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The Relegation Fighters Clan....."MLS MISFITS" (FM13 MLS game)


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A new day in MLS has dawned.....after the continued competitive shortcomings of MLS sides in continental competition (namely the CONCACAF Champion's League) and the failure of an MLS side to break the Mexican stranglehold on the region, the December 2011 Manager's Union (MLSMU) vs MLS collective bargaining did not go well.

MLSMU representative Tommy Soehn, best known for imploding both the DC United and Vancouver franchises, played hardball for the union while at the negotiating table.....a move that everyone would later regret. "Who put f***ing Tommy 'Gun' Soehn in charge of negotiations?" said one anonymous source. "C***" was the somber response of another.

On January 10th 2012, Commissioner Don Garber took the unprecedented move of firing ALL 19 MLS managers and dissolving the MLSMU ahead of the 2012 campaign. A rag tag bunch of replacement managers were drafted in to man the ships ahead of the new season, much to the "shock and awe" of the soccer community at large.

Rather than enlisting proven managerial talent, in a move intended to distance themselves from the former MLSMU, Garber scraped the bottom of the barrel, enlisting video gamers (Who would EVER do that?), youth coaches, students, drunks, hobos and would-be-journalists and media personnel to fill the void.

This story will chronicle those "MLS MISFITS" on their fantastic journey through the [albeit mediocre] top flight pro soccer in the United States of CanAmerica.

Here's the names you will all soon be reading all about...as 19 human managers tackle not just their first pro gigs, but the smoke and mirrors, pitfalls and downright mystery of MLS's Roster Rules and Competition Rules

EASTERN CONFERENCE

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CHICAGO FIRE - Ian (Corrupt)

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COLUMBUS CREW - Al (Aljarov)

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DC UNITED - Tristan (Tristan)

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HOUSTON DYNAMO - Darrell (DLovell)

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MONTREAL IMPACT - Ricky (kee1108)

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NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - Mantorras (Mantorras77)

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NEW YORK RED BULLS - Lawrence (replaces Andy aka jkidd89)

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PHILADELPHIA UNION - Shannon (Nightingale)

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SPORTING KC - Tim (hasdgfas)

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TORONTO FC - Paul (PauloC37)

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

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CHIVAS USA - Rusty (Rngri)

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COLORADO RAPIDS - Ben (krogerben) ....replaces Stu

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FC DALLAS - Mike (schwefumbler)

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LA GALAXY - Dustin (Coasterkoa)

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PORTLAND TIMBERS - Paul (replaces Jose aka Morazan1823)

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REAL SALT LAKE - Kartik (Firesox)

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SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - Scott (themodelcitizen)

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SEATTLE SOUNDERS - Thomas (King of Norway)

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VANCOUVER WHITECAPS - Christian (Dallan)

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COLUMBUS CREW - Al

After spending his adult life in a variety of sales environments, from electronics to media, Al Jarov was no stranger to standing in front of groups of people and blagging as if his life depended upon it.

Today was day one in his new life, as the manager of the Columbus Crew. Meeting the press, which included Adam Jardy from the Dispatch and a couple of local bloggers, Jarov told all and sundry about his 'dream job', carefully omitting his particular dislike for the P1ss Yellow Crew, being in the armpit of America - Columbus, Ohio, or the fact that as a Toronto FC fan at heart, this was his least desirable job in all of MLS. After all, he'd somehow landed a gig at an MLS side. All those years of MLS research for Football Manager had paid dividends. If it had to be the Crew, then so be it. "I will make this club MASSIVE" he promised, clearly pandering to the 3 supporters from the Hudson Street Holligan's who'd bothered to turn up at the Fourth Street Bar and Grill for this budget priced news conference.

Jarov promised attacking football, investment in youth and a focus on the league....easily done when no CONCACAF Champion's League games beckoned nor distracted.

With the mandatory press conference now complete, Jarov started the long process of overhauling the playing staff. "So little quality, it's almost as bad as BMO down here". In truth, the Crew probably had a few more pieces to work with than his favourite MLS side, but all the same it was clear that with the New Order in MLS, The Crew had a real chance to make the playoffs in 2012.

"I've got a core of guys here that I can build a team around that any MLS coach would be thrilled to have. Chad Marshall at DC, Seb Miranda at RB, Eddie Gaven at RM and Federico Higuain, the new DP advanced playmaker/forward are a great starting point. They're not alone, and there's other good pieces, but these are the guys who I am building the franchise around."

The Crew are saddled with a pair of LT injuries - starting GK HESMER and FW HEINEMANN all draining the cap without any hope of appearing this season. The other initial assessment showed a surplus of foreigners on the roster, with too many in the FW departments as well, and maybe only 1 a real candidate to start.

The first deal saw the movement of quality AMC, Mirosevic, who headed to SKC for AML Bobby Convey in a move to address a need at left wing, as well as shifting a foreigner "no AMC in my system" said Jarov, "moving him made sense". On the same day, a deal was struck with Houston to move Grossman, an unwanted 2nd year player for JeVaughan Watson. The Jamaican is essentially on trial through the preseason, and could well be moved again and will remain trade bait. Asked about such a move, Jarov responded "it was an upgrade. Cole had no future and would have left in the waiver draft either way. We'll take a look at Watson, and if he works out then great, if not, he'll eave in March too...or be sold before then".

A review of the CSA (Crew Soccer Academy) showed that there were a few young gems, but that all were a couple of seasons off. Jarov moved to sign Jesus Escamila (ST, 16) and Patrick Martin (MC, 16) in order to expedite their development at the pro level.

The deals continued with Honduran David Suazo snapped up - 'He's an upgrade too"....'Covering the Crew' writer Jardy pressed harder, mentioning that the striker had been on the decline since his hayday at Calgliari. 'True, but he's 32 and can still do a job in MLS. Best of all, he's not on DP money...not even close, and his experience will help the younger players on the roster too". Jardy remained sceptical, "no, it's not a guaranteed deal and is just for 2012 with a team option for 2013 if we like what we see'.

The final deal heading into the start of the preseason matches saw a 3 team blockbuster between SJ, Houston and the Crew, with the Columbus side facilitating the deal between the two former incarnations of the Quakes. Columbus first received a 1yr INTL slot + AML Colin Clark for Dilly Duka and Josh WIlliams, in turn sending the same INTL slot, Ethan Finlay and Chris Birchall to SJ for Victor Bernardez. Although the price for Columbus was a bottom line of promising youngsters Duka and Findley, plus Williams and Birchall, for Bernardez and Clark, Jarov was pleased. "Absolutely! Have you seen our backline now? Chad Marshall and Victor Bernardez - there's not a FW line in MLS that will want to see those two guys on a Saturday. They're absolute beasts".

Pressed on what work remains as he rebuilds his roster, Jarov was candid. "We could use a starting keeper with HESMER done for the year. Lampsom isn't ready to be #2, and although Andy [Grunebaum, the Hewbrew Hammer] can do a job for us, some competition for that starters role would be prudent. We're also thin at CM. In my system we'll see two flat CMs, but one more defensive and one more attacking....I could do with options at both. I'm also concerned about the number of foreigners still on the roster." That problem was partially addressed with the trade of ST Renteria to Toronto FC in exchange for a 2013 1st Round pick. "Good value" said Jarov, "I'd have preferred cash, and he was rated at $1.3m [for some reason] but a 1st from TFC promises to be a high pick and we'll get value there."

So, with a preseason that currently includes games against Dinamo Kiev, a tour of Iceland and a number of matches against lower league sides in the US the building work is underway.

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SEATTLE SOUNDERS -- Thomas Prowell

After hearing of MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s mass firing of all the league's managers, Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer allowed himself a small panic attack. The prospect of entering the season without a head coach was unthinkable. The fans were hungry for bigger, shinier trophies after three years of being mollified with chrome-plated US Open Cup wins. And then there were Hanauer’s business partners to consider; the possibility that loose cannon Joe Roth or professional clown Drew Carey might take over the team struck him as very real. He needed to do something fast.

Looking at his available resources, he inexplicably decided to ring up Thomas Prowell – a name he could possibly know only through a shared Facebook connection* and whose coaching experience appeared to be previously limited to youth soccer**.

Although Prowell is widely known in Twitter circles to be a die-hard Sounders fan, he was surprisingly hesitant to take over the head coach’s office. “For one thing, when’s the last time Schmid cleaned the place up? Christ, there’s Krispy Kreme crumbs everywhere.*** Also, Abby’s U-8 team is still playing, and Sam has water polo practice twice a week, and they really pile the homework on these poor kids nowadays.”

The MLS head offices assured Prowell that assistant coach Brian Schmetzer was up to the task of covering for him during absences. Prowell was not so sure that was really true – it did seem odd to him that Hanauer hadn't considered simply promoting Schmetzer to the post, since the man had ably led Hanauer’s USL Sounders to titles – but he finally relented and assumed the position.****

In the first weeks of the young season, Prowell inherited a strong roster with no apparent shortcomings to fill and a surplus of keepers (five on the roster) to possibly turn into greater riches. Alas, he proceeded to squander that wealth for no gain. After making a couple of half-hearted attempts to trade backup GK Marcus Hahnemann, Prowell pulled the local legend and former US international off the table – and chose to simply waive Andrew Weber, journeyman backup and losing contestant on The Amazing Race. Josh Ford, a long-term prospect, was given a ferry pass and loaned to affiliated club Kitsap Pumas.

With that minimal amount of work “done,” Prowell then spent about 15 minutes applying his vast knowledge gained in the U-6 to U-12 circuits to draw some rudimentary tactical formations for his squad. Schmetzer translated these crayon renderings to actual instructions and passed them along to the team. Prowell then stopped coming into his office for some indefinite period of time, claiming to be immersed in his daughter’s report on trees and their animal friends. The CenturyLink Field cleaning crew noticed however he’d left all the windows in the office open; one cleaning attendant claims to have overheard him muttering something about “removing the stench of Schmid from the place.” Yet all that seems to have been accomplished is the new residency of four Krispy Kreme-fattened squirrels.

While the Sounders look to be a contender this year, their window of opportunity could be closing quickly under such inept leadership. They have a number of contracts expiring at the end of the year, the defense lacks depth, and their young prospects do not inspire beyond Mario Martinez, who is with the team on loan. The team’s strength is in its deep midfield, led by Cuban-born destroyer Osvaldo “Honey Badger” Alonso and German import Christian “Longsleeves” Tiffert. The Sounder attack is a potentially potent one, provided Prowell can get the moody Eddie Johnson to work with the mercurial Fredy Montero. We’ll see what the year brings.

*This is true.

**Also true. We Prowells rep the West Seattle Soccer Club: http://www.westseattlesoccer.org/home.php

***The nearest Krispy Kreme is only a half-mile from CenturyLink Field, but it is doubtful that the portly Schmid walks there on a regular basis.

****Meant in all senses of the word.

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SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - Scott

"Do you know the way, to San José..." Scott whistled the Dionne Warwick song as the plane came in for a landing. He was on his way to the first day of his new job: somehow the occasional MLS journalist and Football Manager addict was the new head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes.

The plane landed and Scott climbed to the front. "Bienvenidos a San José," the flight attendant said. Strange, thought Scott. He had slept through the entire flight from Vancouver and was a little groggy. "Bienvenidos a Costa Rica." Oh for f*$*'s sake! The club had put him on a flight to the wrong San José. It all made sense now -- the Latin American flight crew, the Spanish announcements, the low-budget airline. The least they could do was put me in first-class...

Finally, the first day at the office in the REAL San José, sunny California. After first firing his personal assistant and working with the Casting Couch recruiting firm to find a suitable replacement, Scott met with club chairman Lew Wolff. The two exchanged pleasantries before Wolff spoke up.

"San Jose Earthquakes have been around for a while and I think it would be good for you to familiarize yourself..." Wolff stopped himself. "Sorry, I got stuck in a weird loop there. Sometimes I feel like the only statements I can make are choices from a pre-selected list."

"I know the feeling," Scott replied. "Let's snap out of it and get down to business. So what happened with Frank Yallop?"

"Garber wanted him out, and to be honest, I had to agree. The ******* tried taking advantage of my daughter at the last Christmas party! Hands off, by the way! He was a good manager, at least, and the fans still view him highly. I'm hoping that appointing another Canadian will placate them. Anyways, can you get out of here? Billy Beane's downstairs with the director's cut of Moneyball, we're going to watch it with Brad Pitt's commentary track."

After instructing assistant coach Ian Russell that Russell would, in fact, do most of the actual "coaching" of the team, leaving Scott free to make witticisms in the press and gesticulate on the sidelines, Scott headed to the parking lot. Unable to start his company car, a dented, 2001 dark green Ford Focus, he smashed the steering wheel in frustration.

"Forget something?"

Scott jumped. A beautiful blond stood by the driver's side window. "I'm the club's press officer. You need to have a conference call with the local press before you go!"

"Oh, of course, I'm sorry. Ms...?"

"Wolff."

Oh brother. Scott followed the voluptuous blonde into the office to set up the call. She warned him that the press had gotten hold of a few transfer rumours already.

"What's this about Jaime Peters coming in?" The first question went straight to the point. "Frank Yallop mentored the kid and wouldn't even sign him when his Ipswich contract expired. And we already have Steven Beitashour and Jed Zayner at RB!"

"Jed Zayner? Wasn't he in Deliverance?"

Ms. Wolff quickly whispered that Zayner was, in fact, the club's right-back. "Of course," Scott coughed. "Jaime is going to impress all of you. Further, Steven might not be around much longer as I've agreed to send him and Sam Garza to Houston for André Hainault. I've also instructed the agent of any Canadian with MLS or national team experience to give me a call. I think they're undervalued in this league and already have Ali Gerba coming in on a flight from Montreal."

The call went silent. Finally another journalist piped up.

"You're mortgaging the future of this team for a bunch of past-it Canadians!"

"I disagree. Ryan Pore's on his way in too and he's not Canadian."

After fending off the press, it was finally time to go home. Which, for the moment, was a hotel in an charming Oakland neighbourhood that never seemed to sleep.

"Hey man, you wanna buy some rocks?" A gentleman outside the hotel offered Scott on his way in. Bleary from a lack of sleep, Scott brushed past him.

"A pet rock? Not really my decade, but I admire your enterprising spirit!" Scott patted him on the head and continued upstairs. He got out his cell phone and started looking for the numbers of other league managers. Before long, Victor Bernardez was off to Columbus for Ethan Findlay and an international spot. Crew manager Al Jarov agreed to throw in Trinidad's whitest international Chris Birchall to sweeten the deal. Scott was struggling to stay awake, but there were more trades to be discussed, more deals to be made... before he knew it, he was asleep.

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A quick look at the resources at his disposal, and Has Cow was overwhelmed. There was always one more thing he had to worry about. The first order of business: Get the team set up with the players he wanted. He was told that Bobby Convey was a pretty solid winger. The response: "We don't need to stinking wingers". He was sent packing to Columbus for a better system fit, attacking midfielder Mirosevic.

At that point, the defense wasn't quite there, unless it was possible to play only fullbacks. This need was addressed by sending Neven Markovic("quality, but someone in the center was needed") in exchange for Doneil Henry. Columbus also came in trying to nick a right-sided fullback. They were successful, but in exchange came a solid striker in Jairo Arrieta, along with some utility defensive cover in Rich Balchan.

At this point, the squad was getting a bit bloated, so the Cow knew it was necessary to send some players away. A few of the young ones were lucky enough to head on loan to the lower US leagues, but the older ones who couldn't be moved headed to the waiver draft. During the waiver draft, Has Cow could not resist the lure of the fullback, and signed another Columbus castaway, Nemanja Vukovic, but he apparently spent a bit too much time moping at the bar after he was waived, and did not report when he was supposed to.

It was time for the season to start, would the hurricane of movement pay off? Or would there be teamwork issues due to the players not having time to gel? Would Vukovic stop drinking and actually play soccer? Why was Kei Kamara initially transfer listed? These questions and more, answered during the MLS season.

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FIRING

Colorado MD Tim Hinchley announced today that absentee gaffer "Stu Hopkins" had been fired via text message. "I would have fired him in person, but no one has seen sight nor sound of him since he accepted the position". The current backroom staff remain in place for the time being.

With the club sitting in 2nd-last int he West, and winless through their first four games, the experienced RF Manager was let go after failing to appear at the job since his appointment.

BEN CROOK ANNOUNCED AS NEW MANAGER

Moving quickly, the Rapids announced the introduction of a new face to the MLS managerial merrry-go-round, as Ben Crook was drafted in to help improve their standing after the poor start to the season.

More details to follow after the official press conference, which has been tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday.

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COLUMBUS CREW - Al

Perfectly inconsistent

As the young season moves towards the end of it's first month it's been very much a mixed bag from the Crew and their inexperienced head coach, Al Jarov.

After concluding a number of late pre-season deals that saw the departures of a number of the old guard including Julius James, Jairo Arrieta, Tony Tchani and youngster Rich Balchan the team restocked with apparent upgrades in multiple positions.

Craig Merz, the Crew beat writer from MLSSoccer.com sat down for a quick interview with the Columbus manager to discuss the recent transfer activity.

CM: "So, you've brought in a slew of new faces, 12 + half dozen academy graduates, which pick ups please you the most and why?"

AJ: "I'm pleased with all the new signings, but I think the deals we've done with San Jose in particular really stand to move our club to the next level. Bernardez is a top MLS CB, while young Rafael Baca is going to be a main stay of our midfield for the next 5 years if all goes well."

CM: "Any areas of the team that still concern you or that you will be moving to improve in the next few weeks?"

AJ: "I've mentioned before we need a goalie to help push Andy. That is still an open area under consideration, and he's not had a decent start to the year (6.63 after games) which kind of makes my point for me."

CM: "Fans were sad to see a number of young guys head out the door. Players sucj as Dilly Duka, Ethan Finley and Tony Tchani seemed to have something to offer the club. Your thoughts?"

AJ: "Those are good young players, but when you're rebuilding sometimes you need guys who can help now. We've not mortgaged the future of this team - we've still got a young core, added 5 HG signings out of the academy that have big futures, while guys like Baca (22), Bruno Paulo (22), Eric Avila (24) are all on the young side. People forget Eddie Gaven is only 25 because he's been around for, well, forever. Harrington is only 26 too. What I think we've done is move some players who weren't necessarily ready for the 1st team and brought in guys like Convey, Bernardez, Alan Gordon, Colin Clark, Jordan Harvey, Dan Gargan, JeVaughn Watson who are all in their peak years of 27-30. We're in a good position to challenge, not just this year, but for the next few years. Only David Suazo (32) is on the wrong side of 30 of the new signings, and his pedigree is well established. His 1st half hattrick against TFC showed he's still a capable performer".

Which segues us nicely into our early season recap.

After an inauspicious 1:1 tie at Colorado, in a predictably dour affair, the Crew started well before conceding a weak goal. Bernardez capped a good individual debut with the equalizer in a game best forgotten. Following a bye week, the Crew had their home opener against Montreal. Many expected 3 points from the expansion side, but the prediction book was thrown out the window as the Canadian side exploded to a 4 goal lead, exploiting repeatedly on an unfamiliar backline who blew the offside trap on all four goals. Belatedly, Jarov made a tactical switch and regained some poise with another DC, Mendes this time, getting the consolation goal. "The players let themselves down today, they let the fans down too, but the buck stops with me. After a promising start I didn't react quickly enough to change our tactics and it cost us".

In the final game of the session, Columbus took full revenge for the Montreal result on their Canadian counterparts, Toronto FC, whom they battered 5:1 on the road. Suazo hit a first half hattrick before leaving with a minor knock - else he might have had a double hattrick the way things were going - while Bernardez and Colin Clark also got on the scoresheet.

So the record sits at 1-1-1 after 3 matches, good enough for 5th place in the early season standings.

Jarov will no doubt be disappointed with the form so far from his new MF pairing of Baca and Paulo, who sit on 6.37 and 6.03 respectively.

We've seen better form from Gaven (7.90, 3 assists), Suazo (7.23 3 goals), Bernardez (7.77, 2 goals), Higuain (7.37, 3 assists).

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MANAGERIAL HOTSEAT

Rumours are circulating that both Chivas USA and Portland Timbers are considering the positions of their respect Head Coaches.

Little has been seen of the two managers over the past week, and "sources" say each has been put on notice - "Show Up - or don't come back".

As has been the case, both Rusty (CHV) and Jose (POR) were unavailable for comment.

We will update this story if we are able to reach the manager's before the next edition, else that noise you can hear is the headman sharpening his axe.

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SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - Scott

"90 minutes and not a single shot on target? From either team?!?!" Scott looked at assistant manager Ian Russell with incredulity.

"You've got it, gaffer. We're struggling with their numbers in midfield --"

"I don't care. Throw on another forward and let's try to win this thing in stoppage time." The Earthquakes were at home to Pedro M's New England Revolution team in the season opener, and both teams were failing to find their feet under a new manager and system. The game was a stalemate until stoppage time, when the Revs took advantage of their opponents' tactical shake-up and finally produced a shot on target. Jon Busch made the save but the rebound was tucked into the empty net to nick it 1-0 for the visitors.

Thankfully, the team's second match was also at home. Houston Dynamo was where the old Earthquakes relocated before being reborn a few years ago, and new 'Quakes defender Andre Hainault was looking to show his former employers his worth from the centre-back position. As he made his way onto the pitch a few minutes before his players, Scott spotted a "CANADIANS OUT!" sign just behind the dugout. "You gave away our talent for some worthless Canucks!" Yelled an obese man with ketchup dribbling down his chin. Scott simply smiled and continued his preparation, even more determined.

3-0. San Jose's rejigged tactics saw the team finally come together, with fullback Jaime Peters blasting them into the lead before Ali Gerba and Hainault each got on the end of a 'Quakes free kick. 3 goals, 3 Canadians, including Hainault's personal "f$&* you" to Houston for letting him go. At the third goal, Scott turned to the crowd with his arm aloft. He spotted and briefly made eye contact with the fan with the sign, winking and soaking up the man's defeated expression.

The 'Quakes followed up their first win with a 2-game road trip, winning 2-0 in Toronto with two Wondolowski goals before falling to a 1-0 loss in Seattle. Mysteriously, Scott simply disappeared midway through the first half of the Toronto game, perhaps too eager to taste the nightlife of a city he lived in for 5 years. The manager was assumed to be on holiday and his assistant, Ian Russell, took care of the squad for the remainder of the road trip.

Two wins and two losses so far, with an early season-adjustment meaning backup strikers Ali Gerba and Cesar Diaz Pizarro might see more time than expected. Nathan Sturgis and Konrad Warzycha joined the club in the waiver draft, with it still unclear whether Scott actually intends to use Konrad or simply hold him hostage against his father, former Columbus boss Robert Warzycha. Marvin Chavez was the most high-profile player on the waiver list and has found a home in New England; thankfully he was too late reporting for duty to embarass the 'Quakes in the season opener. Otherwise, the clock is ticking out on a number of non-guaranteed domestic contracts with DP Julian de Guzman shortly returning from injury.

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Sporting KC - Has Cow

Every coach loves the smell of a new season. New opportunities, new goals, new players, and everyone has a shot, at least in MLS, to do great things.

Sporting KC had to go to DC to open the season. A tough, but winnable, match. It started out slow, with both teams appearing to be nervous for the start of the season. But SKC got the start they wanted, with Kei Kamara getting free at the top of the box and blasting it past Bill Hamid. This seemed to only settle DC down, however, and DC fought back off a corner, with Saragosa putting it in the net for the equalizer. It got to halftime at 1-1, but Has Cow felt good, felt like his team was on top. Unfortunately, when Andy Najar got free down the wing in the 68th minute and crossed it into the box, it bounced off defender Matt Besler for an own goal. A devastated SKC team was unable to do anything after that and lost their opener 2-1.

The next match, against New England, started similarly slowly, until the 30th minute, when always solid Rev Benny Feilhaber stuck it in the net after a scrap in front of goal to give NE the lead. A quick response from newly acquired striker Jairo Arrieta equalized. It looked like it was going to be 1-1 going into the half, but Kei Kamara forced an OG from New England similar to the one KC gave up in the first match, and KC went in with a lead. After halftime, an interception led to some great passing and ended in a Kei Kamara goal and a 3-1 lead. Leading into the final ten minutes, KC felt pretty secure, but when Julio Cesar stuck it in from the top of the box, the home fans got nervous. They weren't nervous for long however, as a cross got to the back post for a Kamara tap-in. That 4-2 final would be how the match would end.

The next match against Dallas was more professional, with the defense barely giving Dallas a sniff, and Arrieta and Paulo Nagamura chipped in goals for a 2-1 win. Chivas's defense gave KC a challenge in the next match, but Peterson was able to unlock the defense and give KC a 1-0 win, as well as the lead in the Eastern Conference. The next four matches, the squad would be without their coach, as he had an emergency come up. He was hoping for similar results, but it was not to be. Out of the next 4 matches, there were 3 draws, as well as a 2-0 win against RSL. Arrieta and Kamara kept up their scoring proficiency, but it was not enough to get wins. When he came back, SKC was 3rd in the East with 15 points. The manager was not happy with the draws, but they weren't losses. Hopefully with his return, the wins would come with them.

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COLUMBUS CREW - Al

So, after a oddly timed week in Mexico 'scouting' Head Coach Al Jarov returned to see the AssMan Ricardo Iribarren had done some sterling work whilst holding the reigns. Perhaps too sterling.

"Feeling a little under pressure, Coach?" asked the reporter.

"Um, I hadn't really thought about it....but now you mention it Ricardo was looking very comfortable in my chair, feet up on the desk and all." Jarov passed quite the quizzical look on his face before ploughing on about the quality youngsters he'd spotted playing in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.

"I thank Ricardo for his efforts in implementing the team decisions - tactical and personnel - in my absence. He's moved us along very nicely. But I'll be back int he saddle starting with tonights game".

Off the record Jarov was amazed with the rapid ascension the team had experienced while he was away. Although it was a testament to the strong squad he assembled, Iribarren got much better results out of the same players. He suggested it was a timing thing, with the early ropey results a factor of the turnover. He's also received a bit of heat for the form of his new strikers (Suazo 7 goals, Gordon 5) has kept him out of the firing line on that matter.

"I'm most pleased with Higuain...he's found his stride and has 6 goals and 4 assists in just 8 appearances (7 starts). Everyone is playing well though." Jarov was right, sporting no less than 7 of the top 21 players (Average rating) in MLS, Columbus are a team in form. Jarov just wants to continue the momentum now he's back...else he's going to look very bad.

In other news, Ricardo Iribarren was spotted on VistaPrint ordering up a new name plaque for his desk "Iribarren - Head Coach" it said, "Just in case" said the moody Argentine.

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MANAGERIAL BLOODBATH

Rumours that a number of coaches were on the hotseat proven true this time, as a bloody day in MLS saw Portland, NY and DC all axe their managers.

Portland wasted no time in naming Paul Clough as the new gaffer, ,much like the rest he had diddly squat experience to talk of on the pro level.

NY's manager hasn't been formally named, but is believed to be an inside referral from SKC top man, Has Cow. You guessed it....no formal pro experience either!

What a joke of a league....!

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MANAGERIAL CHANGES CONTINUE...

LA wielded the axe as Dustin Koa was replaced with his absolute doppleganger Dustin Koa II, while Houston also had no patience for former coach Darrell Lovell, installing his son Darrell Lovell Jr. as the new man in charge. Unfortunately for the Dynamo, it was a case of 'Like Father Like Son' as the Oranges got off to a losing start under "Junior".

NYRB Confirmed Lawrence as their new manager, and he promptly dumped the team out of the USOC an astonishing 1:4 defeat at home to Carolina in the quarter final stage. Talk that he's already under pressure seems slightly wide of the mark, but many more results like that and the trigger happy management group in the Big Apple will no doubt be unloading once again.

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MANAGERIAL BLOODBATH

The Headsman sure has been busy in MLS in recent weeks....no good will for all over the Holiday Season as the axe fell on absentee managers Rusty Unger (Chivas USA) and Paul O'Connor (TFC).

With no fresh talent lined up, the Twitterverse suggests some former MLS managers will be under consideration.

In other news, Scott Weber has been appointed the new manager of DC United. In turning up once, he has already out-performed the previous incumbent Tristan who was a no show ever since his appointment!! (Way to go USA Co-Head Researcher!!! )

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SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - Scott

"Top of the f*cking table? Get in!"

With the season more than half over, Scott's San Jose side is sitting pretty at the top of the MLS Western Conference. The nearest challenger in the Supporters' Shield race is the East's Columbus Crew, 5 points back but with 3 games in hand. Things can change very quickly in MLS, and with this much parity between teams, form can be vital to a team's chances. The 'Quakes' form can be traced back to the April 7th home game against Vancouver. They had just been beat 1-0 in Seattle, and another 0-0 borefest was on the cards -- until Whitecaps 'keeper Brad Knighton intercepted the ball outside of his area late on and blasted it up the field. It went straight to 'Quakes midfielder Khari Stephenson, however, and the Jamaican steadied himself and placed the ball into the empty net from range. 1-0 the final.

From there, San Jose went on a tear, getting 5 wins and a draw in 6 games. The only blip since came in a 3-0 home defeat to Chivas USA, when Scott committed a tactical blunder after going 1-0 down and overloaded the attack, conceding two more as a result. After that humbling defeat, the 'Quakes posted a 0-0 draw at home to Supporters' Shield rivals Columbus -- or at least they thought they did. The entire universe crashed in on itself before the result could be recorded, and everyone involved was brought back to an earlier time in order to replay the game. San Jose benefited from the freak occurrence and took home a 3-2 win. Two tricky away games followed, with Stephenson quickly equalizing in a 1-1 draw at rivals LA Galaxy to start the road trip. At Kansas City in the following game, Ramiro Corrales tied things up at 1-1 before 'Quakes 'keeper Josh Lambo inexplicably repeated Vancouver's mistake and gifted Sporting a goal. 3-1 was the final, but the team responded with a 1-0 win at Salt Lake.

LA at home was next, and once again a glitch in the matrix turned a 0-0 draw into a 3-2 win. Portland had knocked out the 'Quakes in the Open Cup quarterfinal, but in the same fixture in the league, Wondolowski and former Timber Ryan Pore secured a 2-1 road win for Scott's boys.

THE GOOD: Defence has been a strong point for the Earthquakes in their recent run, with a crowded midfield and excellent performances from André Hainault and goalkeeper Jon Busch keeping the score tight so that Wondolowski's goals can make the difference. Backup strikers Ali Gerba, Peri Marosevic and Cesar Diaz Pizarro have all chipped in with goals, while the excellent Shea Salinas' understudies, forgotten American wingers Jeremiah White and Pore, have rewarded Scott for taking a chance with their signings.

THE BAD: Midfielder and DP Julian de Guzman hasn't done enough to merit his paycheque. Scott's Canadian signings have mostly been successes, but considering de Guzman's price (Sam Cronin and a draft pick), the Scarborough native should be doing better. His manager might consider bringing in an Academy prospect to fill out the roster and apply some pressure to his regular starters.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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CHAMPIONS

LA Galaxy beat DC United 5-1 in December's MLS Cup final, capping off a long season full of drama and controversy across the league. The Galaxy head coach was indebted to his assistant manager, who had played a large part in helping the team rise from a mid-season slump that saw their coach's predecessor sacked to a top-place finish in the Western Conference and a successful playoff run.

The Galaxy dispatched of Vancouver in the West semi-final before meeting rivals San Jose in the Conference final. The Gals triumphed 2-1 in San Jose and 3-1 at home, taking advantage of an André Hainault red card for the 'Quakes and two Robbie Keane penalties at the Home Depot Centre. Supporters' Shield winners D.C. United waited in the final, one last hurdle for Beckham, Donovan, Keane, Wilhelmsson and co.

Robbie Keane, the newly crowned MLS Newcomer of the Year, was again the hero with 4 goals as the Galaxy triumphed at RFK Stadium, home of MLS' most historic franchise and now the scene for the latest triumph from an emerging powerhouse.

AWARDS:

MVP: Benny Feilhaber (New England); Jerry Bengtson (New England); Robbie Keane (LAG)

Rookie of the Year: Darren Mattocks (Vancouver); Matt Hedges (FC Dallas); Austin Berry (Chicago)

Goalkeeper of the Year: Donovan Ricketts (Portland); Nick Rimando (RSL); Bill Hamid (D.C. United)

Newcomer of the year: Robbie Keane (LAG); Jerry Bengtson (New England); Tim Cahilll (NYRB)

Defender of the Year: Nat Borchers (RSL); Jamison Olave (RSL); André Hainault (San Jose)

Golden Boot: Jerry Bengtson (New England, 26 in 34); Robbie Keane (LAG, 22 in 37); Darren Mattocks (Vancouver, 21 in 34)

Coach of the Year: Scott (San Jose); Christian (Vancouver); Pedro (New England)

Comeback Player of the Year: Nick Labrocca (Columbus)

Goal of the Year: Simon Dawkins (San Jose vs. LAG, June 30th)

Humanitarian of the Year: Nick Rimando (RSL); Ricardo Clark (Houston); Ramiro Corrales (San Jose)

Fair Play Award: A.J. DeLaGarza (LAG); Zach Loyd (FC Dallas); Corey Ashe (Houston)

Team Fair Play Award: Houston

Best XI:

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