Friday, October 17, 2008

Magic in the Air, tonight. Wow. I haven't posted since January, but events tonight merit my posting outside of the Washington Post's Soccer Insider blog, or even the Daily Kos -- and, while it's a momentous time in politics, I'll stick to sports tonight...

Tonight, I watched DC United stage one of the most memorable comebacks in team history. Then, I got home and watched as the Red Sox completed one of the most memorable comebacks in baseball history.

As for the United game -- I'm afraid to call that awesome, because it was even better than that. Here's how it went: DCU playing as well or even better than they've played all year -- creating the best chances they've had in weeks or even months, but unable to put it in the net. In the second half, they go on a break so promising it seems like there's no way they won't score, but Emilio somehow manages to give it up. The Revs come back with a great counterattack, leaving United goalie Louis Crayton helpless to prevent Twellman's goal (by the way, I've now looked at those replays several times and I'm 100% convinced the Revs' play was onsides all the way -- just a really well-timed run).

So, now it's looking incredibly grim, as United is on the brink of elimination from playoff contention. Coach Tommy Soehn looks to his bench and finds some magic. Jai-me Mo-reno! Jai-me Mo-reno! The fans feel it, too. What followed was almost too good to be believed.

Two magnificent goals by Francis Doe. Sprung by Jaime's pass, he puts a serious move on the defender, and then makes a great shot to beat Reis, who left just enough room at the near post. Second goal -- by rights, Doe probably should have gone down with Parkhurst pulling at him, hoping the ref would have the sense to call a penalty. Instead, Doe refused to go down and trust in the refs. He fought to stay up and get the ball. He broke free from Parkhurst's cluthces, and then he struck an incredible shot to beat Reis, this time high to the far post. Doe struck it hard enough to leave Reis flat-footed, but with enough touch to sneak in under the crossbar.

The fans? Sheer ecstasy! Utter Bedlam! I threw my beer in the air, after Doe's first goal! I never throw my beer. There are no words to adequately describe the thrill after Doe scored the game-winner.

When I got home, I was thinking I ought to promise to name a child, boy or girl, Francis Doe. If he never does anything else to remember while wearing the DCU kit, we'll never forget his performance tonight. Doe will always have a place in our hearts, indelibly carved there tonight.

If I might add -- I thought Doe actually looked really good all game. Even before his goals, I thought it was his most skillful performance of the year. Very encouraging for the young Liberian. It's possible that United has really scored in scrounging up some talented young African strikers who were overlooked by other MLS teams -- the Liberian, Doe, and the South African, Boyzzz Khumalo. Certainly, the team's new goalie, Louis Crayton -- also Liberian - has been an instant sensation.

While the much ballyhooed off-season South American signings were busts, as was the trade for Wells, United came up with some surprisingly good player acquisitions during the season, bolstering a team that was on the verge of total collapse. It hasn't been pretty, but the team is moving into a strong position to claim the final playoff spot on the final weekend.

Louis Crayton's spectacular diving save on a free kick, midway in the first half, was the #3 play on SportsCenter's top plays tonight. It definitely deserved to be there. It's too bad the folks at ESPN didn't also recognize how extraordinary Doe's performance was. Either of those goals could earn MLS' Goal of the Week. Right now, I'm still giddy and tempted to say "Forget Schelotto". If United makes the playoffs, maybe Doe should get the MVP vote -- and, yes, just on the strength of one incredibly thrilling and unforgetttable game. Ok, I might be exaggerating a little...

Columbus -- look out -- there's a big, bad, black head of steam headed your way...

Absolutely magic tonight.

Lest I forget -- the Boston Red Sox somehow borrowed that DC United magic to stave off elimination tonight, too. Trailing 7-0 with 2 outs in the 7th inning, the Bostons mounted the biggest comeback ever in a postseason elimination game. In my book, this ranks up with the comeback against the Yankees in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS (down 3 games to none) -- the greatest series comeback in any sport -- as well as the Mets' comeback against the Boston Red Sox in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the '86 World Series. The fourth best comeback? Might be the Red Sox' rally in the 9th inning, facing elimination against the Angels in the '86 ALCS. Funny how all of those involved the Red Sox, no? They're a special franchise. So is DC United.

There was magic in the air tonight.

Monday, January 14, 2008

DC United Remakes Roster -- United is undergoing some serious changes. It's not clear if the team is getting stronger, but they're certainly not getting any younger.

Most obvious will be changes in goal. The red, white and black's sparkling young goalkeeper, Troy Perkins, has gone off to try his hands in Europe. United replaced him by dealing 2006 defender of the year Brian Boswell, to Houston, in exchange for the Dynamo's back-up keeper, Zack Wells. In addition, United is reportedly on the verge of bringing in a veteran Peruvian goalkeeper, Jose Carvallo, to back up Wells.

The team's defense will remain largely the same, except that Boswell is to be replaced by an aging Colombian international, Gonzalo Martinez. Midfield is a question mark. With a visa and plane tickets already in hand, Juan Sebastian Veron backed out of a deal with United, leaving United with no plan B for bringing in a top international to fill the team's Designated Player slot. This jolt makes it more imperative that United re-signs Christian Gomez. Indication are that Gomez will return.

The front line continues to be anchored by Luciano Emilio. Jaime Moreno has reportedly signed up for another go-around with United, but he will be fighting for playing time. United has brought in a new striker, from the Argentine Primera division, the truly diminutive Franco Neill.

Although there is no official word on their return, United seems likely to bring back Moreno and Gomez, because they have no other options. This is an aging team, and isn't getting younger, replacing Boswell with the 32 year-old Martinez. This leaves United with two starting defenders in their 30s, and a host of midfielders and strikers that are probably on the downside of their careers.

Worse yet, United doesn't have a top draft pick. However, the team could remedy this, if United is giving up on using their DP slot.

The Galaxy have the fourth pick in the draft and seem to be lining up Luis Figo, but they need a DP slot. United could make that swap, and bring in a young talented player to bolster a rapidly aging roster. If LA is interested, and DC really has no one in mind for the slot, why not jump on this?

DC United will have to move on this. My guess is there will be several teams interested in dealing their DP slot.

With KC losing Eddie Johnson, they're going to want a young star in the making. No one is fool enough to think they can afford to sign a DP, nor is there much chance that anyone worth signing is going to come to KC -- maybe in a few years, with a new stadium, but not while they're playing in a minor league baseball park.

The Rapids might also think about dealing their DP slot. Denver won't be attractive destination, except possibly for a Mexican. Of course, there are those Borghetti rumors... Of course, Toronto, or San Jose might also be willing to deal their DP -- even Houston might consider the possibility, but they'd likely reject it, given the number of international competitions the team will be playing.

Personally, I'd love to see United find someone worthy of the Designated Player slot. The team lacks depth, and the quality of the top 11 isn't overwhelming. United could do with improvement at any position. However, if that slot is going to go unused, United should seriously consider dealing the slot before Friday's SuperDraft. Perhaps United management thinks DC has a realistic chance of signing a top international -- perhaps Veron has expressed a commitment to come after the Copa Libertadores. If that's not the case, then I would suggest United make the deal, assuming the Galaxy are interested.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Has 'Trader Jim' Lost It? Nats GM Jim Bowden is on a roll of sorts. First he makes a trade to bring in one possible head case, with Lastings Milledge, and now he goes after Elijah Dukes, probably the most troubled, if talented player in baseball today. Dukes is the poster child for the "bad boy." His troubles are well documented in Washington Post article about the trade. By all indications, Dukes has hardly put his troubles behind him, and this was on display for the Nationals just last week. Tim Tolman, the Nats' third-base coach was managing Dukes in winter ball, when Dukes had to be restrained after being ejected from a game. Dukes left the team after the incident.

It boggles the imagination that they would so covet him, under the circumstances. Still, Tolman is playing the good company man, saying "The whole time I've had him, he handled the situation as good as -- or better than -- a lot of guys do down here."

The Nats gave up one fantastic prospect to get Dukes. Before this past season, Glenn Gibson was not as highly touted as some, despite a pedigree as a son of a former major league pitcher. Still Gibson outshone his more highly touted teammates, Colton Willems and Jordan Zimmerman, to turn in some of the best numbers in the Nats' minor league system, with the Vermont Lake Monsters of the NY-Penn League. Gibson is listed as one of Baseball America's Top 10 prospects from the short-season league. Although his ERA climbed in his final appearances, to a still excellent 3.10, Gibson had the lowest WHIP on the team, and averaged exactly one strikeout per inning.

Everyone knows Dukes is an extremely gifted athlete, but this trade looks unduly risky for a guy who hit only .190, and clearly has profound emotional problems. Dukes may have tremendous upside, given his athletic prowess, but he seems a long way from realizing his potential. Frankly, Dukes probably isn't really ready to play at the major league level, either emotionally, nor as a function of his skill level. He tried to make the jump, last year, from the Carolina League to the majors, and did not flourish. By rights, the Nats should start him out at AA, or AAA, and give him a chance to build his confidence -- but they will probably rush him by handing him the major league centerfield job.

Also, having just traded for Milledge, who is considered best as a centerfielder, it's curious that the Nats went after Dukes, who would probably lay claim to the centerfield job, if he can straighten out his personal issues, and produce at the major league level. This makes me wonder whether the Nats really want Milledge to suit up for them next season, or whether they expect to move him during this week's winter meetings.

The Post is also reporting that the Nats have traded their top relief pitching prospect, Jonathan Albaladejo, for another roll of the dice with a prospect from the Yankees, who wasn't even among the Yankees top 3 rookie pitchers last year. Tyler Clippard, however had an incredibly strong finish, including a no-hitter over the last two months of the 2006 season, for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, in 2006, hinting at great potential -- even topping Baseball America's hot sheet at the end of August that year.

In 2007, however, Clippard struggled at every level. Clippard did not turn in an impressive year with the Yankees Triple-A team, but the Yankees' rash of injuries forced him into action with the big club, where he did win three games, despite an ERA of over 6.00. When he was returned to the minors, Clippard stepped back down to Double-A Trenton, where his struggles continued. Still, the Post article suggests he will contend for the Nats' starting rotation. That's not an encouraging statement.

While it's true that the Nationals need starting pitching depth more than bullpen depth right now, Albaladejo stood out among all the Nats' prospects. In 14 innings with the major league club, during a September call-up, Albaladejo, struck out 12 batters, and had an ERA of 1.88. Those are special numbers, and I believed he had the potential to close games for the Nats, an important consideration given the constant trade rumors surrounding the current closer, Chad Cordero.

Of the players the Nats have given up in the past week, including Brian Schneider, Ryan Church, Gibson, and Albaladejo, I believe the one they will miss the most over the long run is Albaladejo. That's what makes it so troubling that they Nats dealt him for a questionable prospect -- one who had a great 2006 at AA, but had a miserable eyar last year, at all levels. I cannot understand how the Nats would consider him a prospect for the rotation right away. Even if he can recapture his 2006 form, Clippard is still probably a year away from being a major league starter.

Trader Jim has sure been busy, but I wish he'd slept on these last two deals another night. These were trades that did not have to be made, and probably shouldn't have been. I woke up this morning thinking about how Bowden has done such a great job completing deals that were one-sided in favor of the Nationals. I think today, Trader Jim came back to earth.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hot Damn! It's Hot Stove time! Not a moment too soon. The Nats strike while the iron is still cold....Getting super-prospect Lastings Milledge, for the streaky Ryan Church, and the anemic-hitting Brian Schneider.

What's NOT to like, or love, about this deal? Except that I'm a life-long Mets fan, and still a little conflicted when the Nats go up against them.

Church was never going to be given the chance to be a regular with the Nats, for whatever reason. On the other hand, Church killed the Mets this year -- his performance up in Shea, in September, took the division crown away from the New Yorkers. No doubt, this influenced the Mets greatly. Maybe he'll flourish up there, though he will surely still continue to strike out in many clutch situations. And maybe Schneider will regain some of the promise he had when he was picked for the USA roster at the World Baseball Classic. Mets' fans can only hope.

For the Nats, losing Schneider puts the team a little bit behind the eight-ball. He played quite nicely down the stretch -- showed off a laser rifle of an arm, and hit some, too. This deal means that Flores will stay up with the big club in '08, but it also means the Nats need to find someone else who can split the catching duties with Jesus. On the other hand, the Nats aren't going to win games without some more offense at the position than Schneider could give -- and the Nats need to be focused on 2009, and 2010, anyway.

In the meantime, as for Milledge, I see two possibilities. The Milledge trade could be preliminary to another deal -- possibly for the A's Danny Haren (the A's have been trying to pry Milledge from the Mets for years, but the teams couldn't swing the deal. If they do deal Milledge, then the Nats would continue to pursue that Japanese centerfielder. However, it's a mixed bag when you bring over a Japanese player -- you don't know what you'll be getting, especially in the beginning. Just ask the Metropolitans about Kaz Matsui. The Nats do (or did) need to find a major league centerfielder. As much as I love the idea of J-Max (Justin Maxwell), the local boy doing good, he's not ready for the bigs, yet.

So, the Nats just might hang on to Milledge. He'll flash a little leather, and bring the crowd to its feet with a few triples. Even if he takes some more time to develop his raw ability, he can contribute some excitement right away. Right now, they've got the prospect that Alex Escobar was supposed to be when he came up with the Mets...and they've got him young and healthy. So, we can forget about Escobar, let J-Max get some polish at Columbus, and focus on getting another backstop and pitching.

Forget about the stuff about Milledge's supposed character issues. In the words of Warren Zevon, he's just an excitable boy. When he started high-fiving the crowd? That was brilliant. I wish that happened more.

In two years, the Nats will be picking between Milledge, Pena, Kearns, J-Max and maybe Marrero (I guess we can't rule out Casto, either). I'd say they will be able to put together a pretty good outfield by then...and maybe, a lot sooner. If management can shape the rest of the team with the same kind of promise, the Nats will in pretty good shape.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Announcing: The Armistice Project -- In the United States, we're celebrating Veterans Day. There are ceremonies on the National Mall, most notably at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. Across the country, there are the usual parades, and the television has the usual bevy of films celebrating heroic battles, like "The Longest Day" and "We Were Soldiers." While Americans honor a holiday, American troops are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, facing the twin dangers of IEDs and ambush.

The rest of the world remembers this date in history a little differently. Across Europe, in Australia, in many other countries, today is Armistice Day. Eighty-nine years ago, the great Western powers -- the allied Entente armies of the United States, Great Britain, Italy and France, reached agreement to stop fighting with the Central powers, consisting of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman Empires. The agreed cease-fire wasn't immediate - it was scheduled to take place on this day, 89 years ago. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, the slaughter that was once called the Great War came to an end. That is the Armistice which the world remembers this day.

Eleven years from now, we will commemorate the centennial -- the 100th anniversary of that most famous cease-fire. Of course, that Armistice ended a war we now know as the First World War. At the time, the fight was described as "The War to End All Wars." Obviously, that proved to be an overly optimistic prediction, as various conflicts erupted in the late 1930s, and eventually turned into the still greater conflagration of the Second World War. Much effort has been put into avoiding a Third World War, but there have been literally hundreds of other regional conflicts in the years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought an end to that most terrible of wars.

We are still, as the NGO calls it, a World at War. By this group's count, there have been 1883 separate conflicts -- separate either in time, geography, combatants or events, just in the years since WWII ended in 1945.

Currently, according to another NGO, Ploughshares, there are currently 29 ongoing conflicts. That count is likely to hit 30 in the coming weeks, if, as expected, Ethiopia and Eritrea go to war. Even as I write this, armies are massing in that border region.

Concern about the carnage and death toll from mankind's seemingly endless series of armed conflicts is hardly a new phenomenon. As long as there has been recorded history, humans have longed for peace. The Bible speaks of a day when "they shall beat their swords into plowshares." Even governments have tried to end all war. In 1928, many nations signed on to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which called for "the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy."

As discouraging as our history of violence can be, it is important to remember that, except for those 29 conflicts (some of which are in a state of cease-fire, including most obviously, the Israel-Hezbollah war in the Lebanon border region), every war that was ever started eventually ended. From that hopeful realization, comes the dream that a global peace is possible.

Numerous organizations have dedicated themselves to the promotion of peaceful resolution of conflicts. There are so many groups, small and large in number and focus, that it is impossible to compile a comprehensive list. Notable ones include the above-mentioned Ploughshares, the Centre for Conflict Resolution, and The International Institute for Strategic Studies . Leading American groups include The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for Strategic and International Studies , and the U.S. gov't-created United States Institute of Peace.

While the above-mentioned groups represent only a small sample of NGOs focused on conflict resolution and education, any such enumeration must include the largest organization or body contributing to the furtherance and maintenance of a peaceful globe: the United Nations' Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). There are currently 20 peacekeeping operations supported by the DPKO.

The United Nations itself is actually the preeminent organization in this arena -- the promotion of peaceful diplomacy and international relations. The organization was founded in the aftermath of WWII, by the nations of a war-weary world. The very first line in the U.N. Charter declares the nations' determination "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."

Of course, the U.N. has had very mixed results in pursuing that end. In Korea and in the first Gulf War, the organization acted to authorize the member states to conduct military operations, in response to significant breaches of the peace. Sometimes, it seems, conflict is unavoidable, or at least, justified. Article I of the U.N. Charter declares the organization's purpose to "maintain international peace and security." It is understood that to achieve "that end" it is necessary "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace."

Any advocate of peace must understand that it the first principle of international law is the right of self-defense. With the advent of U.N., that right has been expanded to include the right of the organization to authorize actions in collective defense -- that is the right of nations to intervene and protect other nations, or even threatened peoples within nations. That latter principle is understood as the right of Humanitarian Intervention. However, these rights stand as exceptions to the overarching principle established with the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, that it is a grave breach of peace and a crime to wage aggressive war.

Peace is, clearly, a complicated business, and has always been achieved on a piecemeal basis. In recent years, the United Nations has been the focus of efforts to go beyond piecemeal conflict resolution. In 1981, the United Nations created a yearly event designated as International Peace Day. The UN's resolution declared
"that the third Tuesday of September, the opening day of the regular session of the General Assembly, shall be officially dedicated and observed as the International Day of Peace and shall be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples." The general concept was "to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as of the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways."

Twenty years after that resolution was first adopted, the UN amended the original resolution, by declaring that the International Day of Peace would always be September 21. The original "Third Tuesday in September" was meant to commemorate the opening of the first UN General Assembly. It was decided to fix a permanent date, rather than continue the third Tuesday tradition. Somewhat ironically, this resolution was adopted less than three weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The 2001 resolution also included an "invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day."

To date, not one nation or combatant militia group has accepted that invitation.

I believe what is lacking in this effort is the symbolism needed to coalesce vague aspirations into a concerted effort to bring about a world-wide cease-fire. I believe that the coming 100th anniversary -- the centennial observation -- of the original WWI Armistice offers the necessary symbolism. I propose an effort to call for a new United Nations' resolution, and a global coalition of committed NGOS and governments, that would call for a universal cessation of hostilities on November 11th, 2018.

It is with that belief that I have begun to organize a new NGO dedicated solely to this effort. I have dubbed the effort "The Armistice Project." Because of admittedly halted efforts, the website, and the project itself, is still very much a work in progress. I am just laying the foundations, but I am using this moment to fully dedicate myself to the realization of the project goals. I ask all those interested in getting involved to contact me. I haven't worked out all the bugs yet. There is a contact link at the project website (the link is above). However, for now, you can also write me at

Why today? It is 11 years until the centennial day. 11 years, until the world observes the 100th anniversary of the the cease-fire that began on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Today, I announce an 11 year campaign. The goals are still a bit undefined, We can work for a day-long cessation of hostilities, as the U.N. has tried to do in the past. Or we can use that day as the platform for a greater effort aimed at ending all, or as many of the ongoing conflicts, as possible. The original International Day of Peace resolution called for the U.N's Economic and Social Committee to investigate "the possibility of declaring an International Year of Peace at the first practicable opportunity." The UN's ECOSOC has not followed through on that, and the realization of that directive could also be a goal for the Project. I invite you to look at the materials on the website, Additional materials will be posted in coming days or weeks. I invite you to offer your own ideas, and to get involved.

As a species, we have scuttled the dreams of 1918. It is time to dream once again. We've got eleven years to do something really incredible. Hope you can help.

Friday, November 02, 2007

United's Future -- Now that D.C. United is out of the playoffs, it's time to ask: What's in store for this club? What goodies should we ask Santa to bring for D.C. United's fans? It is obvious that United needs to get someone up top to pair with Emilio. It would be nice to see Jaime Moreno stay on as a sub, if he is willing to take that role. Moreno would be a good late-game extra attacker, but he can no longer be one of the featured attractions.

In his Soccer Insider blog for the Washington Post, the paper's United beat reporter, Steven Goff has hinted that there are a couple of significant rumors about, which may impact the club. I would guess that one of those rumors he is hinting at is that Juan Sebastian Veron will finally sign with United, after ditching them at the altar last Spring. Given his credentials, I imagine that would be a nice addition. I think Veron and Gomez would make a nice center midfield.

Of course, that assumes Gomez stays. I am guessing the other rumor will be a loosening up of the roster rules -- either raising the cap, or allowing for two Designated Players -- so, United will be able to give Gomez the money he wants. I have read some harsh feelings here toward Gomez. I have been sharply critical all season of his effort -- and his condition. I do not think he was in shape this year. Ran out of gas almost every game. Not tonight, though. Gomez put his heart and soul in that last flurry of action. He won me back over. His free kicks weren't very good tonight, but I still hope they keep him.

D.C. United has won the Supporters Shield in two straight years, but winning the regular season doesn't really get recognized here. So, United hasn't really won anything. Still, they do have one of the best teams in the league, if not the very best. That said, there will be some changes -- because some players may want to go, and others need to be replaced. Hopefully, we will see some upgrades in the defense, and another capable striker. And maybe, Juan Sebastian Veron.

This has been...The Fisch Fry. Over and out?
Once Again, United Flops in Playoffs -- This time was a little different, though. This time, United saved its best for last, even if the team came up just short. After a ghastly defensive performance over the first 60 minutes, United put on the most furious comeback tonight. It just wasn't enough.

D.C. came into tonight's game needing to win by two goals, because they'd lost 1-0 in Chicago last week (on a boneheaded defensive play). Tonight, they couldn't finish their chances early on. Emilio floated a ball to the keeper from the top of the six. Simms somehow failed to score when the ball came to right at the doorstep. Pretty soon, United's attack started to bog down in the midfield.

You could feel the game was about to go south, when Chicago got a breakaway and a goal that nearly sank any chance of a D.C. rally. Then, a couple of minutes later, another defensive breakdown, and it was suddenly 2-0 Chicago (3-0 in the aggregate). At halftime, the small, but vocal Chicago Fire fan contingent was singing "Our House, in the middle of D.C." We were dead on our feet.

But....then like a prayer was being answered, D.C. turned it on. They'd played scared and not exactly vigorously for 60-some odd minutes. Like a switch coming on, United starting playing like a team on the brink, because they were. They got one goal, and then another. The crowd was going wild -- never has 22,000 people made so much noise. And the team was playing with more energy and abandon than I've seen in a long while. Suddenly it was 2-2, and D.C. needed just one more goal to tie the series and force an overtime period.

United almost got it, too. There was such an explosion of disbelieving joy when, over a minute into the extra time added for stoppages (the ref added four minutes), Christian Gomez ran onto a ball in the box, got around his man, and buried his shot in the corner of the goal!!! Incredibly, United had come back to force the overtime. Or had they?

For two seconds, RFK stadium was the epicenter of an earthquake -- then the referee came up and started pointing to the spot where Gomez played the ball, indicating a foul. Seems ol' Christian hit the ball with his left arm as he raced the defender for control.

There is no joy in Mudville, or Bethesda, for D.C. United, mighty, mighty D.C., two years in a row the team with the best record in the league, has once again bowed out...of the playoffs.

Now, I'm stuck with two tickets to the final here in 17 days...and it won't be United in it... I was thrilled by the comeback attempt, and United players can be proud of the way they finished -- perhaps this ending will leave a slightly better taste in their mouths than the last couple of years. Still, I am deeply disappointed that United is out of the playoffs.

The disappointment, for me, is that United won't be playing in the MLS Cup. There may be other MLS Cup finals for the club, but there will likely never be another played in RFK. Even if United is able to someday play a final at home, it will be in a much smaller facility. This was an irreplaceable moment in time, and it ends up being wasted.

My overall impressions? I only got a quick look at the play on the Jumbotron, to see if I could figure out why the goal was being waved off. By that time, I was sitting to the right of La Norte (crowd was seriously into it) -- meaning that I was about 125 yards away from the screen. Still, it looked like a handball to me -- at least enough so that I realized instantly that was the call. I didn't have a chance to determine if Gomez intentionally handled the ball or not.

Of course, goalie Troy Perkins should have been called for a penalty earlier. Fortunately, the referee ruled the foul was committed just outside the box, but the replay I saw apperaed to show it happened just inside the box. I don't know from where Perkins has suddenly picked up this habit of these half-assed challenges at the top of the box, but it is no way to play goalie. If you're going to do that stuff, you damn well better get the ball -- otherwise, get set and make yourself big. He's done this quite a bit recently, and he's getting burned more often than not.

In the end, I do not know how to feel about this game. United blew an extraordinary opportunity that may never come again for the franchise -- at least not like this -- to play in the final, in front of a huge, sellout home crowd, in the year people are actually paying a little attention. I guess the league has some integrity, because I am sure the league wanted United in the final...very, very badly.

Of course, United played like dogs for much of the first half -- after missing some good opportunities earlier, you could feel that it was about to turn ugly...and then it did.

Still, United gave us twenty of the most thrilling minutes in the history of the franchise. I do not know if they will ever match the excitement and intensity of that burst. The crowd -- no crowd has ever been louder -- we could have outshouted a full house at Wembley. I just wish the team had that intensity throughout. It's been missing for a month.

There were odd personnel moves. I don't know why Bobby Boswell was in there to start. He's been terrible all year, and tonight was no exception. I'm not clear why Marc Burch came out just before halftime. Was he beat on the goals? After the goals, he made a sparkling defensive tackle -- the first sign of life for the defense. Then, suddenly he was out, and he didn't appear injured. Without the benefit of the TV cameras and replay it's not always possible to see everything.

I guess Luciano Emilio was struggling with his injury. It seemed like coach Tommy Soehn was throwing in the towel, when he subbed out Emilio, the only guy who can score with any regularity -- even though United needed to score three goals in the last half hour. In fact, United was able to pick up its pace at that point, and began the comeback. So, that was a good move. One can't fault Soehn for giving Emilio a chance. I'm not so sure I feel the same about the Boswell start, and the Burch exit.

Oh well. I guess it's Hot Stove League time.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Al Gore's Political Capital -- Nobel Peace Prize laureate!! Al Gore is definitely riding a wave of profound personal popularity and respect, beyond anything he has achieved previously. Indeed, his current stature, in some ways, exceeds that of any other world figure, for many years -- maybe even generations. As Mr. Gore's political standing has grown, a grass-roots movement has coalesced and grown with it, over the past year, seeking to impel the former Vice-President to run, once again, for President. There is no more enthusiastic supporter for a Gore candidacy than me.

If, however, we are to believe his public pronouncements, Mr. Gore is more interested in realizing the objectives of his campaign to initiate action to reduce greenhouse gases and limit the consequences the of global warming. He claims to believe that he is not a very good politician or campaigner, but I believe he is skilled enough to realize that he has built-up enormous political capital, which is probably now at its useful peak. It is with this in mind, that I am proposing a way in which he can productively use that capital.

According to a diary on the Daily Kos site (by NY Populist), the leading organization in the Draft Al Gore movement ( has commissioned a Zogby poll to assess how Mr. Gore would fare in a contest against the Democratic primary candidates. If that poll shows Gore doing reasonably well, the pressure to mount a campaign will increase. Concomitantly, so will his ability to influence the race and the direction of U.S. policy, should Gore choose to flex his new-found political muscle.

Given her tremendous fund-raising, and ever-growing popularity, Hillary Clinton is looking like not only a formidable opponent in the Democratic primary race, but also seems increasingly likely to be the next President. Of course, it is still over a year before the actual election and several months before even the primaries, but Mrs. Clinton is a supremely skilled politician and is unlikely to commit the kind of stumble that could derail such a juggernaut.

Many of Gore's supporters, especially those on this site, believe Mr. Gore does not favor Mrs. Clinton's candidacy. Assuming that is true, Mr. Gore could decide to run himself, to oppose Mrs. Clinton. Some in the Draft Gore movement view him as the man who can wrest the nomination from Clinton. Others, myself included, hope for a Gore candidacy because of their belief in the man and his positive agenda. We wait for a sign or a pronouncement that he will heed the call.

With the primary windows starting to close, Gore's supporters need to consider the alternatives just as Gore needs to decide what he can best do to further his agenda. Because Mr. Gore's personal popularity is at a peak, the time for a decision is now, lest he squander the moment. If Mr. Gore is firm in his decision not to enter the fray on his own, then the next most obvious course of action would be to endorse one of the Democratic primary candidates.

Assuming Mr. Gore would favor a candidate other than Mrs. Clinton, the question to be asked is whether a Gore endorsement of one of the other challengers holds the potential to change the outcome of the race? That seems a highly dubious proposition, not least because Gore's endorsement did not prevent Howard Dean's campaign collapse in Iowa four years ago. The gap appears to be too wide, and it is hard to imagine that Gore's endorsement of another candidate would pull away enough votes from Mrs. Clinton to make a decisive difference.

What then is Gore to do with his substantial political capital? What good is all this political prestige he has accumulated, if he cannot act decisively to move the country in the direction he would most prefer? The answer is to ensure that Hillary Clinton moves in the directions that Al Gore demands for this country. That is where Gore can make the greatest impact.

Mr. Gore should meet with Mrs. Clinton to discuss the terms of a possible endorsement. Would Hillary Clinton be interested in such a meeting? Consider the curious result in recent polling that has her in a virtual dead heat against Giuliani, despite significant preferences for a Democratic candidate. Given that dynamic, I would think that Sen. Clinton would be anxious to rally her base.

Moreover, the Clinton campaign must be anxious about the former Vice-President's plans, since the newest polls suggest that Gore may be a more popular candidate than Senator Clinton. Until and unless Gore rules out a run of his own, Mrs. Clinton will be running in his very large shadow. Mr. Gore's early support for her candidacy could go a long way towards uniting the party behind this likely nominee. It might also influence independents to support her candidacy.

If an endorsement from Gore is strong enough and memorable enough, it might even swing over a few Republicans -- those who are disenchanted with their own party, but still hold an unfavorable image of Mrs. Clinton, formed through the prism of the years of her husband's presidency. No doubt, there are a number of Republicans who might want to atone for supporting George Bush 8 years ago. If Gore were in the race, he might get their votes. However, he might also convince them to support another Clinton, the second most obvious antidote to the Bush years. A Gore endorsement at this time would surely cause a reexamination of Mrs. Clinton, and might kick some more momentum her way. A little momentum, after all, can have a snowballing effect on a candidate's popularity.

So, Al Gore would be in a position to exert some influence on Hillary Clinton, in exchange for a ringing endorsement. Gore should extract promises from her to pursue certain objectives. He should insist that Clinton publicly commit herself to aggressively pursue the two or three major policy initiatives that Mr. Gore is most determined to see enacted into law. He should take the measure of the woman and get her to pledge on record that she will cooperate fully in his efforts to cut back on human-generated climate change. If there are other issues that he wants moved to the forefront of her agenda, he should seek to get some commitments there, as well.

Then, Gore should make a statement (sort of a "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hillary Rodham Clinton" thing) to the American people -- and I humbly suggest it should read something like this:

"My fellow Americans, I stood before you seven years ago, seeking your votes for my own candidacy to be President. A record number of Americans did give me their votes, but in the end it was George Bush that took the Oath of Office. Over these last seven years, the current Administration has governed from a blind faith in an unreasoning, deeply flawed ideology -- against all evidence, logic, science, and reason -- even against the constitutional traditions of our country. They have struggled against the laws of nature, and the laws of man. They have not changed direction even when all evidence and logic would compel any reasonable person to do so. They have ignored the lessons of their own errors, and it has cost this country deeply.

It has cost us our standing in the community of nations. It has cost us the respect that we earned over generations with our commitment to the rule of law, and our efforts to work with other nations to solve the problems that confront all of us. It has cost us lives, as thousands of brave young men and women have died for a misbegotten cause, and it has severely damaged our efforts in the struggle against the terrorists that seek to impose a totalitarian ideology upon the Islamic nations.

Perhaps most dangerously, it has cost us years that were more important then of us realized at the time, in the race to stop climate change. Many lives were lost here due to a powerful storm, and the powerlessness of the government's response, and still the dangers went unheeded. Now, leading climatologists are telling us we may already have reached the crucial tipping point. Reason tells us it is time for action -- that it has become too costly to wait any longer. Still, that is all this Administration seems intent on doing.

We cannot wait. We need action. Many Americans know this. People all around the world know this. I have spent the years since the 2000 election leading a personal campaign to increase awareness of the danger, and to insist on action. In October, the Nobel Prize committee acknowledged the seriousness of this cause by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize -- shared by the United Nations panel of committed scientists, and myself. It is, without a doubt, the greatest personal honor I could receive. However, this recognition does not mark the end of this campaign. It just makes it all the more important to seize the moment and generate the needed momentum to act.

I have just finished a very profound discussion with Senator Clinton regarding this issue and other issues that concern me today. I came to the Senator because she is in a unique position. I also came because she is one of the most talented political leaders of our time. I have the greatest respect for her husband, whose administration I was privileged to serve for eight productive years. Bill Clinton's appetite for and knowledge of issues became legendary. However, I can say that the Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, is more than his equal in this regard. There is no person more dedicated to public service, more interested in government and policy, and more committed to changing the direction of our country -- getting this country back on the track we were on 8 years ago.

I have discussed how the Senator and I can work cooperatively to promote a new agenda for this country, especially in the area of reversing climate change. She understands the importance of acting, and I am pleased by the commitments on policy that she expressed in our meeting.

I understand that a lot of people believe this is a moment of great consequence for the country and for the world. I understand why so many have rallied to insist that I enter the Democratic primary race. I am humbled and flattered by their support. I stand here today, though, to say that Senator Clinton also understands how important this moment in history really is. I stand here today to tell you I believe there is no person as prepared or as qualified to lead this country as President over the next eight years. As I stand here, I want to tell you, as well, that I believe Senator Clinton is more prepared and better qualified to be President than any candidate in a very long time. She is a skilled politician, a woman who commands respect everywhere she has been, because she is so capable, and so dedicated. She is, without a doubt in my mind, the right person for these times.

Anyone who knows her can tell you she is a woman of great personal faith. She also knows how important the office of President is, how influential. She knows that the President must demand evidence, must follow logic, and insist on the rule of law and the rule of reason. We cannot afford to have a President who insists on being unreasonable. With the problems we face today, the time is growing short to make a difference. Hillary Clinton will make a difference, and that's exactly what we need now.

I have the utmost respect for the other candidates in the race, I have worked with some of them in the Senate, and I have met the others since. I wholeheartedly support the agenda that John Edwards has been campaigning for, and he is the most forceful advocate for those issues I have ever heard. Barack Obama is an incredibly talented leader, and I am confident that voice will be among the most important of his generation and that his message of a new politics will carry the day -- his time is coming. Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson -- they are all leading lights, dedicated public servants, committed to bringing about needed changes for America.

I would gladly support any of these men, if they were to win the nomination. However, I stand here today to offer my support now to Hillary Clinton because I believe she is the right person to lead America for the next four years.

Eight years ago, I tried to offer America a choice. If I had the political skills that Senator Clinton has, I believe I would have become President. As I said, I am flattered that so many people want me to run again. I am involved in a different campaign now - maybe one that is better suited for me. It is a time for a new direction for this country and Hillary Clinton is the woman to lead us on the path."

I still hope that Al Gore will decide to run, because I believe HE is the right person for the time, the one who best understands what the next President of the United States must do. My second choice, in this regard, would be John Edwards, because I think his policy priorities are similarly well-ordered, and he has dedicated himself to the important causes. However, I expect that Al Gore will not run, and I further expect that Hillary Clinton will emerge as the Democratic nominee, regardless of any Gore endorsement. If it matters, my record's been pretty good in this regard. My first choice doesn't always come out as the nominee, but my predictions have been spot on.

I think Gore can do an awful lot of good by sitting down with Mrs. Clinton and getting some policy commitments from her. I'm not as engaged on the issues as Al Gore, obviously. I wouldn't presume to suggest what policy initiatives he deems so important he could trade his endorsement. However, I believe that, if he is not going to run, the moment is ripe for such a meeting -- it might even be imperative. This diary is offered to recommend that course of action, but only if Mr. Gore will not run himself. And, also to suggest what Mr. Gore might wish to say in such a hypothetical endorsement. That, and nothing more. That said -- I say Run, Al. Run!