Thursday, August 31, 2006

KC's new owners say soccer will be number one sport in US by 2020

After two years on the market, the Kansas City Wizards have been sold. The new six-man ownership group is led by Cerner Corp. co-founders Neal Patterson (top photo) and Cliff Illig (bottom photo). The other group members are Rock Island Capital’s Robb Heineman, Greg Maday and David French, and Pat Curran, founder of C3 Holdings.

As of this day, Lamar Hunt only owns two MLS clubs (Columbus Crew and FC Dallas).

The new ownership plans on keeping the team in the Kansas City area. They hope to have a stadium built and open by April 2009.

During the press conference the question came up of where the team will play the 2007-08 seasons. Patterson responded that they will play in "a retro-fitted stadium in Johnson County." By retrofitted, I'm guessing this means a football or baseball stadium that has been turned into a soccer pitch.

As interesting as the answer was, his reason behind getting into soccer was much more fascinating. During his presentation he said that they see this as a chance to "keep soccer in Kansas City and helping make soccer in the United Sates the top professional sport in the year 2020."


He did later say that he thinks soccer will be the number one sport in 2020, but it might be number two. Those are big words and I'm glad he said them, but a lot will have to change in the MLS to make that anywhere near a reality.

If Patterson was being serious and not just trying to get headlines, he will need to push the league to make major changes to its rules and system. The good news is the more owners there are in the league, the greater the chance of such changes taking place.

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Have the KC Wizards been sold?

Could it be at long last that Lamar Hunt has sold the Kansas City Wizards? If so, this might just be the best week in soccer KC has ever seen.

Earlier this week, "Johnson County Parks and Recreation District board voted unanimously to put a $75 million bond measure on the Nov. 7 ballot" thus allowing citizens the chance to decide if they want to support a 24-field soccer complex which would include land for KC to use for a stadium and now this (maybe).

A 3pm ET news conference has been called to announce any such deal. Don Garber and Lamar Hunt will be there. MLS will carry it live on their website.

Update: They have been sold.

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And the 2010 World Cup talk turns back to Australia

About a month ago there was a lot of talk about South Africa falling behind in the 2010 World Cup plan. That died down for a while, but looky, looky, it is back.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a front-page story (along the right side) talking about Sydney's preparations to host 2010. Here is why they point to Sydney as a possible backup:

Brazil, which is planning for 2014, does not have enough stadiums to meet a 2010 deadline, leaving Asia-Oceania in pole position should South Africa be stripped of hosting rights.

A joint Australia-New Zealand bid could thus become viable, with Sydney the likely frontrunner to host the final.

To beef up this talk they mention what Australia has in terms of stadiums. "Australia already has five stadiums [two in Melbourne and Sydney and one in Brisbane] that would meet World Cup standards. A new 60,000-seat stadium is planned for Perth."

So the question was thrown back to FIFA and they responded, ""We were asked the same thing in July, and the president made it clear we were not looking at alternatives."

So what about the president? The Herald speculates that once Sepp Blatter is re-elected next June, he might just change his mind about the whole situation. Blatter probably does not need Africa's votes to get re-elected, but if he opened up talk of taking the Cup away, he might also open the door to someone else getting the job.

All and all, the odds of the finals being moved are very low at the moment. FIFA wants to see this work in Africa for many reasons (money being the biggest), so they will be slow to pull out. Still, if Australia wants to put the money in to new facilities, it might not be wasted as it will help them in their 2014, 2018, 2022, ... bids.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The US Open Cup final will be held in...

US Soccer today announced the sites the might just host the 2006 US Open Cup final. They are the Home Depot Center in California, Robertson Stadium in Houston and Toyota Park in Bridgeview. The final venue will be decided by the outcome of next Wednesday's semifinal matches.

If Chicago beats DC United, the final will be in Chicago. If DC wins, whoever wins in the Houston-LA game (in LA), will play host.

The final is set for September 27th at ether 8pm ET (if in Chicago or Houston) or 11pm ET (if in LA).

Speaking as someone who wants to have as many people watching this game as possible, I'm hoping for a Chicago or Houston win.

During the recent US Soccer carnival the idea of having the USOC final in the same location each year was put forward with Las Vegas mentioned as a possible host. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense, and be easier for fans that do want to travel to see this event, if it was held in such a way that would allow them more then a few weeks to make plans? In addition, if it was in a set location, especially a good tourist one at that, people could fold the game into a bigger trip (let's go to Vegas for the game and stay a few days for the sin).

Of course any site location would be helped if the game was moved to a weekend, but let's take this one step at a time. MLS is willing to rearrange their schedule for European friendlies, but asking for them to do this for the US Open Cup might just be a bit much.


Josh Wolff not heading to England

It looked like everything was worked out. Derby County of the English Championship had made a transfer offer, MLS and the Kansas City Wizards had accepted it and Josh Wolff (pictured) had worked out a salary agreement. Then the UK Home Office stepped in and said no.

How could they say no? Since Wolff does not have a Euro passport, he is required to have played a certain amount of 'A' international matches with his national team. For Josh, he fell far short of the 75% required as he has played for just 11 of 25 'A' games for the US.

Sadly, it does not look like there will be enough time for an appeal as the transfer window ends tomorrow.


Friday, August 25, 2006

MLS Week 22 Preview

We have a full slate of games this weekend that should start answering some of the playoff questions.

DC United vs. LA Galaxy
Saturday - 7:30pm ET

The 'Welcome back' wagon comes out again in DC as Santino Quaranta returns to RFK for the first time. Quaranta has been hot since landing with the Galaxy three weeks ago, while DC has been on a bit of a drop (I don't think there is a direct connect here). This game really could shape the final weeks of the season as LA pretty much must win, while DC needs to start earning some points to easily take the Supporter's Shield.

The key to this game is United's midfield. If they don't have it together, LA will take it to them. DC should know that the Galaxy is a bad team to face with their backs to the wall. They have this way of coming together when (and only when) things are at their worse. The good news for DC, they have the best goalie in the league. The bad news, LA has the second best.

I expect some rolling back and forth on the way to a draw.

New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake
Saturday - 7:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick (DK), MLStv

The Arena effect is wearing off in New York and his team is again playing like they do. The Bulls really need someone to care on this team. They have what should be a great backline, but without and solid play elsewhere on the pitch, it is put to waste. If they didn't have the talent of Tony Meola between the posts, they would be in Crew territory.

Real, however, might just be playing the best soccer in the MLS at the moment. They not only have a team that can connect more then three passes in a row, but they have found real offensive power. In their last four MLS games, they have 11 goals (they only had 30 during last season's 32 matches). But can they do it on the road?

With Jeff Cunningham playing the way he is, I see New York dropping yet another game, making Real's race for the Western playoffs that much easier.

Chicago Fire vs. Colorado Rapids
Saturday - 8:30pm ET

Chicago find themselves in second place, but if the lose, they have a chance of being tied for fourth. Colorado was smoking not that long ago, but of late, they seem to be looking for a way to miss the playoffs.

For the Rapids, it comes down to their lack of offense. Really, they've got nothing up top to really threaten. The Fire has been playing sloppy for a month or so, but of late, they have found the mix that they had during their opening road trip.

In the end, with Terry Cooke out and no offense for the Rapids, the Fire should be able to send all the balls forward that Andy Herron and Chad Barrett need to get the win.

Chivas USA vs. Houston Dynamo
Saturday - 11pm ET

As much talk as the East gets for how close every team not from DC is, the West is no open prairie. Chivas sit in fourth, but both Real and LA have been closing. Just like all season, Chivas has failed to be constant. It seems that either their offense or defense is working, but never both at the same time. They are, perhaps, the best skilled team in the league, but they either cannot get goals, or when they do, they can't hold them.

Houston almost always out plays the other team, but they have not been able to dominate the way that a certain Earthquake team did last year. With Brian Ching out, they have one less threat and that could hurt them bad. However, with Juan Pablo Garcia and Francisco Mendoza benched due to suspension, Chivas will have a few too many threats of their own.

Look for the Dynamo to get their points and for Chivas to be seeing Real Salt Lake a little close in their rearview mirror.

New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew
Sunday - 7:00pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer, DK, MLStv

If there is one thing you can expect from this game it's a lack of scoring. Over their last nine MLS teams, these two teams have combined for only 4 goals (1 in 4 matches for NE, 3 in 5 for the Crew). No offense is a problem, but what about defense? Over those same nine games, 11 have been surrendered (7 for the Crew, 4 for NE).

So how will this one turn out? The Crew will lose. They looked good last week against New York, but the Bulls are an easy club to look good against, even for the Crew. The Revs have their problems, but Shalrie Joseph, Taylor Twellman and Michael Parkhurst should be more then enough of a match for Columbus.

Kansas City Wizards vs. FC Dallas
Sunday - 8:30pm ET

I guess Sunday is not going to be a goal scoring kind of night as KC and FCD are both in amazing offensive slumps. For Dallas, teams have figured out their weakness, an over reliance on Kenny Cooper. In addition, their midfield has failed to control the sides.

Kansas City, well almost the same thing, except they really haven't had anyone like Cooper to depend on. This one will come down to who can wake up in the middle of the field.

At some point, Carlos Ruiz will explode again for Dallas. If he choices KC as his starting point, FCD should finally get a full three points again. Failing that, it will probably be a 1-point each off of 1 goal each.


World Football is about to change forever

Juventus has decided to break even more rules as they will take their appeal over their match-fixing penalties to civil court. This goes against Articles 61-2 and 61-3 of FIFA's rules, which state that clubs must accept to abide by sports authorities' rules, forsaking their right to turn to civil courts which are outside the sports justice system.

Why will this change world football forever? As pointed out by the wonderful twohundredpercent, this is a test of FIFA's authority by one of the big clubs. If Juventus can go to civil court to decide a matter, why can't all the other clubs go to court to settle all the other issues, including when players can be called up for national team play?

As much as I worry about FIFA's absolute power, I don't think putting clubs in charge (especially the big clubs) will really make things better for anyone except the clubs.

But there is another ring to this circus as FIFA now has a tough decision to make. They had threatened Italy with major penalties if Juventus went forward with the civil case. These penalties would keep all Italian teams out of international competition including their national team. The question is, does Sepp Blatter have the yarbles to keep the reigning World Champions benched?

If FIFA backs down, any future threats will be worthless. However, if they move forward, it is denying fans the chance to see the best in the world play. In addition, it will start another round of bad press for the game.*

Unless Juventus back down, I hope FIFA does hit Italian soccer with an international death penalty. The team has shown no respect for the game and now they want special treatment. If the Italian FA won't clean their house, then FIFA should tear the it down.

Juventus says they are doing this to "protect its shareholders' rights." My question for them is where was this principle when you were fixing the matches? Maybe if you had not cheated, the shareholders would not be in a position where their 'rights' were threatened.

Nothing like trying to make yourself into a victim.

For me, regardless of what happens in this case, I will no longer watch Italian soccer. I'm sure one less American in the mix will devastate the league.

* You think explaining the US Open Cup to non-soccer fans is difficult, imagine explaining Italy being kicked out of competition because a club in the nation's league decided to take an issue to court. Talk about a foreign concept.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

US Open Cup Quarterfinals Recap

First of all, let me apologize for anyone who tried to use the radio links off my preview page. I took those links right from the US Open Cup page, but it turns out they were bad. Sorry about that.

Anyway, the quarterfinals are now in the books and what an interesting night it was.

DC United 3-1 New York Red Bulls

New York came looking for the win as their starting lineup was much the same as it would have been for a MLS match. DC also wanted to win, but felt they could do it with some of their bench players. So what happened? New York played a good match verses the DC second team, but poor defense sunk the Bulls.

Due to the lineup changes, DC was confused in the early going, but New York could not make anything of it. Without feeling great pressure, United were able to regroup and pick away at the Bulls.

NY's Amado Guevara put in a good performance, but DC's Jamil Walker's two unanswered goals in the second half sealed it for United.

Chicago Fire 2-1 New England Revolution

What a strange game this one was as most of the radio calls were either shots by New England or lost passes in the midfield by both teams. If you are a New England fan, you really must be wondering how you lost this one.

Both Taylor Twellman and Clint Dempsey were willing to take the shots, but their placement of those shots was very lacking.

Andy Herron and Calen Carr were the show for the Fire. The few times Chicago was able to apply pressure, it was due to these two. Herron got the first goal off a sly pass from Ivan Guerrero in the box while a take down of Carr in the box setup the penalty kick, which Herron nailed for his second of the night.

Chicago was lucky to get out of this one with the win. If New England had played a bit better, the Revs would be moving on to face DC instead.

Houston Dynamo 3-0 FC Dallas

Where has FC Dallas's offense gone? They didn't have a real shot at goal through out the whole first half as they only sent two or three players into Houston territory making it easy for the Dynamo to surround them and force bad plays.

But bad offense doesn't give up three goals. The defense fell to pieces on the second goal, allowing Alejandro Moreno to get into a one on one situation with new goalkeeper Shaka Hislop. However, Hislop hurt himself on the third goal as he could not control a Dwayne De Rosario free kick that hit off the post. Instead, Chris Wondolowski stuck the ball into the back of the net.

Houston did a good job of shutting the door on the Dallas offense, but their own offense was not fantastic, they were just able to make the most of their chances. They only had three shots on goal in the whole game, it just so happens every one of those went it.

LA Galaxy 3-1 Colorado Rapids

In writing my preview for this one I wondered where the goals for the Rapids would come from and stated that they will "need Clint Mathis to step-up and that is never a situation one should be in." Well what do you know, in the third minute Mathis did step up and take a perfectly place ball from Kyle Beckerman and put it into the net. Too bad that was about the last time we hear of Mathis yesterday.

LA coach Frank Yallop wanted to win this one with as few of his starters on the pitch as possible. Sadly for him, that was not to be as he was forced by injury to put Landon Donovan into the match. Donovan brought pressure to the Rapids backline and it was not long before they cracked. Right before the half, Quavas Kirk was able to race a ball in from the side of the box to get the tying goal.

The second half was all LA, but they could not get a goal, forcing overtime. Just three minutes into overtime, Donovan got on the end of a Kirk cross and popped it in for the winning goal. But Landon had more in him as he finalized the win with a 115th minute breakaway. He took the ball from the halfway line and went right at goal, sneaking it past Matt Jordan to get his second of the night and giving LA a big 3-1 win.

Last year LA's play in the USOC was the spark that ignited their late MLS season run that resulted in them winning the MLS Cup. If they play like they did last night, there is a chance they could do it again.

Overall, it is interesting to note that all home teams won last night bringing the USOP home team tally to 25 wins and 11 defeats.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

US Open Cup Quarterfinals Preview

DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
7:30pm ET - Radio - link should go live at start of match
DCU's - USOC record 16-7 (vs. MLS teams 3-5), NYRB's- 13-9 (6-5)

This game finds DC welcoming Bruce Arena back to RFK, and it also finds both teams in bad shape. DC is showing their worse run of form since last year's playoff against Chicago, while the buzz around the Arena hire might just be fading along with the teams recent up tick in play. Actually, both teams are a bit lucky to be in the quarterfinals at all.

DC outplayed Columbus in the last round, but could not get the shots they needed and were forced into overtime to get the win. Had DC played just about any other team from that round, they would not have been so lucky.

For New York, they almost lost in North Carolina to USL Second Division side Wilmington Hammerheads. Had it not been for an excellent late goal by Danny O'Rourke, the Hammerheads could very easily have been the ones going to DC.

So what to expect from this one? This would be a huge win for New York and they should come ready to play. If Todd Dunivant, Danny O'Rourke and Marvell Wynne can hold Alecko Eskandarian and Jaime Moreno in check, and that is a big if, the Red Bulls stand a chance. Still, I wonder where they will get their goals. Amado Guevara has been good of late, but without additional help from Edson Buddle, DC will have an easy time shutting them down.

In the end, I think New York will get the first goal and DC will respond. In overtime, United should be able to pull in just enough to get the win.

By the way, New York's win against the Hammerheads was their first US Open Cup win since 2003. Also, FC Dallas knocked DC out of the 2005 Open Cup in the quarterfinals.

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
8:30pm ET - Radio
Chicago - 23-5 (13-3), NE - 5-6 (2-3)

These two teams just played each other over the weekend with the Fire coming out on top, but things might change tonight. Chicago head coach Dave Sarachan has hinted that he might play a mix of reserve and first-team players for the match, much like they did a week ago against KC, but the Revs might just field most of their starting lineup as they did during the last round against Rochester.

Adding fuel to this speculation is the teams’ upcoming schedule. Chicago play 3 games over the next 7 days, while New England plays just 2, with their other game being a home match against the Crew.

With that in mind, I think the Fire will put forth a good effort, but will not have the talent on the field to win the game. If the Rev put Dempsey in, which they should since he can't play in their next MLS match, they should be able to get the win.

The big wildcard is that Chicago is a great Cup team. They have a wonderful USOC record and have never lost a quarterfinal. Everything points to New England except history. We'll see which one is right tonight.

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas
9:00pm ET - Radio
Houston - 1-0 (0-0), FCD - 19-9 (7-6)

Yet again the teams of Texas meet. For Houston, they must look forward to these intra-state rivalries since they have yet to lose one. The Dynamo are here after beating the USL Development league's Carolina Dynamo 4-2. In that match, Houston went up by 3, but fell asleep and quickly found themselves in a 3-2 fight. They were able to get out of it, but if they put themselves in that sort of position against FCD, look for them to drop this one.

Talking about Dallas, for the first time ever, Trinidad & Tobago's World Cup hero, goalkeeper Shaka Hislop will be between the posts during this match. If he can keep his backline as tight as regular starter Dario Sala has kept his, then defense should not be their problem tonight. Which brings us to offense or more exactly, the lack there of.

Carlos Ruiz's return to the lineup was suppose to add to the team's attack, but they have not scored a goal and have only had 9 shots on goal in their last two outings. Part of the problem is their over reliance on Kenny Cooper. Another part of it is the sloppy play in the midfield. If they want to finally win against Houston, they will need to keep possession and what for the mistakes that Houston is often to make.

Houston has never played a quarterfinal match, however a team that looked a lot like them but made their living out in California did. However, of the seven times this team from out West made the quarters, they only advanced once. For Dallas the record stands at 5-3, but normally when they lose, they really lose (2000 1-5 vs. Chicago, 2004 0-4 vs. KC).

Smart folks would go with Houston on this one, but I'm not that bright. Last year, FCD went on a horrible run of form in late summer, but still managed to pull out USOC wins. I'm going to guess that this year will be the same.

This should be a very scrappy match. Without Brian Ching on the pitch for Houston, Dallas should be able to cover Dwayne De Rosario. Without De Rosario, Houston is in trouble. Expect a shootout with Dallas advancing.

LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids
10:30pm ET - Radio
LA - 18-5 (9-4), Colorado - 7-9 (4-3)

Are we going to see a repeat of 2005? After tonight, the answer to that question should start coming into focus.

Last year, it was their play in the USOC that kicked LA into gear, which lead them to the domestic double. However, this year they don't have two joke teams to give them comfort in the MLS.

All and all, LA has looked much better over the last two weeks. The introduction of Santino Quaranta to their lineup has provided them with a surprise option that teams just seem unable to stop. Both Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez have looked better and the team as a whole in much tighter. I guess a little Frank Yallop can do a lot for a team.

The Rapids looked like a team on the make this year then they traded away Dedi Ben Dayan and now find themselves without any offense. In addition, without Terry Cooke in the midfield, I don't think this team has the attack they need to put forward a big challenge. I think that means they will need Clint Mathis to step-up and that is never a situation one should be in.

In the end, the Rapids have never been much of a tournament team while LA has. The Galaxy will find this win a little harder then the one against Dallas Roma, but in the end they should get it.

By the way, the Rapids have not won a quarterfinal match since 1999. LA has won five quarterfinals, with four of them played against San Jose.

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World Cup Champions Italy could be banned from Euro 2008

The soccer fate of Italy rests in Juventus's hands. FIFA has warned the Italian football federation (FIGC) that if Juventus take their match-fixing appeal to civil court, they might ban all Italian teams from international competition, including the national team.

The pressure is now on the FIGC to prevent Juventus from taking the matter further. At issue is Articles 61-2 and 61-3 of FIFA's rules which states that clubs must "accept to abide by sports authorities' rules, forsaking their right to turn to civil courts which are outside the sports justice system."

FIFA says it is up to the FIGC to prevent one of its teams from breaking these rules. If they cannot do so, FIFA will punish them.

Juventus said on Monday that they were going to appeal to an administrative court in Rome, although it has not formally taken such a step.

"If Juventus go before an administrative court, then FIFA pass the matter to its emergency committee," FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said. "The committee wouldn't even have to meet in person. It (the suspension of all Italian teams) could happen very quickly."

I find it hard to believe that FIFA would actually ban the Italian team from Euro play, as they would lose money by doing so and if there is one thing FIFA never seems to do is lose money. Still, I would hope that they would enforce this threat if it comes to be. Juventus has done major harm to the game and now is whining about getting in trouble for doing so. They have already had their punish decreased, but they still want more. It is time for everyone in Italy to stand up to this sort of garbage.

My guess is FIGC will give an additional reduction of penalty to Juventus and they will in turn drop their threat of civil courts, but still complain that they were cheated. And some people might believe them as who is better at realizing someone is cheating then a cheater.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Another week, another match-fixing scandal

It seems like world soccer cannot go more then a week these days without another match-fixing scandal breaking out. This time it is in the Chilean league where two players for Santiago Morning have said that they were offered bribes to throw a match against Universidad Catolica.

However, there is some good news here, it appears the players did not take the money and that the offer was from a group involved in illegal betting and not from Universidad Catolica.

After the news broke, the coach of another club reported similar attempts to bribe his players.

On the scale of soccer scandals, this ranks about as low as one can get. It's nice to see players do the right thing and refuse to tarnish the game. Cheers to you.

New York gets to see more international action

On September 6, the New York Red Bulls will host an international match between Ecuador and Peru at Giants Stadium. The interesting thing is the New York does not currently have a game scheduled for that night. However, if they beat DC United in tomorrow's US Open Cup match, they will be playing on that date.

Anyone know if an international friendly has been double billed on a US Open Cup match before?

Tickets will go on sale at 11am tomorrow (Wednesday). You can purchase them via the Red Bull website or by calling 1.877.RBSOCCER.

New Mexico, the next big thing in US Soccer

Somewhere between California and Texas there is a place called New Mexico and if the Albuquerque Tribune is to be believed, this area is producing some of the most talented yet overlooked soccer players in the country.

What proof do they use to justify such a claim? Well...

Thanks to the play of several native sons - most notably Jeff Rowland - The University of New Mexico men's soccer team advanced to the national championship game.

A local club team advanced to the United States Youth Soccer Association national finals for only the second time; the Classic FC Bandoleros finished third.

Sandia Prep's boys soccer team rolled to its fifth-straight state championship and was ranked as high as fourth nationally.

The most notable word of the aforementioned year: national.

It is interesting to look at the recent up tick in big wins by teams from the Albuquerque area, but it is also interesting to see how many national college coaches are not taking the time to visit.

"Do we go out of our way to comb New Mexico for players?" Cal State Northridge men's soccer coach Terry Davila said. "No."

Pretty much everyone can agree that the future of the US game is in the youth development system. If we are not working with players by their early teens, what hope do they really have of competing against the best in the world when they are 21?

Sadly, the case of Albuquerque highlights a different part of this problem. Here local coaches have given these kids good training early, but the next level is not fully there. College coaches from the area will take a look, but until colleges are willing to go the distance (ie pay the money) and look outside their state or region for talent, too many good players will fall through the cracks.

This geographical hurdle doesn't hinder top prospects. Competitive programs will mine the stars, wherever they lie.

It is the marginal prospects who suffer. Kids who could play at the next level don't get as many chances to let coaches see.

If we really want to make US soccer great, we need to give the 'marginal' players a chance as well. If you show good ball control and other such talents at 17, even if you are not perfect, it does not mean you cannot become a very solid player in 3-5 years and the more solid players we have, the better our leagues and national team will be.

Hopefully MLS will soon approve changes to their youth development rules, which would allow teams to sign young players they develop. If this happens, I expect LA, Chivas, Real, Colorado, FC Dallas and maybe a few others, would be willing to make the trip to see some of these kids play and increase the field of competition for their talent and provide the Land of Enchantment will much more exposure.

Toronto gets Mo Jo

Next year's MLS rookies have hired Scottish legend Mo Johnston (pictured) as their first head coach.

Johnston was fired as New York Red Bulls coach on June 25th and had his first meeting with FC Toronto on June 26th. Oddly enough, this meeting, which was setup prior to his firing, upset some at Red Bull, Inc. even though they gave him permission to talk with the team.

According to a source, Johnston drew the wrath of Red Bulls officials, who gave Johnston permission to meet with Toronto, after learning that Johnston informed the team of his meeting with Toronto before the Red Bulls' 2-0 loss to Chicago on June 25.

Some of the other people who were interviewed for the position were "current DC United assistant Tom Soehn and former US national team assistant Curt Onalfo."

Johnston will now get to put together a team made up mostly of Canadian players. The big question is will he get Canadian Dwayne De Rosario from Houston during the off-season?

Mo was a great player and a fine coach and I think he will be able to put together a good squad for Toronto's inaugural season.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Welcome to the US Soccer Carnival, Part IV

Welcome, welcome, welcome to the carnival of Carnivals.

Everyone around these parts has their costumes on and is getting ready for the samba music to begin. Today’s songs all dance around the cord of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. This oldest soccer tournament in the US often goes unnoticed as it shakes is groove thing past the reviewing stands of American soccer fans, but we here in the US soccer blogosphere are looking to change that.

So how can we get more peepers on the Open Cup dance?

Kinney over at DCenters thinks information is key. Let the people know how the dance goes and who the dancers are by use of the internet and a free program of sorts.

Mike the Soccer Dad at On the Pitch wants the USL to step up and promote the event harder since they have the most teams in it. Also, he likes the idea of building the early rounds around the possibility of 'David vs Goliath' upsets.

Brian from DC Sun Devil does the two-step thanks to two articles on the subject. He looks at the Open Cup specifically and thinks better scheduling, a set location for the final and a CONCACAF Champions Cup spot would help make this into something. He also looks at broader picture and how the US Open Cup could fit into a US Super Cup.

Over at The Offside, Bob not only comes up with a cure for the Open Cup, he also cures cancer. His secrete, include European teams in the tournament.

Zathras at The Fool's Prerogative provides what some might call "the sobering dose of reality" all drunken dance fests need as he argues that the Open Cup will continue to be an obscure event till soccer really takes off in the US.

Finally, I put my grey matter to this issue and decide the secret is in the money or something like that.

I would also like to include the Soccer Orb in this carnival, even through The Guy did not think enough of his post to include it. He points to sponsorship as a key to improvement.

I would also like to point your attention to three articles by Daniel Feuerstein, which, even through they were not written as part of this carnival, are must reads. (1, 2, 3)

By the way, Wednesday is the Quarterfinals for this year's Open Cup. DC will host New York, the Fire welcome New England to town, Colorado crosses the mountains on their way to play LA and Dallas ventures to Houston for another installment of the Texas smack down.

Thanks for all those who took part. If you are interested in hosting the fifth carnival of US Soccer, drop me a email at Please include your idea and the date you would like to post it live.

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What to do about the US Open Cup

Every year I look forward to the start of the US Open Cup as I find it to be the absolute best sort of competition. Teams of all different backgrounds and talent levels have a chance to prove themselves on the pitch. Plus, just about every year gives us one or two games that result in the best outcome in all of sports, the upset.

However, upsets in the US Open Cup are different from upsets in any other US sports. There is no other tournament where pro players can end up playing against amateurs. The closest thing other sports have to this is the NCAA Championship, but even then, all 64 teams are filled with unpaid (hopefully) players.

So if the US Open Cup has the chance to have a 'Miracle on Ice' style game every year, why do most people not pay attention to it?

An easy answer to that one is that a lot of people do not pay attention to soccer in general in this country, so why would they tune in for a specific tournament? However, I think, in some ways, the US Open Cup stands a better chance of bringing fans to the game then the national team or MLS. My reasoning behind this statement is simple, there are more teams from more places then just the bigger cities playing in the cup, thus local pride can easily get involved. Put another way, everyone likes to cheer for the little dog especially if that little dog is their own.

The US Open Cup brings the game not only to LA, Dallas and New York, but also Des Moines, Somoma County and Laredo. Bringing high quality games to these areas of the US help grow the interest in the game.

So what can we do to make things better?

First, the lower level team should always get the choice to host the match. I can see this creating some problems, as far as pitch conditions, scheduling and the such, but I think that could be worked out. The reason I like this is it gives lower level teams a bit of an advantage, but it also gives smaller clubs something to promote to their fans. Having a MLS or USL-1st division club come to the smaller cities can create an event that will bring out people who might not normally go see a match (think of the Barcelona tour on a much smaller scale).

Second, SUM needs to get a better TV deal. Showing the final is not enough. There has to be a channel out there willing to broadcast at least one game per round. If there is not, then US Soccer needs to come up with some sort of internet broadcast like the MLS, because if it doesn't happen on TV or the internet, did it really happen?

Third, make it worth something. What motivation do MLS clubs really have for playing hard in this cup other then bragging rights? With no media exposure and no birth into some other higher profile competition, what good is it? In addition, the winning team gets $100,000 with the runner up getting $50,000. Even if all that money was just given to the players, they would only get about $3,500 each for winning. Don't get me wrong, for some players, that would be a huge increase in pay, but even for MLSers, that's not a figure that really motivates.

That's why I would love to see a 'People's Prize' for the final two. This prize would be made up of money donated by the fans. If just 100,000 US soccer fans dropped $5 into the bucket, the prize money would more then tripled. It would also be worth looking into finding a company willing to match the donations dollar for dollar. Add to it a stipulation that all the money has to go to players as bonuses and you suddenly have a major motivational tool.

As an example, let's say $1 million was raised with $750,000 going to the winner and $250,00 to the runner-up. That would mean a player on the championship club would get close to $27,000 as a bonus. For many in the MLS, $27,000 would represent a 50% (or more) increase in their salary. Now that's something to play for.

Finally, bring back the Dewar Cup Trophy (see picture). People love links to the past and the Dewar Trophy is just that. The new crystal cup is pretty and all, but there is something to be said about a three foot tall, 80 pound piece of art donated by a Scots Whisky maker.

The US Open Cup has so much promise, but, for various reasons, it never lives up to it and I fear it is only going to get worse over the next few years thanks, in part, to the new television deal MLS recently signed.

Now that Thursday night will be the big soccer night on ESPN2, where does that leave the Cup? The games for the tournament are usually played on Wednesday, but even if they moved them to Tuesday if a team is also playing a Thursday night game, most managers would bench their best for the Cup.

There can be work arounds like making sure Toronto FC gets the first Thursday match after a Wednesday Open Cup with MLS teams (Toronto will not be invited to the US Open Cup), but even with this in place, at some point a team will have to choose, Cup or MLS Thursday. If the past is prolog, then the Cup will be the one that suffers.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Carnival deadline

One last reminder. If you want to write a piece for the US Soccer Carnival version IV, you need to send me your link today. You can send it to

The topic is what can be done to imporve the US Open Cup.

So blow off the rest of the work day (it is Friday) and write a piece about what you think should happen.

I look forward to reading your thoughts.

EPL prediction time

A new EPL season is coming and even through this blog focuses on the US game, I do like to dabble in Europe. Here are my predictions for 2006-07.

1. Chelsea - the money has been spent and the talent is there. Still, Chelsea will not run away with it.

2. Liverpool - Jermaine Pennant is a great add. If the team stays healthy, they will keep the race for the top open till the last few weeks.

3. Arsenal - Their bench is not deep enough to make a go at the top, but they will handle those below.

4. Man U - I was toying with them up in third, but I just have a feeling their late season run will not be as strong this year. Maybe it's the over dependence on Wayne Rooney or maybe I'm just seeing mist and thinking it's a person.

5. Tottenham - Dimitar Berbatov should have a great season, but the team’s youth will prove too much to put them in reach of the top three.

6. New Castle - No Alan Shearer or Michael Owen will hurt this team. Slow out of the gate will sink your chance at the top five.

7. Blackburn - The pair of Jason Roberts and Benni McCarthy should keep the team solid up top, but European play will take a small toll on league play.

8. West Ham - This is a team on the rise, but their current players equal mid-table.

9. Charlton Athletic - They have some great strength on the attack, but their midfield is going to cost them.

10. Everton - Tim Howard should give them a force in goal, but the team's fate will come down to Andrew Johnson and James Beattie. If Johnson can net 20 or so, Everton should be a top 10 team.

11. Aston Villa - Not much player action in the off-season, but if Randy Lerner buys, expect some good additions in January and a fun run to the end.

12. Manchester City - This team should come out good, but can they last all season? They lost Lee Croft and Willo Flood on the wings, but they do have Paul Dickov. I think they will have a bad spell late keeping them out of the top 10.

13. Bolton - I don't think the players are there to make the run. I struggled with this one. Their midfield is good, but I think their forwards are lacking.

14. Fulham - Every year Fulham finds a way not to drop, so this year should be about the same. They have a good first team, but once they go to the bench, they are empty. Overall, the defense should be enough to keep them up.

15. Middlesbrough - Taken over Steve McClaren's position will be something. There is a good team there, but I don't think Gareth Southgate will be able to get the team together quick enough to do more then stay away from the drop zone.

Thus we entire the drop zone
16. Portsmouth - They are always fighting to stay up and this year will be no different. Very few moves over the summer means the problems are still there. No goals make it hard to win.

17. Reading - It will come down to the last 15-minutes of the last game of the season, but Reading will just stay up. This is Bobby Convey's chance to cement himself as the great American hope.

18. Wigan - You only get one year as the surprise team and that year is done. Without Jimmy Bullard, their midfield will be lacking, thus they will be sent packing.

19. Sheffield United - They will be hard to beat, but they will be beaten. The class of player is not there to make a quick start or a long haul.

20. Watford - The fate of this team is on the feet of Marlon King. If he cannot make the goals happen, this team, for all its speed, will not stay up.

In the end, I think less then 10 points will separate the 16-20 spots.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

Will Real Salt Lake go green and is KC about to get a stadium and new owners

A week after David Beckham helped break ground on their new stadium and just four days after the county approved a measure to help fun portions of the stadium's development, Real Salt Lake will be asked to build this stadium according to high environmental standards so it can get a 'LEED certification.'

To get this certification, Real would have to select the site location in such a way as to reduce the effect on the local environment as well as build the stadium using energy efficient fixtures and water-wise landscaping, along with other such requirements. The down side, this will add to the overall cost of the stadium.

However, even with the additional cost, it would be stupid for Real not to go for this classification. With the cost of energy only going up for the foreseeable future, they will be able to recover this cost over the lifetime of the stadium. In addition, one of the selling points of the World Cup in Germany was that it would be the most environmentally friendly international competition ever. If Real can say the same thing, it will help them attract international events to their field.

Interestingly enough, there are only two sports facilities in the country with such a certification and one of the is just a bit away from Sandy in Kearns, Utah which is home to the Utah Olympic Oval (the other is Detroit Lions Headquarters and Training Facility in Michigan).

Finally, with more then a few citizens in the area upset over the RSL deal, this could help rebuild the team's image with community. This along will not make people love the team, but it would be seen as a good start.

Let's just hope they go for this PR and financial win.

In other stadium news, the Kansas City Wizards might just have a stadium deal come November 8th. The Johnson County Sun is reporting that voters will get a chance to decide if they want a new soccer complex on November 7th. This new complex will include "approximately 24 tournament-quality youth soccer fields, an 18,000 seat outdoor soccer stadium to house the Wizards, and adjacent retail to help make this all financially viable. "

However, voters will only be funding the cost of the youth fields, not the stadium or the retail area.

It is not exactly clear who will pay for the stadium, but it will not be current owner Lamar Hunt as it looks like the team would be "sold to local executives of the local powerhouse Cerner Corp. along with some outside investors."

This is still an early report, so details are limited. If the article is correct, the specifics will be announced in the next few weeks. In addition, it is not directly stated, but it might be the case that Cerner Corp. will only buy the team if the voters approve this measure.

If this deal falls through and the Cerner and company pass on the team, it might just mean that Hunt will close down the Wizards. With all the success MLS is currently enjoying, it would be a major blow if they were to lose a team.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

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Another match-fixing scandal

First came the German disgrace, then the confusion in Brazil, then the full-blown corruption center in Italy and then some 'minor' scandals in Belgium, Turkey and Poland. Well now it looks like another scandal is about to breakout in Russia.

Mikhail Grishankov, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Parliament's lower house Security Committee, sent a letter to the Interior Ministry, asking it to inquire into the July 16 game between Spartak (Moscow) and Tom (Tomsk), which was allegedly fixed by referee Pavel Kulalayev.

Officials made sure to note that this is not yet a criminal investigation, however if it looks like Kulalayev did take bribes, then an investigation will be launched.

Russia has been bounced around as an 'up and coming' league, however if the stink of corruption gets attached to it, that should kill such a notion fast. In addition, if Kulalayev is guilty, I find it hard to believe that he only took a bribe for one match or that he is the only ref doing so.

The facts are not yet in, so I don't want to jump the gun, but it does seem like more scandal has hit the soccer world.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why doesn't CONCACAF have a real regional tournament?

Last night Internacional won Latin America's most important club competition, the Copa Libertadores. The title is the first for the club and they will now get to face the best clubs in the world at FIFA's Club World Championship from Dec 10-17 in Japan.

The Copa, for those who do not know, is a tournament that pits the best clubs in South America against one another. This is the same system used for Europe's Champion's League.

These tournaments overflow with excitement as the greatest teams of the leagues get to play it out on the pitch. It is like a smaller and less nationalistic version of the World Cup.

So where is MLS's regional tournament? We do have the Champions Cup, but it has been less then impressive. There is no group phase, it draws no media attention and due to the timing of the event, the MLS is only in there pre-season. Not a winning combination.

But what can be done?

Brian Straus has a must read piece regarding the need for and how to go about making a good regional tournament.

He makes a good argument that this one really cannot be blamed solely on the MLS. Instead, he points the finger at the true target, CONCACAF.

Unfortunately, it does not seem that CONCACAF has any interest in changing things. The Confederation, which keeps offices on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan, has demonstrated a real affinity for the status quo. President Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago and General Secretary Chuck Blazer of the U.S. have been in power for a long time and are tight with FIFA leadership. In the interest of maintaining their positions, they do little to attract attention to themselves or the Confederation, preferring to dole out FIFA grants to supporters in the various national associations in exchange for support. Any effort to grow the sport, or create interesting and lucrative competitions, would attract fans, sponsors and people with an eye on a piece of the financial or leadership pie. So, things stay as they are, and we're left with the people who thought up the "Giants Cup," signed over the Gold Cup rights to Inter/Forever, and do nothing to advance the club game for any of the teams and fans who depend on them.

Finding a winning solution will mean not involving Jack Warner. MLS Commissioner Don Garber mentioned a new tournament with 'our friends from down under' during his state of the league address. Let's hope something actually comes of that or else US and CONCACAF players will continue to suffer due to the mistakes of those at the top of the organization.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

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MLS mid-Week 21 Recap

Columbus Crew 1-2 Real Salt Lake

The Crew is a 60-minute team at best. The first hour of a match, they will put up some good effort, but for the final 30, they just drop, drop, drop. They were able to get a lead off a, maybe that should not have been but the ref called it so it is, penalty kick in the 23rd. They then played even or better then Salt Lake till around the hour mark. After that, it was all Real.

You could just feel the momentum turn. Passes that the Crew were making 15-minutes earlier were now being intercepted which resulted in no pressure on RSL's defense. Again and again, Real would roll into the Crew's final third and blast a shot. Which brings us to Jeff Cunningham. He has been the player for Salt Lake, but it seems to be swelling his head. There were at least three times that he took difficult shots instead of passing the ball to a teammate who was open. With the Crew defense all over him, he should have been a little more giving.

His best give in such a situation resulted in the 90th minute goal by Carey Talley. It was a nice layoff in front of goal that Talley ran on to and put into the netting. Add this to the 'no one was marking him' goal Chris Klein got in the 75th and you have three points for Real and another disappointment for Columbus.

New York Red Bulls 0-0 DC United

For the third MLS game in a row, DC was not the better team on the pitch. United just could not get the ball to go where they wanted it to go, and when they did, New York's backline was more often then not there to break up the advance. DC had some good looks through out (the Brian Carroll blast in the 20th minute must still be stinging Tony Meola's hands), but all and all there were too few of them.

New York, on the other hand, was making passes and holding possessions. However, they just could not finish their chances (I seem to recall the US team having a similar problem). There were far too many balls in front of goal that should have ended up in the netting. Still, DC is lucky to be walking away with a point. Even luckier when you look at the handball that happened in their box in the 76th. That call is a 50-50 for a ref, so count that one on the happy side for DC.

In the end DC again did not look their dominant self. Still, to look poor and walk away with a point is a good outing. For the Red Bulls, if they keep playing like that, they will make the playoffs.

Chicago Fire 3-0 Kansas City Wizards

I had no access to this game, but it seems like it was the Justin Mapp show as he got assists on the Fire's first 2 goals and scored the last one. One now must wonder if the KC offensive explosion from the weekend was just an odd night for the team. If only they played the Crew every game.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

US Soccer Carnival nag

Hello all,

Just a reminder that the deadline for the fourth edition of the US Soccer Carnival is coming up on Friday (Aug 18). The topic is What to do about the US Open Cup.

Please send me an email at letting me know where I can find your piece.

The Carnival will be published on Monday August 21st.

Mike H

MLS mid-Week 21 Preview

There are three MLS matches tonight with one of them being something every US national fan will want to see.

Columbus Crew vs. Real Salt Lake
7:30pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Direct Kick (DK), MLStv

Real Salt Lake could do something amazing tonight and move out of last place in the West. Of course, with a win, the Crew could do the same in the East, unless Chicago gets a result in the late game.

Anyway, Real seem ready to make something happen. Their play has stepped up of late with Jeff Cunningham leading the way. Real's midfield has come a long distance in just a month and should be enough to hold the attack of, um, that Crew player who, um, let's say Sebastian Rozental. Okay, the point is, the Crew don't really have offensive options. Add to it that they still don't really have a goaltender and you've got the makings of a three-point sandwich for Salt Lake.

New York Red Bulls vs. DC United
7:30pm ET

This is the match everyone wishes was on Fox Soccer tonight. Bruce Arena's real debut happens tonight, at home, against his former team. With all the hype going around some might forget that we are talking about the team from New York. They did look better before the break and the first 45-minutes against Barcelona were not bad, but they are still New York. Amado Guevara and Youri Djorkaeff have all the skill needed to control the play of the game, but to often they are missing and unable to find players in the box. Add to it the way the defense likes to fall over themselves and you've got some problems.

But DC is not immune from anything. Before their two-weeks off of MLS play, they were looking tired and distracted, almost as if they felt that they didn't need to play to win. Sure enough, they didn't win. The question for United tonight is can they wake themselves up. I'm guessing the thrill of beating New York and Arena will be enough to set off their alarm clocks, but don't be surprised if they find themselves down early.

Chicago Fire vs. Kansas City Wizards
9:00pm ET

These two just faced each other 48-hours ago in a US Open match, but unlike on Monday, the stars will be out from the start for this one. Chicago is quickly collapsing under its inexperience. Surrendering late goals seems to be their motto these days as the team seems to shift to neutral around the 80th minute. For KC, over the weekend they showed that they could revive themselves with a full team working together. Eddie Johnson was still absent for most of the game, but Scott Sealy, Jose Burciaga Jr. and Jack Jewsbury will skilled enough to confuse the Crew.

The question for the Fire is can they do better then the Crew and can they 5 game home winless streak. Sadly, I think not.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.


US Women to play in Peace Cup

The US Women's team will have one last test before World Cup qualifiers begin as they will make their first ever trip to South Korea to play in the Peace Cup.

The Cup will take place from October 28-November 4 and will take place in six cities. There will be two groups of four with the top team from each group meeting in the final. The groups are:

Group A: South Korea, Brazil, Italy, Nigeria
Group B: Australia, North Korea, Denmark, USA

Five of these teams are ranked in the top 10 of the world (USA-2nd, Brazil-4th, N Korea-7th, Denmark-9th and Nigeria-10th).

The US also has matches on Aug. 27th against China in Chicago and Sept 13th against Mexico in Rochester.

This is the thrid version of the Peace Cup, but the first that will involve women. In 2003 PSV Eindhoven won and in 2005 Tottenham Hotspur came out as winners.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.


US tumbles out of the top 20 in FIFA rankings

The new rankings are out and there has not been a lot of movement, except for a handful of teams. One of those teams happens to be the USA. Here is the top 20.

RankTeamJuly RankChange
10Czech Republic100
18 Côte d'Ivoire 20+2

The US ends up behind Croatia and Guinea in 23rd, which is a drop of 7 spots.

This month's biggest losers are Fiji (down 15 to 107th), Canada (down 28 to 82nd), Panama (down 39 to 98th) and the biggest loser of all is Honduras who fell 43 spots to 81st.

For the biggest winners we have Qatar (up 12 to 64th), the Dominican Republic (up 15 to 171st) and the best of the movers in the up direct is Namibia who flew 30 spots to 137th.

These rankings mean what they have always meant, nothing. That said, they could point to something bad for CONCACAF. In 2010, there is going to be a lot of pressure to award a sixth spot to Africa (for 2006 they had 5), but the question is where will this spot come from?

Europe is not going to give up any allocations after what was shown in Germany and same can be said for South America's four spots. Asia already has the fewest spots per countries involved and Oceania only gets .5 of a spot. So whom does that leave out? CONCACAF.

After the poor showing in Germany and the low ranking of most of CONCACAF's teams, it will be difficult to justify the 3.5 spots we got this time around. FIFA could just drop it down to 3 and give the .5 to Africa, but it might be easier, politically, to give Africa the full spot and make the number three CONCACAF team fight it out will the number five Asian side.

Why this matters to the US is it limits the number of chances to make it to the World Cup. Yes, it would be difficult for the US not to finish in the top two, much less the top three in the confederation, but that does not mean it could not happen. A few injuries or bad calls and we could be in trouble.

A more likely scenario is the US does make the World Cup, but one less team from our confederation gets the chance. That means there will be one less country in our region that gets the bonus money that comes with reaching the finals. That money is used, in part, to help improve the game in that country. Those improvements make the team better, thus providing better competition. This makes games against those countries better preparation for the World Cup. The less development help CONCACAF gets, the lesser the chances of it becoming a top tier confederation.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

Brian Ching has successful surgery

Earlier today, Dynamo and US National forward Brian Ching underwent surgery to treat a torn right lateral meniscus.

In all, the surgery only took 45-minutes and was described by the team's doctor as successful.

Ching will start rehab soon, but will miss about 4-weeks of play while he recovers.

Houston currently sits 4-points behind FC Dallas in the Western Conference. During his recovery, Ching will miss 5 MLS road games. I guess some people will do anything to get out of a road trip.

Houston will play Dallas twice during this period. The first game is next Wednesday's US Open Cup match and then the clubs meet again on September 2nd in MLS play.

Ching is Houston's bester goal scorer of the season with 10 goals from 16 matches.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

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MLS Week 20 Power Ratings

Almost all the teams have seen MLS action since the last rankings. It seems there are some teams showing renewed signs of life while others are fading to black. All and all, the great teams are easy to separate from the good who are a little harder to pick apart from the bad. Anyway, here is the power rating.

1. DC United (last rank - 1) - They have not played since the last rankings, so not much has changed. However, when last we saw them in action, they were on a bit of a slide. Will the time off have revived them or scattered them? If their performance against Real Madrid is any indication, they will be sitting in the number one spot for some time to come.

2. Houston Dynamo (3) - They have out played their last two opponents, but without De Rosario, they could not get a goal against LA. Still, their play was solid as was shown against FC Dallas. If they continue to play this way, there is going to be a race for the West.

3. FC Dallas (2) - Their injury problem is getting better, but they might have developed a bad Kenny Cooper habit. They seem to think that he can defeat any team on his own. Once they learn to support him, they will return to their winning ways.

4. Chivas USA (5) - Their luck is starting to catch up with their skill meaning that LA might have a new 'super power.' However, this year being the 'super power' of LA might not be able to get you the cup, but it should get you in the playoffs.

5. Colorado Rapids (4) - The hot and cold play was on display this week as they got laughed at by visitors Real Salt Lake but then managed to hold a one goal lead for a full 49-minutes against LA. This team has some talent, but I still wonder where their scoring is going to come from with Dedi Ben Dayan off to Israel.

6. New England Revolution (7) - The Revolution are another team that is lacking offense. The last time they scored more then 1 goal in a match was July 4th and they still lost 2-3. Lucky for them, their defense has been able to hold teams, or else they would be sitting much lower. If they can figure out things up top, then this team will be able to ride.

7. Los Angeles Galaxy (6) - The Galaxy got some luck against Houston, but could not get a result with better play against Colorado. The midfield holes that were shrinking right after the Yallop hire seem to be growing again.

8. New York Red Bull (8) - The Bulls have been off since the last ranking, well other then that showing against Barcelona. They looked alright in the first half but fell to crap in the second. However, that matters not as Barcelona is not yet part of the MLS. The era of the Bruce starts tonight, let's see what New York can do now that they have a stadium and an Arena.

9. Real Salt Lake (10) - For the first time in their history, Real Salt Lake scored four goals in a single MLS match. But this bit of history is made that much better when you look how it happened. Offense was strong, the midfield was working full tilt and the defense held. This might also be the first match where RSL did all those things at the same time.

10. Kansas City Wizards (12) - Finally the midfield woke up for the Wizards. With their midline do more then watching the game, they were able to feed balls through and keep counter attacks to a minimum. What do you know, the constant pressure paid off.

11. Chicago Fire (9) - It seems the club cannot win at home. It looked like they were going to get out with a lucky tie, but refs will be refs and missed calls can be made-up. Anyway, they will need get some strike force and fast or they will be like Columbus come October - a great home but no games to be played in it.

12. Columbus Crew (11) - Wow, the wheels, shocks, crank shaft, muffler, gas tank, spark plugs, windows, doors, a/c, tape deck and cup holders have fallen off this bus. If you cannot make more then three passes in a row, you will never come close to winning a game.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Are the Revs about to lose Dempsey and Twellman?

New England will be without Clint Dempsey for the next two games due to breaking Jimmy Conrad's jaw (Clint is also out $1000), but if Dempsey has his way, he will be gone for good as-soon-as-possible.

His teammate, Taylor Twellman is also ready for a move, in his case a return, to Europe, but both players have the same problem, they are under MLS contract till December 2007.

So what could get Dempsey or Twellman out of their contracts? A large transfer fee.

A significant transfer fee, such as the $5 million Benfica offered for Eddie Johnson last year, would surely convince MLS to part with Dempsey. The trick for Dempsey is to get a similar offer on the table when the transfer window is open, either now or next December.

MLS took a risk by turning down Benfica's offer last year. Part of their hope was that Johnson would have a great World Cup and get an even bigger offer, but sadly, it looks like that risk might just be a loss. If a club comes up with similar numbers for Dempsey and Twellman, it might be hard to turn them down.

That said, the questions become which clubs will come looking and how soon would they need them? I think an offer by the end of August would be difficult. First, there has not been a lot of talk and second, as far as Dempsey, I don't know if the MLS is ready to drop the biggest star to come out of the US World Cup squad mid-season.

However, MLS should be a lot more open to a December offer. This gives the league a few more months with Dempsey/Twellman and it allows the Revs to regroup before the start of a season.

By the way, New England could have even more trouble coming their way as Pat Noonan is looking for a European club. If all three of these players were gone, coach Steve Nicol would be in for a hard off-season.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.


Ground broken, now where's the money

On Saturday, David Beckham got to try out a new job as ditch digger for Real Salt Lake. By all accounts, it went well and there is already talk of Becks being called up to the English national dig team.

It was a time of celebration for Real Salt Lake as they were finally getting their new stadium. However, word soon came that the deal to pay for the stadium was not done, so maybe a gun was jumped.

Which brings us to today's Salt Lake County Council meeting. The same council that voted down a proposal last month is planning on voting on a new proposal tonight. What has changed? That question cannot be answered in full as all negotiations have been done in private. However, here are the changes that we know about:

- Real Salt Lake will be allowed to use part of the new hotel tax to purchase land beneath the stadium as long as it is leased from the county at "fair-market value."

- A $20 million parking garage to be owned by the city will move from its original location to RSL stadium site. The county will get about $250,000 a year in parking revenue,

- RSL will add a 50¢ surcharge to tickets that will go to the country accounting for about $150,000 a year.

- The county will issue about $20 million in bonds starting in 2011. The county would use that money to buy some assets from Real, which could then retire part of its debt for the stadium.

- The city of Sandy will contribute $15 million in tax-increment redevelopment funds for infrastructure.

- RSL will donate $7.5 million to Salt Lake City's planned soccer complex.

The Salt Lake Tribune has taking an informal roll call vote of the council members and it looks like five plan to vote 'yes', three plan to vote 'no' and one is leading towards a 'no' vote. If those numbers pan out, RSL could have a deal by tonight.

Update: The council has voted and the plan has passed 5-4. "In the end, Councilwoman Jenny Wilson proved to be the decisive vote for what Corroon called a "letter of intent" to get the stadium deal done."

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

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The Fire advance to US Open Cup's Quarterfinals

Chicago Fire 2-0 Kansas City Wizards

With both teams having played on Saturday and playing each other on Wednesday, Monday night belonged to the 'under classmen' of the clubs. Big names like Josh Wolff, Justin Mapp, Chris Rolfe, Eddie Johnson, Bo Oshoniyi and Thiago were either not used or came in as subs.

Chicago was able to make better use of their second tier, perhaps because they have more playing time then KC's similar tier. The Wizards, who on Saturday showed the type of clever attacking style everyone knows they have, were flat on offense. No one was really pushing forward and chances were not being created.

On the other side of the ball, the Fire's Andy Herron seemed ready to take every shot he could and it paid off in the 65th minute when he headed in a pass from Brian Plotkin.

With the win, Chicago will host New England in the quarterfinal next Wednesday at 8:30pm ET.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Chicago and KC fight to advance in the US Open Cup

The final game of the fourth round of the US Open Cup will take place tonight in Chicago. After horrible rains caused the game to be called off on August 2nd, these two teams will finally get to see what they have in them.

The delay might just prove to be fantastic news for Kansas City as the rediscovered their offense over the weekend while Chicago fell in a disputed game against Chivas USA.

In an interesting twist, these two teams will face each other again just 48 hours later as the two play a MLS match on Wednesday. With the Fire now sitting two points below New York for the last playoff spot in the East, the might decide to hold back on this game or they might try to use it as a spring board from which they can forget about their recent 0-4-1 MLS slide.

You will be able to hear the match live via the MLS website.

The winner of this match will face New England in the quarterfinals.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

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MLS Week 20 recap or Did DC clinch the Supporter's Shield in Houston?

Four games and no ties, it's been a long time since MLS could say that.

Houston Dynamo 1-0 FC Dallas

The 'Texas shootout' never really happened as Houston owned most of this match. Unlike Wednesday night when they were missing De Rosario, they had him there. And even through he was not his full creative self, he made FCD come after him.

Still, the big thing from this game is how much Dallas depends on Kenny Cooper. They seem to think he can do it all by himself because more often then not, he was alone when taking the ball to goal. With no support and two or three guys all over him (especially Eddie Robinson), he didn't really have a chance. He's good, but he has limits. Dallas did recover towards the end of play, and controlled the final 10-minutes, but it was just too little time for the miracle to happen.

With Dallas going down, they are now 6-points off DC for the Supporter's Shield title. With 11 games to go, it's going to be hard to close that gap. Of the 11 remaining games, DC has 6 on the road while FCD has 7. In addition, DC won the season's series with a win and a tie. A bad string could still bring the shield to Texas, but it's getting harder and harder to see such a string forming.

KC Wizards 4-0 Columbus Crew

So much for the idea that the lack of Jimmy Conrad would mean bad times for the Wizards backline, as they were able to hold it together. Granted, it was the Crew they were playing, so take it as you will. Anyway, the offense finally game to play and in a big way. KC had 21 shots, with 11 of them on goal. They were feeding each other, making smart passes and pouncing on Crew mistakes. Different people scored all four goals. The four goals also equal the total number of goals they had scored in their last four matches. On the Columbus side of things, they had a few chances, but just were out matched in every way. It's going to be a long time till 2007.

Chicago Fire 1-2 Chivas USA

The Fire were the only home team to lose this weekend, but the questions remains, was it a fair call that cost them the match. Juan Pablo Garcia got the first goal in the 77th minute off a hard shot from the top of the box, but Chicago was able to come back just four minutes later to get the tie. However, there was a very missed call in between these two events. Chivas's Ante Razov was taken down by Tony Sanneh in Chicago's box, but no penalty kick was given. Sanneh was the last defender and Razov had just beaten him, so this should have been an easy pk, but referee Alex Prus waved play on.

In their anger, Chivas did not regroup and the Fire was able to get the goal. But Chivas would not end the night without a pk as Jonathan Bornstein got bumped by Chicago's Gonzalo Segares in the 90th minute to get the kick from the spot. Sure enough, Claudio Suarez converted and Chivas walked away with the win. The second call really was not a pk type of call, but it is obvious that it was a makeup for the earlier mistake.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 LA Galaxy

All the progress LA has made since Yallop's hire seemed to melt away on Saturday. Their offense was nowhere and their defense was making stupid mistakes. The only goal of the night came when LA's Ugo Ihemelu passed it right to Colorado's Thiago Martins. Martins passed it to Kyle Beckerman in the area who rolled it across goal for Nicolas Hernandez to finish. Great move by Colorado, but it never should have been. LA is too talented to be making these mistakes.

Just as Dallas's defeat might have handed the shield to DC, LA's lose along with Chivas's win, might have knocked them out of the playoffs. LA is 7 points behind Chivas with 10 games remaining. Of the ten, four are on the road, three are against FC Dallas, one is against Houston and one is against DC. It will be near impossible for the team that played on Saturday to get the points they will need in order to get close enough to knock Chivas out of the final spot when the two teams meet on September 30th.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Real Salt Lake break ground

Real Salt Lake has broken ground on their new stadium in Sandy. In the photo you can see (left-right) Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts and David Beckham tossing aside the dirt to start the process of building the team a new home (photo from Salt Lake Tribune).

Actual construction work will start by the end of the year and should be finished some time in 2008.

And to think, someone once said that a Sandy stadium deal was dead. What an idiot.

Congratulations to Real Salt Lake and their fans. Hopefully this will allow the side to continue to grow their support as well as bring in more money for the local community.

By the way, with this deal and the New York deal, 9 of the 13 MLS clubs (including next year's rookies Toronto FC) have some sort of stadium deal in place or already built. Good news for the MLS and soccer in America.

Update of the story here.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

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MLS Week 20 Preview

Four MLS matches take place today with ESPN2 broadcast the battle for Texas, but in tape-delay form (A US Open Series tennis match from Toronto will air instead of the live game). Anyway, here are the previews.

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas
8:30pm ET
TV: ESPN2 at Midnight ET

There is a lot more at stake in this match then just Texas bragging rights. If the Dynamo is going to make a run at the Western Conference crown, they need to start their move today. With 11 games remaining for Houston, they are 7-points off FCD's pass who also have a game in hand. If Dallas increase their lead to 10-points, it will be hard for anyone to catch them.

The great news for Houston is De Rosario is back. On Wednesday Houston controlled most of the match against LA, but without De Rosario they were unable to create much danger in front of the box and had a hard time stopping the Galaxy on fast breaks. Sure enough, the team fell 1-0. Brian Ching might be the goal-scoring star, but he needs the second threat of De Rosario to be totally efficient.

FCD start a four-match road trip with this game, so any points will be welcomed. Carlos Ruiz is listed as probable for the game, which will give the side yet another attacking option. It will be interesting to see if Ruiz starts or is used as a sub for Abe Thompson.

My guess is a late goal for FCD to earn a tie.

KC Wizards vs. Columbus Crew
8:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick (DK), MLStv

Nothing like watching the basement dwellers of the Eastern Conference take each other on. On paper, this should be KC in a walk, but on paper, KC should only be about 8 points behind DC. Instead they sit 23-points off United, but due to the shape of the East, they are only 6-points out of second.

For the Wizards their woes are everywhere. How can a team with Josh Wolff and Eddie Johnson have the third lowest goal total in MLS (22)? Their defense has been good enough to keep them in the running, but now that Jimmy Conrad is out for 4-6 weeks, how do they expect to have any chance? If the Wizards are to turn this season around, it will be their midfield that will do it and if they don't, it will be a year with out a playoff.

That said, they are facing Columbus who has the lowest number of goals of any time in MLS (16). For the Crew, it is injuries that have turned this season sour. They have no real offensive threats, their midfield has trouble holding balls and their defense has had so many goalies this season that it just cannot get things to click. Yet, somehow, they have been able to 12 of their 20 points on the road.

I suspect that KC will control in the start, but not get goals. This one just seems to be begging for a tie.

Chicago Fire vs. Chivas USA
8:30pm ET

Both teams sit in fourth place in their conference. Chivas has 4-points on fifth place LA, but Chicago sits even in points with KC, but have 2 games in hand.

Chicago looked surprisingly strong after their marathon road trip to start the season, but their home field has not been as kind to them as they need it to be. They also come in without a win in their last three games. But there is some good news, Chris Rolfe seems to be returning to form and Justin Mapp is proving himself to be a great sub. If they can keep their defense strong and start feeding better balls up top, they will have a good final stretch.

Chivas is still a team that cannot get all it's parts working together at the same time. They have excellent ball skills, but without a defense stopping the threats or an office making them, they blow matches more often then win them. The talent is there, coach Bradley just can't make them put it together.

Chicago might be having troubles at home, but Chivas is not a road team. The Fire should be able to get a win out of this one.

Colorado Rapids vs. LA Galaxy
9:00pm ET

Both these teams were outplayed on Wednesday night, but LA managed to get a win. With the Galaxy and Real turning on the heat in the West, teams like Colorado and Chivas need to start getting wins soon.

The Rapids have played well below form their last two matches and now one must wonder where their offense will come from. With Dedi Ben Dayan gone to Israel, their threats are few in number. Put that together with their poor defensive state and you have a bad recipe.

Since Frank Yallop took over the Galaxy, they have started looking like the team of 2005 again. Donovan is playing better, Cobi Jones is picking up some good minutes, Kevin Hartman is keeping the goal safe and former DC United man Santino Quaranta proved that he can work in this system on Wednesday night. Still, their midfield is bad at winning balls and their air attack is nothing.

The Rapids are good at home, but I think LA is going to find a way to slip some past them and get the win.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.


Real Salt Lake to Break Ground Today

Update of the story here.

It seems an email has gone out to the local media late last night telling them that there will be a groundbreaking ceremony today at noon.

However, there is a very odd part to this story as neither the MLS or Real Salt Lake web sites mention this event.

Anyway, expect to see David Beckham and a bunch of local politicians throwing some dirt over their shoulders. Who knows, maybe it will make the national sports news.

No terms of the deal were mentioned in the email. The new site will be in Sandy near the South Towne Expo Center. This site is about 15-miles from their current home in Rice-Eccles Stadium.

As with all things related to this stadium deal, Are You Loyal? has the latest.

Interestingly enough, in a Truman loses type moment, the Daily Herald, or 'Central Utah's Newspaper', ran a story yesterday letting soccer fans know they should enjoy today's Real Madrid vs. Real Salt Lake game as it might be one of the last.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Blogroll additions

Wow, every time I turn around, I see another new soccer blog out there. Really, there is so many excellent soccer blogs out there, I don't have the time to read them all. This is fantastic to see. Anyway, here are some new additions to my blogroll.

Are You Loyal? is devoted to Utah's very own, Real Salt Lake. They are providing the best links concerning the soccer stadium news breaking today.

The American Hooligan is only a week old, but Jason looks to be a site for those wanted a good general overview of the American game.

It's a Simple Game just hums away with news from the US soccer world. In addition, Jeff has a photo of a cat for his profile and us cat as profile people have got to stick together. Honestly, I thought I had this blog on my roll already and am a little embarrassed that it took me so long to link to him.

Continuing on the cat as profile pic vibe, Twohundredpercent gives great insight into the English game along with a writing style that is both informative and fun.

And finally, if you want a blend of soccer, politics, life and just about everything else, The Fisch Fry might just be the best place for you. Fisch, not to be confused with Mr. Fish, has posts on everything from DC-Real to a Reid-Clinton rumor to dealings with his neighbor. You might not agree with everything but it's a good read nonetheless.

Anyway, welcome to the blogerhood.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.