Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Jonny X and the MetroStars

Ives Galarcep has an interesting article out today about Jonny Exantus, or Jonny X to his friends. The MetroStars have been training Jonny as part of their youth program and he showed himself to be a strong player on their Under-16 team.

They were so impressed with the 16-year-old's skill that they started training him with their first team. Oddly enough, he flourished. So next stop, contract and MLS play. Problem is, MLS says no.

Due to Jonny's age, he cannot be sign directly by the Metros. He will need to be signed by MLS's Generation Adidas program and then go through the draft where any team could get him.

Anyone else see a problem with this? The MetroStars paid the cost of recruited and trained him and now they might not even get a chance to use him? Same thing can happen to the three other teams with youth programs (DC, Chicago and Dallas).

These youth programs scout for young players in their local area by starting up youth leagues. They work to develop players from the ground up. They are not required to do this by the league, instead they do it because it makes sense. If you don't train players when they are young, they will not be any good when they are older. Since teams need good players to be successful, you can see the importance in this outreach.

But due to the MLS wanting to keep all teams as equal as possible, the teams that take the time, effort and money to do all this training might never benefit from it. Sure, they will benefit indirectly (the more good players out there, the stronger the league and the better the chance of keeping fans attention), but they should be able to get a direct reward for their investment.

It seems that the league is considering establishing a process that will help teams to benefit from youth clubs, but I worry this will go nowhere. Why would teams without a youth system (i.e. the majority) want to give any sort of advantage to teams with youth systems (i.e. the minority). I know this is oversimplification of MLS politics, but I think the point is valid.

If MLS allowed teams first chance at any youth players they develop, limiting it to a certain number per year, this would encourage other teams to start youth leagues. Since these leagues are in the local area of the teams, this will not only serve as a talent development pool, but also as a constant PR program. Every kid that plays has a family and fans that will come watch. If these people see a team like the MetroStars taking an interest in their son/friend, they will take more of an interest in the MetroStars.

In addition, if the MLS wants to have 16 teams by 2010, they will need to increase the amount of US talent out there. Youth programs are the way to do such a thing.

The best thing is that most areas already have some sort of youth league. A team could tap into that so as to not start from scratch.

Again, the league should not force team's to do this, they should just have a reward for those who plan for the future.

Big Sandy stadium price climbs, seating shrinks

Real (just south of Salt Lake) Sandy's new soccer stadium seems to be hitting a few snags along the way to ground breaking. First the cost is climbing. The original budget was around $60 million, however the price tag has now reached $145 million. This new figure does include some additions to the "soccer town" such as an adjacent hotel and a broadcast studio. Still, the jump in price has a few folks scratching their noggins.

The other point to look at here is the fact that they are scaling down the size of the proposed stadium from 25 to 20,000. The team feels that the market in Utah is just not strong enough to support the extra 5,000 seats. However, one has to wonder if this might prevent the stadium from host international games or traveling club events. Just for a comparison, here are the current sitting capacities of various MLS stadiums:

Columbus Crew Stadium: 22,555
Home Depot Center: 27,000
Pizza Hut Park: 21,193
Bridgeview (opening this summer): 20,000

As you can see, the new seating capacity will put it in last place, tied with the new field in the Chicago area. Since traveling teams come to America to make money, it is not that difficult to think that they might want to go to stadiums that can hold more people. By scaling back, RSL might be handicapping their ability to get events such as these.

However, the trade off is they have fewer seats to sell for MLS matches, thus a greater chance of making money off the matches. I can't image that those extra 5,000 seats would be filled that often during the team's regular season, thus it will cut into their profit to have them around.

On the funding side of things, RSL has asked for $45 million in help from the county. The funding for this would come from removing the sunset clause from a 1.25% hotel tax that was approved last year by the state. The clause had called for .25% of the tax to set in 4 years with the other 1% going away after 10 years. RSL spokesman Josh Ewing said, "It fits with what [team owner] Dave Checketts has said, that we will not create a new burden on the Utah taxpayer. It's not a new or increased tax. It's a tax that's already implemented and the sunset would be removed." It's an interesting approach to the idea.

All this money would go to buying the land, improving infrastructure and providing parking, while RSL would cover the $70 million to build the stadium.

So it looks like RSL's stadium hinges on the Republican controlled state house to get rid of a sunset clause on a tax. I point this out not to get into the politics of Utah, but just to illustrate how difficult of a situation this might just be. Asking the city to cover expenses related to infrastructure and help with the land while not asking them to build the stadium makes sense to me. I feel this story is going to get a lot more interesting the longer it goes on.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Mr. Saturday Night Fever to fly Socceroos to World Cup

In a very odd cross over of marketing and, well, just marketing, actor John Travolta is set to fly Australia's national team to Germany this summer. Travolta is a pitchman for the Socceroos' sponsor Qantas Airways.

I don't know why, but this just seems silly. I know he is a full-blown pilot (he actually has a landing strip at his house), but this is a little overboard. Best of luck to them and maybe he can show them how to dance during the flight.

US National's to play Honduras in Cary, NC?

A great hat tip to reader Jarrett of TriSoccerFan blog for catching a great nugget by Chris Economides on the Kick This! Soccer Show out of Rochester, NY. It seems that the new majority owner of the USL Cary soccer team let it slip that the US will be playing Honduras in Cary come April. He said that we should expect a major announcement from US Soccer soon (this is at about the 10 minute point in the show - link is to a windows media player file).

The stadium in Cary seats about 7,000, so this would be a big thing to pull off for the city and the new USL franchise. Something else Economides goes on to talk about is the support of the local elected officials in making everything happen. If Cary keeps on this path they might soon be able to claim the title of 'Soccer Capital of the US.'

You can read more about why this event will not take place in Alabama as originally planned here.

Update: I want to stress that Jarrett of TriSoccerFan is not saying that this will happen, but Chris Economides does make it sound very likely in the interview.

US trash Norway 5-0; Twellman finally comes to life

This is the type of game you always hope the national team will play. In just about every area of play, they were fantastic. They held possession, they made wonderful one touch passes, they took shots, they shut down the counterattack and controlled the flow of the game for the full 90-minutes. Excellent job all around.

Of course the star of the game was Taylor Twellman (pictured) who finally did in international play what he so often does in domestic play. His first goal showed how far he has come with his international training. He knocked down a pass in the box, but it was not a great first touch. However, he still went for the shot. The Twellman of old would have tried for a second touch in order to get full control before attempting a shot. Had he done this, the keeper would have been in better position and a defender or two would have been on him. Instead, he went for the shot and got net. This is what you need to see from a forward.

Twellman's hat-track was a great accomplishment, but he also showed his other great asset, his ability to take part in the defense. On multiple occasions Twellman was back on the US side stopping any attempt Norway made at a counterattack. With only 23 players going to Germany for the US, you want to show that you can play your position, but you also want to show that you can affect events elsewhere on the field. This is a difficult thing to balance (if you play too much out of position, then you might not be there when you are needed), but Twellman handled it smashingly yesterday.

The Bruce seemed to take notice. "All three goals were great, and he also at one point in the first half made a great play defensively. Taylor's getting used to what we ask of our forwards, and I think he played well. It was a good performance. What can you say, three goals is three goals."

Twellman should be feeling happy today, but he better not rest on this one game. He now has the eye of the coach, but I don't think he has his ticket just yet. He needs to shine against Japan on the 10th and/or Guatemala on the 19th to prove that this was not just a one time showing.

Landon Donovan proved yet again how important he is to the US. The way that he controlled the flow of balls up front and applied full disruption of Norway's offense was nothing short of amazing. He did not get a goal (I think he only had one shot, but I might be wrong with that number), but he setup the goals. He was great at moving the ball around and finding the holes.

However, Donovan was foolish after he was spit upon by Magne Hoset in the 70th. When he went up and poked the ref with his finger, I just about fell over. You NEVER touch a ref. NEVER. Getting spit on is horrible and Donovan was right to be upset about it, but getting a card over it is stupid. Take that anger and use it on the field, not on the official.

If Twellman was making his case for being one of the new guys in Germany then Eddie Pope made his case for being one of the older ones. Yes he got a goal in the 67th, which was a nice present for his 75th US cap, but his real skill was shown on the backline. The handful of times that Norway was able to get the ball in the US half, it was usually Pope that shut them down. This is no surprise for anyone who has watched Pope over the years, but at 32-years of age, there has been a lot of talk about him being too old for the team.

All and all, everyone out on the pitch looked great. I think the person who had the 'worse' night for the US was goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. He was not really tested during the match. There wasn't even one break away by Norway that required a big save. With this lack of action and the fact that he looked just a bit shaky the first couple times the ball came into the area, I think his odds of making it to Germany went from 'not unless about 3 others get hurt' to 'not unless 5 others get hurt.'

Norway did not look good anywhere except for one player. Defender Brede Hangeland was constantly causing disruption to the US attack. I know it is strange to point out a defender for doing a good job in a match where his team lost 5-0, but I think the score would have been even worse if not for Hangeland. The problem for him was he would break something up and try to clear only to have the US get the ball right back and bring another wave of attack. When 75% or so of the game is played in your half, it's hard not to lose big.

So the US made it happen and erased the game against Canada from our memories. They played the whole field for the whole 90. I was concerned that, like so many other games, they would slow down after the first 20-minutes, but that did not happen. Everyone was clicking and that made for some outstanding soccer. Great show all around.

But let's step back from the field for just a moment and talk about ESPN announcer Dave O'Brien. Yesterday's game was his first in the booth. Seeing as he will be the 'voice' of US soccer during the World Cup, I would like to give my thoughts on his inaugural cap.

All and all, it was a good performance. There were only a few moments of long dead time and his knowledge of soccer terms is very good (no more "and he's going deep" type calls is a good thing). He also seems to know a lot about the players. Although very little of what he said is news to hardcore US soccer fans, for those new to the sport, it is very useful. Still, I think his talk about the 'off the pitch' activities of the players got a bit boring at times. It seemed like every third comment was something involving surfing. Great, they do more then just play soccer (Clint Dempsey is a rapper), but maybe explaining their style of play a little more might help out.

Also, it is obvious O'Brien has done a lot of baseball announcing. I say this because the emotion in his voice is very slow to rise (like a homerun ball arching over the field and into the bleachers). I'm not asking for crazy screaming whenever the ball is getting near goal, but the flat monotone is a little anti-climatic. He needs to be quicker with his tempo and go up a few notes when events are taking place in front of goal or when there is a breakaway. This sucks people and gets the heart pounding. Still, it was a very good first effort and I look forward to hearing more.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

US roster for Norway

The US men will take on Norway in just 20-minutes. Here is Bruce Arena's starting lineup.

Goal: Kevin Hartman

Defense: Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Pope, Jimmy Conrad, Todd Dunivant

Midfield: Clint Dempsey, Kerry Zavagnin, Landon Donovan, Pat Noonan

Forward: Taylor Twellman, Josh Wolff

Good to see the more traditional 4-4-2 back in place. Also interesting to see Hartman get his chance at goal.

Here are the listed subs: Brian Ching (F), Ben Olsen (M), Chris Klein (M), Matt Reis (GK), Santino Quaranta (M), Nate Jaqua (F), Ugo Ihemelu (D).

Norway's lineup

Goal: Espen Johnsen

Defense: Steinar Pedersen, Frode Kippe, Brede Hangeland, Erlend Hanstveit

Midfield: Henning Hauger, Petter Rudi, Stian Ohr, Tomasz Sokolowski

Forward: Ole Martin Arst, Petter Vaagan Moen

Subs: Larsen (GK), Storbaek (D), Bertelsen (D), Kvisvik (M), Hoset (M), Valencia (M), Olsen (F)

The game starts at 5pm EST on ESPN 2. You can also follow it on US Soccer's match tracker.

If you are looking for the actual US World Cup roster, look here.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

US Men vs Norway

The US men continue their warm up for the Cup tomorrow afternoon when they take on the folks from Norway. With all hope, this will be a much more interesting outing then their one last week. If the US plays like they did then, they will not walk out with a tie.

Anyway, 18 players will make it to the game in US jerseys; hopefully one of them will be Eddie Johnson. He is still listed as day-to-day due to the right calf contusion he suffered during last week's game. If he misses this game, it will not be that big, but after his long time off due to toe problems, I would like to see him getting as many minutes as he can.

The game also looks to be a milestone moment for two of America's stars. Both, recently engaged, Landon Donovan and defender Eddie Pope will get their 75th cap on the national team. They join on 21 other US players to play in 75 or more games, but there are only 6 other defenders to get the many caps.

"It's amazing to me that I've come this far," the 32-year-old Pope said. "I never would have thought that I would've played this many games for the national team, being a country boy from North Carolina."

Pope's career began inadvertently. He said when he was about 5 or 6, he wanted to play football in a recreational program in his home of High Point, N.C.

"But they didn't have my age group yet," Pope said. "The only thing they had left was soccer. So my parents said, 'Well, do you want to try to play soccer?' I was like, 'No, I want to play football.' I was kind of stuck on that. Then I said, 'Fine, I'll try it and see if I like it.'"

This game will also see Dave O'Brien get his first short at announcing a soccer game for ESPN. He will be the main guy for the channel in Germany, so the pressure is on.

When O'Brien was hired on by the channel he asked for the Cup gig because he loves the beautiful game.

"I played all through high school in New England, then club stuff in college and in summer leagues. I was a spirited, tackling midfielder in school ... and way back then could run all day. I just didn't have any idea what to do when I got there."

Let's hope he brings something exciting to the broadcast booth.

US vs Norway
5pm EST

Fake turf in, US Men out

A little while back I noted that the proposed US-Honduras match on April 11th might not happen in Birmingham, Alabama, if they did not meet US soccer's demands to keep a real grass field for the match.

The Birmingham Parks and Recreation Board could not agree to delay the insulation of fake grass because they would not know till some time in February what the delay in installation would cost. Since the US needed a decision by Friday, the board had to say no.

The U.S. Men's and Women's National Teams have played at Legion Field several times dating to 1996, including five times in the past six years. Each of these matches brought national television coverage and generated an economic impact of $3 million to $5 million, according to the foundation.

A rep from the federation said that the installation might not mean that future international matches will never find their way back to Birmingham saying that artificial turf might be something that soccer wants to use down the road. However, University of Alabama at Birmingham soccer coach had one of the best remarks about such an idea that I have ever heard. "I think it will happen somewhere around the Year 3050," he said. "Before that time, I don't think anybody would choose it over a good grass surface."

So cross Birmingham off the list of possible big name soccer sites in the US for about a millennium.

US Soccer.com redesign

So I go to look at US Soccer this morning and to my surprise I see they have redesigned their site. All and all, I like the new look. It is nothing really innovated or new to the world of the web, but I think it looks a lot more interesting and up-to-date then the old site. Still, it seems a little wide to me. It appears to have four different columns, which seems a little busy to my eye.

However, I think this design will work well with the increase in traffic I'm sure it will get as June comes closer and closer.

By the way, I like the countdown clock to the nest US match at the top of the site. Also, I like that video is present on the front page, but again, it being in the fourth column seems a bit much. Also, it would be great if you could download the video for play on say a video iPod.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Canada scores in 4 seconds; Toronto to host big final in 2007

Canadian soccer seems to be heading to the record books thanks to Kara Lang (pictured). The 19-year-old scored a goal four seconds into their game against Mexico. Four seconds!

"Jodi-Ann Robinson tapped the ball to Lang at the opening kickoff and Lang hoofed it 50 yards down the field - and over the Mexican goalie's head."

This appears to be the quickest goal scored where there is proof (video) of it happening. By the way, Lang plays her college games for UCLA.

In other news, Toronto will host the final match of the 2007 Under-20 World Championship. Toronto beat out Edmonton for the honor. This game will be watch by about 800 million people worldwide.

Needless to say, folks in Edmonton are a little confused by the choice. They don't understand why the game would go to a city with a 20,000-seat stadium when their filed (Commonwealth Stadium) can hold 50,000.

Anyway, the final will be at the same stadium that will be the home to the Toronto MLS team.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

MLS Supplemental Draft is over

MLS teams continued to add to their lineups today with the supplemental draft. Players not drafted last Friday or whom teams nominated were eligible for this draft.

Here are the team-by-team results:

Chicago Fire (5): M Floyd Franks (North Carolina -Charlotte); D Dasan Robinson (Dayton); D Ezra Prendergast (Syracuse); D Idris Ughiovhe (Howard); F Richar Mupfudze (Western Kentucky).

Chivas USA (3): F Drew Helm (Florida Atlantic); M Darren Spicer (Princeton); M Lawson Vaughn (Tulsa).

Colorado Rapids (4): D Jordan Harvey (UCLA); D Liam Girrard (Denver); M Keith Cauldwell (Brown); M/D Daniel Wasson (Tulsa).

Columbus Crew (3): GK Andy Gruenebaum (Kentucky); M David Chun (Southern Methodist); F Ivan Beccera (California - Santa Barbara);

D.C. United (2): F Andy Metcalf (Memphis); D Devon McTavish (West Virginia).

FC Dallas (5): F Christopher Joyce (Franklin Pierce); D Miguel Guante (Portland); M/F Brad Napper (Northwestern); M Sean Babcock (Portland); F Peter Louis (Coastal Carolina).

Houston 1836 (4): M Mpho Moloi (Connecticut); F Hector Guzman (Santa Clara); F Tony Donatelli (Temple); F Josh Fender (West Texas A&M).

Kansas City Wizards (5): D Anthony Noriega (George Mason); M/F Ryan McMahen (Michigan State); D Cory Farabi (Drake); M Chris Hamberger (Drake); M Luke Enna (University of Tampa).

Los Angeles Galaxy (5): D Trevor McEachron (Old Dominion); M/F Dan Paladini (Cal-State Northridge); M/F Armando Melendez (Loyola Marymount); F Matt Couch (San Diego State).

MetroStars (4): M Joseph Vide (Virginia); GK Pete Dzubay (Michigan); F Brian Cvilikas (Old Dominion); M Brian Devlin (Penn St.).

New England Revolution (4): M Matt Wieland (Creighton); D John Queeley (North Carolina State); M Adam Williamson (Lehigh); D Danny Wynn (St. Louis).

Real Salt Lake (4): F Jeff Rowland (New Mexico); D Willis Forko (Connecticut); GK Chase Harrison (Virginia Tech); D Chris Lancos (Maryland).

I don't know a lot about these guys, but I think Joseph Vide is a good pickup for the Metrostars. Real got a good forward with Jeff Rowland (he was a 2005 Hermann Trophy finalist) and Colorado picked up a strong defender (and US Youth Nation team member) with Jordan Harvey (pictured).

Update: I just noticed that LA took Trevor McEachron with their first round pick. It took me awhile to remember the name, but then it hit me. He was a great defender for Old Dominion University till an injury almost ended his playing days (I think this was in 2003, but might have been 2004). I'm glad someone is giving him a chance.

Poor showing by Mexico, but they still beat Norway

El Tri had a rough time of it last night, but they still found a way to beat Norway. If any Group D teams were watching, they saw a big way to shut the team down. Norway's physical style of play force Mexico to play long balls over the top. Mexico is not so great at such things. This helped Norway take an early lead and almost allowed them to get a couple more goals in the second half. However, Mexico was strong (and lucky) enough to withstand the second half attack by Norway and find a second late goal (87th minute).

The mood for Mexico was a little down after the game. It should not have been that hard for them. Even the return of star forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco (who looked very good in the first half) didn't seem to brighten the night. Still, a win is a win.

The US men will get their chance at Norway on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how the red, white and blue do in comparison.


Clubs to lose points for racist actions

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has put forth another idea for fighting the racist actions of players and fans. He feels that fines are not working so he would like to see clubs penalized in the standings.

"I am so disappointed. It is a shame for football that in the year 2006, you still have racism." "The only way to fight this is to do exactly what we have done when it came to violence," Blatter said. "We have to take away the points because it happens in those leagues where the money is sufficient so, even if you gave a fine of $100,000, it would be paid the next day. That does not change the attitude, so you have to go into a sporting sanction."

I think it is disgusting that racism is still alive and well in soccer or any other part of life, but I am concerned about this proposal.

There are really two parts to this idea A) racist actions undertaken by players and B) racist actions undertaken by fans.

My concern is with policing this policy. Racist actions by players are pretty easy to sort out. They are known and the focus of events, but I still think any rule would have to be very well defined. I would hate to see someone do something stupid but not intended as racist (act like cockroaches after scoring a goal) only to have someone else claim that that was a racist slur against them. Still, I think this one is easy enough to work out proved it is defined and used equally across leagues regardless of their status.

As far as fans, this gets a little harder. If one idiot yells something stupid, is that enough to invoke the rule? If the team has that fan removed from the stadium, does that cancel any action? What if the remark is made in the final moments of a match and the team doesn't have time to get the fool out before the final whistle is blown? What if a group of fans from some other team show up at a match just to say idiotic things in the hopes of getting points taken away from this club?

I'm sure that these things could be figured out, but again, it would have to be well defined and used equally no matter what team is responsible.

Ultimately, you cannot legislate away racism. I think you can educate away, but I don't think he can enact a rule to end an idea. If someone is going to hate just because (fill in blank here), then they are going to hate.

What this rule might be able to do is cut down on certain chants that fans use that are smothered in racism. These chants are often used not because the people who are currently saying them are racists, but instead they are used because of their historical attachment to the club (otherwise known as tradition). Does that make it right? In my opinion, no. If this rule is going after those types of actions, I think it could work because it is easier to stop something like that (large scale, ie a whole stadium chanting).

So to sum up my ramble, this is an interesting idea and I'm glad to see people looking at the problem. However, I hope that any rule is thought out enough to make it worthwhile and not cause a backlash.

Cary, North Carolina gets USL First Division team

Cary, North Carolina got some more great soccer news today. Just a week after it was announced that the US men will hold their final pre-World Cup training camp in the city, word comes that they will also get a United Soccer League (USL) First Division team starting in 2007.

The team will hold a public naming contest (how about Cary 1854). A New York-based ownership group will own them.

It's great to see soccer on the mover in the South. Perhaps MLS will one day find its way into the region (I'm not talking about Florida here).

By the way, negotiations for the agreement moved ahead after the July 2005 exhibition game between the Rochester Raging Rhinos and DC United was a huge success.

I think the last pro team Cary had was the WUSA's Carolina Courage.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Houston has a name

Story updated here and here.

The votes are in and the folks have spoken, the former San Jose Earthquakes are now Houston 1836.

When you looked at the list of names from which to pick, 1836 seemed like the obvious winner. I mean we have a Real, a FC and a United, so we need a year to make the European feel complete (that or the Rovers).

Personally, I like the name. I know more then a few people will gripe about the 1836 being bastardized from its European roots (over then, years mark the founding of the team, not the start of the city), but who cares. If Dallas can call itself Football Club Dallas when it plays soccer, then are we really going to argue over what some numbers mean? Also, this will allow a nickname to develop from the fans.

Now it would have been fun if "Gatos" had won, but I guess there are just not enough fans of Spanish cats to make that happen.

The official word will come at a 2pm CST press conference.

By the way, here is the logo that is floating around the internet. It seems it was up on the MLS site for a short period this morning. However, you might want to wait and see as folks have been fooled before.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hunt for England's next national coach - US should be watching

Now that current English coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has admitted that he will be leaving the post after the World Cup, the fury over who will take the reigns next has begun. It is always interesting to watch a national side pick a coach, but what makes this one a little more interesting to me is that, with all odds, America will be doing the same thing around August.

Bruce Arena’s time at the top is probably coming to a close. If the Bruce puts in a good showing at this Cup, European clubs will probably make him some good offers. If he doesn't do so great, US soccer will want to bring in some new blood. Please don't take this as a hit against Bruce, I think he has been great, but things have changed since he took over after the '98 smack down.

When he was hired, he was a small name coach. Yes, he had done some great things at DC United, but he was not really known much outside of the states (just for the records, he had coached 18-years at the University of Virginia and coached the U-23 men during the early to mid 90's, which included the '96 Olympics). Let's face it, the job of US coach in 1998 was not that glamorous of an offering.

Under Bruce the US has blossomed. He has really turned the team around and the world has noticed. If he can show that 2002 was not a one off, he will be in demand. If he doesn't prove that, then he might just be looked at as the person that took the team out of the crapper, but someone else is needed to get them into the fancy dinning room (does that analogy work?).

Anyway, enough about the post-Arena world, we will deal with that later. Here are the five coaches The Guardian newspaper of London says are in the running to replace Sven (along with the odds the paper gives on them getting the job).

Steve McClaren
Possibility: 7/10 Odds: 5-2

Martin O'Neill
Possibility: 7/10 Odds: 10-1

Sam Allardyce
Possibility: 5/10 Odds: 11-2

Guus Hiddink
Possibility: 6/10 Odds: 6-1

Alan Curbishley
Possibility: 3/10 Odds: 11-2

After getting Holland ('98) and South Korea ('02) to the semis and guiding Australia to their first Cup since the 70's, I get the feeling Guss Hiddink is on everyone's short list for national coach. Russia has shown an interest, but I wonder if he would go for England. He seems to like to take teams that are so-so and make them into something. Say what you will about England, but their team is not a 'so-so' team.

Old news is still news: US 0 - Canada 0

I have been unable to add anything to this blog for about 40 hours, so I do apologize for the lateness of this 'breaking' story, but the US and Canada ended up knotted at 0 on Sunday night. From what I saw (match tracker) of the game and what I have read since, I don't think we missed much by not having it on television.

I must say when I read on the match tracker, "Johnson is down on the ground near midfield. He is taken off the field...", I thought, "oh crap, Johnson's going to be out three more months. No World Cup for him." But thankfully word came yesterday that, "an MRI exam did not find anything serious." There is a chance he might be back on the field for this Sunday's match against Norway.

Relief fills my body, even if only for a little while.

Of course the big story that came out of the game was the cap for Freddy Adu (pictured). The fact that this only happened because Johnson got hurt is just a minor diversion from the excitement. However, if Adu was looking to impress the Bruce in hopes of making it to Germany, a quick dive and yellow card for such a dive is not the best way to stand out.

Still, it's good that Adu got capped. If he hadn't, what would the papers have wrote about? "The US plays a very uneventful match." This would have been a much better headline.

Actually, they probably would have focused on Landon Donovan's post match remarks.

"(Canada was) very good," Donovan assessed. "They looked like they were the ones going to a World Cup, fighting for (roster) spots. Give them credit. They did things, and they adjusted and made the changes they needed to."

"During the game, we had a bunch of times to talk about it and figure things out, and the players, we didn't figure it out, and we expect more than that."

"We played an awful game. I'm disappointed in a lot of performances, I would say. But I think we need to understand that this is a World Cup year and for a lot of people, this is their last chance. If you're not smart enough to realize that, that's not good.

"I expect more, frankly, but we'll get better."

It would seem that most of the fans in attendance agreed with Donovan since they booed the team off the field.

I'm glad the US changed up their formation to 4-3-3. I don't think this is what we will see a lot (if at all) in Germany, but it is something you should practice.

Also, Matt Reis should some good work in goal. Nothing the difficult was thrown at him, but he was good nonetheless.

You can watch match highlights here.

Dallas area to host Mexico and Ghana match

FC Dallas officials have confirmed that Mexico and Ghana will play on the $85 million field in Frisco, Texas, on March 1. This is seen as a bit of a coup for FC Dallas, as Mexico was also looking at the Cotton Bowl (located in downtown Dallas) as host. The Cotton Bowl can seat 45,000 while FCD's Pizza Hut Park holds about half that number at 23,000.

FC Dallas general manager Michael Hitchcock helped sell SUM (Soccer United Marketing, an MLS partner that controls the U.S. rights to Mexican matches) on the idea of having the match in Frisco by promising a better, more highly charged atmosphere inside the cozy stadium.

Of course it will be fun to see Mexico in action, but for US fans attention will focus more on the other side of the ticket. Ghana is a team the US will see in their third World Cup group match, which might end up being a must win game for the US to advance. Also, since this is the only official FIFA international play date set between now and the start of the World Cup, both teams should have their full rosters on the pitch.

It should be a good showing of what both teams will do in Germany.

By the way, this marks the second big international match FC Dallas has landed. On February 19th, the US will play Guatemala at the Park. I guess the decision to build a first class soccer stadium is starting to pay off.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

The US - Canada match

The US men start their 2006 action tonight with a game against Canada. The game will not be televised, but you can watch it via US Soccer's match tracker or listen to it live here (will open Windows Media Player).

The game will begin at 5pm PST (8pm EST).

Here is the starting 11:
Matt Reis, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Pope, Jimmy Conrad, Heath Pearce, Ben Olsen, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Taylor Twellman, Brian Ching, Josh Wolff

US Women win Four Nations Title

For the fourth time, the US Women are champs of the Four Nations Tournament. Coming into the match today, all China had to do to win the title was tie the US, however US captain Kristine Lilly (pictured - left) would not let that happen.

The women kept China from gaining any momentum by shutting their offense down. China could punch no holes in America's back line, causing frustration to set it.

The US earned a penalty kick in the 23rd minute off of a corner. Lilly sent the kick in, but Abby Wambach was being held by the Chinese defense, thus being prevented from taking part in the play. The ref called the foul and pointed to the spot. The Chinese were not happy, but that didn't change the call.

Lilly took the pk and sailed it into the lower right corner of the net for the first goal of the night. But that lone goal would not stand for long.

The second goal came in the 41st when Christie Welsh put a pass over the Chinese backline that Lilly ran into. Lilly then beat a defender and lifted the bouncing ball over the keeper’s head and into goal.

The US had several other chances during the second half but was unable to finish them.

In the other match of the day, France and Norway tied 1 each.

Here is the final table:
Team - Pts
USA - 7
China - 4
France - 3
Norway - 1

Here are the 2006 Four Nations Tournament Awards:
Best Coach: Greg Ryan, USA
Best Player: Kristine Lilly, USA
Top Scorer: Kristine Lilly, USA (3 goals)
Best Goalkeeper: Hope Solo (pictured - right), USA


Friday, January 20, 2006

US women tie France

The US women played their second match in the Four Nations Tournament today and tied France 0-0. Obviously, it was a defensive affair.

France had a few good counter-attacks, but for the most part the US kept them in check. On the other side of the field, the US spent large amounts of time in France's territory, but could find few openings.

The USA’s best chance of the game came in the 84th minute as Wambach flicked a long ball onto Lilly inside the penalty box and the midfielder squeezed past a defender. She shot with her left foot as she fell away from the goal from 12 yards out, but the ball trickled wide, just inches outside the right post.

In the other match, China beat Norway 3-1. Here is the table:

China - 4 pts
USA - 4 pts
France - 2 pts
Norway - 0 pts

China is in first due to goals scored.

The US has a chance of winning the tournament when they play China on Sunday. However, if China and the US tie, France has a chance of winning provided they beat Norway by more then two goals. If France does not do this and China ties the US, they will win the tournament.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

The story of US - Honduras and artificial turf

A proposed US - Honduras World Cup warm up match might not happen unless an agreement over artificial turf can be reached.

The Birmingham, Alabama City Council last fall approved $778,160 for an artificial turf, replacing the natural grass that was installed for Olympic soccer in 1996.

The match is tentatively set for April 11th, but the installation was supposed to begin before that date. If this match is going to move forward, someone will have to pay the extra cost of delaying the installation. With this in mind, the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board on Wednesday offered a contract to the Alabama Sports Foundation that agreed to delay installing artificial turf at Legion Field until after the game. A park board consultant estimated that installation costs could rise as much as 5 percent with increases in costs of equipment, fuel and labor.

"The ball's in their court," said Park and Recreation Director Melvin Miller, of the ASF. "We'll hear what they have to say."

Whatever ends up happening, a choice has to be made soon. I'm sure the US is busy trying to line up their final list of games and if they do not hear from Birmingham soon, they will have no other choice then to find a new location.

Jon Stewart to get soccer award

Philadelphia is going to be a very busy soccer town this weekend. Not only will they have the SuperDraft, the will also host the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's 59th annual meeting.

During this meeting they will give The Daily Show's and 2006 Oscars' host Jon Stewart (pictured an honorary all-American award. Stewart played soccer during his college years at William and Mary where an award titled the "Leibo" is now given out annually in honor of Stewart. It is given to the member of the men's soccer team who experiences the most personal growth and provides the most laughs for his teammates.

Perhaps US Soccer should try and talk Stewart into giving some commentary during the World Cup.

MLS releases the list for the SuperDraft

Just a little while ago the MLS released the list of 121 people that are elegable for tomorrows SuperDraft. The draft will start at noon in Philadelphia. Fox Soccer Channel will broadcast it live.

Just a reminder that generation adidas players do not count against the MLS senior roster.

Anyway, here is the list:

Position - Name - School
M Langner, Thimo Birmingham Southern College
F Dietz, Karim Birmingham Southern College
GK Dunsheath, Chris Bradley University
M Cauldwell, Keith Brown University
D Mariscalso, John Butler University

F Kamara, Kei Cal State - Dominguez Hills (Gen adidas)
F Sims, Willie Cal State – Northridge (Gen adidas)
M/F Paladini, Dan Cal State - Northridge
D/M Moore, Justin Clemson University
D Sturgis, Nathan Clemson, U.S. U-20 Nat Team (Gen adidas)

F Louis, Peter Coastal Carolina University
M Wieland, Matt Creighton University
M/F Nance, Darnell Dartmouth College
D/M Scheufele, P.J. Dartmouth College
D Girrard, Liam Denver University

D Farabi, Cory Drake University
M Camp, Blake Duke University
M/F Kramer, Danny Duke University
F Klatter, Jimmy Eastern Illinois University
M/F Gottesman, Naday Fairleigh Dickinson University

F Joyce, Christopher Franklin Pierce - DII
GK Clark, Nick Ft. Lewis College - Div II
D Eisenbraun, Bryan Ft. Lewis College - Div II
M/F Sweetser, Cole Ft. Lewis College - Div II
D Noriega, Anthony George Mason University

D Curtin, Jeff Georgetown University
F Altidore, Josmer IMG Academy, U.S. U-17 Nat Team (Gen adidas)
M Wagner, Blake IMG Academy, U.S. U-17 Nat Team (Gen adidas)
D Zayner, Jed Indiana University (Gen adidas)
F/M Ambersley, Mike Indiana University

M Plotkin, Brian Indiana University
F Peterson, Jacob Indiana University, U.S. U-20 Nat Team (Gen adidas)
M/F Melendez, Armando Loyola Marymount University
M Zarzezki, Lee Loyola University Chicago
D Ashe, Jeremy Marshall University

F King, Aaron North Carolina State University
D Queeley, John North Carolina State University
GK Burse, Ray Ohio State University
D Veris, Kyle Ohio State University
M Martin, Ryan Ohio Wesleyan University

F Civilikas, Brian Old Dominion University
D McEachron, Trevor Old Dominion University
M Flor, Jorge Oral Roberts University
F Leung, David Oral Roberts University
F Johnson, Ryan Oregon State University

F Movsisyan, Yura Pasadena City College
M Devlin, Brian Penn State University
M Walters, David Penn State University
M Spicer, Darren Princeton University
F Berg, Cody Regis University

F Couch, Matt San Diego State University
F Craeger, Heath San Diego State University
F Guzman, Hector Santa Clara University
F Igwe, Kelechi Santa Clara University
M Ballouchy, Mehdi Santa Clara, Moroccan U-17 Nat Team

M Kljestan, Sacha Seton Hall, U.S. U-20 Nat Team (Gen adidas)
D Russolillo, Jordan Southern Connecticut State Univ - DII
M Chun, David Southern Methodist University
F Hashimoto, Duke Southern Methodist University
M Carroll, Jeff St. Johns University

F Groenwald, Matt St. John's University
F Schmid, Andre St. John's University
D Wynn, Danny St. Louis University
M/F McKee, Cooper Stanford University
F Megaloudis, Christopher Stony Brook University

M Narvaez, Douglas Stony Brook University
F Donatelli, Tony Temple University
F Bornstein, Jonathan UCLA
D Harvey, Jordan UCLA
M Ianni, Patrick UCLA, U.S. U-20 Nat Team (Gen adidas)

D Wynne, Marvell UCLA, U.S. U-20 Nat Team (Gen adidas)
M Mauger, Yohann University of Akron
F McKenzie, Ross University of Akron
F Hughes, Maurice University of Alabama - Birmingham
M Oliveira, Leandro de University of Alabama - Birmingham

F Berger, Pieter University of California
F Carr, Calen University of California
GK Kronberg, Eric University of California
D Wahl, Tyson University of California
D Forko, Willis University of Connecticut

M Moloi, Mpho University of Connecticut
GK Schuerman, Adam University of Connecticut
Brown, Drew University of Conneticut
M Alvino, Terry University of Dayton
F Jarun, Omar University of Dayton

D Robinson, Dasan University of Dayton
GK Carr, Ryan University of Hartford
GK Gruenebaum, Andy University of Kentucky
D Bertz, Kenny University of Maryland
F Burch, Marc University of Maryland

D Dello-Russo, Michael University of Maryland
F Garey, Jason University of Maryland
D Lancos, Chris University of Maryland
M Lamy, Craig University of Massachusetts-Lowell
M/F O'Brien, Dayton University of Memphis

M Bruh, Adam University of Michigan
GK Dzubay, Pete University of Michigan
D Brown, Josh University of New Mexico
M Moss, Brandon University of New Mexico
F Rowland, Jeff University of New Mexico

M Watson, Lance University of New Mexico
M McCarty, Dax University of North Carolina, U-18 Nat (Gen adidas)
M Franks, Floyd University of North Carolina -Charlotte
M Babcock, Sean University of Portland
D Guante, Miguel University of Portland

D Auilar, Luis University of San Francisco
D Reece,Greg University of South Carolina
M Alcala, Josh University of Southern California
F Brown, Kyle University of Tulsa
M Vaughn, Lawson University of Tulsa

M/D Wasson, Daniel University of Tulsa
M Chabala, Mike University of Washington
GK Eylander, Chris University of Washington
M/F McTavish, Devon University of West Virginia
F Dychenko, Rod UNLV

F Krause, John Vanderbilt University
F Oduro, Dominic Virginia Commonwealth University
D Shirley, Stephen Virginia Commonwealth University
M Moose, Justin Wake Forest University
F Fender, Josh West Texas A&M University
GK Armington, Nick Williams College

Pro Women's soccer looking to return in 2007

Professional women's soccer is hoping to make a return to the USA in 2007. The group trying to make this happen is Women's Soccer Initiative Inc. (WSII). Tonya Antonucci, a former Stanford teammate of ex-national team captain Julie Foudy, heads this group. Antonucci also was an assistant coach at Stanford and Santa Clara and then spent 10 years working as an executive for Yahoo, the Internet giant.

The WSII was formed in December 2004; a year after the first US women's went bust.

The Women's United Soccer Association was formed in 2001 with high expectations. The country was still in awe of the World Cup success of 1999, but sadly that excitement faded. During the first year of the league the averaged attendance per game was 8,116, but by 2003, it had dropped to just 6,667. This resulted in the league losing an estimated in the $90 million during its three-year run. However, Antonucci feels things can be different this time around.

Here main focus should sound familiar to any MLS fans - Soccer Specific Stadiums (SSS).

Los Angeles, Dallas and Columbus, Ohio, already have these stadiums, and MLS commissioner Don Garber estimates that there could be as many as 10 by 2010. Garber said a successful women's league could also help his league. Antonucci agrees.

"We are engaged in considering and contemplating a partnership with Major League Soccer with respect with how our leagues can work together," Antonucci said.

If teams could share soccer-specific stadiums, it could reduce costs. Antonucci added that her group was talking to cities that have had WUSA teams. Besides Philadelphia, the WUSA franchises were in Boston; New York; Washington; Cary, N.C.; Atlanta; San Jose, Calif.; and San Diego.

It makes complete sense to place women's teams in the same market as men's teams, especially if they have a SSS. You have a built in fan base and you have a building designed for your sport. For any league to survive, it needs to make money, but your not going to make money if you have to rent a 60,000-seat football stadium for a 9,000-seat event.

I was a fan of the old WUSA and was sorry to see it go. Hopefully Antonucci and WSII will be able to resurrect it and give US soccer fans even more to cheer about. Who knows, maybe they could bring pro soccer back to San Jose.

Nguyen signs with PSV Eindhoven

It is official, 19-year-old American forward Lee Nguyen has signed with PSV Eindhoven. The deal is for 3 1/2 years.No exact details were released about his salary, but local press is saying it is in the neighborhood of $545,000 per season.

Nguyen played his high school soccer in Plano, Texas and then spent one year at Indiana University. PSV coach Guus Hiddink spotted him at last year's World Youth Championship in the Netherlands.

Nguyen joins fellow American DaMarcus Beasley at PSV.

Final Pre-World Cup training camp will be in North Carolina

Earlier today the US Men announced that their final pre-World Cup training camp would take place at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The camp will start on May 9th, one month to the day before the opening match in Germany.

Cary was also the place where the men did their final training before the 2002 Cup. During that session, the team played a friendly against the Richmond Kickers. There has been no announced rematch as of this time.

In September 2005, the Town of Cary initiated an agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) to select SAS Soccer Park as a site for one of their training camps. A proposal was sent from the Town to the Men’s National Team, which led to dialogue between the Town and the USSF. Following a visit from U.S. assistant coach Glenn Myernick in December 2005, negotiations began and a contract was signed in January 2006.

"We're extremely pleased that Cary will once again be our base for training camp prior to the World Cup," said U.S. Manager Bruce Arena. "The facilities are outstanding, and our players and staff felt extremely welcome in the area. There's no question the camp in Cary was important to our success in the 2002 World Cup, and we're looking forward to another great experience as we prepare our team for Germany."

DC United sale off; San Jose stadium funding axed

In the past few days, two bad pieces of news for the MLS. First off, the biggest deal in MLS history is off. Six months ago AEG sold the operating rights for a MLS-record price of more than $25 million to DC local group Global Development Partners. Everyone rejoiced and pointed to it as an example of how far soccer and the MLS has come in America. What will be said about it now?

When the deal was announced, AEG said they would continue to run the team till the contract was finalized sometime in early 2006. They stressed that even though it was not finished, this agreement was binding. However, AEG has decided to return all money related to this sale to Global.

Also of interest, Global apparently plans to continue pursuing a partnership with the team and the city on a mixed-use development project at Poplar Point in Anacostia that would include a 27,000-seat soccer stadium.

Seeing how Global's strongest suit was their ability to make real estate events happen, this is not a huge surprise. Maybe Global could not handle the operations of a sports team, but knew they could make a stadium a reality. For AEG, if they could get a stadium out of the deal, it might be worth return the already paid money to Global. Then again, this might just be me going in over my head.

Talking about stadiums here is the other bad piece of news. Plans to bring MLS back to San Jose took a bit of a hit when "San Jose's parks and recreation commission ... voted 7-0 to reject the idea of tapping bond money from Measure P that city voters approved in 2000 for community park renovations and public sports fields, and using it to help pay for a professional soccer team's stadium."

The proposal can move forward to the city council without the commission's support, however "none of the city's elected leaders so far have publicly stated support for redirecting Measure P money toward a pro soccer stadium."

This does not mean that soccer is dead in San Jose, it just means the city is not willing to use a bit of a twist to make it happen. Short of putting a new proposal in front of voters, the only other real alternative to getting a stadium in town is full private funding. I think that would be a fantastic way to go and one that would pay off in the long run, however post people would rather have other people pay their bills, so I don't think this will come up any time soon.

By the way, MLS officials say they are planning to visit San Jose "the near future'' to talk with elected officials. Now we get to see what MLS considers "near future" when it comes to San Jose.


Onyewu stays golden, Reyna just staying

Two US national team players made some news today.

US defender Oguchi Onyewu has been named as one of the top 11 players in Belgium for the second year in a row with his inclusion to the Jupiler League's Gouden Elf team. He is only one of four players to return to the list from last year.

US captain Claudio Reyna has agreed to stay at Manchester City till 2007 by signing a one-year extension to his contract. Reyna is currently recovering from an ankle injury, but has proven to be a crowd favorite nonetheless. Reyna moved to City from Sunderland in 2003.

US moves back to 7th best in the world

Has it already been a month since the last rankings came out? With a lack of games being played by most countries, very little movement happened. Here is the top 20:

Pos - Team - Pts - (Dec Rank)
1 Brazil 839 (1)
2 Czech Republic 796 (2)
3 Netherlands 790 (3)
4 Argentina 772 (4)
5 Spain 768 (5)
5 France 768 (5)
7 Mexico 767 (5)
7 USA 767 (8)
9 England 757 (9)
10 Portugal 753 (10)

11 Turkey 748 (11)
12 Italy 741 (12)
13 Denmark 733 (13)
14 Sweden 731 (14)
15 Japan 714 (15)
16 Greece 708 (16)
17 Germany 707 (16)
18 Uruguay 705 (17)
19 Iran 703 (19)
20 Croatia 701 (20)

The order stayed pretty much the same with no one in the top 20 dropping more then 1 point. One interesting thing, the US is tied with Mexico for 7th spot. This is the first time since June 2003 that the US has not trailed Mexico in the rankings (June 2003: US 9th, Mexico 11th). Also, 3 members of World Cup Group E are in the top 12. No other group as many highly ranked teams, although, Groups D & F each have 3 in the top 20.

There was very little movement all over the table, but a few do stand out. The biggest winners this month are Qatar (up 6 places to 89th), India (up 9 to 118) and Bangladesh who catapulted 17 spots to 143rd. By the way, Bangladesh gained 72 points in the last month.

As far as big drops, well, there were none. No team fell more then 2 spots.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

US 3 - Norway 1; Kristine Lilly gets 300th cap

The US started off their four nations tournament in grand fashion by beat one of the most success nations in women's soccer.

The game was scoreless for the first 72 minutes but then captain Kristine Lilly broke the game open. In the 73rd minute she stepped up to take a free kick from 19 yards out and drilled it right into the upper right hand corner of the net. Lilly, who celebrated her 300th cap (the most by any international player ever) earlier in the game now got to celebrate her 105th goal. She is now only 53 goals behind Mia Hamm for all-time women’s international goal scorer.

Just four minutes later the US would double the lead thanks in part to the ever-amazing Lilly. In the 77th minute she curled a corner kick from the right side to the far post where Shannon Boxx out jumped a mob of players to send it off the left post and into net for a 2-0 advantage. This was Boxx's 15th goal in 51 appearances.

However, Norway did get a door opened for them thanks to penalty kick after a bit of an odd call in the box. "The call came off a cross from the right side which U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo went high to win, only to come down in a tangle of players. In the scrum, referee Zhang Dong Qing ruled that U.S. substitute Leslie Osborne had fallen on the ball with her arms and pointed to the spot."

Trine Ronning put the pk into the lower left corner of the net to make the score 2-1 and end the US women's shutout streak at 1009 minutes.

Norway used this goal for inspiration, but the US was able to change the tide thanks to a great goal by Abby Wambach in the 85th. She chased down a pass by Aly Wagner to the left side of the box, beat a defender to get to the middle of the box and then smacked a shot through the legs of oncoming Norway goalie Bente Nordby. What a way for Wambach to get her 50th goal.

All in all, an outstanding game for the US. Their next match is Friday. They will face France who tied China 1-1 in other game played today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The ticket sale that just will not end

Joe over at We Call It Soccer has another great piece on World Cup tickets. Thankfully he got tickets to the first US match against the Czech Republic. Anyway, he makes a good suggestion on how the USSF could handle the ticket sale while still explaining what happened during the allotment:

“We were simply unprepared for the incredible levels of interest among U.S. soccer fans. We knew that the game had become more popular here in recent years, but we had no idea it had reached this dizzying height. A veritable throng of U.S fans are desperate to travel to Germany and see their heroes take the field against the world’s best. This speaks volumes about the rising popularity of soccer in America. We knew that there would be increased demand, but we didn’t think it would be this high.”

So I read this a little while ago and then I looked over at the US Soccer site and look what they say in a press release from 7:53pm CST:

“We knew from the beginning that the demand would exceed the supply and that, unfortunately, some of our fans would be disappointed,” said U.S. Soccer Director of Communications Jim Moorhouse. “The overwhelming response was incredible and shows the true dedication of our fans.”

So they do try to use this mess to get some good press (look how popular soccer has become), but they do not admit any mistake. In fact, they seem to contradict earlier statements such as this one from their World Cup Ticket FAQ:

7. Will U.S. Soccer be prepared for the anticipated number of orders to be received via fax?

Yes. Special accommodations have been made by U.S. Soccer in preparation to receive the large number of anticipated ticket orders via fax.

Now I'm sure when Mr. Moorhouse said "we knew from the beginning that the demand would exceed the supply" has was not talking specifically about the fax applications. However, if they knew that so many people wanted tickets, then why did they not have the available fax lines as promised? They cannot say "we knew we would have tons of people asking for tickets but we did not prepare for tons of people to ask for tickets" without losing face.

Anyway, I can say something positive about the USSF, at least it is better then what happened in Trinidad and Tobago. I was ecstatic when they made it into the World Cup, but that all seems for not since CONCACAF head Jack Warner is using the tournament in enrich his own bank accounts. He has diverted all the tickets FIFA designated for T&T to his family run football tourist company. If fans want to see a match, they have to purchase a $5000 package from his company.

I guess Warner shows us just how bad things could have been.

Mo Johnston hopes to break MetroStars draft curse

The New Jersey Star Ledger has the run down on the task at hand for MetroStars coach Mo Johnston. Basic summary, win soon or your gone.

With that as the motivation, Johnston is getting prepared for the MLS draft this Friday. He has the number five pick with which to work. However, as the article points out and common wisdom would dictate, he might just trade that pick for a known player instead of risking everything on what might be.

All you need to do is look at the Metro's draft history to see how bad of an option the unknown can be. You could really start and end this conversation with one name, Steve Shak.

He was the number one pick overall in 2000. Where is he now? Without being cruel, let's just say he is currently between projects and none of those projects are related to top flight soccer. Be the way, the second pick of that draft was Nick Garcia. Garcia has played in 168 matches for the Wizards since 2000, almost won rookie of the year honors and often ends up in US national training camp.

But I don't mean to pick on Shak. After all, he didn't ask to be picked first and he is not the only bad draft choice ever made by the Metros. In the very first draft they went with indoor defender Matt Knowles over DC United's chose of Raul Diaz Arce. Over Arce's career he scored 82 league goals and helped DC to two MLS Cups while Knowles MLS career was over in just 29 games.

Again, I'm not trying to pick on anyone, but one should really look back to see what has happened before trying to figure out what will be.

My thought is that they will trade the pick. The need a goal scorer and fast, but they will not find that in the draft. If they do use the pick, I would expect them to go with an attacking midfielder since they are in need and that is a position that could be handled by a decent rookie.

Update: Thanks to poster "The Metrologist" for pointing out that it really is only first round picks that have gone poorly for the Metros. They have had success with later picks and they have even got better with the more recent first round picks. I should have noted that I was only talking about their first picks in the SuperDrafts of year's past. Thanks for pointing out my error.

Will Guus Hiddink be learning Russian?

Update on the story here and here.

Local media in Russia is reporting that Guus Hiddink (pictured) or fellow Dutchman Dick Advocaat will take over the Russian national team following the World Cup.

The country’s soccer chief Vitaly Mutko had made it clear he wants a foreign manager.

“I had talks with three top foreign coaches and two of them have agreed to coach Russia,” Mutko said, adding that he would make up his mind by the end of the month.

“The problem is that most top coaches have contracts at least until the World Cup, so we may have to wait a bit to make an official announcement.”

Hiddink has had more then his fare share of luck in the World Cup has he has led both the Netherlands in '98 and South Korea in '02 to the semi-finals. This time out, he is coaching the Socceroos of Australia (a job he only took over last July).

He is also currently coaching PSV Eindhoven.

Dick Advocaat is trying to follow up Hiddink's 2002 South Korean success with some of his own as he will coach the side in Germany. Advocaat has also done some time as coach of the Dutch national team, PSV Eindhoven and the Rangers. He had success with all these teams (although his final days with the Rangers were not his best).

Either of these coaches would be a huge get for Russia, but I think Hiddink is the better of the two. The team seems to be a good setup for him (good players with no huge standouts), but will he go for it?

If he does, I guess that will kill off, at least for a short time, the speculation that he might take over the US should the Bruce elect to walk away after the Cup.

A good week of soccer ahead

With the bruises from the US World Cup ticket draw still fresh, we look ahead to what this week in soccer has to offer us. Thankfully, there is a great deal of action (and a lot of it is American) to give us some joy.

Tomorrow (Jan 18) sees the US Women begin the 2006 Four Nations Tournament in China. Their first game against Norway should see Kristine Lilly (pictured) get her 300th cap for the US. FIFA will commemorate the historic achievement as Mr. Makudi Worawi of Thailand, the Chairman of the Committee for Women’s Football and FIFA Women’s Competitions, will travel to China and be on hand to make a special presentation to Lilly.

This tournament will take place in Guangzhou, China. The US Women are very fond of this location as it was the site where they won the 1991 Women's World Cup. Oh, Lilly was a player for the '91 team.

Here is a list of games and local times for them:
Jan 18 - USA vs Norway - 12:30am EST
Jan 20 - USA vs France - 12:30am EST
Jan 22 - USA vs China - 3am EST

Too bad non of these games will be aired on US television.

On Friday, the MLS gets action going again thanks to their MLS SuperDraft. The event will take place in Philadelphia from noon - 5pm EST.

Marvell Wynne seems set to be the number one pick over all, but who knows what could happen. To follow the events leading up to the draft and to watch it live on Friday, look over here.

Expect to see a lot of shuffling happen between now and Friday.

Also on Friday, the African Nations Cup begins in Egypt. This is always a fun tournament to watch as there are always surprises. From a US prospective, it will be interesting to see how Ghana plays. They will be without star midfielder and captain Michael Essien (injury), so it will not be a full example of what the Black Stars can do, but it will still be worth a watch.

Here is the tournament's home page for more information.

Finally, the week ends up with the US men playing their first match of 2006. The US will play Canada at Torero Stadium in San Diego. Much like the women's event in China, this one does not look like it will be on television, which is a shame as it will be our first good look at more then a few players.

More on US World Cup Tickets

On Sunday I wrote a little piece on the US ticket allocation. I pointed out some problems but basically gave the USSF the benefit of the doubt. This is partly due to my nature and also due to me finally finding out that I did indeed get tickets. After checking my email every minute for almost 24 hours, I was on a bit of a high when I got my notice.

However, I have had a couple days to think about things, get some sleep and read the stories of my fellow US fans who did not get the positive email and you know what, it really pisses me off.

I think the kicker of it all was the notice that was place up on the US Soccer website. Here is what they said:

"SPECIAL WORLD CUP TICKET ALERT: If you have not received an application status e-mail at this time, you have have been placed on the waiting list and are eligible to participate in FIFA's Phase III lottery."

The problem is the time that it was placed on the site. I last looked at the page on Sunday at about 2pm EST and it was not up then. From reading other people's notes on this, it was not posted till 5pm EST at the earliest (some people put the time at 5:30 or even later). The problem being that people only had till 6pm EST to fill out the application for FIFA's Phase III lottery.

So best case scenario, people had one hour to check the web site (something we were never told to do) and fill out the application for FIFA.

But then I looked at this notice:

Notice anything? It is really, really small type. The normal font size they use for headers is right around the size of "Injury Bug." Why didn't they put something that big for the Ticket Alert? Also, why didn't they put it in red? Then there is the font size of the actual notice. It is smaller then the font size of their regular stories. Why? Go take a look at the site to see for yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is news that Chris Albright has been hurt, but is this a bigger piece of news to fans who are waiting to hear about World Cup tickets (I want to add that I know that at the time of the posting, the Albright story was not the top story. Instead it was a story about Kristine Lilly getting ready for her 300th cap, but the point is still the same; is this bigger news then urgent World Cup Ticket information?).

But even if they put this notice in huge three inch letters that danced and sang, it doesn't matter much because they never told ticket seekers to look at the home page for notice. They specifically stated that email would be sent out.

Here is what their email from last Friday stated as far as ticket notification:

Applications are currently being assigned tickets and over the next few days, you will receive one of two possible e-mails.

1 - The first possible e-mail is a confirmation of the fulfillment of your application. The games, number of tickets, and price categories awarded to you will be provided. At the time you receive the e-mail your credit/debit card will have been charged for the amount of tickets allocated to you.

2 - The second possible e-mail is a notification that you are on the U.S. Soccer Priority Waiting List. (Please note: U.S. Soccer has petitioned FIFA for an additional allocation of tickets and should any become available, tickets will be offered to those with highest priority on this list).

If you followed their advice, you would still be checking your email, even though the next line from the email read, "ALL FANS WILL BE NOTIFIED ON OR BEFORE JANUARY 14" (emphasis theirs).

There are a lot of pissed off fans and for good reason. Not once during this whole process did anything that USSF say would happen, happened. From the fax machines to the January 14th notification, the last month has been one of repetitive frustration. It is sad that while our team's play on the field has raised to the level of international excellence, our federation seems to be stuck in the days of old. How will soccer ever be taken seriously in this country if we can't even hand out tickets in a proper manor?

I still thank those at USSF that tried to make things go right. I do believe that there were probably some very low on the totem pole people that were working hard to get all the information entered correctly and trying to get information out there (in any organization, there are always a few folks like this) and to them I say thank-you.

However, to those in charge, I just want to say you screwed up big time and in the process you have hurt the people most devoted to the sport. I hope you feel a great deal of shame today and I hope you will do the honest thing and apologize and explain what happened. This MUST NOT be something that is brushed over. You messed up, admit it or the anger will grow.

Update: We Call It Soccer has a great list of all the events involving the ticket sale.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

US World Cup tickets allocated

The long day has come to an end and US soccer fans have found out if they got tickets or not. From talking with other fans, it seems that the earlier you got email, the less of a chance that you got tickets (I guess it was a work backwards approach). Also, the final emails seem to have been sent between 3-4am CST today (Sunday).

As for myself, I am very lucky. I was able to get tickets to the Italy and Ghana matches. I put in for any category tickets and was rewarded with cat 4 for both matches. Just incase you are wondering, I overnighted my application and it arrived a bit past 9am on Dec. 13th. I had tried to fax it in, but just like most folks, I had no luck with that.

I got my ticket notification email right before 4am this morning.

I am very grateful and overjoyed to get tickets. If you were waitlisted for tickets, you can still apply via FIFA, but you have to do so no later then 6pm EST today. Here is the link.

There is a little bit of good news about the FIFA phase three lottery, take a look at this statement from the ticket shop:

The chances of being allocated tickets are especially good for applications including the following matches: 14, 16, 18, 32, 36, 40, 42, 47 and 48.

Match 42 happens to be the US-Ghana match. Hopefully this will allow most folks to get tickets to at least one US World Cup outing.

As far as USSF's handling of the ticket allocation goes, I know I should not complain as I am one of the lucky ones to get tickets, but I do like to voice my mind. I think the whole process was poorly handled. I'm not sure what caused this (overwhelming demand or poor planning), but I hope they learn from it. The fact that they did a first come - first serve seems to be the root cause of the problem. When we could not get our faxes in on that first day, we became frustrated and angry thinking that we had lost our chance at tickets. When that is your starting point, it is hard to make things better.

I do not subscribe to any grand conspiracy theory, but I think the lack of constant communication from the USSF helped, in part, fuel these rumors. People like to know what is going on. If they had sent out a little more information, folks might still have been upset, but at least we would not feel forgotten about.

Anyway, I'm sure many others can make this point better then I can. Perhaps FIFA will notice the desire from Americans to make it to Germany and pass along some more tickets for our 'wait list' friends.

If anyone at USSF is reading this, I do want to thank you for the work you put in. I'm guessing this didn't go as you wanted it to either.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Waiting for word from USSF about World Cup tickets

It is almost 4pm in Chicago and no one seems to have get word from USSF about World Cup tickets yet. I have been looking at various soccer boards, other blogs, my email and even my credit card statement (online, not the paper one I got a week ago) for activity, but everything points to nothing happening - yet.

I'm going to guess (and hope) that they are burning the midnight oil at US soccer headquarters. Maybe we will know something in the next couple hours, however I am a little concerned. The act of sending out thousands of emails will take a little while, so even if they start sending them out right around 5pm, some of us might not know for a few additional hours. You think it is difficult waiting for tickets now, just wait till you have to wait while you hear stories from other people who have already gotten word (this will be doubled if some people get the 'wait list' option).

If you are looking at applying for tickets via FIFA's third phase draw, just a reminder, that you have to do it by 6pm EST tomorrow (Sunday the 15th). It says midnight on the website, but that is German time. Just a warning. Here is the link.

If anyone does get word about their ticket, feel free to leave a comment. It would be great if you could tell watch matches you got tickets to as well as your confirmation number (please don't put the whole thing just something like 53**).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

America's youth decide - MLS or Europe

Three US U-20s are making big decisions on their future. US youth international defender Marvell Wynne, who played for UCLA last fall, has decided to enter the MLS SuperDraft instead of talking to the various European suitors. Wynne is expected to be the number one draft pick overall.

Wynne had a good outing in the U-20 World Championship playing as a right-sided defender. In signing up for the MLS he has not only turned down teams from Europe but also an offer to stay one more year at UCLA. It is now up to MLS to complete the development of this promising player.

One of Wynne's college and U-20 teammates, Patrick Ianni, has also decided to turn pro and enter the draft. Ianni might not have the hype of Wynne, but he is a good defensive midfielder. He helped the U-20s keep their sheets clean during all three group matches. I'm guessing he will go late in the first round or early in the second.

But the MLS might not get every US U-20 player as 19-year-old Lee Nguyen has been offered a contract from PSV Eindhoven. The club was impressed by Nguyen during two winter trails and is expected to sign the contract once he passes a medical. The move would take Nguyen to the home of US National DaMarcus Beasley.

Nguyen was named the 2004 Gatorade National High School Boys Soccer Player of the Year when he played for Plano East Senior High (a Dallas suburb). He played one year for Indiana University where he got much recognition.

Nguyen is a great midfielder and forward. With the training he will get at PSV, look for him to start making some noise in the US national circles come 2008.

Andy Herron gets six match ban; Diego Gutierrez returns to Fire

Chicago Fire's Andy Herron (pictured) will miss the first six matches of the 2006 MLS season due to his actions in last seasons Fire-Revolution Eastern Conference finals. This suspension will be without pay.

For those of you that do not remember, New England was up by 1 when the Fire scored a late goal. However, the offside flag was, correctly, up, so no goal was awarded. Herron was very upset and made physical contact with center official Terry Vaughn while discussing this issue. Herron won a red card for this contact. After the match ended, Herron returned to the pitch.

You might remember that a bit of a tussle broke out after that game. The Fire felt cheated and thought the best course of action was to assault the Revolution players. It really was a perfect example of bad sportsmanship.

Anyway, the lack of Herron in their lineup should not be something they cannot overcome, but it always hurts to have a player sit out.

In other Fire news, Diego Gutierrez is 'coming home' as the Kansas City Wizards have traded him to Chicago in return for midfielder Will John and a second round pick, the 19th overall, in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft.

During his four-years in Chicago, Gutierrez helped the team win the MLS Cup and two US Open Cups before being traded away to Kansas City. For John, he grew up in the KC area and his father has been the Wizards team chiropractor since its inaugural season.

Gutierrez's take on the move back to Chicago:
"I missed everything about (Chicago). From the minute we left Chicago, it was always the idea for myself and my family to come back and settle there. I feel there's no better place to play soccer. I truly believe that the fans in Chicago are not only the best fans, but also the most passionate, and I'm sure that will be shown coming up here in Bridgeview."

John's thought on going to Kansas City:
"I'd like to thank everybody at this organization (the Wizards) that has given me this chance. This is, obviously, a dream for me. It's pretty important to me now to be able to play here at home in front of my family and friends. I looked up to other players when I was here (growing up), and hopefully, eventually, people can look up to me. I think it's a good place for me to grow, and I think it's a place where I can succeed."


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pablo Mastroeni out while two others called in

The US camp took a bit of a hit on Monday when midfielder Pablo Mastroeni partially torn the quadriceps in his left leg during a crossing exercise. It will take Mastroeni 6-8 weeks to recover.

Mastroeni has 43 caps on the national team and played in nine 2006 qualifiers. He is a very dependable part of the US mid-line and will be difficult to replace if he is not ready in time for Germany.

In the meantime, Kansas City's own Kerry Zavagnin has been called in to replace Mastroeni in camp. D.C. United defender Bobby Boswell has also been called in for his first training camp. These means both the Wizards and United have four players in camp.

I really like Boswell and am happy to see him get some time in the camp. I also must agree with the DCenters that Boswell is a guy Bruce is looking at for post-World Cup action.

Croatia looking for more talent in Australia

It happens before every World Cup and it is always fun to witness. Countries look around to see what talent they can find in other nations that they can some how trace back to their own home. It becomes even funnier when the two countries involved are in the same World Cup group. The US experienced this a little while ago with Ghana and Freddy Adu.

However, the most recent touch of this comes from Croatia who seem to have a thing for Australians. There are already three players on the Croatian team who were born in Australia. They are Joey Didulica, Anthony Seric and Joe Simuni. Now they are trying to add a fourth by grabbing Matthew Spiranovic (pictured).

The 17-year old Spiranovic was a defender a while back but now makes his trade as a striker. He has played for Australia's U-20, but really does not have much of a shot at making the national team this year.

Croatia had some problems with "small" teams during qualifying (Malta), but they are not in a huge need for strikers. I'm sure they would be happy with another striker from which to pick, but I don't see Spiranovic going for it.

The other players all went back to their roots before Australia made it to the big show. Now that they are in and the country is going soccer crazy, I think there is less of a chance of more talent defecting. Also, with Australia moving to Asia, it will be a lot easier for them to make it to future cups.

By the way, the Australian squad has eight players of Croatian heritage in its squad, including captain Mark Viduka and midfielder Josip Skoko, who have had spells with Croatia's leading clubs. No matter what happens with Spiranovic, the match between these two sides is going to be intense.

Texas gets some US Soccer

At long last it has been confirmed, the US men will play Guatemala on February 19th at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. This marks the first time since 1994* that the US Men will play a match in the Lone Star State.

The game will air live on ESPN2 and Telemundo. Tickets go on sale this Friday (1/13) at 10am CST (buy here).

"The Guatemala game will provide us with another good opponent as we continue to prepare and evaluate players for the 2006 World Cup roster,” U.S Manager Bruce Arena said. “The game at Pizza Hut Park is the first for the Men's National Team in Frisco, and we're excited about playing at one of the finest soccer venues in the United States."

This is a prime example of what a soccer specific stadium can do for a town. The last time the U.S. played a World Cup preparation match in Texas was a 2-2 tie with Bolivia on March 26, 1994 at the Cotton Bowl. Overall, the U.S. has a 6-2-5 record in the state and a 5-1-4 mark in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area. The U.S. is unbeaten in Texas in their last 11 matches, with the last loss coming to Ecuador on June 10, 1988, in Houston.

There will be some added fun to this game as Carlos Ruiz of FC Dallas plays for Guatemala. How will he perform on his 'home' field?

One final note, this will probably be the last time to see the national team play on US soil before the World Cup. At the moment only matches in Europe are scheduled beyond this outing.

* Seems that I am about a decade off in my US national team playing in Texas line. Thanks to Eric for his comment about the US playing Mexico in the Cotton Bowl on 28 April, 2004. Here is the match report. I apologize for the lack of factual information in that statement. By the way, the US beat Mexico 1-0.