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Eastern Conference notes: Olsen talks rivalry, Houston wants Feilhaber & more

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 Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com

By THOMAS FLOYD

For most of D.C. United coach Ben Olsen's playing career, the fight for the Atlantic Cup wasn't much of a rivalry.

The trophy, given to the regular-season series winner between United and the New York Red Bulls, has ended up in the nation's capital in 7 of the 9 seasons since it was established in 2002. But the Red Bulls snapped a streak of six consecutive United wins by claiming the cup last year, Olsen's first as a member of the coaching staff after retiring. And with their star-studded lineup, they are favored to win it again in 2011.

Coming off a 3-0 win over Toronto FC, United is now preparing to renew the rivalry when it meets New York on Thursday night at RFK Stadium.

"It's been a little bit lopsided over the history of this league," Olsen said. "But now it's a little different. They're the favorites and they're the team with the stars, putting on some really good performances as of late. So it's going to be a great task for us, a great measuring stick of where we are at right now because they've got some real players out there. It's a much better team than Toronto is at this point. So it's a big challenge for us, but it's exciting."

Here is some more news from around the Eastern Conference:

CHICAGO FIRE

It would appear goalkeeper Sean Johnson's mighty struggles during Chicago's 4-2 loss at Portland last week left quite the bitter taste in coach Carlos de los Cobos' mouth. Veteran Jon Conway, who started the Fire's 2-1 loss to Los Angeles on Sunday, will again get the nod in favor of Johnson when Chicago faces Houston this weekend.

"Sean isn't living a good moment,” de los Cobos told reporters. "I don't want to be specific about what happened in each game, but he is not having a good moment and for that reason I made the decision to play Jon Conway."

COLUMBUS CREW

The Crew, which has scored just four goals in five games, could soon be adding some attacking flair in the form of Argentine midfielder Santiago Prim. The 20-year-old trained with Columbus throughout the preseason, but contract issues with his former club kept him from signing with the Crew.

Those problems have been resolved, however, and Prim is considered a free agent, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Prim is expected to rejoin the Crew at training today.

HOUSTON DYNAMO

Bringing in Benny Feilhaber to partner with Shalrie Joseph in central midfield may sure be tempting, but that doesn't mean New England is necessarily holding onto the allocated U.S. national team midfielder. The Houston Chronicle reported the Dynamo is working on a trade offer to acquire Feilhaber's rights from New England.

Should Feilhaber end up in Houston, he would likely partner with Geoff Cameron in the middle. The Dynamo has largely been lacking a creative force centrally since Stuart Holden went to Bolton after the 2009 campaign.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

One potential key factor in New England's decision to trade or not trade Feilhaber's rights is the form and fitness of former France national team midfielder Ousmane Dabo. The 34-year-old was expected to form a dynamic partnership with Joseph when he signed with New England during the offseason, but he has not played a minute for the Revolution while recovering from a quadriceps strain.

(UPDATED) The Revolution will be keeping Feilhaber and is no longer entertaining trade offers.

Ahead of Saturday's match against Sporting Kansas City, Dabo is listed as questionable.

NEW YORK RED BULLS

The Thierry Henry chronic Achilles injury watch has continued this week, but coach Hans Backe said he expects the Frenchman to play Thursday at D.C. United despite the short week of rest. Henry is coming off his best performance in a Red Bulls uniform, notching a goal and an assist during New York's 3-0 win over San Jose.

Backe also expects midfielder Joel Lindpere to play against United after he exited the San Jose match with an apparent knee ailment.

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Centerback Carlos Valdes has received less publicity than goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, another Colombian brought in during the offseason to shore up Philadelphia's leaky defense, but the 25-year-old has still been a crucial part of the Union's early success as the team has allowed just two goals in five games.

"He's very sophisticated in the tactical part," coach Peter Nowak told PhiladelphiaUnion.com. "He has pure instincts and loves to defend. He's very strong, very competitive. He doesn't let anyone off the hook."

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

French defender Aurelien Collin, signed less than an hour before the transfer window closed last week, is expected to be available for Kansas City's match at New Englandon Saturday, coach Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com.

Though known as a centerback, Collin could also be used at right back and defensive midfield for Kansas City, Vermes said.

TORONTO FC

Toronto's top-to-bottom "total football" overhaul took another step forward Monday when the club announced the impending construction of a $17.5-million academy and training facility.

Toronto's plan to implement its new style from youth squads all the way up to the first team is expected to be boosted by the new facility, which will include three grass fields, an artificial turf field under a bubble, and a field house for locker rooms and offices.

Comments

  1. Better for DC United to be a has been than a Nobody (NY). Seattle who has been in the league for 2 years has more trophies than ny. I would bet my paycheck that Portland and Vancouver win a trophy before ny does.

    Glory days for DC= trophy after trophy

    Glory days for NY= Metro playoff failure..I mean Fever

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  2. I was surprised no one else had commented on the picture yet. dude looks like he’s auditioning for a role in the 4th Matrix movie (to continue the movie sequel meme on this thread).

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  3. I did see the LA game and I agree Conway didn’t look much better than Johnson. I guess I should have said with an experienced keeper on the bench in Conway. Johnson is a better quality keeper, just young. I agree with what you said that De Los Cobos is just skap goating Johnson a bit. Keeping really isn’t the Fire’s issue. The Fire have all the pieces, they just need someone who knows how to use them.

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  4. I’m not sure if you had a chance to watch Chicago/LA match but Conway, as a veteran GK with 12 years on Johnson, wasn’t impressive in the least.

    Personally, Johnson’s game against Portland was the worst performance I’ve seen in his professional career. However, GK’s (especially young ones) only get better with experience and taking their lumps. Johnson’s brief career and performances I’ve witnessed didn’t warrant an immediate benching after one horribe game.

    In fact, Johnson’s jettison to the bench is likely a sign De Los Cobos knows this will be his final season if the clubs record & performances resemble last year.

    Anything can happen since it feels 90% of the clubs make it into the playoffs, but I’d much rather rebuild, take our lumps and let Johnson learn on the job, rather than observing.

    If Conway on the job is going to conceed 3 goals, I struggle to find validity in not letting Johnson do the same, with the future in mind.

    Then again, I’ve been caling for DLC’s head since week 3 of last year. So perhaps I’m a bit jaded in respecting his decisions.

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  5. Sean looked solid last year after gaining the starting role. He has struggled all of this year for the most part, including the preseason. He is very indecisive about whether to come out or stay in the box on corners, etc. When he does come out, he doesn’t own the box and do it aggressively.

    I think a couple of game rest is what the doctor ordered. With the USMNT callup and the tour in Europe, he hasn’t had much rest and may just need a breather.

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  6. Blame for S. Johnson falls squarely on the Fire management. What does anyone expect starting a 21 year-old ‘keeper? Mistakes at that possition are deadly and experience is vital. The only “not good moment” Johnson is in is “youth.” You get out of that by being a back-up for a number of years, perferably to someone good–like John Busch, who was Chicago’s ‘keeper, the 2008 GK of the year, and would have been a great mentor, except the bonehead management waived him to save a little money.

    Look at the ages of a few good MLS ‘keepers: Hartman-36; Rimando-31; Coundoul-29; Busch-34; Ricketts-33; Hesmer-29; Pickens-29; Keller-63 (I’m his age so I shouldn’t joke).

    Criticism of young ‘keepers is out of place. Johnson’s good. He makes the mistakes good young keepers make. He needs to grow into a starting roll.

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  7. Even more impressive is that Paul Walker took the photo 😉

    He must be freelancing since Fast and Furious 4 is already done shooting and what not haha

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  8. Think the Sean Johnson benching may be a bit premature, but that kind of thing can happen when you have a good back up like Conway. He should have done better against the Timbers, but one game does not make for a bad keeper. He is still young and learning, so you are going to occasionaly get one of those performances. I haven’t seen any Fire games before it though, so maybe a Fire fan can enlighten me to his performances before then.

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  9. In other news (still New England related, just not MLS), tickets for the USA vs Spain match have reached 31,000! Tickets started going on sale to the general public just today!

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  10. Revs have been playing a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 most of this season, I think feilhaber could fit in multiple spots in that system, so its hard to see the Revs trading him unless they get a lot in return (and they’ve so much as said so in the past couple hours)

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