Friday, April 28, 2006

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard hoping for a visit from Roster Claus

Clint Dempsey is an intense person, just ask Joe Franchino's chipped tooth, but he is hoping that Roster Claus will overlook his recent outburst with his fists and give him the gift of a ticket to Germany.

Dempsey and Franchino, teammates on the Revolution, scuffled during an intrasquad scrimmage March 13.

"I just got a blatant elbow to the face and I confronted him about it and he turned around and he popped me," said Franchino, captain of the Major League Soccer team and another intense player.

After the punch, they went to the ground and kept grappling before teammates separated them.

This little punch to the face cost Dempsey a pre-trip to Germany when the US lost to the Germans back in March. That was a costly match for him to miss as he probably would have started. Bruce did welcome him back to camp for Jamaica, but not as a starter (actually, he only went in due to Steve Ralston injuring his groin).

Thankfully it appears Dempsey has worked to patch things up with Franchino as he had kind words for him after their opening victory over LA and ate with him after their last game against KC. Bruce doesn't like players that make trouble. If Dempsey gets one of those German tickets on Tuesday, it's because he proved that he is not a bad kid on the playground.

Someone who doesn't really need to worry about getting one of those tickets is Tim Howard as he is all but a lock as a backup goaltender. However, in an odd twist, his main concern is just getting playing time at the club level.

When Manchester United signed Dutch goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar last summer, Howard figured he'd have a tough time beating out the veteran star for the starting spot. However, he thought he at least would have the opportunity to get a good number of games, considering the large number of competitions the club would be involved in.

It didn't quite work out that way, though. An early Champions League exit was followed by a relatively quick departure from the FA Cup, leaving Manchester United with fewer matches and Howard fewer chances to get on the field. Heading into this weekend, Howard has played just 45 minutes of English Premier League action and had a paltry seven appearances in all competitions.

It is strange that the man that is considered the future goalie for the US national team cannot get club minutes. It's not that he isn't good, it's just that Man United has the luxury of having a top quality keeper as their backup, and since his contract with the Red Devils lasts through next year, his options are either to play on loan to another club or beat out Van Der Sar for the top spot.

Howard still has the inside track on 2010, but only if his minutes increase drastically over the next year or so.

Roster Claus is coming to town

The Bruce is making his list and checking it twice this final weekend before he plays the role of jolly, old Roster Claus (pictured).

While waiting to find out which 23 Papa Arena will take to Germany, why not read up on the best coach ever, as Grant Wahl adds more information to his story about Arena, which can be found in the current issue of Sports Illustrated. He gets some great quotes from players and coaches a like. The best thing, it even brings up what some people consider his weakest skill.

In a sense, it doesn't really matter whether Arena is or isn't a genius, as long as his players feel that way. Keep in mind, though, that they view him as a team-building genius, not necessarily an X's-and-O's genius. I also asked players: When guys complain about Arena, what do they complain about?

"The only times I've heard guys complain about Bruce, and I would agree, is in certain circumstances where we haven't played the right way tactically," says Donovan. "I think Bruce would admit it. Like the first Mexico qualifier in Azteca [in '05] when we played a 4-3-3. We all bought into it, but after the game it was like, Why would he do that? We adjusted in the second half and got back into the game, but it was too late.... But it also works the other way. Against Mexico we'd played a 4-4-2 for forever heading into the ['02] World Cup, but when we played them there he decided to play a 3-5-2 and it worked brilliantly."

You can even read up on his biggest regret from 2002 and who would have taken the pk against Germany if the ref had correctly made the call against Mr. Handball in the Box, Torsten Frings.

Just four more days till World Cup Squadmas.

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MLS 2006 Week 5 Predictions

Welcome to week 5 and a full lineup of matches. All 12 MLS teams will see action over the weekend, but only one of them will air on ESPN2.

The fun thing about week 5 is that it is far enough into the season that people start expecting and/or needing results. For example, at least two coaches must be worried about what will happen if they don't get some points (New York and LA). This could cause games to open up or for them to fall into stalemates. Either way, we should know more about the rest of the season by Monday.

Anyway, here are the predictions.

Real Salt Lake vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Saturday - 4:00pm ET

This should be a no-brainer, but with the recent form of LA, one cannot be sure. LA is off to a bad start and now they get to go on the road. As the team showed last year, they have trouble winning away from the Home Depot Center (3-10-3 during 2005) and there has been no indication that things will change for 2006. Cornell Glen needs to keep finding the openings that get them goals, but the real thing LA needs to improve on is late penalties. They cannot keep giving up free kicks near their box during the final minutes of the game. Real Salt Lake has the talent in Jason Kreis to make LA pay for giving them a late opportunity. Even without free kicks, if Eddie Pope can tie up the Galaxy's front line, then Real will have a chance. Still, Salt Lake needs to find the goal more then once a match. The sad thing is, I think this will be a sloppy match that will make for some blah TV.

Mike: RSL 1-1 LA
Wife: RSL 3-1 LA


DC United vs. FC Dallas
Saturday - 7:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick (DK), MLS TV

Another week, another chance for FCD to take down the top team in the East. Last week they were able to topple KC while playing a man down for 25-minutes, put playing DC at home might prove to be a tougher test. For Dallas, Kenny Cooper must keep surprising teams, but Carlos Ruiz also has to get into this one. If Ruiz hopes to hit the 20-goal mark this season as he predicted, he needs to start finding the net soon. Dario Sala has looked good in goal, but the backline is shaky (and it might be shakier with defender Chris Gbandi sitting out due to last week's red card). For DC, they are bringing it together all over the pitch. Ben Olsen and Brian Carroll are taking control in the middle, allowing Christian Gomez, Alecko Eskandarian and Jaime Moreno to get it done up top. They could still use a bit more tuning on defense, but Bobby Boswell and Brandon Prideaux are doing okay. All and all, I think this is going to be a thrilling game from start to finish, and I think FC Dallas will find a way to pull it out. I say this because they have been able to frustrate everyone else they've played while sneaking in goals when needed. DC will be the biggest test to date for the team but I think they will find a way. It's a shame this one will not be on ESPN2.

Mike: DC 2-3 FCD
Wife: DC 2-3 FCD


Columbus Crew vs. KC Wizards
Saturday - 7:30pm ET

I'm still shocked by the Crew's win over LA last week, but I have a feeling things will get back to normal on Saturday when they welcome KC to town. Last week the Wizards played a bit better then Dallas, but they could not finish their shots. Are they still getting use to their 4-3-3 lineup like Josh Wolff claims or is Eddie Johnson too busy planning his career in Europe to focus on such tasks? I'm not trying to knock Eddie, but he has seemed a bit distracted of late. On defense for KC, Jimmy Conrad and Nick Garcia should be able to handle the Crew's Kei Kamara. There is no reason the Wizards should lose this one, so they won't.

Mike: Crew 0-2 KC
Wife: Crew 1-2 KC


Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo
Saturday - 9:00pm ET

With Jean Philippe Peguero gone from Colorado to New York, who is suppose to give the team an offense spark? Dedi Ben Dayan is getting over an injury but is still not 100%. Fabrice Noel is questionable, meaning Clint Mathis might need to start and when was the last time he was a threat throughout an entire game. For the Dynamo, they have a hopped up Dwayne De Rosario in their midfield and striker Brian Ching, who can find just about any ball with his head, leading the charge. In front of the net, they have the always-strong Pat Onstad holding their defense together. This is a recipe that has served the team well in the past and it should not be stopped by the likes of the Rapids.

Mike: Rapids 1-3 Houston
Wife: Rapids 1-0 Houston


Chivas USA vs. New York Red Bull
Saturday - 10:00pm ET

Everyday seems to bring more confusion to the Reds. Who is getting fired, who is getting traded, where are they going to play, etc. As they displayed last week, off the pitch troubles are not staying off the pitch. Has anyone seen midfielder Amado Guevara? I seem to recall him being very vocal over the off-season, but I haven't heard much of him lately. Youri Djorkaeff has been a bit of a bright spot for the team, but that is not enough to make New York a threat. If it wasn't for Tony Meola between the posts, I think every game for the Bulls would be a whopping like last week. Still, they are playing Chivas, so who knows. The Goats are much better then last year, but they still find ways to give up goals late. Good news for them, John O'Brien has looked strong in scrimmages over the last week and might be a factor on Saturday. If O'Brien can team up with forward Juan Francisco Palencia, then Chivas will beat the Bulls.

Mike: Chivas 2-1 NY
Wife: Chivas 1-1 NY


New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire
Sunday - 3:00pm ET

New England head home for the first time this season after a week off, but will it be enough to wake this team up? The only people playing close to their expected level are Clint Dempsey and Matt Reis. They need Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan, Michael Parkhurst and Shalrie Joseph to shake off whatever funk they have fallen under and start finishing plays. The Revs have done a good job of getting the ball into the opponent’s third, but then they have nothing. For the Fire, Chris Rolfe needs to keep hot with Justin Mapp supporting him. If Jim Curtin can contain the attack without giving up penalty kicks, the Fire might be able to get yet another difficult road point. Still, New England is going to break out at some point and a home opener is a very good place to do that.

Mike: NE 2-1 Chicago
Wife: NE 2-1 Chicago

Looking for Taylor Twellman

It is one of the great mysteries of the 2006 MLS season, why isn't Taylor Twellman scoring goals?

For a player that notched in 17 goals last year, this is a little strange. Adding to the odd feeling, just a couple months ago it looked like he had found the international scoring touch during the US training camp. So what gives?

''It's tense," says Taylor Twellman. ''No matter how you look at it, it occupies your mind a lot. I know I've been unfair to my teammates. I even had sinusitis, and the doctor said it was due to stress."

He is too stressed to score. I seem to recall them saying the same thing about Twellman before he got his first international goal. As the logic goes, once he finds net, he'll know he can, thus he will find it more. It's like one of those lab tests were a mouse will wonder around a maze for hours till he finds the cheese, but as soon as he finds it, he will always be able to find it again.

But enough of my cheese metaphors, this stress is directly related to the World Cup in that Twellman knows that there are at least four forwards fighting for three spots (him, Eddie Johnson, Josh Wolff and Brian Ching), so he knows he needs to do something. But knowing and doing are two different things. Lucky for him, only one of the other three is having a good season so far.

Still, I think writing it off to stress might hurt his chances at making the squad. There is going to be a great deal of stress during every match in Germany. If you can't handle it at MLS level, how are you going to handle it amongst the best in the world?

I like Twellman, but I do worry that he will not be able to perform at the top-level. Just like everything big in life, you're nervous before it happens (hell, I'm going to be nervous before every World Cup match and I've got the easy job of screaming like an idiot), but the great ones shrug off those nerves by doing whatever needs to be done.

The good news for Twellman, he is getting a lot of help from the team's coaching staff, especially from assistant coach and former English striker Paul Mariner.

''A striker needs to be tough-minded and very thick-skinned," Mariner explains. ''You're talking about playing before thousands and thousands, and even a hundred thousand in the big matches, and knowing that you can't always succeed. You're not going to succeed on all your chances."

''Taylor Twellman," he continues, ''is a predator in the box. He makes good runs to the box, and when I'm talking about runs, I mean a year here or there. He's a master of quick movement. He's probably the best in the league as finishing as far as the half-yard is concerned."

Yes, Twellman will score again and that goal will probably lead to two or three more soon after, but will that be enough to settle him before World Cup duty?

Anyway, if you want to learn more about Twellman's very sports oriented family or about the pressure of playing a pro sport in Boston, read the rest of today's Boston Globe profile.

A whole new ballgame

Last night I was flipping through the channels and happened to stop on Fox during an episode of That 70's Show. I hadn't seen the show in a few years, so I decided to watch a bit. The show really isn't any good anymore, but I did get a nice treat as the new Gatorade commercial featuring the US national team aired during a break.

The ad shows the US in foreign lands getting harassed, but yet still scoring. Best part of it all, it is set to "Take me out to the ball game" and ends with the tagline "A Whole New Ball Game."

I've heard reports of this commercial airing during baseball games, but I had yet to see it. It really is a nice ad, showing how difficult the sport can be.

The fact that this aired on national television during prime time is yet another example of the sport moving into the mainstream. Also, tying it to something as "all-American" as baseball is a unique move as one of soccer's biggest problems in the states is the view that it is a foreign game. In addition, it shows a hard foul, players treating injuries and rabid opposition, thus knocking at another negative view of soccer, that it's not a 'tough' game like American football.

But enough of my analyzing, just watch the ad yourself.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jan Koller getting ready for the World Cup

It has been a long road to recovery for Czech Republic striker Jan Koller (pictured) after a horrible knee injury last September forced him out for 8 months, but according to his national team coach Karen Bruckner, the 6-foot-7 Dortmund player looks set to get back on the pitch.

"He's optimistic about his participation at the World Cup," Bruckner said. And that's a good thing for the Czech's as "there's no other Koller."

Koller is a mighty scoring threat having found the net 40 times in 66 international matches, with nine of those coming during their qualifying campaign. However, with squads having to be announced no later then May 15th, Koller only has a couple weeks left to show Bruckner that he is capable of playing at World Cup levels.

Being out for 8-months is a long time and who knows how his knee will react during an actual game. There are still a lot of questions about Koller's abilities, but as long as he can walk, it would be next to impossible to keep him off the roster.

For the USA, they will need to watch this giant when they take the Czechs on in their World Cup opener on June 12th. Even if he is on the pitch, he will probably still only be at 90%. They will want to force him to track back a lot so they can tire him out. If he is neutralized, then the US is that much closer to walking away with three points.

Super Soccer Series coming to the Twin Cities area

If you are looking for some of the best soccer in the world, you will be able to find it this July in Blaine, Minnesota as the US Women's team takes on Sweden on July 15th at 5pm. The match will air live on ESPN2.

The Swedes will bring two of the best strikers in the world in Victoria Svensson and Hanna Ljungberg. With team USA still trying to reshape it self after the retirement of Mia Hamm, this is sure to be a great match.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘new-look’ team,” said star striker Abby Wambach. “(U.S. head coach) Greg Ryan’s philosophy and what he brings to the table is new, but the vision for this team has always been the same, and that’s winning every time we step on the field.”

“I am excited to play Sweden,” said Ryan, who has yet to coach a game against the Swedes. “They are one of the best teams in the world.... this will be a great game in helping us continue to develop our young team.”

Top on the priority list for the U.S. coaching staff will be to develop the young but talented forwards who will support established goal-scoring machine Wambach, Heather O’Reilly, Amy Rodriguez, Natasha Kai and Lauren Cheney. Wambach, who scored 50 career goals faster than any U.S. player except Michelle Akers, will be cast in the role of mentor to the younger stars.

If you are unable to go to Germany for the Men's World Cup, or if you just want to see more top-level soccer after the cup is over, this will be a great opportunity. You can find tickets here.

This will mark the US women's first home match of the year.

There will also be a second match between Sweden and Canada on Tuesday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. Canada is a very up and coming team, so expect some fun action on Tuesday night as well.

MLS Injury Report - Week 5

All 12 MLS teams get to play this weekend, and it looks like injuries will not be a huge factor in the outcomes.

The week off for New England actually caused them to add one more player to their total with DF Marshall Leonard and MF Ryan Latham both joining the injured while FW Willie Sims comes off the list.

DC's MF Clyde Simms's foot is doing better as he jumps off the list, but DF Bryan Namoff is still listed as questionable.

Colorado got some good news with MF Colin Clark moving from out to questionable and MF Dedi Ben-Dayan going from doubtful to probable. However, FW Fabrice Noel joins the list. The last thing the Rapids need is to drop another forward.

FCD officially take FW Carlos Ruiz and DF Alex Yi off their list.

DF Carey Talley exists the list for Real Salt Lake (even through he started while on the list) while teammate FW Jamie Watson goes onto it.

Here is the full list:

Eastern Conference
OUT: FW Nate Jaqua (L shoulder)

OUT: MF Duncan Oughton (R knee), GK Jonny Walker (lower back pain), DF Jed Zayner (L knee); GK Bill Gaudette (R hand); Danny Szetela (L foot fracture); MF Jacob Thomas (R ankle sprain); DF Marcos Gonzalez (L hamstring)

OUT: GK Nick Rimando (mid-foot sprain); DF David Stokes (R quad strain); MF Santino Quaranta (R hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Bryan Namoff (groin strain); MF Justin Moose (hamstring strain)


OUT: MF Khano Smith (L knee surgery); MF Jani Galik (R hamstring strain); DF Marshall Leonard (L Achilles tendon rupture); MF Ryan Latham (abdominal strain)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Steve Ralston (L groin strain); FW Pat Noonan (R hamstring strain); DF Joe Franchino (R hamstring strain)

QUESTIONABLE: MF Mark Lisi (R groin strain)

Western Conference
OUT: MF Francisco Gomez (L knee surgery), FW Matt Taylor (R ankle fracture); MF Ramon Ramirez (L knee sprain)
PROBABLE: DF Carlos Llamosa (L hamstring strain)

OUT: GK Matt Jordan (lower back)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Fabrice Noel (R knee contusion); DF Matt Crawford (L hamstring); MF Colin Clark (R knee sprain)
PROBABLE: MF Dedi Ben-Dayan (L hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE: GK Jeff Cassar (R hip); MF Arturo Alvarez (L ankle sprain); MF Richard Mulrooney (R ACL)

OUT: FW Julian Nash (L hamstring strain), MF Aaron Lanes (R fifth metatarsal fracture)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Chris Wondolowski (R knee MCL sprain)

OUT: DF Ben Benditson (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Tyrone Marshall (L MCL sprain); FW Alan Gordon (sports hernia)

OUT: DF Paul Broome (L ankle internal derangement); MF Seth Trembly (L knee ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Jamie Watson (L knee sprain); PROBABLE: DF Eddie Pope (low back strain)

Best Paid Players in MLS - Plus all the rest

The Washingpost has obtained information about MLS saleries. Here is a list of the top ten players in terms of salary.

PlayerTeamBase Guaranteed*
1. Juan Francisco PalenciaChivas USA$692,308$1,360,000
2. Landon DonovanLos Angeles$900,000$900,000
3. Eddie JohnsonKansas City$750,000$875,000
4. Juan Pablo GarciaChivas USA$461,520$624,260
5. Freddy AduD.C. United$300,000$550,000
6. Josh WolffKansas City$350,000$420,357
7. Clint MathisColorado$270,000$410,000
8. Eddie PopeReal Salt Lake$330,521$394,688
9. Tony SannehChicago$285,000$365,000
10. Carlos RuizFC Dallas$250,000$360,000

* Guaranteed salary includes a player's base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses annualized over the term of his contract, including option years.

Since the paper's local beat in DC, they mention some other information about United's pay in their article.

After Adu, the next highest-paid United players are South Americans: Bolivian forward Jaime Moreno ($241,250), Argentine midfielder Christian Gomez ($182,500) and Argentine forward Lucio Filomeno ($163,250).

They also point to the large gap between the haves and have nots.

The league list also exposes glaring differences in salaries. For example, while Palencia is earning $1.36 million, 14 of United's 28 players will make less than $36,500, and nine of those will get less than $16,500 under terms of developmental contracts.

The great thing is they have the full list of all players salaries (I think this might be the first time something like this has leaked, but I could be wrong).

Here are a few of the none top-10 players in the league.

Eskandarian, AleckoDC$110,000$130,500
Boswell, RobertDC$29,400$29,400
Armas, ChrisChicago$250,000$325,000
Mapp, JustinChicago$95,000$101,000
O'Brien, JohnChivas$270,000$270,000
Kljestan, SachaChivas$45,000$78,000
Hejduk, FrankieColumbus$200,000$211,000
Gaven, EddieColumbus$130,000$153,000
Mastroeni, PabloColorado$250,000$268,000
Cannon, JoeColorado$172,000$172,000
Mina, RobertoDallas$80,000$80,000
Cooper, KennyDallas$55,000$58,000
Ching, BrianHouston$160,000$173,000
DeRosario, DwayneHouston$140,000$140,000
Conrad, JimmyKC$115,000$118,750
Jewsbury, JackKC$29,400$29,400
Jones, CobiLA$180,000$210,000
Gomez, HerculesLA$47,000$47,000
Twellman, TaylorNE$175,000$181,666
Dempsey, ClintNE$75,863$86,488
Wynne, MarvellNY$47,500$150,000
Meola, TonyNY$125,000$125,000
Kreis, JasonSalt Lake$160,000$197,500
Klein, ChrisSalt Lake$170,000$177,250

Big test for FC Dallas

FC Dallas faces a big test this weekend, but I'm not talking about their game against the top team in the league DC United.

The big test for FCD will take place back home at Pizza Hut Park when the facility will debut as a concert venue. The Latino pop group RBD will play on Saturday and by Sunday the big question will be answered, how much damage does a concert do to the pitch at the park?

The team's owner, Hunt Sports Group, is counting on hosting concerts to make the facility profitable, however soccer will come first. If this event tears up the pitch like concerts at the Home Depot Center (HDC) do, then they have a problem. However, FCD as an advantage at their park, their stage is permanent.

Since most of the damage at the HDC is the result of trucks hauling the stage in and out, the Park is a step up. They will also use an interlocking 'floor' to cover the field.

If this works out for the team, they will have found a possibly huge revenue stream that might lead the team to financial black ink. This may also help other MLS teams get venues built around the league because they will have a proven example of what can be done.

Like FCD or not, if you are a fan of soccer in America, then you should hope this concert (and the May 10th show with George Strait) is a success with limited damage to the pitch. The more money soccer has coming in, the more money they have to spend on promotion, development and other out-reach activities.

Who would have ever guessed that such much of America's soccer future could ride on a concert by RBD?

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Who should be the USA's third goaltender?

With decision day come on fast, everyone is speculating on the final 23-man roster for the World Cup. Today Kristian Dyer takes a look at the net minder and comes up with a bit of a twist on the three that Bruce Arena should take to Germany.

Obviously the starting keeper will be Kasey Keller. The work he has done both on the club and international levels makes him the best choice. But what about the other two spots?

Tim Howard is a great goaltender, but he has been unable to get many minutes with Manchester United. At 27-years of age, Howard is on the path to become America's starter over the next couple years but only if he can find a way to get more playing time at club level.

Marcus Hahnemann has shined with Reading FC, but as Dyer points out, "the former Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids net minder will turn 34 during the World Cup, yet has limited international experience - having earned just a handful of caps for the national team." A World Cup is not exactly the best place to get your first big taste of international play.

So what to do? Dyer suggests a little look back to the past to bring some needed experience to the team. And who is she looking at? Mr. 100th cap himself, Tony Meola.

Meola should in no way replace Howard on the depth chart but he is the ideal supplement to the roster. Marcus Hahnemann should be applauded for his achievements with Reading over the past several seasons, but Arena must choose someone with the experience of Meola to provide balance and provide much needed depth at the position. The choice is clear for Arena, but it remains to be seen if he will make the right move.

I have liked what I've seen out of Meola so far this MLS season. Yes, he has conceded many goals, but let's hope the US backline is better then New York's (if they are not, Keller is going to earn his pay check the hard way).

Bringing Howard makes sense as he looks to be the starter for the team in 2010. Decided between Hahnemann and Meola is a little harder, but I could see lots of reasons to go with Meola.

Then again, maybe the Bruce will go in a very different direction. Perhaps he will use that third spot to bring a 'fresh face.' Could a Kevin Hartman (LA), Matt Reis (NE) or someone really unpredictable like Jon Busch (Columbus) get a call up. For the record, I think these three are wild, wilder and really no real chance but I just wanted to put in a third name to suggest something completely crazy, but who knows, maybe Arena sees something none of us do.

The answers come Tuesday the 2nd on ESPN when Bruce announces the 23-man roster.

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


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Would $300,000 fines stop players from cheating?

German Franz Beckenbauer, president of this year's World Cup organizing committee and the country's most influential soccer personality, wants the German soccer league, the Bundesliga, to give players huge fines for cheating, play-acting and taking part in other foul play.

"There should be drastic penalties, not 10,000 euros but 250,000 euros so that they really hurt," Beckenbauer said.

Beckenbauer thinks these fines are needed because the league is in trouble.

"The image of the league is terrible. There is too much provocation and theatre," said Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup as a player in 1974 and as coach in 1990.

"It's unfortunately a reflection of the general trend in our soccer. It's no coincidence that our clubs make early exits from the Champions League. I just hope that we'll have clean matches at the World Cup."

A fine of $300,000 would get someone's attention and sadly, it might be the only way to bring such actions to an end. Referees will always be unable to see what happens everywhere on the pitch, but if players new that a television replay could cost them a large portion of their salary, they might just think twice before giving a elbow away from the ball. Okay, $300,000 might be a little steep, thus keeping it from being used much, so maybe they should start at $100,000 and work up from there for every offense.

Jimmy Conrad, "I'm on the outside looking in"

Jimmy Conrad doesn't think his chances are that great for making the US World Cup squad since he took a lot of the blame for the German 4-1 beating. has the story.

Conrad said, "I don’t think I was on the team prior to the Germany game, and I don’t know if I knocked myself on or off after the game. I think I’m still in the same position I was: that’s on the outside looking in and just trying to fight and get on there."

Last year's MLS defender of the year says he will be happy with whatever US coach Bruce Arena decides adding, "This time a year ago I hadn’t even had my first cap, so to be in the position I am now – it’s an honor to be part of the bubble."

Conrad has looked okay for KC since coming back from hernia surgery, but it's still a long way till making the trip to Germany. On the plus side, it seems like he has a good attitude towards the whole thing.

Just a reminder, Bruce Arena will announce the 23-man roster live on ESPN next Tuesday (May 2).

Turns out he was not so outside after all. If you are looking for the actual US World Cup roster, look here.


MLS Week 4 Power Ratings

1. DC United (Last week - 2) - This team has hit their stride. With so much talent all over the pitch and with it all coming together, they will be hard to stop. Demolishing one of your biggest rivals is a great way to build solidarity (post-goal celebrations included).

2. FC Dallas (3) - Overall they were a bit outplayed and had to survive 25-minutes a man down, yet they still beat a strong KC team. How did they do this? By not giving up on the ball. Both FCD's goals came from staying on the ball. They still need to organize a better defensive line, but they are working on it.

3. Kansas City Wizards (1) - A good outing but a big lapse in judgment late cost them a share of the points. Also, their offense was not as coordinated as we have seen. By the way, if anyone's seen Eddie Johnson, tell him the Wizards midfield is looking for him.

4. Houston Dynamo (5) - In week 3 we saw what happens to this team without Dwayne De Rosario. In week 4 we got to see how they work with him. Quick answer, much better. With Brian Ching getting tied up by Eddie Pope, De Rosario took the offensive attack on as his own. The late second goal was a wonderful strike for this happy Canadian.

5. Chivas USA (6) - The Goats did not play a MLS match last weekend, but they did have a couple scrimmages. Good news for Chivas and the US, John O'Brien did well in 175-minutes of play.

6. Los Angeles Galaxy (4) - Get this team on some medication because their highs and lows are going to ruin them (or at least Steve Sampson). Having to fight for a tie against Columbus is bad, but falling to them at home is a joke. Sad times in this nest of stars.

7. Chicago Fire (7) - The Fire finally got to spend some time at home this weekend, sadly it was not due to a game as they had an off week. Hopefully this little break from their long road trip will allow them to keep up their form.

8. New England Revolution (8) - Here's another team that got some time off this weekend. If they used it for anything other then looking in the mirror and asking, "what the hell has happened to us?" then it was a waste.

9. Columbus Crew (12) - I'm still not convince it happened, but the result keeps telling me its true; the Crew won a game. Beating LA, even the weak team that current goes by that name, is a great achievement, but can they use this to put together some long term better play?

10. Real Salt Lake (10) - Eddie Pope did everything he could to win this match for the team, but they could not find a way to get their offense going. The fact that they have not scored more then one goal in any match explains their biggest problem. Maybe they should ask Scott Garlick's mustache to starting playing forward for them. Still, they are looking better then last year, but an open blister looks better then the Real 2005.

11. New York Red Bull (9) - Was there anything good on the pitch for New York? If so, I didn't see it. This team has no cohesion and no spark. Getting routed by DC just proves again that names are not what make teams, actual play does.

12. Colorado Rapids (11) - Had a week off to figure out more ways to get other teams to score own goals for them. Can they voodoo Houston this week?

World's Oldest Soccer Ball

A week ago I linked to a story about the history of World Cup soccer balls, so I feel I must follow up. The world's oldest soccer ball (pictured) is on it's way to Germany where it will take part in an exhibition on the history of the sport during the World Cup.

The ball is 450-years old and was once the property of Mary Queen of Scots.

The 16th century ball is made from a pig's bladder and the cover constructed from pieces of thick leather, possibly deer, and tightly laced together.

If I recall my soccer history correctly, at that time the game was not an 11 on 11 affair. Instead, whole towns would compete over fields that stretched anywhere from thousands of yards to many miles with the whole thing sometimes lasting for days.

An just look at the stitches on that thing. Must of made headers an experience.

Arena to say with Team USA

What to make of US Soccer President Sunil Gulati saying Bruce Arena's (pictured) future does not heavily depend on the USA's performance at the World Cup in Germany? If you are USA Today, it can only mean one thing, Arena is staying as coach of the US team.

I think that might be reading a little much into the quote. It could be the case that US Soccer would be happy for him to stay, but the man himself might want to wait and see. The Bruce has not hidden his desire to coach in Europe some day and if a good offer came along, I think it would be hard for him to turn it down.

After 8-years of doing national duty, which saw his team go from an international joke to major threat, he might just be ready for a new challenge.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

World Cup News - April 25

Two months from now, we will be getting ready for the US's first knockout game against the second place Group F team (seeing as the US won their group with 3 wins). Will we face Japan, Australia or Croatia? Or could the completely unexpected happen and Brazil some how comes in second in their group. Needless to say, Monday June 26th will be a fun day for us all. But let's not think about what will be, instead let's look at what is; here's your World Cup news.

French midfielder Zinedine Zidane will retire from the game after the World Cup, telling a local paper, ""I am stopping for good and I am stopping everything. Most of all, I think it's my body. I told myself that I can't do another year."

Meanwhile, Real Madrid teammate striker Antonio Cassano is concerned that he will not make the Italian side after a bad outing on Sunday.

Argentina's Sergio Kun Aguero is trying to make his case for inclusion on the team's squad. Team coach Jose Pekerman has three weeks to decide if the 17-year old is up to stuff.

Australia find themselves in serious injury land after their keeper Mark Schwarzer broke his cheekbone, Tim Cahill injured his knee while star midfielder Harry Kewell and captain Mark Viduka are both suffering from groin injuries in the last week. My favorite part of this article is "Kewell's groin has been the centre of so many problems in recent seasons." That said, John Aloisi is trying to show what he can do by scoring goals for his Spanish side.

Trinidad & Tobago winger Collin Samuel has said that he would be in paradise" if he gets to play for his country.

Meanwhile in Costa Rica, many past stars will be missing from their lineup, as manager Alexander Guimaraes is almost set to announce his roster. Some players that look to be missing are Lokomotiv Moscow striker Winston Parks, top-scoring Alajuelense forward Rolando Fonseca, and Oscar Rojas of Mexico's Veracruz.

Wayne Rooney is expecting a rough ride from defenders, saying that after his performance in the European Championship, no one will see him as a surprise.

Even with Rooney's rough ride, England head coach Sven Goran Eriksson thinks his team will walk away with the cup. Adding, if we don't, fire me.

Okay, Sven didn't say fire me, but the English FA might just end up waiting till after the finals to name his successor. However, he will not be the only coach moving along.

FIFA is looking for something different this time out as they will require coaches, players and refs not to gamble on the games. Really. I mean they are only just now making this a rule. I think there are plenty of other ways for players to make money.

Here's a good way to make money: win the cup. Brazilian players have the chance to make $200,000 by bringing home the Championship. Oddly enough, they will not start their quest from home as, for the first time, they will not train for the cup in Brazil.

You might need that $200,000 if you are planning on getting a hotel room during the finals as German is reporting that one million hotel rooms have been booked. This might explain why people were so interested in a German pensioner's offer of free accommodation in his shed.

Another announcement about World Cup Ticket scams has been made. Seems EBay is now working a little harder to keep such things from happening.

The marketing of the cup has hit computers as Toshiba has launched their golden World Cup laptop.

Another tie in to the World Cup has not been received as well as the laptop as Germany's largest brothel has upset Muslims by including flags of countries from the middle east in their advertising. By the way, the brothel's slogan is, "A Time to Make Girlfriends."

Finally, FIFA president Sepp Blatter says that South Africa will host an excellent cup in 2010, so stop all your worrying.

45 days till kickoff...


"Alexi Lalas has been lying about a lot of things"

Any article that has a quote about Alexi Lalas being a liar is sure to light up the US soccer blogs. The fact that Eric Wynalda (pictured) is the one saying it only makes it that much more fun. These two former US national teammates bring out the emotions in US fans like few others.

Anyway, the New Jersey Ledger has a fine piece about Wynalda's comments concerning Lalas. Basically, Wynalda thinks Lalas is a liar because he denied the LA job offer existed two days before he took it. Lalas thinks Wynalda is off base because he was not there.

Wynalda also calls BS on Lalas for saying things are fine between him and LA coach Steve Sampson (Sampson coached the US in 1998 and benched Lalas during the World Cup). Lalas's reply, "(Steve and I) sat down and discussed it. It wasn't wonderful in 1998. There are certain things I would do differently. But remember this: Steve Sampson and Alexi Lalas didn't play a minute in 1998. Eric did."

Nothing like some off field fun to make the week fly by.

Ronaldinho best paid soccer player

Ronaldinho has beat David Beckham in the money race by earning 5 million euros more then the Englishman.

For the first time in three years Beckham is not the top earner in the sport according to France Football magazine. Ronaldinho received 14 million euros from 15 advertising contracts wth such companies as PepsiCo Inc., Nike Inc., Cadbury Schweppes Plc and Groupe Danone.

Here is the list of the best paid soccer players (all money is in euros)

1. Ronaldinho8.523.0
2. David Beckham6.418.0
3. Ronaldo6.417.4
4. Wayne Rooney5.216.1
5. Christian Vieri4.016.0
6. Zinedine Zidane6.415.0
7. Alessandro del Piero4.211.5
8. Frank Lampard7.29.8
9. Thierry Henry4.59.8
10. John Terry5.99.7
11. Steven Gerrard6.79.2
12. Oliver Kahn6.09.1
13. Rio Ferdinand7.29.0
14. Raul Gonzalez6.48.9
15. Michael Owen5.08.7
16. Ruud van Nistelrooy6.48.5
17. Francesco Totti5.68.4
18. Michael Ballack5.58.4
19. Harry Kewell5.77.9
20. Patrick Vieira5.07.5

MLS Week 4 Recap or Sneaking one in late

Normally I try to do the recap on Monday, but life prevented such things, but my lateness kind of fits in with the play of games this week. Three of the four matches were decided by goals after the 80th minute with two of the being decided by late, late stoppage time strikes. All four outings saw goals scored after the 80th. All and all, a fine weekend of soccer.

DC United looked a little timid at first, but by the second half, they looked as good as they did last week. For the Red Bulls, well it must be hard to be a fan. Coach Mo Johnston got no help from his team as they looked weak and scared on the pitch. The big Friday trade for Jean Philippe Peguero did not help their offense, but then again, he wasn't given many chances. For United, having Alecko Eskandarian hot is good, but backing it up with the fire of Ben Olsen, Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno is going to make this team hard to beat. Now they just need Freddy Adu to improve on his corner kicks and they will be a power house.

NY 1-4 DC

Houston needed to recover after dropping their last two, but Real Salt Lake made it hard for them. Still, Real being Real, they found a way to get the loss. Jeff Cunningham made the Dynamo pay for a bad pass to Eddie Robinson, but that's were the luck stopped for Salt Lake. It only took Houston three minutes to get even thanks to a great corner from Brad Davis and header by Craig Waibel. Still, Real had a chance thanks to a Jason Kreis free kick, but it hit one post and then banged off the other post only to be cleared away by Dwayne De Rosario. It really was a great return for De Rosario as he found himself in the middle of play after play. It is only fitting that he was the one to turn on the speed and thanks to an assist from Brian Ching, beat Salt Lake's defense to give Houston the late winning goal.

Houston 2-1 Salt Lake

How long till Alexi Lalas tosses Galaxy head coach Steve Sampson? Four games and the defending champs only have four points; something big is wrong. How else can you explain losing to the Columbus Crew? Sadly, this game was not televised in any way that I could watch it because I would love to know how such a defeat is possible. Interestingly enough, it is not the case that LA out played the Crew, but a few bounces went Columbus's way, no the two teams played an even match. LA had some offensive chances in the first half, but was lackluster in the second. For the Crew, they found a were able to hold off the few chances and then get their first win in the 96th minute. Eddie Gaven put a cross into the box that LA keeper Kevin Hartman saved but he could not hold it. Kyle Martino went after the rebound and sent it right into the net. Crew win. Let me repeat, Crew win. It must have felt great to be former LA and current Crew coach Sigi Schmid.

LA 0-1 Crew

Kenny Cooper continued to make a name for himself in Dallas as he found some way to stay focused on the ball in the middle of crazy play in front of KC's goal. In just the fourth minute the youngster nabbed his third of the season to give FCD a 1-0 lead. Cooper had another chance in the 63rd, but his shot went just over net. The second goal of the game would not find the net till the 92nd, but the play between the two was equal, even though Dallas had to play the final 25-minutes a man down. When that second goal did arrive, it was thanks to some bad FCD defense that left Alex Zotinca unmarked after a corner kick. The kick bounced around in the box, hitting a few players, but no one controlled. Sure enough, it bounced right to Zotinca who hammered it home. But KC would make a defensive error of their own that allowed Dallas to win the match and take the number one spot in the west. Aaron Pitchkolan (pictured carrying two teammates) intercepted a bad pass by KC's Eddie Johnson and ran to goal. He took a hard shot and beat goaltender Bo Oshoniyi, giving Dallas the game in the 94th minute.

FCD 2-1 KC

For the first time the wife has out guessed me for the week. We are now tied for the season. Here's the chart.


PersonThis WeekSeason

Now it starts getting fun.

Women can watch soccer in Iran

For the first time since 1979, Iranian women can attend soccer matches in big stadiums, but they will sit in a separate family section. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during his announcement that, ""the presence of women and families in public places promotes chastity."

The ban was originally put into place due to the vulgar language that men often use at soccer matches.

Last month security forces attacked dozens of female soccer fans who had bought tickets for a match at the Azadi stadium in Tehran.

They briefly unfurled protest banners and staged a demonstration outside before being forced into a bus and driven away. A few days later about 250 female spectators at a gymnastics world cup event in Tehran were escorted from an indoor stadium.

Let's hope this leads to further equal treatment for women within Iran.

No soccer at the Olympics

The International Olympic Committee has warned FIFA that soccer could be ruled out of the games unless they adopt stronger anti-doping rules. Still, FIFA president Sepp Blatter thinks a deal can be reached.

The main issue is punishment for doping. IOC requires 2-year bans while FIFA is happy with a 6-month ban. If this is not worked out, then there will be no soccer as, "Olympic Charter provides that no sport can be included or remain in the program of the Olympic Games if it does not comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency."

Olympic Soccer is far from matching the World Cup, but is still a fantastic tournament featuring some of the best in the world. If it was done away with because FIFA didn't think their athletes were 'clean' enough to not worry about long bans, it will be a huge disgrace for the game.

Update: The Moroccan soccer federation has suspended five members of its Olympic team for failing doping tests. All play for Moroccan clubs. The drug that flunked them? Marijuana.

Friday, April 21, 2006

MLS 2006 Week 4 Predictions

Week four sees the first weekend without every team playing as Chicago, Colorado, Chivas and New England get some time off (because three weeks in is when you need some down time). Like last week, this will be another 2 on 2 weekend as ESPN2 will air both the NY-DC and FCD-KC games (these look to be the two best games of the weekend. Here are the predictions.

Red Bull New York vs. DC United
Saturday - 4pm ET

These are two very different teams. The Red Bulls are currently in chaos mode as huge changes to the organization are worked out while DC is busy hitting their stride. Needless to say, it will be hard for DC to lose this game. For any Mo Johnson fans out there, you better hope for a win as a defeat might just end his deathwatch before it really gets going (even if Red Bull says Mo is safe for now). As far as the game, look for the United offense to keep rolling. Jaime Moreno didn't get a goal last week, but was still hot; Adu was tearing it up, Christian Gomez made his plays and Bobby Boswell acting strong in defense. The Red Bulls surrendered a lead in the final minutes of a game to Real Salt Lake. Even if it doesn't rain, the Meadowlands are going to be one sad place on Saturday.

Mike: NY 0-2 DC
Wife: NY 1-2 DC


Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake
Saturday - 8:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick (DK)

Houston needs to get their momentum back after back-to-back loses. Thankfully they have Dwayne De Rosario back, so there will be life in their midfield; Brian Ching is still hoping to score his way onto the World Cup squad, so he will make himself a threat; and Pat Onstad should be able to handle most shots coming his way. For Real, they need to build on their work of last week. No, they didn't look great or even good, but they also did not look horrible, which is a big step up for the club. Still, even with Chris Klein and Jason Kreis playing at last week's level, they should not be much of a challenge for Houston.

Mike: Houston 3-1 RSL
Wife: Houston 1-0 RSL


LA Galaxy vs. Columbus Crew
Saturday - 10:30pm ET

So which LA will show up for a game against a team that three weeks in is already looking like an also ran? Will the fire that lit up in the final 15 minutes of the Chivas game take the pitch or will the "unable to finish" squad that played so poorly against NE and Chicago make the appearance. The answer is mainly up to Landon Donovan. We all saw what he could do last week and the Crew is more like Chivas '05 then '06. However, even if Landon is having an off night, Columbus is so lacking in attack that it will be difficult for LA not to walk out with three points.

Mike: LA 2-1 Crew
Wife: LA 2-0 Crew


FC Dallas vs. KC Wizards
Sunday - 5pm ET

Ever since Eddie Johnson was traded away, everyone has been waiting for this match. The fact that both teams are currently the best in their respective conference, just makes it a little sweater. And to add to the this goodness, there is a chance Carlos Ruiz will be back in the lineup for FCD. Even without Ruiz, this will be a fine match, but the holes in FCD's midfield are a bit to big to be ignored by KC. I'm going to guess Johnson will score and he will make a show of the goal. Dallas might decided to change to a three forward attack, which would force KC to beat them with defense.

Mike: FCD 1-2 KC
Wife: FCD 3-1 KC

Soccer's $120m TV deal

A major TV deal was struck with $120 million, but sadly it was not in the US. Australian soccer has signed a seven-year deal with FoxSports to broadcast almost all international and A-league matches. This deal is worth $88.6m in US dollars and represents a more than 20 times increase over this $750,000 ($550,000us) season's contract.

The package will give the network 90 A-League fixtures a season, six Socceroos games and up to 98 games across Asia at club and international level. That includes the Asian Champions League, in which two A-League clubs will play from next year, plus Australia's Asian Cup qualifiers and finals.

So what will this do for the A-league?

The A-League clubs – which are carrying crippling and ultimately unsustainable losses from the first season – could receive up to $10 million each, immediately paying the bulk of the players' wages.

With next season's salary cap tipped to be $1.6 million, the cash transfusion will transform the landscape in terms of ability to attract high-profile marquee players with salaries outside the cap, and it opens up the serious prospect of current Socceroos being tempted to return to play in Australia.

It will also give the FFA a war chest of millions to spend on the sport's grassroots development, from coaching to the provision of better facilities at every level of the game.

Not bad for a league that is only one year old. I can only hope that the MLS-ABC deal brings about as much excitement.

What is Mexico's World Cup roster worth?

The 26 players on Mexico's World Cup squad make an average of $2.9 million dollars, meaning the total value is $76 million.

Here is the break down by players:

Defender Rafael Marquez, who plays for Spanish side Barcelona, is the most expensive player with a 12 million dollar contract. The second priciest player is Francisco Fonseca, from Mexico's Cruz Azul, with a six milion dollar contract.

In descending order, the remaining players in the list are: Guadalajara forward Omar Bravo, five million dollars; defenders Carlos Salcido, of Guadalajara and Ricardo Osorio, Cruz Azul, on four million dollars each.

Jared Borgetti, rated the best Mexican forward of all time, who plays for English team Bolton, is worth two million dollars, while forward Guillermo Franco, an Argentine who has naturalized himself as a Mexican, but plays for Spanish team Villareal, costs three million dollars.

The cheapest player is Claudio Suarez, who has a $500,000 contract with United States team Chivas.

It is always interesting to get some sort of confirmation about MLS player's pay. Anyway, their 2002 team was worth about $26.8 million, or about a third of the current crop.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

MLS Injury Report - Week 4

It's the fourth week of the season and changes are happening to the injury reports.

Chicago is not playing this weekend, but Chris Armas is now off the list, but Nate Jaqua has been added. The Crew has moved a few players off their list, but still have a huge number of injuries with which to work. For New England, both Steve Ralston and Pat Noonan are questionable, but thankfully for the Revs, they will get another week to recover since they are off this weekend.

In the West, there is good news for FCD as both Carlos Ruiz and goalkeeper Jeff Cassar move from out to questionable. LA sees Tyrone Marshall put on the probable list due to a MCL sprain. Real Salt Lake takes Jason Kreis off of their list all together (last week he was a probable).

Still, the big story is Kansas City. Not only do they have strong offense and defense, but they don't have a single player injured. There is some good luck smiling on the Wizards.

Here is the full list:

Eastern Conference
OUT: FW Nate Jaqua (L shoulder)

OUT: MF Duncan Oughton (R knee), GK Jonny Walker (lower back pain), DF Jed Zayner (L knee); GK Bill Gaudette (R hand); Danny Szetela (L foot fracture)

OUT: GK Nick Rimando (mid-foot sprain); DF David Stokes (R quad strain); MF Santino Quaranta (R hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Bryan Namoff (groin strain)
PROBABLE: MF Clyde Simms (L foot sesmoiditis)


OUT: MF Khano Smith (L knee surgery); MF Jani Galik (R hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Steve Ralston (L groin strain); FW Pat Noonan (R hamstring strain); DF Joe Franchino (R hamstring strain)
PROBABLE: FW Willie Sims (L knee sprain)

OUT: MF Mark Lisi (R groin strain)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Mike Magee (L ankle sprain)

Western Conference
OUT: MF Francisco Gomez (L knee surgery), FW Matt Taylor (R ankle fracture); MF Ramon Ramirez (L knee sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Carlos Llamosa (L hamstring strain)

OUT: Colin Clark (R knee sprain); GK Matt Jordan (lower back)
DOUBTFUL: MF Dedi Ben-Dayan (L hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Clint Mathis (right knee); DF Matt Crawford (left hamstring)

OUT: MF Arturo Alvarez (L ankle sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Carlos Ruiz (R hamstring strain); DF Alex Yi (R hamstring strain); GK Jeff Cassar (R hip); MF Richard Mulrooney (R ACL)

OUT: FW Julian Nash (L hamstring strain), MF Aaron Lanes (R fifth metatarsal fracture)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Chris Aloisi (R foot fracture), MF Chris Wondolowski (R knee sprain)

OUT: FW Alan Gordon (sports hernia); DF Kyle Veris (R fifth metatarsal sprain); DF Ben Benditson (sports hernia)
PROBABLE: DF Tyrone Marshall (L MCL sprain); FW Quavas Kirk (R foot fracture)

OUT: DF Paul Broome (L ankle internal derangement); MF Seth Trembly (L knee ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Carey Talley (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Eddie Pope (low back strain); FW Jamie Watson (L hamstring strain)

MLS All-Stars vs. Chelsea on August 5th

The announcement has been made and Chelsea will indeed play the MLS All-Stars, however, the match will be on August 5th instead of July 29th. The problem with this is simple, there are already 5 matches scheduled for the Aug. 5th weekend.

The good news is three of those matches are in SSS (Chicago, FCD, Chivas), so it shouldn't be that hard to move those up a weekend. The other two games in Houston and Salt Lake might be bit harder to move since their fields may already be promised to someone else. The news conference gave no word on the new times of any of these five games.

Moving games is a pain, but that wasn't the strangest part of the announcement. Since they are moving the game, it will not air on ABC. Instead, the game will be on ESPN (they specifically said ESPN not ESPN2).

The reason for the change of date is an English football union rule that states no player "may participate in a match for at least 30 days after the World Cup." If I understand this rule correctly, that means that players who reach the third or first place matches in the Cup will not be able to play in Chicago since those games take place less then 30-days before Aug. 5.

This is a very interesting move by MLS. They are betting that the inclusion of Chelsea in the game will trump the lack of coverage on ABC. This is probably correct, but there is another gamble going on here. What happens if the MLS team sinks it up against the Blues? That bet is not as risky since most people will expect that to happen. As long as the make a game of it, the MLS will look alright.

US and the FIFA rankings

Yes, the FIFA rankings are literally yesterday's news, but I still want to comment on them. As has been noted elsewhere, the US moved up a spot to fourth best in the world. This is the best the US has ever been ranked, yet for some reason I find this more disconcerting then encouraging.

Over the last month, we fell hard to Germany and just tied Jamaica. Yes, both of those matches were basically MLS player matches, but the rankings do not take the caliber of your team into account. So why did we move up? Simple put, it's because in March-April of past years, we didn't play as many matches as other teams, so we did not drop as many points (rankings look at the results from the last four years).

Make sense?

I guess I'm just finding to hard to see the fourth best team when I watch the performances over the last three matches (this includes Poland).

Anyway, here is the top twenty.

Pos - Team - Pts - (March Rank)
1 Brazil 830 (1)
2 Czech Republic 779 (2)
3 Netherlands 774 (3)
4 USA 760 (5)
5 Spain 759 (6)
6 Mexico 758 (7)
7 France 754 (8)
8 Portugal 753 (10)
8 Argentina 753 (4)
10 England 744 (9)

11 Denmark 738 (14)
12 Nigeria 737 (12)
13 Turkey 733 (11)
14 Italy 731 (12)
15 Cameroon 723 (15)
16 Sweden 717 (16)
17 Japan 709 (18)
18 Egypt 708 (17)
19 Greece 699 (21)
19 Germany 699 (22)

Germany and Greece move back into the top 20 while Iran and Croatia fall out.

The teams the moved up the furthest were Sri Lanka (up 10 to 135), Kyrgyzstan (13 spots to 146) and the biggest mover of them all Tajikistan (16 places to 125).

The teams that fell the furthest were New Zealand (down 5 to 120), Croatia (falling 5 to 24) and Belgium (slipping 6 spots to 56).

For the US, their World Cup group rankings are:
Czech Republic - 2nd
USA - 4th
Italy - 14th
Ghana - 50th

By the way, Group E is now the only group with 3 teams in the top 20.

The lowest ranked team to make the World Cup is 59th place Togo and the highest ranked team to not be in Germany is Denmark in the 11th spot.


Toronto Looking for a name-o

The future Toronto MLS team is looking for a name and they want input from fans. How are they going to get this input? Well they're having a poll. Okay, the last time a MLS team had a poll to name a team, it didn't go so well (1836, we hardly knew you), but maybe this one will stick.

Actually, I'm not so sure how they are going to use this poll since there is a place for you to write in your own team name.

The choices they provide are:
Toronto FC
Inter Toronto FC
Toronto Northmen FC
Toronto Nationals
Toronto Reds

Here's a bit of a funny thing, the post says, "We've narrowed a long list of potential names to three based on our research and now we want to hear from you," yet they provide 5 names. Maybe this has something to do with the conversion rate between US and Canadian dollars.

Anyway, what about the names? We already have the Red Bulls, so I say strike Reds. Inter Toronto sounds strange to me. Toronto FC is a little under exciting. So between Northmen and Nationals, I would go with Northmen.

Just a bit of history, Toronto was incorporated as a city in 1834, so maybe Toronto 1834 will get a few votes.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

USL on Fox Soccer Channel

We might not be able to watch MLS games on FSC, but there will still be some quality domestic games on the channel thanks to the USL.

FSC will air 13 USL matches, including the W-League's semifinal and championship games. The schedule starts on June 18th with champs Seattle heading to Miami.

In addition to the games, there will also be three highlight shows and a sesson wrapup SoccerFest.

Each USL First Division club will be featured over the course of the broadcast schedule.

So here's the lineup (all times Eastern)

Sunday June 18 USL-1: Seattle @ Miami 4:30
Friday June 23 USL-1: Atlanta @ Charleston 8:00
Friday June 30 USL-1: Minnesota @ Virginia Beach 8:00

Friday July 7 USL-1: Vancouver @ Montreal 8:00
Friday July 14 USL Show 8:00
Friday July 21 USL-1: Seattle @ Portland 11:00
Friday July 28 USL Show 8:00

Friday August 4 W-League: Semifinal 1 8:00
Friday August 4 W-League: Semifinal 2 10:30
Sunday August 6 W-League: Championship 8:00
Saturday August 12 PDL: Championship 7:00
Friday August 18 USL-1: Toronto @ Rochester 8:00
Saturday August 26 USL-2: Championship 7:00

Friday September 1 USL Show 8:00
Friday September 8 USL-1: Miami @ Puerto Rico 8:00
Saturday September 30 USL-1: Championship 7:00
Saturday December 2 USL SoccerFest Show TBD


MLS Week 3 Power Ratings

1. Kansas City Wizards (Last week - 1) - The first two weeks showed that KC could beat you with offense, the third week proved they could also do it with defense. Holding a one goal lead for 87-minutes is a mighty good sign. Maybe they need more black cats running around on the field.

2. DC United (4) - There was no luck needed to win this one as they took hold of Houston and would not let them go. The second half showed a team hitting their stride. However, this weekend will prove if they can take this act on the road as they travel to New York for a rematch of their opening day tie.

3. FC Dallas (2) - It's not often that you can so easily point to one player as the reason your team did not get maximum points, but you can this week. They will need Clarence Goodson to loose his black cloud fast as they welcome KC to town on Sunday. Other then that, it was a good outing, but they still need some work in the midfield.

4. Los Angeles Galaxy (9) - Finally we see the LA Galaxy as the team they should be. They didn't give up and Landon came to life. There are still some holes in the midfield and defensive, but if Golden Boy stays hot, they will be hard to beat.

5. Houston Dynamo (3) - No Dwayne De Rosario equals a team without cohesion, but perhaps they can regroup at home against Salt Lake. Brian Ching still seems goal happy, so they can explode at any moment.

6. Chivas USA (5) - Oh Goats, you were playing strong and had a goal lead with 7-minutes to play, what happened? Their defense was good all game, but they could not shut down Landon late. Not every team has a Donovan, so this late defeat is not as scary as it could be (for that you need to look at New York).

7. Chicago Fire (6) - A bad penalty kick call kept them from getting maximum points, but Chris Rolfe and Justin Mapp still looked good. All and all, they are playing above expectations. If they keep getting points, then they are setting themselves up for a good second half of the season.

8. New England Revolution (7) - What to say about New England? They look lost out on the field. If it wasn't for the names on the uniforms, I'd swear I was watching the reserve team. Matt Reis kept NE from getting blown away and Clint Dempsey provided their limited offense. At some point, a few of the other stars on the team need to wake up if they want to make something happen.

9. New York Red Bull (8) - Different name, same problem; this team cannot hold a lead. Salt Lake out played them, but they were still on their way to their first victory and then it slipped away in the 89th minute. If you can't hold leads late, you are in bad shape.

10. Real Salt Lake (11) - As stated above, they outplayed New York, and even when they found themselves down a goal, they did not stop. The goal in the 89th by Jason Kreis might just prove to be a season altering event. There are still many mountains to climb, but playing like that will make it much easier.

11. Colorado Rapids (10) - They did not deserve or earn the point against FCD. The Goodson implosion was a freak event and cannot be counted on as a way to win games. They really didn't offer anything in the form of good soccer.

12. Columbus Crew (11) - You fooled the ref into a pk shot, but you can't fool your way up the rankings. There was no spark on the field and, even in the MLS, you cannot count on mistakes by the ref to continuously get you goals.

Totti on track to be back for World Cup

Back in February, it looked unlikely that AS Roma's captain Francesco Totti (pictured) would recover from his broken leg soon enough to help Italy in the World Cup, but it seems that he has responded well to his treatment as he attened his first real training session yesterday.

It was a light session of jogging, stretching and ball-possession exercises with his team-mates, before taking part in a short game. He hopes to be back on the pitch with his team for the first leg of the Coppa Italia final against Inter Milan, on May 3.

That would give him just over a month to get up to full match stregnth ahead of Germany.

The US will play Italy in their second World Cup match on June 17th.

Red Bull turning to Cosmos to revive New York

With Alexi Lalas off to LA, talk now turns to who will replace him and how deep the changes will go.

Jack Bell writes up all the talk in today's New York Times. He points out that Franz Beckenbauer, an adviser to Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of the company that makes the Red Bull energy drink, likes to work with people he knows and the people he knows best in New York are his former Cosmos teammates.

Chris Canetti, the team's assistant general manager, said that they are working on new plans and they will be released soon, possibly within the next seven days.

That reorganization is likely to bring Giorgio Chinaglia to a top executive position. Shep Messing could replace Lalas, who became president and general manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Messing is a native New Yorker and a former Cosmos player who is now an agent and the color commentator for Red Bulls telecasts on the MSG Network.

That answers a lot of the front office questions, but there is still the matter of coach Mo Johnston. If they are making so many changes, it would be hard to imagine them not changing their coach, so whom would they turn to? Bell says they might be able to get Bruce Arena, but rightly points out that he is a lot more interested in Europe then MLS (side note, how would the DC faithful react to this?). He also lists a bunch of former Cosmos with coaching experience such as Carlos Alberto, Wim Rijsbergen and Vladislav Bogicevic.

So should we start the deathwatch for Mo? Unless he manages to completely reinvent the team over the next several weeks, meaning winning three or so matches in a row, Mo is gone.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the piece is this:

The Red Bulls are also re-evaluating the plan to build a new stadium in Harrison, N.J., a project that was begun six years ago by the previous owners, the Anschutz Entertainment Group. Red Bull is more inclined to stay in the New Jersey Meadowlands, which is recognized around the world as the soccer destination in the New York metropolitan area.

What are they thinking? My only guess is they hope to bring in some big names, like Ronaldo, and want to have more then 25,000 seat capacity. If that is their thought process, it is pretty strange to me. Why continue playing at a location where you will always be the third, at best, most important client when you could have your own venue that you and you alone control?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Major announcement out of Chicago

The Chicago Fire and MLS will make a major announcement at the new Bridgeview Stadium on Thursday at 11am CT.

No more information is given, but I'm guessing that it has something to do with the All-Star game. Will it be Chelsea or has some other European super team gotten the nod?

We will know soon enough.

Update here.


World Cup News - April 18

In two months time, the world will be in awe as the US continues to celebrate their second win in the World Cup, this time over Italy the night before. Names like Donovan, Keller, Onyewu and Beasley start working their way into everyday language and late night monologs as a country finally starts embracing this 'new' sport.

Ah, nothing like writing the movies of my mind. But enough of this dreaming, here's some news.

The Czech Republic had a scare yesterday when their goalkeeper Petr Cech was injured in an accidental collision with Chelsea team mate William Gallas. At first he thought he broke his leg, but no it seems to be 'nothing to serious.'

Arsenal defender Sol Campbell might not be as lucky as Cech as he broke his nose during his club's 1-1 draw with Portsmouth. He might need surgery and a few weeks of recovery, thus hurting his chances of making the English side.

It also looks like Argentinean Gonzalo Rodriguez will miss the finals after tearing ligaments in his left ankle during Friday's Barcelona match. He will need 8 weeks to recover.

England's Ledley King's stress fracture does not look to be as big as initially thought, meaning he might be back in time for the finals. But if he is not, Man United's Wes Brown has emerged as a surprise potential inclusion in Sven's squad.

South Korea's Lee Dong-guk is coming to terms with missing his second Cup due to a tear in his cross ligament, even though his coach, Hwang Seon-hong, says he still might make it.

Barcelona's Ludovic Giuly is fighting hard to make the French squad after rumors started spreading that they might turn to Marseille's rising star Franck Ribery instead.

Oliver Kahn lost his fight to be German's number one keeper, but Germany's general manager Oliver Bierhoff says there is still a chance he might see some more international time.

The absence of forward Cuauh-temoc Blanco from Mexico's roster caused 200 fans to march on the Mexican Soccer Federation headquarters in protest. (By the way, the same article lets you know that Ecuadorian World Cup team is not going to take any chances with German grub as they plan on bringing their own chef and food.)

US defender Cory Gibbs wants his club situation settled prior to the finals so, if he is selected, he can solely focus on the games.

Ronaldinho does not think this will be his World Cup, instead he says it will be Brazil's World Cup.

If Brazil does end up the winner, they will get to hold the statue again, but they will also get the 'Teamgeist Berlin' Golden Ball (pictured) to play with for the next four years.

Talking about the golden trophy, it is now in Germany, finishing up its 32 country tour.

The Cup is welcomed in Germany, but some are saying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should not be. The German government has said a visit would be problematic but that, like other heads of state, he has a right to attend.

Referees got some great news today as they earned a 100% pay raise over the 2002 finals and will now receive $40,000 for the month in Germany.

What to do with all that money? If they are in Leipzig, they will not have to worry about buying condoms as the city plans on handing out 'first aid' packages that include condoms and tissues. The tissues are there for you to dry your eyes after a defeat.

If you are planning on watching the finals on Univision, get ready for some Home Depot commercials as they will sponsor each of the 64 games on the network.

Emirates Airline has agreed to pay $195 million (US) to become FIFA's sixth and final sponsor. The agreement starts next year and lasts till 2015. Even through they are not sponsoring this year's cup, they will place viewing stations in 16 international airports (including New York) so travelers can follow all the matches.

Now on to 2014, where FIFA president Sepp Blatter has warned Brazil that they are not a lock as hosts. Even through the South American federations have all agreed to only nominate Brazil as a candidate, Blatter warned then that if their stadiums are not up to World Cup level, they will not get the tournament. Instead, it could go to a joint bid between Argentina and Chile.

Finally, it's a few days old, but here's a good bio piece on Pablo Mastroeni. I'm sure their are a few US players hoping to be the 2006 Mastroeni.

Don't forget to watch Landon Donovan on tonight's Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Only 52 days till kickoff...

Jimmy Conrad's surgical story

US international Jimmy Conrad (pictured) tells the tale of his recent hernia surgery over at ESPN soccer. He also gives you an inside glimpse at the way professional athletes are coddled and a oh so fun look back at his night playing against Germany.

He makes a fine point on the German front.

I'm 12 years old and doing two-touch passing against the concrete wall in my backyard. After finishing a left foot to right foot sequence, I put my foot on the ball and gaze off into the distance. My daydream begins and I visualize the grandeur of it all: a big crowd in a hostile setting, a U.S. jersey with my name on the back, a chance to match wits with a few of the top players in the world, and, to stay true to the 12-year-old mentality, oranges and Capri Suns for halftime.

Little did I know that I would live the very dream from so long ago (U.S. vs. Germany in Dortmund in front of 65,000 and No. 4 jersey with my name on it) ... though I apparently forgot to envision who won the game, how I would play, and the effect a halftime without oranges and Capri Suns would have on the team.

So parents, a word to the wise: When you encourage your kids to dream big and to dream often, remind them to visualize the whole experience and not just the setting, unless of course, you want them to endure a forgettable 10 minutes and a hammering in the media for character-building purposes.

If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a MLS player, here is a good inside look.

Brian Ching's oh so secret plan for making the World Cup

Brian Ching thinks he knows the secret to getting on the US World Cup squad, score some goals.

"I think it (scoring) is pretty important," Ching said. "I'm not going to feel like I have to, but I definitely want to."

Who would have ever guessed that scoring goals as a forward could help your case for the national team.

All kidding aside, Bruce Arena will probably bring 4 forwards to Germany. As long as Brian McBride is healthy, he is a lock. Arena could move Donovan to the forward position, but, as the article correctly points out, he has spent more time in the midfield of late, so that should leave three forward spots open.

Ching's competition for those three spots are Eddie Johnson, Taylor Twellman and Josh Wolff. The good news for Ching, he has looked better then all three of these players during the first few weeks of MLS play. Johnson had a good first game, but has been absent for the rest and Twellman and Wolff are lingering in drag city. Could it be that Ching is handling the pressure of making the roster better then his MLS comrades?

"I really want it to happen but if it doesn't I'm not going to be crushed," Ching said. "Getting a win with the team is my first priority right now."

That is the type of quote that you believe coming out of a player like Ching. He is focused on getting it done for his club. If he can do that, it will be hard for Bruce to deny him a ticket to Germany.

Update: The plan worked.