MLS Scheduling Follies and Other Stuff

If you missed the Chicago/District of Columbia match last night - and I myself had to DVR most of it after having to go rescue a dead 300zx TT from the side of the road in the pouring rain; delightful - then you missed a couple of the key stories of this increasingly less "still early" season:

For DC, it's becoming clear that it's not just a team that needs to gel; rather it's a team that needs to dump some guys who can't play. Franco Niell, please pick up the white courtesy phone. In the airport. On your way back to Argentina.

There were some positive signs, including a few guys who are still out there busting their humps (Moreno, Quaranta, Namoff) and a supporter's section which - unlike the fans in Toronto we keep hearing way too much about, who spend the game preening for the cameras and impressing each other with how much they can drink - is extremely soccer-savvy and actually into the game itself instead of themselves.

But it's becoming more and more evident that , particularly with Olsen apparently never going to be able to catch his Beckham-shirt-wearing kid again, they just don't have the horses at the moment.

Conversely, the Fire is, well, on fire. Chicago and Columbus are the two hottest teams in the league right now, and both of them are organized around a key foreign superstar, but Blanco and Barros-Schelotto are two completely different players; Schelotto is an orchestrator, Leonard Bernstein with a ball at his feet, lurking just at the edge of your vision, patiently directing traffic until he gets what he wants and then delivering an impossible dart of a ball to someone nobody else saw.

Blanco, conversely, is front and center, in the thick of the action; he'll fight you until hell freezes over and then strap on skates and fight you on the ice, a force of nature that refuses to be denied. The Tasmanian devil in a red shirt.

The Fire also features a lock-down defense led by the suddenly mature Bakare Soumare and backstopped by the back-from-the-scrapheap-and-leading-the-league-in-shutouts Jon Busch.

It's a pity that the MLS schedule makers don't have the Fire and the Crew playing until freaking July. That's a match we'd like to see next week instead of after Independence Day. How is it exactly that the season will be in it's fifth month before these two division rivals ever see each other?

Speaking of the Crew, in response to some of the speculation about McBride's destination if Fulham goes down, and if he's got anything to offer anyway, Sigi Schmid (can't get the blasted link to work) THINKS BMB IS A BETTER PLAYER NOW than he was when he left, and seems more than willing to hand the guy a shirt.

"With Fulham, he has learned to concentrate on what he can do well, which is set up in the box and get on the end of things," Schmid said. "I think he's a player still capable of scoring goals if he comes to this league."

But most American fans would prefer that Fulham stay up and render the whole thing a moot point anyway.

Since I would hate to have it said that I only offer one side of the picture I hereby present my colleague BRETON BONNETTE'S TAKE ON SAPUTO STADIUM which he thinks is "beautiful".

I'm not going to go into whether by "beautiful" he means "a pathetic, bush-league set of cheap bleachers that would embarrass a small US high school" since that would be a bit churlish of me. In fact, I fully intend to be gushingly positive, to wit:

At least the place has actual grass on the field instead of the same horrible artificial turf that BMO put in and which the Canadian National team is refusing to play on. As a result, Stade Saputo is going to see some qualifiers, while BMO, the jewel of Canadian soccer, will go begging.

Was that positive enough? No? Darn.

Meanwhile, out in LA THE SAGA OF THE WALKING CUBANS CONTINUES Apparently both the Galaxy and Chivas have taken a pass on the three trialists, but efforts are being made to find them spots at a lower level.

In the meantime, none of them seem to regret what they did, although of course the thugs who run Cuba are apparently taking it out on their families. Maybe instead of sending them back we could just send them Paul Gardner. A win-win scenario if ever there was one.

The other shoe has dropped in the De la Hoya/Dynamo deal in the form of a BUY IN AND PARTNERSHIP DEAL between Golden Boy Productions and AEG.

It's a particularly good thing for Oscar, whose flat, uninspiring performance against professional tomato can Steve Forbes last week made it only too clear that a) Floyd Mayweather will once again clean his clock and b) he's going to be needing another line of work very soon.