Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Could the city of Salt Lake save Real?

Salt Lake County has decided against investing in the infrastructure of a new Real stadium, but Salt Lake City might be willing to do so as they have again brought up the idea of having the team play in the Fairpark area.

"In my view, it makes great sense," City Council Chairman Van Turner said. "We think soccer's a good thing for Utah. We think it's a better thing for Salt Lake City."

The Fairpark area was on the short list of locations back when Real owner David Checketts was looking at locations, but lost out to Sandy due, at least in part, to political considerations. Here was my take at the time.

The quick version of it is this. Republicans control the state house and the state house is putting money into this project. The mayor and rep from Sandy are both Republicans while the mayor of Salt Lake is a Democrat. Guess where the state would prefer to put their money?

By the way, the rep from Sandy also happened to be Speaker of the House Greg Curtis. Curtis was a huge supporter of the project, however he almost lost his job in November when he won by just 20 votes. His backing of the stadium project was a major issue used against him during the campaign.

So as political winds turned, so did Real's fortunes.

But getting back to the issue at hand, can Salt Lake City convince the team to stay put and build their stadium at Fairpark?

"In June 2006, Anderson promoted the Fairpark idea by suggesting a number of incentives, including a share of the city's property taxes, some of the city's portion of hotel taxes from Salt Lake County and a ready fan base within walking distance of the site."

No proposals have been officially offered up as of this time, but this will probably be the starting ground for such discussions.

Will it be enough to keep the team or has Checketts already decided? We should know in a few days to a couple weeks.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kansas City owners willing to spend to improve

While most of the talk concerning the Kansas City Wizards has focused on their lack of all things related to a stadium (still no home for this season and no deal for a future soccer stadium), their new owners, OnGoal, have been working and spending to improve the club in other ways.

Yes, they put $800,000 into the failed campaign to build 24 youth soccer stadiums, but they have also invested $2 million into a new training facility which includes a locker room and practice fields. They have also doubled their number of employees from 19 to 38 with some of those new hirers being support staff for players.

“With OnGoal on board, I think we’ve got a great group that’s prepared to spend the money to do more with what we have here,” said Nick Garcia, who will be in his eighth season as a Wizards defender. “I think they’re for real and want to give us all the resources to succeed.

This still does not get them into a stadium, but it does show that OnGoal is committed to trying to improve the team. Hopefully this will help change the moral around the club and maybe make them a bit of a threat during the 2007 season.

Talking about this season, the club says they are very close to finalizing a home for the next two seasons. The temporary home will hold 6,500-8,000 fans. They also hope to announce more on a permanent home in the next six weeks.

OnGoal seems willing to put millions into the club to build it up and they should be saluted for doing so. However, they have only been involved with the club for five months. The real test of their devotion to the club will be if they are willing to keep doing the things needed to improve over the next five seasons. It is easy to get caught up in the hype and excitement of a marriage, but much harder to make it work.

That said, OnGoal is saying and, more importantly, doing just about everything they could be doing to make one think this marriage will work.

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Onyewu going to Newcastle

France will not be the next home for US defender Oguchi Onyewu as some had reported. Instead, he will find his way to England's shores as Newcastle United have finished a loan deal with his current club Standard Liege. The deal will last till the end of the season.

The addition of Onyewu to Newcastle is going to give them some much needed support in their defense and, perhaps even more important, a wonderful target in dead ball situations.

Congrats to Newcastle for landing this talent. It would be great if he could see some action this Saturday when they take on McBride, Bocanegra and Dempsey at Fulham.

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US Women win Four Nations Cup!

Going into their final match, the US women knew they needed nothing short of a victory to claim their second straight Four Nations Cup title. Sure enough they got it with an impressive 2-0 win over host China.

Lori Chalupny got the US on the board with a strike right before half time and Natasha Kai added the insurance in the 56th minute.

Here is Chalupny talking about her cup-winning goal: “It felt good right when it came off my foot. I got a good touch on it right around the defender and just saw a seam to take a shot. I just tried to hit it hard and on frame. When it hits the back of the net, it’s just such a rush.”

Coach Greg Ryan is happy with the results but is even happier to see that he now has some additional scoring options.

“I’m happy with the start that we’ve made and in the goal scoring from Heather O’Reilly in the game against England, Natasha Kai today, and also scoring from distance from Lori Chalupny. Those are very important for us because we need more players that can scores goals in addition to the two players that weren’t here, Abby Wambach and Kristine Lilly. I am very, very happy with the way the younger players responded throughout the team.”

In the other game of the night, Germany tied England 0-0 meaning the current best women's team in world, Germany, did not score a single goal during the tournament. England did manage to get one goal, but ends up in last place.

Here are the tournament awards:
Best Player: Kelly Smith, England
Best Coach: Greg Ryan, USA
Best Goalkeeper: Hope Solo, USA
Fair Play Award: China


Monday, January 29, 2007

2007 US Open Cup is set

US Soccer has announced the schedule for the 93rd annual US Open Cup. The big change for this season, fewer teams. The reason for the change, the busy summer schedule for the US national team and MLS.

For the first time since 2002, not all MLS teams will be in the tournament. Instead, they will automatically qualify the top six teams from the 2006 season (Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution). The other six US teams will play qualifying matches. The Columbus Crew, Kansas City Wizards, Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles Galaxy will play in the first qualifying round, with the winners facing the New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids for a chance to qualify for the tournament.

All 10 US based USL-First Division teams will qualify. These teams are the Atlanta Silverbacks, California Victory, Carolina RailHawks, Charleston Battery, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder, Portland Timbers, Rochester Raging Rhinos, Seattle Sounders, Virginia Beach Mariners.

Six USL-Second Division teams will also qualify, however only the champion Richmond Kickers will earn an automatic spot. The other teams (Cincinnati Kings, Charlotte Eagles, Cleveland City Stars, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Harrisburg City Islanders, New Hampshire Phantoms, Western Mass Pioneers, Wilmington Hammerheads) will play qualification matches.

Of the 60 Premier Development League teams eligible, 8 will earn qualification. There will also be 8 teams from the U.S. Adult Soccer Association Regional Qualifiers.

Here are the important dates:
May 28 - Qualifying Deadline
May 29 - First Round Pairings Announced
June 12 - First Round - All 32 lower division teams enter tournament
June 26 - Second Round - Round 1 winners face off
July 10 - Third Round - Round 2 winners face eight MLS teams
Aug. 7 - Quarterfinals - Round 3 winners
Sept. 4 - Semifinals - Quarterfinal winners
Oct. 2 - Final - Semifinal winners

As sorry as I am to see fewer MLS teams in the Open Cup, I am happy to know that they are basing qualification standards on the 2006 results. Basing rewards on the ability of the team to play well might seem like a simple idea, but it has not always been the case for soccer in the US.

I just hope they will continue these smart ideas by having the third round be an open draw. There will be 16 teams in the third round with eight of them being from the MLS. It would be really weak if they seeded teams as to prevent two MLS sides from playing in that round. Have an open draw where any of the remaining 16 can play and they will really be on to something.

And what about some prize money? Well, the team that advances the furthest from each level except Division I earns a $10,000 cash prize. The runner-up takes home $50,000, while the champion collects $100,000.

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US Women look to win Four Nations title

It has been a difficult trip for coach Greg Ryan's untested group, but they still have a chance to pull off an amazing triumph ahead of September's World Cup.

The US women have tied both their earlier matches, placing them just 2 points behind China going into their final match. No matter what happens in the Germany-England match, the US will need a victory against China to come home champions. This will be no small order as the team has lacked a strong offensive attack during their first two matches.

If you find yourself awake at 3am ET, click on over to US and enjoy the game via matchtracker.


Real Salt Lake is dead

Less then three years after the world's greatest game came to Utah in professional form, it looks like it is over. Earlier today Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon made it official, they will not invest $30 million into the development of the stadium area in Sandy, killing the deal for Real Salt Lake. Team owner Dave Checketts quickly announced his disapproval with the move saying he will sell the team and they will move after the 2007 season.

Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan said he disagreed with Corroon's decision as his city had pledged $15 million to the project.

Corroon did say the county will still build a parking garage across from the site and if Real decides to fund their whole stadium, he will work with the team to find a "favorable agreement for parking."

It looks as if the parking lot offer will not be enough as the team had promised MLS to get a stadium in the league's smallest market or move the team.

With less then 200,000 people living in Salt Lake City, MLS took a major risk in placing a team there. The fact that this risk has failed them will probably make them very shy when it comes to placing teams in anywhere but the biggest markets. Now the question for Real is where will then end up?

Contenders include St. Louis, San Jose, Philadelphia, Seattle, Cleveland and Minneapolis. Will one of the groups involved with any of these cities be able to raise the needed cash and get a stadium deal moving?

The biggest losers here are the fans in Salt Lake. They were very loyal to their team and were an amazing display of how soccer can find supporters anywhere in the county.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Real stadium decision comes down to one person

Real Salt Lake's hope for a new home has had many twists over the last year and half, but now it looks like the final decision will come down to Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon (pictured).

At issue is $30 million in public money the club wants to help in the development of the site. Before signing off on this money, the county insisted on seeing deep into Real's books and business plan. A committee doing so gave a stinging review yesterday when they said that they do not think the team will survive.

Owner Dave Checketts said in a written statement, "...the committee has undervalued our experience in building and running professional franchises and entertainment venues." He added, “Further, they have overvalued a pessimistic view that Salt Lake County really doesn’t have the people and the market to make this sort of ‘major league’ project a reality.”

The committee voted 4-0 against the plan. Their recommendation now goes to Mayor Corroon who will make the final decision on the money.

Concerning his decision, Corroon would only say, "If I’m persuaded that it’s not a doable enterprise, I will not approve it. If it looks like it can work, I will approve it.”

With just about everyone else, including a few previous supports of the plan, now against the plan, it is hard to believe that Corroon will approve it. If he decides against it, Checketts will then need to make a huge choice, move the team or fight again.

No MLS team will make a profit without a stadium of their own. If Checketts cannot find a way to build one around Salt Lake, the companies bottom line will all but force him to move them.

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Onyewu heading back to France

It seems every team in the EPL was after Oguchi Onyewu, but in the end the "Gooch" decided to say "au revoir" to all those offers and head back to France.

Onyewu played his first professional ball with French team Metz back in 2002. Although he didn't get much playing time, he must have liked something about the country as he has now signed with famed club Olympique Marseille. The club offered $4 million to his current club Standard.

This move will give Onyewu playing time in a strong national league and regular play in the Champions League. All of which will make him an even better central defender.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

USL set their schedule

United Soccer Leagues have announced their schedules for the 2007 season. If you live in one of the many cities that have a USL team, why not take in a game or two.

The USL First Division starts on April 13 with Puerto Rico host the Virginia Beach Mariners. New club Carolina RailHawks start their campaign on April 21 with other rookie the California Victory opening on the road on April 28. The final day of the regular season is Sunday, September 9. In all, the first division will play 182 games.

The USL Second Division starts play with four matches on April 20 and 21 with new clubs the Crystal Palace Baltimore, Bermuda Hogges, Charlotte Eagles and New Hampshire Phantoms all having their first games on these dates. Their regular season will end with the season's 100th game on Saturday, August 11.

And the biggest division in all of USL, the Premier Development League, will open up their 504-game regular season on April 28th when the Fresno Fuego play host to the Bakersfield Brigade and the Ventura County Fusion host the Lancaster Rattlers. The next weekend sees 12 matches played. This huge season comes to a conclusion on July 22nd when eight matches will be played.

The opening night of the W-League is Friday, May 11 when Charlotte Lady Eagles play host to the Atlanta Silverbacks. The action continues with three matches the following night with the Toronto Lady Lynx hosting the Sudbury Canadians while the Long Island Rough Riders make their debut at home against the New York Magic and fellow expansion side Jersey Sky Blue host the Western Mass Lady Pioneers. Opening weekend ends on Sunday when the Richmond Kickers Destiny take to the road against the Hampton Roads Piranhas.

The 218-match season comes to an end on July 22nd with seven games.

If you live in the US, chances are at least one of these USL teams is located within 50-miles. Take a look at the website and find your local and then give them your support. If you want soccer to become a major sport in America, you need to build from the ground up.

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Houston in talks for stadium location

Houston Dynamo and city officials from Pearland have confirmed that they have been talking about the possibility of building a permanent soccer stadium. Pearland is located about 12 miles south of downtown Houston.

"The Pearland location is attractive because of growth along Highway 288 in the city, Pearland City Manager Bill Eisen said. The Pearland Town Center, which will include 147 acres of specialty stores, restaurants and a hotel, is being constructed in the area, along with what is expected to be the largest H-E-B in the Houston area, which will open in the spring. There also are two additional shopping centers being constructed."

Pearland is just one of a number of cities that the team has been linked to.

I really don't know the area at all, but from comments on previous posts, it seems Pearland is a good site, not far from downtown with good transportation options and a number of youth and adult soccer associations.

Pearland might not be the place but it is obvious that Houston needs a soccer stadium. The Dynamo earned a berth in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup when they won the MLS Cup, but they will not get to play that game in Houston. Instead, the team will travel about 100-miles north on Wednesday night to Texas A&M to play at their 3,000-5,000 seat soccer stadium. The reason, there is not enough parking available during week days at their regular home on the University of Houston campus and other Houston stadiums use artificial turf.

Houston has all the makings of being a huge soccer city, now they just need a home for the game.

For anyone around Texas A&M, if you want to see the CONCACAF Champions' Cup match against Costa Rican side Puntarenas on March 1, tickets are available for $20 via Ticketmaster.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

World Cup 2010 news

The first kick is still 40 months away, but there is lots of news coming out of South Africa as they race to be ready in time. Here is just some of the news.

The nine host cities for the tournament are asking the treasury to change some rules to help move construction along. One of the major rules they would like to see is a removal of the requirement that they must prove that they can pay for the whole construction process prior to the start of work.

One has to wonder what chance that rule has of changing when it was also reported that the cost of the World Cup has already forced the delay in construction on a modern hospital. The 200-bed facility has been delayed 12-months because the treasury needs the money for preparation costs.

Sadly, another reason for the delay in construction has to do with the high HIV rate in the country. One out of every 11 South Africans has HIV. Due to the high rates among students, construction firms are struggling to find enough local engineers and technicians to cope with the building boom in the nine host cities.

On a different subject, the head of security for the event does not think the high crime rate will be an issue for fans because "because crime is concentrated in areas away from the chosen venues."

However, even with all these problems, African leaders are set to restate their support for South Africa during their annual meeting next month. They will also declare 2007 the year of African Football.

Finally, the country does seem very excited over their new national team coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. He might have failed to lead the Brazilian side anywhere good in Germany, but South Africa feels confident he will help develop their 'no-name' side into a team that will not be knocked out in the first round. For his part, Parreira seems happy to be working with players with smaller egos.

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So it will be Celtic this year, let's just hope Becks doesn't dress

The Colorado Rapids and their new stadium might have lost out on MLS cup to RFK, but they will still get to play host the other two big MLS games this season.

They were already selected to kick off the season against DC United on April 7, however, now they will also host the MLS All-Star game. And this year the best MLS has to offer will play against Scottish giants Celtic.

They might not have the fan base of Chivas Guadalajara (2003), Brian McBride (Fulham, 2005) or the world spotlight of Chelsea (2006), but Celtic is a fantastic team with a wonderful tradition. Yes, DC United mopped the pitch with them during the visit to the states last year, but don't judge them just by that.

As much fun as it will be to watch Celtic on ABC, there is something very disturbing about all this as MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis has said that Beckham might take the field as a MLS All-Star.

"If he's available, he will be available to be selected (for the All-Star game)," Gazidis said. "There's two commissioner's picks. I leave you to speculate whether he'll get selected."

The game will take place on July 19th. If all goes as it currently looks, Beckham will still be part of Real Madrid till June 30. The schedule has not been released, but changes are he would have only played in, at most, three MLS matches before the All-Star game (and there is actually a very good chance he will have played in none).

There is no way that any player should be called an All-Star of the league after playing so few matches. I know MLS is so excited to expose their new multi-million dollar player to the US public, but let's not lose control here. If the All-Star game is a reward for good play during the first portion of the season, how can you place someone on the team that missed most or all of that season?

Beckham will, if nothing else, bring a lot of media attention to the league, but please do not insult the league by calling him one of the best before he has even proved it.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Captain America is coming home

Former US captain Claudio Reyna will reunite with former US manager Bruce Arena in New York. This news comes as little shock to anyone who has paid attention to Reyna over the last few months and once news came yesterday that Manchester City had released Reyna from his contract, it was obvious that Arena would soon welcome the midfielder to the home of the Red Bulls.

Still, just because it is obvious, doesn't mean it is not news. Reyna, when healthy, can control a midfield like few others. His ability to force plays will give New York something they were missing last season. Still, Reyna is often injured these days, so who knows how many games he will actually get.

Even with his injuries, it is wonderful to have Reyna playing in the US for the first time since his college days.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

US 3-1 Denmark

It has been a long time coming, but the US men returned to the win column yesterday in LA, however, that victory looked unlikely in the first 45.

Even with all the offense on the pitch, the US came out looking flat. Donovan was timid, Eddie Johnson was lost and the general intensity was very low. Denmark was able to take the ball again and again towards the American goal, but thankfully were denied good final chances.

When Denmark got the first goal, I was thinking it was going to be a long night, however, an extremely fortunate call gave us a penalty kick right before the half (yes, it was Ghana in reverse). Another dose of luck allowed Donovan's attempt to deflect off the keeper and into the net.

All tied at 1 going into the break.

Then there was the second half and the fresh faces started earning their keep. The second goal by Jonathan Bornstein was amazing, but it was Justin Mapp that did all the work. He beat six or seven defenders to place a great centering pass that Bornstein happen to get under. It really was a dream goal.

Finally, Kenny Cooper finished up the scoring with a great run and a smooth finish.

Wonderful work out there, but there is still much to do. The team was having trouble connecting passes, covering balls sent into the box and putting sustained pressure on Denmark's defense. If this is the team that shows up against Mexico, they will not walk away with a win.

That was the game, but lets talk about the commentary. I was happy to read in the comments that a number of people felt the same way about the Arena and Wynalda. It seemed like they were talking about everything except what was happening on the pitch. There was little play-by-play and even less explanation of how the team was trying to build up play. It's great that they can joke about so many insider things, however, those sort of things should only happen when play is stopped, not when the ball is in the opposition's third.

I do like that they were calling US Soccer out for the intern title in front of Bob Bradley's name, but even those taunts got old.

How difficult would it be to call the game that's happening in front of their eyes? It really is the only way they will attract viewers who know little about the game.

Anyway, it is great to have the US playing again. Next up, Mexico.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

US Men back in action - Starting lineup

US Men vs. Denmark
Today - 4pm
Online: US Soccer matchtracker

After a 212-day break, the US men at set to return to the pitch in just a few minutes.

This is a very different team then the one we last saw fall to Ghana 2-1, but they will be looking to shake off the stench of 2006 and open up this new year with a big victory against Denmark.

Coach Bob Bradley has released his first lineup and, interestingly enough, it contains 4 forwards.

G - Matt Reis
D - Jonathan Bornstein, Chris Albright, Bobby Boswell, Jimmy Conrad
M - Pablo Mastroeni, Ricardo Clark
F - Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan, Nate Jaqua, Chris Rolfe

It looks like all those calls for more offense have been answered.

Yes, this is an under strength match on both sides that means very little, but I am excited to see the men return to the field.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

US 4-1 Haiti

The Americans wanted to make a big splash with their first match and sure enough they did routing Haiti 4-1.

"The U.S. opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Andre Akpan redirected a long, looping cross from Anthony Wallace around Haiti goalkeeper Peterson Occenat and into the net. The scored doubled before halftime, as Akpan's point blank shot on a corner kick went off the post and trickled across the goal line as Occenat scrambled to try to stop it.

Four minutes after the half, Wallace and Akpan were involved again in a U.S. goal as left forward Robbie Rogers sent a cross that Akpan dummied and Wallace drove home. Rogers set up Akpan on the final goal with a back-post cross that Akpan finished inside the opposite post.

Haiti's lone goal came in the 74th minute when Etienne Yveson score a penalty that was awarded when Quavas Kirk pulled the shirt of the mark as he tried to get between the attacker and the goal."

The US is now in a prime position to take one of the top two spots in the group and earn a spot in the 2007 U-20 World Cup. It is good to know that even without Michael Bradley the team can dominate.

Next up for the US is Guatemala on Friday at 6:30pm ET.


Former US goalkeeper David Vanole has died

David Vanole, the US keeper during the 1988 Olympics and backup keeper to Tony Meola in the 1990 World Cup, died in Salt Lake City while on vacation with his family.

"Vanole became a coach, working with goalkeepers for the U.S. under-20 team at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship and the women's national team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was a goalkeeper coach at UCLA from 1995-2000, working with both the men's and women's teams, and coached with Major League Soccer's New England Revolution from 2004-06."

Vanole was just 43. He will be missed.


U-20 men ready for World Cup qualifier

US U-20 Men vs Haiti
6:30pm ET

The first of many big international competitions for the various US national teams begins today as the U-20 men take on Haiti in their 2007 U-20 World Cup qualifier opener.

They have been training in Florida and Panama on and off for the last month but now it is time for Freddy Adu, Quavas Kirk, Chris Seitz and the rest of the squad to prove it on the pitch.

Their group is made up of Haiti, Guatemala and host country Panama. The top two teams from the group will advance to the U-20 World Cup held in Canada this June. The US plays Guatemala on Friday and Panama on Sunday.

Focusing on the match with Haiti, Kirk said "We want to come out strong in the first game because it’s obviously going to set the tone for the rest of the tournament. If we come out and get those three points, then we’ll be in the driver’s seat so I think we’re going to come out hard and play our best."

Forward Robbie Rogers condenses the 'time to make an impression' even further. "Even the first 15 minutes, we need to set the tone of how we’re going to play the rest of the tournament. I think everyone is prepared, we’re going to bring a high level of energy and everyone is eager to start."

Those three points against Haiti are almost critical because the last thing the American side wants to do is go into Sunday's final match against Panama needing a full three points.

Haiti is a solid side and will prove difficult on set pieces. Look for them to test the midfield and try to take Adu out of the game.

The game will air live on GolTV. Their will also be live coverage on US Soccer's matchtracker.

By the way, the last time these two sides met during qualifying, the US won 2-0 thanks to goals by Eddie Johnson and Santino Quaranta.

Preki is new Chivas USA coach

The greatest US national team player ever born in Yugoslavia is the new head coach of Chivas USA. Preki (pictured) took over manager duties when Bob Bradley was selected as national team boss and today Chivas made the move permanent.

Preki was an assistant last year under Bradley and helped turn the team around after a disastrous first season.

Preki was one of the most successful players in the history of MLS. Even during his final year at the age of 41, he was still a threat. He scored his last goal in MLS during his final minute on the pitch.

It's great to see a legend take over a good coaching position.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

San Jose Earthquakes in stadium talks

Everyone's favorite 'on hiatus' MLS team the San Jose Earthquakes is in talks with San Jose State University to build a new multipurpose stadium just a few hundred yards from where they once played.

"The San Jose Mercury News reports that SJSU and the soccer team, which would be called the Earthquakes, would operate the stadium as partners. Unnamed sources told the newspaper that SJSU and the Earthquakes would keep revenue from their respective events and would split revenue from other events such as concerts."

A joint venture would be excellent, however, there is still a minor issue of funding to figure out. To make this plan work, Lew Wolff, co-owner of the Earthquakes, needs the city to allow him to purchase some prime industrial land and have it rezoned for residential usage. If that happens, he will be able to sell it for a large profit and use that money to help finance the stadium. This would improve the housing situation, however, it could hurt future industrial growth in the area.

However, there is a big plus that could help move this position forward as it includes near by youth fields for the community.

The Wolff group has till 2009 to get a team up and running, so something has to start happening soon.


Israel's match fixing scandal

It has been a little while since a match fixing scandal has hit the soccer world, but now Israel has broken they quiet as 11 arrests have been made.

These arrests focus on clubs in Northern Israel. Among those arrested was Hapoel Nazareth Illit club chairman Avshalom Nuriel, Bnei Sakhnin goalkeeper Meir Cohen, Maccabi Akhi Nazareth former player and current coach Hisham Zuabi, Hapoel Nazareth Illit player Meir Azulay, and two other players from the village of Yafia, near Nazareth.

Friday, January 12, 2007

2007 Draft, who did best

With the 2007 MLS draft in the books, we can start looking at which club did the best with their picks. Truth be told, we will not know for sure till sometime around 2010, but lets take a look.

Big winner - Colorado Rapids
Nico Colaluca is going to bring something nice to their midfield and Greg Dalby is a great add to their defense. Talking about defense, the Greg Vanney pick up from FC Dallas is another wonderful add. Colorado is going to have strength in their back and creativity in the middle.

Winners - FC Dallas, Toronto FC, Kansas City, New York, Chicago
All of these teams found players that are going to either plug holes in their current squads or will accent players already on the roster.

Flatline - New England, DC United, LA, Chivas USA
New England and DC were picking for the future. They have some players that in a couple of years will make an impact, but short term will not. All of LA's three second round picks seemed to be designed for future trades. Chivas did great with their first pick (John Cunliffe), but the rest were so-so.

Losers - Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo
This is the odd thing, both Real and Houston got good players, but they don't really fix any of the holes on their teams. Real got a fantastic keeper in Chris Seitz, but the one thing they don't really need is a keeper.

For Houston, they don't have as many holes to fill, but the John Hayden pick is a little odd. He's good, but he is not the best they could have done (Greg Dalby and Nate Norman were still available).

Big loser - Columbus Crew
Did they forget today was draft day? To be fair, they really didn't have a chance as they only had three picks with two of them coming in the fourth round. Brad Evans is a good get, even if he was hurt during the combine, but the lack of picks means they are going to need to do some trading to make something out of all this.


SuperDraft live thread

Here are the picks so far

01 - Toronto FC - Maurice Edu - M - U of Maryland

02 - Crew - Bakary Soumare - D - U of Virgina
He was one of the reasons his side got to the semis in the College Cup. He is a big man with some great raw talent.

03 - Wizards - Michael Harrington - D - North Carolina
Harrington is quick and makes smart plays. KC needed some defensive help and it looks like they have got some.

04 - Real Salt Lake - Chris Seitz - GK - U of Maryland, U-20 Nat team
Real get the best goalkeeper in college with this pick. At 6'4", Seitz will be a beast between the posts, but he can also get down fast for low balls. He has a big future ahead of him with the US national side as long as Real develops him right.

05 - New England (from LA) - Wells Thompson - M - U of Virgina
He can run at defenders and should fit the spot the Dempsey has left open

06 - Rapids (from NY) - Nico Colaluca - M - U of Virginia
He is a very creative player

07 - Chivas USA - John Cunliffe - F - Fort Lewis College
He has power up top. I'm surprised he didn't go a little earlier.

08 - Fire - Jerson Monteiro - F - U of Alabama
Another strong forward, but will need some time to develope.

09 - FC Dallas - Anthony Wallace - D/M - South Florida, U-20 Nat team
Wallace has been amazing with the U-20s, but he is going to need some training before he makes the huge impact that he is bound to make on the league. He is a Generation Adidas player so this is a very smart add by FCD.

10 - Toronto (from LA, from COL) - Andrew Boyens - D - New Mexico
This is a big deal for Mo and Toronto. Boyens has great talent and skill and will be ready to get into the game from day 1.

11 - United - Bryan Arguez - D/M - West Kendall, U-20
Another great standout on the U-20 team. He has wonderful ball control.

12 - Revolution - Amaechi Igwe - D - Santa Clara, U-20
The U-20s keep adding up. Igwe is listed as a defender but played forward in college. He can play just about anywhere.

13 - Dynamo - John Michael Hayden - M - Indiana University
Very interesting pick. Would have thought they would have gone with a defender instead of a more attacking mid.

Thus ends Round 1 and my live coverage of it all.


Maurice Edu slected first in MLS SupderDraft

Mo Johnson and Toronto FC have selected University of Maryland's Maurice Edu as the first pick in the 2007 MLS draft.

Edu was considered on of the NCAA's premier defensive midfielders but he was also a threat on offense.

"Maurice Edu is an extremely special young man," said Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski, who recruited Edu out of Fontana, Calif. "The level of interest in his ability from both Major League Soccer and European teams has become extremely intense. After three weeks of careful consideration, Maurice has decided to enter the professional ranks. He has both the physical and mental capacities to not only become a great pro but a full U.S. National Team member in the future.

"He has served our program and the athletics department in exemplary and honorable fashion for three years," Cirovski continued. "I am extremely proud of his development. Though it is a significant loss to our team, I speak for the entire Maryland soccer family when I say we wish him well."

Edu joins Freddy Adu, Brian McBide, Alecko Eskandarian and Marvell Wynne as fist picks in MLS drafts.

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Time for a SuperDraft

The 2007 MLS SuperDraft will begin in just one hour with Toronto FC and coach Mo Johnson making the first pick. You can follow all the action live on ESPN2 or on

Rumor has it that the University of New Mexico's Andy Boyens will be the first player selected. Boyens hails from New Zealand were he has played with their under-23 soccer team and was called up last June for their senior squad.*

Here is Eric Wynalda's take on him:
"My personal favourite, Boyens is very good in the air. He is a perfect fit for any defense in the league. He's a strong personality on and off the field: Best pick of the draft."

Here is the order of first round picks:
01 - Toronto FC
02 - Crew
03 - Wizards
04 - Real Salt Lake
05 - Galaxy
06 - Rapids (from NY)
07 - Chivas USA
08 - Fire
09 - FC Dallas
10 - Galaxy (from COL)
11 - United
12 - Revolution
13 - Dynamo

By the way, FC Dallas coach Steve Morrow is looking to find a player in the first round that could compete for a midfield spot right away, however he feels that the overall depth of this year's class is not as deep as in years past.

"There is a lot of quality, but I don't think the depth in quality is as good as in previous years," FC Dallas coach Steve Morrow said. "Even last year and the year before, you could get good, solid picks in the second and third round. I just don't know if you can get very good quality down the draft [this year]."

* Rumors were wrong as Maurice Edu was the top pick of the draft.


St. Louis will have a pro soccer team by 2008

Jeff Cooper (pictured), the man leading the effort to land a MLS franchise for St. Louis, has confirmed that professional soccer will be playing in St. Louis by 2008, however it might not be in MLS.

"We're going to play pro soccer in St. Louis in 2008 no matter what,'' he said. "We're working hard to get a proper stadium and get the league to have a reasonable number for the expansion fee. At the same time, we're working with the USL (United Soccer Leagues) Division I and youth organizations and trying to put that together."

Earlier this week, the city of Collinsville, Illinois, 15 miles outside of St. Louis, announced that they were very interested in building a soccer stadium, however they would need some money from the state. Cooper feels that, even with just 16-months till the 2008 season kicks off, they have enough time to get the stadium built and put a team together.

In addition to a men’s team, Cooper and company are open to the idea of having a women's pro team in the new WUSA. "We are very heavily involved in the re-establishment of the WUSA," Cooper said.

St. Louis needs professional soccer and it is good to see a group willing to make it happen. What would be really fun to see would be them landing both a MLS and WUSA team. Why not bring the two together?

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

LA Galaxy sell 1,000 season tickets in 4 hours

It has been a busy day for the LA Galaxy's ticket sales department as they sold 1,000 season tickets in just four hours. It was so busy the club had to setup a 'war room' to take orders.

The cheapest season ticket package was about $300, meaning they took in at least $300,000 today. Granted, that only pays for about 2 days of Beckham's salary, but it is still a big number.

The question now is how long can the team keep the interest going and will it last more then one season?

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FC Dallas looking to bring in their own Beckham

The designated player rule might get a second taker soon as FC Dallas is looking to sign Dutch international Edgar Davids (pictured) from Tottenham.

Davis transferred to Tottenham in August 2005 and has played 40 matches since then. However, he has not been used as much this season, so the team has said that they are willing to let the midfielder leave.

Thus enters FC Dallas, who is managed by former Arsenal midfielder Steve Morrow.

"We are actually in negotiations with Edgar Davids - we've been speaking for a couple of weeks," said Morrow.

"We were excited to hear about his availability, so we spoke to his agents and have been told he is available."

Davis is still a strong player, but his real value might be in his ability to help train younger players, who he often spends time working with after practices.

He will not get the coverage or the salary of Beckham, but he could be a wonderful fit for the club. He would bring experience and leadership to the club, plus take a look at those goggles. Wow.

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The Beckham media surge has begun

The $250 million Beckham deal is earning Major League Soccer some major headlines.

Who would have ever though that the morning after Bush announced an escalation in troops going to Iraq, the lead story on a number of America's biggest news websites would be about soccer? Not me.

CNN, NBC, Fox News and Yahoo have all made it their top story (as of 11am CT). While not being the top story at the Washington Post, USA Today or the LA Times, all three note it on their front page.

Back in England, both the Times and the Sun put it on their front pages.

Time will tell if Beckham is actually a good thing for the league, but he has already brought more news coverage to MLS then anything else they have done in the past 11 years.

Update: CNN's front page poll (towards the bottom of the page on the right) is actually about Beckham coming to the US.

Update 2: The CNN poll was up for about 3.5 hours and asked 'Will Beckham's move to US soccer increase your interest in the sport?' The vote was about 26% yes, 74% no. If 26% of the people who visit tune in for some MLS soccer, that will be a huge increase in the current fan level.

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Beckham going to LA

David Beckham is coming to MLS. All is official.

"I've played now for two of the biggest clubs in the world. I've played at the highest level for 15 years, and now I think I need another challenge," Beckham said.

It looks like MLS's Beckham rule will be used to get the man after which it has been nicknamed.

No word is official, but with Real Madrid giving Beckham the boot yesterday, it does look like this is not just another rumor.

By the way, the talk says he will be paid $9 million a season, the BBC is reporting the deal to be worth £128m over five years, or $250m. That's $50 million a year. To put the in perspective, the total guaranteed salaries of all players in the MLS for the 2006 season was about $23 million.

Look for MLS to go into total Beckham mood fast as every club will press the sale of tickets to matches against the Galaxy.

So, will Becks get the captain's armband or will Landon Donovan keep his top spot?

Update: Beckham will move to LA once his contract with Real Madrid ends on June 30 with his MLS debut likely to happen in early August.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Clarke back as coach, US Nats presale tickets & sin city gets soccer

Former FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke has a new home with USL First Division team the Virginia Beach Mariners. This marks Clarke's return to the USL where he previously coached the Richmond Kickers and the San Diego Flash.

Clarke was able to rebuild the FC Dallas program during his three years with the club, however left with no silverware.

The Mariners had a good run of play in 2003, but have failed to do much since. Last year they tied for the 9th spot (out of 12) in the division and dropped out of the US Open Cup in the third round after losing to Real Salt Lake in extra time.

Good news for Mariners fans, all three years Clarke spent as a USL coach resulted in his teams making the playoffs.

Meanwhile, back in Dallas, Hoops Nation members and season ticket holders can purchase presale tickets for the US vs. Guatemala match today. Hoops Nation members should have got an email while ticket holders should have got a phone call.

If you did not get such things, here is the solution.

Nation members need to email with a subject line of "USA". You will get an email with information soon after.

Season ticket holders need to call your account representative at 214-705-6700.

This pre-sale is only good today (Jan 10) till 11pm.

The Rocky Mountain rivalry will come a little early this year as Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids will play a preseason game on March 31 in Las Vegas. This match will be part of a triple-header featuring BYU and UNLV Men's and Women's Soccer programs. It will also be the last pre-season game for the teams.

The event will be held at Peter Johann Memorial Field located on the campus of the University of Nevada. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for kids.

Real says 'bye, bye' to Becks, Lalas screams 'HELLO!'

David Beckham will not be a galactico after this season, as his contract with Real Madrid will not be renewed, according to the club's sporting director Predrag Mijatovic.

When Beckham signed on with Real, it was such a huge event that the people actually paid to watch live coverage of his medicals. Now, four years, no trophies and more changes in management then most can remember later, they are only too happy to show him the door.

But wait, who is that redheaded stranger on the horizon screaming for all to hear? What is he saying, 'you can still be part of the Galaxy.'

Alexi Lalas has got to be happy with this situation. The idea of Beckham playing in MLS is still a bit of a stretch, but much less of a stretch then it was just yesterday.

I doubt money will be the sticking point in any negotiation, instead it will come down to Beckham being willing to, in many ways, end his career. Once he moves to the US, any idea of him being called back to the English squad is pretty much dead (although, that would not be much of a change) and the top clubs of Europe will write him off (but they might have already done that).

Beckham has about four good playing years left in him, he just needs to decide where those years will be spent. If they end up being on America soil, expect MLS to go all Beckham all the time for at least six-months.

Updated here

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Clint Dempsey gets work permit; Off to England he goes

It is official, Clint Dempsey is going to Fulham after receive his work permit today.

Congratulations to the Deuce!

Hopefully we will all see you on the pitch for the Cottagers real soon.

Future home of St. Louis MLS team?

St. Louis has always been a hotbed for soccer in the US, but MLS has not been able to place a team in the area. It, along with Philadelphia and Seattle, always seems to come up whenever expansion teams are discussed, only to miss out. However, it looks like the area could be one step closer to finally getting a team thanks, in part, to the city of Collinsville, Illinois, and an amphitheater that was never built.

Collinsville is about 15-miles from downtown St. Louis, Missouri and on Monday the mayor confirmed that the city is negotiating with private investors to bring a MLS club to town. Their desire is to build a stadium at the location of a now defunct amphitheater project (see red arrow on map for the location).

The site is located right next to Interstate 255 and was created as a tax increment-financing district in 2002. Basically the city has been looking to build something at this location for 5-years but has not been able to make it happen.

If this all gels, the future stadium would be very similar to those of other MLS clubs. It would have a stage for concerts, seat around 20,000 and host other non-soccer events through out the year.

This sounds like wonderful news, but if it happens I've got to wonder, what is wrong with Missouri as both the Kansas City and St. Louis teams would end up playing outside the state (that is if Kansas City ever actually finds a home)?

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Next Real problem - Pollution

As if the recent remarks about the future of Real Salt Lake's stadium were not bad enough, a new one popped up last night.

"Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller surprised the Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday when she announced that part of the land designated for the $110 million stadium may be tainted by petroleum, oil and other waste. "

The future home of Real had waste-oil storage drums stored on the property, and construction debris and other trash dumped there, but the big worry is a 1,000-gallon underground petroleum storage tank.

They will need to remove this tank and test the soil around it to discover if any leaking has accorded. If it has, the cleanup could cost millions and will delay and building on the site.

Under the proposed deal, the county would own the land under the stadium, but the county wants Real to indemnify them against any future environmental problems. Needless to say, Real is not jumping at the chance to be responsible for such messes.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Real Salt Lake Stadium Deal Dead again?

It seems Utah House Speaker Greg Curtis has not been impressed with Real Salt Lake's signing of Freddy Adu as he has declared the stadium deal for the team 'dead.'

Curtis has been one of the biggest supports of the stadium, however an extremely close re-election bid (he won by just 20 votes) that focused partly on the stadium issue might have changed his mind.

He now plans to introduce legislation that would take the hotel tax money that had been proposed for the stadium and redirect it to a Utah Transit Authority line to the airport. Money for the line was to come from the current sales tax on food, however, it looks like that tax will be removed soon.

However, team owner David Checketts has downplayed Curtis's statements saying that he feels they are do more to his frustration with local leaders not with the stadium idea.

Real is hoping to open the stadium on July 4, 2008, with a match against Real Madrid, however that looks less and less likely as the delays increase. That said, Checketts is sure of one thing, the team 'will sell beer' at the new stadium.

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US Men to play Guatemala in Dallas

Yesterday, Pizza Hut Park, home of FC Dallas, announced that 1.6 million people visited the park in 2006 for various events, thus showing that it is a popular destination. One of the many events they pointed to as a big success was the US men's match in February against Guatemala.

I guess they must have really like that game becuase they've decided to do it again.

US Soccer is expected to soon announce that the men will play Guatemala on March 28 at Pizza Hut Park. Both teams will use this match as a warm-up for the Gold Cup in June.

The game might also see FC Dallas stars Kenny Cooper and Carlos Ruiz face off against one another as Cooper is currently in his first US training camp and Ruiz is a lock for the Guatemalan squad.

This match would be the third game of the year for Bob Bradley (if he is still coach) and the US men.

Update: US Soccer has confirmed that this game will happen, however, they are hoping to play another game on March 25, making the game in Dallas their fourth of the year.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

DC United Sold!

At long last DC United has new ownership.

Almost one year ago the sale of the team to Global Development Partners fell apart, however, come Monday, the league will announce that new owners have been found.

These owners include Discovery Communications founder John Hendricks and real estate developer Victor MacFarlane along with DC United President Kevin Payne and former Duke basketball player Brian Davis. The deal is reported to be worth $33 million.

AEG, who have been running the club for the last five years, will reduce their MLS teams to three (LA, Chicago and Houston). It will also mean that this season will see 10 owners for the 13 clubs and the Eastern Conference will not have any teams owned by the same group.

This is outstanding news for the league. More owners mean more people interested in making the league a success. This is another good sign that MLS is growing.

Another interesting point, the failed 2005 deal was declared a historical event by the league because of the amount Global offered for the club. Just so you know, that deal was worth $25 million. It is a good sign that 18-months later, DC is now worth $33 million.

Welcome to the league.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

World Cup 2010 cost explosion

More bad news for South Africa's World Cup construction as the Durban municipality has delayed signing a contract for a new soccer stadium to be used for the 2010 finals.

Work on the King Senzangakhone stadium was suppose to start late this month, however, rising costs due to a scarcity of building materials has delayed such a move. Local officials say they are waiting to hear from the national government to see if they will cover the increased cost.

Rumors say the cost of this one stadium has increased to over 2 billion rand ($286.2 million), which brings up the over all mater of increased stadium costs.

Originally, the government had said they would spend 5.6 billion rand ($801.2 million) on the new 5 stadiums, but when the actual numbers were released, the cost was 8.8 billion rand ($1.26 billion). Now it looks like costs will increase from that figure due to the lack of building materials.

Then there is also the issue of the five stadiums that will only be upgraded. The government had promised 1.95 billion rand ($279 million), but the upgrade to the Johannesburg Soccer City stadium alone will eat up 1.2 billion ($172 million) of that, not taking into account this serge in building costs. That leaves very little for the other four stadiums.

With the clock starting to tick, it looks like South Africa has very few options available. They need to get the building started, which means they will need to increase the amount of money budgeted or find some new way of getting outside interests to finance this undertaking.

South Africa could host a wonderful final, however with the price tag increasing, many may wonder if it is really worth it. Will these stadiums just sit empty in the years that follow or will the increased infrastructure bring about a boom for the country? These questions are what the government needs to answer, while we all wait for their answers.

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Wizards have no home; want South American players

There is no way around it, things are currently not fun for Kansas City.

Back in November, the team's owners put $800,000 into the campaign for a new youth soccer complex in Johnson County, Kansas, which would surround a new soccer stadium, only to see the vote go against them 64-36. Seeing as the vote's opponents only spent $18,000, that has got to hurt ($1.3 million in total was spent by those in favor of the vote).

In December, all the other MLS teams were talking about their 2007 home openers, but the Wizards had to stand silent because, well, they have no place to play in 2007.

Now, in January, their hope of playing those 2007 matches at Raymore-Peculiar High School's Panther Stadium seems to be dead.

They might not have a pitch on which to stand, but that hasn't stopped the team from looking for more talent to place on the home TBA.

New coach Curt Onalfo and general manager Peter Vermes are hoping to add some Argentina and Chile talent to their team.

“Traditionally, MLS has gotten the foreign player who is older and on the verge of retiring,” he told the Kansas City Star. “Curt and I are of the opinion we want either a seasoned veteran who has maybe five good years left or a younger player on the verge of breaking out.”

Without a home, it will be hard to attract talent, but it is still good to see them trying. Who knows, maybe all this adversity will build character or at least a decent game.

By the way, nothing against the Wizards, but if they end up playing on some high school football field, I really hope they don't have a home game end up on ESPN2's Thursday night soccer match of the week. It just is not worth it.

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FSC to keep EPL games till 2010

Fox Soccer Channel will continue to air English Premier League matches in the US through 2009/10. The deal was announced today. Also, Fox Sports en Español have won the rights for the Spanish-language broadcasts.

There was no information on if FSC will continue to sublicense some of the EPL matches to Setanta Sports.


Fulham makes offer for Gooch

The cast of Americans at Craven Cottage might just double is all goes well for Fulham. The West London club has offered Standard Liege $1.96 million for US defender Oguchi Onyewu.

This deal seems very close to being final, as Sky Sports has reported that Onyewu has arrived in London for a medical and he did not travel with the rest of his team for a training camp in Portugal.

Fulham has been linked to the defender for some time.

If the deal for Onyewu and Dempsey goes through, that will bring the number of Americans on the club to four (just a couple more and they could play in the MLS).

Onyewu is ready to move up to one of the big leagues in Europe and the EPL will provide him with play against some of the best. It will also be nice to see him in the backfield with Carlos Bocanegra. The more playing time these two have together, the better it is for the national team.

That all said, Onyewu going to Fulham is not a done deal as he is also meeting with AC Milan about possibly moving to Italy.