Friday, May 25, 2007
Beckham might inspire a British invasion
British Invasion 3.0 David Beckham's arrival this summer still could provide the spark for a full-fledged 21st century "British Invasion." Reports continue to surface linking two former England internationals to MLS, Liverpool's Robbie Fowler linked to the New England Revs and Teddy Sheringham to New York Red Bull. Now there could be a third. Taking in the second Superclasico of the season May 21 in Carson, Calif. between the Galaxy and Chivas USA was former Liverpool and current Wigan striker Emile Heskey. A member of England's Euro 2004 squad, Heskey recorded 10 goals and 2 assists in 35 games this past season for the EPL club, which finished 17th to narrowly avoid relegation. Heskey was enjoying the sun and the match with his girlfriend. He was impressed with the atmosphere and later told me, "It's all very nice. I am enjoying myself but I'm just here on holiday." The Brightest Star Speaking of Mr. Beckham : He is scheduled to make his Galaxy debut on July 21 (8.30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) against Chelsea but plans are in the works for Beckham to take part in activities surrounding the 2007 Sierra Mist All-Star Game July 19 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2) at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. Beckham was left off the official ballot but as one MLS official told me, "We're going to do whatever it takes to come up with a plan that everyone is comfortable with that allows David to take part in what is shaping up to be a tremendous week in Denver and perhaps our best All-Star event ever." MLS Leaders Now that most teams have hit the one-quarter pole for the season, we can start to track trends and tendencies. The Fire leads the MLS in passing accuracy attempting 2,952 passes and completing 81.54 percent. The rest of the top five in order: Real Salt Lake, D.C. United, LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. Individually speaking, Chris Armas leads the league in passing accuracy in the opposition half, attempting 221 passes and completing nearly 85 percent. Armas and Fire teammates Thiago (fourth) and Justin Mapp (fifth) dominate the rankings. The Galaxy's Nathan Sturgis ranks second, and former Real Salt Lake and current Toronto FC star Jeff Cunningham ranks third.
FC Dallas' Colombian midfielder Juan Toja leads the league in dribble-and-run success rate (how many times you go on a dribbling run and complete the sequence with a pass or shot) with a rate of almost 64 percent. Toja is followed in order by Chiva USA teammates Maykel Galindo and Francisco Mendoza, the Galaxy's Landon Donovan (LAG) and New York's Dane Richards. A rookie with the Red Bulls, Richards has attempted the most dribbling runs, 28, with a 46-percent completion rate. One for Mooch What do you get when you cross self-proclaimed EA Sports king Donovan with actor-comedian Drew Carey, who is U.S. Soccer's most-high-profile supporter and an avid Xbox player? You get a challenge, coming to you on June 5 from the Stadium Club at the Home Depot Center (10 p.m. ET). Carey has opened his checkbook to the tune of a potential $100,000 as he will play a series of matches against Landon Donovan and five additional players from both the U.S. men's and women's national team in FIFA '07 on Xbox. He'll start with five matches against the national team players, and for every game he loses, he's throwing in $10,000 to benefit the Mooch Myernick Memorial Fund in honor of former coach and national team captain Glenn "Mooch" Myernick. "Mooch" was admired, respected and loved by all those whose lives he touched. He passed away in October 2006 at the age of 51 after suffering a heart attack. Those five matches are just the undercard. The main event is Carey versus Donovan for $50,000 of Carey's hard-earned money. In total, up to $100,000 could be donated in memory of Mooch. The invitation-only event (yours truly will play host) will feature a who's who of soccer personalities and promises to be a both fun and entertaining night where there will be no losers, only winners. Letting his feet do the talking Donovan has either scored or assisted on every Galaxy goal this season, including seven regular-season goals and four U.S. Open Cup goals. It's hard to ask the highly-criticized forward for anything more. Donovan will need some support up front in scoring goals, even with the arrival of Beckham.
Hustle and flow Every season MLS officials are given points of emphasis for the upcoming season, all aimed at improving the quality of both the officiating and the games. This season one of those points was improving the flow of the games. So far it's working. On average, MLS refs are calling approximately three fewer fouls per contest. This continues a downward trend, as the fouls per contest has decreased each of the past four MLS seasons. Champions on and off the field D.C. United already contributed over $20,000 to the Virginia Tech Hokie Memorial Fund last month.
Now they're at again helping a community in need a little closer to home. The May 26 game against the defending MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo will serve as a fundraiser for the Eastern Market. A fire devastated the historic building near RFK Stadium on April 30 and to help, United will donate $3 for each ticket sold to the game to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation to provide assistance to market merchants and their employees. The Capitol Hill Community Foundation has established the Eastern Market Keep It Going Fund, with hopes of seeing the Eastern Market building fully restored and functioning again as the center of Capitol Hill community life. The fund is set to help with the temporary relocation of merchants to an appropriate nearby site in order that they resume business quickly and continue serving the community. Allen Hopkins covers Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer for ESPN and ESPN.com. Look for Allen patrolling the sidelines during MLS Primetime Thursday on ESPN2. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.