Southern California

U.S. Open Cup preparation: While Portland’s Porter expects a win, Galaxy’s Arena is staying home

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PORTLAND, Ore. — They sound like famous last words, but give Caleb Porter credit: He’s not being ambiguous about his commitment to U.S. Open Cup. He’s practically guaranteeing a win tonight against their third-division guests, saying an upset like those seen on Tuesday will not happen on “our watch.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the LA Galaxy appear to not only be up to their old ways; their actually upping their level of ambivalence toward the competition.

Let’s start in Cary, N.C., where Curt Onalfo, LA’s reserve team coach, will be running the show tonight against the Carolina RailHawks.

You read that right. Bruce Arena elected to stay in Southern California, practically thumbing his nose at a cross-country assignment he was none too pleased about drawing. Associate head coach Dave Sarachan also remained in California as the team prepares for a Sunday match against New England (and seriously: Why do the Galaxy always play on Sunday?).

According to Galaxy reporter Adam Serrano, “the team that will take on RailHawks is much like those Reserve League squads” Onalfo’s used to coaching.

Boy, the Galaxy sure are taking this competition seriously, right?

As we talked about in the previous post, there are legitimate reasons for teams to rotate their squad. Cross-country trip, short turnaround, lower-division opposition – LA’s match has it all. It’s hard to blame them for leaning on a deep and talented group of kids to get them through this round.

At the same time, Bruce Arena couldn’t at least make an appearance? Well, the next time you hear somebody say Arena doesn’t care about these competitions, you can counter Galaxy’s Champions League semifinal appearance with this U.S.O.C. nugget. Then you can backtrack through a history that includes a U.S. Open Cup triumph (1996) along with a somewhat embarrassing Champions League exit in 2012 to a Toronto FC team that went on to set an MLS record for season-starting futility.

Contrast Arena’s approach with Caleb Porter’s, who said a San Jose/Colorado-esque upset tonight at JELD-WEN is “not going to happen on our watch.”

It’s big talk from a man coaching a Portland Timber team that lost to amateur club Cal FC in last year’s Open Cup. Not that anybody’s confusing these Timbers with John Spencer’s lot.

Porter’s still going to rotate his team. He’s said he’ll select starters but mitigated that by saying he has up to 16 starting-caliber players in his squad.

Regardless, the expectation is there in Portland, who face USL PRO’s Wilmington Hammerheads tonight. Porter’s putting himself front-and-center, ready to hold his team accountable.

Bruce Arena? The exact opposite.

 

An approaching expiration date on the Chivas USA experiment?

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UPDATE: Major League Soccer was quick to deny this one. “Incorrect,” said the league office.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence this ESPN Deportes report comes the day after the Juan Agudelo sale, but when a well-under the salary cap team gives away one of its best players for nothing but allocation money, you can expect people around the league to take notice. And what they seem to be noticing here is an ownership group that’s not investing in the team, has shown little intention of doing so, and isn’t living up to the league’s minimum operation requirements.

Another way to put that: We may be hearing the death rattle of Chivas USA.

The scenario, as outlined by Alicia Ratterree at Chivas USA blog The Goat Parade, is one which would see MLS operate the club after seizing it from Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara:

If MLS do take the club over, they will likely turn around and sell the team to the highest and/or most sustainable bidder, one that could very likely cause the team to move away from Southern California.

Another possibility: If, for whatever reason, Chivas USA can’t garner a price Major League Soccer deems appropriate (or, if some of that money might end up in the hands of Vergara), MLS could be better suited to fold the team and proceed with 18 teams until expansion cities are deemed ready to go. Why team a discount rate for a broken team from a market that may one day pay full price?

There’s more at Goat Parade, parsing from ESPN Deportes’s reporting, with this particular incident highlighting Vergara’s unique methods of supporting his team (as well as one team blogger’s complete credulity such methods are being used):

Suarez also mentions that he has spoken with a sponsor who was evidently approached by Vergara or Chivas USA brass, asked for $1.5 million, with the express purpose of buying players with that money, then requiring said players to promote that company’s products to the hilt. As Suarez explains, and it makes sense to me, this would essentially be a way to get sponsors to buy players without Vergara having to shell out of pocket, thereby reducing his investment burden. Again, this is just one report, but it certainly seems plausible, doesn’t it?

Before the season started, Chivas USA were already in the spotlight. An apparent sell-off and the inability to secure a local television deal saw let many to wonder whether it was time to end the Chivas USA experiment. But a surprisingly strong start from Jose Luis “El Chelis” Sanchez Sola and his team forced us to reconsider.

As Steve noted recently, that strong start is a thing of the past. After giving away Juan Agedulo, Chivas USA may soon be a thing of the past, too.

Life with (and without) Landon means planning for Donovan’s return

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Brune Arena and the LA Galaxy are in a tough spot with all this Landon Donovan business. Their mercurial icon has been quiet since helping Los Angeles to a second straight title, making good on his promise to drift away and recharge.

Take those Everton rumors and blow your nose with them. In all likelihood, Donovan’s enjoying some quiet time in Southern California, enjoying family and far too many sessions of FIFA13. If he does find his way back to Carson, it may be with a bad case of carpal tunnel.

On one hand, the break’s a prerogative Donovan’s earned with his contributions to club, country and league. The man who’s logged thousands of miles wants a couple of months to recharge? Who wants to tell him no?

On the other, he did sign a contract. He’s entering the last year of a deal set to pay him $2.4 million in 2013.

No surprise, Arena seems to be taking everything in stride. That’s why he’s Bruce Arena. Rather than bemoan the uncertainty fostered by his star’s, the four-time MLS Cup winner is moving forward.

And he’s moving forward with the assumption the players he has under contract will be with him come training camp. From MLSSoccer.com:

“I’ve never said he wasn’t [coming back],” Arena told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s on our team. On the contrary, I would think he’s coming back unless I hear otherwise. I’m going to plan on Landon being back until I hear otherwise.”

What else is Arena going to do? He knows Landon as well as anybody (so his instincts may be guiding this decision), but it’s not as if Arena can take the Galaxy in a different direction.

They’re not going to go get another Designated Player. They’re not going to fill his spot on the roster. This is Landon Donovan we’re talking about. And we’re only a month removed from the end of the season.

If Donovan needs more than the few weeks before training camp to decide his future, he’s going to get it. LA will suffer, but given Donovan’s sporadic fitness problems and callups to the national team, Arena knows how to prepare a team without him. If the Galaxy have to make it through spring without an indecisive Landon, they’ll survive.

But just as Arena’s instincts are telling him to prepare for Donovan’s return, a sixth sense may dictate when Los Angeles starts seeking a resolution. If, at some point, Arena gets the feeling Donovan’s inching away from the game, he’ll likely seek closure, not wasting any time refactoring the team around whomever replaces their cornerstone.

Until then, Donovan’s going to get whatever time he needs. And Arena’s going to prepare for his return.

Video: Clint Dempsey’s Deuce Face gives new life to Gangnam Style

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It will never be as annoying as Call Me Maybe or some Southern California teenager singing about her favorite day of the week, but with close to one billion views on YouTube, it’s safe to say Korean Rap Sensation® Psy’s “Gangnam Style” has had it’s moment in the sun. And in the two months that have passed since the song saw that light of day, we’ve be scarcely worse off for its absence.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some circumstances that don’t justify another 90 more seconds of that insidious scourge. For example, what if I were to tell you that there’s a version of the video that features Clint Dempsey’s notorious “Deuce Face” on top of Psy’s? So you get Jamaica-taunting Deuce barking Korean rap out of an animated mouth?

Yeah, I couldn’t resist it, either.

Thanks to Dan Wiersema at Free Beer Movement (a project dedicated to promoting the growth of soccer though, as far as I can tell, giving away free booze), “Gangnam Style” has been redeemed. At least, for a few days:

Did you pile onto Joey Barton’s funny French accent?

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After a month splitting time between Montreal and London, I returned to Southern California this August unable to remember how I used to speak. There were these inflections in my words which, back in my native SoCal, seemed weird, fake, and forced. It took me three days to feel comfortable in my own voice – three days of incredulous looks from bartenders and questions asking which part of Australia I’m from. By the time I returned to Portland, I was back to normal.

I’ve had this problem as long as I can remember (temporarily picking up a Spanish accent in junior year health class was particularly embarrassing), but only recently did I discover it’s not a problem at all. Maybe it was after reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, where he alludes to the emotional connection we subconsciously seek through mimicry. Or perhaps it was reading various reports on a University of California, Riverside study to the same effect. What seemed perfectly natural to me was, in fact, perfectly natural, even if most of us don’t express it.

All of which makes today’s criticism of Joey Barton weird, opportunistic, and ignorant. While I wouldn’t put it past the former Newcastle, current Marseille striker to assimilate an accent for other purposes, it’s entirely possible that during the process of living in a new country and learning a new language, Barton’s subconsciously sought to emotionally connect with his new surroundings. Hence the accent today’s Independent lampoons as “[speaking] with comedy”.

They aren’t the only ones making fun of this press conference, an interview conjuring memories of the Dutch accent former England manager Steve McClaren adopted upon his first spell at Twente (McClaren’s video follows Barton’s):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-tMWDAkcX4] [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZnoP4sUV90]

On the surface, it seems weird that we’d change our speech patterns based on our surroundings, but it’s a completely natural (if subconscious) trait. Even if it wasn’t, would it be such a bad thing to take a “when in Rome” attitude toward these things?

Perhaps if we weren’t talking about Joey Barton or a failed England manager, we’d let the whole thing go. But when it comes to Barton or McClaren, everything’s fair game.