Major League Soccer training camps now underway

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Let’s all say it together: “What offseason?”

Yes, it’s over — and I’ve known people who were on longer juice fasts.

Sporting Kansas City lifted the MLS Cup trophy seven weeks ago – and yet most teams around the 19-year-old were on the practice field today.

Seattle is already making news … and more on that in a later post.

We know for sure that Carlo Cudicini will not be in the LA Galaxy camp, putting a punctuation mark on the end of that oddball chapter. The Italian goalkeeper who flubbed at the StubHub Center had seemed to just vanish last year after losing his starting spot, with little explanation from the club.

The Timbers, expected to challenge in the West this year, were on the training ground today but also making news off the field. Maybe, anyway, as reports have the club potentially targeting its fifth Argentine player in the last two years?

Toronto made it official that Bradley Orr will soon be in camp. We told you a little bit about that one last week, about where the former Blackburn man would line up around BMO Field.

Whereas most teams are already on the field, a few will be a day or so behind. In Chicago, for instance, the players reported Saturday for physicals. And as they did, word circulated from official channels that the club is among those interested in signing Marco Pappa.  That would be a homecoming, of course, as Toyota Park is where the Guatemalan international launched himself into Europe.

Which MLS team will be crunched most by international departures in Round 28?

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Difficult as it is, let’s try to skip the part where we wonder about Major League Soccer’s ongoing, stubborn insistence of playing through this week’s FIFA international break.

In fairness MLS has made some progress here, attempting to shrink the slate of league contests around World Cup qualifiers and other international dates – but this “progress” is arriving at a plodding pace.

But, again, let’s just power through that for now. Rather, let’s talk about which teams will be taxed the most star power.

The Galaxy, on such a roll lately, top this unfortunate list. They will miss fabulously in-form Landon Donovan (pictured), league MVP candidate Robbie Keane and goalkeeper Jaime Penedo for this week’s visit by Colorado.

That’s going to hurt, especially as L.A. has ground to recover in the Supporters Shield chase. Keane and Donovan will take so much of the offense with them, while the goalkeeping gloves will be handed back to Carlo Cudicini, who just can’t help the team with the big save the way Penedo can. (We all remember the work of wonder from just a couple weeks back, right? Video of that one is at the bottom of this post.)

FC Dallas, desperate for points to help arrest that long summer slide and still in pitched battle with about five teams for three playoff spots, will also miss its starting goalkeeper and leading scorer. In fact, Dallas’ date at home against Vancouver could be called a “playoff six-pointer.”

And then there is Sporting Kansas City, where Kei Kamara just flew the KC coop for a second England adventure. Peter Vermes’ team will also be without center back Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi, both called into Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man camp for the pair of important upcoming qualifiers.

Kansas City hosts Columbus, which will be in “fresh start” mode under interim boss Brian Bliss – but without its top man, suspended playmaker Federico Higuain.

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The Carlo Cudicini era apparently over, Galaxy sign Panama No. 1 Jaime Penedo

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The smart patooties in professional soccer understand one essential rule where high-profile personnel signings are concerned:

When you make a mistake, just cop to it, fix it and move on. And by “fix it,” we mean “get rid of it.” Don’t let it sit around and rot, which tends to make the locker room smell.

Don’t let ego get in the way. Don’t keep trying to pound the round peg into the square hole just to save face, to prove to everyone that you were right and that everyone else is wrong, because you are smart or rich or whatever and cannot possibly make a mistake.

We all see it! That’s the thing about professional sports. You can keep telling us that so-and-so is getting the job done. You can keep telling yourself that so-and-so is about to turn the corner, vindicating your choice to sign the big name and validating your place as a personnel guru of withering insight.

But we all see the games, and we know better.

I give you Carlo Cudicini. Some of you argued, but I am telling you that the Italian vet has been just this side of a disaster. He simply is not getting the job done for the Galaxy.

Just because he came from Tottenham in the venerable Premier League, that does not make him Kasey Keller, Gianluigi Buffon and Gordon freakin’ Banks all rolled into one. I’m sorry; Cudicini just has not been very good with the gloves.

And today, the Galaxy are copping to it. They have signed Panamanian international Jaime Penedo, who has experience in Europe and a whopping 89 appearances for his country.

I suppose an optimist might say Cudicini now has competition. Frankly, it looks more like a case of “moving on.”

Galaxy need more from goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini

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You don’t see wily Galaxy boss Bruce Arena make too many personnel mistakes, which is a big part of the reason Los Angeles is walking around with the last two MLS titles stuck in its back pocket.

But it sure looks like the Galaxy has made one with goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, who just has not been what the team needs him to be this year.

In the briefest job description, goalkeepers need to offer two things: make all the routine plays and then supply a big stop or two per match, the kind that turns a loss into a tie or a elevates a tie into three points.

Surely, that’s what Galaxy management thought they had in Cudicini, the Italian veteran who was third man in the goalkeeping order with Tottenham when L.A. imported him in January.

But Cudicini just isn’t making many big stops. Even more concerning, some of the goals getting past the 39-year-old ‘keeper look quite soft. Watch at the goal he allowed Saturday Colorado’s Dillon Powers. Credit the Rapids rookie for a nice-enough finish. But if you are a Galaxy fan, you’d like to see Cudicini stand his ground there, make himself “big” and perhaps knock this one away.

Instead, he falls away rather meekly. This was the second goal in a 2-0 loss; if Cudicini makes the stop, perhaps L.A. can hang around long enough to squeeze in a road equalizer. As it is, a two-goal deficit on the road suddenly feels like a tough, uphill climb.

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Here’s is a good example of how Cudicini could have done better. Watch Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen stand up, present a tougher target, a turn away a similarly angled shot Saturday against Montreal:

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Back to Cudicini. And then Camilo’s goal from last week. Again, Camilo’s breakaway shot is OK, but perhaps no outstanding. Cudicini gets a palm on the ball, but not one that’s strong enough to stop the Vancouver forward’s shot.

And, clearly, Cudicini is  not happy with himself on this one. I suppose self-awareness counts for something, eh?

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ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 20 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – What is in the water around Washington, D.C.? United is at 744 minutes and counting without an MLS goal in the run of play. But the women’s team there, the Washington Spirit, has gone even longer without such a goal. So for United, there is that, I suppose.

18. Toronto FC – One day Darren O’Dea is your captain and defensive leader. The next day he’s gone with very little notice but more than a few questions, sold to a club in the Ukraine. Yes, it frees up cap space, but it’s fair to ask about the plan around BMO Field. Specifically, is there one?

17. Chivas USA – After three games on the road, the Goats are finally back at home. In fact, this is one that a recently re-organized side, now showing a little more structure and soon to benefit from Carlos Bocanegra’s leadership could certainly win. Toronto FC is the opposition.

16. Columbus – New England travels to Colorado for a Wednesday match and then finds itself in Ohio for a contest three nights later. That is what you call a “prime opportunity,” and any team with real playoff ambitions must be able to take advantage.

15. San Jose Earthquakes – As inconsistent as the Earthquakes have been, with as many things as have gone wrong around little Buck Shaw Stadium this year, the side is just six points out of a playoff spot. The ‘Quakes have played at least one more match than most clubs, but there are some thin rays of hope.

14. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee has gone so far towards solving the Fire’s attacking issues – but Frank Klopas’ team isn’t going anywhere until the defense gets better. Latest evidence: Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Vancouver.

13. New England Revolution – Monday’s terrific news, that Kevin Alston has rejoined the team and is traveling for a mid-week match at Colorado, helped wash away the bad taste of a home loss to Houston.

12. Colorado Rapids – Anyone else get the feeling the Rapids’ season could go either way? They could climb steadily into a playoff spot or they could tumble down to the wrong side of Seattle and San Jose. If a climb is in the cards, they have to win the home games against mid-level teams, and a match like that is up Wednesday as New England visits.

11. Houston Dynamo – It took a holding midfielder to score two goals – OK, he was only officially credited with one, but he was directly responsible for one recorded as an own goal – to get the Dynamo a huge road win. Still, no Dynamo forward has scored since early May. Yikes!

10. FC Dallas – The team has tumbled from first to fourth lately in the Western Conference standings, unable to score and not nearly as secure in the back. (And that is unlikely to change until center back George John gets healthy enough to join the starting lineup again.)

9. Seattle Sounders – Osvaldo Alonso was back in the starting lineup last week, but the Sounders still fell, this time at Buck Shaw Stadium to San Jose. Now, they’ll be without Alonso again following his late, weekend ejection.

8. LA Galaxy – The Galaxy has allowed eight goals in stoppage time and 15 after the 75th minute. You read it here: there will be no three-peat if center backs Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza and goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini cannot sort out things back there.

7. New York Red Bulls – The weekend’s 4-0 win over Montreal was one of the best yet under young manager Mike Petke. For those wondering whether Thierry Henry could still manage the job (and the significant weight of expectation) at age 35, he leads the team in goals (7) and assists (4).

6. Philadelphia Union – Even Union fans seemed to feel a little badly about the way their team won over Chivas USA. But by season’s end that will be just another three points in the standings, and the Union is looking pretty good for a playoff spot.

5. Montreal Impact – The team is headed the wrong way, now having conceded 12 goals in the last three matches. The latest loss, 4-0 at New York, was a defensive fiasco.

4. Vancouver Whitecaps – No doubt about it now: Brazilian attacker Camilo (pictured above) has displaced Chicago’s Mike Magee as Major League Soccer’s hottest player. With two more strikes Sunday, he has 10 goals in the team’s last nine matches and a league-leading 12 strikes overall.

3. Sporting Kansas City – Looking for a swell game to watch this weekend? Sporting KC’s visit to Utah to meet Real Salt Lake looks like a real crackerjack. RSL is unbeaten in 11 matches across all competitions, while SKC is unbeaten in five MLS matches, now scoring with a forceful regularity.

2. Real Salt Lake – They got a bit fortunate early as FC Dallas misfired in Texas, but Javier Morales’ wonderful goal helped turn the night. A team missing four important leaders won for the first time in Texas, 3-0, at FC Dallas Stadium.

1. Portland Timbers – What a night at typically rocking Jeld-Wen Field, a stoppage time win over the two-time defending champion Galaxy that was easily the top match of Round 20 in Major League Soccer.