1) Agudelo: Hello I Must Be Going-But Not Yet
January can’t come soon enough for new Stoke manager Mark Hughes, who watched his striker Jon Walters miss a penalty kick in Saturday’s 1-0 EPL season opening loss to Liverpool. Meanwhile Juan Agudelo scored an audacious goal for New England to remind everyone just why Stoke signed him to a pre-contract that takes effect on January 1.
New England went on to beat Chicago 2-0, the second goal coming from 21 year old Kelyn Rowe, another young player coming into his own this season for the Revolution.
Massachusetts native, former B.C. star and one time U.S. Golden Boy, Charlie Davies, made his Revs debut, playing 11 minutes as part of his long quest to regain his pre car crash form.
But Agudelo’s goal was the story of this match. Running onto a long, hopeful ball from Chris Tierney with a defender on his heels and keeper Sean Johnson rushing at him, Agudelo weighed his options and conjured a bit of magic that not many others would have even considered.
Agudelo flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot, over the 6’4” Johnson and over the goal line, despite Bakary Soumare’s great effort, which almost kept Agudelo shot out the goal.
But there was to be no denying Agudelo his moment of brilliance, and if Agudelo can stay healthy, he may get a chance to display that brilliance for New England in the playoffs, before heading off to England.
2) Omar Gonzalez New Galaxy DP
Hot on the heels of Clint Dempsey’s return to MLS and Seattle, USMNT center back Omar Gonzalez spurned rumored moves to Mexico or Europe to stay in Los Angeles as the club’s third DP.
The big center back fills the spot vacated by David Beckham and Gonzalez’ decision, like Dempsey’s, is already sparking plenty of debate. Can the still developing defender reach his highest level in Major League Soccer, or should he have challenged himself, as national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann continually tells his players?
And does this move make sense from the Galaxy’s point of view? Rafa Marquez got a DP contract from the Red Bulls, but he mostly played midfield, and badly too for New York. Toronto signed German defender Torsten Frings as a DP, and like Marquez, Frings played primarily in the center of the park.
Assuming Gonzalez doesn’t suddenly morph into a sullen injury prone waste of money, a la Marquez, then L.A. made a good move to keep him. Bruce Arena’s defense has tended to fall apart defensively when the big man is missing.
But the signing raises the question of what a DP should be. A very good, hopefully great player, sure. But the Designated Player program was initially known as the Beckham Rule, and was intended to stretch the payroll to add “ big names” and fill seats.
Fans like goals, but fans like wins too. I like this move for the Galaxy, but for his own development, I would have liked to see Gonzalez seek out that, “next level,” that Klinsmann talks so much about.
3) Keano Hits For 3
Last week it was Landon Donovan, this week Robbie Keane collected a hat trick for the Galaxy. Keane scored in the 56, 67 and 86th minutes to lead L.A. to a comeback win over Real Salt Lake and to move his personal tally to 10 goals for the season. The veteran DP leads the Galaxy in goals and also tops the Galaxy with nine helpers, two more than fellow DP Landon Donovan. In other Galaxy DP news, freshly minted DP Omar Gonzalez scored L.A.’s third goal from a corner kick.
4) Jon Busch Celebrates 37th Birthday With His 100th Win
And it was a shutout too! San Jose beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on another goal from Chris Wondolowski to extend San Jose’s home winning streak to five in a row. Despite the loss, SKC remain in a first place tie with the New York Red Bulls atop the Eastern Conference.
But back to Busch. One of the league’s unsung heroes, the 5’10” keeper went undrafted out of UNC Charlotte and played on teams like the Worcester Wildfire, the Carolina Dynamo, the Hampton Road Mariners and the Hershey Wildcats, before getting a shot at Major League Soccer.
In 2002, the Columbus Crew came calling, drafting the Queens, New York native. Busch took advantage of the opportunity, appearing 84 times for the Crew before moving on to Chicago and then San Jose.
Busch was the Chicago Fire Player of the Year and the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2008, establishing himself as one the leagues most reliable keepers.
That success hasn’t translated to the international stage, although Busch has the satisfaction of posting a shutout versus Colombia in his one USMNT opportunity way back in 2005.
100 wins hasn’t come easy, so Happy Birthday Jon Busch.
5) Dempsey Watch
The hype surrounding Clint Dempsey’s return to MLS hasn’t exactly died down, but talk is cheap and the Sounders need to win games. Seattle won 2-1 last week in Dempsey’s debut off the bench, but they fell to Houston 1-0 on Saturday as Dempsey went the full 90. The native Texan may not be fully fit yet, but he was needed from the start versus the Dynamo, with high profile running mates Eddie Johnson (yellow card suspension) and Obafemi Martins (ankle injury) out for Seattle.
After a quiet first half, Dempsey picked it up in the second, but Giles Barnes and Will Bruin were too much as Houston spoiled Dempsey’s homecoming in a 3-1 Houston win.
Now all eyes turn to Seattle where Dempsey will make his home debut in front of a sellout crowd of over 66,000 against Portland next Sunday. The Sounders are in sixth place, just off the playoff pace, while Portland are three spots higher than their rivals.
Some games bring their own hype.