McCarthy's Musings: Self-Inflicted Wounds

Atlante dumped Houston out of the CONCACAF Champions League with a 3-0 win in Cancun on Tuesday night. Goal.com's Kyle McCarthy blames individual defensive mistakes for the Dynamo's exit

By Kyle McCarthy

Houston can point to key injuries to Bobby Boswell and Eddie Robinson and the relative lack of match fitness as the primary reasons why Atlante dumped them out of the CONCACAF Champions League with a 3-0 second leg win in Cancun on Tuesday night.

Citing those reasons is fair, but incomplete. The primary reason why Houston is heading home is its defensive charity towards the Mexican strugglers.

Getting a result in Mexico is difficult enough. Getting a result in Mexico while making fundamental defensive errors is impossible.

After a cagey opening period, Houston were suddenly down a goal after some pub-standard defending. Atlante goalkeeper Federico Vilar drove a long, hopeful ball over the top. Wade Barrett inexplicably let Fernando Navarro get around him and failed to block off his path to goal as the ball slid behind the Dynamo defense. Navarro jinked the gift around Pat Onstad and tucked home.

At a goal down, the task didn't change for the Dynamo with a 1-1 draw already on the books from the first leg at Robertson Stadium. Six minutes before halftime, another calamitous defensive error made the task next to impossible.

Barrett and Brad Davis allowed Navarro far too much time and space to whip in a cross from the right wing. Craig Waibel decided to mark space instead of Rafael Marquez Lugo, leaving the striker to head home from ten yards to double the advantage.

Both Waibel and Barrett made way at halftime as Houston coach Dominic Kinnear opted to start the second half in a 3-5-2 formation. The additional bodies in midfield helped. Occasional pressure led to some possession and some creativity. A couple of chances went begging as Brian Ching missed a sitter from an Ashe cross and Kei Kamara had a goal chalked off for a foul unseen by the rest of the world. Even with those gilt-edged chances spurned, Houston never really looked like scoring the two goals it needed as Atlante remained composed and the Dynamo lacked creative influence in the final third.

As the tie slipped away, there was time for one last defensive error to blot the score line. Luis Gabriel Rey skinned three Dynamo defenders after collecting from a throw-in and floated a little cross to the far post. Richard Mulrooney left Giancarlo Maldonado unmarked at the far post and the Venezuelan sniper fired home off the underside of the cross bar to add an exclamation point.

Maldonado's strike provided a fitting ending to the Dynamo's CONCACAF Champions League challenge. Houston wasn't outclassed by a rather ordinary Atlante side, but committed far too many mistakes to merit a place in the semifinals. In the end, the needless mistakes, combined with the injuries and the lack of fitness, just made the task too difficult for the Dynamo.

MLS won't lose out by missing out on Barcelona bid

The combined bid from Bolivian communications magnate Maurico Claure and Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona has hit the skids, according to a press release from MLS. Both sides exchanged platitudes about the shaky economy and the commitment to MLS moving forward, but a quote Claure gave to the Miami Herald seemed far more telling.

'I am very sorry to tell you that we will not have a team in Miami,” Claure told the Herald. “Too many things had to happen, and the economic situation just isn't right. MLS is holding tight to its franchise fee [$40 million], and there's just too much uncertainty right now from a financial standpoint, so both Barca and myself decided it wasn't a wise decision. It didn't make economic sense.” (emphasis added)

Claure and FCB may have balked at the $40 million franchise fee, but MLS may have made out in the end. Miami didn't have a suitable, owner-controlled stadium in place and didn't have much of a track record of consistently supporting soccer or pro sports in general.

Where does Miami's departure leave MLS in its quest to expand? Claure's point about the fee appears remove any talk of a revived Montreal bid – a notion I championed last week – from the realm of possibility for the moment. Here's how I'd handicap the race right now: (1) Vancouver, (2) Portland, (3) St. Louis and (4) Ottawa. With the field dwindling and the top two choices seemingly far ahead of the latter two, it would be wise for the league to ensure there are no further hiccups in the weeks and months ahead.

Agreement places Beckham's 2010 hopes in the balance

It appears that the foursome of MLS, Los Angeles, AC Milan and David Beckham has finally reached an agreement over Beckham's future. The Cliffs Notes version of the move has Beckham participating in a timeshare agreement most often utilized for a Florida condo. Beckham will stay in Italy until the end of the Italian season on May 31, play with the Galaxy from mid-July until the end of the MLS campaign and finally rejoin AC Milan permanently once he opts out of his deal in time to play for Milan when the transfer window reopens in January 2010.

Imagine the toll that unrelenting calendar will take on Beckham's body. Beckham, 33, is renowned for his fitness, but this move will ask him to play a year and a half without sufficient time to rest. Weeks here and there waiting for transfer windows to open aren't enough to rejuvenate the muscles. Eventually, the travel and the games will wear Beckham down and impact his form. Considering Beckham's overarching goal at this point is a place at the 2010 World Cup, it would be ironic indeed if the fatigue or injury self-inflicted by a relentless calendar were to keep him out of Fabio Capello's squad.

Around the League

- New England striker Taylor Twellman won't travel with the Revs to North Carolina after being held out of contact situations on the team's trip to Austin. Twellman is suffering from neck pain, according to the team. If that particular symptom rings a bell, it should. Twellman missed the 2008 playoffs as he suffered from the after-effects of a concussion incurred in a collision with former Los Angeles goalie Steve Cronin on Aug. 30.

- In the sole selection in Tuesday's waiver draft, Real Salt Lake claimed Ned Grabavoy. Grabavoy, 25, has skill on the ball but struggles to consistently impact games playing through the middle. He should give RSL some depth in case Javier Morales, Andy Williams and Clint Mathis are all injured and can't play at the top of RSL's four-man midfield diamond.

- RSL also inked fullback Chris Wingert to a new deal. Wingert will likely earn a modest-to-hefty raise over the $65,000 he made last season, especially considering the 2008 salaries of fellow fullbacks Ian Joy ($120,000) and Robbie Russell ($95,016).

- New York shipped Chris Leitch to San Jose in exchange for allocation money and an international slot on Monday. That's not a bad haul for the Red Bulls, considering the team didn't seem to include Leitch in its plans as it scours the world searching for a new fullback. Carlos Johnson, a Costa Rican defender who last played with Bryne FK in Norway, is in the team's sights, according to reports out of the New York area.

- Columbus isn't encountering any luck in its English training trip. After beating a U-18 infused version of Everton's reserve team over the weekend, the Crew saw its Tuesday friendly with seventh division side Guisely washed away by rain.

- Toronto has signed young Gambian defenders Emmanuel Gomez, 18, and Amadou Sanyang, 17. Sanyang won't be able to join the first-team squad until he turns 18 on Aug. 1, but will play with the youth team, according to a press release.

- Don't forget to add my Twitter feed (and Goal.com USA's feed) to keep current as news breaks.

Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at kyle.mccarthy@goal.com.