Tuesday, June 29

SNA CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings

Heading toward the third edition of the CONCACAF Champions League and with the Major League Soccer contingent entering the US Open Cup mix tonight, the debut release of the SNA CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings provide a first look at where the clubs throughout the confederation stack up against one another.

The unique factor with this list is that it will be continually changing throughout the year as the various leagues overlap and have different playing schedules. For instance, Major League Soccer is nearing the midpoint of the season while the Mexican Primera Division kicks off the Apertura campaign in late July. A week later, the CONCACAF Champions League begins with the Preliminary Round.

Establishing the first ranking was a difficult process, taking into account previous Champions League results as a barometer for how the leagues compare in general via their clubs' results in the tournament while obviously utilizing current/final league results of the applicable season as well as incorporating the US Open Cup, which sends the champion into the Champions League, and the Caribbean Football Union's Club Championship.

Notably missing from the list, however, are clubs from Jamaica as they have not participated in the last two editions of the CFU Championship, but would likely have several teams capable of being on the list. The CCL is a focal point of the list, which will be a reflection of a club's overall performance and depth. With no cup competition in Mexico, the nation's second division also is not under evaluation for the list.

The Top 10, not surprisingly, consists of six Mexican sides at the top with Costa Rica's Saprissa and three Major League Soccer teams rounding it out. Los Angeles and Columbus will be immediately tested tonight in the US Open Cup. Charleston and Richmond of the USL Second Division are in the Top 40 of the list with the US Open Cup's marquee upsets of the tournament thus far. Trinidad's entrants in the CCL are starting out lower in the list based on current league form where, although they are playing well, find themselves in the middle of the table as several other sides in the Trinidad & Tobago league moving to the top, highlighted by the perfect 7-0-0 Defence Force.

Monday, June 28

Pali sinks in Power Rankings

A road trip to the Northwest came at the wrong time for the Pali Blues while clashes between unbeaten power clubs finished with good news for the Buffalo Flash and Ottawa Fury in this week's SNA W-League Power Rankings.

After suffering their first defeat in franchise history the week before at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps, a trek north added more misery. The Blues return home with a three-game losing streak on their record and their hopes of returning to the postseason to defend their two W-League championships in danger.

The first dagger came at the hands of the Seattle Sounders Friday evening. Kelly Irving scored twice in two minutes to give the Sounders a two-goal lead which was later pushed to three as they cruised to the victory. Two nights later, Vancouver picked up their second win over fellow two-time champions in as many weeks. Pali took the initial lead only to see an own goal start a run of three straight for the Whitecaps. Pali closed the game, but it was not enough as they fell 3-2.

The shocking three-game losing streak ushers Pali's exit from the list of the W-League's best and opened the door for Seattle to join the Top 10. Vancouver, meanwhile, stays in the top spot.

Maintaining the second spot behind Vancouver was Buffalo. The Flash also hit the road for a two-game trip, but experienced the exact opposite of Pali by downing the Kalamazoo Outrage 3-1 Friday and handing the Chicago Red Eleven, previously ranked third, their first loss Saturday, 3-2. Kelly Parker and Mele French dominated the match. Parker opened the scoring and then set up French for a 2-1 halftime lead. In the second half, French returned the favor for what would stand as the winner.

The other big contest saw unbeaten Canadian foes Ottawa and Toronto square off. Stoppage time proved a critical difference at Aivi Luik scored three minutes into extra play to give Ottawa a 1-0 win, sending them up four spots to number four in the rankings. Toronto dropped just one as they round out the list this week.

The SNA W-League Power Rankings

1 – Vancouver Whitecaps (5-0-2): 3-2 win against Pali.

2 – Buffalo Flash (5-0-2): Road wins at Kalamazoo, 3-1, and Chicago, 3-2.

3 – Washington Freedom Futures (6-0-1): 2-0 Win at North Jersey.

4 – Ottawa Fury (6-0-1): Wins against Quebec City, 2-1, and Toronto, 1-0.

5 – Chicago Red Eleven (5-1-2): Win 6-0 against London, 2-3 loss to Buffalo.

6 – Hudson Valley QLB (6-1-0): 4-2 win versus New York.

7 – Colorado Rush (1-0-3): Idle

8 – Seattle Sounders (1-1-5): 3-1 victory against Pali.

9 – Atlanta Silverbacks (6-1-1): 4-1 win against Northern Virginia.

10 – Toronto Lady Lynx (3-1-3): Stoppage time 1-0 loss to Ottawa.

Dayton climbs in Power Rankings

Among the movers in this week's edition of the SNA PDL Power Rankings are the Dayton Dutch Lions, MPS Portland Phoenix and Albany BWP Highlanders, who each moved up at least four places in the rankings.

The biggest change in the Top 10 came courtesy of a head-to-head meeting. Previously at number 10, Dayton posted a 2-1 victory against the Chicago Fire. After a scoreless first half, Den Ouden provided a goal and an assist to propel the Dutch Lions to the victory. Losses also by Ottawa and Reading opened the door for Dayton to move up four places to number 6.

Ottawa's defeat came at the hands of the Phoenix, who jumped from 12 to 8 in the rankings. MPS Portland's 2-0 victory ended a 24-game unbeaten streak for Ottawa, who stemmed off a deep drop by picking up a 1-0 win in New Hampshire, where the Phantoms had only allowed eight goals heading into the match.

Further down on last week's list, Albany jumped seven spots from number 18 by following up a 1-1 draw against Westchester with a 3-1 victory over Long Island, who was standing at 11 before the weekend. The result nearly doubled the Rough Riders' goals allowed total as they came into the contest with only four on their ledger. Teodoro Popolizio scored twice and David Clemens provided the other strike for the Highlanders in the win.

SNA PDL Power Rankings
1 – Portland Timbers U23s (9-0-0): Idle

2 – Kitsap Pumas (8-1-1): If they had been further down the list, the 2-0 win over Victoria and 1-1 draw against Vancouver would have pushed them up.

3 – Baton Rouge Capitals (7-0-3): A pair of wins, 3-1 and 2-0, at Fort Lauderdale.

4 – Mississippi Brilla (5-0-3): Simple weekend with 2-0 win against Nashville.

5 – Orange County Blue Star (8-0-3): Idle

6 – Dayton Dutch Lions (5-1-5): Defeated Chicago 2-1.

7 – Forest City London (5-1-2): Posted a big 6-1 win over Indiana.

8 - MPS Portland Phoenix (5-1-3): Ended Ottawa's 24-game regular season unbeaten streak with 2-0 win and defeated Brooklyn 3-1.

9 – Chicago Fire (7-3-1): Stayed in the same spot due to two teams dropping below and two moving above combined with the fact that the 2-1 loss was at Dayton.

10 – Reading United (7-1-2): Played to a 2-2 draw against Ocean City.

The Rest of the Best: 11 Ottawa Fury; 12 Albany BWP Highlanders; 13 Cincinnati Kings; 14 Michigan Bucks; 15 Central Florida Kraze; 16 DFW Tornados; 17 Atlanta Blackhawks; 18 Long Island Rough Riders; 19 West Texas United Sockers; 20 Thunder Bay Chill; 21 Victoria Highlanders; 22 Rochester Thunder; 23 Real Colorado Foxes; 24 Ironbound Express; 25 Hollywood United Hitmen

Sunday, June 27

Project Homeland Defense

Well, the 2010 World Cup just ended for the United States. Was Project 2010 a success or a failure? I guess that depends on what you thought the program was intended to make us a contender or a world champion. I would assume that most of the US-soccer viewing public that only care about the US would say that we are contenders - after all we are clear giants in CONCACAF and we reached the Final of the Confederations Cup a year ago with the stunning upset of Spain.

But CONCACAF isn't exactly a deep confederation as witnessed by Honduras' performance, and it took a miracle for the US to advance in South Africa last year before they played a great game-and-a-half against Spain and Brazil.

The issue is defense. The US squad spends so much time concerned about defense and giving up goals early in games when unprepared that it affects the entire 90 minutes, if not a whole tournament. If we had a reliable back four and a standout defensive midfielder that could be left on their own so we could attack with numbers, our offensive talent could really pressure most teams as seen by how we have played in the final 30 of each of these games when we are desperate. And it is not just this squad. Although we have great defenders, our defensive third has seemingly forever been incomplete while other positions, in my opinion, are improving. Having defenders who could handle their jobs, we could be like many of these other powerhouses who are always on the attack, placing their opposition in the crouching role. That should be the level that we are at with Project 2010, but sadly it is not.

What I think we need is a new Project 2010 concept, but specifically designed for defenders. We need a blueprint across the US development system that all coaches are using so that when the various youth national team coaches come and go, the players are continuing in the same system.

And while we are at it, can we get a little discipline. I am not inside the US camp, but I feel like our squad goes into matches completely too relaxed and that the only time we get amped up is when we play Mexico. The fact that we trailed, essentially, in all four games in this tournament is terrible, especially considering we should have learned from qualifying, where we fell behind in six of the 10 games.