Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fulham offers $2.9 million for Dempsey

Fulham is looking to add to their list of Americans with a $2.9 million transfer offer for New England Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey. Thankfully, it looks like MLS will do the right thing and accept it. That means as long as he gets a work permit, Dempsey will finally get his chance to play in Europe.

The move would see Dempsey team up with fellow Americans Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra.

Dempsey's arrival in Fulham's midfield should give them an additional dynamic threat that could finally move the team into the topside of the table.

This transfer will probably cause Bob Bradley to release Dempsey from the January US training camp.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Colombia wants 2014

Colombia has decided to go ahead with their bid to host the 2014 World Cup.

There have been rumors about such a bid since July when President Alvaro Uribe suggested that his country wanted to host, but now it looks to be official.

Brazil was considered a lock after all other CONMEBOL countries decided to support their bid, but Colombia seems to have had a change of heart.

The country has never hosted the finals, but they were awarded it for 1986. However, they had to surrender the games in 1982 due to financial problems. Mexico ended up getting those games.

Would FIFA really go back to Colombia after the 1986 melt down? More then twenty years has past, but how could they give them the games at the expense of denying Brazil, i.e. Soccer Gods, their first hosting duties since 1950?

It is always good to have options, but this one seems very far-fetched.

Friday, December 15, 2006

New coaches, new year same old rivalry

US Soccer made it official last night, we will meet Mexico on February 7th for the 52nd border battle. The match will take place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz and will air live on ESPN2 and Univision at 9pm ET.

This will be the first big test for the US team under interim coach Bob Bradley. Depending on the result, it could shake off the stink that was 2006 in favor of a new hope for 2007. It could also help remove the interim header to his job description.

However, Mexico's new boss Hugo Sanchez will want to win this match as proof of who he is. It was Sanchez that called for, and almost got, former coach Ricardo La Volpe's head after his Mexico's 2-0 lose to the US in September 2005. Sanchez ridiculed La Volpe for not being able to beat the team from the north. If he can do no better, what will it say about him?

The US has owned this rivalry of late having only lost 2 of the 10 meetings between the sides since 2000. They have also held Mexico to just three goals in those 10 matches with none of them coming on American soil.

For anyone in the area, this will be a great match to attend. Tickets will go on sale next Tuesday (Dec 19). If you have ever wanted to see what soccer is all about, this is the game to make it to.

One last note, if anyone from US Soccer is reading this, please send the stadium a better picture to use on their website.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lamar Hunt has died

Lamar Hunt, one of the major reasons there is professional soccer in America, lost his battle with prostate cancer last night.

Hunt was an owner in the NASL league and was a founding member of Major League Soccer. As if that was not enough to prove he was a huge fan of the sport, in 1999 he built Columbus Crew Stadium with money from his own pocket.

I cannot say I agree with everything Hunt wanted to do with the league (he is the reason there are 8 playoff spots), but any little disagreements I can think of pale in comparison to the respect and admiration I feel towards him.

His dedication to the sport is a major reason our national teams are no longer jokes.

Thank you Mr. Hunt.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

RFK to host 2007 MLS Cup

Washington DC will get to play host to MLS's biggest game next season as RFK has been named the host of the 2007 final. This will be the third time the stadium has hosted the finals (1997 - DC 2-1 Colorado, 2000 - KC 1-0 Chicago).

I'm a little surprised that with all the soccer stadiums available that they would go with RFK, but perhaps the league is hoping to make a statement with this game. The last time the final was played in RFK, almost 40,000 fans showed up. If they could build on that, it would be an impressive display.

Also, an impressive display of that type might help the club and any future owners finally secure a stadium deal of their own.


A coach can do a lot in a year

Steve Davis has a new article out talking about how US President Sunil Gulati was right not to rush a choice in selecting a new coach. He spends a lot of time talking about how Gulati should not be vilified for not giving everything to Klinsmann, while also noting that none of us know what it is that Klinsmann wanted (although he does speculate).

Interestingly enough, Davis defends Gulati by saying that we don't know what happened, but then attacks Klinsmann even though we don't know what happened.

"Then again, at some point, any candidate must show that he really, truly wants the job and is willing to bend a bit to prove it. In absence of that, well, the pursuer must cut his losses and move on."

How does Davis know that Klinsmann wasn't bending? Simply put, he doesn't.

What if Klinsmann was willing to compromise on a number of things but really wanted one thing because he didn't think he would be successful without it? Is Klinsmann being unreasonable to request the thing he needs to do the job or is Gulati being a fool for not giving it to him?

I want to stress that maybe that is not what happened. Maybe Klinsmann would not budge on a number of things or maybe Gulati just wanted to show the German who was in charge. I don't know and neither does Davis, but he still feels free to write about Klinsmann being the problem.

But really, that is not the biggest issue I take with this article.

Towards the end he talks about how hiring a 'caretaker' is not really a problem because "What, really, can a national team boss do in November 2006 that he can't do in November 2007?"


I don't know, the first think that pops to mind is play in the 2007 Gold Cup and Copa America (which Davis does note). This is a great place to try out some new tactics against quality teams (something that we probably will not have as much access to in 2008). It is also a time to build the team's dynamic. Let players and coaches get to know each other in order to reduce the confusion down the road.

The year will also allow the coach to scout the U-20 World Cup for talent and give him and his team an extra year to put whatever training and development tactics they want into place for the senior and youth teams.

But it is not just current US players of all ages the coach has to look at, he also needs to look to some of the smaller leagues in Europe as well as college and high school players here in the states.

In Europe, club's youth academies help national managers find young talent, but we don't really have that in place at the moment. Add that to the fact that it is difficult to actually view most youth matches due to the lack of TV or news coverage and you can see how every moment counts.

But let's step back a moment and look at this with a wide view lens. How often do you hear a coach in any sport complain about having too much time to prepare his team?

For the US men, taking away a year is taking away a third of the time any coach has to get the team ready for World Cup qualifying. That is not nothing.

Davis does make some good points on other subjects in his article and it is nice to see someone not blame Gulati for the coaching mess (even if I don't fully agree), but his idea about what difference does a year make is just ridiculous. As proof, I turn to US President Sunil Gulati (from Oct 9, 2006):

"If we do this right, we will name a coach and that will be our coach to the World Cup and who knows beyond that."

Since they named in interim coach, doesn't that mean something went wrong?


South Africa guarantees safety

The government of South Africa has guaranteed the safety of fans and teams during the 2010 event. They stressed that 192,000 police officers will be in the country by 2009 and that 30,000 of them will be involved with the World Cup.

Additional security plans include 24-hour presence at all hotels as well as places and routes fans will take to get to or enjoy the finals.

They did not say what a fan will get if this guarantee turns out not to work. My guess is a Goleo VI t-shirt.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lamar Hunt fighting for life

Soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt is fighting for his life in a Dallas hospital tonight. Family members say it will take a miracle for him to pull through.

Hunt has battled cancer for several years and was hospitalized Nov. 22 with a partially collapsed lung. Doctors discovered that the cancer has since spread, and Hunt has been under heavy sedation since last week.

"They're trying to make him as comfortable as possible," said Carl Peterson, president and general manager of Hunt's Kansas City Chiefs pro gridiron team. "He's battling a very courageous fight. We'll continue to hope that miracles will happen."

Hunt has been a fixture of American soccer since watching his first World Cup match in 1966. He owned the Dallas Tornado in the NASL days and was a founding member of Major League Soccer. He is also the man after which the US Open Cup trophy is named.

"There quite simply has never been a more influential person in sports in the United States, and when it comes to soccer he was the pioneer, the innovator and the patriarch all rolled into one. And that statement was as true in 1966 as it is in 2006," the U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement.

My thoughts and best wishes go out to the Hunt family.

Start the 'Wayne Rooney coming to America' rumors

It seems like all the David Beckham coming to America talk has died down in the last week, but maybe the Wayne Rooney talk is about to start (scroll down).

If you are thinking, "What, Rooney coming to America, insane," well then you are right. However, Rooney recently said this about playing in America, "I don't know. Obviously, I wouldn't rule anything out. Maybe toward the end of my career."

That should be enough to get some papers running pieces on Wayne's soon to be staring role in New York (hello La Opinion).

Anyway, something of interest that Rooney did say was that he had recently talked with Beckham and he doesn't think a MLS move is coming.


Brazil will bid for 2014 World Cup

No surprises, just making it official, but Brazil will officially inform FIFA tomorrow of their desire to host the 2014 finals.

FIFA has already said South America will host the 2014 finals and with the other nine South American nations agreeing to back Brazil's bid, this is a pretty anticlimactic announcement (unless Colombia changes their mind and puts in a bid). Still, there are lots of questions that Brazil will need to answer.

Will they be able to upgrade or build enough top quality stadiums? Will they be able to improve their public transportation system enough to get people around? Will they be able to reduce the crime level enough to make people feel safe coming to their country?

Oddly enough, a lot of Brazil's fate might rest not in their actions but in what happens with South Africa. If FIFA has a really rough time with 2010, especially if they end up having to move the location (still a very big if), they might be a bit shy about taking another risk four years later.

Brazil does have on big thing going for them, they have almost eight years to get things in order. It is true that the location will not be decided till 2008, but if no one else is making a bid, you have to like your odds. If they could get at least one stadium well on its way to being ready by 2008, I'm sure FIFA will only be too happy to give them the games no matter what South Africa is looking like at the time.

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Norwegians want Edson Buddle

Edson Buddle has recently moved from New York to Toronto, however if Norwegian side Fredrikstad had their way, he would be moving again very soon.

Fredrikstad have said they are interested in the striker, however they are not planning on going after him during the January transfer window. It is not that they do not want him playing for the team, it's just that they are only allowed three non-EU players on their team and all three of those spots are currently in use.

However, if one of those three spots were to open up, Buddle would be their number one target.

That said, with Buddle looking to be a big part of the new Toronto FC lineup, I find it hard to believe the league would trade him even if Fredrikstad could make an offer.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Real Salt Lake release their financials

Real Salt Lake released financial documents today in a hope of finally proving that they deserve public money to support their new stadium in Sandy.

The public money adds up to $45 million of the total $110 million cost.

Some interesting details are:

- Ownership of the team will be split between Dave Checketts' Sports Capital Partners and Whitehall, an arm of global financier Goldman Sachs, with SCP controlling the team's daily operations

- In 2008, Real expects 15,400 fans per game paying $22.78 a ticket

- In 2013, Real expects 19,360 fans per game paying $30.72 a ticket

- Stadium revenue should reach $28 million by 2013

- Real will not make a profit till 2010, but should make $5.48 million in 2013

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this report is not the above information, but that it consists mainly of spreadsheets without any sort of summary documents. This means it will take time for people to go through it all and come to a conclusion. It will also open the door to different possible takes at the financial state of the club.

Add this to the Adu announcement and one must wonder if Real's plan is to bury this story.

Please don't take that to mean that I think the club is in a bad financial state because I really don't know. I think that ticket sales mentioned are a little high, but I don't think it is an insane guess.

I'll I'm trying to say is that Real didn't want to release this information (as is the case with most private businesses), but now that they have, they want to change the subject. What better way to do that then the future of American soccer showing up at your doorstep? What story grabs you more "Wonder Boy Coming to Town" or "Spreadsheet Analysis Enters Fifth Day"?

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Adu is gone

Freddy Adu is no longer a member of DC United, but it is not Manchester United or Chelsea that will soon see the young star playing for them, instead, Adu will call Salt Lake home.

United traded Adu and the rights to goalkeeper Nick Rimando to Real in exchange for goalkeeper Jay Nolly, a major allocation and future considerations, including a share of any future replacement allocation money attributed to Adu, should he be transferred.

If you were looking for a sign that Adu will leave MLS next season, this is about the best one you are going to get. I look at this move much like FC Dallas sending Eddie Johnson to KC last off season. Dallas took a risk that Johnson would, one, be going to the World Cup and two, if he had a good showing be off to Europe or if he had a bad showing not recover well. They were right.

United is building a team for a full season and with Adu gone for the U-20 World Cup in June (and maybe some time with the senior team) and likely off to Europe soon after, it just makes sense.

Jay Nolly is not a major add, but the allocation spot and a portion of the Adu transfer fee is worth plenty.

For their troubles, Real now has a great marketing player that is bound to up their attendance. In addition, Adu will rejoin his former U-17 coach in John Ellinger, meaning that he should continue to develop as a player. The question for me is how will Jeff Cunningham react to not being the big dog at the club. I like Cunningham, but he likes being the star.

Although Adu will get all the stories, Rimando finds himself in an interesting spot. Scott Garlick is a good keeper, but he is not a lock on the number one spot like DC's Troy Perkins. If Rimando has a few strong outings, he too might get some extra playing time or even become a starter.

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Steve Morrow is new FC Dallas coach

Steve Morrow can remove the ‘interim’ from his title as FC Dallas president and general manager Michael Hitchcock give him the big nod this afternoon.

Morrow played for Dallas in 2002 and 03 before retiring due to a neck injury. He became an assistant coach in 2004, but had to resign soon after due to personal issues. However, just a few months later he was back working under Colin Clarke.

When Clarke was fired last month, Morrow became interim boss. His hiring as the full time boss seems to signal that Dallas is not looking for a major change from the Clarke years. Instead, it would appear that they like their general direction; they just seem to need a little different guidance.

Morrow takes over a team coming off their best regular season ever, yet it is still one that falls to pieces late in the year. If he is to have success, he will need to do something about their poor defense.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Bradley is the new boss, for now

Bob Bradley is the new coach of the US men's national team. However, this is only an interim appointment, as US Soccer will continue to look at other possible candidates for, blah, blah, blah.

Unless Bradley really screws up really, really big or someone very high profile decides that I want to coach the team and I'm find with having little control over things (ie. I'll take the paycheck in run "hello Sven, I'll put you right through"), it will probably be Bradley guiding the team into 2010.

Bradley is a very good coach and I can see him building well on Arena's success. Had this hire happened in July or August, I think people would have been fine with it, especially since his name was mentioned as a replacement for Arena well before the World Cup made the Bruce a 'loser' and Klinsmann 'the second coming.'

However, after a five-month search, ending up where you started does not look good.

That said, Bradley has a difficult task ahead of him. He has a team that has not been together in a long time and that has some obvious cracks in it. Will he be able to bring them together and motivate?

When Arena took over the job after the 1998 flop he faced similar problems and was able to worth through most of them. Hopefully during all those years assisting Arena at U of Virginia and DC United, Bradley learned some of his tricks. If his work on Chivas this past season (not to mention his time with Chicago) is an example of what we can expect, it should be an interesting ride.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Eddie Johnson not going to Reading

Nicky Hammond, the director of football at Reading FC, has announced that the team liked what they saw in US international Eddie Johnson (pictured) during his trial spell, however they do not plan on signing him anytime soon.

Here is what Hammond said:

We have a good relationship with the MLS following the transfer I did for Bobby Convey so we thought we'd have a look at Eddie.

It's not unusual for American players to come over here at the end of their season to spend a bit of time training with clubs in Europe.

It was interesting for both parties for us to have a look at Eddie but he will not be coming back.

It is a shame that Johnson will not be heading to England. Anyone who saw him play this year could tell he is bored in the MLS. He needs a new setting, but it looks like he will not get it from Reading.

For the Wizards, new coach Curt Onalfo needs to figure out how to inspire Johnson. If he can do that, the Wizards will have a grand strike force next year.


Klinsmann is NOT the new king

Put the Champaign back in the fridge and cancel your order for German flags. Jürgen Klinsmann has taken himself out of consideration for the US coaching job.

It seems like only two days ago some were crowning him king, but what do you know, some of were wrong.

The new rumor is that Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley will take over on an interim basis. If this is true, and who knows if it is, it shows the extent of the shock Klinsmann's departure has caused. This whole selection process, US Soccer Boss Sunil Gulati has stressed that they do not want a caretaker coach. I've heard him in interviews stress how that would not be what is best for the team.

If Gulati does declare Bradley interim coach, he will have some serious questions to answer.

This is not a knock against Bradley. He is an excellent coach and he will bring much to the table. However, Gulati has been building everyone towards a Klinsmann announcement. By not going with him, or someone with his 'star power', he has opening the door to the 'why not' question.

The SI article points to some of the reasons behind the 'why not.'

"Klinsmann and USSF president Sunil Gulati apparently are far apart on issues of executive control over the U.S. program, which is more of an issue than money. It was earlier reported that Klinsmann was looking for a deal of as much as $2 million a year."

Only a few people know all the reasons, but when I read that my mind went back to Bruce Arena saying Gulati is a micromanager.

Anyway, if it is to be Bradley, let it be so. He did wonders for Chivas (and any other club he has lead), so let's see what he can do for the red, white and blue.

Now let's play some soccer.


Mastercard smacks FIFA down

It looks like Mastercard might get the chance to sponsor the 2010 and 2014 World Cups after a New York judge ruled against FIFA.

Mastercard was the sponsor of the 2006 final and, under Swiss contract law, should have had the right of first refusal for '10 and '14. However, FIFA decided to go with Visa as the sponsor without giving Mastercard their chance.

FIFA has said they will appeal the verdict, but it really doesn't look like they have much of a case. I mean it really is a simple case when you look at it. Party A was suppose to allow party B the chance to obtain object 1 before anyone else. If party B decided against it, party A could move on to party C. Instead, party A went right to C, ignoring anything B wanted.

By the way, Visa has stated that they thought they were talking with FIFA in good faith saying that FIFA assured them that the deal was valid and binding and did not conflict with any of MasterCard's rights.

This falls right into the lap of Sepp Blatter. He decided trying to get a few extra millions was more important then obeying the law. Is this a shock to anyone?

Let anyone who does business with Blatter's FIFA be warned, promises don't seem to mean much.

2010 World Cup dates and number of teams set

We can all begin to clear our calendars for 2010 as FIFA has set the dates for the World Cup. It will run from June 11 to July 11. FIFA has also granted South Africa an automatic berth as the host nation.

As nice as it is to know the dates, the most interesting piece of information to come out of FIFA is the number of teams each confederation will send to the finals. Africa will get six, European thirteen, Asian and Oceania five, and a total of eight for South America and the Central American region.

This represents a few chances. The first is Europe loses a spot while Africa gains one. With the success of European teams at this past World Cup, I'm a little surprised by this.

The other change has to do with playoff teams. In '02 and '06 there were playoffs between CONCACAF/Asia and South America/Oceania. That has now changed to a CONCACAF/South America and Asia/Oceania playoff. This change makes a lot more sense to me.

So it looks like CONCACAF will still have 3.5 spots to the World Cup. After the way our teams performed in Germany, I thought we would lose the .5 spot. I then figured Asia would lose their .5, thus giving Africa the extra team. The fact that FIFA pulled the spot from Europe says something. I'm not sure what, but I think it might have to do with growing the sport in all areas of the world. Whatever it is, I'm sure many Europeans are not happy about it.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bob Gansler again coaching in MLS

Bob Gansler, who was fired by Kansas City earlier this year, is back coaching in the MLS, but this time he is an assistant for Toronto FC's Mo Johnston.

This is a reunion for the two as Johnston was on Gansler's 2000 KC team that won the MLS Cup.

This hire adds some real strength to the coaching lineup in Toronto. Combine that with the various selections and trades Mo has made with his players and you have the makings of a decent first year team.


Klinsmann to be crowned US King

Updated here.

Fox Soccer is reporting that
Jürgen Klinsmann will be named the new US men's coach
within the next two weeks.

They report that the two main problems have been solved:

There were two sticking points in signing Klinsmann: The first was Klinsmann's long relationship with adidas. The U.S. national soccer team is heavily underwritten by Nike, and sources at the shoewear companies said talk of the appointment initially caused some concern. According to a person connected with the shoe company today, Klinsmann has left adidas, solving the issue in one fell swoop.

The second issue looks to be more contentious. Speaking on condition of anonymity granted because they were not given permission to speak about the appointment, two sources confirmed that the issue of power-sharing was a major bone of contention. Former coach Bruce Arena had carved out a wide swath for himself during his tenure, and Klinsmann has reportedly demanded that he too be essentially the sole decision-maker on national team matters.

Could it finally be true? Will the US at long last have a coach? I hope for many reasons this is true. Although I do not think the hiring will automatically make the team into one of the best in the world, it will allow them to finally get back together.

On a cultural note, it will be interesting to see if ESPN picks up on this report and gives it some life. One of the extra bonuses of hiring Klinsmann was the media coverage many of us thought it would bring. It looks like we will soon find out if this is true.

Now let's play some soccer.