Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bummer Dude

Even more depressing than the awful inaugural performance by Onalfo's DC United in Kansas City (at least to me) is the news last week that Shin Harada will not be playing for D.C. United and will not be returning to Crystal Palace Baltimore this season. We will be able to see him play, but only as a part of the visiting team when the Pittsburgh Riverhounds stop by Rockville to take on Real Maryland.

Harada is one of the better players and personalities in local professional soccer and its extremely unfortunate that he couldn't find a role at any one of the three clubs in the region.

Good luck Shin.


There is a great deal that I have enjoyed about fatherhood and I expect and hope that there will be much, much more down the road. My work week flies by as I anticipate weekend trips to the zoo, the Smithsonian museums, the two campuses of the National Aquarium, or other places offered by this city and Baltimore. But tonight, something new and even more exciting: I purchased our first tickets to Wrigley.

I am not terribly enthusiastic about the prospects of the 2010 season for the Cubs. Last year's team left real bitterness for Cubs' fans around the country, including myself. Signing Milton Bradley was cynical, but putting Bradley out in front of the raving drunken yuppie idiots that now populate the bleachers is particularly unforgivable because the front office did not back their guy when things fell apart.

Weirdly, reading Kevin Kaduk's "Wrigleyworld" (which should have been subtitled "Watching Baseball with D-bags" rather than "A Season in Baseball's Best Neighborhood") stoked my excitement for bringing my daughter to Wrigley. Kaduk's book confirms what is glaringly obvious to anyone who has visited the stadium in the last five years; the days of going as a kid to the bleachers and hanging out on a summer day on a meager allowance are long, long past and ain't coming back. But the stadium is still there. And although inebriated Board of Trade employees and their ilk may have changed the feel of the place a bit, they've not change its essential character.

So, no bleachers. But Terrace Infield Box seats are a nice booby prize and I can't wait. Hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back Up Plan

I received my DC United season tickets today and what already seemed like a mean joke was augmented by the news that United waived Danny Szetela. So, even if there was going to be a season, I would be traveling to RFK to watch a team largely devoid of first-division talent. In other words, I would be forced to go watch the KC Wizards. Awesome.

Fortunately, there is football in my future. While United got rid of another talented player that was going to draw decent wages, Crystal Palace Baltimore announced that Charlton academy-product Paul Robson will return to the club for their inaugural season in the second division. Robson will be joined by Val Teixeira, Pat Healey, Zack Flores, Andrew Marshall, Stephen Basso, Jordan Seabrook, Dan Lader, and Neal Vranis as returning players from last year.

A number of other players won't be coming back, including American University's Larry Mark, who impressed two years ago but did not make as much of an impact last season. Also gone are UMBC's Kevin Gnatiko, Howard's Alex Ughiove, and Towson's Machel Millwood. The most surprising change is the absence of Bryan Harkin, who seemed to be a fixture on the roster. Nevertheless, its good to read that Shin Harada will be welcomed back to the club if his MLS ambitions are not realized (otherwise known as the Mbuta approach).

The new second division is bound to be more interesting by Minnesota's announcement that their net will be minded by Louis Crayton. It is perhaps unfortunate that the Liberian international did not get an opportunity to play for CP Baltimore -- I would have been thrilled by seeing a player with that much passion play for one of the teams I support locally -- but NSC is an acceptable alternative. The predecessor club last year featured Maryland's Rich Costanzo (now with Rochester), and DC United alums Quavas Kirk (now with Portland) and Rod Dyachenko (now playing for the Baltimore Blast).

Let the MLS's misguided war on players' rights hamstring the season... we're looking forward to professional soccer elsewhere. CP's got a preseason friendly with West Virginia University at UMBC on Saturday. Its nice to have options.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Happiness II

Beautiful day to join a handful of other people at Ludwig to watch a scrimmage between Crystal Palace Baltimore and the University of Maryland. The scrimmage -- consisting of three forty minute periods -- was entertaining and did not conform to our expectations walking in. For much of the game, the Terps dominated possession and were far better organized than their professional opponents. Maryland should have taken the lead in the first period after winning a penalty, but Kaoru Forbess's try from the spot was woefully errant and sailed high above the cross-bar.

The best player on the pitch on either side was Mathew Mbuta. Mbuta is just a cut above and his attacks down the left flank had Maryland on its heels through the first two periods. He gave the division two side the lead by cutting inside and hammering a beautiful shot.

Mbuta's play in the first part of the scrimmage and Val Teixeira's good work in the second part of the scrimmage (culminating in Teixeira slotting home the winner on a penalty kick thirty seconds from time) bodes well for CP Baltimore's supporters this season. But there weren't many other good omens. I will concede up front that I may be completely wrong about this, but it doesn't look like CP's players like each other very much. The barking between the players was rarely collegial and the dissatisfaction with their teammates' play was palpable by several players on the field. They don't pass well and they certainly don't anticipate movement -- if they move at all; a repeated refrain from the back line in the third period was "let get's some f***ing movement!" But, if I am right, this is probably the natural outgrowth of trying to pull together a squad and will hopefully improve as the players get more time with each other in game situations. I hope that things will progress... if not, this is going to be a tough introduction to the second division of American soccer.

On the other hand, it is hard not to like Maryland's side. In contrast to the relative disharmony from the professional club on the other side, moments like Sasho Cirovski's flash of anger towards Billy Cortes and, earlier, irritation with a poorly taken free kick outside of CP's goal box, stood out from what was otherwise a very disciplined performance. Forbess made up for his pk miss by a gorgeous skilled shot on goal that would have made Rodney Wallace proud. Casey Townsend also brought a confident presence to the Terps' attack. When Maryland's players get a little quicker about taking shots on goal when the opportunity presents itself, they are going to be a scary side to face.

Two unrelated notes:

First, I am in appropriate awe of the fact that Gale Agbossoumonde, formerly of the U.S. second division's Miami FC, made the bench in Sporting Braga's fixture today against Vitoria Setubal. Mr. Agbossoumonde was born on November 17, 1991 -- roughly 18 months before I graduated high school. That's a hell of an achievement for someone that hasn't generated a lot of column inches even amongst those that follow the sport in the U.S.

Second, something that even less people will pay attention to, but, University of Maryland at Baltimore County alum and former Real Maryland squad member Daniel Bulls seems to have impressed Trinidadian powerhouse Joe Public. Trinidad and Tobago's Guardian has a short note up today indicating that the club will seek to get his signature after a one-week trial. Best of luck to him and, further, kudos for once again demonstrating to Americans that want to make playing soccer a profession that there a whole hell of a lot of different ways to keep the dream alive.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Sure, there is probably going to be a strike that derails the start of a much-anticipated MLS season. And, sure, just when I thought Chris Dickson was going to get an extended look up front for Charlton Athletic -- enough so that I had intended to sponsor Dickson for the remainder of the season -- he's bundled away to the Gills. And sure, just as I was talking myself into the value of watching Bolton play football, Holden's leg gets broken in an international friendly.

No worries. Mathew Mbuta is back with Crystal Palace Baltimore. As the club correctly notes, Mbuta is loved by supporters and all of us had high hopes for his tenure with New York. Things didn't work out for Mbuta, but he will be welcomed back with great enthusiasm. Mathew's skill always made the trip to UMBC worthwhile and it will be interesting to see him matched up against second division teams -- for however long he stays with the team. Crystal Palace's friendly with the University of Maryland on Saturday at Ludwig is now even more enticing.

Also good news: CP Baltimore's Shintaro Harada's trial with DC United. Mbuta has individual talent that can be breathtaking mediated by mental lapses that are maddening; Harada is his doppelganger: solid, dependable, and a rock in CP Baltimore's starting XI. I doubt that he'll stick as he doesn't have the physical size that United probably wants at the back, but if he does, he'll provide great cover for DC... in the event that an actual MLS season is played.