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Article:First Kick 2009

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Tifo

Tifo in Seattle

It may be a bit late but better late than never I suppose. Anyways, this past weekend saw the start of the 2009 Major League Soccer campaign.  I must say that every new season builds my anticipation for my domestic league.  I just could not wait for the 2009 campaign to get underway, now it’s time to look at what is going on MLS wise. 

For me the season started in fine form.  Myself and Mrs. Gunny spent the weekend in Boston, flying in last Thursday.  Thursday also was the curtain lifter as the Seattle Sounders FC hosted the New York Red Bulls at Qwest Field.  Given that, I made a deal with Mrs. Gunny which got me control of the hotel remote on Thursday evening while she got control the rest of the weekend.  I was able to at least get to see most of the second half as the Sounders soundly defeated the Red Bulls 3-0.  From the looks of it, it appears that the Sounders may surprise a number of teams this season.  Plus the atmosphere at Qwest Field was in a word WONDERFUL!  Take a stand Sounders supporters and give yourself a nice round of applause. 

Ins and Outs

One way to start off is to look at the moves made in the off season by the clubs.  

The biggest addition of course is the Seattle Sounders FC.  Some big names have come to the club.  The goalkeeping duties are placed in the capable hands of US international Kasey Keller.  The Sounders used their designated player slot to sign Swedish international Freddie Ljungberg.  The former Arsenal and West Ham man is coming off hip surgery so his impact will be a wait and see sort of thing.  He is expected to get some time this weekend provided he is fit.  Perhaps the most electric signing that the Sounders made is Colombian Fredy Montero.  Montero was terrific in his debut for the club netting two goals against the Red Bulls.  Seattle also managed to pry head coach Sigi Schmidt away from the defending MLS Cup champions the Columbus Crew.  The Sounders look like a decent bunch and I would not be surprised to see make MLS Cup playoffs. 

Of course all the MSSM (Main Stream Sports Media) were focused on the David Beckham saga.  The Los Angeles Galaxy have loaned him to A.C. Milan.  After a successful spell with the Italian giants it seems he wishes to finish the season with them.  The two clubs have agreed that Becks may stay and finish out the Serie A season and then return to the Galaxy.  I cannot blame Beckham because he does want to play for England in the 2010 World Cup.  To impress England manager Fabio Capello it would be better to be playing in Milan.  The better news for the Galaxy though is the hiring of Bruce Arena.  The former US National Team coach will be a breath of fresh air at the Home Depot Center.  Oh and the club finally fired Alexi Lalas as general manager, about time on that move. 

One of the league’s best goal scorers has moved north.  Dwayne De Rosario was traded by the Houston Dynamo to Toronto FC.  While De Rosario was instrumental in the Houston attack during their two year run as MLS Cup winners to be honest I did not think he was all that effective last season.  However his addition will enhance the Toronto attack which is sorely needed. 

As previously mentioned Sigi Schmidt has left Columbus to join Seattle.  His replacement in Ohio will be the “Polish Rifle” Robert Warzycha.  Warzycha has loads of top flight playing experience with Everton, and the Crew as well as 47 caps with Poland.  That experience and his role as assistant coach under Schmidt will serve him well as the Crew try to repeat.  Other than that the Crew remained relatively stable. 

Honduran Ivan Guerrero and Argentine Christian Gomez swapped clubs.  Guerrero left D.C. United to join Colorado Rapids whilst Gomez went the other way to rejoin United.  Both never really looked like good fits at their previous clubs so perhaps this is a move that benefits both players. 

Who do I like? 

In the east it is hard for me to pick against either Columbus Crew or Chicago Fire.  The Crew are lead by the slick playing Guillermo Barros Schelotto who won Man of the Match honors at last season’s MLS Cup final.  The Fire are led by Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Brian McBride.  The Mexican and the American give the Fire one of the most formidable attacks in the league.  The New York Red Bulls were the surprise of 2008 when they made it to the MLS Cup final.  I can’t see them doing a repeat and would not be surprised to see them sit out this year’s version of the post season.  D.C. United underwhelmed last season and while they may bounce back somewhat it won’t be enough.  The Kansas City Wizards and Toronto FC are the two teams who may surprise this season.  The New England Revolution led by coach Steve Nicol will as always be in the playoff hunt. 

The west is wide open.  But if I am forced to pick one team that will win it will be Chivas USA.  Chivas have some great talent including Americans Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein.  The other team I like out west is Real Salt Lake.  RSL may have the next big name in American goalkeeping in Chris Seitz and they also have the reliable veteran in Nick Rimando.  Houston will be playing their first season not as defending MLS Cup champions.  The loss of De Rosario is big but the squad has enough talent to compete.  The Los Angeles Galaxy can score, they proved that last season as Landon Donovan won the Golden Boot.  The biggest problem that Bruce Arena will face is shoring up that leaky defense.  The Seattle Sounders FC are the biggest wild card and as I have noted I can see them challenging for a playoff spot.  The Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes will be fighting for the scraps. 

Welcome Aboard 

MLS continues to grow.  Next season the league welcomes Philadelphia into the fold.  The club is yet to be named but should receive great support when they do arrive.  It was also announced recently that two new clubs will be added for the 2011 season.  The Portland Timbers and Vancouver are scheduled to join MLS for 2011.  The Timbers will be the latest in a proud history of clubs to bear that moniker.  The Vancouver club, although not officially named, will more than likely carry the traditional club name of Whitecaps.  This expansion will make the Pacific Northwest the envy of many soccer supporters across the land and the derbies between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver will always be can’t miss TV. 

Great to see the league back in action and here’s to another fine year for Major League Soccer.

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