Friday, March 31, 2006

MLS Week 1 Predictions - So we begin 2006

Opening weekend, is there anything like it? For a brief few days all the little problems of the league are forgotten and every team is equal. In just a few weeks this feeling of optimism and hope will be forgotten as the season settles down, but till them enjoy the beginning.

With that in mind I turn towards my predictions. As an added bonus, this year my wife will join in with the predictions. She loves the game but is a casual follower. We have yet to decide on weekly and season long prizes, so feel free to make a few suggestions.

A reminder, if your cable/satellite provider offers the Direct Kick package, remember that this weekend is a free preview, so you can catch all the MLS action. Anyway, the cobwebs are all cleaned out and the prediction center is now back open for business.

FC Dallas vs. Chicago Fire
Saturday, 4pm EST

What a great way to start a season. How many times do you think ABC will mention that the final will be played right here in Dallas on ABC and that the All-Star Game will be played in the new Chicago stadium also live on ABC? I'm going to guess 12.

In the match, FC Dallas will show up with some serious offense. Carlos Ruiz will be in better form then last year and Roberto Mina and Kenny Cooper will provide the much needed strong second striker. But the real story for FCD is on defense. If Greg Vanney can provide veteran leadership, and if Dario Sala can prove himself in front of the net, the Fire will lose this first match of the 2006 Brimstone Cup.

Chicago is on their way to a recovery, but I don't think it will start in full for a few weeks. With captain Chris Armas doubtful, their midfield will not be able to handle the pressure placed on them by FCD (even if Armas does play, I think he will have missed too much of the preseason to be a major factor). Without a strong midfield playing havoc to the Dallas ranks, I just don't think you can stop them.

Me: FCD 3 - 1 Chicago
Wife: FCD 1 - 2 Chicago


Kansas City Wizards vs. Columbus Crew
Saturday, 8:30pm EST
TV: Direct Kick (DK)

I know that every first match is exciting, but on my scale of "WOW!" this one ranks sixth. On the surface KC looks like a difficult team to beat. Eddie Johnson, Josh Wolff and Scott Sealy will provide fireworks up top; Kerry Zavagnin and Sasha Victorine will hold the midfield and Jimmy Conrad always is great on defense, but I still don't think this team will come together. Maybe it's the lack of fan support or the fact that they will try to over use Eddie Johnson, but I just don't see a big turnaround happening for the team.

That said, I don't think Columbus will have enough to overpower an underperforming Wizards. The Crew find themselves without much in the striker position and suffering from a number of injuries. Defender Frankie Hejduk and forward John Wolyniec are doubtful and their best keeper, Jonny Walker, is out with lower back pain. For a club with so few 'stars', these injuries are going to hurt them.

Me: KC 2 - 0 Columbus
Wife: KC 1 - 0 Columbus


Los Angeles Galaxy vs. New England Revolution
Saturday, 11pm EST

The 2005 MLS Cup rematch. Always fun to watch games like this. I'm glad this will be on national TV as it should be one of the best games of the weekend. For LA, Landon Donovan is name number one. If he is back to form after his minor injury, he will cause the Revs a few nervous minutes. The good news for LA, even if Landon is not up to stuff, Herculez Gomez should be able to provide some cover. Cobi Jones will be running the midfield again while Tyrone Marshall and Chris Albright will provide keeper Kevin Hartman will some good cover.

That said, I think New England might just pull off a little upset. Midfielder Clint Dempsey and Forwards Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman will get the media coverage (which is deserved), but that is only half of the New England story. Last year's Rookie of the year defender Michael Parkhurst will shut down a lot of LA's attacks; Shalrie Joseph and Khano Smith will help Dempsey hold the midline and keeper Matt Reis might be a bit of a thug, but he we still difficult to beat (actually, he might miss this match). I think New England will revenge last year's defeat in Dallas with a late goal of their own.

Me: LA 1 - 2 NE
Wife: LA 1 - 3 NE


DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
Sunday, 5pm EST

This will probably be the best game on Sunday. With New York bussing in fans and the DC faithful as hyped as ever to mock the new Bulls, it will make for a good environment. DC was a good team last year and most of those players are back. Bobby Boswell should shine even brighter on defense, while what might just be the best midfield in the league will make it difficult for New York to get on by. In the forward position, Jaime Moreno might be getting up there in age, but he can still threaten. Teamed with Lucio Filomeno and DC have too much for the Reds to handle.

New York is a team still coming together. They've got some wonderful players with defenders Carlos Mendes and Marvell Wynne, Midfielders Peter Canero, Chris Henderson and the ever fun Amado Guevara and forwards Youri Djorkaeff and Edson Buddle, but they have not had enough time to gel into something tasty. They will get better, but this one is going to be hard. Still, I think they will get the first goal, only to have DC answer strong.

Me: DC 3 - 1 NY
Wife: DC 3 - 0 NY


Chivas USA vs. Real Salt Lake
Sunday, 7pm EST

The "no-longer expansion team" duo kick it off together in LA. Both teams have made big moves over the off-season, so neither should look as bad as they did last year. For Chivas, their defense has vastly improved. Cladudio Suarez should be able to keep things calm in the backline, while Jesse Marsch will make the midfield a prime battleground. Up front, coach Bob Bradley's favorite forward, Ante Razov, should provide an offensive spark that will cause Real nightmares.

Real have brought in a lot of MLS vets, so their play should be a little more composed. For this match, they should have some good defense with Scott Garlick between the posts and Eddie Pope holding the backline (if he is healthy). Jeff Cunningham always makes noise when he is in a game and it will be fun to see him teamed with Chris Klein (if he is healthy). Still, Real was a bad road team last year and I don't think this season will start off much differently.

Me: Chivas 2 - 1 Real
Wife: Chivas 1 - 0 Real


Houston Dynamo vs. Colorado Rapids
Sunday, 7:30pm EST

Colorado has never won their opening match and I think they will keep that streak alive in 2006. Houston might have changed cities, but they still have a great team. Expect to see Dwayne De Rosario pickup where he left off last year. Also, Brian Ching knows that if he wants to have even a remote chance of making the US World Cup team, he's going top need to come out stronger then strong. Defenders Wade Barrett and Kelly Gray should put a stop to any Rapid attacks.

The Rapids are missing strength up top, so look for Clint Mathis to try and hammer a few home from long range. Striker Jean Philippe Peguero will threaten, but I think there will be too few through balls and sustained attacks for him to cause many problems. Joe Cannon will keep things close in goal, but in the end, Houston will get their first win.

Me: Houston 2 - 1 Colorado
Wife: Houston 2 - 0 Colorado

Houston Dynamo's new jerseys

The Houston Dynamo has released their new jerseys and they are, well okay. The white one is away and the orange one is home. The home jersey looks nice. A little extra plus for the team, since the main color is orange, any University of Texas fans living in the area should be able to show up with the right colors on (UT's colors are burnt orange and white and a lot of UT students come from the Houston area). However, the away looks like a white t-shirt with lettering on it. The white on white details don't really seem to stand out.

The shorts for these kits are what for home and orange for away.

Now we know what 11 of the 12 teams will look like coming this weekend. We will know the 12th kit when New York takes the pitch in DC on Sunday. By the way, the DC match looks like it is going to be very loud and crazy since they are opening the upper deck for it (means more then 20,000 tickets sold). Should be a good one to watch.


Red Bulls love New York Soccer History

In a move to prove to fans that they will not be throwing away the history of the MetroStars or any other New York based soccer team, the Bulls of New York have announced a "Tribute to New York Soccer." This tribute will take place before the home opener next weekend.

There will be many members of the New York Cosmos in attendance, include Pele.

"You can't move forward without respecting the past, and so we're going to celebrate the rich soccer tradition that is such a vital part of the New York metropolitan area," said Red Bull New York President and General Manager Alexi Lalas.

Others players that will attend include: Franz Beckenbauer, Shep Messing, Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto Torres, Hubert Birkenmeier, Andranik Eskandarian, Vladislav Bogicevic, Werner Roth, Freddy Grgurev, Erhardt Kapp, Wim Rijsbergen, Julio Cesar Romero, Boris Bandov, Jorge Siega, Nelsi Morais, Roberto Donadoni, Giovanni Savarese, Peter Vermes, Mark Semioli, Rhett Harty, Miles Joseph, Brian Kelly, and Jimmy Rooney.

These players will also be on-hand at the Red Bull Energy Station- a unique, two-story structure that serves as an oasis for season ticket holders to mingle.

I must say, the Reds are setting a good example. Between this and the bus trip to DC for Sunday's season opener, they are letting it be known that they don't want to loose Metro fans.

Refs for World Cup named

FIFA has released the names of the 23 referees that will officiate this summer’s finals. The 23 number is much lower then what people thought it would be. During the last Cup, 36 referees were used. This time, many thought the number would be closer to 30, however FIFA thinks differently.

Seven others were named as 'support' refs, but they will only see action if one of the 23 become ill or injured.

Of the 23, 3 are from CONCACAF, 10 are from Europe, 2 from Africa, 5 from South America and 3 are from Asia (I'm including Australia in this group). None are from the US.

Here is the full list:

Essam Abd El Fatah (Egypt)
Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay)
Benito Archundia (Mexico)
Carlos Batres (Guatemala)
Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)

Coffi Codjia (Benin)
Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)
Massimo de Santis (Italy)
Horacio Elizondo (Argentina)
Valentin Ivanov (Russia)

Toru Kamikawa (Japan)
Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay)
Shamsul Maidin (Singapore)
Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain)
Markus Merk (Germany)

Lubos Michel (Slovakia)
Graham Poll (England)
Eric Poulat (France)
Peter Prendergast (Jamaica)
Oscar Ruiz (Colombia)

Mark Shield (Australia)
Carlos Simon (Brazil)
Kyros Vassaras (Greece)


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Adu to get his chance; Onyewu in racial attack scare

It looks like Freddy Adu might finally get some serious playing time with coach Peter Nowak saying, "The answer is up to him."

Now he's got his best chance yet. The departure of midfielder Dema Kovalenko during the off-season created a hole. Move some people around, tinker with the formation, and the vacancy moves to the left wing - an advanced midfield position where Adu can use his speed and skills to their best advantage.

Freddy is a very talented kid and I think he is at the point were he can be one of DC's go to guys. What does Adu think of his current situation?

"There's a lot less defensive responsibility. Peter's given me the freedom to move everywhere, but mostly he wants to me to keep wide so I can get the ball and go at people one-on-one because that's my greatest strength out there. It helps my game a lot better. I feel much more comfortable."

Could 2006 finally see the Freddy we have all been waiting for?

It much worse news, US defender Oguchi Onyewu found himself in the middle of a hostel environment, but it was not on the pitch. While leaving the Anderlecht versus Brugge match last weekend (he was there as a spectator, not a player), people started yelling racist insults at him and giving him the finger. The situation got worse when he got in his car and about 40 thugs surrounded the vehicle. They proceeded to hit and kick the car all while flicking him off.

Thankfully he was not injured, but sadly "numerous police officers were in the vicinity on security detail and had witnessed the incident without intervening."

Ultimate disgust all around.

Romario signs with Miami FC

It is now official, Miami FC will get one of greatest strikers ever as Brazilian star Romario has be loaned out to the club. Romario is just 36-goals shy of reaching the magical 1000 goal mark (the article wrongly says 34). With the competition he will face in the USL, he should be able to make that mark (no offense to the USL, but Romario is a bit better then most players in the league).

However, his Brazilian club president said this about the goal mark. "When Romario scores 35 goals, he must stop. I'm sure that Romario's 1,000th goal will be scored wearing a Vasco shirt here at Sao Januario."

It will be interesting to see what happens.

MLS picks for 2006

With two days to go till MLS kick starts their 11th season, I feel it only appropriate to predict the on come of the season. There is no way I can do better then Bruce's Belly, but still, I'll give it a go.

1. DC United - I think DC will make a good run for glory this year. With Peter Nowak in charge, they will find ways to make things happen. Christian Gomez is going to have a wonderful year. They will also benefit from an understaffed New England team.

2. Chicago Fire - The Fire will need to survive a grueling road trip to start the season (11 of their first 12 matches are away), but if they can walk away from it with 15 points, they will be very well positioned. The team is young, but this season, that might be a very good thing. With a lot of the top vets away on national duty, a young team could just come into their own.

3. New England - The Revs will be a good team this year, but they will suffer from the World Cup. However, unlike certain teams (KC, I'm looking at you), they have a good club even without their stars. Having an outstanding coach helps out as well.

4. New York - When I was first thinking about this list over the weekend, I had them in 5th place, but with the addition of Edson Buddle, they now have a chance at offense. The team is still disorganized and will take a month or so to gel, but with all the money the new owners are putting into fan relations, there is sure to be something sort of increase in play.

5. Columbus - Coach Sigi Schmid has done some good with this team during the off-season, but I still think they will come up short mainly because they don't have an offensive threat. John Wolyniec brings some experience, but he cannot do it alone. Their midfield should be decent, but with no one to serve the ball to, they will be in a difficult position. Still they will make a close race out of it with New York for spot number four.

6. Kansas City - They have Eddie Johnson and Josh Wolff, how could I put them in last? Well, they are going to be gone for almost a third of the season due to international duty, so where are the goals going to come from? Their defense might be able to keep them in it, but I think they will miss out by about 6 points.

1. FC Dallas - Could this finally be the year for the former Burn? Offense should not be a problem. With Ruiz, Mina, Thompson and Cooper out front, getting on the board should not be a big concern. The big question for the team is the defense. They need to sort out the goalkeeper situation and find a way to make the back play as a full group. If the defense clicks, it will be good times for Big D.

2. Chivas USA - Bob Bradley is a hell of a coach and he has brought in the talent needed to make a winning club, but why place them in second? Well, I think they will make the playoffs this year and I think teams 3 and 4 will have a different reasons for not stopping them (see below) and there is bound to be a big surprise this year, so why not?

3. Houston - The former 'Quakes are still together, but the change of location and all that has gone with it will mess with them a bit. Add to it the fun of playing in 90+ degree heat with extremely high humidity for 2-3 months, and I think you have a bit of a slow down for the team. They are still good and will threaten, but they will not be the juggernaut they were during the 2005 regular season.

4. Los Angeles - Does anyone expect LA to show up more during this regular season then they did last season? Just getting by worked out great for them in 2005, so why not do it again? The team is good enough to keep on pace and will make the playoffs. However, even with Landon back, I think they will not be raising the MLS Cup again this year.

5. Salt Lake - The large-scale changes that this team undertook over the off-season will work out well for them. Getting Jeff Cunningham will make them a huge scoring threat and having Chris Klein should bring a nice calm to their midfield that Clint Mathis never could. If they didn't have so little to build on from last year, I would consider moving them into fourth, but I just don't see a way for them to sneak past the Galaxy.

6. Colorado - What does Colorado have this year that they did not have last year? Their biggest move was giving Real Cunningham for Mathis. I can't say that was a plus for them. I think Jean Philippe Peguero, Dedi Ben-Dayan and Pablo Mastroeni will have nice runs, but not enough to make it to the playoffs in a much tougher Western Conference.

DC United beats New York
New England beats Chicago
FC Dallas beats LA
Houston beats Chivas

New England beats DC United
FC Dallas beats Houston

FC Dallas beats New England

There are my picks. If I do as well guessing this year's winner as I did last year, you can look forward to a Colorado vs Kansas City MLS Cup final. Enjoy the season.

Time to grill Colin Clarke

If you have ever wanted to ask FC Dallas Coach Colin Clarke a question, now is your time. In just a few minutes, he will answer fans questions over at

You can email your thoughts to

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Refs call off strike; 'El Classico' will go on

Spanish referees have decided not to strike after reaching an agreement with the Spanish Football Federation over back pay.

The good news for soccer fans around the world is the Barcelona-Real Madrid game will go ahead as scheduled.

Dynamo's ticket problem

Update here.

On Sunday, Dynamo kicks off their first season in Houston, but will there be many fans there to watch it?

With just a few days to go, the front office has only sold 2,000 season tickets for the 2006 campaign. In addition, the total number of tickets sold for Sunday's game is "in the low teens."

The number is worrisome for a couple reasons. First, Robertson Stadium holds 32,000 people, so with only 14,000 or so seats in use, it will look and feel a bit empty. Second, the first game of the season is often one of the best games as far as attendance goes. If you don't have a good number on opening day, then you will probably have a difficult season ahead.

However, things are not all that bleak. When the team was in San Jose last year, they only had 1,000 more season ticket holders. Yes, 1,000 is a big number, but with the quick move and name change, getting 2/3rds the number of a 10-year established team is not bad.

As far as Sunday is concerned, Dynamo president Oliver Luck is aiming for approximately 20,000 fans. That is a lot of ground to make up in three days. If they can get close to that number, it will speak very well for the organization. However, with their roots in town being so fresh, I think 16,000 is much more realistic.

The good news is they will have their uniform unveiling today at 6pm. This should generate some press and maybe up those numbers a bit.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spain refs to hold last minute meeting to avoid strike

Yesterday referees in Spain's top two division threaten to strike if they were not paid the two weeks of back wages owed to them. Spanish officials asked the refs to provide them with information regarding the amount owed and their banking information (why their employers would not have this, I don't know).

Anyway, the Referees' Committee will meet on Saturday to decide if they should except a deal put forward by the country's Professional Football League. This meeting will take place just six hours before the Barcelona-Real Madrid match.

Nothing like a nail biter.

2006 US Open Schedule

The longest running Cup in the US will start on June 7 and include 42 teams. It total, there will be 7 rounds.

For the fourth consecutive and final year, all MLS teams will enter the US Open Cup (next year Toronto will be in the MLS but will not be allowed in since Canada is not part of America). Chicago, Colorado, DC, Dallas, Houston, LA, New England and New York will enter the tournament in the fourth round. Chivas, Columbus, KC and Salt Lake will enter in the third.

Eight USL first division teams will enter the Cup. Atlanta Silverbacks, Portland Timbers, Rochester Raging Rhinos and Seattle Sounders will enter the in the third round. Charleston Battery, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder and Virginia Beach Mariners will come start in the second round.

Six USL second division teams will get a chance at a miracle. The Charlotte Eagles get a berth into the second round as league champs. The other five spots will be sorted out by point percentage of matches played through May 28. Eligible teams for qualification are Cincinnati Kings, Harrisburg City Islanders, Long Island Rough Riders, New Hampshire Phantoms, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Western Mass Pioneers and Wilmington Hammerheads.

The Premier Development league and U.S. Adult Soccer Association will each get 6 direct teams into the first round. The second-place qualifiers from USASA Regions I and II will be geographically paired to second-place qualifiers from the PDL's Eastern and Central Conferences in the qualifying round. Winners move on to the first round.

So what do teams get from the US Open Cup? The team that advances the furthest from each level except Division I earn a $10,000 cash prize. The runner-up takes home $50,000, while the champion collects $100,000.

These prizes seem a little cheap to me. Maybe US soccer fans could start some sort of 'Supports Prize.' Maybe ask fans to place $5 into a pot with 50% going to the winning team, 25% to the runner up and the other 25% divided amongst teams the went the furthest (excluding the top 2 spots). If just 100,000 soccer fans dropped down $5, it could be a hack of a prize and a fantastic marketing strategy. It would truly be the people's cup.

But enough of my dreaming. Here is the schedule and other relevant information.

2006 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule
Qualifying Concludes May 29 Qualifying completed Memorial Day weekend
Qualifying Round June 7 2 PDL vs. 2 USASA Regional Qualifiers
First Round June 14 2 Qualifying Round Winners, 6 PDL vs. 6 USASA Regional Qualifiers, 2 USL Second Division
Second Round June 28 First Round winners vs. 4 USL Second Division, 4 USL First Division
Third Round July 12 Second Round winners vs. 4 USL First Division, 4 MLS
Fourth Round Aug. 2 Third Round winners vs. 8 MLS
Quarterfinals Aug. 23 Fourth Round winners
Semifinals Sept. 6 Quarterfinal winners
Final Sept. 27 Semifinal winners

Composition of participating teams
12 Major League Soccer
8 United Soccer Leagues First Division
6 United Soccer Leagues Second Division
16 Amateur (8 USL Premier Development League, 8 USASA regional qualifiers)

Total Number of Teams: 42
Total Number of Games: 41


Chelsea investing in US soccer

Chelsea have signed a deal with AEG (owner of LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire, DC United and Houston Dynamo) that ties the two together in soccer matrimony. Part of this deal is a special link with LA. Chelsea will now have first option to sign Galaxy players and it will allow young Blues to be loaned to LA to gain experience in MLS.

The two clubs will also share coaching, medical knowledge and personnel.

This relationship might expand to other AEG teams if it is successful.

This is part of Chelsea's strategy to become the most popular European team in the US.

Starting next year, Chelsea will be involved in an every two-year tournament along with a host MLS club.

Paul Smith, Chelsea's business affairs director, had this to say about the agreement:

"Chelsea's involvement in US football will be from top to bottom. We will not just fly in and fly out for the tournaments.

"We will seek to develop a program of activity that will also cover the huge interest in soccer at youth level, as well as the professional game.

"This will be backed up by specially created media programming, such as a US Football Icon (a American Idol type realty TV show), and other marketing activity for the US market.

"By building the profile and interest in Chelsea in this way we are confident we can expand our business and build a platform for increasing our fan base, merchandising and sponsorship opportunities."

All around, this seems like a great advancement for US soccer. Getting a team like Chelsea involved in the league is only going to make things better. Playing for the Galaxy suddenly looks even better.

Arena's World Cup roster to be named on May 2nd

During yesterday's DC United Kickoff luncheon, the Bruce announced that he would name his 23-man World Cup roster on May 2nd (look towards the end of the article), 13 days before the international deadline. He may also name as many as 10 alternates in case of a training camp injury.

By naming players earlier, Arena will give MLS teams a little more time to prepare for player's absence, but it will also mean players will not have as much time to impress Bruce with their league play. For MLS players on the bubble, they will need to come out strong right away.

For European based players, this should give them more time to plan for their off-season.

It is funny that so many other international coaches are begging FIFA for more time to make their choices. I guess Arena knows what he wants.

Thanks to Josh at for passing this along.

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Time to grill Carlos Ruiz

If you have always wanted to question FC Dallas's number one striker Carlos Ruiz, but thought, "I will never be so lucky," well today is your special day. Ruiz will be on a live MLSnet chat starting at 2:30 or 3:30pm EST today (the website lists two different times). You can email questions for "El Pescadito" to

MLS: 16 teams by 2010

Major League Soccer's commissioner Don Garber (pictured) gave the LA Times his thoughts on the future of the league.

What is the biggest change in the last 10-years? Their number one concern is no longer will we survive. The league is instead focused on growing the sport. To quote Garber:

"What are our priorities? How do we get deeper engaged within the Hispanic community? How do we get all those kids who play to be fans? How do we get the media to think about us as a priority, as opposed to an afterthought? How do we get more stadiums built? How do we expand our league and get into those markets that we feel we need to be in order to be a national league?

"We're making progress in all of those areas."

Interestingly enough, I think most of his questions are answered by the question that fallows it. You can get more stadiums if cities and investors see the league as a true national system. You will get treated better by the media (or at least look more serious) if you are playing in a $70 million stadium then on a rented football field. If the media starts reporting on your games, your odds of getting more fans increase.

As far as attracting more Hispanic fans, that's going to be a little harder. The MLS had a good shot at this community during their first couple seasons, but they pushed them away so as not to be seen as just an ethnic league. When you treat a group of people poorly, they do not forget. With Chivas joining the league and Spanish language broadcasting of the matches, they have improved on this, but there is still a long way to go.

On to other comments. Garber believes there will be 16-teams in the league by 2010 and that 10 of them will have their own stadium (there will actually only be 9 stadiums, but LA and Chivas will continue to share). The four new teams are Toronto (2007), another team "in the Midwest" like St. Louis (2008), a team in the Philadelphia area (2009) and a return to the Bay Area.

The six new stadiums will be Chicago (2006), Toronto (2007), Colorado (2007), New York (2008), Salt Lake (2008/09), Midwest team (2008).

If all this comes together it will be very impressive. I seem to recall that in the past Garber said that he would like MLS to have 18-teams. If this is the long-term plan, then that leaves only two un-located teams. If the league is to be seen as a national league, they will need to play everywhere in the nation. The big holes with all this talk are the South and the Northwest with the South being the bigger of the two.

Yes, the two Florida teams failed, but that is no reason to write off the region. Atlanta is the obvious Southern location, but maybe a Nashville, Birmingham or Orlando would also work out. Without a team somewhere in the Deep South, can you really call yourself a national league? The Northwest is a little easier to pass over, especially with Salt Lake, Colorado and a Bay Area team near by (I know, none of the are in the Northwest, but there really are only two big markets in the NW).

Then there is the concern of where will the players for these teams come from. Hopefully the growth of the sport will also cause youth players to continue to play into high school and beyond.

The last big issue on which Garber is working is the increase in single team owners. He applauds the recent sale of the Metrostars and hopes the AEG will soon also sell their Houston team. He is also pushing Lamar Hunt to decrease his number of teams (currently at three).

Obviously having one team per owner helps the league. It brings new approaches to the game, increase the competitive drive and makes the league look like a real business instead of a funny investment by a few. The difficult part of this will be getting Hunt or AEG to let go of teams that also have stadiums.

All and all, a good out look by the commish.


Toronto Soccer Stadium coming together

In just a little over a year, Toronto will have a new national soccer stadium. The $62.9 million ($53.7m USD) has to be ready by May 1, 2007. The under-20 soccer championship will kickoff play at the stadium on June 1, 2007, but they plan on having their new MLS team play a couple matches on the pitch during the month of May.

The stadium itself will be owned by the city, but will be managed by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). MLSE are also the owners of the Toronto MLS squad who will start play next season.

This new stadium will have 20,000 seats with stands within a yard of the pitch. However, the pitch will be FieldTurf artificial playing surface.

The MLS club will pay rent for use of the facility, but MLSE officials do not think it will cause ticket prices to be unreasonable.

"Tickets are going to very reasonably priced. This is not hockey and it certainly isn't basketball either. This is a Marlies ticket or a junior hockey ticket. This is a $20-to-$30-max dollar ticket," said Bob Hunter, executive vice-president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.

While it is good to see them stressing the low cost of MLS tickets, I think Hunter might have inadvertently degraded his product with the above quote. By comparing the pro soccer team to a second league or less hockey team, he has made the players look a little less then spectacular. I'm sure he did not mean that, but I think that is how it came across.

MLSE hopes that USL's Toronto Lynx will also call the new field home, but no deal has come about at this time.

By the way, Hunter also said that he really likes the complex FC Dallas built saying, "we stole a lot of good ideas from them."


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

With US in town, Hamburg increases security

Hamburg is happy to play host to the US team during their World Cup run, but since the team ranks number one on the terrorism risk list, their arrive will mean a large increase in security personal. To add to this, the team is staying in the 5-star Park Hyatt Hotel in the middle of Hamburg's busiest shopping street.

Thomas Model, Hamburg's top police official in charge of security said, "You'd think they would choose a bit of an off-center location, but they don't want to live in a fortress but want to get out on the street and feel at home."

For those of you that were hoping to pop into the hotel with hopes of seeing the players, think again. They will not close the street on which the hotel sites, "but you won’t be able to access the shopping arcade below the hotel or the hotel itself."

"But we won't have sharpshooters sitting in manholes," Model said. However, in the case of a real emergency situation, he added, the area around the hotel may be closed off after all.

Swedish firm Securitas will provide security for the hotel and US training grounds.

Spanish referees prepare to strike

First and second division referees are threatening to strike this weekend if they are not paid the two months of back wages they are owed. If the refs do walk, then Saturday's Barcelona-Real Madrid game will probably have to be rescheduled.

Spanish soccer is trying to fix this problem. They have asked officials to send them a breakdown of the amounts they are owed for February and March together with their bank details. The firs division refs are each owed about 12,000 euros ($14,400).

The debt resulted from a dispute between the League and the Spanish soccer federation over which organization was required to pay the officials.

I'm sure Spanish soccer will solve this problem because they do not want to miss the Barca-Real match, but how does something like this happen? The season has been underway for a while now; you'd think they would know how to pay the officiating staff.

New York gets striker, Columbus gets a difficult year

What do you know, the rumors were true. The Reds of New York traded away midfielder Eddie Gaven and defender Chris Leitch to the Columbus Crew for striker Edson Buddle today. This gives New York a good striking team with Youri Djorkaeff and Buddle. No longer will they need their midfield to score if they want to win.

Leitch is good for the Crew as he will be able to step into Frankie Hejduk's place if he heads off to the World Cup, while Gaven will supply some additional midfield strength (I'm guessing this places rookie Brandon Moss off the starter list), but whom will he be feeding the ball to?

John Wolyniec has his moments, but he is not dynamic enough to carry it all by himself and David Testo does not have the playing experience to take defensive pressure off of Wolyniec.

Since New York had already waived Leitch (he failed to get drafted in the waiver draft, so he went back to New York), this was mainly a trade of Buddle for Gaven. Since Gaven had a difficult 2005 while Buddle did all right, all things point to this helping New York more then Columbus. The Reds now have the strike force they need to be competitive while the Crew now need to locate a top quality striker.

Monday, March 27, 2006

US to play Angola in a secret match

Alright, it's not a secret, but the US will face Angola on June 5th in Hamburg, Germany. The match will not be an official match so it will not be open to the public.

This match will take place one week before the US's opener against the Czech Republic. Angola opens up their first cup experience on the 11th against Portugal.

This game will be one week after the final send off game in the US versus Latvia on May 28th.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

US Department of State - Soccer becoming more popular

I noticed something a little strange while looking at the latest news from the State Department. If you look right between, "America a Nation of Immigrants and of Laws, Bush Says" and "State Department Briefing, March 24" you'll notice an interesting headline.

American Support for Football Steadily Growing

When you click on the article, you get this as an opening line: Each year brings increased American interest and new growth to the ranks of U.S. players and fans addicted to the excitement of football, known in the United States as soccer.

The piece continues with examples of football "slowly seeping" into American culture. They talk about the MLS and the US national team plus give information on youth leagues. Even though they make an error by describing this MLS season as the 10th* (I know, hard to believe that the State Department would make a factual error), it is still a good, "look how big we are now" kind of thing.

Still, I must wonder, why is this something the State Department is covering?

By the way, there is another article about US Women's soccer from Thursday. It seems to be mostly a transcript of an interview with Cat Whitehill.

I'm all for good press about soccer, but again, why is the State Department writing this?

Has our State Department become overrun with dozens of known soccer fanatics?

* this is the second article I've read in 2 days that says the 2006 season as the 10th MLS season (it is the 11th). I'm wondering if there was a bad press release put out by MLS or if writers are just copying something they've seen printed elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Chelsea to play MLS All-Stars

Update here.

Last year MLS welcomed English side Fulham to Columbus for their All-Star match, but this year they have a bigger opponent in mind.

On Monday official word should name Chelsea as the 2006 All-Star opposition. The match will happen at the Chicago Fire's new stadium on July 29th.

Last year MLS destroyed an under prepared Fulham 4-1, however, Chelsea should prove for a much tougher match.

This is a wonderful move by MLS. Getting Chelsea to play against your best is sure to get some media attention. Add to it that the match will take place only three weeks after the World Cup final and you've got the making for something big.

For the MLS, this should help motivate players to have a great first half of the season. Getting a chance to show your abilities in front of one of the best European clubs might just make for an excellent career move.

Friday, March 24, 2006

World Cup News - March 24th

In case you were wondering, there will be a strong police/military presence in Germany doing the World Cup. Although terrorism is a fear, the German's think hooligans and hard right wing neo-Nazis are a bigger problem. That idea got a boost this week when an Italian member of such a group promised a "Muslim Massacre."

He said, "We will all be in Germany and there will be Turks, Algerians and Tunisians. They are Islamic terrorists…We will attack them. They are all enemies that need to be eliminated, just like the police." So they condemn all people of a certain religion or nationality for the actions of a few and promise to make it right by using the exact same actions of the few that they say are so horrible. These people really are something.

German officials say they are ready for just such attacks. However, a few people are worried about what kind of lasting effect having a strong police presence might have. The fact that uniformed German police will be on UK soil to identify 'potential troublemakers' who plan on traveling to the tournament this June has caused a few questions to be raised.

But enough about large-scale violence and police states, let's enjoy the show.

Stop me if you have heard this before, but Dutch fans are pissed off that they only get 8% of tickets to World Cup matches. 180,000 fans put in for the 18,000 tickets.

By the way, if you are buying a ticket from someone else, you will need to register the transfer through the World Cup ticket portal. This portal will open on Monday (March 27). However, FIFA will only accept 7 reason for a transfer. They are:

· Transfer within the family or a legally recognized cohabitation
· Illness of the purchaser/visitor
· Purchaser/visitor cannot obtain a visa for Germany
· Purchaser/visitor is subject to a ban on travelling
· Act of God (e.g. political unrest, epidemic, natural disaster)
· Death (of the purchaser/visitor or in the family of the purchaser/visitor)
· Other case of hardship

If you can't get tickets to the 12 venues, perhaps you will want to travel to the new 13th venue. Adidas will construct a mini-World Cup stadium in the heart of Berlin where international football fans can watch their national teams on multiple giant-sized video screens. The mini-stadium will hold up to 10,000 people.

By the way, if you were in China, you could watch the World Cup for free on broadband.

Wayne Rooney says that England will not accept anything except total victory in Germany. David Beckham says he does not pick the English national squad and that fans should expect a lot from the team. Chris Kirkland's dream of being England's keeper feel apart when he broke his left index finger during practice yesterday. He will be out for 6-weeks.

Francesco Totti is recovering well from his injury and is on track to be ready to play for Italy by June.

Ruud van Nistelrooy is worried that he might not make the Holland squad after his falling out with Manchester United.

Either Ronaldinho or Ronaldo is the key to Brazil's success this summer.

Serbia and Montenegro's hopes might just rest on Nemanja Vidic and Goran Gavrancic. The team's manager said, "They are both terrific, among the best defenders in the world." Being in a group with Argentina, the Netherlands and Ivory Coast, defense will be a very needed thing.

The Ivory Coast will play Switzerland, Chile and Slovenia in friendlies leading up to Germany, while Ghana will take on Turkey and Jamaica. By the way, Ghana recently called off a match against Iran because many of the players would not be available.

If you are afraid of getting lost in Germany, GPS navigation company Keomo has announced a free service that will allow fans to find the stadiums they are looking for.

If you think that World Cup results have some big impact on international business, you will want Italy to win the trophy this year. "The Italian economy is hampered by an inflexible labor market and deteriorating competitiveness,'' said Charles Kalshoven, an Amsterdam-based economist at the bank. "An Italian victory would boost consumer and producer confidence and thus lead to more spending and investment.''

Finally, the Houston Chronicle has a good general piece on what the '06 cup looks like for America. Maybe pass this one around to your non-hardcore soccer buddies.

77 days till kickoff...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Czech Republic's record scorer will be back for the World Cup

Jan Koller has given word to Czech Republic's coach Karel Bruckner that he is recovering from tearning ligaments in his left knee during a match last September. He has been training with Dortmund and hopes to play in the team's final two matches of the season.

Koller has scored 40 goals in his 66 international appearances, making him a very dangerous striker. Bruckner calls his absence "the biggest loss."

If he does make a come back as planned, first games would be in early May. Koller would have about a month to get match fit before Czech's first World Cup game against the US.

Josh Wolff heading to Bolton?

It seems Bolton Wanderers boss Sam Allardyce is interested in snatching up US and Kansas City Wizards striker Josh Wolff.

Allardyce went to Germany to watch Wolff play last night. Too bad for both of them that Wolff left in the 17th minute with a concussion.

In the past, Wolff has been for a trail with Everton, but Allardyce says Bolton will offer him a better chance at their first team.

If Wolff goes off to England during the summer, and, as expected, Eddie Johnson flies off to Europe as well, the Wizards will be in for one difficult second half of the season. Seeing how both players have a good chance of making the final US squad, thus missing much of May and June (and maybe part of July), KC might just have a bad first half of the season also.

Good news for Wolff, bad news for the Wizards.

Arena: German game a mistake

"We've worked real hard to build our team to where it is today, and to not prepare properly to play a game of that magnitude is a mistake, and I accept the full responsibility for that," US coach Bruce Arena said. "If I felt that it wasn't the right time for us to play that game, I should have been a little bit strong in saying this is not the right time to play."

That is what Bruce Arena said today about last night's game.

To Arena's defense, he did not know that so many players would be injured, nor did he know that this would suddenly become a do or die outing for the Germans.

If Germany had done better against Italy, I think they would have held off on calling so many of their starters, but what is done is done.

Now the Bruce must regroup his team and make sure this does not kill any confidence they were building.

Arena also discussed the latest injury to US captain Claudio Reyna.

"I think Claudio is fairly fit right now," Arena said. "Getting over the broken ankle was big. His ankle now is sound, so that's a positive. I think the shoulder separation is a temporary setback."

If Reyna is not healthy for the cup, the US will have a hard time maintaining some sort of control of the midfield. They did better then I thought they would last night, but even that sort of performance will not be enough against their group mates.

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Time to take a survey

Do you want to have your say about the way US Soccer is being run? How about the web site? Maybe you are still a little miffed about the way the World Cup ticket sale went and feel like venting. If so, go take US Soccer's fan survey. It is your chance to let the good folks in Chicago know what you think about the great game.

Questions cover everything from your thoughts on the website to what kind of game consoles you own. Have fun with it.

If you are over 18, you can enter the drawing to win a prize pack from U.S. Soccer, containing an assortment of national team gear.

Ass whopped. What's next?

Sure enough, the American irregulars could not beat the nearly full-strength Germans. We all knew this was coming, so let's not dwell too much on the 10-minutes of crap. Instead, let's look at the other 80-minutes.

During the first half, the US looked better then they did during much of the Poland match. The best surprise for me was the work of Steve Cherundolo, Bobby Convey, Pablo Mastoreni and Chris Klein in the midfield. I was expecting a lack of good play by the US, but they found a way to make it happen. The held the ball and switched sides, frustrating the Germans for much of the first half. They took the 64,000 fans out of it.

Steve Cherundolo and Bobby Convey have got to be happy with the effort they put into the match. It seemed like every American play started with one of them. They were also able to get some great forward passes to Eddie Johnson, who is still trying to figure out how Oliver Kahn blocked that header in the 66th minute.

For Johnson, it was an okay night. He had some good explosions and tripped up Germany's backline a few times, but he still seemed to be lacking just a bit. Still, he looked much better out there then Brian Ching did. Sadly, I think Ching's chance of making the World Cup squad walked off when Taylor Twellman came on for him in the 60th minute. Ching just was not noticeable, even when his team was taking it right to the opposition.

On defense, Cory Gibbs and Jimmy Conrad found every way possible to deny Germany easy access to the box. They just swallowed every attack Germany made for the first 45-minutes. Even after the first goal in the 46th, they still held it together till about minute 70. Then all went bad.

When the defense fell down, they could not figure out how to get themselves back up. Players were missing their marks and easy turnovers were being made. It was an ugly 10-minutes of soccer from the red, white and blue.

Okay, the first defeat of 2006 is over and done, now we get to figure out what went wrong and move ahead. As bad as a 4-1 final score is, it could have been much worse.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Could World Cup star Romario be coming to Miami FC?

Updated here.

Speculation is brewing that 1994 World Cup star Romario is getting ready to sign with USL club Miami FC.

There are three big reasons that this might just happen. Miami FC recently signed '94 teammate and friend Zinho. Miami FC is owned and coach by Brazilians. Finally, Romario is 34 goals shy of reaching 1,000 career goals. At 40-years of age, he has a better chance of getting those goals against teams in the USL then in the Brazilian league.

It is also true that Romario likes Miami, so that might just be a fourth reason.

Adding to the speculation is the fact that Romario has now missed four practices in a row with his club Vasco da Gama, causing their coach to say, "He cannot be like bin Laden and disappear. We here at Vasco need him and want to talk to him before he makes any decision."

Bringing such talent to Miami would be a great move the club. It would make them a threat in the USL as well as the US Open Cup (if they are eligible).

US v Germany - The oncoming ass whopping

In just about three hours the US will take the field in Dortmund against Germany. All indications point to a German domination.

Since this is not a FIFA international date, clubs do not need to release players. However, the German FA was able to convince the Bundesliga to release players. This comes as little surprise as German is in a must win situation. Sure, this is just a warm-up match, but after the outing in Italy on the first of the month, all of German soccer knows that a result is needed.

For the US, they will be without most of their European crew (Claudio Reyna, Oguchi Onyewu, DaMarcus Beasley and Eddie Lewis) plus Landon Donovan, Frankie Hejduk and Eddie Pope are out due to injury or illness and finally Clint Dempsey will not be there because of a fight he had with a New England teammate.

The 'ass whopping' in the subject line is starting to make sense.

It's not that the US will field a horrible team, it's just that they will field an under experienced group made up mostly of domestic players. So one way to look at this is MLS vs. Bundesliga. MLS has made some great advances in the last 10-years, but I think it would be a stretch (or even a lie) to say it is at top German league level.

As far as the game itself, well the weather will be better then their last visit. Temperatures should be right around freezing, but no snow is predicted. Also, the ground is not as frozen as the last match.

When it comes to players, the US will need a miracle in their midfield if they want to stay competitive. Be it Pablo Mastroeni or Bobby Convey, someone needs to take control of the midline the way Reyna would if he were there. With Steve Cherundolo and/or Cory Gibbs on the backline, there should be some good management in front of goal, so the midfield will not have to be overly defensive.

Upfront, Eddie Johnson and Taylor Twellman need to make the most of their limited chances. I have a feeling Johnson is going to catch the German's out of position a few times. If he can use his speed to get in a one on one with Oliver Kahn, then we might just be in for a bit of a surprise.

And that might just be the way for the US to prevent a whopping. The Germans will be looking for goals early, thus they will play in a much more offensive attack mood. This will allow for some chances on the counter attacks. That said, the US should not just sit in a defensive posture with occasional counters, instead they should more the ball around and frustrate the overburdened Germans. But to do such a thing, you need a good midfield.

The great news is all the pressure is on Germany. They will have 67,000 fans cheering them on, but also booing them if they fail to perform. The chances of an American victory here are not so great, but it is not impossible. If a player wants to make a mark on Bruce concerning the World Cup roster, this is a fabulous time to do it. If you can cause something to happen in a very hostile environment against a stronger (at least on paper) team, then you might just be ready for the big event.

US vs. Germany
2:25pm EST


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Arrest made in Belgian match-fixing scandal

Player agent Pietro Allatta has been arrested and held without bail after being charged with forgery and making threats.

Allatta turned himself into authorities today and was questioned for several hours. After the interrogation, the judge decided to arrest him. Allatta is best known as the agent involved in the transfer of national team goalkeeper Silvio Proto from La Louviere to Anderlecht last year.

The warrant for his arrest was issued last week after a raid on his home. His was one of 20 homes or offices raided last week in connection to the match-fixing scandal.

An international warrant has also been issued for Chinese businessman Zheyun Ye, who is suspected of organizing the match-fixing ring in Belgium.

At least six players and coaches have been fired by their clubs after being linked to match fixing.

This scandal is just the latest example of soccer gone to the muck. With FIFA consistently turning a blind eye to corruption in their ranks, can we really be surprised that things like this (or the most recent German scandal) happen? If the person at the top truly cared, he would not excuse the crimes of those around him. Instead, he would set a no tolerance standard. I guess if you built your house on bribes and cheats, why would you want to attack your very foundation?

Soccer is rotting from the inside out. If it was not for the overwhelming passion of the millions of fans, this fruit would have long ago fell to the jungle floor.

Monday, March 20, 2006

South Jersey to get a MLS Soccer Stadium

Today, Rowan University, located in Glassboro, New Jersey, announced that they would build a new MLS stadium on the West Side of their campus. However, no MLS team was promised to the area.

This stadium will be part of a huge athletic park on the campus. The University will not own the soccer stadium. Instead, the MLS will lease the land and allow Rowan to use it for some of the events.

Rowan will now ask developers to come up with plans for the stadium. They will then select the winning developer in 30-days. They hope to have a contract signed by July 1 and the 20-25,000-seat stadium to open in 2009.

As far as a team for the new digs in South Jersey, well there is still a lot to be worked out. No owners were announced, nor information on if it will be an expansion team or a relocated of a current one. So this is a very new approach for MLS. This marks the first time that a stadium will precede a team.

Hopefully the large Philadelphia market, the chance for some good rivals in DC and New York, along with an existing soccer stadium will help MLS place a great team in the area.

The only semi-firm commitment Mark Abbott, MLS President, made at the announcement was this quote, "See you for kickoff in 2009 and our 2009 national championship."

One funny part of the speech today by University President Donald J. Farish, he brought up FC Dallas's stadium, Pizza Hut Park (he actually called it Pizza Hut Stadium). Anyway, he said, what a great name is that. Hopefully we can do better. Maybe Papa John Stadium?

Even if he is right about the name being bad, it is still an interesting way to begin one's relationship with MLS.


FIFA approves of crooks

If you thought FIFA was in any way thinking about cleaning up all the corruption that ruins the game for the fans, think again. Jack Warner, the man who tried to screw over an entire nation of soccer fans in order to better his own family's finances, got off scot free today. Why? Because he sold the stock in the disputed travel agency at some point after Feb. 15.

For those of you who do not know, Jack Warner is head of CONCACAF and a VP of FIFA. He used his influence to direct all tickets allotted to Trinidad and Tobago for the World Cup to a travel agency owned by his family. If you wanted to see T&T play in Germany, you had to purchase tickets along with a travel package from Warner's agency.

After this information was exposed, Warner was forced to release the tickets to other groups. He was also told by FIFA that he had to sell his shares in the travel agency. Warner did just that.

But what does selling the shares mean? If you break the rules and you get caught, all you need to do is make a symbolic jester and you are in the clear. What worth was the travel agency to Warner now that it could no longer sell all of Trinidad and Tobago's tickets to the World Cup? Also, what prevents him from starting another agency the next time a big event comes around?

If FIFA cared at all about the soccer fans of Trinidad and Tobago, Warner would have been banned from soccer forever. However, with all the corruption built into FIFA, why would they do this? It might cause questions to be asked about other members and deals.

It is sad that such a group of thieves and liars run the world's game.

Just a reminder, this was not the first time Warner used international soccer to increase his own bank statements. 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 also not punished for those actions.

Warner represents all that is wrong with international soccer, yet FIFA thinks he is just fine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

US names the roster for Germany

Earlier today, Bruce Arena announced the 19-man roster for their match against Germany. Here are the lucky few:

Goalkeepers (2) – Marcus Hahnemann (Reading FC), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach)

Defenders (7) – Gregg Berhalter (Energie Cottbus), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjælland), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake)

Midfielders (6) – Bobby Convey (Reading FC), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Chris Klein (Real Salt Lake), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), Ben Olsen (D.C. United), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City Wizards)

Forwards (4) – Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)

Since this is not a FIFA international date, teams were not required to release players. This explains all the MLS players on the list. As far as the Germany based players, well it just makes sense. If you are a club, don't you want your players in a match that the whole country is going to watch? Also, since it is so close to home, it will not interrupt their schedule that much.

The game will air live on ESPN2 next Wednesday.

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

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US women fall in shootout

What a game. The US was in control for most of the 120-minutes, but they just could not beat the German keeper. That said, Germany did have some great attempts but thanks to the skillful work of US goaltender Hope Solo, the scoreboard stayed at zero.

For two full 45-minute halves and two 15-minute overtime periods, these sides challenged each other for the Algrave Cup. The US had 13 shots to Germany's 7, but not a one was worth a goal.

So it came down to penalty kicks. The US shot first...

Aly Wagner - GOAL
Behringer - goal

Shannon Boxx - saved
Pohlers - goal

Cat Whitehill - GOAL

Abby Wambach - miss high
Okoyino da Mbabi - goal

Kristine Lilly - GOAL
Wimbersky - goal

Germany wins on pks.

This is not the ending that we all wanted, but still, the US women played a great tournament, they just had trouble getting finishing in a couple matches.

One other bit of worrisome news, late in overtime, Natasha Kai went down after a hard head-to-head and had to be carried off in a stretcher. As of now, no word has come regarding her condition. We hope her a quick recovery.


US is fifth best team in the world

The new FIFA world rankings are out and, thanks to their solid performance in practice matches over the last month, the US is now ranked as the 5th best team in the world. This is the best ranking ever by the US men's team.

This also marks the first time since June 2003 that the US has outranked Mexico. Here is the full top 20 list:

Pos - Team - Pts - (Feb Rank)
1 Brazil 835 (1)
2 Czech Republic 789 (2)
3 Netherlands 788 (3)
4 Argentina 765 (4)
5 USA 764 (6)
6 Spain 763 (6)
7 Mexico 762 (6)
8 France 767 (5)
9 England 756 (9)
10 Portugal 755 (10)

11 Turkey 743 (11)
12 Nigeria 738 (12)
12 Italy 738 (12)
14 Denmark 736 (14)
15 Cameroon 726 (16)
16 Sweden 725 (15)
17 Egypt 714 (17)
18 Japan 712 (18)
19 Iran 705 (22)
19 Croatia 705 (23)

Both Greece (21) and Germany (22) droped out of the top 20.

The biggest winners of the month are Equatorial Guinea, who moved 8 spots to 165th, Yemen, who jumped 9 spaces to 130th and Palestine who just flew up the chart 17 places to 121st.

On the falling side of things, a handful of others fell 4 places (Libya (84), Algeria (85) and Liberia(139)), North Korea slipped five places to 87th, but the biggest drop was Albania who go down 6 places to 88th in the world.

Just so you know, Ghana, the only team from Group E not in the top 20, is fell two spots to 50th place.


Monday, March 13, 2006

US to play Morocco, Venezuela and Latvia

The US men have opponents for their final three warm up matches before the World Cup. These games will be played on May 23rd, 26th and 28th. These matches are in addition to their March 22nd outing with Germany in Germany and the April 11th game with Jamaica in Cary, North Carolina (which has sold out).

If you want to see the men play before the take the world stage in Germany, these will be your last three chances.

May 23rd - US vs Morocco in Nashville, Tennessee
May 26th - US vs Venezuela in Cleveland, Ohio
May 28th - US vs Latvia in East Hartford, Connecticut

All three of these matches will air live on ESPN2. If you would like to yell, chant and scream in the stadium instead of your living room, you can purchase tickets here.

McBride extends Fulham contract while team gets ready for a boardroom shake-up

US striker Brian McBride signed a one-year extension on his contract with Fulham over the weekend. This move means McBride will be with the club till summer 2007.

McBride has scored 10 goals this season and Fulham boss Chris Coleman told the club's website: "I cannot speak highly enough about the player.

"He has probably been one of our most impressive and consistent this season."

McBride is one of the main reasons Fulham is not sitting in the bottom three of the Premiership and they are lucky to keep him.

Fulham has also announced that two board members could soon be leaving. The statement reads:

In line with the board of directors' vision for the future success of the club, Fulham is currently undergoing a managerial restructure.

Part of this process may include redundancies which in any organisation is of course regrettable.

However, its purpose is to ensure that the business moves forward successfully both on and off the field and that its long term commercial viability is secured.

None of these changes will involve playing management.

US Women trash France; Germany is next

The US Women came to play. Just like Saturday's Denmark beating, the red, white and blue women dominated this game. In just the third minute, Kristine Lilly sailed a shot in from the top of the penalty box that just grazed the underside of the top crossbar on its way to net.

That was the lone goal of the first 45-minutes. At the start of the second half, France threaten, but could not convert. Then the goals started raining. In three minutes, the US would find themselves up by 3. In the 52nd Aly Wagner beat the keeper on a one-on-one setup by Heather O'Reilly. In the 54th, Lindsay Tarpley got a great little pass from Lilly to setup the third goal.

The French would not surrender as they managed to cut the lead to 2 in the 65th when Hoda Lettaf took a long pass and fired it past Hope Solo. This was the first goal scored on the US Women during the run of play in 1,442 minutes.

However, any hope of a French renaissance was put to rest in the 70th minute when Sandrine Soubeyrand earned her second yellow card, thus getting a red and being sent off. Soubeyrand's first yellow was in the 55th when she reentered the pitch from an injury without ref approval. Her second was for dragging down a player who had a clear path on goal. Being down by 2 with only 10 players against a strong US side is not a place a team wants to find itself.

Sure enough, the US took over total control from then on, including getting a fourth goal in the 78th minute thanks to Natasha Kai (pictured). Kai shot was knocked away by the French keeper, but Kai stayed with it. She collected her own rebound and sank it into the goal. This marks Kai's second goal for the US side in only her second match. Not sure of the numbers, but I think that's a damn good average.

With the win, the US now gets to face Germany in the Championship on Wednesday. The game will begin at 11:30am EST.

US 4 - 1 France


US Soccer has a new President

On Saturday night US Soccer elected a new president to replace Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia, who stepped down after 8-years. The new chief is Sunil Gulati (pictured), a man who has been involved with almost every major event in recent US soccer history.

With almost 30 years of experience at all levels of soccer in the United States, Gulati has helped the sport rise to new heights across four decades of hands on involvement. He currently serves as the president of Kraft Soccer Properties, taking the position after serving as Major League Soccer's deputy commissioner from its launch until 1999.

At the highly successful FIFA World Cup USA 1994, Gulati served as executive vice president and chief international officer and was a member of the original U.S. World Cup bid committee in the 1980s that helped bring the event to the United States for the first time. He also served on the Board of Directors of FIFA Women's World Cup USA 1999 and 2003 and is currently serving on several FIFA committees.

This is a great background for our new skipper. I hope it will give him the knowledge to continue to improve the US operation while also giving him the confidence to speak to matters in CONCACAF and FIFA. The biggest issue that I hope he speaks about is corruption.

Sadly, the president of CONCACAF, Jack Warner, has proven himself to be, at best, questionably immoral. US Soccer has its problems, but thankfully corruption is not a big one. The US should take the lead in guiding CONCACAF into a better place. Let's clean up our confederation and then let's clean up FIFA.

This will be a difficult challenge, but I think it is one that Mr. Gulati can accomplish.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

US Women blow Denmark away

There's the US Women's team we all love. They came out today and controlled just about every minute of the match. Still, they were not finding net till the 27th minute when Abby Wambach opened up the gates.

Prior to Wambach's goal, the US had 8 shots with most of them being close.

The next six minutes defined the game, and hopefully the Algarve Cup, as Heather O'Reilly (pictured) made strikes in the 31st and 33rd minutes. This marks the first multi-goal experience for O'Reilly.

Then, right before halftime, Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach play the back back and forth with Lilly taking the shot and getting the goal. This is Lilly's 108th international goal.

At the half, a little bit of history was made when Natasha Kai was substituted in for Lilly. Kai became the first Hawaiian to earn a cap for the women's team. But Kai would not let that be her only honor of the night. Kai intercepted a poor pass from a Denmark defender to her goalie and snapped a shot in for an easy goal. What a way to start your international days.

So the US wins 5-0. Next up is France on Monday at 10:30am EST. Sadly, the match will not be televised, but you can always see the live report on US Soccer's match tracker.


Friday, March 10, 2006

World Cup News - March 10th

Filippo Inzaghi is hoping his two goals in AC Milan's blowout of Beyern Munich helps earn him a spot on Italy's roster. Inzaghi has had a lot of knee problems has of late been a scoring machine, netting nine goals in his last seven games. Italy has a lot of talent in the striker position, but those numbers have got to be catching a few eyes.

On the other side of the 'form' line, we have Ronaldo, who has put on a little weight of late and has just 10 goals this season for Real Madrid. He has also recently hinted at leaving Real saying, "I've never felt at home at the Bernabeu (Real's home) and I will look at my situation after the World Cup." His life, as the article notes, seems to have taken a bad turn ever since his divorce last year. Ronaldo's poor play have made a few folks wonder if he might be more of a drag then a help for Brazil come June.

After the Black Stars tripped out of the African Cup and fell to Mexico during last week's friendly, fans claim Ghanaian coach Ratomir Djukovic does not have the abilities to guide the team through their difficult group in Germany. However, the country's Deputy Minister of Education and Sports warned against replacing a coach this close to the finals, pointing out all the tension in Togo who recently fired their coach. The deputy understands fans anger, as the coach is paid by taxpayer money, but thinks they need to give Djukovic the benefit of the doubt.

Juergen Klinsmann is open to the idea of extending his contract as Germany's head coach to after the Cup. Bad news for Klinsmann is he might be the only German thinking that at the moment.

If you are planning on using a taxi during the World Cup, chances are your driver will not speak English. I know, it is shocking that in Germany, people might not speak English, but it could just be the case. However, Berlin’s Tourism and Marketing Office did offer free English classes to taxi drivers, but only about 100 of the city's 12,000 cabbies took them up on the offer.

German football legend Franz Beckenbauer thinks Serbo-Montenegrin stands a good chance of making out of their group (Argentina, Ivory Coast and Holland) if they, "play in the same style like (they) did during the World Cup qualifiers."

In a recent poll of users, 41% said that the Ivory Coast was the African team that would go furthest in Germany. If these users and Beckenbauer are correct, this is bad news for Argentina and Holland.

Finally, the wonderful people of Thailand will get a rare chance to see the World Cup trophy as it will be on display at Siam Paragon's Royal Paragon Hall tomorrow. However, visitors will need to keep a respectable distance and "avoid exhaling onto it."

91 days till kickoff...

US Women get ready for Denmark

The US Women continue their quest for the Algrave Cup tomorrow morning (Saturday) at 10am EST with a match against Denmark.

Earlier this week, the women begin their action with a match against rivals China. The US played strong and controlled much of the game but was much better at finding the goalpost with shots then the goal. China also had a few good shots ring the bars.

However, the big hero of the night for the US was Hope Solo (pictured) who made two rapid fire saves the kept China off the scorecard. It really is amazing. Solo gets a piece of the initial shot, causing it to hit the top bar and bounce right to the feet of a Sun Wen, who takes a quick rebound shot. Solo was going to her right, but somehow manages to dive to her left to make the save. Just beautiful.

The US now face a Denmark team that tied France 2-2 in their opening match. If the US can bring the type of play they showed at the start of the second half to this match, they will walk away happy.

If you want to keep up with the match, it will be available via US Soccer.


US Under-20s welcome Thomas Rongen back

Earlier this week, US Soccer named Thomas Rongen (pictured) the new, or is it 'classic', head coach for the US Under-20 men. Rongen held this position from 2002 till 2004. During his first tenure, he took guided the team to a fifth place finish at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship.

Rongen's most recent job saw him guide Chivas USA to sixth place in the Western Conference (they remained in sixth place even after he left the club in the middle of the season). Rongen also coached the Tampa Bay Mutiny, New England Revolution and DC United. He was in charge of United when they won the MLS Cup in 1999.

The U-20 team will soon start their qualifying matches for the 2007 U-20 World Cup.

Los Angeles Galaxy President & GM Doug Hamilton has died

Wow, this is just horrible news. Doug Hamilton died of an apparent heart attack on the flight home from Costa Rica. Hamilton is one of the main reasons LA has been so successful in the past few years.

"He had a profound impact not only on the Galaxy but on getting the Home Depot Center built," Tim Leiweke, AEG's president and chief executive, said late Thursday night. "But I think more than anything he was a wonderful father.

"He was a good vibrant young man in good health. You assume God has a purpose here, but obviously it's a very devastating loss for soccer in this country, for the league, for the Galaxy and for our organization"

Similar sentiments were voiced by Hamilton's MLS colleagues. Former Galaxy vice president Whit Haskell, now president and general manager of Chivas USA, which shares the Home Depot Center with the Galaxy, had worked alongside Hamilton for the last four years.

"I'm one of many people who owe Doug a lot," Haskell said. "Doug built an unbelievable organization. The Galaxy needed some incredible leadership and Doug came in and he gave it that. He knew exactly what he wanted. He was a very honest and direct manager."

There was another side to Hamilton, though, Haskell said. "As a father and friend, he was a really caring guy," he said. "He was a friend. I owe him so much.

"One other thing that struck me about Doug from the start was the amazing respect that he had from people throughout the soccer community — players, administrators and fans."

He was only 43 years old. He leaves behind his wife Paige and a 5-year-old son.

The Galaxy had planned on training in Costa Rica till Monday, but has now suspended all activities and will fly back to LA tonight.


More match fixing in Germany

Four people were arrested today as part of an investigation into another match fixing scandal in Germany. These new allegations come less then 100 days before the country hosts the World Cup.

However, unlike last year's version, this new scandal does not involve the top leagues nor does it involve any referees. It appears this Germany Soccer Scandal part 2 involves bribes to players to influence the results.

It has been confirmed that players have been allegedly approached and offered several thousand euros if they could influence the result of at least five games. The court revealed that it is believed that at least one of the offers of payment was accepted. The court also refused to acknowledge or deny any connection with the match fixing operation involving Hoyzer.

On the surface, this episode does not seem to be as bad as the first one, yet it will still bring black clouds to the German FA. Adding to the bad news, it looks like Robert Hoyzer (the ref at the center of the first scandal) will need to be retried as "it was revealed that the disgraced referee was not the official at one of the matches that he was accused of fixing."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

LA Galaxy 2 - 3 Deportivo Saprissa

The second half was not kind to the Galaxy, but lets not get ahead of our self.

In the first 45-minutes, the team was clicking. London Donovan was making his moves and even got a goal. He was also drawing the defense to him, making opportunities for others. LA went into the break up by 2.

Then came the second half and things fell to pot. The team could not decide if it wanted to keep attacking or play hard defense. This lead to sloppy mistakes that saw Saprissa tie it all back up. Into extra time we went.

Two fifteen-minute halves were to be played, but LA could not change things around. This allowed Ronaldo Parks to get the goal that saw LA out of the cup. The most interesting thing was, right after Parks' goal, when Saprissa's player kept getting horrible injuries that required them to lie on the ground for many minutes until then could be carted off the pitch. If I was cynical, I would say they were just killing time, but I'm sure they were really hurting.

Stop here if you do not want to know the New England result.

So LA goes down 2-3 in Costa Rica. This was a good outing that should have resulted in a victory, but it was not to be. MLS now has no teams in the rest of the Champions Cup. Perhaps next year the league could figure out a way to have teams playing in the Cup start training a little earlier. Maybe MLS will have better luck that way.

New England's CONCACAF Cup result

If you are planning on watching the Fox Soccer Channel broadcast of the New England - Liga Deportiva Alajuelense match, don't read much further.

Anyway, New England faced off in Costa Rica tonight against Liga Deportiva Alajuelense. The first half, they were in complete control. It looked as if they would make much happen far away from home. Yet, they could not find goal.

The second half was much tougher. Calls were not going the Revs way and they didn't seem to be able to hold the ball as much. Still, they had moments of possibilities, yet they could not find net. Then in the 90th minute, Alajuelense got a free kick right outside the Revs box.

Carlos Hernandez stepped up to take it and wow, what a curve he put on the shot. Right past the wall and out of the reach of a diving Matt Reis. The stadium erupts as they see their home side take the goal that will send the Americans home with nothing.

And that is how New England ended their CONCACAF run. If they had showed this kind of flash two weeks ago in the 'home' match, they might have been the ones celebrating tonight.

New England 0 - 1 Liga Deportiva Alajuelense


New England and Los Angeles ready for CONCACAF glory

Both MLS teams failed to gain the upper hand during the home portion of their CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal series, so they must make something happen on foreign soil. Both teams face difficult opponents, so the odds are very much against them.

New England Revolution play Costa Rica champions Liga Deportiva Alajuelense (9pm EST tonight). As during their home match, New England will take the pitch without a lot of players due to injury. Both Michael Parkhurst and Pat Noonan are out. Stave Ralston is available, but NE's coach is reluctant to use him as a started.

The midfield is going to be questionable for the Revs. Do to this, look for Clint Dempsey to come back more (he will probably be teamed up front with Twellman). The key for both teams will be defense, but look for the Revs to play on their heels more then Alajuelense. Look for the Revs to try to throw as many bodies behind the ball as possible while looking for a couple lucky counter attacks.

LA should have an easier time in their match against Deportivo Saprissa, but only by a little bit (9pm EST tonight). I say this because LA is in better shape then the Revs as far as injuries are concerned. The big return has got to be defender Chris Albright. Without Albright, LA looked a little confused during the first meeting. They might also get to use Brian Dunseth as a defender. Dunseth has got arrived in Galaxy land, but his international experience could be huge.

However, the main person that needs to step up and start creating chances is Landon Donovan. Donovan has been a little flat of late (both with LA and the USA). He needs to force the defense to come at him when he has the ball. This will open things up for Herculez Gomez and Cobi Jones. Saprissa will be watching Donovan, he needs to exploit that.

Both matches will be shown on Fox Soccer Channel, however, the New England match will be tape delayed.

LA Galaxy - Deportivo Saprissa
9pm EST
Fox Soccer Channel

New England Revolution - Deportiva Alajuelense
11pm EST
Fox Soccer Channel

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Two African nations looking for new coaches

Both Uganda and Cameroon are looking for new national team coaches today.

Yesterday, the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) sacked Egyptian coach Muhammad Abbas. Abbas had coached the team since 2004. This is actually the second time Abbas has been fired. He was let go last year, but the education and sports state minister forced FUFA to change their mind. FUFA say they are looking for a coach from Eastern Europe.

Also yesterday, Portugal's Artur Jorge quit as Cameroon's soccer coach. Jorge had been in charge since November 2004. When he was hired, his goal was to get Cameroon to their fifth straight World Cup. However, a surprise home draw against Egypt in their final qualifying match gave the spot to the Ivory Coast. Cameroon then fell to the Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals of the last month's African Nations Cup.

Jorge's resignation is not overly shocking since his contract was due to end in May.

Eddie Pope: the man to save Real Salt Lake?

The resurgence of Eddie Pope gets a write up in today's Salk Lake Tribune where they point to the centerback as the "key to turning around the team's fortunes."

After all the injuries of 2005, a healthy and confident Pope must be a welcomed sight for RSL fans. With thirteen new players added to the team during the off season (only three players remain from the opening-day starters), this is a team that is going to need a lot of leadership. Pope seems like the kind of player that could provide just that.

What is going to make Eddie so dangerous this year is his desire. At 32, he knows this will probably be his last chance at a World Cup. If he wants to be one of the lucky 23, he will need to continue to impress Bruce Arena by playing hard in his club matches.

"I'm close to where I want to be at," he said. "I'm trying to get better. There is a little bit of an adjustment [returning to RSL]. The international game is different in style to Major League Soccer."

If Eddie keeps pushing forward, he will be in Germany. The question is, can a team like Salt Lake make use of the power Pope will bring to the field this season? Last year, Real was really good at finding ways to loose matches they should have at least tied. If they can fix this problem, perhaps they will be on to something.

One thing to remember, last year Real seemed to be building their team around Clint Mathis. One has got to hope that Pope will turn out to be a safer bet.


Red Bull New York a 'done deal'

According to Big Apple Soccer, the sale of the MetroStars to Red Bull is a "done deal." All that is left is the OK of the MLS board of governors.

Seeing as the selling price is $30million, the highest price ever paid for a US soccer team, I'm guessing the board vote is just a formality. With the sale done, attention now turns to re-branding. Say goodbye to anything Metro and hello to the bulls of red. The logo will probably look something like the one above, as this is just the Red Bull Salzburg logo with New York inserted.

It will also be interesting to see how much of the front office changes. With less then a month to go before the start of the season, Red Bull will have to work fast if it plans on mass changes. By the way, the Big Apple article notes that, "members of the Metros front office were told by an AEG representative on Tuesday to replace all instances of MetroStars with Red Bull, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting."

The two questions that remain are, how will this effect the results on the pitch and how will the media at large react to the naming of a pro team after a soft drink? Luckily for the team, even if this does cause some bad times for the team, the league is structured in such a way that they still might make the playoffs. As for the media's reaction, I'm guessing it will just provide another excuse for them not to cover soccer.

I'm happy to see a new owner join MLS, but it is total crap that 10-years of history had to be erased to make it happen (even if a lot of the history is not so great).