Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

USA: Donovan seals MLS Cup success for Galaxy (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on November 21, 2011
Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan's goal gave Los Angeles Galaxy their first MLS Cup win since 2005

Los Angeles Galaxy claimed the title of Major League Soccer champions for the third time in their history following Sunday’s 1-0 win over Houston Dynamo in the 2011 MLS Cup final. Although the game featured prominently in the headlines before kick-off due to it being David Beckham’s last game for the club, the headlines were reserved afterwards for a true American hero in Landon Donovan whose goal late in the game gave Galaxy the cup for the first time since 2005.

The game remained scoreless after 71 minutes before Republic of Ireland international Robbie Keane played through USA captain Donovan who guided the ball beyond the oncoming Houston keeper Tally Hall to give his side the crucial strike of the final. The 30,000 crowd were treated to one of the league’s better finals in recent years despite the lack of goals and a fitting ending in which the Galaxy proved their worth as the best team in MLS this season.

Their regular season record of 19 wins, 10 draws and 5 defeats saw them pip the Seattle Sounders to the Supporters’ Shield by four points. In the post-season the Galaxy won all four of their knockout games against New York Red Bulls (played over two legs), Real Salt Lake (Western Conference final) and Houston Dynamo to show that they had learnt the hard lessons of 2010 in which they lost out to FC Dallas in the Western Conference final.

Los Angeles Galaxy had already qualified for the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League as a result of winning the Supporters’ Shield and they will be joined in that competition by losing finalists Dynamo, US Open Cup winners Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake, who finished third in the Supporters’ Shield behind the Sounders.



MLS: 2010 Season Preview – part 1

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 23, 2010
Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake won the 2009 MLS Cup final against LA Galaxy via a penalty shoot-out

The build-up to the 2010 Major League Soccer (MLS) season has been dominated about talk over the potential for player strikes but, thankfully, the powers-that-be and the Players’ Union got together to find some common ground and the big kick-off will take place as planned on Thursday, March 25th. The league’s newest club Philadelphia Union, whose inclusion this season increases the size of the MLS to sixteen teams, will play in the opening match against last season’s expansion team Seattle Sounders. Now in its 15th season the MLS has slowly but steadily grown into a quality sporting product which is able to nurture its own talent whilst embracing top foreign stars and the top clubs have been busy building their roster ahead of the new season. Can anybody take the MLS Cup away from last year’s champions Real Salt Lake? In a two-part preview to the new season “Stoppage Time – International Football blog” looks at the two conferences which make up the league, starting here with the Western Conference:

Real Salt Lake were very much the surprise champion in the 2009 MLS Cup. Having scraped through to the eighth and final spot in the play-offs by virtue of having a better goal difference than Colorado Rapids and D.C. United in the overall regular season table, Real fought their way past the 2008 MLS champions Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire and LA Galaxy in the play-offs to become overall MLS Cup champions for the first time in their short history. Last year’s beaten finalists Galaxy will have to overcome the setback of star player David Beckham’s Achilles rupture injury, obtained whilst on-loan at AC Milan, but will welcome back a rejuvenated Landon Donovan from his loan spell at English Premier League side Everton. The two-time MLS Cup champions will hope to build on their solid, if ultimately unsuccessful campaign last season, and go all the way this time.

Elsewhere in the west the MLS’s newest franchise Seattle Sounders were the resounding success of 2009 having achieved in their maiden season the record average attendance in MLS history (30,943). The club, who have stuck to the old name from the halcyon days of the North American Soccer League (NASL), finished a respectable third in the conference last season but were ultimately knocked out of the MLS Cup by Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference semi-finals but made up for this disappointment by winning the 2009 U.S. Open Cup (an American knock-out competition similar in style to traditional European cup competitions) defeating D.C. United 2-1 in the final. With experienced players such as Freddie Ljungberg and Kasey Keller the Sounders will hope, at the very least, to match last season’s efforts and qualify for the play-offs. Houston Dynamo, who won consecutive MLS Cups in the first two years of their existence (2006, 2007), will rely on top-scorer Brian Ching if they are to keep up their perfect 100% record of qualifying for the play-offs.

Another two-time MLS champion San Jose Earthquakes, who were triumphant in 2001 and 2003, have struggled in the last couple of years having finished 7th in the Western Conference in 2007 and 2008. Another club who have struggled in recent years is the Colorado Rapids who haven’t qualified for the MLS Cup play-offs since 2006 and who have yet to win the trophy in the 15 years since the MLS began. A founder member of the MLS, Colorado came close to the title in 1997 but lost out to D.C. United, and haven’t come as close to winning the trophy since. Another original MLS club FC Dallas, formerly known as the Dallas Burn, have a number of South and Central American players in their squad in order to compete for a first ever title as have Chivas USA, who share the same Home Depot stadium as LA Galaxy, and who have had relative success in the MLS since their inclusion into the league in 2004 having qualified for the play-offs in four out of five seasons but have yet to progress beyond the Conference semi-final stage.

FIFA World Cup draw – The Verdict

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 5, 2009
Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron hosted the World Cup draw in South Africa

The draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. Presented by Charlize Theron (pictured) and including a host of figures from the football world including FIFA president Sepp Blatter and perhaps  the most recognisable sporting icon in the world David Beckham, the draw did throw up some intriguing individual ties and some interesting groups. “Stoppage Time” assesses the groups and the matches that should shape the fortunes at the beginning of the tournament:

GROUP A: SOUTH AFRICA, MEXICO, URUGUAY, FRANCE

The host nation should find it very tough in a group which looks like it will be very close. The French will be favourites to go through but their clash against Mexico could decide who wins the group. However the South Africans may harbour hopes of surprising Mexico in the opening game of the tournament. Uruguay, with their deadly strike force of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, will certainly fancy their chances of finishing in the top two. Their final group game against Mexico could be amongst the most intense of the championship.

GROUP B: ARGENTINA, NIGERIA, SOUTH KOREA, GREECE

Almost an exact copy of Group D in the 1994 FIFA World Cup (Argentina, Nigeria and Greece played in a group that contained Bulgaria instead of South Korea). Despite qualifying the tough way Argentina should top this group quite comfortably, the opening match against Nigeria will probably be their toughest assignment. However the Greeks may wish to spring a surprise in much the same way that they did in EURO 2004 when they became European Champions. South Korea can only expect to finish bottom.

GROUP C: ENGLAND, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ALGERIA, SLOVENIA

Almost after the draw had finished the English media were in overdrive, hyping up their country’s chances of winning the 2010 World Cup. It’s true that they should expect to top this group with relative ease. The only match of real interest is England’s opening clash with the USA, a game that throws back terrible memories for the “Home of Football”. If the Americans can repeat their 1-0 victory in the 1950 World Cup (so unbelieveable a result in those days that the English media initially reported a 10-0 victory for England!) then it would leave the group wide open. The match will have a personal edge involving the LA Galaxy footballers David Beckham and US Captain Landon Donovan, a war of words between the two earlier in the season may add a bit of extra spice to this match. Algeria and Slovenia will be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.

GROUP D: GERMANY, AUSTRALIA, SERBIA, GHANA

Not as easy for Germany as it may appear on paper. The Australians were very unlucky to lose to the Italians in the 2006 World Cup (a dubious penalty tucked away by Francesco Totti five minutes into stoppage time) and they will hope to put up a challenge for the top spot in this group. Serbia are competing in their first finals as an independent nation and have a leader in Manchester United player Nemanda Vidic. Ghana could be a team that plays open, attacking football but their defence will concede plenty of goals. Germany are quietly optimistic that they can go far in this tournament. The matches between themselves, Australia and Serbia should determine the outcome of the group.

GROUP E: NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, CAMEROON, JAPAN

This group looks to be a fairly comfortable one for the Dutch. As I reported in my blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part Three” the Dutch had a very easy group in qualifying and they will look to take that form into this group. Cameroon will be a strong contender for second place and with players like Samuel Eto’o and Geremi can give the Danes a tough challenge when they meet in their second group match. Japan have improved as a nation in the last decade but won’t be expected to trouble the other three too much.

GROUP F: ITALY, PARAGUAY, NEW ZEALAND, SLOVAKIA

The current world champions Italy won’t have too much trouble getting through this group. The opening group game between themselves and Paraguay should be among one of the better ones in the group stages. Slovakia are a tough team on their day and won’t go down without a fight. However they may be just a little too inexperienced at this level and will find it tough to get to the Round of 16. New Zealand will be ecstatic to be in South Africa but their squad is very limited, therefore expect defensive tactics from a nation that will want to avoid embarrassment in this tournament.

GROUP G: BRAZIL, NORTH KOREA, IVORY COAST, PORTUGAL

There’s a 1966 World Cup feel to this group; it was Portugal who, literally, kicked Pele and his great Brazilian team off the park (Goodison Park to be precise) and it was Portugal who had to come back from 3-0 down to defeat the surprise package of the tournament North Korea 5-3. This time, though, matches in this group involving North Korea should be more clear-cut as they’re the outsiders of this tournament. The Ivory Coast, involved in a tough group including Argentina and Holland in the 2006 World Cup, will be expecting as tough a time in 2010 but some will feel that they can beat Portugal, whose qualification for the World Cup was only confirmed via a play-off. If the Ivorians can get three points against Portugal in the opening group match then they should reach the second round.

GROUP H: SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, HONDURAS, CHILE

The current European champions Spain are currently the favourites to win the FIFA World Cup and they will be encouraged further having seen the draw. They should easily overcome the challenges of their group rivals leaving the rest to fight it out for second place. Honduras qualified thanks to events elsewhere (see blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part One) but aren’t expected to get through this group, therefore the match between Switzerland and Chile (both teams’ second group match) should prove to be amongst the more important.