Monday, December 6

Brilliant Finish for Monterrey

The Mexican Primera’s Apertura came to a close with the second leg of the championship series Sunday evening with host Monterrey and its fans celebrating a much-deserved title, rallying from a 3-2 deficit from the first leg on the road against Santos Laguna with a dominant 3-0 victory at home.

The club dropped three of its last four games of the season, but still finished second in the league courtesy of being unbeaten to that point. It was not that great of a letdown as they trailed Cruz Azul most of the way due to the high number of lost points from draws, but the club was clearly deserving of winning the championship considering at the same time as it went on its 13-game unbeaten start to the Apertura, it also went unbeaten in its six Group Phase matches in the CONCACAF Champions League in a difficult group that included the Seattle Sounders, who went on to win its second consecutive US Open Cup, and two proven Central American powers in Saprissa and Marathon. In fact, they won five of the six with a 2-2 result against Saprissa on the road, finishing with the highest point total across the entire CCL field as they were the only team not to suffer a loss.

Thursday, November 18

137 For 10 in Tampa

While the North American soccer eyes will be looking toward Toronto on the men’s side for the Dallas-Colorado MLS Cup Final and toward Italy for the US women’s first-leg playoff contest for the final Women’s World Cup berth, 137 teams from the United States and Canada will take to the field in Tampa this week to compete for 10 youth championships.

It is easy to forget, but shouldn’t be overlooked; especially in a week in which MLS youth development has become center stage again with the announcement of its expanding ideology regarding the training of youth – pioneered by the way in the Super Y-League by several of its pioneering clubs. Again, teams bearing the names of MLS and USL clubs will be competing against their peers for boys and girls titles from U13 to U17.

Wednesday, October 20

Pro Power Rankings: Monterry Still Unbeaten, Dallas Streak Ends as Top Clubs Meet

Parity in Central America saw very few clubs dominate over the past two weeks to make significant moves in the TSB CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings this week. The top of the list, however, remained consistent as power players experienced reasonable blips as there were an astounding seven matches between two clubs in the Top 10 during Mexican Primera Division play and Major League Soccer action.

Top-ranked Monterrey navigated a pair of tough contests in league play during the CONCACAF Champions League break, playing to a scoreless draw against America (ranked 5) and defeating Toluca, 2-0. America’s other match was a 2-2 draw against Puebla and Toluca (10), also played to a scoreless draw against Cruz Azul (4), who defeated Santos Laguna, 3-0, in their other match and remain the first-place club overall in Mexico on points. Santos Laguna also battled to a scoreless draw with Morelia. The other Top 10 match featuring Mexican clubs was a Chivas Guadalajara 1-0 win against Necaxa. Chivas (9) also fell, 1-0, to Morelia and drew, 2-2, with Queretaro, while Necaxa were 1-0 winners against Puebla.

The MLS contingent in the Top 10 was just as busy in high-profile matches. Real Salt Lake (2) played a scoreless draw in New York against the Red Bulls (8) and ended the record FC Dallas 19-game unbeaten streak with a 2-0 win. Dallas (3) also played to a 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids and New York fell, 2-1, in Philadelphia.

With all the best clubs squaring off little changed in the Top 10 of the Power Rankings. Dallas only dropped one spot to fourth, and Toluca made the biggest move up four spots to sixth as others slipped slightly.

With Champions League on break, the intrigue outside of the Top 10 were minimal with the exception of the USSF Division-2 playoffs where three of the top four seeds were eliminated in the Quarterfinals and the eighth-seeded Puerto Rico Islanders, a CCL participant, advanced to the championship for the second time in three years along with the Carolina RailHawks. The Islanders knocked off the regular season champion Rochester Rhinos and avenged their 2008 championship loss against Vancouver with two goals in series overtime after a scoreless aggregate through the two legs. Vancouver had won the quarterfinal showdown of future MLS clubs, splitting the series with Portland but edging the Timbers, 2-1, on aggregate. The RailHawks, top seed in the NASL Conference and fourth overall in the league, ran away in the second leg of the quarters against Minnesota, 4-0, after a scoreless first leg, but had to rally from down one to defeat defending champion Montreal Impact in the semifinals, 2-1.

Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama each played two rounds worth of action during the FIFA international break, but only five of the 44 clubs were able to manage two wins over the two-week span. San Francisco, Tauro and Arabe Unido won twice in Panama while Victoria and Marathon each picked up a pair of wins. El Salvador only played one full round of games. Marathon also earned a draw with a third match midweek on their break from CCL play.

The odd stat of the week came from Guatemala where all 12 clubs earned a win and a loss over the two weeks as all 12 games finished in favor of the home clubs without any draws.

Of the unranked clubs, Puntarenas had a good two weeks of play, earning a pair of draws and a victory. They tied CCL club Saprissa at home and league leader Barrio Mexico on the road with identical 1-1 draws before downing Group A second-place club Cartagines, 2-0, vaulting the side up to 88.

Friday, October 8

Coming Up Around CONCACAF: USSF-D2 Playoffs Continue

Although there is another international break at hand throughout FIFA, action around CONCACAF remains nearly in full swing as playoffs continue in USSF Division-2, the regular season winds down in Major League Soccer and parity reigns supreme in numerous Central American leagues.

The USSF-D2 postseason continues with the second legs of the quarterfinal series, three concluding on Saturday with future MLS clubs Vancouver and Portland finishing up with the fourth on Sunday. Meanwhile, the races of interest in the top flight are at the top of the league table with the composition of the playoff field nearly set mathematically. The marquee match is Saturday when two clubs vying for conference titles, New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake meet in the Big Apple.

In Mexico, the lone remaining unbeaten in CONCACAF, Monterrey, wraps up the action on Sunday on the road versus America, but the marquee contest features Champions League sides squaring off as Primera Group C leader Cruz Azul travels to play Group B leader Toluca earlier in the day.

In Costa Rica Saturday, Group B leaders square off when second-place Herediano, trailing by five points, hosts leader Alajuelense with a chance to make up more than half the deficit.

In El Salvador, most of the Primera Division has the week off with only two make-up matches on the docket, one featuring Alianza, one of three co-leaders, playing host to mid-table Vista Hermosa, which sits only six points back in a league where the top five clubs are only separated by three points.

Another league featuring a lot of parity is the Liga Nacional in Honduras where the top eight clubs are separated by only four points. Nearly every contest will play a role in determining the league leader come Monday. Real Espana, which leads by a single point, plays host to eighth-place Vida.

In Panama, where the top five clubs are in a five-point span of one another, league-leading Sporting San Miguelito plays host to fourth-place Tauro and third-place Chorrillo travels to play CCL side Arabe Unido, which is fifth.

Guatemala is observing the international break.

Bad News for Top Seeds in USSF-D2 Playoffs

It is not unusual for home field advantage to net a lead for lower seeds in a two-leg series, but the news coming out of the first two days of quarterfinal action in the USSF Division-2 postseason is not good news for three higher seeds who find themselves trailing by two goals on a rare start in the history of the second tier playoffs.

On Wednesday, the Montreal Impact (seeded 6) posted a 2-0 victory over visiting Austin Aztex (3) and the two Thursday matches also saw the home clubs Puerto Rico Islanders (8) and Vancouver Whitecaps (5) register identical 2-0 wins over the Rochester Rhinos (1) and Portland Timbers (4). NASL Conference winners Carolina RailHawks were the only club not to find themselves in the two-goal deficit, playing to a scoreless stalemate on the road against the NSC Minnesota Stars.

At first glance, the results seem fairly common and expected, but overall they ended up being historical. The outcomes marked the first time in league history that all of the visiting teams in an aggregate score series were shutout in the equivalent of the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Since the aggregate score format was adopted in 2000, each of the previous 10 years saw at least one traveling team find the back of the net in the first leg.

The scoreless draw between Carolina and Minnesota was only the fifth occurrence in the equivalent series over the course of 11 years and 38 matches. The most recent two results in 2005 and 2003 saw the visiting clubs win the series on penalties after a draw in the second leg. In 2002, the home club won the second game by a single goal with two series scoreless after the initial leg.

But the historic nature of shutouts means little to Rochester, Austin and Portland heading into the weekend. The more important figure is the record of 14-0-3, the series results for the clubs leading by two goals after the first leg of an aggregate score series in the playoffs, regardless of which round. While clubs leading by two goals have lost six second-leg matches out of 17 series (8-3-6 in the second game, including series overtime) all-time since 2000, only three have seen the series turn in favor of the host club of the second leg.

Thursday, October 7

TSB Pro Power Rankings: Monterrey Lone Unbeaten

It has been a busy couple of weeks with a Tropical Depression disrupting play in Central America while the region’s top clubs squared off in two rounds of CONCACAF Champions League group play, the USSF Division-2 regular season came to an end and the US Open Cup crowned a champion.

A slip-up by Cruz Azul opened the door for Monterrey, the lone remaining unbeaten club in CONCACAF after Alajuelense’s loss, to move to the top spot in The Soccer Barn Pro Club Power Rankings with MLS clubs Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas right behind in the next two spots. The Mexican club is also unbeaten in the CCL. Previously fourth, Toluca dropped to 10 with a rough couple weeks that saw them fall twice on the road in the CCL and away in league play against CCL club Santos Laguna.

Olimpia of Honduras was one of the victors against Toluca, using the 2-1 win against the Mexicans along with another CCL win and a 2-0 victory over domestic league leader Necaxa to jump from 38 to 14.

Although playoffs are not in New England’s future, the club made strides in the rankings courtesy of draws against two of the league’s top teams, Dallas and CCL side Columbus, and a narrow loss to another CCL club, RSL. Previously winless Mexican club Atlas also made a similar jump from 46 to 35 by picking up its first win against Puebla and then posting a draw against Chivas Guadalajara.

Right behind Atlas are the Montreal Impact, who climbed up from 51 with a pair of shutout wins against conference title contenders Vancouver and Austin that spoiled the bids by both sides to claim top seeds in the postseason. Although Miami missed the postseason, the Blues finished the season well with a victory over regular season champion Rochester and a draw against CCL club Puerto Rico to help them move from 86 to 70.

Wednesday, October 6

USSF Division-2 Playoff Preview

Many more eyes will be on the USSF Division-2 playoffs this year with expansion coming to Major League Soccer over the next two years with Portland and Vancouver moving on after this season and Montreal the following year. In addition to those clubs bringing current players with them, the act of expansion will increase the number of roster spaces available, making players throughout the second tier a valuable resource that must thoroughly be researched.

Beyond that, there is intrigue in this particular playoff as the Portland Timbers are entering the playoffs still without a professional league championship to its credit through its previous NASL days and with its current second division franchise. With Montreal winning the title last year and Vancouver the season before, they both join the Seattle Sounders as expansion clubs that have won a second division title within three years of their debut in the top flight. The Timbers have three weeks to eliminate themselves as the exception in that rare statistic.

The playoffs look to be as exciting as usual with most of the top seeds entering the postseason with comparatively poorer runs of form in contrast to the lower seeds, who are among the hottest in the league right now. Last year, Montreal won the championship as the number five seed in the playoffs.

Tuesday, October 5

Central America Round-Up: No More Unbeatens

The last unbeaten club in Central America is no more as Costa Rica’s Alajuelense suffered its first loss of the campaign, falling at home to mid-table San Carlos, leaving Mexico’s Monterrey as the only remaining unbeaten club in current league play throughout CONCACAF.

The loss by Alajuelense was the only upset in Costa Rica while there was upheaval in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama this week. New leaders moved to the top of the table in each of the leagues with the exclusion of Guatemala, where the parity only increased with the mid-table clubs getting more positive results in comparison to those at the top.

Monday, October 4

North America Round-Up: Rhinos Back on Top

For the first time since 2002, the Rochester Rhinos, one of the most successful second division clubs in North American history, claimed a league championship, capturing the regular season title with a victory in St Louis along with a little help from a longtime rival. It marked the end of an eventful week as USSF Division-2 wrapped up the regular season. Just days earlier, the playoff-bound Puerto Rico Islanders also registered another monumental victory in the CONCACAF Champions League, coming back from a two-goal deficit against Mexican club Toluca to post a stunning 3-2 victory. The two clubs will clash in the Quarterfinals as the postseason opens this week during the two-week break in CCL play.

Similarly, Major League Soccer the focus on the action is turning toward the top of the conference tables as the margin in the race for the playoffs is becoming increasingly staunch for those outside the zone. But with the playoffs several weeks away, the CCL was a large focus for a Real Salt Lake and Columbus, which is also primed for the US Open Cup Championship against the Sounders in Seattle Tuesday night.

South of the border, form held for the league leaders in the Mexican Primera.

Friday, October 1

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

The CONCACAF Champions League enters into a two-week break following a week that saw a sensational comeback by the Puerto Rico Islanders, allowing the focus to fall upon the final week of the USSF Division-2 regular season, the Major League Soccer playoff race and the US Open Cup.

The final week of the USSF-D2 season is wrapping up with all eight playoff-bound clubs already determined, eliminating the drama of making the cut. The race for the top seeds, however, is alive and well. The regular season championship is on the line with current leaders Austin Aztex on the road for two against the Carolina RailHawks and Montreal Impact. The match in Cary Friday is of huge significance as a victory would ensure the Aztex of the number one overall seed ahead of the Rochester Rhinos, who travel to St Louis Saturday. But Carolina also has a lot on the line as the RailHawks have a chance to claim the top seed in the NASL Conference currently sitting tied with the Vancouver Whitecaps, who host rival Portland Saturday. Carolina holds the tiebreaker. If Austin misses out Friday and Rochester wins Saturday, the Aztex will have a final shot at the regular season crown Sunday.

With six points separating the teams within the MLS playoff zone from those outside, it appears the race for the postseason may follow the same path as their second-tier counterparts. The Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes sit level on 39 points with the Kansas City Wizards at 33 and Toronto FC at 31. The Canadian side is in Seattle this week for a chance to make a dramatic cut in that deficit Saturday with just a handful of games left while the other two face top clubs. The Wizards visit New York and San Jose will be in Columbus. The Colorado Rapids, at 41, look to cement their position at home against last-place DC. The only match not played Saturday will be the usually-marquee LA derby featuring the Galaxy and Chivas USA, but the Galaxy have already clinched a postseason berth and their rivals are on the verge of mathematical elimination, which could happen before they take the field if Seattle and San Jose win.

The MLS action continues, sort of, the following Tuesday with the Sounders playing host to the Columbus Crew in the US Open Cup championship match. The Sounders will be looking to repeat since the amateur era when the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms won in 1982-83 despite three previous chances by MLS clubs DC United (96-97, 08-09) and Chicago Fire (03-04).

There are a couple enticing matches in Mexico this week as Necaxa plays host to unbeaten Monterrey Saturday along with the showdown of the CCL duo of Toluca and Santos Laguna.

A first-place showdown in Panama may be the match of the week throughout all of CONCACAF as San Francisco travels Sunday to play Chorrillo, one of two clubs tied for second just a point back. Also a point back is Sporting San Miguelito, which could jump into the top spot Friday night with a road match against Atletico Veraguense, which is tied for last.

A battle for second highlights the action in El Salvador as Firpo travels Sunday to play Alianza, which is tied with Aguila, which hosts Once Municipal the day before, two points back of second. In Guatemala, nearly every match is a battle to stay close to second as only five points separates second-place Juventud Retalteca, which plays last-place Universidad San Carlos, from Xelaju, which sits 10th after 10 weeks.

It is a little more complicated in Honduras where postponements have the table a bit unbalanced currently. Regardless, the marquee contest features, according to the table, is a battle between third-place Platense and visiting Real Espana, which is only a point back. However, co-leader Necaxa plays host to CCL side Olimpia, which is seven points back with two fewer games played and the other CCL club Marathon, also with two postponements, hosts the other co-leader Victoria with five points between the pair.

Tuesday, September 28

Central America Round-Up: Matthew Storms Through

Tropical Depression Matthew made waves this week in the region, resulting in numerous match postponements, many of which will be made up this Wednesday. But while the storm may have upset the scheduled action, underdogs were unable to register any upsets in the games that were played as the favorites were largely unscathed this week as most leagues are at the heart of the campaign.

Note: The TSB Pro Power Rankings will not be issued this week due to the postponements.

Monday, September 27

North America Round-Up: Week of Rallies

While most of the attention for the week revolved around the men’s game as CONCACAF Champions League action and the playoff races for Major League Soccer and USSF Division-2 continued, the ladies squared off for the Women’s Professional Soccer Championship Sunday. The WPS Final was a one-sided affair, but comebacks were a major theme on the men's side.

Two weeks after closing out the regular season as the league’s best team with a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Independence, FC Gold Pride perfected the result with a 4-0 victory over the same club for the league’s title, extending its unbeaten run to 14 games (10-4-0).

While Marta was named MVP of the championship match, it was Canadian star Christine Sinclair with two goals in the match, tallying the opener 17 minutes in and later adding the team’s third eight minutes into the second half to spoil any of the visitor’s hopes of making a comeback. Marta would close the scoring in the 90th minute, her third consecutive match with a goal, giving the league’s leading scorer seven goals in the last six matches.

Friday, September 24

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

The CONCACAF Champions League provided plenty of drama this week, but the action of the upcoming weekend should not be cast into the CCL’s shadows as four leagues will see match-ups up teams in the top two spots in their respective leagues while Major League Soccer clubs fight in the race of playoff berths as the season winds down.

In Honduras, where the top five clubs are separated by two points, league leading Platense is playing host to one of the four clubs level two points back when they travel Saturday to face Necaxa, which sits second based on goal differential. Two of the other second-place sides meet when Deportes Savio visits Real Espana the following day.

El Salvador also features a match-up between first and second as Firpo plays host to Isidro Metapan Sunday with a single point differentiating the two. In Panama, the marquee fixture may as well be a battle between first and second as league leading San Francisco is merely two points ahead of their host opponent Tauro, who are fifth in the league with three clubs sitting between the two. Cartagines hosts Barrio Mexico, leaders of Group A in Costa Rica, in a tilt of the group’s top two clubs, although they sit separated by 10 points.

The parity that has been a major theme throughout Central America is abundant in Guatemala, where the distance between leader Municipal and 10th place Malacateco is seven points. The difference between second and 10th is even tighter with nine clubs within just one game’s value of each other, making virtually every match a battle for second in the league while Municipal plays 11th place Penarol La Mesilla. The top match of the week though features the two clubs tied for second place with Juventud Retalteca hosting Marquense Sunday.

While there are no similar showdowns in Mexico, Monterrey remains unbeaten on the campaign with a 5-3-0 record in the Primera Division and a perfect four-game record in the Champions League. Looking to spoil that status Saturday will be host Queretaro, who shocked another CCL club, Santos Laguna, 5-2 just two weeks ago.

The US-based leagues are facing the end of their regular season campaigns. The lone match featuring direct confrontation of the league’s elite will occur in Los Angeles Friday evening when the Galaxy play host to the New York Red Bulls. LA currently leads the Western Conference and the league overall while New York is fourth overall and second in the Eastern Conference. The focus around the rest of the action around the league will be all about the race for playoff position with the Seattle Sounders current sitting in the eighth and final spot with Kansas City and CCL side Toronto FC within five points. Six points, in fact, separate sixth-place Colorado from Toronto FC in 10th. In USSF Division-2, all eight clubs have been determined as of Wednesday, leaving the final two weekends to sort out the seeding.

Wednesday, September 22

Best CCL Night in MLS History

The numbers were daunting coming into Tuesday night’s pair of CONCACAF Champions League matches featuring two Major League Soccer clubs playing against a pair of successful Mexican Primera Division clubs with CCL experience. At the final whistle in Estadio Azul, the MLS clubs finished the night with four points out of six – a monumental and historical effort - as Columbus defeated Santos Laguna, 1-0, and Toronto drew, 0-0, on the road against Cruz Azul.

Prior to the night’s fixtures, MLS teams had recorded only one win in the three years of the competition – Toronto’s 2-1 victory at home against two-time tournament finalist Cruz Azul in the opening week of the group phase. The Mexican sides were 13-4-1 (W-D-L) versus their MLS counterparts, having gone 4-2-0 the first year and 6-2-0 last year. At home, the Mexican sides were 6-2-1 prior to Tuesday.

Much is often made about Major League Soccer’s inability to win in Mexico, but Mexican clubs prior to Tuesday night were 40-4-1 against all competitors in home matches with an amazing aggregate score total of 138-24. Joe Public registered the lone victory by a visitor on October 2, 2008 with a 1-0 decision against eventual tournament champion Atlante.

Santos Laguna took the field in Ohio with only four from its starting eleven on the weekend perhaps looking to rest a squad that has struggled of late, grabbing a stoppage time win against one-win Necaxa this weekend after a 2-2 CCL road draw against Municipal, in which they gave up a two-goal lead, and a shocking 5-2 loss to Mexican minnow Queretaro the weekend before.

A little luck with the ball bouncing his way, Andres Mendoza scored the lone goal on what is arguably the biggest night of Champions League action for Major League Soccer since the debut of the tournament in 2008, striking the winner in the 87th minute for the Crew in the first half of the doubleheader.

The more shocking result though was to come two hours later in Mexico, where Toronto FC registered a scoreless draw against a Cruz Azul side that has been absolutely dominant in Champions League and domestic play, making the Canadian squad the first in MLS history to finish with a better home-away aggregate result against a Mexican club in any phase of the tournament and the third team to earn a draw in Mexico, joining DC United (Toluca, 1-1, 10/20/09) and the Houston Dynamo (Pumas, 4-4, 9/30/08).

Cruz Azul came into the match on a six-game win streak having posted a 3-0 win over Queretaro on the weekend after a 6-0 drubbing of Arabe Unido the week before in the Champions League. Toronto, just eight days after the change in coaching staff, picked up the surprise result against the odds as Javier Orozco, who has 10 goals in the CCL and six in the Mexican Apertura, started the match for Cruz Azul, which suffered only their second shutout of the campaign. In fact, since their 2-0 road loss to Pumas August 8, Cruz Azul had scored at least three goals in all seven victories with the 2-1 loss August 14 in Toronto as the only exception.

In addition to having to shut out Orozco, TFC found themselves scrambling from the get-go while under siege, having to make a substitution for Joseph Nane nine minutes in. Then again just before the half-hour mark, his replacement Martin Saric had to come off for an injury as well, leaving the visitors with only one sub for the rest of the match. The Canadians did well to minimize the quality of the host’s chances though and in the final 10 minutes had a flicker of hope that they could be the first MLS club to ever win a competitive match in Mexico and end Cruz Azul’s 15-game home unbeaten run in all competitions when Fausto Pinto was sent off for a second yellow.

Previous Positive MLS Results v Mexican Clubs in CCL

8/17/10… Toronto v Cruz Azul… 2-1 W

3/9/10… Columbus Crew v Toluca… 2-2 D

10/20/09… DC United @ Toluca… 1-1 D

2/24/09… Houston Dynamo v Atlante… 1-1 D

9/30/08… Houston Dynamo @ Pumas… 4-4 D

Previous Winless Home Matches for Mexican Clubs in CCL

10/20/09… Toluca v DC United (MLS)… 1-1 D

8/5/09… Cruz Azul v Herediano (CRC)… 0-0 D

10/7/08… Cruz Azul v Marathon (HON)… 1-1 D

10/2/08… Atlante v Joe Public (TRI)… 0-1 L

9/30/08… Pumas v Houston Dynamo (MLS)… 4-4 D

Tuesday, September 21

TSB Pro Power Rankings: Barrio Mexico & Minnesota Rising

With most of the top Mexican and Major League Soccer clubs posting positive results on the week, there was minimal change in the Top 10 of The Soccer Barn’s CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings this week.

The biggest changes in the first 10 on the lest came as the result of Santos Laguna topping Necaxa, another club near the top, while Chivas Guadalajara fell following a loss to one-win Jaguares.

Further down the list, Barrio Mexico of Costa Rica continues to prove its form is no fluke and at 7-1-1 after a victory over Saprissa moved up to 25 from 31. Alajuelense, 8-1-0, also moved up to number 12 with another victory as they are one of the two remaining unbeaten clubs in Mexico or Central America. The other is second-ranked Monterrey (5-3-0), which also is perfect through three Champions League contests.

The final quarter of the list saw plenty of movement this week with many lower-ranked clubs posting upsets in domestic league action this week, which has created an overwhelming amount of parity throughout Central America. The biggest mover was the USSF Division-2 club NSC Minnesota Stars, who edged the Carolina RailHawks and NASL Conference leader Vancouver Whitecaps to put themselves into the thick of the playoff race with two weeks to go, climing from 94 to 77 on the list.

Central America Round-Up: Parity is King

It was a difficult week for the Central American clubs participating in the CONCACAF Champions League as parity continues to be a dominant factor throughout the region. Only two of the six earned wins midweek in the CCL with only one club picking up a win in domestic league competition over the weekend.

Municipal had the best results on the week, playing to a 2-2 draw at home against Santos Laguna and earning a victory over Comunicaciones in the Guatemalan Liga Nacional. Costa Rica’s Saprissa was unable to carry the win over Seattle back into domestic play, falling to league leader Barrio Mexico. After falling to Olimpia midweek, Arabe Unido was unable to get off the bottom in El Salvador, playing to a draw in a battle of the tied last-place clubs against Atletico Marte. In Panama, Arabe Unido lost its share of the league lead with a loss to Sporting San Miguelito after their midweek pounding at the hands of Cruz Azul. Olimpia and Marathon, losers to Monterrey, were both idle due to a dispute over the match logistics between the two Honduran giants that resulted in a postponement.

Outside of Costa Rica, the trend appears to be that no club is able to pull away from the pack in their respective leagues as the distances between the clubs still minimal between six to nine games into the campaigns. Panama features the tightest race as the top seven clubs (of 10) are separated by five points with only two points between the top five in the league. Two points separating the top five is also the case in Honduras where the top nine clubs (of 10) occupy a six-point margin.

In El Salvador, the top six (of 10) are separated by six points with the top four only three apart. Guatemala’s top 10 (of 12) are in a seven-point window with a stunning three-point gap between the clubs in second and 10th.

While Costa Rica has a breakout leader, Alajuelense and Barrio Mexico, in each of its two six-team groups, the race for second in each is rather close. Clubs two-four in Group A are separated by just two points and second through fifth are in a six-point margin in the other group.

Monday, September 20

CCL Mid-Term Report: GROUP D

Current Standings (Points, WDL, GD)
Toluca… 7… 2-1-0… +7
Puerto Rico Islanders… 4… 1-1-1… 0
Olimpia… 4… 1-1-1… -2
FAS… 1… 0-1-2… -5

The group is the only one where no clubs have lost at home although the first week saw a pair of draws. Since then, the winning home sides have outscored the opposition 13-1 on aggregate with Toluca perfect defensively with no goals allowed through the three matches.

CCL Mid-Term Report: GROUP C

Current Standings (Points, WDL, GD)
Monterrey… 9… 3-0-0… +5
Saprissa… 6… 2-0-1… +4
Marathon… 3… 1-0-2… -4
Seattle Sounders… 0… 0-0-3… -5

Monterrey seemingly can’t be beat. The club has not lost in the CCL or Mexican Primera Division through 11 matches overall. On the flip side, the Sounders are struggling mightily with just one goal in the three defeats and are the only team with a loss at home thus far.

CCL Mid-Term Report: GROUP B

Current Standings (Points, WDL, GD)
Santos Laguna… 7… 2-1-0… +4
Columbus Crew… 6… 2-0-1… +3
Municipal… 2… 0-2-1… -1
Joe Public… 1… 0-1-2… -6

Out of season Joe Public is the only club that has lost at home, falling to Santos Laguna. However, Municipal has two draws at home against Joe Public and Santos Laguna. Columbus has kept itself in the shadow of the Santos Laguna with the only goal allowed occurring in the road loss against the Mexican giants.

CCL Mid-Term Report: GROUP A

Current Standings (Points, WDL, GD)
Cruz Azul… 6… 2-0-1… +6
Real Salt Lake… 6… 2-0-1… +3
Toronto FC… 3… 1-0-2… -3
Arabe Unido… 3… 1-0-2… -6

Home clubs have won five of the six matches thus far with Arabe Unido the lone exception in their match against Cruz Azul. Real Salt Lake, despite being in their first appearance, have kept pace with the two-time finalists from Mexico.

North America Round-Up: Minnesota Makes Major Push for D2 Playoffs

While the top clubs in Mexico were victorious in Mexico, it was a week for the underdogs north of the border. CONCACAF Champions League losers Toronto and Seattle posted big wins in Major League Soccer while in the second tier Minnesota stole the headlines with a significant climb into the playoff picture with a pair of victories as the league leaders went winless and the two Floridian clubs were eliminated from contention.

Sunday, September 19

Salvadoran Players Shot in Car-Jacking

Three players returning home after their Isidro Metapan match Saturday evening against Universidad de El Salvador were the target of what is believed to be a car-jacking at a gas station with two players victims of gunfire.

El Salvador Youth International defender Nelson Rivera, son of former Salvadoran international Nelson Portillo, is the most severely injured as a bullet entered his head at the ear and was considered in critical condition after four hours of surgery. It is believed that the bullet that struck Rivera, 19, was the same that grazed the head of teammate and driver Andres Flores. Also in the car was 19-year-old Kevin Santamaria.

Friday, September 17

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

It has been a week of dominance thus far thanks to the CONCACAF Champions League where the winning teams outscored their opposition 22-1 with Toronto FC scoring the lone goal in defeat while Municipal and Santos Laguna tallied four goals in the lone draw of the third installment of group play.

The midweek Champions League action was joined by a handful of matches in the United States and a nearly-full slate in El Salvador. The home sides in MLS and USSF Division-2 were unbeaten with San Jose and Minnesota winning Wednesday while FC Dallas and Tampa Bay earned draws Thursday against New York and Austin, respectively. While the struggling Salvadoran side FAS was in action in the CCL, the top four clubs in Panama were all in action Wednesday, posting victories to leave things status quo.

There are several marquee match-ups coming up over the weekend throughout CONCACAF. In Mexico, Group B leaders America and Toluca will meet in one of the two matches that wrap the week up Sunday. Also on Sunday, Honduras’ two current Champions League participants Olimpia and Marathon square off while in Guatemala, two of the top three sides face one another as Comunicaciones hosts leader Municipal. On Saturday, fourth-place Sporting San Miguelito faces co-leader and Champions League side Arabe Unido in Panama’s key contest.

In Major League Soccer Saturday, the Columbus Crew are home against the Seattle Sounders in a preview of the US Open Cup Championship game to be played in Seattle three weeks later. The next tier is all about the race for the final four playoff berths as only three weeks remain in the regular season.

Tuesday, September 14

TSB Power Rankings: Mexican Shake-Up

The results in Mexico after a week off led to plenty of movement in the Top 10 of TSB’s CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings this week with Monterrey taking Santos Laguna’s spot at number two.

Santos Laguna’s shocking 5-2 loss to Queretaro saw them drop to number nine on the list as Monterrey narrowly defeated fellow top 10 side Tigres, 1-0, to claim the second spot as they remain the lone unbeaten in the league, surpassing the Major League Soccer duo of FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake that were unable to take advantage of the upset south of the border, each playing to a scoreless draw. Chivas Guadalara also moved into the first five with a draw against Pachuca with Toluca moving into the Top 10 with a 1-1 draw on the road against Necaxa, who moved up to eighth from 17. In between the two is America, which climbed from 18 to seven with a 2-0 victory over seventh-ranked Morelia.

Big movers further down the list included Honduran leader Platense, which won, 1-0, on the road against Olimpia to climb 12 spots to 40. In Guatemala, a 1-1 draw between co-leaders Comunicaciones and Juventud Retalteca closed the gap between the two as Juventud jumped from 64 to 51. In Panama, San Francisco continued to show good form with only one defeat, rising 20 spots to 56. Another Panamanian club with one loss, Chorrillo is not far behind at 62 after a jump of 12.

Moving into the list this week were the Miami FC Blues, which upset Montreal, as well as Universidad de El Salvador, Atletico Balboa, Suchitepequez and Alianza, knocking the clubs Atletico Marte (El Salvador), Hispano (Honduras), Plaza Amador (Panama), Crystal Palace Baltimore (USSF-D2) and Charlotte Eagles (USL-2) out of the Top 100.

Central America Round-Up

Unlike their North American counterparts, the Champions League sides still representing Central America in the tournament performed well domestically prior to the third week of the Group Phase with an overall record of 2-2-2.

The two losses were understandable, in the case of Olimpia, and not surprising, in respect to FAS. Olimpia was edged by Platense, who moved into the league lead in Honduras. FAS, however, has struggled mightily in El Salvador league play and dropped its match to one-win Universidad de El Salvador, remaining in last.

Monday, September 13

MLS Improving In CCL Play

When the newly-formatted CONCACAF Champions League debuted in September of 2008, the critics were quick to jump all over Major League Soccer for failing to compete at a respectable level in an international competition. It was arguably a fair complaint given an initial 0-1-3 (W-D-L) record led to early Preliminary Round exits for Chivas USA and the New England Revolution against clubs from Panama and Trinidad, respectively. Move forward two years and the league is showing improvement in the competition.

Of the nine leagues that have been represented in more than one edition of the tournament, MLS got off to an embarrassing start as the worst league based on points percentage despite the Houston Dynamo reaching the Quarterfinals, thanks in part to those opening round results. Assigning points to each match, including head-to-head series, the percentage of points earned out of what was possible came to .222 that year with an eighth-place finish in the home (.296) and away (.148) percentages. MLS clubs were winless in nine road matches in the inaugural edition (0-4-5) with only Panama joining MLS without a road victory (0-2-6).

But since then, the league has improved.

North America Round-Up: CCL Clubs Suffer League Upsets

Five matches defined the week with the biggest one coming south of the border. Queretaro’s stunning 5-2 victory over Santos Laguna was one of three major upsets of the week – one in each league – as some CONCACAF Champions League teams had a rough outing on the eve of returning to group play. In total, the eight North American league-based CCL clubs finished the week 3-4-4 with Cruz Azul, Monterrey and Puerto Rico the only teams to earn wins.

Queretaro more than doubled their previous six-match goal total of four with the victory over the Champions League side, which had allowed just three goals in their league campaign. In Major League Soccer, it was last-place DC United downing Champions League side Toronto FC, 1-0, as the Canadians suffered their fifth shutout in six league games. The upset of the week in USSF Division-2 also came at the expense of a Champions League participant with Puerto Rico falling at home, 2-1, to Montreal midweek.

The Islanders did rebound to down league-leading Austin, 3-1, over the weekend much like the Los Angeles Galaxy, whom they knocked out of the CCL in the Preliminary Round, handily took a showdown of league-leaders by defeating CCL club Columbus by the same scoreline to advance from a three-way tie for first with the Crew and Real Salt Lake after a recent spell of poor form.

Saturday, September 11

Possible new St Louis owner identified?

Earlier this evening, a possible name as a potential new owner for AC St Louis of the USSF Division-2 (NASL Conference) was seemingly prematurely released by Inside Minnesota Soccer. A post on the blog site was apparently created featuring the identity of a replacement owner as local real estate venture partner Ryan Woods, but has since been removed.

An accompanying tweet via the site's Twitter account @MinnesotaSoccer has also since been removed from the web, but traces of the blog post can be found in a Google search. Both are available below.

Woods heads Gateway Real Estate Partners and is with Lee & Associates Property Management. He is currently in the midst of brokering a large real estate development project in the area that has been slow to get off the ground due to financial and legal hurdles. Part of the project is reliant on the condemnation of, ironically, a construction company in the area, but the ownership of the business won a court order in January preventing the St. Louis County Circuit Court from utilizing a condemnation action against Waterhout Construction Co. As reported by the St Louis Business Journal... "Bell, who owns Waterhout, requested the appellate court action Dec. 22, claiming Richmond Heights no longer has the right to take the property for redevelopment since the city no longer has a valid redevelopment proposal, a statutory requirement of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Act [Full article]."

Friday, September 10

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

With the FIFA break complete, all the leagues around CONCACAF are back into full swing this week. A number of them feature some very intriguing contests of league leaders squaring off. The busy day, as usual, is Saturday, which will feature for only the second time this season all 12 USSF Division-2 clubs in action on the same day, including league-leading Austin traveling to face Champions League side Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is coming off a midweek upset, 2-1, at home to Montreal. Also in action midweek were four MLS clubs as Chicago and Toronto finished in a scoreless stalemate Wednesday with Real Salt Lake and Seattle doing the same a night later, putting RSL in a three-way tie atop the league. The MLS action for the week finishes up with all the remaining contests on Saturday, featuring a showdown between Eastern and Western Conference leaders - at the beginning of the week - Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy, who both enter the match level at 13-5-5.

In Mexico, the match of the week is one of the four matches across CONCACAF Friday evening (1 MLS, 2 Panama), featuring the preseason favorite Toluca hitting the road to face promoted darling Necaxa, which has gotten off to an impressive start despite having only one win (1-3-2). The following night, the league’s lone unbeaten, 3-3-0 Monterrey, will face arguably the stiffest test of the young season when the club visits Tigres.

Moving further south into Central America, several more fixtures feature top sides facing one another. The close-knit races in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will see some drama.

In El Salvador, the top five clubs are separated by just two points with Vista Hermosa traveling to meet Once Municipal in a meeting of two of the three clubs tied for third Sunday. Three clubs are tied for first in Guatemala, where after seven games, the top eight teams, amazingly, are within three points of one another in a league of parity that has three clubs tied for first. Two of those three, Comunicaciones and Juventud Retalteca square off Sunday.

The Honduran league also features no runaway leader yet as the top six are separated by three points. Four of them will meet in a pair of contests this weekend. Third-place Marathon Saturday hosts promoted side Necaxa, which is tied for first with Platense, which is on the road versus fifth-place Olimpia on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 8

TSB Power Rankings: Revs Climb In Quiet Week

With all but two Mexican clubs idle due to the FIFA break and both FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake posting 1-0 victories, there was little movement in the Top 10 of the TSB CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings.

The lone change in the Top 10 came with New York’s narrow 1-0 road loss to number four Real Salt Lake, dropping the Red Bulls two spots from their position at eighth.

Further back in the Top 25, Costa Rica’s Alajuelense posted a 3-1 win over Herediano, one of the other league leaders, to move up two spots to 13. A 1-1 draw between Chicago and Los Angeles closed the gap between the two as the Galaxy dropped three spots to 22 and the Fire rose five to 26.

The biggest move in the top half of the rankings was the climb from 42 to 32 by the New England Revolution, who downed the Seattle Sounders, 3-1, and narrowly fell to Morelia, 2-1, in the SuperLiga Final. Barrio Mexico of Costa Rica was not far behind, jumping from 44 to 37 as they were one of the lone top teams in Central America that avoided upset on the week. Also making a good-sized move were the Portland Timbers, who edged Puerto Rico, 1-0, to end the Islanders’ nine-game unbeaten streak, pushing them up eight spots to 41.

Among the movers in the second half of the list was Real Espana, which used a 3-2 win over Marathon in Honduran action to rise up to 60 from 74. Panama’s San Francisco handed Arabe Unido its first lost, climing from 86 to 76 and Victoria (HON) went from unranked to 84 with its fourth consecutive without a loss.

The other two clubs to move into the list with victories were Atletico Veraguense (PAN) and Vida (HON) with the Miami FC Blues (USSF-D2), Suchitepequez (GUA) and Universidad de El Salvador (SLV) sliding out of the Top 100.

Tuesday, September 7

Central America Round-Up

It was a good week for the leaders in Costa Rica, but an unfortunate one for those in Honduras and Panama, where Necaxa and Arabe Unido each suffered their first league losses of the season.

Monday, September 6

North America Round-Up

Although it was a designated FIFA international break, the action remained in full swing for Major League Soccer and USSF Division-2 while the Mexican Primera took the weekend off with the exception of one contest, which proved costly.

The race for the league lead tightened in MLS with leader Los Angeles playing to a tie while those close behind picked up points in the chase. The next tier saw the league lead change hands as Austin reclaimed the top spot. Meanwhile, three of the hottest clubs in the league squared off with Champions League side Puerto Rico making the trek to the northwest to face Portland and Vancouver.

A loss to Chivas Guadalajara Sunday resulted in the dismissal of Estudiantes Tecos head coach Miguel Herrera Monday after a 1-1-4 start to the Apertura campaign. Herrera had led the club since the eighth match of the 2008 Apertura campaign and guided the club to the quarterfinals twice. Luis Manuel Diaz will take the post on an interim basis until a replacement is named.

Friday, September 3

Guatemala: Referee Batres Retires; Heredia Coach Out

Longtime FIFA referee Carlos Batres announced his retirement the day after officiating the SuperLiga championship match, his second, in Foxboro Wednesday evening. An international official since 1996, the 42-year-old Guatemalan refereed three matches at the recent World Cup in South Africa, including the Paraguay-Span quarterfinal match.

His career off the pitch began with immediacy with his appointment to the CONCACAF Referee Committee Confederation by CONCACAF President Jack Warner. Batres will remain in the post until the term of his predecessor, Carlos Ortiz, concludes. The position was vacant due to Ortiz’s death in January.

The two-time World Cup official (2002, 2010) also served in numerous other international tournaments, including the Gold Cup , CONCACAF Champions League/Cup, Pan American Games, Confederations Cup and the Olympics during his career.

His first career international match was October 27, 1996. It was a qualification match between Canada and Panama for the 1998 World Cup.

"He is definitely one of our most accomplished and decorated referees," CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer said in a statement. "We look forward to him becoming integrally involved in our referee development programs."

A narrow 1-0 loss to league-leading Comunicaciones proved semi-costly for Heredia coach Juan Carlos Elijah, who was released from his contract by the club following a post-game meeting with the club management.

Currently sitting ninth with a 2-2-3 record in the league, the club has gone winless in their last three following a pair of home victories. The team has registered just two goals in the past three games, two matches of which were at home.

His departure was not unexpected, although the circumstances were different. Elijah had indicated several weeks ago that he was considering resigning from the club. The Argentine’s father was very ill and he was contemplating returning home, without a scheduled return, to be at his father’s side.

Replacing Elijah will be Chilean Sergio Pardo.

Thursday, September 2

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

Despite the break in Champions League play, it was a busy time around CONCACAF midweek as the US Open Cup determined its finalists Wednesday, SuperLiga crowned a champion and Guatemala played a full slate of contests. The upcoming weekend, however, is another story as many leagues will see minimal to no action due to the international FIFA break.

The higher-ranked clubs in the TSB Pro Power Rankings held form Wednesday night in three big North American cup matches as the Columbus Crew (12) came from behind to defeat host DC United (59) in overtime, 2-1 while the defending tournament champion Seattle Sounders (26) booked a return trip to the US Open Cup Final with a 3-1 victory at home against Chivas USA (39). Morelia (7) locked up the first championship of the region for the 2010-11 calendar by capturing the SuperLiga title in Foxboro, 2-1, against the New England Revolution (42).

In Guatemala, the three top clubs all picked up positive results with Municipal, Juventud Retalteca and the lone unbeaten Comunicaciones all now sitting level with 13 points through seven games. Another midweek match features Puerto Rico and Portland squaring off tonight in USSF Division-2.

With only one match in Mexico this weekend, the marquee match-ups of the weekend are a pair of MLS contests in which four of the top 13 clubs in the TSB Power Rankings will square off Saturday. Toronto FC (13) travels to Dallas (3) to face one of the hottest clubs in the league while the defending league champion Real Salt Lake (4) plays host to the New York Red Bulls (8).

Wednesday, September 1

Power Rankings: Cruz Azul Climbs to the Top

The top six positions in The Soccer Barn’s CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings jumbled quite a bit over the past week between domestic and Champions League results. CCL action also saw some big moves further down the list. The USL-2 Championship leaves the ranking of the clubs in the US third flight at the mercy of those around them until next spring.

The US Open Cup Final Four, set to play tonight, features clubs ranging from 12 to 59 in the rankings. DC United (59) hosts Columbus (12) and Chivas USA (39) heads north to play the Seattle Sounders (26). Meanwhile, in tonight’s SuperLiga Final, the New England Revolution (42) have a shot at climbing quickly with a positive result against Morelia (7).

In the rankings, Cruz Azul moved into the top spot, edging out Santos Laguna. Both clubs were one-goal winners in the Champions League at home versus MLS clubs, but Cruz Azul’s league contest was a 3-2 victory over Tigres, who sat at number four on the list last week while Santos Laguna handily defeated winless Atlas, 3-1. Monterrey’s 1-1 draw against winless Jaguares saw them drop from the top spot to seventh.

One of the bigger mover in the rankings this week was Panama’s Arabe Unido, which rose over 20 spots from 53 to 30 courtesy of a league win and a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC. Saprissa of Costa Rica also made a significant jump with a 3-2 league win against Brujas and a stunning 4-1 victory over Marathon in the Champions League, moving from 74 to 52 after a slow start to the season.

USL-2 Finalists saw very little movement due to the tight nature of the contest that finished in favor of higher-ranked regular season champion Charleston Batttery, which rose just one spot on the list to 51. Runners-up Richmond Kickers dropped four spots as other clubs surpassed them on the list with victories on the weekend.

Busy News Day in Costa Rica

While a postponed match from Monday garnered a lot of attention Tuesday, so did two other significant stories as Perez Zeledon named a new head coach and the federation announced the support of a World Cup preparation plan.

Perez Zeledon, currently sitting in last place in their group and second to last overall in the Costa Rica Primera Division with a 1-1-4 record, named Argentine Marcelo Herrera as the new man in charge. Set to arrive next week, Herrera is an interesting choice for the position, joining the club after a previously unsuccessful run with powerhouse Alajuelense.

A former five-time champion, two domestic and three international, with Velez Sarsfield in the 1990’s, Herrera worked as an assistant manager with his former club in 2007 before moving on to his first stint as a head coach with Alajuelense, which was undergoing a roster overhaul at the time and experienced a poor season under his command. His professional playing career began in 1992 and ended in 2001. In addition to playing for Velez Sarsfield, he spent time with four other Argentine sides and the Miami Fusion of MLS in 1998 - his only foreign assignment.

Interim coach Alexander Madrigal will guide the club once again for the upcoming match this weekend.

The leadership of the league, meanwhile, met with the President of the Federation along with several other key executives from all its member clubs and applicable organizations to formalize and sign an agreement that calls for a plan of cooperation between the league and the federation in raising the quality of the national team in working toward the 2014 World Cup.

The vote passed with a majority although notably missing the approval of powers Saprissa and Alajuelense, along with Puntarenas.

Central America Round-Up

It was a big week of news in El Salvador. Isidro Metapan’s impressive unbeaten streaks in El Salvador came to an end as mid-table Once Municpal registered a surprise 2-1 win that ended a 14-game unbeaten run (7-7-0) and a 13-game home unbeaten streak (6-7-0) for the reigning champions. The other major story was the retirement of Miseal Alfaro, who announced his 23-year career was at an end with his retirement due to life-threatening neck injuries. The Metapan goalkeeper, who has 42 caps for El Salvador, played for numerous clubs domestically, winning four titles while playing for Firpo.

Muddy Salvadoran pitch - elgrafico.com
Referees were a huge topic as well with games in El Salvador and Costa Rica marred by allegations against officials. In El Salvador, the match involving Universidad de El Salvador was officiated by a student from the university, sparking accusations of bias and conflict of interest. A match in Costa Rica saw five players sent off in a scoreless affair.

The constant rain over the past few weeks have resulted in many games being played on drenched pitches throughout Central America. The home of El Salvador’s Vista Hermosa became a casualty Saturday as the game was postponed due to the poor conditions of the field, 80 percent of which was damaged to the point of being mud. The contest has been delayed indefinitely. Club officials took some of the blame for allowing the field to be cut the day prior to the game, making the conditions worse. With other fields in the area in similar condition, Costa Rica’s Primera Division saw Monday’s contest at the University of Costa Rica delayed a day due to field conditions as well. Numerous others were played under muddy conditions or with standing water on the pitch.

Tuesday, August 31

North America Round-Up

A week after winning three of four contests in the CONCACAF Champions League, Major League Soccer clubs found themselves falling in all four matches in the second round of group play. Three of the four losses were at the hands of Mexican sides, which were a perfect 4-0-0. North American league-based Puerto Rico rounded out the results with a victory as well. While MLS clubs were looking to rebound on the weekend, the match of the week was the first professional championship of the season as USL-2 came to a close in Charleston with the Battery playing host to the long-time rival Richmond Kickers.

USL Second Division Championship

Richmond Kickers 1-2 Charleston Battery

The regular season champion Charleston Battery posted and early goal and held on despite playing with 10 men to win the league championship, its third USL title, against Richmond Saturday. A shot from Ian Fuller in the 26th found the feet of teammate Tom Heinemann deep in the box, where he slid it off to USL-2 MVP Lamar Neagle for the opening tally. Four minutes later Colin Falvey was sent of for denying a goal scoring opportunity, taking down Richmond striker Matthew Delicate, who was charging toward goal uncontested.

The Battery, however, handled the adversity well and were able to double the lead in the 52nd minute on a throw-in. Mike Zaher sent the ball to Heinemann, who flicked it on to Ian Fuller. The veteran spun to strike a volley for a huge 2-0 advantage. In the 70th minute a fantastic cross from Sascha Gorres was fired home by Edson Elcock at the back post to pull within one. Fuller again played the hero in stoppage time, heading a Delicate strike off the line to preserve the win. Full Report [+]

Friday, August 27

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

Thus far, it has been a good week for home clubs as they went 6-1-1 in Champions League action and the two USSF Division-2 hosts came away with a win and a draw in midweek contests.

The action around CONCACAF this week continues with a light night Friday. Panama will be the hot spot with two of the four contests with a third in Mexico while rivals Montreal and Rochester square off in USSF Division-2.

All but one MLS contest falls on Saturday, which features the USL Second Division Championship between longtime rivals Richmond and Charleston at Blackbaud Stadium. Two MLS matches feature Top 15 sides in the TSB Power Rankings as Columbus hosts Dallas and Real Salt Lake visits Toronto. Fresh off their Champions League victory, Puerto Rico travels to Carolina in Saturday’s lone fixture in USSF-D2. South of the border, two match-ups of Top 10 clubs in the TSB Rankings meet. Tigres is on the road against Cruz Azul and Chivas Guadalajara hosts Pumas.

Two of the top three sides in USSF-D2 go toe-to-toe Sunday as Austin visits Vancouver. Leading scorer of the Clausura Herculez Gomez travels to face his former side as Pachuca meets Puebla in an interesting showdown Sunday.

FAS returns to action in El Salvador Sunday on the road against third-place Aguila with the coach vowing to make changes after the club’s 4-1 CCL defeat in Puerto Rico and winless (0-1-3) start to the league campaign. Sunday will also mark the first league game for Perez Zeledon under the interim management of Alexander Madrigal after Monday’s removal of Rafael Bautista.

The ‘weekend’s’ action wraps up with a couple extra games on Monday with one each in USSF-D2 and Costa Rica.

Xinabajul performing well despite serious financial issues

Xinabajul of Liga Nacional in Guatemala posted a 2-0 victory over powerhouse and Champions League side Municipal last Sunday. It was the club’s third consecutive win after dropping the losses for the two fixtures, good enough to climb into a tie for third in the league despite having significant financial issues.

Things, however, may be hitting a tipping point in the wrong direction as the team’s current leading scorer Gilberto Cesar Alegria departed the club Thursday, citing that he left the team due to the economic problems at the club,. Management met with him, to discuss plans on paying what they owe him, after he said farewell to his teammates at a morning training session.

The club reportedly paid the players 25 percent of the salaries they were due for the month of July on Monday. Players were upset at the amount received and allegedly questioned the attendance report, and the subsequent revenue made, for the match against Municipal.

The club expects to pay the remainder of the salaries upon receipt of the money due from sponsors in the coming days, but have been delaying payments since initially agreeing to pay them a percentage of the salary owed in the first few days of the month.

The club came into the season in debt and in search of new financial support. The situation resulted in the club having to forfeit its opening match July 24 against Marquense (deemed a 3-0 loss) as it had not met its obligations with the league at the time, including processing player registration and paying the applicable fees. It was facing removal from Liga Nacional, but has since named a new president and executive board.

The team has steadily declined since its promotion to the league for the 2008-09 campaign, opening with a sixth place finish in the 2008 Apertura and subsequently finishing seventh, eighth and, in the Clausura this past spring, 11th. It has a combined season record of 24-25-31 (W-D-L) during the four Liga Nacional Apertura/Clausura sessions.

For more, visit Guatefutbol.com (Spanish) [+]

Tuesday, August 24

TSB's Top Five for USL-2 MVP

It is awards season as the championship game approaches for the USL Second Division Saturday. TSB takes a look at who the top five contenders for the award should be and who, ultimately, the voting will turn out in favor of.

TSB's MVP Rankings

5 – Tom Heinemann (Charleston): His debut to the professional flight last year when the Battery were in the USL First Division saw a minimal amount of time as he only played 621 minutes with a pair of goals. In his second season he proved a critical component as part of a two-man attack, finishing tied for first in assists (5) as well as third in both goals (7) and points (10) as the club won the regular season title.

4 – Hunter Gilstrap (Pittsburgh): After a rough USL-1 season in Cleveland a year ago, Gilstrap became a leader for the Riverhounds defensively, allowing seven fewer goals than they did in 2009. Gilstrap may have only been the league leader in minutes played tied with Brian Levey at 1,620, but he played a key role in the club’s turnaround, finishing second in goals against average (1.00), tied for second in shutouts (6) and third in wins (7). The Riverhounds finished tied with Richmond for the best defense, allowing 20 goals.

Power Rankings: Shakeup at the Top

Surprise defeats cost Santos Laguna and Cruz Azul two of the top three spots in the TSB’s CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings this week, although they did not slip far. Champions League played a role for several clubs as 16 teams began the Group Phase last week.

Former table-topper Santos Laguna drubbed out-of-season Joe Public, 5-2, in the Champions League only to suffer a 1-0 loss to the tough Tigres defense in league play. Cruz Azul, previously third, had the opposite experience, falling on the road, 2-1, to Toronto in the CCL and rebounding to top Jaguares away, 3-2. Their drops to third and fifth, respectively, allowed Monterrey and FC Dallas to move upward along with Tigres making a steep jump eight spots to fourth.

Among the big movers on the week were Marathon and DC United. Marathon posted a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders in the CCL, the only Central American win on the week, and followed it up with a 1-0 league victory against Motagua, climbing from 45th to 22nd. DC moved from 81 to 56 by ending their lengthy slump with a 2-0 victory against Philadelphia, pulling themselves back up toward the back of the pack of MLS sides in the table.

With Rochester adding two more wins to extend its streak to six consecutive wins, the Rhinos moved up to round out the top 40. Newly-promoted Necaxa of Honduras is not far back at 42 after winning its third straight to open the campaign. FAS of El Salvador was set to make a major leap up the list with a scoreless draw against Toluca in the CCL only to see it stunted by a 2-1 league loss to Isidro Metapan as they went from 85 to 73.

USL Second Division Semifinal winners Richmond moved up the list six spots to 64 with their championship showdown set for Saturday against Charleston, which finds itself at 52 following an idle week.

Previously unranked clubs Limon (CRC), Atletico Chiriqui (PAN), Once Municipal (SLV) and Suchitepequez (GUA) moved into the Top 100, knocking out Penarol La Mesilla (GUA), Atletico Veraguense (PAN), Universidad San Carlos (GUA), Universidad de Costa Rica (CRC).

North America Round-Up

The CONCACAF Champions League participants from the North American-based leagues started the week off well as the Group Stage of the tournament began. MLS clubs won three of four, Mexican sides were unbeaten in three with two wins, and Puerto Rico played to a draw for an overall record of five wins, two draws and pair of losses. Professional postseason action began in the United States with the USL Second Division Semifinal between Richmond and Pittsburgh.

Monday, August 23

Central America Round-Up

The week started off roughly for the Central American club. Collectively, they only saw one victory out of six contests in the opening week of CONCACAF Champions League group play. Marathon of Honduras was the lone winner, edging visiting Seattle, 2-1, while the other five earned two draws and suffered three defeats against North American opposition. Olimpia rallied for a 1-1 draw in Puerto Rico and FAS registered a stunning scoreless draw against visiting Toluca. Saprissa fell in Mexico to Monterrey, 2-1, and MLS hosts Columbus and Real Salt Lake downed Municipal, 1-0, and Arabe Unido, 2-1, in their respective matches.

Thursday, August 19

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

With the Group Stage starting this week, the midweek schedule for league play was fairly light with only one MLS contest and three for USSF Division-2. Meanwhile, the confederation’s top club competition resumed with the group phase featuring eight seeded clubs and the eight winners from the Preliminary Round.

For the most part, the results went according to what may be expected per The Soccer Barn’s CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings as the only upsets were close contests where the lower ranked side was at home. Among them was Toronto (14) edging Cruz Azul (3) by a 2-1 scoreline and FAS (85) battling to a scoreless stalemate against Toluca (16), which remains winless through four league and one CCL match (0-2-3 W-L-D) with only four goals scored. The week closed with another upset as Seattle (24) fell 2-1 on the road to Marathon (45) on a controversial penalty kick call.

Saturday and Sunday are the busy fixture dates this week as MLS is off Friday evening, USSF-D2 has only one match and there are only three others in Mexico and Panama.

CCL Results – Home/Away (TSB ranking)

Tuesday: (14) Toronto FC 2-1 Cruz Azul (3)… (28) Puerto Rico Islanders 1-1 Olimpia (25)… (2) Monterrey 2-1 Saprissa (69) – Wednesday: (17) Columbus Crew 1-0 Municipal (56)… (46) Joe Public 2-5 Santos Laguna (1)… (6) Real Salt Lake 2-1 Arabe Unido (54)… (85) FAS 0-0 Toluca (16) – Thursday: (45) Marathon 2-1 Seattle Sounders (24)

League Results – Home/Away (TSB ranking)

Wednesday: (26) Chicago Fire 2-1 New England Revolution (30)… (91) Crystal Palace Baltimore 0-2 Rochester Rhinos (48)… (59) Carolina RailHawks 2-1 Miami FC Blues (95) – Thursday: (82) Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps (34)

COMING UP...

Tuesday, August 17

Pro Rankings: MLS Clubs Rising

With the Mexican Primera having wrapped up its first month of action, a clear delineation between the elite sides and the rest of the league seems to be developing, allowing a number of Major League Soccer sides to slide up the rankings. With the CONCACAF Champions League kicking off the group stage, 16 clubs could make big swings on the list in the coming weeks.

FC Dallas, with only two losses in 19 outings, reached the fourth spot with a 3-1 win over DC United and Real Salt Lake (11-4-6) is in at number six with league-leading Los Angeles two spots behind them and New York rounding out the Top 10.

The biggest mover in the top quarter of the list, however, was Alajuelense. The Costa Rican side won a battle of unbeaten clubs against Barrio Mexico, which moved up as well given their narrow 2-1 defeat on the road against a perennial power, to reach the 13th spot from 23rd. Fellow Costa Rican side Herediano also made a big move up the list from 67 to 53 with a 3-1-0 record. Previously unranked Santos de Guapiles (2-1-1) entered the list at 64 by stunning powerhouse and Champions League club Saprissa 2-0.

Puerto Rico climbed ahead of Austin with a 2-0 victory over the then league leaders. Other big movers in USSF Division-2 were Tampa Bay, which posted a 1-1 draw in Puerto Rico and 3-3 draw in Miami, and Crystal Palace Baltimore, which pulled themselves off the edge with an upset win over Carolina.

Opening their season late midweek to cap the opening round of Honduran action, Deportes Savio debuted on the list at 65 after a 1-1 road draw against Champions League side Marathon and a 2-1 win against Vida.

Deportes Savio and Santos de Guapiles were among six clubs moving into the top 100, knocking out Perez Zeledon (CRC), Vida (HON), Suchitepequez (GUA), Atletico Balboa (SLV), Real Maryland Monarchs (USL2) and Harrisburg City Islanders (USL2).

Central America Round-Up

With several clubs preparing for the beginning of the CONCACAF Champions League group phase, the weekend put tough decisions in front club managers with hopes of advancing from their group as they balanced league play with resting players for the midweek fixtures.

Costa Rica

The Primera Division’s fourth round was a bit quixotic as all six Group A clubs suffered defeats at the hands of teams from Group B. Among the leading storylines from the fixtures was the number of send-offs that played a factor in the results. Nine players, in total, were dismissed from the pitch in six matches.

Monday, August 16

Mexican Primera Review

Domination continued for Santos Laguna. They posted a fourth straight victory in league play and sixth overall. Christian Benitez continued his scoring streak, having netted in every league contest. Jaguares, despite losing, became the first Mexican side to keep Santos from scoring at least three goals with only San Juan Jabloteh matching the 1-0 effort in Champions League play in Trinidad. San Luis registered the upset of the week as they picked up their first win, 1-0, against Morelia, which came in with wins in both contests this season by an aggregate score of 7-0.

Friday, August 13 (Home-Away)

Necaxa 1-1 Queretaro
Promoted side Necaxa continues to perform well, posting a third positive result in four matches. The hosts were unlucky in the 13th minute on Friday the 13th when Carlos Bossi headed it off the post and watched teammate Luis Padilla send the rebound off the same upright. Thirteen minutes later Pablo Quattrocchi sent the ball inside the left post for the lead. In the 56th minute Sergio Orteman fired a shot that deflected off a Necaxa defender before slamming off the crossbar. Four minutes later Hector Altamirano leveled terms with a free kick into the upper left corner. Scoring – NEC: Pablo Quattrocchi 27; QUE: Hector Altamirano 60

Saturday, August 14

Cruz Azul 4-1 Pachuca
Cruz Azul’s domination began just seven minutes in when Javier Orozco put away a corner kick from Christian Gimenez. Emanuel Villa played a give-and-go with Gimenez to leave himself all alone to double the lead three minutes before the break. Five minutes into the second half Orozco netted his second and 10 minutes later Raul Martinez sent an accidental header past his own keeper to push the lead to four. Edgar Benitez would spoil the shutout in the 66th from the spot. Scoring – CA: Javier Orozco 7; CA: Emanuel Villa 42; CA: Javier Orozco 50; CA: Own goal (Raul Martinez) 60; PAC: Edgar Benitez (penalty) 66

Monterrey 5-2 Pumas UNAM
Pumas has two wins at home. On the road, it’s a whole other story as Saturday’s result leaves them with a pair of losses 9-2 on aggregate. This week, the send off of goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios led to the defeat as the club had the advantage at the time. After Humberto Suazo opened the scoring by burying his own rebound nine minutes in. Leandro Augusto tied it up in the 18th off the left post and Dante Lopez gave Pumas the lead when he put away a Javier Cortez shot that rebounded off the base of the post. The hosts leveled before the half through a Sergio Santana header. Four minutes into the second stanza Palacios was sent off and Suazo converted the subsequent penalty to retake the lead. Osvaldo Martinez put the game out of doubt with a long-range effort in the 77th and Aldo De Nigris rounded out the scoring in the final minute. Scoring – MON: Humberto Suazo 9; PUM: Leandro Augusto 18; PUM: Dante Lopez 24; MON: Sergio Santana 45; MON: Humberto Suazo (penalty) 52; MON: Osvaldo Martinez 77; MON: Aldo De Nigris 90

Santos Laguna 1-0 Chiapas Jaguares
Santos kept their high-flying act going with a rare close contest on the young season. Christian Benitez scored his league-leading sixth goal of the campaign when he slashed through the defense seconds into the second half before beating goalkeeper Jorge Villalpando. Jackson Martinez had three close efforts for the visitors but was unable to find the equalizer. Scoring – SAN: Christian Benitez 46

San Luis 1-0 Morelia
A Miguel Sabah penalty saved by Cesar Lozano in the 52nd minute proved critical as Wilmer Aguirre nodded a corner home five minutes later for the victory . Scoring – SL: Wilmer Aguirre 57

Sunday, August 15

Puebla 1-1 Atlante
Deadlocked at the break, the visitors opened the scoring nearly 10 minutes into the second stanza when Jeronimo Amione floated a shot into the corner. Puebla were unable to break down the defensive stance of Atlante until four minutes were left on the board when Rodrigo Salinas sent a cross from the right to Edgar Lugo, who tapped in at the near post. Scoring – ATL: Jeronimo Amione 54; PUE: Edgar Lugo 86

Toluca 1-1 Tigres
Preseason favorites Toluca are still without a win after four games, playing to a third consecutive 1-1 draw. Toluca took the advantage at home in the 61st minute off the foot of Antonio Rios. Victory was snatched from Toluca in the final moments when Alberto Acosta was fouled in the area by Manuel de la Torre, leading to a penalty converted by Itamar Batista. Scoring – TOL: Antonio Rios 61; TIG: Itamar Batista (penalty) 90

America 1-1 Atlas
The match was decided, in part, on nearly identical corner kick situations that had decidedly different results. An America corner 17 minutes in was headed home by Matias Vuoso, flying just centimeters above the head of a defender on the post who was a fraction of a second late in attempting to nod it wide. An identical play later in the match from Atlas saw Nestor Vidrio head the ball toward goal only to see Rosinei Adolfo clear it off the line with a header. Atlas would, however, find the equalizer through Fabricio Fuentes on the hour mark. Scoring – AME: Matias Vuoso 17; ATL: Fabricio Fuentes 60

MLS in Review

With two games on the week, Real Salt Lake was hoping to make a serious dent in the Los Angeles Galaxy’s league lead, but were only able to make up one point as they registered a draw Wednesday and a win Saturday while the Galaxy snared a 1-0 win in New York on the weekend. RSL’s victory Saturday also kept Columbus at bay as they downed the Crew, 2-0.

Saturday, August 14 (Away-Home)

Colorado Rapids 1-1 Philadelphia Union
Alejandro Moreno’s effort for Philadelphia off the post in the 32nd minute nearly broke a stalemate that stood until Colorado’s Jeff Larentowicz, a Pennsylvania native, buried a miscleared ball from 20 yards out. For the second straight match Sebatien Le Toux set up Danny Mwanga for the lone Union strike, tracking down a long ball and slipping a low cross into the area for Mwanga’s finish. Scoring – COL: Jeff Larentowicz 59; PHI: Danny Mwanga (Sebastien Le Toux) 73

Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 New York Red Bulls
Edson Buddle added to his league-leading goal total his 13th of the campaign, running onto a through ball from Juninho 10 minutes into the contest, making up for Chris Birchall’s effort went off the crossbar three minutes earlier. New York’s Juan Pablo Angel also put one off the woodwork, hitting the post with a header off a Rafa Marquez free kick in first half stoppage time and allowing Bruce Arena to leave with a win despite spending it in a suite after being hospitalized earlier in the week for an illness. Scoring – LA: Edson Buddle (Juninho) 10

FC Dallas 3-1 DC United
DC United woes continued as they were unable to find the net on their own in Frisco. Eric Alexander and David Ferreira helped lead the hosts to their 10th straight without a loss. In the 36th minute Alexander sent a through ball to Brek Shea, who found Ferreira for a tap-in. Four minutes into the second half Ferreira returned the favor as Alexander fired inside the post from 18 yards. DC’s lone tally came with 10 minutes remaining when Santino Quaranta’s cross toward Andy Najar was redirected into the net by defender Jair Benitez. Jeff Cunninham struck for his 128th career goal when he beat Bill Hamid one-on-one for an empty-netter in stoppage time. Scoring – DAL: David Ferreira (Brek Shea, Eric Alexander) 36; DAL: Eric Alexander (Milton Rodriguez, David Ferreira) 49; DC Own goal (Jair Benitez) 80; DAL: Jeff Cunningham 92+

Houston Dynamo 0-1 New England Revolution
The Revolution extended an unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions when Ilija Stolica fired past Matt Reis from the top of the box in the 62nd minute to break the stalemate. Scoring – NE: Ilija Stolica (Sainey Nyassi) 62

Columbus Crew 0-2 Real Salt Lake
Javier Morales stunned the Crew 11 minutes in on a short corner from Fabian Espindola when he fired a shot inside the far post instead of crossing into the box. After a few diving saves from Nick Rimando to keep Columbus off the board Morales doubled the advantage on the hour mark, striking a free kick through the wall. Scoring – RSL: Javier Morales (Fabian Espindola) 11; Javier Morales 60

Kansas City Wizards 0-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Jamaican international Khary Stephenson made the most of his debut, connecting with Chris Wondolowski for the lone tally of the night, lofting a pass from 35 yards out in the 35th minute that was volleyed past Jimmy Nielsen. Scoring – SJ: Chris Wondolowski (Khari Stephenson) 35

Seattle Sounders 0-0 Chivas USA
The scoring summary was empty, but the disciplinary report carried plenty of drama as both clubs finished a man short. The closest chance of the night came around the hour mark when the Sounders’ Sanna Nyassi sent a header off the right post. The match came to a close with a bench-clearing scuffle when Leo Gonzalez was hit with an elbow from Mariano Trujillo, sparking the incident. Both men would be sent off.

Wednesday, August 11

Toronto FC 0-1 New York Red Bulls
Thierry Henry nearly put the hosts on the board in the 21st only to be taken goalkeeper Stefan Frei without a whistle for a penalty. Two minutes later, however, Henry started the play on the lone tally of the night. His ball was chipped by Seth Stammler over the defense to Joel Lindpere. Scoring – NY: Joel Lindpere (Seth Stammler, Thierry Henry) 23

Real Salt Lake 1-1 Philadelphia Union
Sebastien Le Toux continues to be the primary producer of the Union offense, setting up Danny Mwanga eight minutes into the match. It took the defending MLS Cup champions only nine minutes to answer against the expansion side courtesy of a fantastic effort from Fabian Espindola, who beat two defenders before unleashing the equalizer. Scoring – PHI: Danny Mwanga (Sebastien Le Toux) 8; RSL: Fabian Espindola (Tony Beltran) 17

Sunday, August 15

USSF Division-2 in Review

Three of the four contests Wednesday finished in draws, but the big result of the night was a 2-0 win by Rochester in Carolina that had implications beyond that night as Austin was idle. The three points put the Rhinos within striking range of Austin, allowing Rochester to move into first overall in the league Saturday evening with their 2-1 victory over rival Montreal as the Aztex fell, 2-0, in Puerto Rico. It was only the third defeat of the year for Austin, which has three games in hand on the Rhinos, who now lead by a single point.

Saturday, August 14  (Away-Home)

Austin Aztex 0-2 Puerto Rico Islanders
The Islanders eliminated MLS-leading Los Angeles from the CONCACAF Champions League the previous week and followed it up with a victory over USSF Division-2 leading Austin, which was unbeaten on the road and in the midst of a seven-game undefeated run. David Foley found the lower left corner in the 32nd minute for a halftime lead and Daniel Keon provided some insurance by beating goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo one-on-one in the 68th. Both goals were set up by Nicolas Addlery. Scoring - PR: David Foley (Nicolas Addlery) 32; PR: Daniel Keon (Nicolas Addlery) 68

Portland Timbers 1-0 AC St Louis
Dike netted his third goal in four games as Steve Cronin posted his eighth shutout. Keith Savage found Dike at the top of the box, where he created some space with a quick move left before drilling aroller inside the left post four minutes before the half for what held as the winner. Scoring - POR: Bright Dike (Keith Savage) 41

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 NSC Minnesota Stars
The Whitecaps continue on their run of good form finishing their fifth without defeat and posting their ninth consecutive contest on the road without a loss. Captain Martin Nash first-timed the ball at the top of the box in the 15th minute for what stood as the winner of the contest, which was extended due to a lightning delay in the second half. Scoring - VAN: Martin Nash (Cornelius Stewart) 15

Carolina RailHawks 1-2 Crystal Palace Baltimore
Santiago Fusilier helped facilitate the downfall of his former club, setting up Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, who slipped the ball by Eric Reed 21 minutes in. Gary Brooks fired a rocket into the back of the net to double the advantage four minutes into the second half. Matt Watson cut into the deficit in the 76th but the rally was not enough for Carolina. Scoring - CPB: Tsuyoshi Yoshitake (Santiago Fusilier) 21; CPB: Gary Brooks (Pat Healey) 49; CAR: Matt Watson 76

Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-3 Miami FC Blues
A thriller ended level between the Florida rivals. The visitors got off to a quick start only to see chances from Ricardo Sanchez and Pascal Millien go off the woodwork before Miami answered in the 19th with a header from Chuckwudi Chijindu to take the lead. New addition Maykel Galindo, on loan from Chivas USA, tied the match up in the 33rd. Miami again took the advantage when Danilo Martins tallied off a ball that came to him on a fortunate deflection off the referee, but the Rowdies fired right back as Gerson Mayen was charged with an own goal after the ball deflected off of him to level terms in the 45th. Tampa Bay took its first lead courtesy of Aaron King but with eight minutes remaining Martin Nunez beat goalkeeper Darryl Sattler one-on-one for an empty-netter. Scoring - MIA: Chukwudi Chijindu 19; TB: Maykel Galindo 33; MIA: Danilo Martins 42; TB: Own goal (Gerson Mayen); TB: Aaron King (Jonny Steele) 56; MIA: Martin Nunez 82

Montreal Impact 1-2 Rochester Rhinos
Defender Frankie Sanfilippo gave the Rhinos the advantage in the 36th minute when he put the ball off the far post, but Montreal would answer just before the break with Eduardo Sebrango nodding it in to level the game. Isaac Kissi fired a close-range effort from six yards for the winner six minutes from time. Scoring - ROC: Frankie Sanfilippo (Andrew Hoxie) 36; MON: Eduardo Sebrango (Leonardo DiLorenzo) 45; ROC: Isaac Kissi (Darren Spicer) 84

Wednesday, August 8

Rochester Rhinos 2-0 Carolina RailHawks
Fifteen minutes in, Tyler Rosenlund collected the ball from Isaac Kissi and beat the Carolina defense to give the visitors the early lead. With 11 minutes remaining Ryan Heins secured the victory. Scoring - ROC: Tyler Rosenlund (Isaac Kissi) 15; ROC: Ryan Heins (Adam West) 79

Crystal Palace Baltimore 0-0 Montreal Impact
Despite missing two defenders to suspension (Nevio Pizzolitto and Adam Braz) and another two to injury (Stephen deRoux and Simon Gatti), the Impact held firm on the goalkeeping of Matt Jordan, who needed just saves, in the scoreless draw. At the other end, Evan Bush was peppered with 24 shots, making 13 saves in a great performance.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 Puerto Rico Islanders
New addition Ricardo Sanchez scored his third goal in three games with the Rowdies two minutes into stoppage time for a stunning draw in Puerto Rico, who held the lead since Josh Hansen’s strike in the 31st. Sanchez rang his effort, coming off the rebound of an Aaron King shot, off the underside of the crossbar. Scoring - PR: Josh Hansen (Kevon Villaroel) 31; TB: Ricardo Sanchez 92+

NSC Minnesota Stars 2-2 Portland Timbers
Andrei Gotsmanov helped extend Minnesota’s unbeaten run to six games, chipping a ball that Ely Allen poked in 24 minutes into the contest and found Simone Bracalello with a corner kick at the six for a header in the 73rd for the tie. For the Timbers, Ryan Pore was the hero as he headed the ball into the path of Bright Dike for the equalizer a minute before the break and then converted a penalty in the 62nd after being taken down in the box. Scoring - MIN: Ely Allen (Andrei Gotsmanov) 24; POR: Bright Dike (Ryan Pore) 44; POR: Ryan Pore (penalty) 62; MIN: Simone Bracalello (Andrei Gotsmanov) 73

Friday, August 13

Peter Ward Biography ‘He Shot, He Scored’ a Variety of Insights

A few weeks ago I finished reading Peter Ward’s official biographical book He Shot, He Scored written by Matthew Horner. Having had a few beers with Ward and his gaggle of British mates on occasion over the past few years during the recent World Cup and EPL seasons, and knowing a little bit of his playing history, I figured it would make for an interesting read. After all, most of his career came in the early stages of my life, which in Spokane, Washington meant little exposure to the sport. The book proved to be a lot more than just a quick glimpse of his career, providing a thought-provoking look at the sport through a multitude of eras in England and North America.

Ward is most famous for his playing career with Brighton & Hove Albion during the seventies before moving onto Nottingham Forest and several NASL and indoor clubs in the United States, including the Seattle Sounders.

Having now worked in the sport for 13 years, I have to say that this book is definitely a must-read. It provides a lot of insight on varied aspects of the sport that you may not necessarily expect while also providing a fair amount of entertainment. It has not gotten a lot of hype because Ward doesn’t throw anyone under the bus in a way that would garner English tabloid attention. But it does have plenty of inside stories on partying and the culture of the game as it began transitioning into the big-money business it is today.

But the meat of the book really provides a lot between the lines for those seeking an intellectual look at the game. The main items of interest are:

- Expanded story of Clough & Taylor (The Damned United)
- The financial health of English football in the 70s & 80s
- The end of the NASL / height of the indoor game
- Culture of the player lifestyle during his career
- Being on the National Team bubble
- Recognizable names still currently in the North American game

Published in England, the book can be purchased at PeterWardSoccer.com

For a book that is only 230 pages or so (minus pictures and acknowledgements), it packs quite a lot as Ward’s career really intertwined with so many interesting aspects of the game. Although a bit dry at times as game results are chronicled, the author Horner does well to provide a full picture of not only Ward’s career, but where it fit in the larger picture of the English game at the time...

Thursday, August 12

Coming Up in CONCACAF

This week’s action kicked off with several contests Wednesday evening. A pair of contests in MLS saw the New York Red Bulls (10) edge visiting Toronto FC (13) 1-0 while Real Salt Lake (9) played to a 1-1 draw on the road against the Philadelphia Union (38). In the next flight, the Rochester Rhinos (44) won 2-0 away against the Carolina RailHawks (45) while three other fixtures finished level. Crystal Palace Baltimore (96) fought the Montreal Impact (51) to a scoreless stalemate, the Tampa Bay Rowdies (95) picked up a 1-1 road draw against the Puerto Rico Islanders (30) and the NSC Minnesota Stars (94) registered a 2-2 draw against the host Portland Timbers (50) as the home sides went winless. In the lone match in Central America, host Marathon (43) played to a 1-1 draw against Deportes Savio (NR) to close out the first round of games in Honduras.

Coming up this weekend is Super Saturday with every MLS, USSF-D2 and USL-2 game, along with most of Mexico's Primera fixtures, scheduled for Saturday. The Central American leagues, meanwhile, are primarily featuring games on Sunday.

Power Ranking in parenthesis (TV listings – Goff’s Insider [+])

Friday, August 13

Mexico: Queretaro (19) @ Necaxa (24)

El Salvador: FAS (49) @ Alianza (83)… Aguila (65) @ Firpo (47)… UES (89) @ Vista Hermosa (87)… Atletico Marte (NR) @ Isidro Metapan (42)

Saturday, August 14

MLS: Colorado Rapids (18) @ Philadelphia Union (38)… Los Angeles Galaxy (12) @ New York Red Bulls (10)… FC Dallas (6) @ DC United (79)… Houston Dynamo (28) @ New England Revolution (31)… Columbus Crew (15) @ Real Salt Lake (9)… Kansas City Wizards (40) @ San Jose Earthquakes (26)… Seattle Sounders (20) @ Chivas USA (35)

USSF-D2: Carolina RailHawks (45) @ Crystal Palace Baltimore (96)… Montreal Impact (51) @ Rochester Rhinos (44)… Tampa Bay Rowdies (95) @ Miami FC Blues (84)… Austin Aztex (29) @ Puerto Rico Islanders (30)… Vancouver Whitecaps (33) @ NSC Minnesota Stars (94)… Portland Timbers (50) @ AC St Louis (77)

USL-2: Pittsburgh Riverhounds (64) @ Harrisburg City Islanders (100)… Real Maryland Monarchs (99) @ Richmond Kickers (63)… Charlotte Eagles (70) @ Charleston Battery (52)

Mexico: Pumas UNAM (8) @ Monterrey (2)… Pachuca (14) @ Cruz Azul (4)… Jaguares (21) @ Santos Laguna (1)… Estudiantes Tecos (36) @ Chivas Guadalajara (7)… Morelia (3) @ San Luis (32)

Costa Rica: Saprissa (62) @ Santos de Guapiles (NR)… Barrio Mexico (58) @ Alajuelense (23)

El Salvador: Atletico Balboa (98) @ Once Municipal (NR)

Guatemala: Mictlan (68) @ Marquense (48)

Honduras: Olimpia (22) @ Victoria (NR)

Sunday, August 15

Mexico: Atlante (34) @ Puebla (5)… Tigres UANL (17) @ Toluca (11)… Atlas (37) @ America (16)

Costa Rica: Cartagines (72) @ UCR (NR)… Brujas (59) @ Perez Zeledon (92)… Herediano (67) @ Limon (NR)

Guatemala: Xinabajul (86) @ Juventud Retalteca (57)… Suchitepequez (97) @ Municipal (66)… Xelaju (53) @ Malacateco (78)… Comunicaciones (54) @ Penarol La Mesilla (75)… Heredia (85) @ Universidad San Carlos (76)

Honduras: Vida (93) @ Deportes Savio (NR)… Marathon (43) @ Platense (39)… Necaxa (55) @ Real Espana (71)… Hispano (NR) @ Motagua (27)

Wednesday, August 11

Pro Rankings: Settling In

With the favorites holding form in the second legs of the CONCACAF Champions League last week and with the Central American leagues still in the early stages, most of the activity in The Soccer Barn’s CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings was among the final third as the majority of the clubs in the list begin to paint the pictures in their respective leagues.

Considered favorites prior to the season, Toluca is yet to register a victory three games into the Mexican Primera season and thusly saw the biggest drop among the top clubs after a 1-1 draw against Jaguares, falling from four to 11. Pachuca also fell seven spots to 14 following a 3-0 loss to Santos Laguna. Queretaro, perhaps inflated with two wins against lesser opponents Atlas and Tigres, were brought back to earth in a 6-0 loss to Morelia, dropping from 11 to 19. On the other side of the big moves, promoted Necaxa moved up from 30 to 24 with a 1-0 win against Atlas and Jaguares from 29 to 21.

Movers among MLS clubs were Seattle, up six spots with success in CCL and league play, and San Jose, which fell seven spots after a loss in Colorado. New England narrowly defeated DC, but benefited from several Mexico’s lesser clubs falling down the list, moving up from 37 to 31. Most of the MLS clubs remained relatively level with their previous ranking.

Firpo of El Salvador used a 2-0 win over CCL club FAS to move up the table to the top half from 63 to 47. Necaxa of Honduras, also newly promoted, stunned Motagua to make its debut on the list at 55. Still perfect after three games, Barrio Mexico of Costa Rica moved up to 58 from 79 and while league opposition Saprissa rebounded from an opening loss to post a scoreless draw against rival Alajuelense and a big win to move back up to 61 from 75.

The final quarter of the list saw a lot of movement. Panama’s Sporting San Miguelito jumped from 90 to 74 following a 0-0 draw against CCL club Tauro while league opposition Chepo moved from 94 to 80 by downing CCL club San Francisco. USSF D-2’s Miami FC used a 1-1 road draw against CCL side Puerto Rico to move from just inside the bubble, at 97, to 84.

Moving into the top 100 after spending last week off of it were Panama’s Atletico Veraguense, El Salvador’s Universidad de El Salvador and the Guatamalan trio of Heredia, Xinabajul and Suchitepiquez.

Monday, August 9

Crossing Borders: Recap of CONCACAF Action

Major League Soccer: Philadelphia’s hopes of making significant strides in the playoff chase with two games ended in disappointment. Stephen Lenhart spoiled the party Thursday with goals just before and after the break for a 2-1 victory. Then on Sunday, Alejandro Moreno’s ninth minute strike was undone by goalkeeper Brad Knighton’s send-off in the 21st. David Ferreira converted the subsequent penalty and after a handful of great saves by Chris Seitz, the Union finally succumbed to a pair of goals by Jeff Cunningham, 3-1.

Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders followed up their Champions League success midweek with victories, showing no hangovers from travel. Toronto returned home to down Chivas USA, 2-1, Saturday on first-half goals from Nana Attakora and Chad Barrett. Giancarlo Maldonado cut into the deficit in the 66th, but it was not enough. The Sounders blanked visiting Houston, 2-0, Sunday on second-half strikes from Fredy Montero and Alvaro Fernandez.

Ben Olsen’s first game as interim coach did not see much change for DC United as they fell, 1-0, in New England on a 42nd minute Pat Phelan tally. Real Salt Lake picked up a 1-1 draw on the road with Robbie Findley’s 32nd minute equalizer cancelling out Kei Kamara’s goal in the 20th. Rounding out Saturday’s action was Colorado winning, 1-0, at home courtesy of an own goal by San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch 25 minutes in.

The super-hyped five-DP game in Chicago Sunday night finished with a big squeal of air coming out of the balloon as the two sides went scoreless. On a night full of stars, it was Mac Kandji in the limelight as he missed numerous chances for New York.

USSF/USL: Among a series of tight, low-scoring affairs on the week in USSF Division-2 was one thriller Saturday in Austin. Jay Needham and Lance Watson scored twice in a two-minute span for a two-goal lead at the 18-minute mark, but the visiting Tampa Bay Rowdies answered right back. Ricardo Sanchez tallied from the spot in the 21st and four minutes later Long Tan netted his third of the year on an assist from Sanchez. Needham was not done though, scoring his second of the night and year in the 35th, set up by Jamie Watson for the second time, and Maxwell Griffin, who assisted on the second strike, scored just before the half as the Aztex won 4-2.

Earlier in the week, Miami’s Brian Shriver struck for the lone tally against Baltimore Wednesday while Kenold Versailles gave Rochester a 1-0 win versus Portland to keep within five points of Austin. On Friday, Vancouver and St Louis battled to a scoreless draw behind Jay Nolly and Alec Dufty shutouts, respectively.

In the other matches on Saturday Carolina topped Montreal 2-0 while Miami and Puerto Rico finished level, 1-1. Josh Gardner and Cory Elenio scored in each half for Carolina in the win as the RailHawks gained two points on Vancouver. David Foley tallied in the first for the Islanders with Abe Thompson scoring in the second for Miami.

In the USL Second Division, the playoff field was set as the race for the third and final playoff berth was claimed by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Riverhounds opened the week Wednesday with a 1-1 draw at home against state-rival Harrisburg. Jeremy Deighton tallied six minutes before the break, but Harrisburg’s Kai Kasiguran kept Charlotte firmly in the picture for third with the equalizer three minutes from time.

On Saturday night, the Riverhounds finished the job with a surprising result, topping the league-leading Charleston Battery for the first time in four meetings. The two sides had not met since Pittsburgh’s rough start to the season in which they tied the Battery 0-0 on lost in back-to-back meetings 2-1 and 4-3. Tommy Gray gave the Hounds the lead 17 minutes in and Deighton notched his second of the week, fifth of the season, in the 31st. Tommy Heinemann brought the Charleston back within one in the 56th, but Pittsburgh held on for the win. Charleston’s loss opened the door for Richmond to make the final week of the season meaningful as the Kickers got a first minute goal from Matthew Delicate, his 11th, that stood up for the victory against Harrisburg, moving Richmond within three points of first.

Although Charlotte’s playoff hopes were being dashed in Pittsburgh, the other match of the night had meaning as Real Maryland was looking to leap out of last. Leo Gibson put the Eagles up in the 63rd, but the Monarchs’ Ben Hunter set up Jyler Noviello for the equalizer in the 78th before finding the net himself with three minutes left. Charlotte’s Greg Dalby spoiled the move past Harrisburg, striking in stoppage time, leaving the Monarchs with having to be content to move within one point of the City Islanders.

Mexican Primera: Following a 4-0 drubbing last week to Santos Laguna, Pumas UNAM came back with a roar, blanking high-flying Cruz Azul, 2-0, Sunday on goals from Marco Palacios and Javier Cortes in each half. Morelia were even bigger winners on the day, bringing two-win Queretaro back down to earth in week three courtesy of a 6-0 pasting. Miguel Sabah scored twice in the first 24 minutes and completed the hat-trick in the 54th to push the score to 5-0. Puebla picked a 3-1 road win against Estudiantes Tecos. Alvaro Gonzalez and Gabriel Pereyra gave the visitors a two-goal lead 19 minutes in before Mauro Cejas answered from the spot in the 21st. Edgar Lugo capped the game four minutes from time.

The action was a lot closer Saturday with five of the six matches decided by a goal or less. The four games with a winner finished in favor of the visitors, part of a larger trend that saw only Pumas and Morelia win at home on the week. Danilinho gave Jaguares the lead after seven minutes, but Toluca found an equalizer from Isaac Brizuela in the 69th for a 1-1 draw. Also finishing with the same scoreline were Tigres and America. Damian Alvarez gave Tigres the advantage in the 41st with the visitors leveling in the 76th courtesy of Daniel Montenegro. Dario Gandin scored the lone strike 25 minutes in for Necaxa’s win at Atlas and Marco Fabian provided a 1-0 road win also for Chivas Guadalajara with a 20th minute goal. Monterrey also were victorious away from home, 2-1, against Atlante. Johan Fano gave Atlanta the lead three minutes in, but Jose Basanta tied it up in the 14th, two minutes before Nicolas Torres of Atlante was sent off. Neri Cardozo netted the winner in the 52nd.

Santos Laguna continued its dominance, sitting as the only three-win side after a 3-0 victory against Pachuca, having outscored the opposition 11-1. Carlos Quintero opened the match in the 23rd, but league-leading scorer Cristian Benitez pushed his account to five goals with a brace in the second half.

Central America: The Liga Nacional opened play in Honduras over the weekend and wraps up the first round of action with a game Wednesday. Saturday’s lone contest was also the lone fixture to see the visitors come out on top as Real Espana downed Vida, 3-1. Rommel Quioto gave Vida the initial lead 11 minutes in with Eder Delgado matching it in the 26th. Christian Martinez and Luis Lobo tallied in the second half for the win. Platense also came from behind with Marcelo Souza scoring twice in three minutes before the break to negate Edmilson Da Silva’s seventh minute strike for Victoria in the 2-1 decision. Defending Clausura champion Olimpia rode second half goals from Roger Rojas and Alexander Lopez to down Hispano, 2-0. Regular season Clausura winners Motagua, however, may have been hung over from Tuesday’s 2-2 draw and Champions League series loss to Toronto FC. Ruben Licona of promoted side Necaxa scored twice and Jesus Navas made it 3-0 before halftime, which held as the final for the club, which is in the top flight for the first time since its founding in 1954. Marathon hosts Deportes Savio Wednesday.

In Costa Rica, the big night was Wednesday as Round 2 finished up with a scoreless stalemate between rivals Alajuelense and Saprissa. Alajuelense would go on to post a 2-0 win Saturday on the road against Puntarenas on goals from Christian Oviedo and Marco Urena in the second half. Saprissa plays their third in one of two Monday night matches. Also on Saturday, Barrio Mexico dropped San Carlos, 2-1, with all three goals coming in the first half. On Sunday, Herediano rallied from two down for a 3-2 victory. Erick Marin and Juan Monge strikes were not enough as Froylan Ledezma hit from the spot in the 38th followed by second half strikes from Cristhian Montero and Olman Vargas, who’s winner came in the 90th. Meanwhile, Cartagines drubbed Santos de Guapiles, 7-1. An own goal put the visitors up initially, but Leonardo Madrigal, Esteban Granados (penalty), and Diego Pais scored before the break. After a Johan Venegas send-off, Pais scored two more for a hat-trick.

In El Salvador, Isidro Metapan recovered from its Champions League elimination with a scoreless draw on the road versus Alianza Friday evening. Universidad de El Salvador doubled up on Once Municipal, 4-2, Saturday after falling in week one. Rafael Burgos scored twice as they scored three in the first 45 and a fourth two minutes into the second half before giving up two consolation strikes. Meanwhile, Aguila edged Vista Hermosa, 2-1, with Ramon Sanchez scoring nine minutes in and Gabriel Pinillo in the 47th. Javier Hernandez scored for Vista Hermosa in the 63rd to make it close. A stalemate between Atletico Balboa and Atletico Marte gave way with two in nine minutes as Marte’s Emerson Veliz struck in the 70th and Balboa’s Cristian Bautista answered to tie it back up. Top clubs Firpo and FAS met Sunday. Fresh off advancing to the Champions League group stage, FAS was topped, 2-0, by the visitors. Dennis Alas and Alex Erazo netted in the second half for Firpo.

Home sides were unbeaten in the third week of action in Guatemala. Xinabajul were the lone winners Saturday, posting a 3-0 win over Malacateco. David Espinoza scored in the first half with Fernando Patterson (penalty) and Jacinto Mendez scoring in the final seven minutes. Meanwhile, Comunicaciones settled for a 1-1 draw with Josimar scoring from the spot for Suchitepequez six minutes after Rolando Fonseca’s 50th minute strike. On Sunday, Municipal earned a 1-1 road draw against Juventud Retalteca. Juan Castillo gave Municipal the lead in the 68th with Jean Cedeno’s answer in the 83rd. Carlos Asprilla’s 52nd effort was enough for Mictlan against Penarol La Mesilla while Jonny Brown’s first-half strike was not enough for Marquense in a 3-1 defeat to Heredia. Julian Chacon leveled eight minutes into the second half and Henry Hernandez added two more in the next 13 minutes for the win. Edgar Cotto and Nelson Crossa scored in each half to give Xelaju a two-goal lead in a 2-1 win over Universidad de San Carlos.

Friday evening was the big night in Panama with three of the five fixtures. The bigger theme of the week though was shutouts as six netminders posted clean sheets. On Friday, Arabe Unido posted the lone road win, 1-0, against Chorrillo. Atletico Veraguense were 1-0 winners against Atletico Chiriqui and Chepo downed San Francisco, 2-0. On Saturday, Tauro tied visiting Sporting San Miguelito, 0-0, with Plaza Amador edging Alianza, 1-0, Sunday.