27
Apr

Columbus Crew’s Dominic Oduro really loves pizza

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Nobody loves pizza more than Dominic Oduro loves pizza.

And to prove it, the Columbus Crew forward shaved the design of actual slices of pizza in his hair. Pepperonis and all. Check it out:

Who else is getting hungry?

Sadly, Oduro’s delicious ‘do couldn’t inspire Columbus to a win on Saturday, as the Crew tied NY Red Bulls, 1-1. Oduro came on as a second-half substitute but failed to score, which may have robbed us of a chance to see his favorite goal celebration:

Told ya. That man really enjoys his pizza.

Image: MLS

10
Apr

In the family: Best of the best soccer siblings for National Siblings Day

In honor of National Siblings Day, we’re bringing you some of the best sibling action you’ll see on the soccer pitch:

Kristie and Samantha Mewis (USA)

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These sisters have dreamed of playing soccer together for the US women’s national team since they were little girls. During the 2014 Algarve Cup, that dream became a reality:

Gonzalo and Federico Higuain (Argentina)

Gonzalo is clearly the more well-known Higuain, but older brother Federico has also had a decent career in soccer. He currently plays for the Columbus Crew, and scores really pretty goals, like this one:

Eden and Thorgan Hazard (Belgium)

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The Hazard brothers in training for Belgium. (Image: Twitter)

Big brother Eden may be stealing the headlines now, but 21-year-old Thorgan isn’t far behind. While on-loan from Chelsea in the Jupiler League, the striker has been tearing it up — he even won the Golden Shoe for the 2013 season. It won’t be long until we see both brothers on the pitch for the Blues.

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13
Jan

World Cup hopes drive Michael Parkhurst’s MLS return

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LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Life on the periphery at FC Augsburg left Michael Parkhurst little choice. He needed to take action in the January transfer window to bolster his hopes of earning a place in Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the World Cup this summer.

Monday, Parkhurst opted to cut short his Bundesliga stint and return to MLS in search of regular playing time. His desire to return to the States played a critical role in Columbus’ decision to acquire his rights from New England on Monday morning.

Crew coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter shipped the number four overall pick in Thursday’s SuperDraft and an undisclosed amount of allocation money to the Revolution in exchange for the rights to the returning U.S. international. Parkhurst has agreed to terms with MLS and will join the Crew pending the receipt of his international transfer certificate.

Berhalter moved quickly to address the vacancy created by Chad Marshall’s departure to Seattle last month. Parkhurst, 29, fits more into the revised Crew ethos: he builds well out of the back given his shift to the right side during his European tenure and supplies a calm, steady intelligence with his diligent work in central defense.

Parkhurst never broke through with Augsburg, but he will expect to play every match for the Crew heading into this season given his compensation (in the ballpark of the maximum salary for a non-Designated Player) and the package required to obtain him. It is a much needed shift for Parkhurst with the US right back berth still available over the next few months. A return to form and match fitness could provide Parkhurst with the platform required to press his claims for inclusion, particularly if Berhalter employs his services at right back from time to time.

Klinsmann relied upon Parkhurst at right back during last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup triumph. While Parkhurst isn’t a prototypical fullback, his savvy displays and his versatility could make him a valuable component for Klinsmann if he can work his way into what is a crowded mix.

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Parkhurst’s primary value to the Revolution came in the bounty for his rights. New England retained those rights after Parkhurst signed for FC Nordsjælland on a free transfer after the 2008 campaign. His return at this juncture was a bonus for the Revs as they have reigning MLS Defender of the Year José Gonçalves in the fold on a permanent contract.

The salary budget simply isn’t large enough to accommodate two starting central defenders on considerable wages. By flipping Parkhurst’s rights to the Crew, the Revolution moved into position to draft a top prospect with the first of their three first-round selections and strengthened their financial position in their search for foreign-based reinforcements in the middle of the field or up front.

If the search yields a potential contributor in a more pressing area, then the Revs can watch Parkhurst take the field at Crew Stadium with the knowledge that his departure paved the way for a stronger side on the whole. Until that stage arrives, they will have to take solace in the fact that their former player is now in a better position to further his international ambitions over the next few months.

Images from Getty Images

7
Nov

Columbus Crew roll dice with Gregg Berhalter hiring

Columbus investor Anthony Precourt purchased the Crew in July with a grand vision for his new club. He found himself in the market for a new coach by September. He wanted to use this opportunity to continue the cultural and the structural evolution he commenced when he took charge.

Precourt and club president Mark McCullers searched far and wide for the man to lead this charge. They discussed the opening with the cognoscenti of American soccer — US Soccer president Sunil Gulati and CEO Dan Flynn, former US Soccer secretary general Hank Steinbrecher included — and former Crew stars Guillermo Barros Schelotto (a candidate), Brad Friedel (also a candidate) and Brian McBride. They started with a broad list and whittled it down. And then they made their emphatic decision.

The two men extolled the virtues of former US international defender Gregg Berhalter when they named him head coach and sporting director on Wednesday. They lauded his desire to construct this club brick-by-analytical-brick. They noted the need for cohesive and consistent procedures to foster success year after year. They tasked him with the burden of two jobs and the responsibility of performing both of them well.

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Former USA and LA Galaxy standout Gregg Berhalter will manage the Crew next season (Image: German Alegria/MLS).

“We talked a lot about different structures,” Precourt said during a conference call. “The structure needed to match the person’s skill set. I feel just overwhelmingly confident that Gregg was the man to handle both. He has a soccer mind. When you talk to him, you just see he has the perspective of a sporting director and a head coach. I think it’s efficient in terms of making decisions. It creates a sense of accountability.”

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17
Oct

All to play for as race to MLS playoffs heats up

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Image courtesy of Getty.

There are few certainties in the MLS playoff race heading into the final two weekends of the season. New York and Sporting Kansas City will take part. Several other teams will join them. A few more will miss out entirely.

Further verdicts remain difficult to draw. The compressed standings in both conferences create the possibility of widespread upheaval with one result going either way. There are likelihoods in play, but no firm guidelines to set forth with just a fortnight remaining.

At this stage of the campaign, favors fall upon teams willing to dispatch their business accordingly. There are few guarantees on the table right now, but this one is etched in stone: a pair of victories will improve your position substantially heading into the postseason.

New York, Sporting Kansas City, Houston jostle for top three seeds in the East

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Remaining fixtures

RBNY: at Houston, vs. Chicago

SKC: vs. D.C. United, at Philadelphia

HOU: vs. New York, at D.C. United

New York holds a slim advantage in the race for top spot heading into the final two weeks, but a defeat in Houston on Sunday could break the race wide open. Sporting Kansas City could apply further pressure with a straightforward home victory over D.C. United on Friday. A couple of extra goals would help the cause: Sporting currently sits one goal behind the Red Bulls in the goals scored category, the second tiebreaker.

If Houston collect maximum points over the Red Bulls on Sunday, the Dynamo can maintain touching distance with the top two. The third seed — barring an outright collapse by either New York or Sporting — looks more likely given the Dynamo’s current points deficit and its disadvantage in both total wins (first tiebreaker) and goals scored.

Chicago, Montréal hold narrow edges in five-way battle for fourth and fifth spot

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Remaining fixtures

MTL: vs. Philadelphia, at Toronto FC

CHI: vs. Toronto FC, at New York

PHL: at Montréal, vs. Sporting Kansas City

NE: vs. Columbus, at Columbus

CLB: at New England, vs. New England

The calculus for all five of these teams is fairly simple: win two games, then see what happens. If four of these five teams embark on a season ending tear (quite unlikely, indeed), then Montréal and Chicago will stand atop the heap.

It is difficult to envision Montréal rattling off two wins in a row at this stage given its recent form (see: the reserve-laden 1-0 defeat at LA Galaxy on Wednesday), but a favorable schedule – a home match against the goal-shy Union and a visit to TFC on the final day – and a strong position on tiebreakers at least gives the Impact a fighting chance. One win might even do it. Chicago fattened up on D.C. United and FC Dallas over the past couple of weeks to move into a promising position. Another victory over Toronto FC this weekend – combined with its superior wins total – leaves the Fire in reasonable stead.

Philadelphia likely needs a minimum of four points (and likely six) from its pair of difficult assignments to have a chance. New England essentially needs six points against the Crew given the state of play, though it could edge out the Fire or the Union on goals scored if four points somehow suffices for a fifth-place tie. Columbus needs two wins against the Revs and a whole lot of losses by everyone else to have a prayer.

Four teams in the mix for top three seeds out and one nasty door prize out West

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Remaining fixtures

PDX: vs. Real Salt Lake, at Chivas USA

RSL: at Portland, vs. Chivas USA

LAG: vs. San Jose, at Seattle

SEA: at FC Dallas, vs. LA Galaxy

The top two sides in the Western Conference tangle at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday with an opportunity to stake a claim to the top seed. A draw should suffice for Portland with a visit to Chivas USA on the docket to end the season, but the Timbers’ iffy road form and their wins deficit provides plenty of incentive to take care of business at home and remove all doubt. RSL remains in good shape for the second seed even with a defeat: Jason Kreis’ side closes the season at home to Chivas USA in midweek (a likely victory) and possesses an edge on goals scored over the other two contenders if Portland finishes first.

LA Galaxy and Seattle look likely to qualify for the playoffs absent a total meltdown (and the Sounders sure are trying). Their ultimate playoff fate – two v. three in some order or four vs. five – hinges on the meeting at CenturyLink Park to conclude their respective seasons. Seattle will need to finish with more points (or wins) than any of its counterparts to avoid the goals scored tiebreaker. Any type of setback in Frisco on Saturday places Seattle in a must-win spot to avoid the fourth (or even fifth) seed heading into the final weekend of the season.

Colorado, Vancouver duel to the death as San Jose hopes for a chance to pounce

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Remaining fixtures

COL: vs. Vancouver, at Vancouver

SJ: at LA Galaxy, vs. FC Dallas

VAN: at Colorado, vs. Colorado

Colorado scuffed away a chance to essentially secure its playoff destiny in the 1-0 defeat at San Jose last week. Now the Rapids confront a tricky home-and-home test with a Vancouver side in line to hop over them with four points over the two matches (based on the goals scored tiebreaker). The good news for Colorado: one victory would eliminate the Whitecaps, require the Earthquakes to win both games to qualify (due to San Jose’s vastly inferior goals scored record).

San Jose needs considerable help from the Whitecaps to claim the final playoff spot due to tiebreakers. One victory in two matches would suffice if Vancouver picks up exactly four points. More than likely, the Earthquakes will need at least four (if both Colorado-Vancouver matches in draws) and probably six (in a bid to edge out a Colorado side with four points gained or a Vancouver outfit with two wins) points to snatch an improbable postseason place.

7
Oct

MLS playoff picture still murky with three matches to play

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The New York Red Bulls are the only team in the MLS playoffs. (Getty Images)

Leave it to a typically wacky October weekend to further muddle the MLS playoff picture. What we know is this: New York is in the playoffs. Several other teams are in the mix. The rest? It’s all up for grabs heading into the final three matches of the season.

New York, Sporting Kansas City in the race for top spot in the East

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Houston’s victory over Montréal on Friday night increased the chances that either the Red Bulls or Sporting will finish atop the East. New York either dropped a pair of points or gained one over the weekend, depending on your take on the wild conclusion to the 2-2 draw with New England. Sporting holds a game in hand, but it will use it against the Dynamo on Wednesday night.

At this stage, the Red Bulls will probably finish in the top spot with a pair of victories in their final two outings. Sporting possesses a decent chance of overhauling them if it vanquishes its playoff nemesis in midweek. Houston and Montréal (even with a game in hand) must rack up victories and search for missteps in order to push their way to the summit. Both teams would likely settle for a top-three spot – and the direct berth into the Eastern Conference semifinals – at this stage.

Race for final three East places favors Houston, Montréal — and one other

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The two combatants at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night finished the weekend feeling relatively comfortable about their playoff futures. The remaining four challengers likely face an almighty scrap for one berth, barring some series of missteps by the Dynamo or the Impact somewhere along the way.

Philadelphia enjoys the inside track at the moment after Kléberson (yes, that Kléberson) rescued the points against Toronto FC on Saturday. Chicago faces a pair of winnable games over the next fortnight (at FC Dallas, home to Toronto FC) to bolster its own playoff chances. New England probably needs a point in Montréal to revive its hopes ahead of a season-ending home-and-home with Columbus. Brian Bliss’ side must win its remaining two games against the Revolution and pray for carnage in order to snatch the fifth spot.

Seattle still on track for Supporters’ Shield, Western Conference top seed

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Sigi Schmid’s outfit suffered a rather humbling 5-1 defeat at Colorado on Saturday, but that setback will not harm the Sounders’ chances of claiming top spot and securing the Supporters’ Shield. Seattle currently holds two matches in hand on Real Salt Lake – including Wednesday’s Cascadia tilt with Vancouver – and one on third-place Portland. If the Rave Green take care of business (a point at Portland on Oct. 13 would help considerably), then the top seed beckons.

RSL likely must win its remaining two matches (at Portland, home to Chivas USA) to keep its Supporters’ Shield hopes alive. Portland still harbors realistic dreams of vaulting both teams given the looming head-to-head matchups and Seattle’s difficult final day test against LA Galaxy.

Colorado, LA Galaxy take big steps with weekend thrashings

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It will take some doing for the Galaxy and the Rapids to slip out of the postseason reckoning after their respective victories over the weekend. Colorado, in particular, created some breathing room with that trouncing of Seattle to ease any lingering nerves about the season-ending home-and-home with Vancouver. Both teams will hope Portland, Real Salt Lake or Seattle veer off course along the way to increase their hopes of a top-three place.

Martin Rennie’s side – fresh off the frenetic 2-2 draw with Portland on Sunday – must prolong Seattle’s misery and then snatch six points from the final two games against the Rapids to mount a belated postseason charge. FC Dallas and San Jose face a similar brief to survive: win or else.

22
Sep

Dominic Oduro celebrates goal with pizza

Columbus Crew striker Dominic Oduro is a hungry man. Hungry for goals — he leads the team with 11 this season, good for fifth in MLS — and certainly hungry for pizza.

Oduro was celebrating his opening goal against the Chicago Fire before remembering he had a personal pizza waiting for him on the sideline. Sure enough, Oduro was handed the box by a club employee, took a bite and gave the rest of the pizza to a fan in the front row.

Clever stuff, but it isn’t even the best celebration involving food. Remember these Icelandic guys?

H/T Dirty Tackle

10
Sep

USA qualifies to 2014 World Cup with win over Mexico

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Image: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The chants started even before kickoff. Dos a cero, dos a cero!

Two-nil. Such has been the end result, in favor of the United States, in the past four World Cup qualifiers against Mexico on American soil, Columbus Crew Stadium to be exact. Tuesday’s classic was also played in Columbus. It also ended 2-0.

Landon Donovan provided the preordained second goal after Eddie Johnson’s header made it 1-0 not long after halftime. As fate would have it — or was it just a cruel joke played on El Tri? — not even a late stoppage time penalty to the US could change the outcome. Clint Dempsey missed wide right. Way right. Dos a cero. Par for the course.

That’s when the chants began anew from the cheering sections of the American Outlaws, drowning out the final whistle. The US had triumphed over Mexico again — 7-0-3 all-time at Columbus Crew Stadium — and the real celebration was only just beginning.

The Americans still had to wait another 40 minutes or so before the tickets to Brazil for next summer’s World Cup could officially be booked. Honduras first needed to win or draw over Panama in the late match. A large fraction of the Outlaws — who made up most of the record 9,000 supporters’ group members in attendance — stayed in their seats and watched the match on the big screen.

Panama equalized twice to keep the fans — and the players in the dressing room — glued to the TV until the final whistle, but at last it ended in a 2-2 draw, clinching the Americans’ World Cup berth. Seconds later, the entire squad ran back out to their supporters, donning “Qualified” tees and leading the crowd into a new, even sweeter chant.

We are going, we are going, we are going to Brazil!

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Image: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images

10
Sep

How can Mexico defeat the United States in Columbus?

Crew Stadium functions as a venue of reckoning for Mexico. It isn’t necessary right now. At this tender point in El Tri’s existence, a dash of reality isn’t required. Every player understands the increasingly complicated and dire situation in the wake of a 2-1 home defeat to Honduras on Friday and José Manuel de la Torre’s departure.

Rejuvenation and revival are required now to push aside the events of the past and start planning for Brazil next summer. The first step toward recovery involves procuring a result in Columbus, the capital of Ohio and the center of Mexico’s American nightmares during the past three journeys through the Hexagonal.

Dos a cero occurs reflexively when Mexico steps between the lines in this haunted ground. The seemingly preordained result meanders along a different path in each instance (Rafa Márquez’s continued indiscipline provides one more common thread) without straying from the inevitable conclusion at the final whistle.

Another two-goal setback isn’t inevitable, though. Mexico can break its duck in Columbus. As Honduras can attest in the aftermath of its triumph at Estadio Azteca, the past does not dictate the present. It won’t be easy for El Tri to contradict its prolonged run of poor form to collect a famous victory, but it could dispel the mysticism surrounding this hostile road venue forever if it adheres and upholds a few selected principles on Tuesday night.

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27
Apr

Columbus Crew scoreboard catches fire

The Columbus Crew was getting set to face D.C. United at home when their scoreboard started burning up.

Action was swift, and it only took about 30 minutes for the Columbus Fire Department to put the blaze out, but it certainly gave fans a memorable experience. No word yet on why the fire started.

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The game will continue after the heated delay. Never a dull moment!

UPDATE: Video of the fire as it smolders.