Monday, July 31, 2006

MLS and Fox Soccer Channel reach a $20m deal

Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) has signed a deal with MLS's commercial arm Soccer United Marketing (SUM) to broadcast matches through 2010.

"We are delighted to extend our partnership with Major League Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Federation," said David Sternberg, executive vice president and general manager of FSC. "With the growth of MLS, surging rates of participation and record-setting audiences for the recently concluded 2006 FIFA World Cup, interest in soccer in this country is at an all-time high, and this landmark deal will solidify FSCs status as the sport's pre-eminent U.S. television provider. We will give our viewers the most cutting-edge, in-depth and knowledgeable coverage of MLS and U.S. Soccer matches that they have ever seen."

The deal is worth $20-million and along with MLS matches includes U.S. men’s and women’s national teams (two games apiece), international friendly matches and the U.S. Open Cup.

It is rumored that a deal with ABC/ESPN will be announced soon worth $7-8 million a year. With the FSC money and money from HDNet and Univision, MLS will bring in about $15-million a year from their television deals.

This money could completely change the shape of the MLS. Hopefully they will place a nice amount of it into the pay for players.

Anyway, FSC will air 13 regular season and 3 playoff matches this year. For 2007-2010, they will air 28 Saturday night games.


Cindy Parlow retires from international soccer

Cindy Parlow (pictured) has not played for the women's team since Dec. 8, 2004, so news of her retirement does not come as a huge surprise. Still, it is a loss on par with Brian McBride's retirement from the men's team.

Parlow was the youngest player to reach 100 international caps, win a goal medal and a Women's World Cup. Along with Mia Hamm, she was a huge scoring threat for the team (in fact, she is second on the all-time hat trick list. Hamm is first). Sadly, her playing days were cut short by continuious injuries to her back and head.

Parlow was an amazing player and all her hard work on the pitch will be missed.

Five match ban for racist players - Two matches for divers

In a move designed to cut into the racists overtones that sadly still infect European soccer, UEFA has ruled that, "anyone who insults the human dignity of a person or group of persons, by whatever means, including on grounds of color, race, religion or ethnic origin will now face a maximum five-game ban."

"In addition, any club whose supporters engage in racist or discriminatory conduct will receive a minimum fine of 30,000 Swiss francs (US$24,250; €19,000)."

UEFA can hand down harder penalties if they feel it is deserved.

Having tough penalties for these actions is a good first start, but it will really come down to enforcement. At some point this season UEFA will have to make a difficult decision that might very well cost a team millions. If they stand up to the financial pressure and do what is right, then there is a chance this might work.

In other news, UEFA also said that players that fake fouls and injuries would face a two-match ban. I think this one will be harder for them to enforce then the racist ban.

Other rulings:
- If a team has five or more players yellow carded during a match, then the team will be punished under new 'improper conduct of a team' regulations.
- There is now an eight-year bar for prosecution of players for doping offenses.
- Referees' on-field decisions are still the final word.

McBride staying with Fulham

Last week word broke that Champions League's Birmingham was interesting in signing Brian McBride away from Fulham for £1 million. However, Fulham made it clear that they are not interested.

From their website: 'Following recent press speculation regarding other clubs' interest in Brian McBride, the club would like to make it clear that no offer for Brian has been accepted and that he is very much part of (manager) Chris Coleman's plans for next season.

'Brian, along with the rest of the World Cup participants, will join the rest of the squad for training this week.'

I think McBride would do well in Birmingham, but I still think he is better served being in the Premiership for another year or two.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

MLS Week 18 Recap

Week 18 is in the books, which means the MLS is about to break for their All-Star weekend*. Scores will still low across most of the matches, but there were some good games.

FCD 4-1 Colorado

FC Dallas took it to Colorado at home. This game was not on TV, but listening to the audio feed, it sounded like the crowd was roaring (there was a Club America vs. Everton match afterwards). The heroes of the game for FCD have got to be Ramon Nunez and Kenny Cooper. It seemed like Cooper's name was being called every 20-seconds for some good play.

With the game tied 1-1, it was Cooper who blasted a shot that keeper Joe Cannon could save but not control, thus Nunez was able to pounce on the rebound and send it into net. Nunez was also the man who, just three minutes after his first goal, sent what sounded like an amazing free kick from 20-yards out, low and into the net. Cooper was able to get a goal of his own in late stoppage time.

It is a shame this match had no video to go along with it.

KC 1-1 New England

Kansas City was looking to stop their slide, and for a while, it looked real good. Josh Wolff got the Wizards up early and then they were able to contain the Rev's offense (to be honest, that's not so hard these days) for almost all of the next 80-minutes. New England was finally able to get a shot on goal (their first in about 130-minutes), but KC was able to put stops on all their chances.

Then came stoppage time.

And then came extremely late stoppage time.

KC was up a goal with about 45 seconds left before the game was called and what do you know, they found a way to walk out with a tie. Okay, that's not fair, New England very much earned their goal. Pat Noonan knocked a pass right outside the box to Clint Dempsey who then put a little roller over to Steve Ralston in the area. Ralston put his shot just inside the post for a thrilling goal and a share of the points.

For the Wizards, this might be the straw the crushes their season. How do you come back from something like that?

This was a nice game to start Fox Soccer Channel's MLS season.

Chicago Fire 0-0 Columbus Crew

This was not on TV** and I did not listen to it. From reports, it sounds like it was not much of a match, but Chicago Fire keeper Zach Thornton made a few good saves to keep the home team level.

Houston Dynamo 1-1 New York Red Bull

During the World Cup, they kept saying that one game could change everything, well last night, five minutes changed it all. New York took the lead in the 67th on a 'how did that go in from that angle' shot by Chris Henderson, but just three minutes and a penalty in the area, Dwayne De Rosario nailed the kick to tie it up.

But just when the game looked like it was going to become a back-and-forth affair, De Rosario and Danny O'Rourke got into it. De Rosario shoved O'Rourke and the teams got in each other's face. Both players were tossed (De Rosario - direct red, O'Rourke - second yellow), and the game lost its flow.

Yes, the Dynamo got a point, but they were the big losers of the night as they should have got the win and now they will have to play LA without the key to their team.

Real Salt Lake 2-1 DC United

Giving up two penalty kicks in six minutes has got to hurt John Wilson's rep. As I said last night, DC did not play well while Real was having their best night in weeks. Jeff Cunningham looked hot for the home side, while United's defense just seemed to fall away. Also, how does DC not score in a 3-1 break?

Anyway, Real coach John Ellinger knew he needed points so he subbed in as much offense as possible. If DC was up to their normal game, they would have made Real pay, but instead they went into a defense stance that was not so strong.

* all teams get the week off except New England and Chivas who play on Sunday, August 6th.
** as noted in the comments, this game was on TV as it aired on HDNet.

What's up with Fox Soccer Channel and MLS?

Back in April when the MLS season began, they announced their TV details for the year. The big news was games would no longer be carried on Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) and if you wanted to view them online, you had to pay.

At the time, there was talk that cutting FSC has something to do with a new TV deal for 2007. The theory went something like, ABC and ESPN offered to pay for MLS broadcast rights, provided FSC was not associated with MLS. Was it true or not, I don't know. For the record, MLS said there was no fact to the story. There was also talk the MLS wanted FSC to pay for the games this year and that FSC said no.

Anyway, without FSC, it meant there was usually only one MLS game on TV a weekend. However, something strange happened last night. For some reason, the Kansas City Wizards vs. New England Revolution match was aired live on FSC. To add to the strangeness, MLS did not list the game as being aired on FSC till very late in the week (I think Friday).

But it gets a little more interesting. After the match, FSC ran a promo for their next MLS match on August 9th between Houston and LA, yet when you go look at the MLS calendar, the game is not listed as airing on TV at all. In addition, FSC does not list MLS as part of their programming.

The FSC programming list is 16 days old, so it looks like this deal has only been finalized in the last week or so.

All-Star weekend is coming up for the MLS and it is normal for the Commissioner Don Garber to give his 'state of the league' address. In the past, this address has been used to announce major events for the league (such as expansion teams). The rumor is that this year's big deal will be about television rights. Could it be that FSC has started paying rights to the league? If it has, that would be a nice addition to any deal with the ABC family.

Anyway you look at it, it's great to have more American soccer available on TV.

Update: I just stumbled across this report out of KC: Saturday’s game marked the first television broadcast under a new deal between MLS and Fox Soccer Channel. It was the first of 16 MLS games FSC will broadcast over the remainder of the season.

Update 2: I just had a thought. Perhaps this FSC agreement has been worked out for a while and was always suppose to be announced at the All-Star game, which was originally scheduled for this weekend. However, when the game got pushed back a week so they could play Chelsea, MLS had to move games from next weekend to this weekend. So this weekend games were really the first post-All-Star set of games. That could explain why FSC started airing them and why it has been so hush-hush. Just a thought.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

DC's streak is over

As hard as it is to believe this, Real Salt Lake beat DC United tonight, but the game was not without controversy. Both of Real's goals were the result of penalty kicks awarded after fouls by sub John Wilson. These two fouls happened within 7-minutes of each other with the final one happening moments before the end of the match.

The last foul I'm sure will cause some talk. Did Wilson go in late and cleats up or was it a dive by Chris Klein? On my little web window it looked like a good call.

All and all, DC did not look good (for them) tonight. I wonder if all the 'record' talk has caused this team to relax a bit. I also wonder why Nowak went defensive so early in the second match.

Finally, I hope we get to hear what coaches Nowak and Ellinger were saying to each other after the match. It looked interesting from my end.


Friday, July 28, 2006

"Headbutt" - Zidane's song

A song inspired by Zidane's headbutt and France's failure in the final has become the number one song in France.

The song took about 30-minutes to write and includes lines like "The Italian's not doing well / Zidane slapped [him] / The ref saw it on the TV / Zidane hit [him] / But we lost the World Cup / We had a good laugh anyways."*

But Zidane is not the only French star mentioned as they also spend time on Trezeguet who missed the kick that cost the team the World Cup.

Anyway, it is a very catchy song and a fun video, even if you, like me, do not speak the language.*

* Etienne Marcel has a translation of the song into English here (look below the picture).

Is McBride about to leave Fulham for Birmingham

Story update here.

Last season Fulham fans voted Brian McBride their player of the year, but might he be in Birmingham (look towards the bottom of the link) for the 2006-07 campaign?

That's the rumor out today. It seems Blues boss Steve Bruce is willing to pay £1 million for the striker. Since McBride is 34-years old, this must be seen as a short-term move to help get Birmingham out of the Championship league and into the Premiership for 2007-08. McBride would do well there, but I still think he has what it takes to play with the best in England's top league.

Cleveland Browns owner ends Aston Villa bid - an open letter

Dear Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner,

I just read that you have called off your bid to purchase English Premier League's Aston Villa. I know you had been looking at buying the team for about US$100 million, but decided to kill the deal after meeting with club chairman Doug Ellis.

Rumor has it that Ellis refused to meet with you alone and insisted that he would remain in charge after the sale. Some people, just so pushy.

So no soccer club for you, but it doesn't have to be that way.

You could take the $100 million and invest it in a MLS club. Yes, the MLS might not have the old world charm that is Aston Villa, but it also will not be making big demands. I know, ever since Tampa Bay Buccaneers' owner Malcolm Glazer bought Manchester United, it has become very fashionable to own a piece of the EPL, but why spend $100 million to become a medium size fish in England when you could become a big fish in the US?

Think about it, with $100 million you could make a move for MLS's best team, DC United. If buying the best is not what you are looking for, you could use the money to create your own dynasty (say in Cleveland) by purchasing an expansion club.

It's true, the glamour is not yet there for the MLS, but with a little time and a some more investors like you, the MLS will become something better then Aston Villa.

Hope your dawg pound is doing fine,
Mike H

100-hour soccer match

Chivas USA is putting together a 100-hour soccer match that will see representatives of Chivas play 'The Rest of the Wolrd.' This match is to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Chivas USA's sister club, Mexico's Club Deportivo Guadalajara.

The game will be 100 straight hours of soccer. It will begin on August 9 at 1pm and end on August 13 at 5pm. No word yet on if they will go to penalty kicks if it is tied at 5pm.

The uninterrupted match will feature the participation of the Chivas USA first team, its coaching staff, the ChivaGirls, employees, managers, and ex-players from Club Guadalajara, as well as celebrities, elected officials, members of the press, and representative teams from soccer academies, leagues, associations and clubs. There will be live music and entertainment during the event, as well as authentic Mexican food.

The event will take place in the new $10 million Bell Gardens Sports Center, which Chivas USA helped build. One last fun part, they are looking for players to take part. Participation is free and is open to teams of players between 8 and 100 years of age. To sign up, call 1-800-961-1664.

Champions League and UEFA Cup draws

The two big European club tournaments held draws today and here are the results:

Champions League Third Round Draw
Sheriff (MDA) or Spartak Moskow (RUS) v Slovan Liberec (CZE)
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) v FH Hafnarfjördur (ISL) or Legia Warsaw (POL)
FC Zürich (SUI) or FC Salzburg (AUT) v Valencia (ESP)
Levski Sofia (BUL) or Sioni Bolnisi (GEO) v Chievo Verona (ITA)
Heart of Midlothian (SCO) or NK `iroki Brijeg (BIH) v AEK Athens (GRE)

CSKA Moskow (RUS) v Djurgårdens (SWE) or MFK Ruzomberok (SVK)
AC Milan (ITA) v Cork City (IRL) or Red Star Belgrade (SCG)
Galatasaray (TUR) v FK Mladá Boleslav (CZE) or Vålerenga (NOR)
Standard Liège (BEL) v NK Gorica (SLO) or Steaua Bucuresti (ROU)
Austria Vienna (AUT) v Benfica (POR)

FK Ekranas (LTU) or Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) v Arsenal (ENG)
FC Copenhagen (DEN) or Myllykosken Pallo-47 (FIN) v Ajax Amsterdam (NED)
Hamburg (GER) v Osasuna (ESP)
Liepajas Metalurgs (LAT) or Dynamo Kiev (UKR) v Fenerbahce (TUR) or B36 Tórshavn (FAR)
Liverpool (ENG) v Maccabi Haifa (ISR)
Lille (FRA) v Debreceni (HUN) or FK Rabotnicki (MKD)

First legs to be played August 8/9
Second legs to be played August 22/23

The second qualifying round will be completed next Wednesday, August 2.

The 16 winners of the third qualifying round ties will join the 16 automatic qualifiers for the group stage which starts on September 12/13.

UEFA Cup Second Round Draw
APOEL (Cyprus) vs. Trabzonspor (Turkey)
Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel) vs. Domzale (Slovenia)
CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria) vs. FK Hajduk Kula (Serbia)
Roeselare (Belgium) vs. Ethnikos Achnas (Cyprus)
OFK Belgrade (Serbia) vs. Auxerre (France)

Dinamo Bucharest (Romania) vs. Beitar Jerusalem (Israel)
FK Partizan (Serbia) vs. Maribor (Slovenia)
Sarajevo (Bosnia) vs. Rapid Bucharest (Romania)
Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv (Israel) vs. Lokomotiv Sofia (Bulgaria)
Omonia (Cyprus) vs. Litex Lovech (Bulgaria)

Tirana (Albania) vs. Kayserispor (Turkey)
Artmedia Bratislava (Slovakia) vs. Dinamo Minsk (Belaurs)
SV Ried (Austria) vs. FC Sion (Switzerland)
Fehervar (Hungary) vs. Grasshoppers (Switzerland)
Karvan (Azerbaijan) vs. Slavia Prague (Czech Republic)

FC Chornomorets Odessa (Ukraine) vs. Wisla Plock (Poland)
FC Basel (Switzerland) vs. FC Vaduz (Liechtenstein)
Zimbru (Moldova) vs. FC Metalurh Zaporizhya (Ukraine)
SV Mattersburg (Austria) vs. Wisla Krakow (Poland)
Hertha Berlin (Germany) vs. Ameri (Georgia)

Rubin Kazan (Russia) vs. BATE (Belarus)
Marseille (France) vs. Young Boys Bern (Switzerland)
IK Start (Norway) vs. Drogheda (Ireland)
OB Odense (Denmark) vs. Llanelli (Wales)
Kaunas (Lithuania) vs. Randers (Denmark)

FC Twente (Netherlands) vs. Levadia (Estonia)
FK Ventspils (Latvia) vs. Newcastle (England)
Brann Bergen (Norway) vs. Atvidaberg (Sweden)
Molde (Norway) vs. Skonto Riga (Latvia)
Flora (Estonia) vs. Brondby (Denmark)

Suduva (Lithuania) vs. FC Brugge (Belgium)
Gretna FC (Scotland) vs. Derry (Ireland)

First legs to be played August 10
Second legs to be played August 24

First leg home team listed first

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Construction on new 2010 World Cup stadium underway

Today saw a step forward for the city of Durban in South Africa as the old Kings Park Stadium came down. In its place, the new King Senzangakhona 70,000-seat Stadium will rise.

This new site will be able to host soccer, but will also be used for rugby and other athletic events. It could host a Commonwealth games and, with minor modifications, an Olympic games.

One interesting note, the old stadium will be recycled. "Grass, topsoil, masts, control gear and precast seating would be reused at stadiums in other parts of the city. All old concrete would be crushed and used as fill for the base of the new stadium, while more than 400 tons of steel and 40000 bricks had been recovered."

This stadium should be finished by 2009 and will host one of the semi-final matches.

Also in Durban, they are building a major road to help ease the massive congestion that engulfs the city on most days.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

US soccer's way forward

This post is part of the 'Third Carnival of American Soccer Blogs' as hosted by Zathras at The Fool's Prerogative.

With a month now gone between the German experience and today, it is time to turn our eyes to 2010 and how we move the men's team forward?

The first thing that must be answered is who will coach our men's team. Most of the talk has been about Jürgen Klinsmann. He was a fantastic player who took part in the biggest games. The experience he can bring to the team is like nothing that the US has ever before seen. He is familiar with the US system having lived here for a number of years, so he should understand the mindset of the American player and he used American techniques to change the German team around. However, the biggest plus for Klinsmann is the attention, both in terms of media and international respect, he would bring the team. Klinsmann would give the US media a story through which to tell the US story and might help land bigger teams for international dates.

Still there are downsides. He might know the US mindset, but he has never played/coached in the MLS or CONCACAF. He might have used American techniques to change Germany, but one must still remember, the were still Germany. Also, with all the attention focused on him, it might keep players from becoming known. Finally, I worry that with all the faith most of us are ready to put into Klinsmann, he will not be challenged on the decisions he makes. No coach is right all the time and when a coach is wrong, he needs to be called on it.

So if not Klinsmann then who?

A person I at first pooh-poohed but now am starting to think might be a good move is Frank Yallop. Yallop has played and coached in the MLS and CONCACAF. His knowledge of the US game is evident in his successful run with San Jose. As coach of Canada, he was not able to move the mountain and get them to the World Cup (or even the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying), but he did improve their game.

Yallop would not become the story as Klinsmann would, since no one in the media would really be talking about the excitement that is Yallop. However, he might just be able to string together a team that could challenge in a big way in 2010.

The other person I think would help out the US is Peter Nowak. Like Yallop, he has played and coached in the MLS and has a good record. He would bring intensity to the game that could re-fire the US furnace. One problem, he does not have any international experience, but then again, neither did Klinsmann before Germany.

These three would bring different things to the team. Klinsmann would focus on a more attacking style, Yallop could mean Donovan's role in the team would continue to be large and Nowak might just focus on a solid midfield.

All three of these directions could bring us to something fascinating. Klinsmann would still be my first choice, but Yallop is a close second.

But the coach alone will not make the team. A great coach can do a lot, but if the players are not up to it, the team will fail.

For the players to come together they need to face big tests and some of them need to be outside of the US. Over the next four years the US should hold at least three camps not on US soil. It would be great if these camps ended with play against teams like England, Brazil, France, etc, but taking on teams like Australia, South Africa and Russia would also be a fine test.

Going along with this point, the US should accept every invitation to Copa América they are offered. Find a work around for any problems and get the men down South.

Okay, play more games in harder locations against good teams, not the most unique of ideas. However, there is one other big thing that should change, but US soccer has very little control over it: scheduling.

I'm not talking about the scheduling of US games or camps, but instead the scheduling of the MLS and NCAA soccer schedules.

The MLS needs to move to a Fall-Spring schedule in order to get in line with the rest of world soccer. Yes, this will mean that they will be competing with football and basketball, but the benefits would be big. The playoffs would not have to fight against college and pro football, players would not have to play in 90+ degree heat and MLS teams would have a better chance of performing well in international club competitions.

For the national team, this scheduling would make camps easier. No longer would we have camps with just MLS players, meaning that when the team was training, it would be the whole team training.

The biggest hurdle to making this happen is stadiums. MLS teams that do not own their own stadium, play on American football fields, thus scheduling in the fall becomes very difficult. However, next season will represent the first time that over half of MLS teams play in soccer specific stadiums. It might not happen within the next four years, but soon the schedule change will happen because it needs to happen.

The other schedule change needed is in the NCAA. Currently the college schedule only allows for about two-months of play consisting of about 20 games. There are chances of 10-15 more matches via various tournaments, but even with those games, the most meaningful games any college students play is 30-35 meaningful games a year. The strange thing is they have to do this in three-four months. That's about 10 matches a month. Anyway you look at it, that's a lot of matches meaning players don't have much time to recover if they get injured.

In Europe, young players generally play from September-May in about 40 matches. This schedule allows players more time to develop, more time to recover from injury and more chances to improve their game.

Now a big difference is in Europe, college is not where young players play. Still, if the NCAA adopted a six-month schedule and increased the number of games, players would become better. Better college players would improve the talent pool from which the national team can choose.

With college still the most common route for young players in America, if we do not use it to make our players the best they can be, how can we expect them to compete against the rest of the world?

If the US men want to truly become one of the big boys on the international soccer stage, they need to help make change happen. We can no longer pretend we are not part of the bigger soccer world. We need to adapt our game to their standards. If we do this, who knows, maybe when we host the World Cup in 2022, we will celebrate a win on home soil.

Brian McBride retires from international soccer

Brian McBride made it official today, he will never again wear the uniform of the red, white and blue. Over the last 13-years McBride has been a workhorse for the US team. In his 95 international matches he scored 30 goals. His decision to leave the team at the age of 34 is not a surprise, but still it is sad to see him go.

“This is a special day in that I have the opportunity to thank U.S. Soccer for all it has done for me and my family,” said McBride. “The consistent and determined efforts of the coaches, staff and players at U.S. Soccer have helped bless me with the honor of being a part of three World Cups and playing the game I love over many years since first being called up in 1993. I will truly miss being part of the team. Additionally, I want to thank the fans of U.S. Soccer for their enthusiasm and support. Without the encouragement and warm words from many fans, I would not be where I am today.

“I also want to send special thanks to my wife Dina, and my children Ashley and Ella. Having their support and seeing their smiling faces in the crowd has only made these years more memorable.”

With McBride gone, the US need to find a man to front their attack. Eddie Johnson, Brian Ching, Taylor Twellmann and others have some big boots to fill.

Brian, thanks for everything.

MLS Week 17 Power Ratings

It's been a month since I've done one of these, so it feels good to be back. Here are the MLS power ratings as I see them

1. DC United (last week - 1) - They got lucky in Chicago as the Fire were the better team, but they still came home with a share of the points. To me, if you are out played and still get a tie, you are a good team.

2. FC Dallas (3) - Injuries are everywhere in Dallas, but so are late goals. Abe Thompson's strike in stoppage time to win it should be seen as a warning to all; against FCD, the game is not over till that whistle blows.

3. Houston Dynamo (2) - A solid defense kept New England from having a single shot on goal, but one bad bounce in the form of an own goal almost sunk them. Still, they recovered well, but with all their chances, they really should have got at least one more goal.

4. Colorado Rapids (5) - Outplayed in just about every way you can measure a game but they still kept getting goals. I don't know how they do it with all the holes in their midfield, but they keep finding ways of getting points.

5. Los Angeles Galaxy (4) - Yallop has LA chugging along just fine so how could they not get more past the Crew's ever changing goalkeeper? A point is better then nothing, but LA is far better then they played in the second half.

6. Chivas USA (7) - Chivas is finally showing they are a good team in the MLS, but they have yet to figure out how to keep leads. If you go up a goal in stoppage time, there is no reason to not win the game. All the ball control in the world means little if you can't keep the ball out of your net.

7. New England Revolution (6) - No shots on goal is a bad sign for this uneven club. Their offense was sad, their midfield was wasted and their defense got lucky. Other then that, they are the team to beat.

8. Chicago Fire (8) - Chicago outplayed DC all over the pitch for about 70-minutes, but then they dropped it. Logan Pause was stupid to get tossed, but the Fire were managing without him for 20-minutes, but, again, they could not finish. Collapsing in the final 20-minutes is quickly becoming Chicago's motto.

9. New York Red Bull (11) - What can a week change? For New York the answer is just about everything. Two wins in four days moves them from the basement to mid-table. Even better, their victories are due to a midfield establishing itself and feeding good balls to the forwards. If their defense can show more resolve, third place might just be a realistic finish.

10. Columbus Crew (9) - They were managing the ball so well in the final 15-minutes, but they really didn't threaten. The Crew need to learn a lesson from the US men in Germany, if you don't take smart shots, you don't score.

11. Real Salt Lake (10) - How can you play even with one of the best teams in MLS only to let it all go in the final couple minutes of the game? I asked it of Chicago and I ask it again of Real. They had their elements working for the full 90, but then a late one stuns them again.

12. Kansas City Wizards (12) - Maybe KC's luck has all gone to DC as they just could not buy a break against New York. Having a late ball beat the keeper only to see it cleared off the line by the Bull's Todd Dunivant must have crushed every Wizard's fan out there. Times are bad in KC, but the good news, even after losing 7 in a row, they are only 1 point out of the playoff hunt and five points out of second place. The East sure is crazy this year.

The Italian scandal, what did we learn?

The appeal process is over, for now, and what has happened?

AC Milan will get to play in the Champions League preliminaries and continue to stay in Serie A, but they will have an eight-point deduction.

Lazio and Fiorentina will not be relegated to Serie B. Instead, they will start the season with a 11 and 19-point deduction respectively.

Juventus will be relegated to Serie B, but their point deduction will only be 17 points instead of 30.

Lazio, Fiorentina and Juventus have all said that they are going to file another appeal. AC Milan has yet to make a statement about future appeals.

So what have we learned? It does seem that these four teams tried to rig the system to help their teams, with Juventus taking the lead. Yet somehow, undermining the entire idea of the sport only gets minor penalties for the clubs involved (and they even bitch about that). Okay, Juventus's penalty is not minor, however, with a 17-point hit, chances are they will be back in Serie A next season.

For the others, the hit will be felt, but AC Milan will still set their chance at the most money making of money makers, the Champions League and Lazio and Fiorentina will still get to welcome all the big Italian clubs to town. I have no doubt that they will take a financial hit because of this, but one must remember, they cheated.

So the fine for cheating is, for all but Juventus, you have a difficult year, but all could be better by next summer. For Juventus, their next year will be harder then the others, but really, come next May, they will be looking at Serie A again.

I really don't see how this crime, which caused the whole soccer world to look bad, can only result in such minor penalties. The word has gone out, cheat all you want and if you get caught, don't worry things will be back to normal in about a year. Sad, sad, sad.

Guus Hiddink faces tax fraud charges

The coach everyone wants might just become a wanted man in Amsterdam as Guss Hiddink stands accused of making a false statement regarding his official place of residence in his 2002 and 2003 tax fillings, i.e. tax fraud.

Hiddink said he lived in Belgium, which has a more favorable tax rate, however Dutch authorities do not believe him.

The Dutch version of the IRS, the FIOD, raided the office of his tax adviser Simon van den Boomen back in October as part of a wider inquiry. They now seem to be focusing on Hiddink. He will have his first hearing on September 15th.

Hiddink is not very happy about all this and has declared his innocence and last year called this "an administrative issue."

I'm not really up on Dutch tax law, so I don't know if he only faces financial penalties or if he might end up behind bars.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

South Africa ready to spend on 2010

South Africa has announced that they will spend upwards of US$858 million to get their 10 stadiums built and ready for the 2010 World Cup.

This stadium work includes building a 70,000 capacity site in Cape Town that will include a retractable roof and expanding the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg from 75,000 to 104,000 (this will be the stadium that hosts the opening and closing matches).

South Africa is also planning to invest US$1.2 billion into upgrades of airports, roads and rail lines.

So far FIFA has given them US$10 million to rebuild their national soccer team and US$10 million for a new headquarters for their Football Association. This money is part of the advance payment promised to the host federation.

But what would a day be like without talk of the tournament being moved. This time, Australia pops up as a possible alternative.

"FIFA's top official in South Africa, Michael Palmer, dismissed such talk as 'nonsense.' He said the world soccer body is confident that South Africa will overcome problems associated with the lack of public transport and come up with sufficient accommodation for visitors."

Palmer stressed that they are already further along then Germany was at a comparable time in its planning.

South Africa is expecting 350,000 foreign visitors during the tournament. This number is well below the 2 million fans that flooded Germany, but an official says this lower number is due to "our geographical position and the cost of long distance travel."

They hope that these visitors and all the build up before the Cup will help reduce their unemployment numbers, which are around 25%.

Finally, a total of three million tickets will be sold for the 2010 tournament, one third for the South African market, one third for international fans and the other third reserved for marketing partners and FIFA. Nice to know that the rest of the world is equal to the marketing official sponsors. Where would the Cup be without the fans?

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UEFA worried English ref system could lead to match fixing

The governing body of European soccer, UEFA, has told the English Premiership that their referee system is 'in breach' of statutes which help prevent match fixing scandals such as the one still unfolding in Italy.

The root problem is that the Premier League, Football League and Football Association are all equal stakeholders in the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO). The PGMO is the body that decides the refs for games.

UEFA says this is illegal because, as spokesman William Gaillard told The Guardian, "Refs should be appointed independently of clubs and leagues."

The Premier League has stress that the PGMO operates at arm's length from them and that PGMO general manager Keith Hackett who is solely responsible for appointing referees.

It is not know at this time what, if any, action UEFA might take. However, if they do decide to push this issue it could, in a worse case scenario, result in English clubs being banned from play in Europe.

If another match fixing scandal breaks out in a major European league, I truly wonder what would happen to the game. Would anyone ever trust the results from the pitch again?

DC United to take on Real Madrid in Seattle

Star packed Real Madrid is making their way to Seattle to face not so local DC United. The game takes place on Wednesday, August 9th at 8pm (which is the same night Barcelona will be in Houston). Even through this will be a friendly, I'm going to guess DC will try to pull off the upset. Wouldn't that just put some icing on the near perfect cake that is United this season?

It is a little strange that United is flying all the way across the country to play this match, but I guess some folks for Real wanted a game in the Northwest.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow via ticket master.

In other DC United news, D over at DCenters has announced a major post at noon today "that will have a significant impact on the future of The DCenters." Speculation over at BigSoccer is that D is about to change his loyalties to the Red Bulls of New York. Unofficial reports have D saying, "enough with Olsen, Eskandarian and Boswell, I'm a Buddle, Mendes and Guevara man now."

It also seems someone has recently registered a blog titled ScrewDCentersIamARedBullManNow. More as this develops.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

How to keep the soccer buzz going in the US

That's the question many of us have asked on our blogs (as I'm sure many executives have asked at MLS headquarters) and to this end, Greg Lalas steps in to answer the question over at

With more people willing to give the game a try, but not knowing where to go, Lalas points folks in the direction of the English Premiere League.

And now they're jonesing. Like us. And it's our job to help them find their fix. Right now, with my beloved MLS still relatively fledgling, that comes mainly in the form of the Premier League and La Liga. With the world shrinking faster every day, I've long believed that the European leagues have a better chance of tackling the NFL and other U.S. leagues than a U.S.-based soccer league does. That's why Barcelona and Chelsea are coming here in the next few weeks. They're marketing, not training.

Once you have them hooked on the game, introduce them to the MLS. Point out that it might not be up to the top European leagues, but there is still some good soccer getting played.

This is a great move, but might prove harder said then done. There are too many US soccer fans out there that will wake up at 7am to watch an EPL match between Middlesbrough and Portsmouth, but scoff at the notion of watching a MLS game. Till we can got those soccer fans to give MLS some respect, how can we really expect newbies to like to domestic game.

Lalas does point to one of the main reasons I think soccer could catch on in the US, the experience of attending a game. The atmosphere that is created is like nothing in any other professional sport. It is not the result of an announcer screaming or a bass drum blaring, instead, it is the sound of a community singing.

Now MLS matches are not as impressive in that realm either, but if you go to a match, get a seat near the supporters’ section, have a beer and enjoy the event.

I guess this is just my endorsement of the great free beer movement.

US U-20 Men's roster named for 2006 Milk Cup

US Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Thomas Rongen has named his roster for the 2006 Milk Cup taking place in Northern Ireland starting next week.

There are eight professional players on the roster along with six of them coming from the MLS while one each comes from the English and German first divisions.

The US's first match is next Monday against Wales. They play Denmark on August 2nd and finish the tournament with a placement match on Friday, August 4th. The other teams playing in the Elite portion of the Milk Cup are Northern Ireland, Paraguay and Turkey.

Last year, the U-18 men won the N. Ireland Milk Cup.

Here is the full roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Mike Gustavson (University of South Carolina), Chris Seitz (University of Maryland);

DEFENDERS (5): Tony Beltran (UCLA), Amaechi Igwe (Santa Clara), Ofori Sarkodie (Indiana), Julian Valentin (Wake Forest), Blake Wagner (FC Dallas)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Nikolas Besagno (Real Salt Lake), Carlos Borja (Chivas USA), Rodrigo Lopez (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Brad Ring (Indiana), Robbie Rogers (University of Maryland), Jonathan Villanueva (University of Virginia);

FORWARDS (4): Josmer Altidore (N.Y. Red Bulls), Johann Smith (Bolton FC), Preston Zimmerman (Hamburg SV), Sal Zizzo (UCLA)

There are two other portions of the Milk Cup. The Premier portion is U-17 club sides and the Junior portion is U-15 club sides.

Match fixing, more match fixing and corrupt World Cup ticket sales

Today is the final day of appeals in the Italian match fixing scandal. AC Milan, who were not demoted from Serie A, are asking to have their ban from the Champion's League overturned. Juventus, who was stripped of Serie A's last two league titles, wants them back. They would also like to see their 30-point penalization reduced. Lazio and Fiorentina are also appealing their punishments.

All of these matters should be settled tomorrow.

But Italy is not the only match fixing game in town as the Turkish government has lunched a probe into allegations of match fixing in their domestic league. However, this probe seems to be nowhere near the size of its Italian counterpart as it deals with one match.

"According to media reports, first division club Denizlispor are alleged to have offered to pay three Malatyaspor players to throw a game with Gaziantepspor to help Denizlispor avoid relegation on the last day of the season.

"Malatyaspor lost the game 1-0 and were relegated. Denizlispor, who have rejected the claims, ended the season 15th and avoided relegation."

Finally, the Polish soccer federation finds itself looking at another possible scandal as prosecutors are looking into the sale of their World Cup tickets. There are allegations that fans did not receive tickets for which they paid and that either the federation or people associated with the federation then sold those same tickets to the highest bidder.

"Polish football's ruling body is also dealing with allegations of widespread match fixing in a separate investigation which has seen two referees and around a dozen other officials detained over the last 18 months."

The interesting thing is that all three of these countries are connected by their desire to host the 2012 European Championship. Turkey was in the running till they lost out on November 8, 2005, when UEFA's executive committee narrowed the list from 5 to 3 (Greece was also booted). The three remaining bids are Italy, Croatia/Hungary and Poland/Ukraine. So there is only a one in three chance that none of the host nations for 2012 will have been recently involved in a match fixing scandal. The final vote will happen in December.

Friday, July 21, 2006

One year old today

One year ago today I finally stopped procrastinating and launched My Soccer Blog. I say launched, but that might be a bit of an overstatement. Does filling out a form really deserve the verb launched?

Anyway, I started this blog for three reasons. One, learn more about the sport of soccer. Two, help others find information on soccer. And three, make those big blog-money-bucks.

So how am I doing?

One - I have a much greater understanding of the game and am very surprised when I talk with people who do not know how are this works (really, I need help with that).

Two - I think a couple people have learned something from this.

Three - Money made to date - $0. Maybe I should look into this thing called advertising. Oh well, there's always next year.

Enough with the jokes, or lame attempts at jokes.

When I decided to start this little blog, I was a bit shocked at how few soccer related blogs focusing on the American game were out there. The great thing is that today, there are dozens, if not hundreds of us out here (look at the blogroll for a few of my favorites), putting brilliant posts up every day.

As was saw during the World Cup, if soccer is to really get hold in this country, the internet is going to be a huge part. People want information and explanations and blogs provide both of those 24 hours a day. Every four years, soccer pops back into the mainstream for a month, but for the other 47 months, blogs will have to fill in.

Okay, enough with the grand standing, let's give out some awards, and by awards I mean let me talk about myself some more.

In a year's time I have put up 950 posts and all of them have at least four spelling and/or grammatical mistakes. The total number of comments from these 950 posts sits somewhere around 1100, with about 900 of those talking about the spelling and/or grammatical mistakes (I want to take a moment to thank Mr. Fish for posting the first real comment to this blog).

I really have enjoyed doing this and I hope that, at some point, I was able to provide you with a link that your found enjoyable or a take on events that you might not have thought of yourself. If I haven't, well I owe you nothing, but since that's what I've been giving you, I think we can call it even.

In closing, a year ago I finished my first post with a promise, that this blog will get better. I truly hope that it has and I thank you for taking the time to read what some goof thinks about the beautiful game.

Could Zidane have killed, Japan and Kenya get their coaches and some MLS news

Even with the punishment dolled out, the talk over the head butt is not over. Italy, taking a break from the match fixing scandal, is outraged over the ban for Marco Materazzi. But the anger has taken a new twist as a top Italian cardiologist has said that, "Zinedine Zidane could have caused Marco Materazzi to suffer a heart attack when he head-butted him in the chest in the World Cup final."

"It is well documented that a sudden violent blow to the area around the heart can cause cardiac arrest, especially in young athletes, when the heart is vulnerable because the electrical circuit is destabilized (by physical exertion)," said Professor Francesco Furlanello, one of the leading figures in his field.

Furlanello joined the chorus of those protesting that the similarity of the punishments puts abusive language on the same level as - potentially lethal - violent behaviour.

Let the debate continue.

In none heart related news, Former Yugoslavia soccer coach Ivica Osim has been named Japan's head coach. Osim led Yugoslavia to the quarterfinals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and has also led Austrian club SK Sturm Graz to the Champions League. He has been manager of JEF United in Japan's J-League since 2003. JEF won their first league title last year. Osim takes over from Brazilian Zico.

Kenya is also celebrating a new coach as former French goalkeeper Bernard Lama has been hired to lead the Harambee Stars. Lama was part of the 1998 French team that won the World Cup, however he was dropped as France's starter in 1997 after testing positive for cannabis. The hiring of a Frenchman is another step in France setting themselves up as a key partner in Kenya's future socio-economic development.

In MLS news, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber was in Kansas City earlier this week to talk with a group that wants to buy the Wizards. The group is interested, but still does not have a plan for a soccer stadium in place. Garber said that there should be an announcement about the local group in the next two to three weeks.

Could Hartford, Connecticut be a good home for the MLS? That's the question posed by Nathan Conz. I must admit, Hartford would not be on my short list, but Nathan makes some good points. He looks at the possibility of the Revolution moving there or of getting an expansion team. But a big part of his focus is the difference between MLS and NHL teams.

ESPN looking at Bruce Arena for 2010 Cup coverage. Will O'Brien return?

He might not be walking the sidelines in South Africa, but the Bruce might still be giving his two cents worth. ESPN has said that they are interested in including Arena in their 2010 World Cup coverage. Just what role he would play is unknown, but it would probably be along the lines of in studio commentary ala Lalas and Wynalda.

No formal talks have happened, however, ESPN senior coordinating producer Tim Scanlan told ESPN of a conversation he had with Arena last January.

"I asked him if it was something he would ever consider because he always had opinions -- and he definitely would give me opinions on our commentators," said Scanlan, who ran ESPN's World Cup efforts in Germany. "I said, 'Let me put you in the seat. Would you consider doing it?' He said, 'Yeah, I would be interested at some point. I would not say no."

Hearing Bruce's take on things would be a fantastic and I would love to see him and Wynalda debate points of the game.

But that brings us to lead announcer. I have not wrote much about the ABC/ESPN coverage of 2006 because I think many other people have covered it. I don't think Dave O'Brien was the best choice, even though I can understand their logic behind it, Marcelo Balboa brought up some points concerning play on the pitch, but often they were long after the events had taken place and all the graphics were overkill (just to name a few things). So what will come of the O'Brien-Balboa team?

Here is the line that will bring a lot of emotion to a number of diehard soccer fans in this country:

Later in our conversation Scanlan said he was committed to O'Brien for '10.

If Scanlan has his way, O'Brien will be back in the booth for 2010. However, he was not so direct concerning Balboa, other then to say that the two, as a team, improved as the Cup went on.

If O'Brien is to stay, I hope he uses the next four-years to really learn the game that he is calling. If he can figure out the little things that create so much in soccer and if he can work on bringing more excitement to his voice (let's hear some yelling when play is in front of goal), then maybe he could be something.

Most of the knocks against him have to do with his lack of knowledge of the game. The argument then goes, if he doesn't know the game, how can he teach Americans who do not know how it all works, how it works? It is hard to argue with this.

For Balboa, what can one say? He has been a big part of US soccer broadcasting for years, but he just didn't make it happen with O'Brien. Oh, the wife also thinks he should cut his hair.

What would be really interesting would be placing O'Brien with Arena in calling matches. I don't think Arena would let errors slip by.

A couple other things for 2010, they will probably call all games live from South Africa instead of having some games called from their studios. Also, they plan on extending their coverage of the national anthems. Throw in a 20-minute pre-game show for every match, which explains the style of play, the starting lineup and the history of the teams and you've got something real good.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Chivas and Colorado fight for third

Chivas and Colorado walked into the matched tied on points for third place in the West. For Colorado, they have been in a safe place thanks to good form at home during the season, while Chivas, who looked strong in June, had faded in July with a three game winless streak following them to Invesco Field.

So here you go, sides are set. Winner walks out three points up on the loser and only six points behind first place FC Dallas, while the loser has to worry about a resurgent LA Galaxy team nipping at their heals. Surely both sides are going to fight for the win. And so they did.

Scoring got going quick as Chivas's Juan Francisco Palencia got to the rebound of a shot by Jonathan Bornstein to get the first goal of the night in only the 9th minute. However, it did not last long. Just 57 seconds later, Dedi Ben Dayan pulled the Rapids even thanks to a pass from Jovan Kirovski.

The game went back and fourth through out the rest of the half. During the first part of the second half, it was looking a little boring till, of all people, Clint Mathis injected some life into the match when he gave the home side the lead in the 67th. Mathis had come off the bench about 10-minutes earlier and looked like he was actually interested in playing. Sure enough, he got a nice goal. If only he always played like that. By the by, Dedi set Clint up.

But as they come, so do they go. About a minute later, Colorado's Mike Petke earned his second yellow of the night thanks to a hard tackle. Chivas did not wait long to get back in the match as Jonathan Bornstein worked himself into position to take a good shot that beat Joe Cannon. All tied at two.

Again, back and forth they went, but no one could get a shot on goal. Bornstein shined again with a rocket right into the netting. As it was already extra time, it looked like Chivas was going home with three. But not so fast, in the final minute of play, Jacob Peterson somehow finds the space and connects for the tie. Down a man and a goal in the 92nd minute, yet somehow, the Rapids got a point.

It was a good outcome for Colorado as Chivas was taking it to them on the technical skills. If it were all about passing and dribbling, Chivas would have walked away an easy winner. Terry Cooke and Dedi had great nights for Colorado, but where is their defense? For the Goats, this has to hurt. Bornstein is the hero, but how do they keep crumbling. There is no excuse for conceding the tying goal in the final minutes of play when you are up a man.

The game ends 3-3 with both teams stuck in third place.

World Soccer News - July 20, 2006

Every day, tons of soccer stories happen, these are just the few that made it out of the shadows and into my view.

The French soccer federation is satisfied with FIFA's ruling on Zidane, however, the Italians are not so happy. Let's see, France lost nobody while Italy lost a key to their defense. If I was France, I would be happy too.

The Portuguese received no respect, no respect I tell ya, during the World Cup, or so says a Portuguese-American. He seems to think this was due to a lack of stereotypical Portuguese food, but I think it might have been a result of all the diving and poor play (maybe the US should look into diving lessons).

Brazil's head coach Carlos Parreira quit yesterday. I'm sure the Brazilian fans shed a tear at the news.

England's Sports Minister Richard Caborn opened the door to a 2018 World Cup bid today (I'm not sure the door was actually closed). Australia is also looking into the games. How long till Mexico, Canada and the US start talking about their bids?

India's new coach Bob Houghton says the team needs to stop thinking about the World Cup and instead focus on getting their standards up to that of Asia.

If you've ever said, "I'd die for my soccer team," German soccer club Hamburg SV might just have a plan for you. The team is planning a cemetery for fans. Is anyone shocked that this story takes place in Germany?

Shannon Boxx tore the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament in her right knee and will be out of the US Women's lineup for 6-8 months. Ouch.

FC Dallas has acquired Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Saragosa from LA and former SMU forward Alex Smith. Smith takes midfielder Mario Torres spot on the developmental roster.

Major Indoor Soccer League's Detroit Ignition will hold open tryouts in three Michigan indoor facilities in September. If you have what it takes, look here.

Neal Thurman has some ideas for marketing soccer to the US over the next few years and yes, John Stewart is included.

Finally, the new USL first division club in Cary, have released their name and logo (pictured). They will be the Carolina Railhawks. Congratulations to Jarrett Campbell from the excellent Triangle Soccer Fanatics for coming up with the name.

The Italian scandal just keeps growing

Just when the Italian scandal looked to be coming to some sort of conclusion, prosecutors have announced that eight more people are under investigation.

The biggest name on the list seems to be Reggina president Lillo Foti. Reggina finished this past Serie A season in 15th place, but if these charges prove to be true, they could meet the same fate as Juventus, Fiorentina and Lazio and be sent down to Serie B or stay in Serie A but be penalized points like AC Milan.

Reggina will not make the headlines that Juventus made, but if a down-table team is involved in all this, one must wonder who was not involved.

Other clubs apparently getting looked at are Siena, Messina, Arezzo and Lecce. If these four clubs plus Reggina were also involded in this, that would mean almost half of Serie A was involved in match fixing.

In order to figure this whole mess out, the top two division might not play their first matches till September 9th, rather then the end of August.

Zidane's head butt not the result of racism

FIFA has handed down their penalties for the head butt that overshadowed the finals. Former France captain Zinedine Zidane has been banned for three international matches and fined about $6000. Italy defender Marco Materazzi got a two-match ban and roughly a $3700 fine.

For Zidane, the three game ban means little as he has retired. However, he has "pledge to do three days of community service work with children and youngsters as part of FIFA's humanitarian activities."

The big news is that both players stressed that Materazzi's comments were NOT racist in nature, but no comment was made on what exactly was said.

Since Materazzi's words were not racist in nature, I am surprised to see him get such a heavy penalty. He admitted to defamatory comments, but I fine it hard to believe that most players on the pitch are not guilty of such things. Since no one will say what was said, it's hard to guess what line he crossed.

'During the course of their hearings both players also apologized to FIFA for their inappropriate behaviour and expressed their regret at the incident.'

Zidane will not be stripped of his golden ball award for being the best player at the Cup.

Thus ends the event that, sadly, will define World Cup 2006 for years to come.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

MLS Week 16 Power Ratings

It's been a month since I've done one of these, so it feels good to be back. Here are the MLS power ratings as I see them

1. DC United - If you can't argue with success then there should be nothing but calm in DC. Their defense dropped a bit this weekend, but their offense was able to counter.

2. Houston Dynamo - For awhile it looked like FC Dallas was going to run away with the West, but Houston has put the puzzle back together, with Dwayne De Rosario as their center piece.

3. FC Dallas - After a poor start to the month, FCD proved they are still a team to watch in Chicago. However, all their injuries are starting to bring back images of 2005.

4. Los Angeles Galaxy - What a turn around LA has seen. Ever since Landon decided he had something to prove, the Galaxy have been up to their old ways. However, can Donovan stay motivated?

5. Colorado Rapids - I never thought the Rapids would be sitting so high this deep in the season, but there they are. They are putting together some action in their midfield, but if they want to move up, they will have to win some on the road (1-5-1 so far).

6. New England Revolution - This team is the seesaw of the league. One week they work, the next they week they are flat on the ground. A good road win against Chicago showed the team had power up front, but dropping one at home to Real Salt Lake shows the team can miss as much as hit.

7. Chivas USA - About a month ago, the goats were looking hot, but as their offense disappeared (1 goal in 4 MLS matches), so did their heat. They still have quality, but like many teams in the middle of this list, they don't always show up.

8. Chicago Fire - Chicago 2006 is starting to look like Dallas 2005. Both teams did alright during the first part of the season, but Dallas feel apart once they moved into their new home. Chicago has lost 2 of their 5 home MLS matches due in large part to poor defense. Sharpen that backline and they have a good chance at second in the East.

9. Columbus Crew - The Crew are improving, but they still have a long way to go. Getting 2 goals off DC shows something, but all and all, they have no big threats in front of goal.

10. Real Salt Lake - This team has big downs with small ups in between. The month of the World Cup saw the team get just 2 points and 2 goals in 6 matches, but then last weekend, they tear apart the Revs on the road. If this is like their other ups, it should last about two more games.

11. New York Red Bull - Nothing is really working for the Red Bulls. With even new coach Bruce Arena saying don't expect much this year, one cannot expect much. If Amado Guevara can live up to even half of his talent, then they have a chance, but even with that, it will be a hard time in New York.

12. Kansas City Wizards - How can a team with Eddie Johnson, Jimmy Conrad, Josh Wolff and Bo Oshoniyi lose 6 in a row? The answer, no midfield and boring play. KC needs a revolution. Anything short of that and it's going to be a long road till October.

KC Wizards fire coach Bob Gansler

The Kansas City Wizards are set to make a major announcement today at 2pm ET. Reports out of local sports circles indicate that coach Bob Gansler (pictured) has been let go and that Brian Bliss will take over as interim head coach.

Kansas City has lost six in a row and sit just 2 points above Columbus for the final playoff spot in the East.

I was planning on writing a post later today or tomorrow about what was going wrong in KC, but it seems I was trumped by actual events.


Who gets World Cup 2014? Not so fast Brazil.

The action might be switching from Germany to South Africa in the World Cup realm, but the talk is turning towards 2014.

Since March 7, 2003, when FIFA announced that the 2014 World Cup would be held in South America, it has been pretty much assumed that Brazil was finally going to get to play host again. They are the most successful team ever in the Cup, but have only hosted it once in 1950 (and they lost the final 2-1 to Uruguay).

That idea was given a big boost when later in 2003 the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) voted to back Brazil as their only candidate for the 2014 World Cup. However, something has happened on the road to the party in Rio de Janeiro.

Soccer icon Pele warned his country about the cost of hosting such an event, saying, 'We cannot sacrifice people.' He added that a World Cup in Brazil is only tenable if it is financed privately and not by the state.

Brazil might play some of the best soccer on the planet, but their stadiums are not up to World Cup standards. The poor stadiums caused one fan to say, "Our so-called stars are making millions abroad, are a joke at the World Cup while we have so suffer in stadiums which don't even have a toilet. A World Cup in Brazil? That's a joke."

In all, the country would need to build 10 to 12 new stadiums to host the games, plus they would need to improve their infrastructure. Any country would be hard pressed to make so much happen in a such a short period.

With this in mind, Colombia's Vice President, Francisco Santos, told the world yesterday that his country is ready to host the cup. Santos was echoing comments made by President Alvaro Uribe this past weekend. Colombia's sudden interest has caught many off guard including the future President of the Colombian Football Federation Luis Bedoya.

Santos said, "We have to think big. We have to put aside childish things, not only for 2014, but also 2010. We have good players and we want to find a manager who believes in our young players, so we can put together a long-term project." However, late on Tuesday, Bedoya told the media that Columbia is a long way from being ready to host the 2014 Cup. He also added that any bid would have to go through the Federation and as of yesterday, no such bid had been port fourth.

One other problem for Colombia, they are the only nation to be awarded the Cup only to have to back out. The were suppose to host in 1986, but announced in 1982 that they could not handle the financial burden. Mexico, who also hosted in 1970, was chosen as a replacement.

However, Colombia is not the only nation looking to put some pressure on Brazil as Australia is showing interest and getting the games. Last time I checked, Australia was not part of South America, but I guess since they beat Uruguay to make it to Germany, thus claiming the .5 of a spot from South America, they feel it is their right.

The bid idea has got the support of three of the country's six states as well as Prime Minister John Howard. The biggest roadblock the country might face, besides the fact that FIFA has already said 2014 will be in South America, is their current confederation. Asia hosted the Cup in 2002, so FIFA might not want to see it return to them so soon. However, with soccer finally braking through, FIFA might want to use the Cup to give it a final push to make it rival rugby as the national sport.

All this talk was made possible by FIFA president Joseph Blatter warning Brazil not to become complacent in their 2014 bid. But Brazil has a fantastic opportunity to prove their skeptics wrong as they will host the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. Unless they fail in 2007, they will probably be awarded the 2014 World Cup in 2008.

By the way, as I was researching all this, I came across two interesting articles. First, this BBC article from 2002 about the US wanting to host the 2014 Cup to celebrate the 20th anniversary since the first time we played host. The other article is from Sports Illustrated and talks about Iraq and Jordan making a joint bid to hold the event. This article is from 2004 and the title suggests a bid for 2014, but the article talks more about 2018.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

World Soccer News - July 18, 2006

The World Cup is over, but news from around the world continues to pour in, so why not share it.

If you have the desire to learn about Cristiano Ronaldo, tears and all, Rob Hughes gives you the chance as he looks at the possibility that is the Ronaldo from Portugal.

Germany's new coach Joachim Loew has said that Jens Lehmann will remain as the team's number 1 goalkeeper. Loew also said his goal is to win Euro 2008.

Sweden striker Henrik Larsson has become the latest player to retire from international soccer. The 34-year old earned 93 caps and 36 goals in his 13-year international career.

The Soca Warriors of Trinidad & Tobago will face off against Japan in Tokyo on August 9th. This will be the first game for T&T coach Leo Beenhakker and Japan coach Ivica Osim.

Africa Cup USA 2006 will be played in Columbus, Ohio on Sept 1st and 2nd (Labor Day weekend). Some of the teams scheduled to play are Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia. The event will also include an Africa Festival made up of African dance, music, fun and more.

Montreal's Olympic Stadium is all but ready to play host to Group D of next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup. All the stadium needs is an artificial grass playing surface.

Spanish league team Racing Santander wants two Mexican soccer players. Manager Miguel Angel Portugal is trying to get Jared Borgetti and Omar Bravo. Borgetti currently plays for EPL's Bolton while Bravo plays for Mexico's Chivas Rayadas. Chivas President Jorge Vergara says he is open to transfer negotiations.

Argentine defender Nicolas Sartori has joined Universidad de Chile club, nicknamed 'The U.'

Iran’s Club Teen of Radio Javan is proving they have a sense of humor by holding a contest where critics use exactly 18 words to satirize their national team's failure in Germany. In other Iranian news, midfielder Andranik Teymourian was named "Christian star of the World Cup" by a Dutch ecumenical Christian group. Teymourian is the only Christian on Iran's squad. His reward is a golden Jesus kicking a soccer ball statue (just so you know, I'm lying about the Jesus statue).

Italy's Juventus is getting ready for the exodus of the ages as they have been relegated to the second division and will start the season with a 30-point penalty.

The University of Richmond will host English Champions League's Crystal Palace as they take on MLS Champion the LA Galaxy tomorrow night. The big question, will Landon Donovan be able to show up against this European competition?

FC Dallas forward Kenny Cooper was selected as the MLS Player of the Week for Week 16. Cooper got the game winning goal for Dallas in their 3-2 victory over Chicago on Saturday. This is the first time since Week 9 of 2005 that a FC Dallas player has won the award. He edged Real Salt Lake's Jeff Cunningham and Chicago Fire's Andy Herron to take the prize.

The US Women got their run to the 2007 World Cup off to a fantastic start over the weekend with a 3-2 victory against Sweden. The women get back to action this Sunday against Ireland. To catch up on the team, give Nick Green's article a read.

Talking about women's soccer, young ladies in India are using the game to secure admission in college or get a job. Most of the girls participating in the U-17 competition are from poor families and soccer is their chance out. ‘‘It’s more a necessity than motivation that girls from villages come to play football. For they feel that by making it to the state team, they will be able to earn some money and get a scholarship in college." No matter who plays, the game is the same the world around.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber meet with people seeking to bring a team to St. Louis yesterday as well as government officials from St. Louis and the Metro East area. MLS would not comment on the meeting but it seems the big question is, wait for it, wait, here it is, can you build a stadium? If the answer is yes, and they can prove their work, then an expansion team might be theirs in time for 2008.

Lysiane Gagnon explains why soccer beats hockey in Québec.

Yesterday, University of Texas head women's soccer coach Chris Petrucelli announced the hiring of Matthew Mott as an assistant coach with the Longhorns soccer program. Petrucelli had been involved with the program at Auburn since 1999.

Finally, if you want to have the body of the top World Cup stars, the Houston Chronicle has the workout for you.

Just 116 days till MLS Cup 2006...

Blogroll additions

I want to take a moment and welcome a few blogs to my blogroll. The Fool's Prerogative gives the 'utter truths' that people such as myself are afraid to say. He is also the host of the third carnival of American soccer blogs.

New York Red Bulls focuses on the lovable losers that are the Red Bulls of New York. Sadly, Grant does not have access to sport sites at his job so we will all have to wait to hear his take on the Bruce Arena hire.

Down the coast a bit, DC Sun Devil focuses on New York's hated enemy DC United. Brain's thoughts on Bruce going to New York are right there for all to read and he even gives Arena a new nickname.

The Soccer Locker is a catchy name for a site that focuses on World soccer.

Football UK is all the news out of the UK that is related to this game they call football.

I hope you will find all of these sites of interest.

The Bruce takes over New York

The move has been made and the new sporting director/coach of New York Red Bulls is Bruce Arena (see caricature to the left).

The Bruce will take over New York starting on August 12th when the team plays a friendly against FC Barcelona at Giants Stadium. Till then, interim head coach Richie Williams will be in charge.

For Arena, the move to New York might prove to be his hardest task to date. Red Bull is an organization in flux with players that are consistent with just one thing, under performing. The good news is Arena should have the backing needed to change the club over the next couple years. As long as Red Bull is not expecting immediate results, this should work out. It will also be interesting to see how he can use the connections he made as US manager to improve the side (much as he used his NCAA connections to help DC).

In an interesting side note, Arena's first MLS game as coach will be the August 16th meeting against has former club DC United. What a way to restart your MLS coaching career. I do wonder what type of reception he will get when the team visits DC on September 23rd. I would hope that wherever he goes, he gets some cheers when he is introduced.

Bruce, welcome back, the MLS is lucky to have you.

Update: D over at DCenters has a great take on how United fans should handle Bruce's return. Glad to see that Du Nord also finds the cartoon (featured above) that went along with the press release a little lacking.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Could Real Salt Lake move to Rochester or St. Louis?

With the Salt Lake County Council voting against a tax proposal to pay for the infrastructure needed to build a soccer stadium for Real Salt Lake, talk has turned to the possibility of the team moving away.

St. Louis and Rochester, New York, are the cities gaining the talk of possible sites. Just today Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber was in St. Louis to meet with a group seeking to bring an expansion team to the area. The biggest problem facing that group is the lack of a stadium deal.

Rochester does not have the problem of figuring out a stadium deal as the Rochester Raging Rhinos recently opened up the 17,000-seat PAETEC Park. One of the reasons they built the park was to attack the attention of Major League Soccer. Still, some have pointed out that Rochester might not be able to support a major league team (even if says differently).

All this talk might be for nothing as officials of Salt Lake City and county have increased their efforts to keep the team. Their new plan calls for $7 million less in tax revenue going to the stadium (dropping the total of public funding to $24 million). Owner Dave Checketts has set a loose deadline of August 12th to finalize a deal.

In the meantime, Rochester and St. Louis can keep selling the idea of bringing teams to their cities, just incase some folks in Utah again vote no.

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Your MLS All-Stars

The MLS All-Star squad is now full as coach Peter Nowak and MLS Commissioner Don Garber have made their additional picks for the team.

They were suppose to only add 7 players to the roster, but since three players from the All Star First XI will not be able to play*, Nowak added three others.

Here are the ten new All Stars:

Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids)

Bobby Boswell (DCU)

Freddy Adu (DCU) and Josh Gros (DCU)**, Richard Mulrooney (FC Dallas), Ronnie O'Brien (FC Dallas) and Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids)**

Alecko Eskandarian (DCU), Nate Jaqua (Chicago), Brain Ching (Houston)**

Here is the First XI list that fills out the squad.

Troy Perkins (D.C. United)

Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Chris Albright (Los Angeles Galaxy), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake)

Dwayne De Rosario (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Christian Gomez (D.C. United)

Jaime Moreno (D.C. United)

It is a shame that players voted to be on the team will not be due to scheduling problems. Still, it will be a good team on the pitch for the MLS.

* Forward Ante Razov (Chivas USA) and Midfielders Clint Dempsey (New England) and Shalrie Joseph (New England) cannot play because of a MLS game the next day.

** Selected as a replacement for one of the above three players


Boston wants Revolution

On Friday, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino expressed his interest in having MLS's New England Revolution build their new stadium in the city.

"I am excited by the opportunity to showcase Boston to Major League Soccer and look forward to a long productive relationship moving forward," Menino wrote to soccer's commissioner, Don Garber. "Soccer is truly a universal game -- no matter what language you speak or what team you are rooting for."

The MLS likes the idea of the team playing in downtown, but they stressed that they have also heard from other suburbs and that no decision has been made.

Menino suggested that the city would not use public funds to build a stadium, however he could see the city getting reimbursed for money it puts out via a tax on hotels and rental cars (or similar items).

I love the idea of having stadiums located in downtown areas. It gives thousands of people easy (short drive or public transportation) access to the team, gives the team a feeling of being part of the city and makes the league look more professional (TV shots with the city skyline in the background are always nice).

As we have seen in other towns (Salt Lake, Kansas City, New York, etc), initial talk is always good, but it means very little. Until the details get flushed out and the ground is broken, all the words in the world equal nothing. However, having the mayor say such positive things about the game and suggest a possible way of funding the work, is a wonderful start.


The Bruce is thanked, but is Klinsmann calling?

Klinsmann story updated here.

I go away for a weekend to visit my family and what do you know, a big US soccer story hits. As everyone but myself has already noted, Bruce Arena (pictured) was denied a third term as coach of the US Men's team. However, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said this was not due to the poor performance in Germany, instead it was due to desire to change things up after eight years.

I am not shocked by this news, but I did think that if Arena wanted to coach again, which he did, then he would be given the chance. I was wrong.

Arena is the best coach America has ever had. He took the joke and made it into a threat. Germany did not go so well, but that was not all Arena's fault. He made some questionable coaching decisions (such as putting so much of the blame on the refs after the Italian game, which I think hurt us after the crap call in the Ghana match, and not putting Eddie Johnson in during the Italian affair), but one cannot forget that the reason so many of us were disappointed by Germany was Bruce had made us believe we could win.

Gulati said that Arena will stay on as coach till they hire a new coach or till his contract ends in November. Since the US has some match coming up in the Fall, the Bruce might get one final turn on the sidelines.

But the takes us to the question of who is next. All the talk in the press and on the web is focused on Jürgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann would be a great choice as he does seem to understand the US system (although he has never been involved with it directly) and he brings some much need international respect with him.

However, what happens if Klinsmann is not the next manager? With all the hype that is building over his possible hiring, if someone else gets the job, it will be seen as a let down (the only possible exception to this would be Guss Hiddink, but I don't think he knows the US system plus he has signed up with Russia through at least 2008).

Unless Klinsmann has already agreed and they are just waiting to make an announcement, Gulati needs to start floating some other names. He needs to get people talking about some other possibilities. Heck, even if it is Klinsmann, he should float some rumors just to make news.

My biggest concern about Kinsmann is that he will be seen as the great savior who can do no wrong. He, like all people, needs to be challenged. If we all drink the kool-aid on Klinsmann, we might be disappointed again come 2010.

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