Thursday, January 19, 2017

This again (sigh).

By now, I'm sure you've all read Tim Howard's regrettable comments about commitment to the USMNT shirt and its intersection with the increase in dual nationals in the team. In the current climate of the country at large, Jermaine Jones was entirely correct in calling the remarks 'dangerous'.

For a moment, let's set aside the obvious fact that scapegoating a certain group of players for the opening two defeats of the hex and the general direction taken by the team last year is nonsense. At the risk of repeating myself, an American is an American, regardless of where he was raised or lived or lives. One is not "half-American" because they have one foreign-born parent. Being American is like being pregnant; you can't be either thing halfway. Either you are or you aren't. And that's all I have to say about that. Yet again.

We all saw the games last November. We've all seen the heroic contributions of dual-nationals, dating back to long before Jurgen Klinsmann took over. And even though we definitely do not, I feel we all should realize that there were a list of things one could question about Klinsmann's running of the team before we ever got down to any silly discussion about weighing commitment levels.

The real head-scratcher about Howard's statements is that they, whether by intention or not, provided cover for a departed coach who is not American... while at the same time criticizing him, kinda for not being American enough in his job. And (as was the case when Landon Donovan made similar remarks in 2015) they were made by a guy with one foreign parent. Bear in mind, too, that this is a fact Howard certainly doesn't hide from. It was layers of weird, man.

And it was wrong. Again. The coach didn't coach well and the capable players made mistakes players can't make, and that's how things go awry when you play good opponents. Why can't folks just say that, instead of something stupid?

- Greg Seltzer

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Making it count

Groningen right back Desevio Payne bagged a seeing-eye worm-bopper for his first career pro goal on Saturday night, which also served as a stand-up winner.

Desevio Payne Goal HD - Heracles 0 - 2... GoalReplay

- Greg Seltzer

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dos, por favor

A pair of US internationals rang the bell as Tijuana smashed Puebla 6-2 on Friday night, with Paul Arriola netting a terrific winner (play starts at 1:31 mark) and Joe Corona coming off the bench to hit the capper (play starts at 2:28).

- Greg Seltzer

Friday, January 13, 2017

Opening shots

I'm watching the MLS SuperDraft, and the commentary panel keeps saying there hasn't been much surprise in the proceedings. Gotta say I don't agree with that sentiment at all. And I'm astomished how many teams were shifting their boards all around after the combine - throwing out a year or two's worth of scouting competitive games for what are essentially a few quick pick-ups is beyond silly. Now, I'm not going to claim to be the foremost expert on this pool of prospects, but as we roll toward the third round I do have some thoughts to share about the picks to date.

  • My biggest surprise is that we're nearly 40 picks in and no one has called Shamit Shome's name. Amazingly, Minnesota took what will almost certainly be a back-up keeper instead of filling a major roster hole with a talent already carrying pro experience. Perhaps more incredibly, Montreal took a real flier on a guy of uncertain position needing great polish instead of rejuvenating a well-aged central midfield stable.

    Meanwhile, Toronto FC had three chances to take the Generation adidas Canada signing, and instead grabbed a total mismatch (more on that in a moment) and chump change in allocation money ($75K for two early second round picks). I think a lot of teams are going to reget leaving this guy on the board. Unless the kid is set to sign in Europe or something, this to me is a real head-scratching stunner.

    : Montreal lucked out and were able to nab him with the 41st pick (!!!). I think this selection could eventually make all those great late pick steal lists.
  • Another shocker? Ordinarily, Brandon Aubrey would register as my second biggest shock dropper. However, he ended up going 21st to Toronto FC, where he doesn't even fit their current defensive scheme. I'm definitely not one to put so much weight on the Combine, but he had quite the struggle defending on the run, which was the big question on him coming into the SuperDraft and a must in a three-man backline. I don't get it, but then I also don't get how he fell so far so fast.

  • More surprises? Several Eastern teams did not address glaring needs with their first round picks. In the first round, New England and NYCFC neglected to take central defenders, Montreal chose not to boost their weak spots at the back, and though he would normally look to be a fine choice, the Red Bulls picked up yet another winger instead of taking one of several excellent right backs and D.C. United went the other way by grabbing their 34th right back.

  • So who has done well so far? Atlanta grabbed two useful guys in the first eight picks. Portland traded up to net very nice strike insurance in Jeremy Ebobisse. Though I think they reached too soon on Niko Hansen, the Crew definitely needed Lalas Abubukar, who should become a hero in Columbus.

    I believe games are usually won in midfield and San Jose got such great value at #6 with Jackson Yuell. Making out like bandits, Houston were still able to grab underrated midfielder Joe Holland after trading down from the #4 slot and then traded for shrewd veteran defender A.J. Delagarza. Chicago traded down from #3 for a a sack of cash, but were still able to grab Combine star Daniel Johnson.

    Supporters Shield winner FC Dallas took a trio of potentially wise gambles, picking up talented droppers in Jacori Hayes, Walker Hume and Adonijah Reid. Real Salt Lake, though, may have done the best business considering their slots, landing the very talented duo of Reagan Dunk and Justin Schmidt for their back line stable.

- Greg Seltzer

Back at it again

After two months sitting due to a contract kerfuffle, Hapoel Tel Aviv's Aaron Schoenfeld has returned to raiding the score sheet. This past weekend, he bagged the lone goal winner as they advanced to the State Cup sweet 16 (top clip, play starts about 1:40), and then last night he punished some terribly lazy defending to grab the late consolation in a league loss (bottom clip, play starts about 1:48).

- Greg Seltzer

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Taco Thursday

I hesitate to call this a "top" 5 list, as I obviously did not have time to try every taco stand, cart and establishment in the massive L.A. area during our recent month-long stay there (in part because some of the joints listed below got repeat visits).

Let's just consider it five great places all across the City of Angels metro area to eat the all-time classic that is the taco.

#5 - Great Mex
(703 E Balboa Blvd, Newport Beach)

This place has a huuuuge menu, including breakfast items, tortas and chimichangas. I'm sure it's all good, but truth be told we only ate tacos there. Great Mex has about 15 tasty types on offer from a few different tortilla choices. They also have four locations, but we only tested the one right near Newport Beach. It's a cozy place with great service and a very generous self-serve toppings bar, which I always love. Make sure to drop by on Tuesdays, when all the tacos are only $1.25.

#4 - Kogi Truck
(location depends on the day)

Before arriving, the lady and I made it a mission to eat at all three of Roy Choi's spots (Chego and LocoL truck are also excellent, by the way). This was the most hotly anticipated one of the three, and it was so worth the anticipation. The calamari taco was particularly good, especially considering how difficult an item it is to prepare correctly, and the short rib with kimchi is just downright explosive. Kogi has four trucks, with each parking in three different places during an average day (check the schedule here).

#3 - Telegraph & S. Arizona 
(East L.A.)

That is not the name, that is the actual location. Yup, it's a street taco stand and undoubtedly one of the very best. They have six types of tacos at the unbeatable price of $1 each, plus onions grilled with whole jalapenos, pico de gallo, red and green salsa and a liquid guacamole sauce available for dressing. The eminently flavorful chorizo and carnitas tacos were easily our favorites. This stand was near the Kinjaz Dojo studio, so I hit it 5-6 times after classes, filling my belly with just a few bucks. That is hard to top.

And yet...

#2 - Venice Fish Tacos and Smoothies(1701 Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach)

We are total nutballs for fish tacos, and this odd little shack very well might have the best in all of Los Angeles. They are just $2 a pop (!!!), while shrimp tacos are also a steal at $2.75. Both are great, but the fish variety are the stars of the show here. They are impeccably cooked, dutifully dressed (witness the photo at the top of the page) with tomatoes, crispy cabbage, sour cream and spicy salsa rojo. And I swear we could have eaten 50 of them. Everyday. Forever. Simply put, they are the perfect beach food and a perfect fit for this overly quirky stretch of sand and skateboards and such. Just don't forget the squeeze of lime!

#1 - Guisados
(541 S Spring Street, Downtown)

This spot now has five locations (having just opened one in Burbank), but we only visited the one. It... was... AWESOME. Their tacos are all the products of slow braises, leaving all the proteins falling apart and delightfully juicy. Guisados has an incredible 16 different taco choices on the menu, with each having its own unique flavor and level of heat. The tinga de pollo, mole poblabno and chorizo quesadilla our favorites among the ones we tried. While this joint is not quite as affordable as the last two places, it has an additional ace up its sleeve: namely, the agua frescas. Without a shadow of a doubt, their cantaloupe edition is the best one I've ever tasted, light years ahead of all other agua frescas. No lie, it's freakin' amazing, and the perfect sip to go with their top shelf tacos. 

Crap... and now I'm hungry. And 5,697 miles away from Guisados. Blërg.

- Greg Seltzer