After a two-week break during the Christmas season, Total 90 is back and just as mediocre as before!
We'll begin with some exciting news regarding the US National Team. They will be opening the final round of World Cup Qualifying on February 11th. Their opponents? Their hated rivals, Mexico. The location? Beautiful, tropical Columbus, Ohio.
The location figures to be a huge advantage for the United States. The last time those two teams met in Columbus, the US walked away with a 2-0 win, clinching qualification for Germany 2006. Yours truly was present, and it remains to this day the most exciting sporting event I've ever attended.
First, Columbus is far enough north that the Mexicans will not enjoy the same large contingent of fans that they do when the teams meet below the Mason-Dixon line. When the teams met at Reliant Stadium in Houston, it was essentially a home game for Mexico. The US wants a definite home-field advantage in the match and should get it.
The US Soccer Federation is also taking tighter control over ticketing. They will no doubt allocate larger blocks of tickets to US fans, and likely stick the Mexican fans in some far removed corner of the stadium where it will be more difficult for their cheers to be heard. Again, this could have a big effect on the environment at kickoff.
Lastly, the weather should be a big concern for Mexico. Last time the two teams played in February in Columbus, back in 2001, temperatures during the game were hovering between 25 and 30 degrees. US players will be used to playing in colder temperatures, as the MLS season stretches late into fall. The Mexican team may have trouble adjusting as they did back in 2001.
There is one major ethical concern here for me. The match falls on a Wednesday, and I would dearly love to attend. But, attending would mean skipping at least a half day teaching, plus two college classes after the school day. Do I head to Columbus, or do I go to class and watch the game at a bar?
More good news out of Columbus, this time on the MLS front. The talented defender Chad Marshall, linked to a possible move abroad in January, has re-signed with the Columbus Crew. Last season, Marshall helped the Crew defense become one of the stingiest in the league as it conceded only 36 goals.
Is this a good move for Marshall? Only time will tell. He spent a brief period of time with German side Mainz 05 earlier in December but has decided to return to MLS. For a player hoping to gain a consistent spot in Bob Bradley's National Team sides, this may not have been the best move. But, Marshall is only 24 years old and barring a setback, you have to figure that his window for a move abroad is still open.
In an effort to shore up a defense that hemmorhaged goals last season, the LA Galaxy have inked Jamaican international goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Ricketts has spent time in both the Jamaican leagues and League Two in England, with Bradford City.
Call it a wild guess, but a 31 year-old goalkeeper who has never played at an elite level will probably not solve LA's defensive problems. Look for manager Bruce Arena to try and make several more moves before the start of the next MLS season.
In news abroad, American international Clint Dempsey has helped lead Fulham into 9th position in the Premier League going into the new year. He scored both goals for Fulham as they held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw.
This is a very encouraging sign from Dempsey, who has been trying to regularly break into the starting lineup ever since his arrival at Craven Cottage. If he keeps turning in such brilliant performances, only a fool would be able to keep him on the bench.
Total 90 is off to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl and will be back with more news and analysis in 2009. Enjoy your New Year's celebrations (responsibly, of course)!