Tuesday, February 28, 2006

US men back together and ready for Poland

For the first time since beating Mexico (and the last time till May) the domestic and European based players are back together in training camp. With the arrival yesterday of Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu, Bruce Arena's camp is full.

The team had their final training session this afternoon before heading to a pep rally in a gym at Ramstein Air Base. The team is staying at the base till Thursday.

This base, and the 50,000 Americans the live in the local community, might just allow the US to have a 'home game' in the middle of Germany as they take on Poland tomorrow night.

For the match the US need to come out and use their speed. The condition of the filed (light grass and a little frozen) might hinder this effort.

For Poland, they will need to use their size to try and push the US around. This will very much be the same tactic the Czech Republic will use when the teams clash on June 12th.

The big thing the US needs to do is limit the amount of free kicks they surrender anywhere near the box. I know, it's always a good idea to limit such things, but with a team as big and aggressive as Poland, you don't want to be fighting inside the box if you can help it.

When the US has the ball, Poland will probably try and over compensate for our speed by slipping into more of a five-man midfield on defense. The best way to defeat this is to catch the team off guard. They are not as fast as us, so whenever a ball is won in midfield, players like Brian McBride, Taylor Twellman, DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan need to move fast to get behind them. Quick one-two passing should be used and for the love of all things grand, take the shot.

The more Poland gets beat, the deeper they'll stay back. This will slow any offensive attack they might have and allow the US more room to win balls at midfield.

On defense, Onyewu and the rest of the backline need to show them that they will not be pushed around. Poland is good at banging their way into situations and making things happen. If their pushy ways are not equaled, they will just storm the goal.

This is a good match up for the US. It will be interesting to see Bruce's starting lineup. Since this might be the last time the European players get a chance to play with the squad till May, Bruce will probably give them as much time as possible.

Anyway, here is the roster for the US:

Goalkeepers (2) – Tim Howard (Manchester United), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach)

Defenders (6) –Gregg Berhalter (Energie Cottbus), Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Eddie Lewis (Leeds United), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Jonathan Spector (Charlton Athletic)

Midfielders (7) –DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven), Bobby Convey (Reading FC), Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Chris Klein (Real Salt Lake), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City Wizards)

Forwards (4) – Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Brian McBride (Fulham FC), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)

Here is the roster for Poland:

Goalkeepers: Jerzy Dudek (Liverpool FC), Artur Boruc (Celtic FC), Wojciech Kowalewski (Spartak Moscow), Tomasz Kuszczak (West Bromwich Albion)

Defenders: Marcin Adamski, Marcin Baszczynski (Wisla Krakow), Jacek Bak (Al Rayyan), Bartosz Bosacki, Mariusz Jop (FC Moscow), Tomasz Klos (Wisla Krakow), Marcin Kus, Tomasz Rzasa (ADO Den Haag), Michal Zewlakow (Anderlecht Brussels)

Midfielders: Piotr Giza, Damian Gorawski, Kamil Kosowski (Southampton), Jacek Krzynowek (Bayern Leverkusen), Mariusz Lewandowski (Shakhtar Donetsk), Sebastian Mila (Austria Vienna), Arkadiusz Radomski, Euzebiusz Smolarek (Borussia Dortmund)), Radoslaw Sobolewski (Wisla Krakow), Miroslaw Szymkowiak (Trabzonspor), Maciej Scherfchen, Marcin Zajac.

Forwards: Tomasz Frankowski (Elche CF), Andrzej Niedzielan (NEC Nijemegen), Grzegorz Rasiak (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Lukasz Sosin, Maciej Zurawski (Celtic FC)

US vs Poland
Wednesday - 2pm EST

Milwaukee getting closer to MLS glory

On Monday the Milwaukee’s Professional Soccer group announced a proposal that would make the Wisconsin Youth Soccer Association (WYSA) a partner in the quest to bring a professional team to the area.

Here is how the deal looks:

• WYSA will be given an ownership stake in the MLS team. It is thought to be the first time in MLS history that a youth organization has been involved in the ownership of an MLS team. The WYSA also will be represented on the presumptive MLS team's board of directors.

• WYSA must commit to selling a minimum of $450,000 in season tickets to the pro team. In addition, each member of the WYSA will receive one ticket voucher each season for an MLS team game, which supporters claim is the equivalent of 3,500 season tickets.

• Companion tickets will be made available when using the one ticket voucher. Supporters say the ticket vouchers and companion tickets will provide an average base of more than 7,000 tickets for every Milwaukee MLS game.

• WYSA must move its home offices from West Allis to the new stadium.

• The club will provide coaching and clinics for WYSA teams across the state and will play three friendlies a year around the state each year.

• The club will commit to a goal of having at least three WYSA alumni on the roster on the team at all times.

This deal is a very good sign for soccer fans in Wisconsin. If the team does come together, they will have a strong fan based literally built into their organization. This base would help push the team into a very success role.

Goal of the Decade down to five choices

Final results here.

The best goal in the history of MLS is now down to five choices. In the final five we have two long passes quickly redirected into goal (McBride, Wolyniec), two bicycle kicks (both by Ruiz) and a curling free kick (De Rosario).

All five are great goals, but if I had to kick one out it would be the free kick. I know, I spoke highly of it for goal of the year last year, but as far as best goal in MLS history, I think a goal scored during the run of the game would be best.

Of the remaining four goals, I would either go with Brian McBride's strike in 1996 or Carlos Ruiz's bicycle from 2005. McBride's goal is a quick and smart play the looks fantastic in the wide-angle view. Ruiz's goal looks great and unlike the 2003 nominee, it is not the direct result of sloppy defense (yes he was unmarked in the 2005 goal, but in the 2003 goal, the attempt to clear the ball that leads to the strike is dismal).

As far as Wolyniec's shot, it is great, but I think McBride's is better. Also, Wolyniec's has those fabulous football lines that MLS fans love so much. That is not the main reason I do not think it is the best goal, but it does play some small part of it.

Anyway, you have till March 6th to vote for the Best MLS Goal Ever. Just a reminder, like all good voting, you can vote up to 10 times a day per email address.

Here is the list of goals:

Brian McBride
April 13, 1996
Columbus vs. D.C. United

Carlos Ruiz
August 9, 2003
Los Angeles vs. Columbus

John Wolyniec
Sept. 20, 2003
MetroStars vs. Columbus

Carlos Ruiz
May 28, 2005
FC Dallas vs. D.C. United

Dwayne De Rosario
October 15, 2005
S.J. Earthquakes vs. Los Angeles

US Captain Claudio Reyna is almost back

Last night, Claudio Reyna played his first soccer since the end of December and he looked good doing it. The US captain played for an hour of the match between Manchester City's reserves and Bolton. City won the match 2-0.

Next stop for Reyna is training with the full team. If training goes well, expect to see him on Sunday when City plays his former club Sunderland.

There is some added pressure to get Reyna on the field as City is lacking in midfield options due to Joey Barton's suspension as a result of cards earned during their match with Liverpool.

Monday, February 27, 2006

World Cup News - February 27

What would a World Cup year be without folks talking about who is going to walk away with the great golden trophy? Just today we have Argentinean great Diego Maradona saying it is Brazil's to loose, while Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira thinks Germany will be the "most difficult" opponent, Zinedine Zidane saying that winning in '98 only to crash out of '02 makes France a determined side and Bolton Wanderers midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata believes Japan have the potential to get through a tricky first-round group and go all the way to the final and win the 2006 World Cup.

Iran is playing it a little safe by not planning on winning the cup, instead hoping to get into the knockout round.

You have got to love this hopeful time.

While fans are watching all these teams, they will be asked not to smoke, but the Germans will not be vigilant about it as security will not enforce a smoking ban. So why have a ban if you are telling everyone four months ahead of it that you will not enforce it?

So you might see smoking at the Cup, but you might not see the Ivory Coast. The president of the Ivorian Football Federation is trying to use the game to bring about peace in his war-ravaged homeland saying that the Elephants might not go to Germany if the fighting continues. Here's hoping the weapons fall away in favor of soccer balls.

Ivory Coast will see action this Wednesday along with 29 of the other 31 teams going to Germany. The only teams not playing are Togo and Australia.

Brazil will face Russia on Wednesday, but they will do it without Barcelona forward Ronaldinho. He is out due to an ankle injury. Also out for Brazil are defenders Cafu and Roque Junior and goalkeepers Dida and Julio Cesar.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson says there are still places available on the World Cup roster. He says he has identified '19 or 20' players, which leaves at least 3-4 places open. Eriksson has also warned the English FA against delaying the selection of his replacement past the World Cup.

Finally, Nashville will get a chance to host the US men on Tuesday, May 23rd. This will be the first game in a three game "send off" series ahead of the trip across the Atlantic. This marks the first time US men's soccer has come to the state of Tennessee. The other two 'send off' matches will be on the 26th & 28th. No cities have been named for those two dates nor have any opponents been set for any of the dates. By the way, Scaryice over at Climbing the Ladder points out that Tennessee will be the 25th state to host a men's game.

Just 102 days till kickoff...

Reyna ready to return to action, Beasley wants to stay with PSV, Onyewu has a big night

US players in Europe are making the news today, with Claudio Reyna's (pictured) return to play being the best piece of all. Reyna, the US captain, has not played since he suffered a broken ankle on December 26th, 2005.

He will suit up for Manchester City's reserves as they face Bolton tonight. If he has a strong showing, he might be recalled to the main team in time for this Sunday's match with Sunderland.

This is wonderful news for US fans as Reyna, if healthy, will bring a great deal of experience and talent to the national team in Germany.

One of the folks Reyna's experience would help is fellow national team midfielder DaMarcus Beasley. Beasley has made some good things happen for his club PSV Eindhoven, but a recent interview seems to suggest that he was thinking about leaving the team. However, Beasley says he said no such thing.

"I never said anything about leaving," Beasley told YA. "I read the (magazine), they twisted my words around."

"They took something I said and kind of ran with it," he laughed. "You know, reporters always love a story."

Beasley saw about 20-minutes of action during this weekend's match. He did not get a goal, but did manage one impressive 25-yard run, which included beating 3 defenders.

US teammate Oguchi Onyewu did Beasley one better by getting a goal while doing his best to frustrate his mark, Gert Verheyen.

Standard would find the equalizer as Rapaic took the free kick himself and drove it high into the box, to the far post.

Onyewu fought for space with the aging Verheyen, who tumbled to the ground as the American international placed the ball into the back of Stijnen's net.

Onyewu and Verheyen tangled again and both would receive a good talking to from the referee.

While the Belgian animatedly flapped his arms at the injustice, it was clear the American was doing his job of frustrating the long time Brugge forward.

Onyewu and the backline defended deeper and kept the attacking black and blue from breaking them down, but caused lots of Flemish fans frustration.

The American's marking of Verheyen was classic, as the big man was not giving an inch.

It is outstanding to read about Onyewu out muscling players. If he can do this in Germany, many happy moments will come America's way.

All and all, three good pieces of news for fans of the red, white and blue.

Bruce Arena: Give Adu more time, Give me a Premiership club

US national coach Bruce Arena (pictured) believes DC United's Freddy Adu needs to be given more time to develop before he moves to the English Premiership.

Freddy Adu is 16 years old. He is making good progress. However, the expectations are a little unreal. He needs time to grow both on and off the field of play.

How many times of young players, of any sport, been called the next great thing only to end up forgotten by age 23? Arena doesn't want this to happen to Adu and is giving him the most direct advice possible.

This really could be a break out year for Adu, but he will need to stay focused. If he spends too much time entertaining the good life and not worrying about his play, he will find himself in the "what could have been" file a decade from now.

Arena also admits to his desire to coach in the Premiership along with some of the managers he admires.

I admire Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez. They are well-educated, forward thinkers and modern-day managers.

They understand how to prepare teams and are detail-oriented. They understand the value of team spirit and are skilled in psychologically preparing their teams and players.

I do have aspirations to coach in Europe. I would love to have an opportunity to manage in the Premiership. As with any manager or player, moving to a new club or country requires a period of adjustment. However, I believe with the right club and the right time to adjust, I could be successful.

It will be interesting to see what Bruce decides to do after the World Cup. I'm sure he loves coaching the US team, but after eight years on the job, it might just be time to do something else. A move to Europe would be hard to pass up and if the US has another good Cup, I'm sure he will have a few offers.

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How racism can ruin a league

This past weekend saw something spectacular happen in the Spanish League. FC Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o almost walked off the pitch due to the onslaught of racist chants being hurried at him by the crowd at Zaragoza. The spectacular thing is that his team rallied to his side, saying that, "If he had gone, I suppose we would all have followed."

Could this be the best way to fight racism by fans? Much the same way as African-American performers refused to play in front of segregated crowds in the south, can refusal to play finally send the message that Eto'o was seen mouthing during the match, "No more"?

To that same end, what if a whole league, in this case the Spanish League, was given the "Sun City" treatment? If the best players refused to play there, regardless of skin color, could that change things? Would those in Spain who love the game finally take it on themselves to stop the chanting and mocking and tell those who try to do such things to shut up?

I don't know, but something must be done beyond little slogans.

I completely believe that you cannot legislate away racism, but you can make it unacceptable. Leagues need to confront the racism during the matches and if need be remove large amounts of fans. If they will not do such things, then the next step is for players to stay away.

Also on the racism front, Israel is launching a campaign to rid their league of anti-Arab elements. As the article points out, this will be a difficult sell.

Friday, February 24, 2006

World Cup News - February 24

Oliver Kahn (pictured) has been ruled out of next Wednesday's match against Italy due to thigh injury. Kahn was hurt during last weekend's draw with Hanover 96. Kahn should be back in time to face the US on March 22nd. Arsenal's Jens Lehmann will watch the net against Italy.

German coach Juergen Klinsmann has ruled center back Christian Woerns out of his World Cup squad. This is a result of Woerns' statements to the press concerning his absence from the roster for next month's friendlies.

If you watched last night's LA Galaxy match, you know that Todd Dunivant was not on the pitch due to a strained left hip flexor. Sadly, this injury will also keep him away from Germany for the US's March 1 game against Poland. Unlike Pat Noonan, who was hurt during Wednesday's match, Dunivant will not be replaced. Just for the record, Chris Klein replaced Noonan.

After suffering another injury (hamstring strain), Newcastle United midfielder Kieron Dyer has come to realize that his hopes of making this year's English squad are all but over. His club's manager still hopes he can make it back for the end of the season, but even that seems a little doubtful.

Mexican defenders Salvador Carmona and Aaron Galindo have been banned from the World Cup due to steroid use. The Mexican Football Federation ruled against their appeal yesterday.

But enough about people who will not be making it to matches, Central Coast Mariners defender Michael Beauchamp has impressed Australian's coaching staff that he might just be making the trip to Germany.

England's coach till July (unless they crap out) Sven-Goran Eriksson says he "couldn't care less" about what happens to the team after Germany because he is fully focused on winning. He also insists that the shuffle to find a new national coach will not hamper the team's effort during preparations.

Budweiser is set to launch their marking campaign in England. From now until May drinkers can win tickets to World Cup games by texting or emailing the passport number found on the reverse of Bud bottles and cans in both the on and off-trade. Brand owners Anheuser-Busch says a pair of tickets will be given away every 48 hours until May. There do not seem to be similar plans in the US.

FIFA's attempt to control the media during the World Cup seem to be heading to court after negotiations broke down regarding image rights. FIFA will be imposing a blanket ban on the use of World Cup photos on the Internet, including on thousands of newspaper Web sites, during matches. FIFA also plans to severely limit the number of photos that can be used regardless of time limits, and to impose editorial restrictions on the way photos are used in print publications.

FIFA says it needs the delay to protect its commercial rights holders but critics suspect the real reason may be that the organization is hoping for additional traffic to its own Web site, where there would be no restriction on photographs.

Is the Soccer Revolution upon us?

It's not everyday that you get an article the puts soccer in amongst America's biggest sports, but today just happens to be such a day. Josh Simeone has a nice piece on the explosion that seems ready to happen to the sport in the US.

He points to a few good reasons why the sport seems set to take off.

First reason, so many people already play the sport:

According to a survey conducted by the Sporting Goods Management Association (SGMA) in 2003, outdoor soccer ranked second behind basketball in the number of organized participants, with more than six million people aged six and older playing the sport.

That's ahead of softball, baseball, volleyball, and tackle football. Impressive? Just imagine what these millions of potential fans could do for soccer in the United States.

Next up, MLS is a good value for fans:

According to the ticket order form found on the Chicago Fire's team site, four "Firehouse" tickets will cost you and your family an average of $18 per person, not including any applicable taxes.

The Los Angeles Galaxy offers a ticket package that includes four tickets to the team's home opener against the New England Revolution. The package even includes two soccer balls and an invitation to a preseason practice. The package will cost you $100. Not bad.

According to the Ticketmaster site for purchasing Colorado Avalanche tickets, four tickets found under "best available" to the April 3 home game against the Chicago Blackhawks will cost you $139.00 per ticket, and that's in advance.

Good luck trying to find a ticket the day of the event.

The final big reason, the sport is making it into pop culture:

In January, Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan was featured on an episode of MTV's "Cribs." Maxim, the popular men's magazine even took notice of MLS by featuring New England Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey. Dempsey, along with fellow MLS stars Eddie Johnson, Taylor Twellman, Donovan, Brian Ching, Chris Albright and Pablo Mastroeni were all included in the Maxim photo shoot, set to appear in the March issue.

Perhaps it's just a phase, but having two of pop culture's biggest suppliers taking notice of the league is nothing to ignore. If it demonstrates anything, it's that the demand for soccer is higher than it has ever been. And if that means the league's best and brightest talent will soon be giving out awards for "best kiss" on an MTV movie awards show, then so be it.

He also talks about the recent purchase of Man United by Malcolm Glazer and the rumor of Jay-Z wanting to buy Arsenal.

As far as his three main points, the first two have been the case for the last 10-years, but it has not brought about a giant swell of fans. However, the third reason is a big one. The fact that soccer is starting to pop up in different and unique places is very encouraging. It takes me back to the early 90's when hockey players were suddenly on TV and in magazines that regular folks actually read.

I think hockey serves as a good case study. The league seemed to grow really fast and become sort of the 'it' sport, but it has since faded. There are numerous reasons for this (over expansion being a big one), and MLS would be smart to learn from NHL's mistakes.

But back to the article, could this recent surge in pop culture exposure be the first wave of an oncoming soccer storm? If so, will this storm have a life past the World Cup? If it does have a long life, will MLS be able to capitalize on it?

These are three big questions. I think our success in Germany will write the story. If we can make a good show out of it, there will be wonderful long-term outcomes. However, if we bomb out, it's going to be a difficult sell.

Eddie Johnson happy to be 'home' in KC

The Kansas City Star has a great piece on Eddie Johnson's first trip to his new home. It seems Johnson is a big fan of the Country Club Plaza.

And why not? The dynamic scoring star of the U.S. national men’s soccer team — and newest member of the Wizards — is young, 21. He’s single, stands an angular and attractive 6 feet, 180 pounds. And as the second-highest-paid player in MLS, he has a lot of money.

Talk about a trifecta made for Plaza life.

So it only seemed natural that, after training two hours with his new teammates for the first time Thursday morning at the Arrowhead Stadium practice facility, then attending a news conference where he was introduced to the KC media, Johnson and Wizards and U.S. national-team teammate Kerry Zavagnin hopped in Zavagnin’s new charcoal-gray BMW and headed to the Plaza for a bite to eat and to check out some condos to rent.

I think the most interesting part of the article is when Johnson talks about the various rumors that have him going to Europe after the World Cup.

“I think it’s all about comfort,” he said. “Last year, I trained with Manchester United for two weeks. It’s the biggest club in the world, and it was exciting. But I wasn’t happy.

“I think right now, MLS is the league for me. I think I have more to learn, and this is a great organization with great coaches and veteran players. I can learn a lot from all of them.

“I’m going to focus on what’s ahead of me right here.”

One final note of interest, Johnson might not have to wait long to take on his old team as FC Dallas and KC will play each other on March 25th in Moore, Ok. That said, the US has a game against Germany in Germany on the 22nd, so Johnson will probably not actually make it to the pitch that day.


Los Angeles Galaxy 0 - 0 Deportivo Saprissa

The two MLS CONCACAF games might have taken place on different days and a few thousand miles apart, but they were pretty much the same. Both MLS clubs had at least a few good chances on goal and both Costa Rican teams put as many bodies behind the ball as possible.

For LA, they were having some serious trouble with their passing. They seemed unable to string together more then three in a row. This caused Galaxy players to hold the ball, thus allowing Saprissa's defense to swarm. In addition, the lack of game fitness was evident during the last 15 minutes.

Still, they had some good chances with Landon Donovan's near goal in the 57th being their best. Donovan came in on the right side, beat a could of defenders then took a shot which bounced off of goaltender Jose Francisco Porras's thigh. The ball kept going towards goal and was within a few inches of crossing the line when defender Jervis Drummond somehow got a boot on the ball and cleared it. Just a fraction of a second latter and LA would have been up by one.

Events now turn to Costa Rica where the two sides will meet again on March 8. This second game will be much more open as Saprissa is going to be playing for a win. This should allow for more opportunities for the LA's offense, but it will also place a great deal more heat on their defense.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

LA Galaxy look to make some CONCACAF noise

After winning the domestic double last year (MLS and US Open Cups), the LA Galaxy are looking to cause some excitement in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup. They will start their run tonight at home and on Fox Soccer Channel. Their challenger, only last year's Champions' Cup winner, Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa.

Saprissa took third place in last year's Club World Championship, but for tonight's game they will be without suspended forward Ronald Gomez and defender Jervis Drummond and injured midfielder Alonso Solis.

Just like New England, LA will face a big disadvantage due to the lack of training time. They are only three-weeks into their preseason training camp while Saprissa is about a quarter of the way through their season. This means that the Galaxy will relly heavily on the players that trained in the US national camp.

Look for Todd Dunivant to try to impress as he knows Bruce Arena will be watching. Also, Landon Donovan will need to take control of the game (at least at the start) in order to frustrate Saprissa and allow his team to settle. This also might allow Herculez Gomez to become the 'surprise' of the night as Saprissa's defense will be much more focused on Donovan.

Kevin Hartman should be in good shape between the posts and Tyrone Marshall seems fired up to help on the defensive side of things.

If LA has a good first 15 minutes, they should be able to end the night with a victory.

LA Galaxy vs. Deportivo Saprissa
11pm EST
Fox Soccer Channel

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Sudanese women finally get to play soccer

After years of prohibition, Sudan is finally allowing women to play soccer publicly. This comes as very good news for all the women who love the world's game.

After five years of playing her first love soccer behind closed doors in Sudan where Islamic laws restricted female sports, Sara Edward is finally playing a match against other women in public.

Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with no head covering, sweating 19-year-old Edward is the captain of the "Challenge" soccer team which is among six teams of young women who have battled to break traditional values in Sudan and hope to form a national competitive team.


Women in Khartoum in the past were forced cover their heads and wear long skirts. But the appropriately named Challenge team refuse to wear those clothes.

Since the end of the long civil war, societal restrictions on women have been relaxed. Amongst other things, the new constitution protects the religious rights of all.

However, even with the right to play, they are still facing a challenge when it comes to funding as the Sudanese football association has yet to donate money to the women's team. This has resulted in a lack of uniforms and poor playing facilities.

However, the coach of Sudan University hopes to expand the women's game. "I want to collect the girls and form five-a-side teams to expand the sport," he said. "People can see now that girls can play football in Sudan."

Atlanta Silverbacks building 15,000-seat soccer stadium. Could MLS come calling?

Earlier this week, the Atlanta Silverbacks announced their plan to complete a 15,000-seat soccer stadium. Here is what the Silverbakcs have to say about the plan:

The four-phase construction project will transform the park into the state’s finest soccer facility. The first phase began two years ago when the Silverbacks built two artificial turf fields and one grass field, state-of-the-art lighting and drainage systems, and parking. The rest of the recently unveiled plans call for three additional phases of construction: the second phase (scheduled to open June 3) will include a 3,000-seat stadium and a bar/restaurant; the third phase will include the expansion of the stadium to 7,500 seats, the addition of the health club and all its amenities, along with the relocation of the administrative headquarters for the Atlanta Silverbacks; the fourth phase calls for the addition of an upper deck that will increase the total capacity to 15,000-seats. The Atlanta Silverbacks Men and Women will play all their home games at the new stadium in the upcoming season.

This is a very ambitious plan, but if they complete it, I wonder what management over at MLS would think about it. Could Atlanta become the first USL team invited to play in MLS?

If the league were serious about the Atlanta market, this would make complete sense. You have a team with strong local ties and history, plus they already have a stadium. It is almost too much of a dream come true.

I'm sure there at lots of other issues that would need to be worked out, but it would seem that the biggest one, where will the team play, will already be solved.

Who knows, this might be the starting of a great formal alliance between MLS and USL. It might even result in one of the sanest decisions MLS could make, bringing the Raging Rhinos into the league.

Will Real Salt Lake give up beer for $41 million?

The public funding portion of Real Salt Lake's stadium in Sandy has hit another snag.

The team's owner Dave Checketts has asked for a combined $41 million in support from the public sector. The majority of this money, $34 million, would come from a 1.25% tax on local hotels. The remaining $7 million would come from property taxes collected at the Sandy site by both the city and the county under recently reformed redevelopment terms.

The total cost of the stadium, hotel and broadcast facilities will be $145 million. Real will pick up the tab for the remaining $104 million.

However, there is a little bit of a snag in regards to the public funding.

HB371, which allows the county to collect an extra 1.25 percent hotel tax for the stadium project beyond a 2016 sunset, passed the House on Tuesday by a 47-28 vote. But the bill, which still must clear the Senate, faced a near-fatal amendment and 21 dissenting votes from the GOP.

Whatever this added amendment might be, it seems design specifically to kill this bill. Without this bill, it will be very difficult for Real to get any sort of public funding beyond property tax breaks.

So what can Checketts do to gain some favor with the state GOP? How about banning the sale of alcohol in the stadium. For those who don't know, most Mormons do not approve of the consumption of alcohol and Utah is the home of the religion. Checketts says,”It has nothing to do with religion. I don't want to sell beer at the stadium."

Since beer sales constitute a significant revenue stream, he thinks this, "...should convince people how committed I am to making this work and having good community entertainment. If there's a place in the country where this is possible, it's probably here."

He is right, if there is one place this idea might just fly, it is Utah, I just don't think it will change enough legislators minds to get his bill passed. I also wonder how strange it would be to have beer advertising along the sidelines (as MLS sponsors), but not sell the product in the stadium.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New England 0 - 0 Alajuelense

New England looked weak in the first half, but came on strong in the second. Too bad for them that Alajuelense was willing to play for the tie because that really closed up the Revs game. Alajuelense at times put up to 10 players behind the ball and frustrated most of the Revs chances.

Taylor Twellman and Clint Dempsey had a few great chances, but the balls kept going just wide of the net. Alajuelense had a couple decent counter attacks, but they were really playing a defensive game.

The series now goes to Costa Rica where they will play again on March 8. That gives the Revs two weeks to recover from injuries and become a tighter team.

All and all, it was not a bad game for New England. Luck just was not on their side because they really should have hit at least one of their shots. Still, having to get at least one-goal in Costa Rica is going to be difficult.

New England Revs ready for CONCACAF glory?

In just three hours, New England will take to the 'home' pitch in Hamilton, Bermuda, to take on Costa Rican side LD Alajuelense. This match was going to be difficult for the Revs no matter what, seeing as they are only three weeks into train and Alajuelense is 8-weeks into their season, but the number of injuries for the side is almost overwhelming.

Missing will be defender Michael Parkhurst and midfielder Steve Ralston (quadriceps), midfielder Marshall Leonard (sports hernia), striker Khano Smith (knee) and the side's top SuperDraft pick, midfielder Leandro de Oliveira (calf). Furthermore, although he will start, midfielder Daniel Hernandez is a doubt to last the 90 minutes due to a nagging hamstring problem.

Due to the lack of numbers, New England is going to use a 4-4-2 instead of their normal 3-5-2. Coach Steve Nicol is planning on Shalrie Joseph and Andy Dorman to provide some defensive cover in the midfield, while Daniel Hernandez and Jay Heaps will control the center on the defense.

Upfront, Taylor Twellman and Clint Dempsey will team up to try and cause side headaches for Alajuelense.

This game will not be televised, but you can listen to it live here. The game starts at 6pm EST.


World Cup news

The Golden World Cup Trophy is back on US soil. It was last here in 1994 when Brazil happily walked away with it. This time it is here as part of the world tour sponsored by Coke. Everyone should hurry to see it as it will not be back in America again till July (he says with a wink and a smile).

An English company has been hired to supply the soccer pitches to this summer’s Cup. The £1 million ($1.8 million) contract was given to Turfgroup who currently keep up the grass at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Turfgroup’s joint venture partner in Holland, Hendriks Graszoden Groep, will grow the grass for the 11 World Cup pitches.

It seems beer brewers in Britain are counting on the World Cup to increase sagging sales. However, they all seem to agree that there fate rests greatly with the national team. The further England goes, the more beer will flow.

Finally, times are rough for 2010 World Cup host South Africa. They have many issues to overcome, but one of the biggest is who will coach their side. Seems the SAFA can't make up their mind on who should get the nod. There is even talk of putting in a caretaker so they can wait even longer to make the final choice. It is true that it a lot of case, good things come to those who wait, but when it comes to a national team, there is a limit on the amount of acceptable wait time.


Bruce Arena's training roster for Poland

Next Wednesday the US will play Poland in Germany. The Bruce has released his training roster for the match. This is an official FIFA international date, so teams do need to release players for the games.

Here is the roster:

Goalkeepers (2) – Tim Howard (Manchester United), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach)

Defenders (7) – Gregg Berhalter (Energie Cottbus), Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Todd Dunivant (Los Angeles Galaxy), Eddie Lewis (Leeds United), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Jonathan Spector (Charlton Athletic)

Midfielders (6) – DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven), Bobby Convey (Reading FC), Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City Wizards)

Forwards (5) – Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Brian McBride (Fulham FC), Pat Noonan (New England Revolution), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)

First thing about this roster is not to read too much into it. Yes, it would be best to have your name included, but if a name is not here, that does not mean they will not be in Germany. I think the best example of this is Eddie Pope. He is not in the lineup, but I think he stands a great chance of making it to Germany. My guess is this, Arena already has a good idea how Pope will play with the European based players and he wants to give Pope some time to train with his club team for the upcoming season.

However, I think Brian Ching and Ben Olsen should be worried about making the side. I think Olsen's chances are still better then Ching's, but I'm sure both would have enjoyed the trip.

The other big thing that stands out from this roster is the number of Kansas City and New England players present. Of the 9 MLS players, 6 of them are on one of those 2 teams. If, and it is a big if, all six of them made the final squad, those two teams would be without a lot of talent for close to 2 months of the MLS season. Just something to think about.

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

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Could they cancel the World Cup due to bird flu?

It seems a leading member of Germany's Green party (which is a much bigger party there then the American version) has suggested the World Cup be scrapped if strains of the deadly bird flu show up in the country.

Although the likelihood of the Cup being cancelled is slim at best, if it did happen, it would not be the first time medical concerns caused major chances to a big FIFA event. In 2003, China gave up the Women's World Cup due to an outbreak of SARS. However, the event not cancelled. Instead, it was quickly moved to the US, who had hosted in 1999.

I think the biggest difference between these two is the type of disease. SARS was spreading in humans whereas the number of human cases of the bird flu is relatively small. Also, the men's version of the Cup is still a much bigger event then the women's, so there is a lot money at stake. I think it would have to get pretty ugly for the event to be moved at this point.

Still, it is something to think about. I can already see the headlines, "Chickens kill the beautiful game."

US to face Jamaica in Cary, NC

The news seems to be about official, the US men will play a match in April in Cary, NC. However, the match will not be against Honduras as origionaly thought, instead, the Reggae Boys will be the opponent.

But how important will this match be? Well let's ask the Bruce:

"The match in Cary is our last game before we make our final decisions on the World Cup roster, so it is obviously an important one for us. With our World Cup training camp scheduled here in May and the great success that we had in Cary in advance of the 2002 World Cup, it is great to schedule an actual international game for the fans in the area. We are very comfortable with facilities at SAS Soccer Park and are looking forward to the match."

This is a great day for fans in Cary. I'm sure more then a few of those fans will send the parks department of Birmingham, Alabama, a little gift basket as it was their decision to rip up the grass and replace it with turf that moved the game in the first place.

For all the up-to-date information on this match, or soccer in the Cary area, make sure to check out TriSoccerFan.

Peter Nowak faces allegations of racism

Real Salt Lake has filed a complaint against DC United coach Peter Nowak (pictured) regarding statements they feel he made during a match on Feb. 17th. Real's complaint says that Nowak said that a black player should be, "sent back to Africa." Nowak says his actual statement was, "sent to hospital."

I was not there, so I don't know what was or was not said, but if he did suggest that a player be sent back to Africa, he should resign his post now. This should not be tolerated in any way from a professional league.

However, I find it hard to believe that Nowak would have said such a thing. Yes, he was upset over what he considered hard tackles and rough play being used against his players, but it just doesn't make sense for him to dive into racist statements, especially with black players sitting on his own bench.

On top of that, none of the players near him thought he said that, nor did the assistant ref, who was apparently within a few feet of the coach.

What I think might be the issue is Nowak's broken English.

The player who the alleged words were said about is Atiba Harris, a player from the Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. I could be wrong, but it does not seem like Harris is the person who claimed Nowak said these things. Instead, it seems someone else from Real Salt Lake heard the remark and reported it.

I can very easily see how a person overhearing someone with a thick Polish accent saying something involving the words "send" and "to" while talking about a black player could misinterpret it as a common racist statement. I hope, for all involved, that this is all that happened.

Sadly, no matter what the outcome from the MLS investigation might be, Nowak and Harris will have a little cloud hanging over them.

For a much fuller and better look at this issue, check out DCenters.


Soccer part of a $1 billion San Jose vision

A group called 1stAct Silicon Valley is trying to put together a $1 billion plan that would include, amongst many other things, a stadium for a new soccer team. Some of the other projects in the plan include a new baseball stadium, upgrade to the convention center and the relocation of the San Jose Museum. The group hopes to have a presentation together by April that will show how all the changes will look.

There is something for just about everyone in the plan, but all these things cost money.

"It will look very good. The question is how do we (finance) it," says Dan Keegan, executive director of the San Jose Museum of Art, who is working with Ms. Martinez on finishing the proposal. "Right now, money isn't the emphasis. It's really about the vision."

Any plan involving a billion dollars is going to need some serious public funding. Currently the city of San Jose is projecting a $60 million deficit for the year. With these numbers, it is going to be a hard to sell this idea to the citizens of the city. However, supporters would point out that this has the chance of making the city a cultural and sporting hub in one big swoop.

As far as the soccer stadium, it would hold 25,000 and cost $155 million.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Totti might be out of World Cup for Italy

Roma's captain and Italian national star Francesco Totti (picture) faces a tough road to the World Cup after a tackle from behind caused a fracture to his fibula and strained ligaments in his left ankle. As you can see from the picture, it was a hard tackle.

Doctors predict that he will need 2-3 months to recover from this injury. Totti has not yet ruled out making it to Germany.

National team coach, Marcello Lippi, seems optimist: "Totti is one of the most important players, it seems that there are the times for his recovery. We must accept the accident and concentrate on the recovery. It is clear that Totti is one of the first players and he cannot be replaced because anybody plays like him,” he said.

At this point, it's difficult to imagine Totti starting games in Germany. If this takes three months to heal, then he will only have one month to get back to match strength. Even though the US will be playing Italy, I wish Totti nothing but the quickest of recovers.

Just so you know, the Roma's coach Luciano Spalletti exonerated Vanigli, the player that tackled Totti from behind, saying on the team's website, "Vanigli's foul was not a nasty one."

MLS Goal of the Decade down to 10

Final results here.

Another week, another reduction in the goals for Goal of the Decade. We are now down to 10 and three of those are by Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz is now the only player with more then one goal up for the award. You can vote up to 10 times a day from now till next Sunday. Next Monday, the number will be reduced to 5 with the winner announced on March 6th.

Below is the full list of the final 10 goals. Go here to vote.

Brian McBride
April 13, 1996
Columbus vs. D.C. United

Jorge Salcedo
May 9, 1997
Columbus vs. New England

Ante Razov
July 4, 1999
Chicago vs. Dallas Burn

Marcelo Balboa
April 22, 2000
Colorado vs. Columbus

Clint Mathis
April 28, 2001
MetroStars vs. Dallas Burn

Carlos Ruiz
July 27, 2002
Los Angeles vs. Columbus

Carlos Ruiz
August 9, 2003
Los Angeles vs. Columbus

John Wolyniec
Sept. 20, 2003
MetroStars vs. Columbus

Carlos Ruiz
May 28, 2005
FC Dallas vs. D.C. United

Dwayne De Rosario
October 15, 2005
S.J. Earthquakes vs. Los Angeles

US take it to Guatemala

The US proved that they can win even when the backup to the backup team is on the pitch. Okay, maybe I'm underselling the 17 players that made-up the roster yesterday, but the idea is still the same.

The big winner of the cold afternoon had to be Chris Klein (pictured). He assisted with 2 goals and found the net once himself. The sad thing for him is that the US has many outstanding midfielders. Still, he should get a strong second look by the Bruce thanks to his outing yesterday.

Brain Ching needed a great day to keep his name alive for Germany, but I think he fell a little short. Don't get me wrong, he had a very good day, but not the dominant day that I think he needed. His goal right before the half (thanks to an assist from Klein) was wonderful, but his play otherwise was not as noticeable. Again, it was good play, but with Twellman looking the way he did in previous matches, he needed better then what he gave.

It was good to see Eddie Johnson come in and get a quick goal. After the match he said that he was physically back, but that he still needed to build his confidence. A goal like that helps a great deal on the confidence side of things. Still, Eddie did look a little weak on the passes and seemed over eager to try out his fancy footwork. He is better, but still has a month or so to go before he is where he was.

Ben Olsen has got to be smiling this morning because he too had a very good game. His 25-yard shotgun shot (with an assist from Klein) was just what the US needed. He caught Ricardo Jerez completely off guard and changed the entire mood of the game. From that point on, the US was in control.

Eddie Pope might not have scored this outing, but he once again proved why he should be in Germany. His skill on the backline brought need calm to a young defense. The perfect example of this was when Bobby Boswell misjudged a run by Marvin Avila allowing him to get behind him. Eddie came in and fouled Avila right outside the box to prevent a one-on-one with the keeper. Boswell made a mistake, but Pope was there to fix it.

Talking about Boswell, even with the issue stated above, I think he should be proud of his first cap. He showed some strength on defense and tried to get involved offensively. With a few more years of play under his belt, he will make for a strong member of the US squad.

On the other side of the ball, it's nice to know that Carlos Ruiz still knows how to fall and call for phantom fouls. I don't understand why this man always chooses to go down. Honestly, he is a good player, but he blows chances by diving. Not only does it prevent chances from happening at the time, but also it makes refs far less likely to call true fools against him when they do happen. At his re-signing with Dallas he mentioned that he was going to fix some of the issues that he had last year. Let's hope one of them is the amount of time he spends on the ground.

For the US, we will get a better look into the Bruce's brain when his side travels to Germany to face Poland on March 1. Which domestic players have proven them worthy of a trip to Europe? We should know a roster soon.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

US Soccer's guide to better young players

If you are involved or know someone who is involved in youth soccer programs, you will want to take notice of this.
U.S. Soccer’s Coaching Education Department has released a new publication designed to give youth and junior level soccer coaches in the United States a set of fundamental tools to help open up the game of soccer to young players in ways that celebrate the sport’s spontaneous qualities. The 70-page “Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States” coaching book serves as the sport’s definitive new player development guidelines.

Here is the link to the 70-page PDF document with all the suggestions.

It is fantastic that US Soccer has done this. The higher quality training the kids get, the better our team will be in 10-years.

Friday, February 17, 2006

US v Guatemala preview

Sunday sees the final World Cup warm-up match of the "six-week odyssey" for the US men. This match will be very different from the last two as all members of the New England Revolution and the LA Galaxy will not be there. So no Twellman, Donovan, Dempsey, Dunivant, etc.

This means the team taking the pitch will look even less like the one in Germany, but it also means some other players will get a chance to shine.

Let's take a look at the roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Zach Wells (Houston 1836)

DEFENDERS (5): Bobby Boswell (D.C. United), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjælland), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Brian Carroll (D.C. United), Chris Klein (Real Salt Lake), Kyle Martino (Columbus Crew), Ben Olsen (D.C. United), Santino Quaranta (D.C. United), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City Wizards)

FORWARDS (4): Brian Ching (Houston 1836), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)

Of all these people, I think the one who has the most to prove is Brain Ching. He is not yet back to where he was before injury and with Twellman being so hot, he is falling. If he does not have a good match on Sunday, the chances of him making it to Germany will be very bad.

The midfield will be interesting to watch as just about any of them could impress enough to work in with the Bruce's plans. I think Santino Quaranta and Ben Olsen have the most to gain from this match. Quaranta has the edge, no doubt, but I could see Olsen being a bit of a surprise pick by Arena.

Along the backline, Pope, failing injury, will be in Germany. He has looked outstanding these last couple weeks. Hejduk and Conrad are both "on the bubble." Hejduk is much closer to making the team then Conrad, but both need to step it up on Sunday. As far as the others, they have no real chance of making the team, but it will be wonderful to watch Bobby Boswell finally get his first national cap.

In goal, well neither is going to the Cup, so the pressure to 'look great' will not be there. Still, I think Arena will give Brad Guzan the gloves.

One very interesting thing on Sunday will be the effect of the weather on the match. A cold front is storming through Texas this weekend, thus the temperature at kickoff will only be a little above freezing. I would guess this would give the US players an advantage over Guatemala, but who knows.

By the way, there are 17 men on the roster and Bruce is aloud up to 6 subs, so every one of them might get a chance on the field.

By the way, here is Guatemala's Roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Ricardo Jerez, Richard Trigueno

DEFENDERS(6): Marlon Aguirre, Eddy Cabrera, Alvaro Jimenez, Pablo Melgar, Henry Medina, Luis Swisher

MIDFIELDERS (9): Marvin Avila, Carlos Figueroa, Julio Giron, Patrick Howell, Martin Machon, Leonel Noriega, Guillermo Ramirez, Mario Rodriguez, Gonzalo Romero

FORWARDS (4): Mario Acevedo, Juan Carlos Plata, Carlos Ruiz, Hernan Sandoval

US vs Guatemala
Sunday - 2pm EST
Live from Frisco, Texas

CONCACAF President Jack Warner is gulty

CONCACAF President and one of FIFA's seven vice-presidents Jack Austin Warner (pictured) was found in breach of FIFA ethics in relation to his role in directing all of Trinidad and Tobago's 2006 World Cup tickets to his family run travel agency.

For those who may not remember, when the tickets were first allotted, Warner snagged them all, forcing T&T fans to buy a full travel package (flight, hotel and match tickets) from his family's company, Simpaul Travel Services. Once the Trinidad Express ran an expose exposing this, the company was shamed into changing the package deals to no longer include tickets and these tickets were supposedly made available to the general public at face value*.

I am very happy to see the committee find Warner in violation of FIFA's Code of Ethics. They will meet again in mid-March to discuss and decide his penalty. They could sanction or even expel him.

Personally, I don't see how they could not expel him. These actions were the result of one person abusing his power in order to serve his own purpose at the expense of thousands of fans. This is the worse kind of behavior and should not be tolerated in any way.

This man tried to ruin the great national excitement of T&T's first ever World Cup. If he is given any leniency at all, it will be the same as spitting in the eye of ever fan of the game.

By the way, this is not the first time Warner has used his position to help himself. According to the Independent, he was able to obtain the Caribbean TV rights to the World Cup for a fraction of the cost and the resell them at a huge profit. He was not punished for those actions.

This man is bad and should have nothing to do with the greatest game on Earth.


* I say supposedly because with all the hidden deals that have gone down, I don’t feel comfortable in saying the new sale was fair.


Did Euro 2004 wreck Portuguese Soccer?

Portugal spent $1 billion on building or improving 10 stadiums in preparation for Euro 2004. These stadiums are amazing, but they are also becoming huge financial strains on the countries soccer league.

Five teams folded this season and four-fifths of clubs are late with salary payments. Last weekend, the nine top-flight games attracted 80,000 fans to stadiums that hold a combined 278,000, according to national league statistics.

``It's the worst I've seen in 18 years living in Portugal,'' Edilson Pagani, the Brazilian technical director of third-division Louletano, said in an interview. The team gets attendance as low as 1,500 for a 30,000-seat arena. ``I've never seen so few fans,'' Pagani said.

A lot of the problem of filling seats is due to Portugal's overall economy, which is the second-worst in the European Union, but that is not the only problem teams face as these new stadiums have large maintenance bills.

In addition, Portugal has a problem with the best three teams taking an overwhelming portion of the profits and, oddly enough, almost always winning the top prize in the league.

Portugal's biggest teams, Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon, hog 70 percent of the combined 278 million-euro ($330 million) turnover of the top 40 teams, according to Deloitte & Touche. The trio has won all the domestic league titles bar one since 1947.

A lack of competition combined with had financial times equals trouble for any league. Sadly, it does not look like either of these matters will change quickly. This should stand as a warning for leagues the world over as well as countries that want to host major events.

Gaven for Dunivant trade

The talk has final got to the point where it is being reported by the press. It seems the MetroStars are interested in trading Eddie Gaven (pictured) to LA in exchange for Todd Dunivant.

Gaven has been in the league for three-years. During his first two seasons he experienced a lot of success including becoming the youngest player to start an MLS All-Star Game. He also earned some time on the US national team. But then 2005 happened and the excitement around him dropped. He just was not up-to-form.

Gaven was also a favorite of former coach Bob Bradley. Bradley's sacking has changed the dynamics of the team and Gaven does not seem that happy with what he sees.

Gaven still has a lot of talent and could return to the path he was on last year at this time, but I don't think that will happen with the MetroStars. Thus enters the trade talk.

The Metros need a good left back, so why not go for one of the most promising in the league. Todd Dunivant's name should be familiar to anyone who watched either the US-Norway or US-Japan match, as he was a stand out player in both. He also played in every regular season game for LA last year.

For LA, they would get a midfielder that would fit in well with their attacking style. Also, since Dunivant has a chance of making it on the German squad and Gaven does not, LA would have one less player that might go missing for 6-8 weeks of the season.

LA would be taking the bigger gamble with this trade, but if Gaven did return to form, they would have a fantastic midfielder. I guess the question for them is which position do they need more.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Poland names roster for March 1 US match

Poland coach Pawel Janas has named the 30 players for his roster ahead of the March 1 friendly with Bruce Arena and the full US squad in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Here is the full roster:

Goalkeepers: Jerzy Dudek, Artur Boruc, Wojciech Kowalewski, Tomasz Kuszczak.

Defenders: Marcin Adamski, Marcin Baszczynski, Jacek Bak, Bartosz Bosacki, Mariusz Jop, Tomasz Klos, Marcin Kus, Tomasz Rzasa, Michal Zewlakow.

Midfielders: Piotr Giza, Damian Gorawski, Kamil Kosowski, Jacek Krzynowek, Mariusz Lewandowski, Sebastian Mila, Arkadiusz Radomski, Euzebiusz Smolarek, Radoslaw Sobolewski, Miroslaw Szymkowiak, Maciej Scherfchen, Marcin Zajac.

Forwards: Tomasz Frankowski, Andrzej Niedzielan, Grzegorz Rasiak, Lukasz Sosin, Maciej Zurawski.

World Cup news

It seems that FIFA's phase four ticket sale yesterday did not go so well.

Stop me if you have heard this before, but it looks like they were not ready for the overwhelming demand. This demand ended up crashing FIFA's website.

The sale was suppose to start at noon, but by 4pm, it was only working in Germany and all the tickets were gone.

Diego Maradona has been invited to Germany as a "guest of honor." Franz Beckenbauer, head of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, said yesterday that, "In any world championship, the best have to be on hand, and Maradona is one of them."

Maradona has not decided if he is going to attend the Cup or not. By the way, Maradona also made news the couple of days ago when a car he was in injured two pedestrians. He says he was not driving at the time.

Pele is advising 24-year-old England midfielder Joe Cole to use his tricks wisely during the Cup.

More good words about Landon Donovan, but this time they come from the Canadian national team coach. Canada coach Frank Yallop said of him, "With Landon you've probably got one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, if not the best."

Finally, some World Cup 2010 news. South Africa has set a R8.5 billion ($800 million US) budget for improvements and preparations for the Cup. About 2/3rds of this amount will be spent in the next three years.


How about Houston Rovers '36

Another day, another post on Houston's name. This time I would like to suggest a name and give my reasons. Obviously, if you read the title or looked at the image, I'm suggesting Houston Rovers '36. I know the "Rovers" name has been thrown around already, so this is not breaking new ground, but still, let's see where I'm going with this.

"Rovers" would fit Houston for two big reasons. First off, the US sent these great robots to Mars a little while back in a mission called Mars Exploration Rover. The Rover project has been one of the best NASA project since Apollo. NASA is still a big part of Houston's identity. Anyway, this project was very efficient and has been a smashing success (two good things to tie a team to). Also, the NASA connection could help explain the use of the star.

Second, the name "Rovers" in a soccer team's name used to refer to a team that had no home. That is not really the case anymore for major league teams, but it does tie the MLS club to the European naming system in much the same way 1836 tried to. In addition, it would be a bit of a wink and a smile to the club's history.

Now, the addition of the '36 gives the "Rovers" a third explanation. As we all know by now, Houston was founded in 1836. If you use the term rover in a very loose way, you could say that all these roving people came together in '36 to form the city. I know, a little weak, but it could work. Also, '36 would allow you to keep the slogan "It's about time."

In addition to "Rovers '36", I also changed the image of Sam Houston riding a horse with a weapon drawn. Instead, I have placed an image of Sam Houston standing tall with a walking stick (or riffle if you prefer). This is the position one imagines someone would take when founding a city. It can also be seen as standing at ready or at attention.

So there you have it. I know "Rovers" was not a choice during the initial ballot, but who cares. I think both sides on the naming issue would be happy with it and it would be a good name. And think of the possible mascots: Sam Houston, a cowboy, a space probe or a dog. Good times all around.

Update: D from DCenters posted a great comment about this name, which makes me like it even more. Here it is: "I think security should have to dress up as weather balloons too. But only in a Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner sort of way."

I guess that would prove that no team is a number.

The Burce and what he has seen so far

Paddocktalk has a good run down of the recent Q&A with the Bruce about what he has seen in training camp and a few brief points about this Sunday's match against Guatemala.

Here are some of the goodies:

On whether Taylor Twellman has done enough to earn a spot on the World Cup roster:

“He’s obviously shown well in our camp as he heads back to New England. We haven’t penciled in anyone in our roster yet. I want to make that clear. We have not finalized any names. I think we need to play it out. I think if you wanted to bet that Kasey Keller would be on our roster, you would probably have a pretty good chance at being correct. I think we have a lot of competition in a lot of positions and the forward position is certainly one of them. Taylor has done nothing but help his cause but certainly, at this point in time, we’re not ready to write his name down, as is the case with our entire roster.”

On Eddie Johnson’s confidence:

“In terms of Eddie Johnson, I think over the past week he’s finally physically and psychologically recovered from his turf toe injury. That has been an obstacle for Eddie for a good six months or so. That’s completely past him. He suffered an injury in the game against Canada that set him back a couple weeks but over the last week or so we’ve seen some of the form that Eddie’s had in the past. He’s looking much sharper on the ball and he’s much fitter, and because of that, he’s confident. He still has that speed and that’s not going to change. I think that over the next couple months Eddie should be back in full form and be a player who is challenging for a spot on the World Cup roster.”

On Clint Demspey:

“What I tried to describe to Clint and made it clear, I did see that he mentioned it in an interview previously, I think he needs to model himself more towards the likes of a Steven Gerrard and a Frank Lampard: two-way midfielders, modern day midfielders who play up and down the field, can attack and defend. Not playmakers, not holding midfielders, but very active guys. They use their athleticism and their instincts around the goal to help their team and whatever needs to be done on a given day. I think as he’s gotten fitter and more experienced he understands how to play that role. Really, those are the qualities he has. He’s not experienced enough yet to put a team on his back. He’s not particularly a great passer of the ball, however he’s a guy that’s a very good goal scorer out of the midfield and that’s the way we line him up, to play him in the midfield, a little bit on the right side of the field but not out wide on touches, and giving him a little bit of freedom to move accordingly and I think he’s adjusted quite well to that responsibility.”

On the gap between the U.S. players in Europe and those in MLS, and whether the European players are on the World Cup roster:

“No, we don’t have a roster set yet for Germany. I might be doing things different than other managers around the world but that’s just the case. There is a gap in some case. Some of our players that have been in Europe a little bit longer have an edge in experience on some of our domestic players. However, as I’ve mentioned, a Landon Donovan and an Eddie Pope don’t take a backseat to any of our players. But, I think, when healthy, Keller is clearly our No. 1 goalkeeper. Reyna continues to be our leader and we have a number of other players in Europe that are among our better players such as Beasley, Eddie Lewis, Steve Cherundolo and Brian McBride. We have good players domestically and we have good players playing in Europe. On a given day they’re equally as competitive with one another.”

On who has helped their chances to make the World Cup roster:

“I think our centerbacks have been very good: Pope and Conrad. I think Todd Dunivant has shown well. Zavagnin has shown well. I think Dempsey has shown well. Noonan did a good job. Twellman and Wolff have been pretty solid. Landon Donovan has done great. He is a terrific soccer player. He just had an outstanding five or six weeks with us. He has rekindled his desire to be a real player and I think he is positioning himself to have a great World Cup.”

On an American style of soccer:

“I don’t think yet we’ve really established one particular style, but we’re certainly more suited to the styles of the European countries than the South American (style). You would say we’re maybe a little bit more similar to the Germans or the English, the Dutch and the Italians than we would be to the South American countries or the African countries.

“It’s more of an athletic game, more of an honest two-way game by players. A little bit more position oriented and disciplined as opposed to a little bit more free-flowing and a little bit more wizardry on the ball. We don’t have players like the Brazilians have. We don’t have that kind of player. Why? I don’t exactly know. We don’t have the competition and the soccer culture that you have in Brazil when you’re developing players. But we have athletic guys, bright guys and they tend to play a game that fits to their strengths. Which is much more similar to the European countries than it is to anywhere else in the world.”

South Korea down Mexico 1-0

With 64,128 fans looking on at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Wednesday night, South Korea used a little bit of luck and smart play to bring down El Tri.

The lone goal of the match was the direct result of poor judgment by Mexico's goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez in the 15th minute.

The Koreans were awarded a free kick some 23 yards out to the left of the penalty area. Lee Chun-Soo fired the ball right to Sanchez. That's when the normally dependable Sanchez gave the Koreans a gift. As players began retreating towards the middle of the field, Sanchez tossed the ball about six yards in front of him and walked without hurry to the ball; it appeared that Sanchez thought the play was dead. But Lee Dong-Gook (pictured) ran to the ball and slammed it into an empty goal.

The goal was such a surprise that the Korean players did not even celebrate until the ref indicated that it was indeed legitimate. Sanchez protested to the ref, claiming that the play should have been ruled dead, but all he got for his troubles was a yellow card.

Mexico seemed lost after the goal was scored, but they did have some great attempts later in the match as the South Korean backline found it difficult to contain their opponent. However, the excellent work by Korea's 'keeper Lee Woon-Jae lead his side to the surprise victory.

Just like any friendly, one should not read too much into it, but this has got to be a little disconcerting for Mexico. Sure attackers Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Jared Borgetti were absent, but South Korea was also missing some good players.

These matches are supposed to test players and build moral. I'm going to guess that last night's dance did not boast the ego of many Mexican players or fans. Still, it's a long time till Germany so don't count Mexico out just yet.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Philadelphia and Rochester best bets for new MLS teams

According to Bizjournals.com study of US markets, Philadelphia, PA, and Rochester, NY, are the best bets for MLS expansion teams.

They came to this decision by looking at the total personal income of 179 US cities. They then figured out how much personal income is needed to support a team. This figure was reached by looking at things like the number of games each year and the cost of tickets.

For Major League Soccer, $16.1 billion of personal income is needed to support a team. Here are the numbers for other major sports.

National Football League - $33.0 billion
National Hockey League - $35.7 billion
National Basketball Association - $38.4 billion
Major League Baseball - $89.2 billion

As you can see, MLS is the cheapest of all leagues examined. This means that 73 of the 179 markets (minus those that already have a team) they analyzed could support a MLS franchise. Of these 73, the top two were Philly and Rochester.

Here is the reasoning:

Philadelphia already has franchises in the four major sports. MLS is seeking markets that offer ethnic diversity and large television audiences. Both are in abundance in Philly, the nation's fifth-largest metropolitan area. The region has three times the surplus income needed amount to support a professional soccer team.

Rochester dropped out of the spotlight when the NBA skipped town in 1957. Three factors make MLS its best vehicle for a comeback: Rochester is soccer-crazy, drawing capacity crowds for its minor-league team. It's home to major corporations such as Eastman Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb. And its personal income is nearly three times the size required for an MLS franchise.

They also looked at which markets were over run with pro teams. Oddly enough, 2 MLS teams are in such markets. Both Denver (Colorado Rapids) and Kansas City are in markets that cannot support all the teams they currently have.

Here is their take on these two cities:

There's a new arena going up in Kansas City, inspiring brave talk about pursuing a franchise in the NBA or NHL. But the hard truth is that the city has already lost teams in both of those leagues, and rumors have the Wizards ticketed for departure, too. The outlook isn't much sunnier for the Royals, who drew fewer fans than every MLB team but Tampa Bay in 2005.

Just seven markets boast big-league franchises in all four major sports plus outdoor soccer. Six of those areas are gigantic, each with more than 4 million people. At the tail end is Denver, with a metropolitan population below 2.5 million. The Nuggets once struggled in this competitive environment, but are now on an upswing. The Rockies and Rapids are having the most trouble today.

By the way, the city that is most over their level of pro team support is Tampa Bay.

Update: I thought you all might like to know how cities most often mentioned for expansion look in this survey.

MarketTotal IncomeAvailable Income
St. Louis$104.8B-$53.1B
San Diego$104.6B-$17.6B
San Jose$375.5B$57.0B

As you can see, with the exception of Philadelphia and San Jose, none of these towns can support a team. Maybe placing a team back in San Jose will become a priority after all. While we're at it, why not just cap the Raging Rhinos for a franchise.


My thoughts on the Houston 1836 name change

For an update on the new Houston name, look here.

Over the last 24 hours I have read a lot of comments about Houston changing their name and the thing that stands out to me most is how much anger those against the change have expressed. I'm not surprised that they would be upset, but I am surprised about the direction at which the anger is aimed.

A lot of posts seem to blame Mexican-Americans for the change. This misses the mark so much that if we were on the pitch, the other team would get a throw in. Let's look at what has happened.

After Houston announced their name on Jan. 26, a group of people, many of them Mexican-Americans, took offense at the name and they expressed their opinion freely. These opinions lead the owners of Houston 1836 to decide to change the name.

What is interesting is how many people are upset that a group would take offense at the name. But here is the thing, in America people are free to take offense at anything we feel like taking offense at and we are free to speak out about that offense. This notion is so important to our country that it made a certain top ten list known as the Bill of Rights.

My point is this, if you want the name to stay the same, don't take it out on the group that did not. Instead, let the people who make the decision know your point of view. In this case that is Philip Anschutz, owner of the Anschutz Entertainment Group.

I'll help you get started. Here is AEG's contact information:

AEG Corporate Headquarters - Los Angeles
1100 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 763-7700

You can also contact Houston's management. The only number I can find for the team is their ticket number at (866) 502-6326.

If this decision really upsets you, then stop writing self-righteous diatribes on some message board that nobody who has any say over the decision is going to read and do something about it.

One of the other complaints that I have heard about the name change is related to the vote that was cast to pick the name. You might remember that Houston opened up the vote to anyone. This vote had a list of 13 possible names. Of these choices, 1836 got the most with 20%.

I want to point out a couple of things about this. First, the name was the choice of only 1 out of every 5 people that voted.

Second, this vote was opened to anyone, anywhere in the world that had a computer connected to the internet. Why is this important? Well I'm guessing that folks outside of Texas might not know what happened in the year 1836, thus they did not take it into consideration when voting.

Would the vote have been different if it was restricted to only the Houston area or folks that offered to buy season tickets? I don't know, but that vote would have been a much clearer expression of the team's local fan base.

My point with this is to say that people who say the vote went for 1836 (I even read someone saying that it was a unanimous vote), so they have to keep it 1836, are not straight with the facts. Twenty percent does not equal a clear expression of the will of the voters.

I also want to point out something very strange. A few people seem to blame the name change on the ACLU. Now I don't see a lot of the ACLU's press releases, but I think it would have made news if this organization had taken issue with the naming of a soccer team. To say such a thing, even if it is a lame attempt at humor*, just makes your whole argument look silly. Let's all just try and deal with reality, shall we.

Anyway, I personally like the name, but it was not my first choice. I think it is a shame that the name was not given a chance, but AEG made the decision they thought was best. Am I going to hold it against the team? Nope. I didn't hold it against Dallas when the dropped the burn and added FC, so why would I care about this?

As long as the play on the field is top quality, they can call themselves the Houston "Death to soccer bloggers" and I would still enjoy watching them play.

* If there is one thing I know, it's lame attempts at humor (example - look at the "throw in” and "death to" comments in this post for proof)

Update: DuNord suggested that people upset by all this "call Glenn Davis' radio show in Houston tonite, and let em know how you feel: "The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis" at 830pm central Wednesday on 790 AM (espn790.com) features Houston coach Dominic Kinnear and a World Cup update from Berlin."

There is something else you can do.

MLS rule changes for 2006

MLS has announced three rule changes for the upcoming season. The MLS Competition Committee approved these new rules. Here are the three new rules:

- The team with the most overall points at the end of the regular season (i.e. the winner of the Supporters Shield) will now go to the CONCACAF Champions' Cup along with the winner of the MLS Cup. Previously the two teams why played in the MLS Cup got the invitations.

- Home and away teams will now have the same number of players available on their game day rosters. Each side will be allowed to have up to seven players available for substitutions, thus the roster number can be 18. Previously, home teams were allowed nine possible subs, while the visitors were allowed five.

- Caution points are now history. Players will be issued suspensions based on the number of yellow cards issued. Players who collect five yellow cards will be suspended for one game. A player who receives three additional yellow cards will be issued an additional one-game suspension. Players issued another three yellow cards, for 11 overall, will receive a third suspension. The old system allotted a certain number of points per card or type of offense and allowed for "good behavior" point reduction.

These three rules make a lot of sense. The first rule seems to go in the direction Bruce Arena was pointing, by making regular season games worth more. By the way, I'm guessing that if the winner of the cup and the shield are the same team, the cup runner-up will get the second spot. The second rule just makes things even, while the final rule clears up a confusing system that was open to manipulation.

By the way, along with the three changes, MLS also formed a technical committee made up of MLS coaches, managers, and former players. The committee was created to provide input to the league's competition committee.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

New US World Cup Jerseys

The US and Nike have released the new uniforms that team US will wear this summer. The first image here is Landon Donovan in the home outfit. I must say this is a very classy look. I like the way the strip continues down to the sock. Very nice. The one thing that seems a little off to me is the size of the crest. It looks a bit big to me.

The numbers on the back are in the same style as the front with the player's name written straight across.

Just to make sure you know, the shorts are blue, they only look black in the photo. By the way, Logan's Revenge was correct when he posted the US kit on January 9th. Good job NDL.

This other image is the away jersey. The socks for this are mainly blue with a thin white stripe and then a larger red stripe across the top.

So there is my fashion post for the year.

Houston 1836 set to change names

Story updated here.

A TV station in Houston has reported that Houston 1836 is about to change their name. It seems the bad reception the name has received from Mexican-Americans, as well as many others, has convinced the club to come up with something different.

Officials will not confirm this, but they have said there will be a major announcement within the next week. Sources are also saying that the new name will be Houston Lone Star (could this become the unofficial beer of the team?).

Such a name would allow them to keep the basic logo design the same. It will be interesting if they add a '06 to the end so they can keep their marketing slogan (It's about time). This name change might also explain something I noticed during the US-Japan match. At various times the announcers talked about the San Jose Earthquakes, but when they mentioned Houston, they never said "1836."

If anyone from Houston is reading, Gatos is still a great choice. If not that, how about Houston Mercury? Maybe Houston Rovers?

Anyway, you might want to purchase a Houston 1836 t-shirt before they are history.

Updated information on this story here.

Eddie Johnson going to Kansas City

Kansas City Wizards General Manager Curt Johnson announced today that his team has acquired Eddie Johnson (pictured) from FC Dallas. Johnson has been in Dallas for the last five seasons and signed a high-salary contract extension with the club just last summer.

The trade is not a big surprise. Once FCD signed Manchester United player Kenny Cooper last week, it looked to everyone that the team was either getting ready to play four-striker soccer or trade Johnson away.

Officially, Dallas received the Wizards allocation for missing the 2005 MLS Cup playoffs and the allocation that they received when Preki retired at the end of the season. However, KC had first dibs on Cooper, as they had made a discovery claim on him last year, but they passed on the option so that FCD could sign him. At the time everyone in both organizations insisted that no deal had been reached, but this announcement has got to make you wonder. Allocations are nice, but are these two unknowns worth Eddie Johnson?

Maybe FCD agreed to give Johnson to KC in exchange for Cooper, but delayed the announcement so they could finish their contract negotiations with Carlos Ruiz (they only finished the Ruiz deal last Thursday)? I have no proof of this, but it is not to crazy of an idea.

If such a deal happened, it is very interesting. Chances are Johnson is going to make the US World Cup team (unless he cannot get back into game shape). If he has a decent Cup, he will be going off to Europe soon (even if he doesn't, the odds are still good that this will happen). His move to Europe will earn his MLS club a nice transfer fee ($4-7 million is realistic).

However, Johnson will miss at least a month and a half of MLS play for World Cup duty (players going to Germany cannot play in their domestic league after May 9th), plus he is not fully back from his injuries of last year. With the season starting the first of April, KC will be lucky to get 5 full games out of him before he goes away.

Now once he comes back (provided he is not injured), they will probably have a sharp player for the remaining part of the season (or until they sell him to a club in Europe). I read this two ways. First, KC wants a name to try and draw fans to their games. Second, they are hoping to make a quick profit. Both things can help the club.

For Dallas, they get a player with a great deal of potential in Cooper, plus a much smaller paycheck. There has been some talk, mainly by Cooper, about him making the German squad, but I think that is almost as much of a long shot as Adu making the side, so they will not have to worry about him missing a large chuck of the season. Still, Cooper is untested in the MLS. If he catches fire and has a few good seasons, this will look like the smartest move ever. However, if Cooper fails, Dallas will look the fool.

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