Despite losing CJ Sapong in this year's MLS SuperDraft, James Madison University's soccer team is still rolling. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
As Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong continues to thrive in his first professional season, James Madison University – his developing ground over the previous four years – are enjoying a banner year themselves. The Dukes, who never made the NCAA Tournament during Sapong’s collegiate career, are poised for big things after Wednesday’s defeat of Old Dominion, the team’s fourth win in a row. The victory pushed their record to 12-2-1 overall, and clinched them at least a bye in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
Or Sapong. He's big, he's tough, he's incredibly athletic, but what I really love about him is that he plays as a true No. 9. He holds the ball and brings others into the play with his back to goal, is unselfish and just does all the "McBride things" that you want to see in a young forward. His finishing needs work, of course - but this is the US player pool, after all. Everybody's does. Myers is perhaps the biggest oversight. He’s part of a lock-down defense in KC, he's the best overlapping fullback in the league because he reads the game so well, and is an elite athlete. If right back wasn’t so stocked already, he'd be a shoo-in.
Sporting Kansas City announced Wednesday that Sports Radio 810 WHB will broadcast both Sporting Kansas City matches in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs. Play-by-play commentator Callum Williams and color analyst Jake Yadrich will call the action during the radio broadcasts. Fans will also be able to listen live online at 810WHB.com and via the free Sports Radio 810 app.
The Rapids endured a 32-degree temperature at kickoff and a pesky effort from the Columbus Crew to surge into the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday night, riding a first-half goal from Omar Cummings to a 1-0 win in a do-or-die match between the two wild card teams. Colorado, who topped Columbus in the postseason last year before winning the Eastern Conference Championship at home in similarly frigid fashion, will host top-seeded Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of the semifinals on Sunday night (7 pm ET).
This one wasn't all that close, either. Would anyone have predicted that Sapong would play up front in all 34 games for a K.C. team that had Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury, and Kei Kamara? Granted, Kansas City was an attack-minded outfit, but Sapong's five goals, five assists, and big-time durability made him the league's standout rookie. The guy can do more than just sing love ballads to Hope Solo.
Heineman: I don’t want to say disappointment, because I’m really proud of the team. Wherever we go from here, we’ve got a lot to build on. We’ve got a very young team and a couple veterans sprinkled in. We’ve always said what we wanted was a team that would consistently perform at a championship-caliber level. I think we have the opportunity to do that with the roster of guys that we have.
There was no anger in his voice, nor regret in his answers. In postgame interviews following the team’s 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman seemed calm, confident and even proud. "I thought we did everything we possibly could," Hyndman said. "No excuses, they came in and beat us on our field."
The Los Angeles Galaxy won the Supporters' Shield, amassing the most points over the course of the MLS season, thus earning any and all advantages heading into the postseason. Their reward: two cross-country trips in a four-day span for a two-legged tie against the only team in the league that can go head-to-head in a bare-knuckles payroll battle.
Ever since its trailer began grabbing attention on blogs and Twitter feeds this spring, Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story has been slowly gathering momentum toward a theatrical release. The 92-minute film, which was shot and produced by longtime friends of the Vancouver Whitecaps defender, spent the summer screening at select film festivals around the country and is now slated for nationwide release on Nov. 3.
Thierry Henry, Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards are just the latest in a long line of clutch players to make a mark in the postseason. There’s also Jeff Agoos and Brian Mullan with their five championship rings each, plus Jaime Moreno and Dwayne De Rosario with four, and Landon Donovan with three, among others. But aside from just simply looking at titles, which players have been a part of the most playoff success? That is, whose teams have the compiled the best winning record in the postseason when looking at their entire career?
The win sets up a two-game series with the Red Bulls' cross-country rivals, the LA Galaxy, who won the Supporters' Shield for the second year running. The first leg will take place on Sunday, October 30, at 3 pm ET. It will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. The match sets up a tantalizing clash of marquee names: Thierry Henry, Rafa Márquez and Tim Ream for New York and Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Omar Gonzalez.
But even with all these changes, can the increase in interest and attendance and rising profile of the L.A. Galaxy and the MLS at large be attributed, at least in part, to the arrival of Becks? Did he play a role in speeding up this transformation and helping American soccer gain legitimacy? Has the English superstar given the Galaxy a return on their multimillion-dollar investment? If we're just talking money, absolutely. If we're talking overall attendance, yes.
Giving credit where it is due, much of the genesis of this opportunity was created when U.S. Soccer got directly involved in the youth game with the creation of the Development Academy. Now, four years into this project, coaches within that program are, often for the first time, beginning to be reviewed, assessed, and measured on things beyond just success on the scoreboard.