Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

USA: Seattle beats Columbus to defend Open Cup title (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on October 6, 2010
Seattle Sounders

Seattle Sounders have won the US Open Cup in the last two years

The Seattle Sounders have defended the US Open Cup title they won in 2009 by defeating the Columbus Crew by two goals to one on Tuesday and gain a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League qualifying rounds for the 2011-12 season. As a result of their victory the Sounders became the first team to successfully win back-to-back Open Cup titles since the imaginatively named New York Pancrypian Freedoms won the competition in 1982 and 1983.

The final of the 97th edition of the US Open Cup was played in front of a partisan 31,000 crowd in QWest Stadium, the home of the Sounders, but the hoardes of expectant home fans saw their team fall behind midway through the first half when Kevin Burns put Columbus Crew ahead. Columbus, who defeated DC United after extra-time to qualify for the final, were hopeful of landing their first Open Cup title since 2002 but the home side eventually got into their stride and restored parity with eight minutes of the first half remaining thanks to Gambian international Sanna Nyassi

Nyassi would go on to prove the difference between the two sides as he popped up in the 66th minute to score the winner. The win means that the Sounders, a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise since the 2009 season, have enjoyed success in each of the two seasons that they have played an active part in the football scene in the United States. The tournament win was well deserved for Seattle following their earlier round defeats of fellow MLS sides Chivas USA and Los Angeles Galaxy. Their reward will be another tilt at qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League, a competition they are now destined to exit at the group stage in this year’s edition following four defeats in five games. Maybe the experience already gained from domestic knockout football will stand them in good stead on the international stage next season.

WATCH US OPEN CUP HIGHLIGHTS AND INTERVIEWS HERE:

MLS: 2010 Season Preview – part 2

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 23, 2010
Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew, seen here winning the 2008 MLS Cup final, will be amongst the favourites in 2010

The new Major League Soccer (MLS) season is upon us. Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders, the league’s two newest franchises, face-off against each other on Thursday, March 25th to get things underway. In the second part of the “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” preview to the 2010 season we focus here on the eight teams that comprise the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Crew have been one of the most consistent teams in the league in the last couple of years. In 2008 the Crew topped the Eastern Conference and the overall standings for the league as a whole, thus securing the MLS Supporters’ Shield, and then went on to win their first MLS Cup defeating New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the final. In 2009 they repeated the feat of having the best record in the Eastern Conference and the league generally but were ultimately knocked-out of the MLS Cup by the team who would go on to usurp them as champions Real Salt Lake. American legend and club captain Freddie Hejduk will again be a pivotal figure with his many years of experience at the back as well as the goals from Argentinian Guillermo Barros Schelotto up front. With the club suffering disappointment in the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals recently the club will want to get back to winning ways once the MLS season begins.

D.C. United, the most successful club in Major League Soccer history with four MLS Cup wins (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004), haven’t enjoyed the best time of it in the last two years. The club finished 6th in the Eastern Conference in 2008 and only marginally improved to finish fourth last year but on neither occasion has qualified for the play-offs. United are still dependent on the goals of Bolivian striker Jaime Moreno who, at 36 years of age, doesn’t have many more years at the top remaining. The club has also done plenty of trade both in and out so it is difficult to predict how they might perform with so many comings-and-goings. Chicago Fire have improved in the last three years with one fourth-place and two second-place finishes since 2007 but they’ve been unable to get past the semi-finals of the MLS Cup in that time. In fact the “Fire” has found it hard to live up to expectations since their inaugural season in 1998 when they won the MLS Cup and US Open Cup double. The club will depend on another one of the many veterans who are still making a living in the MLS, namely Brian McBride for whom it could be the last chance he has to bring the cup back to his hometown club before the end of his career.

In the rest of the east all eyes will be on newcomers Philadelphia Union who have appointed experienced coach Piotr Nowak hoping that his previous success with Chicago Fire and D.C. United will stand them in good stead. Naturally for a new team the Union have had to draft in a roster of players who have come from other MLS outfits and will hope to get a perfect blend of youth and experience. Their opening day fixture against Seattle Sounders will prove to be an exciting test for the league’s newest franchise who will hope to emulate their opponents’ achievements from 2008. New England Revolution, under the leadership of former Liverpool FC player Steve Nicol for the eighth consecutive year, have been the “nearly men” of Major League Soccer in the last decade having reached four MLS Cup finals (in 2002 and from 2005-07) and lost them all. The last two MLS campaigns have seen the Revs finish third in the conference standings with the club going on to lose in the play-offs at the first hurdle.

The New York Red Bulls have never won the MLS Cup despite being one of the league’s founder members but did come close in 2008 when they lost out to fellow easterners Columbus Crew. Their Colombian star Juan Pablo Ángel has never quite hit the heights his talents have deserved since leaving Argentinian giants River Plate but he has been the Red Bulls’ top scorer for the last three seasons. However New York’s aspirations in 2009 were to win the MLS Cup but they ultimately finished as the worst side in the league at the end of the regular season and will believe that things can only improve on last season’s dismal showing. Kansas City Wizards, MLS Cup champions in 2000, are another one of the big boys who didn’t qualify for last year’s play-offs having finished in a disappointing 6th in the Eastern Conference finishing eight points ahead of the Red Bulls. Finally Canadian side Toronto FC are another recent expansion team whose inclusion has been justified by their high crowds with the second highest average in the MLS last season behind Seattle Sounders. However in the three years that they’ve participated in the league Toronto’s form has been less successful with finishes of 7th, 7th and 5th in the Eastern Conference since 2007. Can they qualify for the MLS play-offs this time round?

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER 2010 OPENING FIXTURES

Philadelphia Union v Seattle Sounders

Colorado Rapids v Chivas USA

Toronto FC v Columbus Crew

Houston Dynamo v FC Dallas

Chicago Fire v NY Red Bulls

D.C. United v Kansas City Wizards

Real Salt Lake v San Jose Earthquakes

New England Revolution v LA Galaxy

CONCACAF Champions League: Quarter-Final Preview

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 9, 2010
Concacaf Champions Cup

Atlante CF captain Federico Vilar lifts the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League trophy. Who will win the 2009-10 edition?

North and Central America’s elite club competition continues after a four month break with Mexican clubs threatening to continue their dominance of the tournament. Mexican clubs account for the last four winners of the competition and with half of the remaining eight teams in the quarter-final stage coming from the regional footballing superpower the dominance is expected to continue into this year. However there are four other teams ready to challenge this recent monopoly of the tournament with one team each from the USA, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama ready to give the Mexicans a run for their money. Here is Stoppage Time’s guide to the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals:

CSD COMUNICACIONES (Guatemala) v C.F. PACHUCA (Mexico)

Pachuca will wish to continue their recent record in this tournament having been triumphant in 2002, 2007 and 2008. They are expected to get through against 1978 champions Comunicaciones who are currently second in their domestic league, but who haven’t got the strength in depth of their more illustrious opponents. In saying that Comunicaciones can take heart in the fact that Pachuca have lost four of their nine matches in the current Mexican Clausura championship campaign and the Guatemalans did rest some players this weekend ahead of tonight’s clash. In the group stage Pachuca finished top of Group A by a comfortable five point margin from Panamanian side CD Arabe Unido whilst Comunicaciones finished second in Group D four points behind UNAM Pumas from Mexico.

COLUMBUS CREW (United States) v DEPORTIVO TOLUCA (Mexico)

Columbus Crew are playing in this competition for the third time in their history and will want to get past their previous best finish of a quarter-final place in the 2003 Champions Cup (as it was then called) against Mexican side Morelia. With the new MLS season not due to start for at least another few weeks the Americans will relish all the match practice they can get. Deportivo Toluca, on the other hand, are well into the Mexican Clausura season but they, like Pachuca, haven’t set the world alight with their recent form. In the group stage the Mexicans finished top of a very tight Group B finishing two and three points ahead of Hondurans C.D. Marathón and MLS side D.C. United respectively. Columbus Crew finished a distant second in Group C eight points behind Cruz Azul.

C.D. MARATHÓN (Honduras) v PUMAS de la  UNAM (Mexico)

UNAM were three times champions of the old CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1980, 1982 and 1989 but were defeated finalists as recently as 2005. The Pumas are going well in their domestic Clausura championship group and hope that they can finally experience some continental glory for the first time in a generation. They are expected to get past their opponents who are lying eighth in the Honduran league but who have been resting players ready for the continuation of this tournament. Having won the Torneo Apertura (Opening championship) before Christmas Marathón could afford to rest on their domestic laurels. They just about qualified from Group B having beaten American capital side D.C. United by a single point in the group phase while Pumas had a slightly easier progression with a four point advantage in first place over fellow quarter-finalists Comunicaciones.

ARABE UNIDO (Panama) v CRUZ AZUL (Mexico)

Joint record champions Cruz Azul have won this tournament in its former guise of the Champions Cup five times (1969, 1970, 1971, 1996, 1997) but were losing finalists last season against Mexican rivals Atlante C.F. (see picture). Cruz Azul also qualified for the Copa Libertadores final in 2001 but were unlucky to lose to Argentinian giants Boca Juniors on penalties after the two-legged final had finished 1-1. The Mexicans were the only team in all four groups to qualify for the quarter-finals with a 100% record and are firm favourites to get through to the final four against an Arabe Unido side who currently lie sixth in a very tight domestic league only two points behind championship leaders Chepo F.C. Arabe Unido finished three points ahead of US side Houston Dynamo in second place from Group A to get to this stage.