Open Cup, Open Bottle, Open Questions

I've been working overtime trying to come up with another piece on "T-Shirt Steve" Cohen to post today since watching some of you - most likely the same ones who dial in to his show just for the chance to call him "mate" - come unglued has been more fun than the law should allow but alas, I've come up dry.

I do promise to keep trying, but in the meantime I'm going to have to just do some Friday file dumping and hope Cohen gets caught in bed with a farm animal or something.

And the way things are going, it's only a matter of time.

The always entertaining CLIMBING THE LADDER has a highly revealing chart showing why the now-traditional howling about MLS teams losing to USL sides in the US Open Cup is so far off the mark:

Number of normal starters in the first XI::

5-Chivas USA
4/5/6-New England (hard to tell with all the injuries)
3-Columbus
3-DC United
1-Chicago
1-Kansas City

So that's three per team. That's actually a bit generous, since for example I counted

Gruenebaum/Brunner/Zayner for Columbus.

As he points out, none of the "starters" listed for Columbus would be starting if not for injuries. You could just as easily - and correctly - say that the Crew (just as an example) didn't send a single true "starter" out there against the Rhinos, and similar situations obtain for most of the other sides.

I'd be the first one to admit that, in theory, an MLS bench should still be able to beat a USL team, although there's not much question that the lineup the MLS teams fielded in most of those games represented maybe a quarter or a third of the total salary of the players they faced off against.

But it seems to me that the real deficit is in familiarity; not only have most of the MLS guys had precious little playing time but, except in practice and the occasional scrimmage have they ever, even once, played together as a team?

It's asking a lot to expect a patched together bunch of bench players, taking the field as an eleven for the first time ever to dominate a starting eleven which has been working as a unit since March or April.

And as long as that's the case we shouldn't be terribly surprised that the MLS sides, overall, do so poorly; rather, we ought to be shocked that they do so well.

There's obviously a waiter someplace in DC who's a United fan.

How else do you explain THIS STORY about our man Becks having his drink taken away when he couldn't come up with ID?

(And who the hell asks for ID after serving the booze?)

Yeah, sure, he's full of that boyish charm he's so famous for but come on; nobody would mistake him for a 19 year old, would they? More to the point, while there is still a large percentage of the population who couldn't name 3 MLS players if their lives depended on it surely there are darn few young male Americans who don't know who David Beckham is.

On the other hand, watching the "Donovan trashes Beckham" story blaze across the pages of every European sports publication and blog has been interesting as well, considering that not one in 1000 of their readers - and precious few of the writers - know who the hell Donovan is.

Then again, "Beckham scratches ass with dinner fork" is four column news on half the globe so I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

Forgotten but not gone:

TIM HANKINSON formerly of the Mutiny and the Rapids is apparently tired of coaching against the likes of CSU-Pueblo and Colorado Christian for the Skyhawks of "Division II powerhouse Ft. Lewis College" and is off to India to coach newly promoted Salgaocar SC.

He's also coached in Iceland (Tinsedal FC), headed up the short-lived MLS Project 40 team (which not many fans recall) and served as the first MLS Director of Player Development.

His four decidedly mediocre years in Colorado, a time during which the Rapids never finished higher than third in the west, don't do much to explain why a team in India's top professional league would hire an NCAA Div II coach to run their club.

Hankinson was one of the American soccer "insiders" back when an oh-so-clubby Old Boys Network ran MLS and guys like him got jobs because everyone liked him.(Joe Machnik is just about the last of them). That policy of course never applied to Bruce Arena, whom nobody likes, but that's another story.

I've seriously debated whether to even mention this since once it's out there it never quite goes away, which is incredibly unfair to say the least, but the allegations against Sounders forward NATE JAQUA are disturbing, ugly and, if true, make Kobi Bryant's hotel room seem like the back seat of your Dad's Buick after the Prom.

In a time when ESPN's Sportscenter is starting to resemble America's Most Wanted, nobody is terribly surprised when another athlete is accused of one thing or another but this may be a case where it's just as well that MLS, and Jaqua, aren't much higher on the national radar.

Commissioners in other sports are having to spend a lot of their time trying to figure out how to deal with this kind of situation, both pre- as well as post-adjudication (what do you do with Michael Vick, anyway?) but Donny the G has been lucky so far. About the worst criminal situation he's had to deal with was Edson Buddle's drunk driving arrest, which seemed to a lot of people more of a case of "Driving While Black" than anything else anyway.

But this one, if proven even remotely true, will land on his desk with a thud they'll hear in Connecticut. Here's hoping, for everyone's sake, that it ends up being as insubstantial as the Freddy Montero deal of a couple months ago.

Finally, I know that a lot of people - particularly overseas - are upset about the vuvuzela thing but I for one think they're great.

In any case, if we'd have only known how well the USMNT would play while being serenaded by a sound similar to that of 10,000 elephants suffering gastrointestinal distress we'd have done it ourselves. In fact, maybe we should try it, if for no other reason than to drive Jim Rome off the edge.

However that may be, Sepp Blatter's usual mealy-mouthed prevarications have only served to muddle the issue. He's being quoted as saying that the vuvu is "an integral part of South African culture" as if Shaka and the boys had chased off the Brits with a gaggle of cheap Chinese-made kazoos.

Even South Africans are saying that the "it's an imitation of a tribal gathering horn" explanation is a real reach, to say the least. Making it into something it isn't is to ignore the fact that it's a cool, albeit recent, feature of SA football.

Maybe you like them, maybe you don't, maybe you couldn't care less about the whole deal. Up to you.

But if they can actually get THIS KIND OF MONEY for them, expect to see me hawking them in a soccer night parking lot near you.