Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas From Chelsea - Here's An 8-0 Beatdown

Chelsea were in the holiday mood yesterday as they continued to give ball after ball to the back of Aston Villa's Net.  After nearly every Chelsea player scored, the game finally ended and everybody got to go home to their families (except for the Villa players, who I'm sure were given a little "Christmas Message" in the locker room after the game.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Meme of the Week - Bad Luck Brian Gets Season Tickets

We respect every MLS team and hope for continued success of the league, but at the moment there is a certain team that fans tend to make fun of more than others:

We love you Chivas USA, but please re-brand and re-locate.  For the good of your own team and MLS.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How It Should Have Ended - Superman Trailer

The guys at How It Should Have Ended have some pretty killer videos.  They are animated versions of movies that make fun of plot-holes, silly lines, and general stupidity.  Part of the fun of the YouTube series is the "Superhero Cafe" where Superman and Batman sit and discuss the news of the day.

In this recent video, the two heroes talk about the cool new Superman trailer.  Batman has a pretty strong opinion about why there is so much hype for it:

Check it out below:

MLS Releases New Ball That Looks Like the Old Ball

MLS and adidas have released the 2013 MLS game ball and it supposedly has amazing control with cutting-edge technology to...whatevers.  It still looks a lot like last year's ball and I'm sure it plays just the same as most other balls.  But hey, here it is:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Falcao Makes The World A Bit Better - Amazing Free Kick

Brazil's Falcao is basically the Pele of Futsal.  A legend.  A master.

In Falcao's recent futsal game, he lobbed a backheel-flick free kick over the goalkeeper and acted like it ain't no thang.

Un-be-lieveable.  And now the world is better for having witnessed it.

Wednesday Would - Free Season Tickets

On Wednesdays we will be posting a rhetorical question called the Wednesday Would.  Today's question:

Would you take a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick to the groin for free season tickets to your favorite team?
I actually had to sit and think about this one for a while and I'm still not sure what I would answer.

Would you take a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick to the groin for free season tickets?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Meme of the Week - Fellaini Head Butt Style

Maruani Fellaini got suspended for a headbutt on Ryan Shawcross, but I think the decision is harsh.  My bet is that he just wanted some TLC.

MLS Announces Home Openers - Which Are The Best?

Major League Soccer has announced when and where all the teams will be playing their first games of 2013.  Some matches are more intriguing than others.  Let's take a look:

Saturday, March 2:
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City (PPL Park)
FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids (FC Dallas Stadium)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Toronto FC (BC Place)
Houston Dynamo vs. D.C. United (BBVA Compass Stadium)
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Montreal Impact (CenturyLink Field)
Chivas USA vs. Columbus Crew (The Home Depot Center) 
Sunday, March 3:
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire (The Home Depot Center) 
Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls (JELD-WEN Field) 
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake (Buck Shaw Stadium)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Top 20 MLS Players of 2012 -- Numbers 1-10

Continuing our list of the top 20 MLS players of 2012.  For the countdown from 20 to 11 click HERE.

10. Kei Kamara - FW - Sporting Kansas City

Kei Kamara runs all over the field every time he suits up.  His work rate keeps the offensive engine of SKC running.  He opens up space for C.J. Sapong in the middle, gets on the end of corners, and has some pretty amazing distribution (see video).

He had a rough playoffs, but any team in the league would love his production.  11 goals and 8 assists in league play helped SKC to first place in the East.

9. Will Bruin - FW - Houston Dynamo

Will Bruin exploded this season for 12 goals and 4 assists, but became a real star during the most crucial parts of the Dynamo's playoff run.  Bruin caught fire and scored 4 goals and notched an assist in the build-up to MLS Cup taking the 5th seed in the East to their second straight MLS Cup final.

Some compare him to Brian Ching, which makes sense as he is being mentored by the US vet.  Bruin has a bright future with the Dynamo and the US National Team.  Expect a call-up in January camp for the 6'2" forward.

Top 20 MLS Players of 2012 -- Numbers 20-11

As the calendar year comes to a close and we gear up for next season in MLS, it's a good time to reflect on the year that was.

With a bit of perspective that the off-season brings, let's take a look at Late Challenge's list of the top 20 players in MLS in 2012.  This list is based on each player's impact on the field during this past season.  No reputations, no salaries, just on-field performance.  Here it is:

20. Nick Rimando - GK - Real Salt Lake

Nick Rimando was once again a wall in net for Real Salt Lake.  He posted 12 shutouts and a 1.06 goals against average.  His incredible acrobatics versus Seattle in the playoffs lifted him into legend status league-wide.  And he won Save of the Year, denying Kei Kamara a clear chance on goal.

19. Eddie Johnson - FW - Seattle Sounders

There was a lot of doubt surrounding the return of Eddie Johnson before the season started.  Was he in shape?  Did he still have a scoring touch?

With quality service all around him, he was able to silence critics from day one.  He ended the year with 14 goals and three assists pushing Seattle to the Western Conference Finals.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chelsea Apparently Not the Best Team in The World - Club World Cup

Brazilian club Corinthians beat Chelsea 1-0 to win the FIFA Club World Cup proving, once again, that no matter how much money you spend on your team...they just won't care all that much about the FIFA Club World Cup.  I wish this tournament were taken more seriously by teams and fans outside of Brazil.

When I lived in Brazil, São Paulo won the "Mundial" and it was a big deal.  Nobody outside of Sambaland seems to care much though.

It was a tight and entertaining game and here's hoping that it becomes a bigger deal, especially here in the States.

Full match highlights below:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Race of Champions - Best Drivers in the World Compete

Most racing fans know most of what there is to know about the sport they follow.  They know the cars, the drivers, the tracks, and most importantly, the champions.

Did you know that there is a race where the different racing champions from many different sports come together to compete for the title of World's Greatest Race Car Driver?

It's called the Race of Champions and Drive TV is broadcasting the event this weeked.  They were kind enough to post the first day of racing on YouTube for us to enjoy.  Take a look and watch some fun, close-quarters racing.

Nation Women's Soccer League - NWSL - Launches Name and Logo

Women's soccer in North America has re-branded and re-structured.  The eight-team league will begin play in Spring of 2013 and will be governed by US Soccer.

The eight teams in the league are: Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Portland Thorns FC, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit, Western New York Flash and Seattle, which has yet to announce its team name.

The US Soccer federation will be paying the salaries of 24 players while the Mexican and Canadian soccer federations will do the same for up to 16 players.*

These developments are exciting for fans of women's soccer in each of the eight cities selected and will also be a foundation of development for talent in each of the three national federations.

I hope the turnout is good for all of these teams, because it seems the third time may be a charm and this league might work.


Manchester United v Sunderland Full Match Highlights

Manchester United rode goals from Robin Van Persie, Tom Cleverly, and Wayne Rooney to a 3-1 win over Sunderland.  The second goal was a beautiful combination play that really highlighted Man U's technical dominance over Sunderland.  Nobody looks like they will be catching the Red Devils in this year's title chase, especially if they continue in the form they are in now.

Sick Aston Villa Combination Goal vs Liverpool

Andreas Weimann finishes off this slick combination play by Aston Villa against Liverpool this morning to go up 2-0.  It proved to be the game winner as Aston Villa came out on top 3-1.  I love the direct attack from midfield and of course...oh, the backheel sublime.   And a fine finish to cap off the move.  The win moves AV three points clear of the relegation zone.

Goal of the Day - Newcastle v Wigan

Shaun Maloney blasted this laser beam from outside of the box into the top corner to tie the game for Wigan against Newcastle United this morning.  Probably the best goal of the morning from the Barclays Premiere League.

Friday, December 14, 2012

MLS Musical Chairs - Re-entry Draft Stage 2

Today was the second stage of the MLS re-entry draft.  Basically, because MLS is a single entity with each team operating inside of the MLS bubble, when a player is released or his contract isn't picked up, he doesn't just become a "free agent" like in other sports.  Teams get spots in a re-entry draft based on their performance that year.

So, Chivas USA had the worst record and, therefor, the first pick and so on.

The Galaxy and Rapids made noise when Edson Buddle was traded to Colorado for allocation money. Buddle never found the form that had him torching the league in 2010.  His heavy salary wasn't justifiable for a player that would basically be Robbie Keane's backup and the Rapids had just let go of Connor Casey (a player with a similar skillset who ended up in Philadelphia).

The Galaxy also picked up ex-Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark in a trade and former Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer in the draft.  A very good day for the champions.

Toronto gets a boost to its backline by picking up veteran defender Danny Califf.

Two other names stand out to me: Paulo Jr. and Lovel Palmer.  Paulo Jr. leaves a very deep, talented, and veteran RSL group and goes to a young, attacking team in Vancouver.  If he starts right away, fans in Whitecaps territory will love him.  He's fast and works hard and this might be a change that makes him really spring into form.

Lovel Palmer is a technical midfielder who is very defensive-minded, something RSL coach Jason Kreis values greatly.  After losing Will Johnson to Portland via trade last week, they get Palmer from Portland in the draft.  While I would still consider Johnson a stronger player, for a smaller salary, RSL get a capable backup to Ned Grabavoy.\

Here's the entire draft:

1. Toronto FC -- DF Danny Califf
2. Los Angeles Galaxy -- MF Colin Clark
3. Portland Timbers -- PASS
4. New England Revolution -- FW Chad Barrett
5. Philadelphia Union -- FW Conor Casey
6. Colorado Rapids -- MF Eric Avila
7. FC Dallas -- DF Stephen Keel
8. Montreal Impact -- PASS
9. Columbus Crew -- PASS
10. Vancouver Whitecaps -- FW Paulo Jr.
11. Chicago Fire -- PASS
12. Real Salt Lake -- MF Lovel Palmer
13. NY Red Bulls -- PASS
14. Sporting Kansas City -- PASS
15. San Jose Earthquakes -- DF Dan Gargan
16. Seattle Sounders -- PASS
17. D.C. United -- MF John Thorrington
18. Houston Dynamo -- PASS
19. Chivas USA -- PASS
1. Toronto FC -- PASS
2. LA Galaxy -- GK Will Hesmer
3. New England Revolution -- DF Hunter Freeman
4. Philadelphia Union -- PASS
5. Colorado Rapids -- PASS
6. FC Dallas -- PASS
7. Vancouver Whitecaps -- PASS
8. Real Salt Lake -- PASS
9. San Jose Earthquakes -- DF Ty Harden
10. D.C. United -- PASS
1. LA Galaxy -- PASS
2. New England Revolution -- PASS
3. San Jose Earthquakes -- DF Bryan Jordan
1. San Jose Earthquakes -- PASS

Who do you think improved their situation the most? (Player or team)

Best of MLS 2012 is about to release their list of the best stuff of 2012.  They are ramping up the hype with this rather awesome video full of all the best saves, goals, and celebrations of the year.  It's well worth the few minutes to not only relive the great year but also get you excited for next season.

One thing I'm struck with as I watch this video is how good the level of play has gotten in MLS over the last five years.  I saw my first live MLS game in 2007 and the level of play has increased exponentially.  Whereas before, one or two players per team could produce something special, now nearly anybody on a given roster can produce moments of brilliance.  Enjoy:

Movies - Pacific Rim Trailer

Since it's the MLS offseason, there is more time to enjoy things like family, hockey (oops), and movies.  Everybody and their dog is going to the Hobbit over the next week, but I hope this doesn't get lost in the shuffle.  It's the release of the "Pacific Rim" trailer.  Directed by visionary Guillermo Del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth"), it has to be the coolest trailer I've seen in a long time.  If the screenplay is as great as some of these visuals, it could be the next "Avatar" (but better).  What do you think?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

USWNT Demolishes China - Full Highlights

Lesson number one from watching the US Women's National Team over the past few years: Don't let Abby Wambach get her head on the ball.  She probably is the best header in the history of the women's game.  Don't let the first goal from this game be your only example.  Go watch highlights of the epic comeback win against Brazil in the 2011 World Cup.  Here, her header begins a 4-0 rout of China.

Lesson number two: Megan Rapinoe is a sniper.  Watch on the second goal how she places the ball right at the back corner of the six yard box.  Unreal accuracy and a great bullet header by Lloyd.

Lesson three: I think the new women's league will do well in most of the cities that are beginning with teams.  Excitement is high for the Portland Thorns already and Kansas City has quickly become a soccer hotbed.  With the amount of fans that are coming to these USWNT friendlies, my bet is with fewer teams and support from US Soccer and the Canadian and Mexican Soccer Federations, the league will survive.

Lesson four: The US should have won the World Cup.  We dominated the Olympics and have dominated every team since.  While Japan is a great champion, the USWNT will probably always look back on 2011 with regret.

North American Soccer Map

I'm loving this North American Soccer Map that was put together to plot out all the professional and semi-pro soccer teams in the US, Canada and in the islands.  For all pundits that say soccer isn't big in the USA...well, there it is.  I can only imagine baseball having this many pro/semi-pro teams in the US. Get directions from your house to your local team.  Closest fan wins!

Red Bull Rube Goldberg

This video pretty much made my day when I saw it yesterday.  A combination of nerdy science/building stuff (a giant Rube Goldberg machine) and a bunch of action sports stars.  I may not be a huge fan of the drink, but I love the videos and events Red Bull produces.  And now, after New York Red Bulls finally dumped Rafa Marquez and his waste of a giant DP salary, maybe we can see some actual rebuilding and action in Red Bull Arena next year.

Meme of the Week - FIFA 13

Once or twice a week, we'll be putting up a meme to commemorate our love for all things soccer related.  Here's the first:

Leo Messi Scores...again...and again.

Leo Messi has scored more goals this calendar year (88 so far) than:

  • Gerd Muller (previous record holder, socred 85 in one year).
  • The entire Seattle Sounders team combined (85 goals in all competitions). *Courtesy @frankmSounders.
  • Chivas USA has scored in MLS the last two seasons...combined (65).
  • All of MLS' Golden Boot winners from the past four seasons...combined (78).
  • Games Chivas USA has ever won in league play (75).
  • The amount of remaining Twinkies left on Earth (?? can't be many)
  • The number of movies with Joseph Gordon-Levitt this year (only 4, but felt like more right?)
Anyway, you get the idea.  Congrats to Leo Messi for conquering the world and having the greatest scoring year in footie history.  Here's a video of every goal up to the record-breaking 86th:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Best Footbal/Soccer Commercial

I've been wondering to myself lately what the best football (soccer) commercial of all time is.  Nike makes pretty much the coolest commercials of all the sports brands.I've seen quite a few in my time, gotten to work on a few, and I think I have a pretty good list.  Here are some of my favorites:

Nike: Take it to the Next Level.  Dir. Guy Richie

Nike: Make the Difference

Adidas: In the Plaza

Share some of your favorites with us!

Defenders as Bodyguards

Photo from
MLS has some hulking, brooding, and strong defenders.  They guard the goal with their lives (or at least their careers).  So....
Which of these standout defenders would you most want as your own personal bodyguard?
The former RSL backliner Jamison Olave who, as RSL fans know, frequently says "NO" to passing attackers?
The American brawler-type Jay DeMerit?
MLS Cup 2012 MVP Omar Gonzalez?

Who ya got?

Zlatan One More Time

By now, you've probably seen the outragous goal by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  It was his fourth (yeah, 4th) goal of the game.  It would be the greatest goal of all time, but it was a meaningless game against an England team that, frankly, would be lucky to make the next world cup.  Here it is again for one last round of applause.

Real Salt Lake Waves Goodbye

Real Salt Lake was the first team to make major noise this offseason when they sent Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave to the New York Red Bulls and Will Johnson to the Portland Timbers for allocation money.
Head Coach Jason Kreis
Head coach Jason Kreis took to twitter following the deals to express his feelings on losing the players involved:

Many RSL fans expressed concerns that the team was dissolving in front of their eyes.  Losing fan-favorites is never easy.  But, in a cap-restricted league, it is inevitable.  Real Salt Lake's official twitter had the following to say to assuage the fans' fears:

The changes alleviate RSL's salary cap and will help them avoid a salary crunch similar to the one that essentially forced Yura Movisisyan and Robbie Findley off of the team.

With a young group of players waiting in the wings such as Sebastian Velasquez, Luis Gil, and David Viana, and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, RSL seems to be just fine for the future.  If GM Garth Lagerway and HC Jason Kreis can bring in a finisher to work alongside FW Alvaro Saborio, they will still be one of the more menacing opponents on anybody's schedule.

The Silly Season Begins

Welcome to the new North American soccer blog, "Late Challenge."

We here will be striving to give the world not only news about the world of MLS, NASL, and other soccer leagues, but we hope to do so with a grain of salt and a bit of dry humor.  You'll find rediculous polls, silly top ten lists, a bit of real news, and fun videos, photos, and coversation.  Join in, have fun, and feel free to let us know how you feel!