field? Unfortunately, when bringing in a player that has so little experience outside one league, it’s hard to assess how they’ll adapt; however, if Pérez García can assimilate quickly, his record (and, the record of similar Argentines that have come north) suggests he’ll have a significant impact. The Earthquakes should be able to pass Chivas USA.

As far as the rest of the West, that’s more difficult to say. When you look at the rosters of teams one through seven, they still look better than San Jose’s, and given the Earthquakes have failed to transcend that talent over the last two years, it’s hard to overlook at how they stack up at central midfield, fullback, and potentially on the wings (depending how their first choice XI shakes out). When teams as talented as Vancouver and Portland are having trouble cracking the West’s top five, you’re reminded how competitive the West’s become.

Even if San Jose can’t get back into this year’s playoff race, this move should pay benefits in the future. The Earthquakes are moving into a new, larger venue next year, and while Pérez García’s name won’t see tickets, the product he’ll help produce could. Even if that doesn’t get San Jose back into the postseason, it will move the team forward.

MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 1-1 New York Red Bulls

Chicago Fire v New York Red Bulls
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One game, 100 words or less: A resilient night from New York allowed the Red Bulls to take a point out of Rio Tinto, despot being held to one shot on target. On a layoff from Tim Cahill in the 57th minute, Thierry Henry pulled back João Plata’s first half opener, opening his right-foot on an equalizer from just outside the penalty box. Limiting Real Salt Lake to four tries on target, New York leveraged Henry’s lone shot for a 1-1 draw in Utah.


Real Salt Lake: Plata 18′
New York: Henry 57′

Three moments that mattered:

18′ – Just … don’t let him soon – And Chris Duvall tried, but as the rookie right back leapt to try keep Plata from getting his shot on goal, the RSL attacker slid his try underneath the 22-year-old, beating Luis Robles far post for an early opener.

57′ – We’re going to miss you, Titi – At halftime, ESPN’s Alexi Lalas relayed the feeling around the league: Thierry Henry’s probably done after this season. Just over 12 minutes later, the Red Bulls star was providing a glimpse of what we may miss. Lurking outside the penalty area, Henry was in the perfect spot to jog into a Tim Cahill layoff, opening his right foot onto a casual, precise finish just inside Nick Rimando’s left post.

77′ – Jamison Olave’s going to get some time off –

via @8bitsports

Was that a pinch? Or a grab? Regardless, Olave wasn’t punished on the play. Olmes Garcia saw yellow, presumably for simulation.


Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert; Luke Mulholland (Luis Gil 67′), Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy; Javier Morales; João Plata, Olmes Garcia (Robbie Findley 82′)
New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, Roy Miller; Eric Alexander (Ruben Bover Izquierdo 79′), Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Ambroise Oyongo; Thierry Henry (Péguy Luyindula 90′); Bradley Wright-Phillips

Three lessons going forward:

1. Both teams showed their quality – Real Salt Lake was the better team on the night, but not so far beyond what you’d expect from a good team playing mid-week at home. To New York’s credit, they were able to get a valuable point despite only generating two or three good chances.

As Jeff Cassar said after the game, if RSL plays like this, they’re going to win more often than not, but they didn’t on Wednesday. A lot of that has to do with New York.

2. The continued importance of Henry – New York had four shots on the night. Two were “set up” by Henry, the other was the playmaker’s goal. If Henry really does ride off into the sunset, pray for the Red Bulls.

3. Real Salt Lake looks like Real Salt Lake – As RSL struggled through late spring, “Cassar’s first test” was the typical refrain around these parts. The first-year coach needed to adjust.

Now, with Kyle Beckerman back in the middle, RSL looks like its normal self. The team’s still missing a forward (and might go get one), but the way it controls games has returned. Maybe Cassar just needed to ride it out?

Where this leaves them:

  • The point inches RSL three in front of the West’s peleton. Seattle still leads the conference by five.
  • While the point was a good one, New York is still fifth in the Eas, one point behind the New England, Toronto, Columbus dog pile at the edge of the playoffs.