Friday, June 27, 2008

Houston 1-1 FC Dallas - Bad call by ref still doesn't excuse all the missed chances

Houston Dynamo 1-1 FC Dallas

In ESPN's continuing effort to deprive soccer fans of the chance to actually watch scheduled events, the sports network pre-emptied the first half of last nights outing due to an overtime basketball game. I understand the need to show the basketball game, but why not throw the MLS match over to ESPN Classic or is the viewing audience for a 15 year old, middle-weight boxing match really so great that it would be a crime to do such a thing?

Anyway, to the game itself. Houston spent most of the first half looking like the team that won the last two MLS Cups with Stuart Holden and Bobby Boswell both having a standout game. The team caused trouble for Dallas all over the pitch, but they could not get that final touch till Brian Ching got on the end of a perfect Craig Waibel cross. Still, with the way FCD played in the first half, Houston has no excuse for not being up by two or more.

The second half saw FCD switch from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2, which closed down a lot of Houston's attack, at least for a little while, and allowed Toja more freedom and created open spaces, which Kenny Cooper exploited for his excellent goal in the 62'.

Then came a call so horrible it really killed the excitement of the game for me. Holden broke loss and was running right at Dallas's goal when Pablo Ricchetti brought him down from behind. Let's see, Ricchetti was the last defender, it was a scoring opportunity and Ricchetti did not come anywhere near playing the ball. This is the easiest red card to give but Kevin Stott failed to deliver. Had Stott gone by what the rules say, the final 15-minutes of this game probably would have been very different.

Even though the Dynamo were cheated, they still cannot blame this one mistake for their failure to earn all three points as they had at least two easy chances early in the second half that should have put the game out of reach.

By the way, I'm sure FCD fans will point to the failure of Stott to call another foul later as an excuse for his earlier blown call. Late in the game (I think it was the 90'), Boswell appeared to clip Dominic Oduro from behind under similar circumstance to Holden's event (except Boswell was actually trying to play the ball). The only problem with this argument is if Stott had made the red card call earlier, this play probably would not have happened. That said, Stott should have called a foul, but did not, probably as a makeup call.

This tie means the Western Conference continues to live in chaos with just 5 points separating first from sixth. It also means Houston now has seven ties, which is the same amount that had all of last season.

HD: Brian Ching (6) 21'
FCD: Kenny Cooper (8) 62'
Att: 16,933 (including about 30 FCD fans)
Video Highlights

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Asain 2010 World Cup Qualifying final group draw

The two groups have been drawn for Asia's final round of World Cup Qualification. Each group has five teams with the top two from each group advancing to South Africa. The third place teams in the groups will meet in a two-legged playoff with the winner playing the champion of Oceania.

Here are the two groups:
Group A

Group B
South Korea
Saudi Arabia
North Korea

Although both groups have their difficulties, it looks to me like Group B is the tougher one since three of the teams made it to Germany in 2006 (S Korea, Iran & Saudi Arabia), plus North Korea is always capable of a surprise.

Group A seems designed perfectly for Australia and Japan to make it through.

Group play starts on 6 Sept and runs through 17 June 2009.

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Former FIFA president says World Cups were fixed

Joao Havelange, president of FIFA from 1974-1998 claims the 1966 and 1974 World Cups were fixed and produced the exact results his predecessor to the job, England's Sir Stanley Rous, wanted.

Havelange, who is Brazilian, claims that during both finals, the referees made decisions that allowed European nations to advance and help the host country win the cup (1966 England, 1974 West Germany).

In the 1966 semifinal between England and Argentina, a ref gave Argentina's captain Antonio Rattin a direct red for arguing. England won the match 1-0. In 1974 he points to missed calls that resulted in Pele getting injured and Brazil losing their chance to play Germany in the final.

There are been theories for years that some sort of fixing happened but there has never been an official as high ranking as Havelange to back them. So is this true or is this just the talk of a proud South American?

As far as I can see, he doesn't offer any sort of proof other then the 'isn't it strange this happened' kind. The fact that calls seemed to go to the home country more often then not is no surprise. The additional fact that it was European refs that made a number of the calls against South American nations just adds fuel to the speculation, but without any proof, there really is nothing to this story.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

2008 US Open Cup - Second Round results

The second round of the US Open Cup is in the books and yet again the biggest factor is which team is in the higher division. During the first round, only one lower division team pulled off an upset, resulting in a 15-1 run for higher level clubs. Last night saw the higher division squad take 4 and lose 1, while 3 games involved clubs of the same level. That means that 86% of all games are won by the team higher up on the US Soccer pyrimid.

The Minnesota Thunder (USL-1) join the Portland Timbers (USL-1) as the only teams to lose to a lower division team as they lost 0-2 to the Cleveland City Stars (USL-2).

Here are the full results:
Harrisburg (USL-2) 2(1-3)2 CP Baltimore (USL-2)
Western Mass (USL-2) 1-2 Richmond (USL-2)
Rochester (USL-1) 3-0 Pittsburgh (USL-2)
Charleston (USL-1) 2-1 Charlotte (USL-2)

Carolina (USL-1) 1-0 Real Maryland (USL-2)
Minnesota (USL-1) 0-2 Cleveland (USL-2)
Miami (USL-1) 1-0 Atlanta (USL-1)
Seattle (USL-1) 6-0 Hollywood United (USASA)

The winners move on to round three where they will face a MLS team. If the 86% number holds, it means one MLS side will lose in round three. Who could it be?

Here is the schedule:
Houston Dynamo (MLS) at Charleston Battery (USL-1)
Blackbaud Stadium, Charleston, S.C., 7:30 PM

New York Red Bulls (MLS) at Crystal Palace Baltimore (USL-2)
UMBC, Catonsville, Md., 7:30 PM

Kansas City Wizards (MLS) at Carolina Railhawks (USL-1)
WakeMed Soccer Park - Cary, N.C., 7:30 PM

Rochester Rhinos (USL-1) at DC United (MLS)
Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, Md., 7:30 PM
Broadcast: English/Spanish Radio (DCU)

Richmond Kickers (USL-2) at New England Revolution (MLS)
Veterans Stadium - New Britain, Conn., Time TBD

Cleveland City Stars (USL-2) at Chicago Fire (MLS)
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill., 8:30 PM

Miami FC (USL-1) at FC Dallas (MLS)
Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas, 8:30 PM

Chivas USA (MLS) at Seattle Sounders (USL-1)
Starfire Sports Complex, Tukwila, Wash. - 10:00 PM

By the way, home pitch advantage is limited as home sides went 10-6 in round 1 and 3-5 in round two. In matches were the teams were in the same division, home teams only went 1 for 3.

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FIFA - Even though Qatar cheated, they still get to advance

FIFA has denied Iraq's appeal to disqualify Qatar from World Cup Qualifying even though it admits Qatar did not play by the rules.

This Sunday saw Qatar beat Iraq 1-0 to advance to the final round of Asian WCQ, however one of their players was not eligible to play for Qatar.

Marcio Passos De Albuquerque, know as Emerson, was born in Brazil and represented Brazil at youth level, thus he was ineligible. In addition, he 'was also reported to have been detained by Brazilian police back in 2006 for falsifying his age on his birth certificate.'

FIFA's response: 'The player is not eligible to play for Qatar and cannot play any further matches for the representative team of Qatar.'

The loss to Qatar resulted in Iraq placing third in their group, thus missing the final round by just one point. Emerson did not play in this match, however he did play in the earlier game on 6 Feb, which Qatar won 2-0. This was the only group match in which Emerson played.

FIFA says that Iraq waited to long to file their complaint.

It seems to me that if FIFA knew that an illegal player was used in a match, the team should be forced to forfeit the game, even if their FA didn't know the player was ineligible. A team should not be able to prosper from illegal activities in the past.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

US WNT - Olympic roster has Hope but no Scurry

Hope Solo is returning to China while Briana Scurry is staying home.

Less then a year after coach Greg Ryan set off a goalkeeper firestorm by benching Solo ahead of their World Cup semifinal match against Brazil in favor of Scurry, Hope will finally get her chance to win a big tournament in China.

New coach Pia Sundhage has decided that Solo is the better keeper at this time and will likely be her number one between the posts in August. Sundhage said that Scurry's national team duty might not be finished depending on how she does in the new Women's Pro League.

Nicole Barnhart will act as backup keeper.

The full roster is:

GK: Nicole Barnhart, Hope Solo

D: Rachel Buehler, Lori Chalupny, Stephanie Cox, Kate Markgraf, Heather Mitts, Christie Rampone

M: Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Angela Hucles, Carli Lloyd, Heather O'Reilly, Lindsay Tarpley, Aly Wagner

F: Natasha Kai, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach

Half these players were on the 2004 squad that took gold in Athens.

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Even Pele gets robbed in Brazil

Pele, the soccer legend himself, was robbed by an armed gang earlier this month. Pele was the passenger in a car that was stuck in traffic when a gang of 10 armed men surrounded his vehicle. The men took his gold necklace, a mobile phone and a watch.

His driver was also robbed, however when the gang recognized Pele, they returned items to the driver but not to the super star.

"Pele, who is said to have remained calm during the robbery, apparently believed the men were high on drugs."

Police say these types of robberies are common in Brazil, which I'm sure is not what FIFA wants to hear ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

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US 1-0 Barbados - US advances

US 1-0 Barbados

In a game that saw the favorites look tired and even more defensive minded then normal, the underdogs had their chance to run the game. But unlike the Italy-Spain Euro match, the US was able to see their opposition out of the competition.

Yesterday's game was a flashback for me as right from the opening moments, it reminded me of some late-80's games due to the horrible video production. Combine that with the frustration of the US to break through a Caribbean nation's backline and a crowd that was less then present and it was just like the old days (except the broadcast wasn't on some UHF channel that I didn't even know I got nor was the game tape delayed to 3am nor was it dubbed in Spanish).

The good news, unlike the old days, the team on the pitch was not our A-team and that was probably the biggest lesson of the day.

This is the type of match the US men are going to see a lot of over the next 16-months as we begin the full World Cup Qualifying run. The 'lesser' teams of Concacaf are all going to adopt a similar structure to Barbados and play heavy defense while hoping for something on the counter. This is nothing new, but it still gives the US problems.

Overall, it was a boring game that saw Barbados have the better run of play for most of the second half. A few players looked good (Szetela, Lewis, Pearce, Adu), some had their moments (DeMerit, Califf) and some looked a bit under focused (Bradley, Guzan, Beasley, Moor). Nothing came out of this game that is going to cause major changes to Bradley's future lineups (with the possible exception of getting Kenny Cooper on to the pitch).

The US senior men are off till August 20th, when they travel to Guatemala to take on Carlos Ruiz and La Azul y Blanco.

One last thing, great idea by the USL-1 teams to sponsor all the boards during this match.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

US starting lineup for Barbados World Cup Qualifier leg 2

US vs. Barbados
2:55p ET/ 11:55A PT
TV: ESPN classic, Galavision

Less then an hour to go till the US plays their second leg World Cup Qualifier against Barbados and Bob Bradley has released his lineup.



Kljestan-Bradley-Szetela-Lewis (c)


This is a very different lineup from last week with only four players starting both games (and only three are in the same position). With DeMerit and Califf taking over the center back and Moor out on the right, Pearce is now the experienced member of the defensive line.

The US will win this game, but expect Guzan to have a little more to do today.

Adu will have a lot of opportunities to open up on the offense front, but will he be able to turn his fancy footwork into goals?

By the way, this is the Word Cup Qualifying debut for Moor, DeMerit, Califf, Klejstan and Szetela.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Clint Dempsey gives back to his Nacogdoches roots

US international Clint Dempsey, who is back home in Nacogdoches, Texas, played a friendly game of soccer at the Stephen F. Austin State University intramural field Wednesday.

This is a class move by Dempsey and a great way to help move soccer forward in the US. Nacodoches is a city of just 30,000 in East Texas, so Dempsey coming to play is big news.

Hopefully while in town, he can take it easy before he heads back to pre-season training with Fulham in July.

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Bradley names his roster for Barbados World Cup Qualifier

USA vs. Barbados
Sunday - 2:55p ET/11:55a PT
TV: ESPN Classic & Galavision (Spanish)

Bob Bradley has released his 18-man roster for the second leg of the US-Barbados World Cup Qualifier. With the US up 8-0, the starting lineup is likely to include a number of younger players.

Here is the full roster:

GK (3): Dominic Cervi, Brad Guzan, Chris Seitz

D (6): Carlos Bocanegra, Dan Califf, Jay DeMerit, Drew Moor, Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce

M(6): DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Eddie Lewis, Danny Szetela, John Thorrington

F (3): Freddy Adu, Chad Barrett, Chris Rolfe

The big thing I notice is the lack of Tim Howard and Eddie Johnson from the list as they were not players he released earlier in the week. The Howard move makes sense since he has a minor injury and Guzan (who got called back into camp) needs the international cap. The lack of Johnson is good since we need to find some other forward options, although Barbados is not much of a test.

Some people might wonder why Lewis is in there, but it makes sense since the experience of most of the players is limited. Good to have some old timers in to bring the experience.

Here is my guess at a starting lineup:

GK: Guzan
D: Moor, Califf, Bocanegra, Pearce
M: Kljestan, Bradley, Lewis, Beasley
F: Adu, Barrett

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Jack Warner in another money fight - Wants T&T to play all home games abroad

Can FIFA VP and Concacaf President Jack Warner have any aspect of his life not surround buy chaos? If not, could the chaos at least not have anything to do with money just once?

Mr. Warner has asked FIFA to allow T&T to play all future home fixtures abroad because he is unhappy with the fees the T&T Ministry of Sport change the team to play at Hasely Crawford Stadium.

This fight over stadium costs almost lead to the cancellation of England's 'remember this visit come 2018 voting time' match earlier this month. In that case, a court ruled the ministry could not charge 10% of gate receipts as a fee. Instead, the court ordered a lump sum payment of $24,000.

Warner liked that idea then but when the ministry asked for the same rent for last weekend's match against Bermuda, he wasn't so thrilled saying it is 'ludicrous' to charge the same fee for Bermuda as for England. Perhaps the 10% plan might have worked out a little better.

So let's see, Warner is fighting with T&T's best players because he doesn't want to pay them the money he promised them ahead of the 2006 World Cup and know he is fighting with the T&T government over rent for the stadium. And let's not even bring up the issue of 2006 World Cup tickets. Awesome.

In the end, this might all be for nothing as T&T are down 2-1 going into their second World Cup qualifying leg in Bermuda.

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Carlos Bocanegra is off to France

US center back Carlos Bocanegra is no longer without a club as he has signed a three-year contract with French side Rennes. This move means Portsmouth defender Djimi Traore will not be part of the club next season.

Rennes are a good French side, but not one the of the best. They have made it to the UEFA Cup twice in the last 3 years, however both times they failed to get out of the group phase.

The good side of this is he will get a lot of playing time. The bad side, the French league doesn't have the same top-quality players as the EPL or the other top leagues in Europe.

Still, congratulations to Bocanegra and good luck learning French. By the way, Rennes is about 210 miles west of Paris.

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MLS Expansion - NFL's Atlanta Falcons owner still interested in MLS side

Although Atlanta is seldom mentioned as one of the front-runners for a MLS side, Arthur Blank, the owner of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, is still very interested in bringing a team to the city. It would also seem that the league is just as interested, calling Atlanta 'a "tremendous" potential market that would expand the league's footprint into the Southeast.'

But just like so many other expansion cities, before Blank can see another professional team into Atlanta, he needs to come up with a stadium plan. His group has looked at 'about six' metro-Atlanta counties as possible home sites, however they have not narrowed it down. Another possible way of reading this is that no city has stepped up to offer the group a good public-private funding plan for a stadium.

As far as what the group would like to see in a complex, they would like "an 80-acre to 100-acre site could contain an MLS stadium, parking lots and soccer fields for local leagues and regional tournaments." This description points to a suburban stadium instead of something closer to downtown. They also imagine that the earliest such a complex could open in 2012.

So what does MLS think of Atlanta? They like it:
"We believe Atlanta can be a tremendous market for a Major League Soccer team," said Dan Courtemanche, the league's senior vice president of marketing and communications. "First and foremost, it's a very diverse market ... and clearly a strong market for soccer participation. ... And Arthur Blank's group is a tremendous group, no question there. We think they would be a perfect group to expand the MLS presence south of Washington, D.C."
Having a team in the Deep South is something that needs to happen and Atlanta is the obvious choice. However, any team playing there will need to do something about the heat, both during the games and during practice (look how hard Dallas gets hit every August for more on this).

One other interesting point, when talking about other possible expansion cities, Courtemanche names the regular crew however he places a little disclaimer in front of Miami, saying that the city is interested "to a lesser degree" then others. I guess they still cannot find a good ownership group for the area.

So where to place Atlanta is the list of possible expansion city? I would say that at this point, they are below the likes of St. Louis, Vancouver, Portland and New York, on par with Montreal and above Las Vegas, Ottawa, San Diego and Miami.

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Canadian men's team wants Montreal to be home pitch

The Canadian men's team wants to make their first world cup appearance since 1986 and they think playing at Montreal's Saputo Stadium is the way to do it.

Tonight sees them take to the Saputo grass pitch for the first time as they try to finish off St Vincent & the Grenadines in the return leg of a two-game series and many players think this field will give them what they need to win.
"Everyone has agreed this is the best pitch there is in Canada, but the CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) and whoever works for the CSA want us to play in (Toronto's) BMO Field and Edmonton as well," midfielder Julian de Guzman said Thursday. "Stuff like that will affect us immensely going toward the World Cup. We feel very comfortable right here."
So, what seems to be the problem? The players feel they play better on the real grass and like the facility. Well it turns out the CSA has a deal with BMO field to play at least six national team-related games there every year. Also, the CSA refers to BMO as 'Canada's national soccer stadium.' The good news, those six games 'are not limited to the national senior men's squad' and as far as BMO's label, what's really in a name?

This is just the latest in the back-and-forth between national team players and often tone-deft CSA. Hopefully someone in management will listen to their players and the coach and not force them to play the biggest games on a synthetic surface.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

US beats Italy; face Canada in the Championship

Congratulations the US Women's team who beat Italy 2-0 today to win their group and a spot in the Peace Queen Cup finals on Saturday.

The win mean the women took all three-group games, including a 1-0 win against Brazil (a little better then their World Cup result from last year). Also, their offense seems to be back as they out scored their opposition 5-1.

The final will be a rematch of 2006 as America's neighbor to the north will try to extract their revenge. The Canadians walk out of their group as undisputed masters as they took all 9 points with a +9 goal difference (10-1). As impressive as this is, it must be noted that the US faced the number 4,12 & 13 teams in the world while Canada faced off against the 23,24 and 27th.

This is the fourth final the US women have played in this year and the second involving Canada. So far the US is 3-0.

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Bradley adds players to Barbados roster

A couple days slimming his roster down to 12, it looks like US coach Bob Bradley is about to fatten things up with the addition of a bunch of MLSers.

Various reports have Bradley calling Drew Moor (FC Dallas), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake), John Thorrington (Chicago Fire), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire) and Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire).

There is one domestic player getting a look as Danny Szetela (Brescia Calcio - Italy) will also join the team.

With the Fire playing tonight, it is no surprise that a number of their guys get the call, while Seitz is Real's backup keeper so no harm. However, Drew Moor is a bit of a knock for his club as he has started 12 of FCD's 13 games.

As far as play, looking at the competition they will face, I'm sure these players will do fine.

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MLS Expansion - Ottawa enters the running

The line for a MLS expansion team just got a little longer as Eugene Melnyk, owner of the NHL's Ottawa Senators, has meet with league officials to discuss a move to Canada's capital.

The report says Melnyk and MLS met last Thursday. Although no specifics are known, Melnyk does bring with him a $1.4 billion fortune to back up any bid. Also, Frank Clair Stadium, which was used during last summer's U-20 World Cup and seats just under 27,000, is all ready built, however it is in need of some renovation.

Ottawa currently has an USL-PDL side, the Ottawa Fury, but Melnyk is not involved in the ownership of the team.

I would place Ottawa towards the back of the pack at the moment since other cities seem to be further along on talks. Still, with some big money possibly behind this bid, it could easily move up if Vancouver can't figure out their stadium situation or St. Louis fails to find more investors.

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Beckham to jump out of bus at Olympics

It looks like David Beckham will make it to the 2008 Olympic Games as he will be part of the big 'London in eight-minutes' performance during the closing ceremony (London hosts the next Olympic games).

It appears 'Beckham will enter the stage in a double-decker bus and jump off the bus.'

Wow! Let's just hope he doesn't tweak his knee as he jumps.

The good news is it doesn't look like he will miss any matches to make his leap as LA plays on 21 and 30 Aug and the closing ceremony will take place on the 24th.

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Tampa gets pro team; Houston Dynamo expand into Texas Rio Grande Valley

Seven years after MLS folded the Tampa Bay Mutiny, a move that caused many to predict the sudden demise of the league, professional soccer is returning thanks to a new USL First Division squad. The new team will begin play next season.

This announcement comes one day after 'Hillsborough County commissioners gave limited approval to building a $15 million soccer complex and stadium at a site to be determined' but a spokesperson for the team says the two are unrelated as the owners want to build their own stadium in northwest Tampa. The proposed new stadium would seat between 6-7,000 and be expandable.

By joining the league now, the new owners were able to pay the current expansion fee of $350,000. After 15 August, the fee will increase to $750,000.

The new Tampa club will join the Austin Aztexs as an expansion USL-1 team next season.

This all sounds like a great move for the league and soccer in southern Florida, especially since the stadium project is not looking for public money. With a good place to call home and a stable financial situation, this new Tampa Bay club will have a much easier time then the Mutiny.

In other expansion news, it looks like the Houston Dynamo will expand into the Texas Rio Grande Valley. According to this report, after seeing the talent in the area through team sponsored youth academies, they feel a professional team could do well here and hope to bring a USL-PDL team in the area in the next 18-months.

It comes as no surprise that there are quality soccer players along the Texas-Mexico border. What is a surprise is that the no one else has stepped up to make this happen earlier.

If this does happen, there could be an interesting twist as the Houston area has a team in the PDL, the Houston Leons, however they are not affiliated with the Dynamo.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bob Bradley sends 10 players home

US coach Bob Bradley has released 10 players from camp ahead of their second leg match against Barbados. Most of the players are MLS based, so this is not much of a surprise, however I kind of thought he would keep Guzan around in case Howard is still having back issues (plus if Guzan still wants to move to England, he needs more international caps).

Here is the list:
Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Steve Cherundulo (Hannover 96), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids) and Matt Reis (New England Revolution)

So the players still in camp are:
GK: Dominic Cervi, Tim Howard
D: Carlos Bocanegra, Dan Califf, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce
M: Freddy Adu, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Eddie Lewis
F: Eddie Johnson

Unless Bradley is really confident, it looks like he will need to call a few more folks in. Some players that I wouldn't mind see added to his roster are Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake) or Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC).

These are many attacking players, which makes sense as it is the US's weakest area. Then again, evaluating their play against a team like Barbados is not going to give you much.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage Schedule

Yesterday saw the draw for the first ever Concacaf Champions League group stage. The two seeded MLS sides, DC United and Houston Dynamo, were drawn into groups A & B respectively.

As far as the other MLS clubs, if New England beat Joe Public FC in their preliminary playoff, they will move into group C along with Atlante FC. Chivas USA faces a possible date with Club Santos Laguna in the Group D.

MLS will likely have a fifth team in the group due to Canada getting one spot. If TFC does make it, they will join the Revolution in Group C.

The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout phase.

Since over half of the teams in the group phase are not known at this time, it is difficult to point to who has the toughest group, but it does look like Group A could turn into a very difficult one if Cruz Azul and Olimpia both advance (although Marathon is not much better).

After the playoff runs take place (26 Aug - 4 Sept), we'll be able to see who has, on paper, the hardest road to the knockout phase.

Group A
DC United (USA)
Deportivo Saprissa (CRC)
Winner: Cruz Azul or Hankook Verdes
Winner: Isidro Metapan or Marathon

Home Team Listed First (All times Eastern)
16 Sept D.C. United – Deportivo Saprissa (8p)
17 Sept Isidro Metapan or Marathon – Cruz Azul or Hankook Verdes (10p)

23 Sept Cruz Azul or Hankook Verdes – Deportivo Saprissa (TBD)
24 Sept Isidro Metapan or Marathon – D.C. United (10p)

30 Sept Deportivo Saprissa – Isidro Metapan or Marathon (10p)
01 Oct D.C. United – Cruz Azul or Hankook Verdes (8p)

07 Oct Cruz Azul or Hankook Verdes – Isidro Metapan or Marathon (8p)
09 Oct Deportivo Saprissa – D.C. United (10p)

21 Oct Cruz Azul or Hankook Verdes – D.C. United (10p)
23 Oct Isidro Metapan or Marathon – Deportivo Saprissa (8p)

29 Oct D.C. United – Isidro Metapan or Marathon (8p)
29 Oct Deportivo Saprissa – Cruz Azul or Hankook Verdes (8p)

Group B
Houston Dynamo(USA)
CD Luis Angel Firpo (SLV)
Winner: Jalapa or San Francisco FC
Winner: Harbour View FC or Pumas UNAM

Home Team Listed First (All times Eastern)
16 Sept Jalapa or San Francisco – Harbour View or Pumas (TBD)
17 Sept Houston Dynamo – CD Luis Angel Firpo (10p)

23 Sept Jalapa or San Francisco – Houston Dynamo (TBD)
24 Sept Harbour View or Pumas – CD Luis Angel Firpo (TBD)

30 Sept Harbour View or Pumas – Houston Dynamo (TBD)
02 Oct CD Luis Angel Firpo – Jalapa or San Francisco (8p)

08 Oct Houston Dynamo – Jalapa or San Francisco (10p)
09 Oct CD Luis Angel Firpo – Harbour View or Pumas (10p)

22 Oct Houston Dynamo – Harbour View or Pumas (10p)
22 Oct Jalapa or San Francisco – CD Luis Angel Firpo (TBD)

28 Oct CD Luis Angel Firpo – Houston Dynamo (10p)
29 Oct Harbour View or Pumas – Jalapa or San Francisco (TBD)

Group C
Atlante FC (MEX)
CD Olímpia or CD Marathon (HON)
Winner: Joe Public FC or New England Revolution
Winner: Montreal Impact or Real Esteli

Home Team Listed First (All times Eastern)
17 Sept Montreal or Esteli – Joe Public FC or New England Revolution (TBD)
18 Sept Atlante – HON1 (10p)

24 Sept Joe Public FC or New England Revolution – HON1 (8p)
24 Sept Montreal or Esteli – Atlante (TBD)

30 Sept Atlante – Joe Public FC or New England Revolution (8p)
02 Oct HON1 – Montreal or Esteli (10p)

08 Oct Joe Public FC or New England Revolution – Montreal or Esteli (8p)
08 Oct HON1 – Atlante (10p)

21 Oct Montreal or Esteli – HON1 (TBD)
21 Oct Joe Public FC or New England Revolution – Atlante (8p)

28 Oct HON1 – Joe Public FC or New England Revolution (8p)
28 Oct Atlante – Montreal or Esteli (10p)

Group D
Club Santos Laguna
CSD Municipal or Deportivo Jalapa
Winner: LD Alajuelense or Puerto Rico Islanders
Winner: Chivas USA or Tauro FC

Home Team Listed First (All times Eastern)
16 Sept LD Alajuelense or Puerto Rico Islanders – Chivas USA or Tauro (TBD)
17 Sept Club Santos Laguna – GUA1 (8p)

23 Sept Chivas USA or Tauro – GUA1 (TBD)
25 Sept LD Alajuelense or Puerto Rico Islanders – Club Santos Laguna (TBD)

01 Oct GUA1 – LD Alajuelense or Puerto Rico Islanders (8p)
01 Oct Chivas USA or Tauro – Club Santos Laguna (TBD)

07 Oct GUA1 – Chivas USA or Tauro (10p)
08 Oct Club Santos Laguna – LD Alajuelense or Puerto Rico Islanders (8p)

22 Oct Club Santos Laguna – Chivas USA or Tauro (8p)
23 Oct LD Alajuelense or Puerto Rico Islanders – GUA1 (TBD)

29 Oct Chivas USA or Tauro – LD Alajuelense or Puerto Rico Islanders (TBD)
30 Oct GUA1 – Club Santos Laguna (10p)

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FC Dallas hires Hyndman as coach

After years of talk, SMU's Schellas Hyndman is the new coach of FC Dallas. Hyndman is the fifth coach for the Dallas franchise and was the college coach of FCD owner Clark Hunt. Hyndman had 24 solid years at SMU, however he never reached the NCAA soccer finals.

This move comes at a time when FCD is playing below their talent level. With the exception of Kenny Cooper, few players have been consistent threw the first half of the season and their defense is still prone to weakness (but then again, so are most in the West).

Hyndman will need to figure out many things quickly including how to make FCD's midfield competitive, but his biggest short-term test might be surviving August. With three of the team's four games on the road and with Dallas's history of faltering during the month, Hyndman will need to work fast. The good news for him, the club has a very light July (only three games) and all are in Frisco.

I'm still concerned that Hyndman doesn't bring the influence needed to change the system in Dallas, but I do hope I am wrong. Perhaps the Dallas soccer icon can make it finally happen for FCD.

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Ronaldinho rejects LA Galaxy move

Ronaldinho still believes he can play at the top level in Europe so he will not be moving to LA. And with these words, Ronaldinho's representatives kill Alexi Lalas's dream of a modern day Cosmos franchise (original Spanish article).

It appears the Galaxy offered the Brazilian €32m of $50m-per-year, with half coming from salary and the other half from image rights. These numbers would have put him on par with Beckham. They also offered Barcelona €26m or $40m as a transfer fee.

Now the bigger question here is, if this report is correct, how could LA actually have signed Ronaldinho? They are already riding hard against the salary cap with three players taking up about half of the team's paycheck. Would the league have allowed LA to acquire another designated player slot even though it already has three players that fit the requirements for such slots (although only one actually is)?

As much fun as it would be to have Ronaldinho playing meaning matches on US soil, it would have been very disturbing if MLS let it happen in LA. If the league wants to be taken seriously, they need to apply the rules equally to all teams and not grant exceptions just because it would be really cool.

That being said, I do like the idea of teams going after stars still in their prime, so kudos to LA on that front.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

MLS Expansion - Could NBA's Steve Nash bring a MLS team to Vancouver?

There are three facts that no one can argue. One, the NBA's Steve Nash is a huge soccer fan. Two, the USL's Vancouver Whitecaps would love to move to MLS. Three, MLS has been more then just a little impressed with the results out of Toronto, thus is very open to the idea of another team in Canada. So the question is, can these three facts turn into a top-league team for Vancouver?

According to Steve's brother, Martin Nash, the basketball star is interested in helping bring MLS to Vancouver. It should be noted that Martin happens to play for Vancouver.
"He's trying to get involved. I don't think he's very involved yet but he wants to get involved. He just wants to give the game of soccer a higher profile in Canada...

Soccer is our first-love sport. We grew up playing it and my dad played it and still plays it, so it's just something embedded into us."
So could there be something to this? Might Nash be the man that helps push Vancouver into MLS?

According to league officials, um, we don't know:
MLS commissioner Don Garber met Steve Nash in May and wrote on the league Web site that the two-time NBA MVP may be interested in getting involved as part of an ownership group trying to bring a team to Canada.

Mark Abbott, the president of MLS, said the league is hesitant to speculate further.

"Steve Nash is obviously interested in soccer in Canada and what his role is ... I don't know how to say it, he would have to say what his role is with respect to that," said Abbott, who is the league's spokesperson on expansion issues.
Nash is already involved in the new Women's professional league, so this doesn't just appear to be idle talk. My guess is if Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot could figure out the stadium issue, Nash would join up in an Oscar De La Hoya style move.

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Santino Quaranta - There weren't enough pills in the world for me

Before Freddy Adu or Jozy Altidore, there was Santino Quaranta, the great young hope for American soccer. He had loads of talent and looked to be a player around which a team could be built, so at age 16, DC United signed him to a pro-contract. All started out fine, but soon the pressure and loneliness of a child in an adult's world would get the better of him.

In a must read interview from this past weekend, Quaranta tells his tale, which includes addiction to painkillers, cocaine and alcohol. Even though you've hear this story before, young rising star turns to the party life only to see everything else crash around him, it is still worth a read.

Thankfully DC United recognized that they, in part, failed too and offered Quaranta a second chance. The fact that he looks to be making the most out of this chance is excellent.

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Other Concacaf World Cup Qualifer results

As much fun as it is to only focus on the great show the US put on yesterday, there were ten other Concacaf Qualifiers over the weekend. So how did they turn out? Most of them went as expected, but there were a couple shocks.

Trinidad and Tobago 1-2 Bermuda - T&T get shocked at home by Bermuda. Could the team's dream of back-to-back World Cups crash out next weekend? If so, will Jack Warner get any heat for the way he destroyed the team?

Haiti 0-0 Netherlands Antilles - Haiti are the reigning Caribbean champions and Antilles held them on the road. Not as big an upset as T&T, but still something to watch.

Suriname 1-0 Guyana - The battle of the South American members of Concacaf ended in a minor surprise as Suriname beat the seeded Guyanese. The return leg is going to be fun.

Grenada 2-2 Costa Rica - This was a much tougher start then Costa Rica wanted. On the plus side, they did come back from two goals down to get the tie, but will this be enough for coach Hernán Medford to keep his job?

Panama 1-0 El Salvador - Panama has to be worried going into their second leg. The rains slowed this game down, which worked for El Salvador.

Belize 0-2 Mexico - Mexico continued their tradition of under performing against teams they do not respect. This match was never in question as Belize pretty much just sat 10 players behind the ball, but it is still a poor game by El Tri.

Guatemala 6-0 Saint Lucia - Looks like the US will have to deal with the little fish again as Carlos Ruiz netted four in this one.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 0-3 Canada - Ali Gerba was the hero for Canada as he netted two. Canada should have an easy time at home this Friday.

Jamaica 7-0 Bahamas - The Reggae Boys just smashed their way into group play. Six different players, including Andy Williams, scored so this was an all over effort.

Puerto Rico 2-2 Honduras - This result means Honduras advances to the first group phase with a 6-2 aggregate win. Puerto Rico went down a goal in the 22', but tied is a few minutes later. They then went up one right before the half, but it was not meant to be as Wigan Athletic midfielder Wilson Palacios knotted it up in the 52'.

Cuba and Antigua and Barbuda play their first leg tomorrow.

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US 8-0 Barbados - Player Grades

US 8-0 Barbados

Anyway you look at this, it was a great way for the US to start their World Cup run. This was the expected result and the team lived up to it, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. With that in mind, here are the player grades:

Starting XI
Brad Guzan (GK) - What a boring way to up your international appearance numbers. With shots two shots, Guzan wasn't tested even once, so I will have to reward him for not falling asleep. A

Steve Cherundolo (D) - The entire defense had the easiest day possible, so full mistakes. Found his place and made some good starting passes. A-

Oguchi Onyewu (D) - Had it easy but his yellow card is a bit disturbing. The minnows of Concacaf know they can't beat the US out right, so they look for ways of changing the game, such as getting a player sent off. The Gooch didn't need to get a card at that point, but he fell for their trap. B+

Carlos Bocanegra (D) - Fantastic pass to Dempsey to get things started. Held strong in the middle and was at the start of a lot of the action. A

Heath Pearce (D) - He was actually beat a couple times during the first half and was missing the ball control he showed in the three warm-ups. B+

Landon Donovan (M) - Was big in the first 30-minutes and his finally 30, but he still seems afraid of taking the shot. His free kick was smart play and his passes are looking sharp but when you have space 18 yards out, take the shot. A-

Michael Bradley (M) - His passing was off for most of the first half and he seemed out of place in the midfield. He improved as the game moved along, but still not looking like himself. B

Pablo Mastroeni (M) - Poor Pablo, bulls his glut and gets robbed of his goal. He was looking solid, hopefully the injury is nothing serious. A

DaMarcus Beasley (M) - The fact that Beasley couldn't beat the keeper to the ball and get the shot on the wide open goal tells us that DaMarcus still has some recovery in front of him. Still, at 85%, he was causing trouble down the wing. B+

Brian Ching (F) - The luckiest brace you will ever see. Ching started slow but picked up as the game went along. He started working himself into better spots and getting chances. His ball control wasn't as strong as normal but he does seem willing to shoot. B

Clint Dempsey (F) - Stepped it up for this one and was having fun doing it. He didn't need much flash, instead he just pushed his way into place. Passes were sharp and speed was good. A+

Freddy Adu (M) - On for Mastroeni in the 26'. I didn't think his game was very solid. His passing wasn't that great and his creative touch was lacking for his first 30-minutes. It almost seemed like he was thrown off by the weakness of Barbados. B+

Eddie Lewis (F) - On for Dempsey in the 72'. I actually forgot he came on till I looked back over some notes. He did setup the own goal, but didn't really stand out. B-

Eddie Jonson (F) - On for Donovan in the 81'. Bob Bradley put him in for one reason, get a goal. The fact that he did it with his head on his first touch of the match is pretty cool. I just hope this doesn't start the 'he's back' talk, because he still has a lot to prove. A

Bob Bradley (Coach) - He wanted as many goals as possible and his team lived up to it. He now has the freedom to experiment a bit next weekend. A

So the US has their largest victory ever, it's just a shame that less then 11,500 people were there to see it.

Clint Dempsey (Carlos Bocanegra) 1'
Michael Bradley 12'
Brian Ching (Pablo Mastroeni) 20'
Landon Donovan 59'
Clint Dempsey 63'
Eddie Johnson (Heath Pearce) 82'
Own goal (Daryl Ferguson) 86'
Brian Ching (Steve Cherundolo) 89'

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

US starting lineup for 2010 World Cup Qualifer against Barbados

US vs. Barbados
5p ET/2p PT
Internet: ESPN360
Text call: Matchtracker

The US is less then an hour away from starting their long road to South Africa and Bob Bradley has released his lineup. Needless to say, there are a couple surprises. First of all, Guzan will start in goal instead of Tim Howard. Howard suffered a lower back strain in training on Friday.

Another little surprise, Ching is starting up top with Dempsey instead of Johnson. This is a good move, but I thought Bradley would give Johnson yet another chance to get things going. Instead, Ching has his opening to prove that he should get a full more calls. In addition, his ability to play balls in the air give the US something that they've been lacking for a while now.

It looks like Pearce has won the left side back spot with his outstanding play over the last three matches. It also looks like Mastroeni's unjustified red card against Argentina hasn't hurt him in Bradley's eyes.

Anyway, here is the lineup:






This is a lineup that should dominate Barbados. If they fail to win by three goals, it will be viewed as a loss.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Is Chivas USA getting ready to move to Santa Ana?

The city of Santa Ana is in discussion with Chivas USA to build youth fields on a piece of land currently used as a golf course. The team is looking at building 'as many as seven soccer fields and a 2,000 to 3,000-seat stadium' on the 102-acre site.

However, youth fields might just be the start of things as the team as not ruled out building a permanent home on the site.

"We're only talking right now about the youth, we haven't thought about moving the team... We're open to possibilities, but not in the short term."

Chivas USA has not had much luck attracting fans to the Home Depot Center, so with their lease coming to an end after next season, a move could be in the works.

Santa Ana is about 10-miles east of Carson in has a large Latino population. If Chivas wants to keep a team in MLS, this could be a wonderful place to relocate.

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Concacaf 2010 World Cup Qualifying schedule - Second Round

The second leg of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying swings into full gear this weekend as 24 teams look to advance to the first group phase. Although there are strong favorites in just about every one of these contests, the constant possibility of an upset will be present. Who knows, an early surprise goal or red card could kill a team's dream.

America will take on Barbados in their opening match at the Home Depot Center. The red, white and blue are coming off a strong tie against Argentina in front of almost 80,000 at Giants Stadium. There are still tickets available for Sunday's match.

Anyway, here is the full schedule of second round matches:

First Leg
Guatemala6-0Saint Lucia
Trinidad and Tobago1-2Bermuda
Antigua and Barbuda3-4Cuba
Honduras4-0Puerto Rico
Saint Vincent and
the Grenadines
Grenada2-2Costa Rica
Panama1-0El Salvador
Haiti0-0Netherlands Antilles

Second Leg
Saint Lucia1-3Guatemala
Bermuda0-2Trinidad and Tobago
Cuba4-0Antigua and Barbuda
Puerto Rico2-2Honduras
Canada4-1Saint Vincent and
the Grenadines
Costa Rica3-0Grenada
El Salvador3-1Panama
Netherlands Antilles0-1Haiti

USA advances to group A in Concacaf first group phase with 9-0 aggregate win over Barbados.
Guatemala advances to group A with 9-1 aggregate win over Saint Lucia.
Trinidad and Tobago advances to group A with 3-2 aggregate win over Bermuda.
Cuba advances to group A with 8-3 aggregate win over Antigua and Barbuda.

Honduras advances to group B in the first group phase with a 6-2 aggregate win over Puerto Rico.
Jamaica advances to group B with a 13-0 aggregate win over Bahamas.
Canada advances to group B with a 7-1 aggregate win over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Mexico advances to group B with a 9-0 aggregate win over Belize.

Costa Rica advances to group C with a 5-2 aggregate win over Gernada.
Suriname advances to group C with a 3-1 aggregate win over Guyana.
El Salvador advances to group C with a 3-2 aggregate win over Panama.
Haiti advances to group C with a 1-0 aggregate win over Netherlands Antilles.

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FC Dallas has three finalists for coaching job

Now that Luiz Felipe Scolari has taken his name out of the running, FC Dallas has narrowed their search for a new head coach to three. They are current SMU college coach Schellas Hyndman, former Dallas player Oscar Pareja and former Chicago Fire coach Dave Sarachan. If rumors are true, Hyndman is the favorite.

General manager Michael Hitchcock says the team is in the final stages of negotiations and expects to name a new boss early next week.

In what could just be bigger news, Hitchcock also said that the new hire would only serve as coach as they will also hire a technical director. Hitchcock's reason, "You need a different perspective, different set of eyes, different skill set or otherwise it would be no different that what we've done in the past."

It is a smart move to divide the duties, however I still wonder about their final coaching candidates as none of them really strike me as people who can turn the team into champions. Sarachan has the most experience and had some quality time with Chicago, but the Fire never looked like a force during his tenure. Pareja was a wonderful player for Dallas, but his coaching experience is very limited. As far as Hyndman, like I said last week, I don't know if he brings the respect needed to succeed at the top level.

Anyway, it looks like this Sunday's match against Chicago will be interim coach Marco Ferruzzi's last one.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

US defender Cat Whitehill to miss Olympics

The US Women's team suffered another injury blow this week as defender Catherine Whitehill was diagnosed with a torn ACL. This injury will prevent her from heading to China in an attempt to win back-to-back gold medals.

Whitehill played every minute of the 2007 World Cup and held her own under very strong attacks. She is a key player in the US backfield and will be very difficult to replace.

This news comes three-weeks after midfielder Leslie Osborne was also ruled out of the Olympics due to an ACL tear.

With two similar injuries in less then a month, one has to wonder if training is to blame. Whitehill's father Phillip Reddick seems to suggest this might be the case:
They've really been working them hard," he said.

Whitehill tweaked the knee prior to the team's trip to South Korea for the Peace Queen Cup.

"They thought it was fine," Reddick said. "Yesterday (Tuesday) morning at practice, the knee buckled and it looks like it's a torn ACL.
This is a very serious situation and one the coach Pia Sundhage should be looking into.

Whitehill is expected to take 8-months to recover from this injury.

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Canada names World Cup Qualifier roster

Canadian men's soccer coach Dale Mitchell has named the 19-players he will use for their 2010 World Cup qualifying matches against Saint Vincent & the Grenadines. The Canadians are looking to reach the finals for the first time since 1986.

Here is their roster:

GK (2): Greg Sutton (Toronto FC), Pat Onstad (Houston Dynamo)

D (6): Jim Brennan (Toronto FC), Mike Klukowski(Club Brugge KV), André Hainault (Sparta Praha), Ugo Ihemelu (Colorado Rapids), Adrian Cann (Vancouver Whitecaps), Richard Hastings(Inverness CT)

M (7): Adrian Serioux (FC Dallas), Julian de Guzman (Deportivo La Coruna),Paul Stalteri (Fulham FC),Marcel de Jong (Roda JC), Issey Nakajima-Farran (FC Nordsjælland), Atiba Hutchinson (FC København), Patrice Bernier (FC Kaiserslautern)

F (4): Tomasz Radzinski (Skoda Xanthi), Dwayne De Rosario (Houston Dynamo), Ali Gerba (FC Ingolstadt), Rob Friend (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

The Canadians play in Kingston this Sunday and then head home to Montreal for the second leg next Friday (20 June).

It will be interesting to see if Toronto FC coach John Carver complains about these call ups.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

2008-09 Concacaf Champions League preliminary round schedule

Sixteen teams now know their opponents for the preliminary two-leg round of the first ever CONCACAF Champions League. Come August, these teams will fight it out to win a spot in the group phase, which starts play in September.

As far as the preliminary round, first leg matches will take place sometime between 26-28 August with the second leg to follow the following week (2-4 Sept). Exact fixture dates will be announced soon.

As far as the MLS sides are concerned, New England will take on Joe Public, the best team name in the tournament. Public is a difficult Trinidad and Tobago side that I believe has caused problems for MLS teams before.

Chivas USA drew Panama's Tauro FC. Although they are the best Panama has to offer, they have not been a big international team.

There is also a very good chance Toronto FC will enter the tournament as the “Canadian Champion". If so, MLS will have the most teams in the competition.

Anyway, here is the full draw:

Home team first legHome team second leg
Deportivo Jalapa (GUA)San Francisco FC (PAN)
Joe Public FC (TNT)New England Revolution (USA)
LD Alajuelense (CRC)Puerto Rico Islanders (PRC)
Cruz Azul (MEX)Hankook Verdes (BLZ)
Harbour View FC (JAM)Pumas UNAM (MEX)
Tauro FC (PAN)Chivas USA (USA)
Montreal Impact (CAN)Real Esteli (NIC)
CD Isidro Metapan (SLV)CD Marathon (HON)

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2008 US Open Cup - First Round results

The first round is all but done (one game was rained out) and things pretty much went as expected as the team in the tougher league won every match except one. So what underdog sunk a higher division side? None other then Hollywood United (USASA) who dropped the Portland Timbers (USL-1) in Portland.

There were two other matches that came close to being an upsets as the Austin Aztex's (USL-PDL) pushed Atlanta Silverbacks (USL-1) all the way to penalty kicks and the USASA's RWB Adria forced Rochester (USL-1) to overtime. Atlanta won by converting all their pks and Austin missing one of their's while Rochester got a goal by Tiger Fitzpatrick in the first overtime period.

Although not technically a US Open Cup match, the Chicago Fire and Columbus played last night for the final MLS spot in the tournament and the Crew lost again.

In all, a great night of soccer in America.

Here are the results:

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2) 5-1 Yakima Reds (USL-PDL)

Charlotte Eagles (USL-2) 5-2 Clearwater Galactics (USASA)

Minnesota Thunder (USL-1) 4-1 St. Louis Lions (USL-PDL)

Western Mass Pioneers (USL-2) 2-0 Boston Olympiakos (USASA)

Michigan Bucks (USL-PDL) 1-2 Cleveland City Stars (USL-2)

Rochester Rhinos (USL-1) 2-1 RWB Adria (USASA)

Charleston Battery (USL-1) 3-0. ASC New Stars (USASA)

Carolina Railhawks (USL-1)
1-0 Brooklyn Knights (USL-PDL)

Real Maryland Monarchs (USL-2) vs. NY Pancyprian Freedoms (USASA)
Postponed due to rain

Miami FC Blues
(USL-1) 4-2 Bradenton Academics (USL-PDL)

Richmond Kickers (USL-2) 3-0 Fredericksburg Gunners (USL-PDL)

Austin Aztex (USL-PDL) 1(4)-(5)1 Atlanta Silverbacks (USL-1)

AAC Eagles (USASA) 0-4 Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL-2)

Portland Timbers (USL-1) 2-3 Hollywood United (USASA)

LA Legends (USL-PDL) 1-2 Crystal Palace Baltimore (USL-2)

Arizona Sahuaros (USASA) 0-1 Seattle Sounders (USL-1)

Chicago Fire (MLS) 3-2 Columbus Crew (MLS)

The second round will take place in two weeks on 24 June. The eight MLS teams join the tournament in the third round (1 July).
Here is the schedule (home team listed first):

Carolina Railhawks (USL-1) vs. Real Maryland Monarchs (USL-2)/NY Pancyprian Freedoms (USASA) winner
Richmond Kickers (USL-2) vs. Western Mass Pioneers (USL-2)
Minnesota Thunder (USL-1) vs. Cleveland City Stars (USL-2)
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL-2) vs. Rochester Rhinos (USL-1)

Atlanta Silverbacks (USL-1) vs. Miami FC Blues (USL-1)
Charlotte Eagles (USL-2) vs. Charleston Battery (USL-1)
Crystal Palace Baltimore (USL-2) vs. Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2)
Seattle Sounders (USL-1) vs. Hollywood United (USASA)

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US roster for Sunday's 2010 World Cup Qualifier named

US vs. Barbados
Sunday 5pET/2pPT
Home Depot Center, Carson, Ca.
Tickets (Great for Father's Day)

Bob Bradley released his 21-man roster for this Sunday's World Cup Qualifier against Barbados. There are no huge surprises, as just about everyone on the list saw minutes during warm up games. The one major exception, the Houston Dynamo's Brian Ching.

Ching was named to the preliminary roster for the three friendly matches the US played over the last couple weeks, but he did not make the final cut. Oddly enough, during this same time Ching came into his own in MLS play earning 3 goals and two assists over his last three matches. The addition of Ching gives the US a greater threat in the air and an alternative on set pieces to Onyewu.

A name not on the forward list is Nate Jaqua. I don't think he is injured so I'm a little surprise that with all the US's problems in attack, he was not given more of a chance in the warm up games as he had a great year with both Houston and Austrian side Altach. Perhaps he is trying out for club teams or maybe Bradley didn't like what he saw in camp.

Jozy Altidore is also not on the list, but this is nowhere near a surprise. With his move to Spain in the final stages and his likely call up for the Olympic team looming, Bradley doesn't want to hinder the relationship with Villarreal.

One name that is pleasing to see is Frankie Hejduk. He is a workhorse who can bring some needed experience to the squad during these early qualifiers.

Here is the full roster:

GK (3): Dominic Cervi, Brad Guzan, Tim Howard

D (7): Carlos Bocanegra, Dan Califf, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Frankie Hejduk, Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce

M (7): Freddy Adu, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Sacha
Kljestan, Eddie Lewis, Pablo Mastroeni

F (4): Brian Ching, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson

My guess for Bradley's starting lineup is very similar to what he put out during the Argentina match, except Bocanegra will replace Califf. The position that I could see changing is Edu in for Mastroeni.





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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

2008 US Open Cup - The best night in US club soccer is here

The longest running club cup competition in American soccer roars back to life again tonight as the first round of the US Open Cup kicks off. Thirty-two teams from across the county have earned the right to play in this opening night. These teams range from the rag-tag best of the adult leagues to the, "hay we are only one level below MLS" USL First Division. In addition to these teams, two MLS sides will also face off for the final MLS spot in the tournament.

These first round matches are always fun to watch as they are usually full of surprise winners, especially if the higher division team is the visitor. If you live near any of these games, they are well worth going to see.

Here is a rundown of tonight's games (updated scores):

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2) vs. Yakima Reds (USL-PDL)
Skyline Sports Complex, Harrisburg, Pa. - 7pm ET
With the Reds traveling to Pennsylvania from Washington state, this one will probably go to the Islanders.

Charlotte Eagles (USL-2) vs. Clearwater Galactics (USASA)
Charlotte Chrisitian School, Charlotte, N.C. - 7pm ET
Much like the Reds, a long trip from Florida will probably hurt the Galactics chances, however this has a slight smell of upset on it.

Minnesota Thunder (USL-1) vs. St. Louis Lions (USL-PDL)
National Sports Center, Blaine, Minn. - 7pm ET
St. Louis's hopes hinge on Tommy Heinemann and Jarius Holmes. If these two can link up early, the Thunder might not rumble.

Western Mass Pioneers (USL-2) vs. Boston Olympiakos (USASA)
Lusitano Stadium, Ludlow, Mass. - 7:30p ET
This should be one of the better matches of the night. Boston Olympiakos is a very solid amateur club playing against in-state Western Mass. The Pioneers have been good in league play and will turn to Neil Krause to get them past Olympiakos, but the amateurs are going to bring a lot.

Michigan Bucks (USL-PDL) vs. Cleveland City Stars (USL-2)
Ultimate Soccer Arena, Pontiac, Mich. - 7:30p ET
Both these teams are playing some of the best soccer in their respective leagues. The Stars made it into the second round last year, but the Bucks have a long history in the cup. Since the Stars are on the road, the Bucks have the upper hand.

Rochester Rhinos (USL-1) vs. RWB Adria (USASA)
PAETEC Park, Rochester, NY - 7:30p ET (free video)
As odd as it sounds, this might just be the make or break game to the Rhinos season as they are off to a horrible start in league play. If Adria can exploit their nerves, they might sneak out with a victory.

Charleston Battery (USL-1) vs. ASC New Stars (USASA)
Blackbaud Stadium, Charleston, SC - 7:30p ET (free video)
The New Stars will travel from Houston for this one and they will have their hands full. The Battery have a good season going and love to play in the Open Cup.

Carolina Railhawks (USL-1) vs. Brooklyn Knights (USL-PDL)
WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, N.C. - 7:30p ET
The Railhawks have some weakness and since you never count out an amateur team from New York, there could be something here. The Knights don't get tons of goals, but they also don't give up many.

Real Maryland Monarchs (USL-2) vs. NY Pancyprian Freedoms (USASA)
Maryland SoccerPlex, Germantown, Md. - 8p ET
The Monarchs have not been making it happen in league play and, as noted above, you don't ever count out amateur teams from New York, this could be close.

Miami FC Blues (USL-1) vs. Bradenton Academics (USL-PDL)
Tropical Park Stadium, Miami, Fla. - 8p ET
The Blues have never really jelled. If the Academics can shutdown Alex Afonso, they have a shot.

Richmond Kickers (USL-2) vs. Fredericksburg Gunners (USL-PDL)
SportsBackers Stadium, Richmond, Va. - 8p ET
The Kickers will need to find the net to win this one and they have not proven so great at doing so.

Austin Aztex (USL-PDL) vs. Atlanta Silverbacks (USL-1)
Dragon Stadium, Round Rock, Texas - 8:30p ET
This will probably be the best game of the night as the soon to be USL-1 Austin Aztex see if they can expand their winning ways against the 'no so great on the road' Silverbacks.

AAC Eagles (USASA) vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL-2)
Redmond Park, Bensenville, Ill. - 9p ET
Both of these sides normally lose their opening USOC match, so it is good to know one will advance. With the Riverhounds playing for poor, look for an Eagles victory.

Portland Timbers (USL-1) vs. Hollywood United (USASA)
PGE Park, Portland, Ore. - 10p ET (free video)
Finally a west coast game. Will Alexi Lalas and Allan Hopkins take the pitch for United? If so, they have a chance. If not, the Timbers will probably see them out.

LA Legends (USL-PDL) vs. Crystal Palace Baltimore (USL-2)
Cougar Athletic Stadium, Glendora, Cal. - 10:30p ET
There is not much in terms of offense going for LA, but they have some solid keepers and with Baltimore making the long trip, the Legends have the upper hand.

Arizona Sahuaros (USASA) vs. Seattle Sounders (USL-1)
Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Ariz. - 10:30p ET
The Sounders will be looking for a repeat of last year when they topped USASA side Banat Arsenal to start their fantastic run to the semifinals. The Sahuaros are a great example of what lowest level clubs can become, but they will need to play well above their level to take this one.

Chicago Fire (MLS) vs. Columbus Crew (MLS)
Shea Stadium, Peoria, Ill. - 8p ET
This is a MLS play in match. My guess is the Crew will take it a little more serious then the Fire. With Columbus thrashing in MLS play, they need something to restart the team and a victory against Chicago could do it. That said, the Fire are one of the best USOC teams ever, so even if they play second string, they are the favorites.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

US 0-0 Argentina - Player grades

US 0-0 Argentina

Let's see, amazing showing by a goalkeeper, horrible calls from the ref, an engaged, pro-USA crowd and Mastroeni walks off with a red, if only Brian McBride showed up bleeding from his face, it would have been World Cup 2006 against Italy all over again.

Sunday night was a great night for the US men as they played their best match since 2006 in front of almost 80,000 passionate fans. Argentina pressed and pressed, but the US was able to hold thanks in huge part to goalkeeper Tim Howard. The fact that he went 1 on 1 with Julio Cruz on four occasions and won every one of them is proof to his talent.

But the Americans did not just sit back and bunker down, instead they actually put together some good combinations that saw them open up the field and push towards goal. The bad news, when it came to the final third, the red, white and blue were still lacking.

As great as the play on the pitch was, the two biggest moments of the game were due to referee Joel Aguilar Chicas channeling his inner Jorge Larrionda and blowing calls. One, the missed penalty kick call against Tim Howard when he took down the on rushing Sergio Aguero in the 52'. Howard didn't get a single finger on the ball and took our Aguero's legs, it should have been a pk. Two, the phantom second yellow card to Pablo Mastroeni in the 71'. For once Pablo was completely innocent of anything as he wasn't even involved in the play that resulted in the foul. The reason given was unsporting behavior, but to earn a second yellow, in a friendly no less, Mastroeni must have said something really awful.

Both of these missed calls changed the flow of the game. The US was just starting to gain momentum when the Aguero mistake was made. Had the proper call be given, the game would have opened up for both teams. The Mastroeni red changed the entire mindset of the squad as they went from trying for a win to hoping for a tie.

In the end, this was a good way to end their three games of death. It showed us the weaknesses that still exist (forwards) and the strengths that we have (goalkeeping, defending).

Now the team moves on to the real matches as World Cup Qualifying starts next Sunday.

Here are the player grades:

Starting XI
Tim Howard (GK) - If anyone had any questions as to our number one in the nets, he shut them down last night. He was lucky with the pk call, but that still doesn't take away from his first half heroics. A+
Steve Cherundolo (D) - Beat a lot by Messi, but could hold his own with others. B-
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - He covered the mistakes of others and provided us with the best scoring opportunity of the night (which is also kind of sad). Still, he missed his marks a couple times. A-
Danny Califf (D) - Slow start but picked up as the game moved along. Held his spots and blocked a bunch of centering passes. He deserves more looks. B+
Heath Pearce (D) - This was his breakout night. He kept the left flank tamed and pushed the ball forward. I think we have our left back. A
Michael Bradley (M) - Bad night for the little Bradley. Wasn't controlling the ball or supply. Maybe a couple weeks off will do him good. C+
Pablo Mastroeni (M) - Up to the red, he was looking good. Provides coverage for defenders and placed some good balls forward. B
Clint Dempsey (M) - The most consistent attacking presence, but passed instead of shot a few too many times. Has good ball control and helped in defense, but needs to take the shot. B+
DaMarcus Beasley (M) - Nice speed along the side that surprised Argentina more then a few times. His crossing is still in need of some help. B
Landon Donovan (F) - Not a bad 100th cap, but nothing spectacular. He wasn't given many balls to run onto, but still caused some trouble. Getting better with corners and passing. B+
Eddie Johnson (F) - Time to move EJ to the sub list. Three starts and nothing from them. Last night saw more of the same. He's good at getting in but he doesn't know how to take a shot. C-

Maurice Edu (M) - On for Bradley in the 46'. Held his own and started a number of the second half attacks. B+
Jay DeMerit (D) - On for Onyewu in the 61'. Looked good and make some smart plays while his team was down a man. B
Freddy Adu (M) - On for Dempsey in the 61'. Did not take over the game like he did in Spain but gave the US some sort of push, especially late. Wasn't the best technical decision to go 1 on 4 while trying to kill the clock but I like his effort. A-
Sacha Kljestan (F) - On for Johnson in the 74'. The fact that this change only seemed to happen because Johnson get an injury is frustrating. Kljestan gave the side energy and make some good passes. Would have liked to see more then 20 minutes form him. B+
Eddie Lewis (D) - On for Pearce in the 78'. He still has something, which is good to know if the injury bug comes along. B
Frankie Hejduk (M) - On for Beasley in the 91'. Ran down the balls in his few minutes on the grass. Much like Lewis, he can bring some experience and calm to the side. No grade.
Sub not used: Brad Guzan

Bob Bradley (Coach) - Other then starting Eddie Johnson and then not subbing him out earlier and not giving Adu a bit more time, it was a good night. When Mastroeni was sent off, his changes to the team's setup proved capable of holding off the number one team in the world. Still needs to figure out the offensive problems. B+

So the US comes out on a high note, even without a goal in any of the three games. Hopefully this drought will end next weekend.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

US starting lineup against Argintina

Here is the official starting lineup:




-----Johnson------Donovan (c)---------

Looks like Landon Donovan will get his 100th cap and do it as captain.

My concern with this lineup is the lack of creativity in the midfield. With Michael Bradley playing below his level the last couple matches, he will need to turn it on in order to give Johnson and Donovan something to work with.

On the defensive side of things, Mastroneni could win his way back onto the squad if he plays tough without crap fouls in the midfield while Califf has the chance of a lifetime to make Bob Bradley think about changing his center back duo.

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US-Argentina preview - Who needs to perform?

US vs. Argentina
7:30p ET/4:30p PT
TV: ESPN Classic and Galavision
Internet: ESPN 360
Text call at Matchtracker

The final game of the US’s triple crown takes place in just a feel hours with a great deal on the line. Since this is the final match before World Cup Qualifying starts, the US men need a good outing not only to gain confidence, but to give US fans a reason to hopefully about things to come.

Bob Bradley has not called Jozy Altidore in for this match, which means the forward spots are wide open. Look for Eddie Johnson to get one more look to finally make it happen, but Kenny Cooper could be a second half sub.

In midfield, all eyes will be on Freddy Adu as we see if he can continue his strong showing from Spain. But his big question is can he work well with Donovan.

Finally, the backline looks to get figured out tonight. With Bocanegra off the roster, the center spot with Onyewu is open.

Argentina has most of their first team in for this one and after dismissing Mexico 4-1 on Wednesday night, they are looking to take down the other CONCACAF big weight.

There really is no way the US can win this game, but if they can pull off a tie and control stretches of the game, it will be big for the team.

Here are the players that need to perform:

High Pressure
Dominic Cervi (GK) – If he sees time, it will be due to an injury to Guzan or Howard. He will need to prove that he’s got something good.
Dan Califf (D) – With a center position open, this game could go a long way to deciding his story with the senior side.
Jay DeMerit (D) – He has everything in common today with Califf.
Heath Pearce (D) – He has placed his claim on the left side, but can he hold it?
Drew Moor (D) – With Pearce looking strong, Moor will need to give Bob Bradley a reason to look his way more often.
Freddy Adu (M) – He was the creativity against Spain, but can he do it again? If he can and if he can be the person that frees Donovan with quality passes, it will be hard to deny him more starts.
Michael Bradley (M) – Not his best over the last two. Where is the control, where is the smart pass and where has his first touch gone?
Maurice Edu (M) - Bradley needs a new Reyna to control things, might Edu become that player?
Sacha Kljestan (M) – Needs to give some versatility so earn more caps.
Pablo Mastroeni (M) – Looked good against Spain. Another positive night and he might just be past the World Cup red card.
Landon Donovan (F) – Mister Century Mark could silence his critics today with a performance against the top team in the world.
Eddie Johnson (F) – He has looked much better in creating chances, but a striker needs to be able to strike. So many opportunities against Spain, but no danger, that must change.
Kenny Cooper (F) – The US is dieing for someone to come in and give them a point man up top. Cooper has the size and pace, but does he have the killer finish?

Medium Pressure
Brad Guzan (GK) – He was better against England then Spain, will need to control his backline better.
Steve Cherundolo (D) – Can he control against explosive talent?
Frankie Hejduk (D) – Old-timer has looked very solid. Keep it up and he might get a chance at another Cup.
Oguchi Onyewu (D) – The best defender so far. He is controlling his size better and not giving up many cheap fouls, but there have been communication failures.
DaMarcus Beasley (M) – His spark is still off. Needs to give an option done the side.
Eddie Lewis (M) – Might his age be the reason to keep him? If he can bring a calm to the side, he might have more caps coming.
Clint Dempsey (F) – Clint is exhausted and has been absent for most of the last two games. If he wants to be part of this month’s qualifiers he needs to give something.

Low Pressure
Tim Howard (GK) – This is the kind of match that can make him into a folk hero of US Soccer (see Keller vs. Brazil 1998 for reference)

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

MLS Expansion - Philadelphia stadium good, grocery store better

When Philadelphia won their expansion club in February, the residents of Chester (the site of their new stadium) were happy, but the biggest reward might not be the team. Instead, the community of 36,000 might finally get a grocery store of their own thanks to the new soccer club.

Turns out the city has not had their own grocery store since 2001, causing residents to either shop at mini-marts or travel large distances (including crossing over to Delaware) to get their food. Some believe this has made it harder for those in Chester to stay healthy.

"'There's a correlation between food access and public health,' said John Talmage, head of Social Compact, a Washington coalition that promotes inner-city investment."

A grocery chain still needs to be found for the project, but if the Philadelphia group makes this happen, it will be one of the most positive results possible and a great way to sure their commitment to the community.

I know, not the most soccer related post ever, but it is events like this that can have a long reaching effect on the future of the game.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

US roster for Argentina

US vs. Argentina
Sunday, 7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT
TV: ESPN Classic and Galavision

Bob Bradley has released his list of 19 for Sunday's friendly against Argentina and there are a couple surprises.

Carlos Bocanegra is not on it, meaning Jay DeMerit or Dan Califf is going to get a good look over. Also missing is Jozy Altidore, Nate Jaqua, Josh Wolff and just about every other MLS player that might have been called in as a forward.

One MLSer that is back on the list is Landon Donovan so he might get his 100th cap against the number one in the world. Also, Sacha Kljestan has made the final roster.

Overall, it is good, but it will take more then good to handle Argentina (see Mexico's result).

Here is the full roster:

Goalkeepers: Dominic Cervi (no team), Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Tim Howard (Everton)

Defenders: Dan Califf (Midtjylland), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock)

Midfielders: Freddy Adu (Benfica), DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Michael Bradley (Heerenveen), Maurice Edu (Toronto), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Eddie Lewis (Derby), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado)

Forwards: Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Eddie Johnson (Fulham)

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

FC Dallas interviews SMU's Hyndman for coaching job

What would a FC Dallas search for a new coach be without Schellas Hyndman? Hyndman has coached SMU's men's soccer team since 1984 and is highly respected in the Dallas area as well as college soccer, thus the reason FCD always look his way when the top job is vacant.

He was previously linked to club after the Jeffries dismissal (2003) and the Clarke toss (2006), so is the third time the charm?

In his 24 years at SMU, the team has never had a losing season and are constantly one of the better college sides, however they have never won or even played for a national championship. Hyndman would bring with him a good knowledge of the up and coming college players as well as a divine love of the 4-4-2 formation, but is that enough for MLS?

With the league's hirer profile and bigger names, I'm not sure giving the controls to someone without professional level management experience is the best idea (for a explanation of this, look no further then Steve Morrow).

The next manager of FCD needs to be someone that can come in and command respect from the players, but I'm not sure Hyndman, for all his positives, is the person who can do that.

By the way, former FCD manager and current Puerto Rican national team coach Colin Clarke saw his side fall 4-0 to Honduras last night in World Cup Qualifying. The second leg will take place on the 14th in Puerto Rico.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

US starting lineup for Spain

Here is the starting lineup for the US Men:





Subs: DaMarcus Beasley, Frankie Hejduk, Brad Guzan, Josh Wolff, Pablo Mastroeni, Jay DeMerit, Dan Califf

The combination of Johnson and Adu up top will be interesting to see. With Nate Jaqua dropped from the game roster, the only other forward is Josh Wolff.

Edu is going to have his hands full in the center. Lewis must have really impressed Bob Bradley to get the start. Let's just hope he is not the only player that can hold the ball this time around.

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Spanish club Villareal close to deal for Altidore

Spanish side Villareal and MLS have reached an initial agreement on Jozy Altidore. The transfer fee amount is unknown at this point, but MLS had been seeking $10m for the teenager.

If Jozy moves to Villareal, he will join a club that finished second in La Liga last season, thus has a guaranteed ticket into the Champions League group stage. That is good news and it gets even better as the club is in a bit of a need for offensive talent having scored the fewest number of goals of any club in Spain's top 5.

Jozy's Haitian heritage might also end up playing a role in his move since Spain has very tight restrictions on non-EU players. As an American, he would count against their non-EU limit, however since Haiti has signed the Cotonou Agreement, he might be able to use dual-citizenship to get around the rule.

All and all, this could be the perfect fit for Altidore.

By the way, New Jersey born Giuseppe Rossi also plays for the Yellow Submarine that is Villareal. Rossi is the striker who rejected Bruce Arena's invited into the US camp ahead of 2006. Rossi instead hopes to be part of Italy's senior squad at some point. Maybe Jozy could convince him to get America instead.

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What will Eriksson do to Mexico?

As strange as it sounds, Sven-Goran Eriksson is Mexico's new coach. After failing to convince Javier Aguirre or Luiz Felipe Scolari to take the job, the Mexican federation went for the Swede to replace Hugo Sanchez.

Eriksson has about three months to learn his team and get them ready for World Cup Qualifying.
"Obviously, I don't have a deep knowledge of Mexican football but that is something I'm going to change quickly....Like any coach who changes country, I will have to work and that doesn't bother me."
As if that was not enough, he also needs to deal with a number of players who are not happy with this move such as striker Jared Borgetti who called it 'a big mistake.'

But all this could be a huge positive for the team. Eriksson comes in as a complete outsider, meaning he doesn't have loyalties or feuds with any of the players or various elements in the federation. Sure some of the players are upset at this moment, but that might have more to do with their loyalty to interim coach Jesus Ramirez. If Ramirez can convince them to give Sven a chance, the final piece of the Mexican puzzle might come together and Mexico could finally move up to the top tier of international football.

Then again, the Mexican Football Association has an interesting habit of shooting themselves in the foot, so who knows.

Ramirez is in charge of the team through their initial World Cup Qualifiers against Belize, but Eriksson will probably loom over the team.

One last thing, with Eriksson at the helm, it means Europe (especially England) will pay a little more attention to Mexico's, and in extension CONCACAF's, results.

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US-Spain preview – Which players need to perform?

US vs. Spain
4p ET/1p PT
Internet: (live)
Text updates at MatchTracker (live)
TV: ESPN2 (5:30p ET)
Galavision (7p)

Can the US redeem themselves tonight? That is the question. After the washout at Wembley, the US men are in desperate need of a good showing. That doesn't mean they need to walk out of Estadio El Sardinero with a win, but it does mean they need to look like they could win.

Against England, the side, to put it kindly, had trouble possessing the ball, thus giving the three lions plenty of time to do what they wanted to do. The bad news for the red, white and blue, Spain is even better at the possession game then England.

If the US is to contain forwards Fernando Torres and David Villa, they will need to do a lot better in the midfield, but that means besting the likes of Andres Iniesta , Xavi and Xabi Alonso. Not an easy task.

So how can the US do it? First they must realize that they will only get a handful of chances in the game and second they must do something with those chances (amazing idea, right). Also, they need to use the Spanish desire to play beautiful soccer against them. If they can push the game and make it as physical as possible, Spain will have to change their tactics.

But the biggest thing that needs to happen for America is an awakening of the forwards. The US has scored 7 goals in 2008, but only one has been by a forward, while defenders have netted four. No striker threat means defenders can push up and take a bigger role in the attack.

The forwards are not the only folks to blame in this as the midfield hasn't been the best at providing chances, so a key to the situation up top will probably have to be found in the middle.

With that in mind, here is my take on who needs to perform:

High Pressure
Dominic Cervi (GK) - He is very unlikely to see a minute of playing time, but if he does, he needs to show what he can do.

Dan Califf (D) - He has looked great in Denmark and might just find an opening if others don't play well.

Heath Pearce (D) - After a good game against England, another solid outing against Spain could make him America's number one on in left back.

Jay DeMerit (D) - Is he finally going to get his chance after the injury spell to show he should still be part of the US strategy? If so, he needs to make something of it.

Carlos Bocanegra (D) - Off his mark and rusty. With other central backs starting to push for his spot, he needs to rebound.

Freddy Adu (M) - He looked alright against England, but how much was that due to being a late sub. The US needs some creativity in the middle. If he can combine that with good ball control and service to the forwards, he might just get some starts.

Maurice Edu (M) - At some point Edu will be part of the US senior plans and today might just make that day come sooner then expected.

Eddie Lewis (M) - Gave some late lift to the US in England and was able to actually hold the ball. If the US starts to sink, Lewis could show his value by doing the same in Spain.

Pablo Mastroeni (M) - Mastroeni has a chance to get back in the US good graces. If he can be an enforcer without giving up cheap fouls or getting cards, he might just become Bradley's go to defensive mid.

Nate Jaqua (F) - With the forward spots wide open, Jaqua could get a bunch more looks if he has a good night. Hopefully he'll get more then three minutes to display his skill.

Eddie Johnson (F) - Actually showed a little against England, but it was not enough to wash away the last three years of bad. Needs to use his speed to keep Spain's backline in retreat.

Josh Wolff (F) - If he doesn't give something big, there really isn't a reason to keep calling him back.

Medium Pressure
Brad Guzan (GK) - Has the number two spot pretty much locked up, but needs another good 45' to completely put his bad MLS start to rest.

Oguchi Onyewu (D) - He has regained his form but with the onslaught that he will probably face tonight, he needs to keep it up under pressure. Also, needs to prove that he can best players faster then himself.

Steve Cherundolo (D) - Got to keep his marks tonight. The right back is still his to loose.

Frankie Hejduk (D) - He is still a long, long, long shot for 2010, but his experience combined with his decent play a week ago might just get him some more calls.

DaMarcus Beasley (M) - Still not over the injury, so he needs to display a good form and an outside option to feed the forwards.

Michael Bradley (M) - Did nothing to help with the attack in England, that obviously needs to change. The team needs a leader in the midfield but will Michael take this chance to be that leader?

Clint Dempsey (F) - Time for the deuce to step it up. He's obviously tired from the long EPL season, but his lack of creativity for the US team is starting to hurt. He's not losing his spot, but he needs to show why he earned it in the first place.

Low Pressure
Tim Howard (GK) - The only player that has no big worries. He is the number one for club and country. If he plays even an average game, it will be good.

The other person under a lot of pressure tonight is coach Bob Bradley. Last week's dump in England can be excused in part due to the late scratch of Donovan. However, with a week to prepare for this one, Bradley needs to show he can make the changes in his lineup and strategy to assure a good 90 minutes by his side.

My thought is Spain will win this one, but the US should be able to hold their own. To do so, they need to show that they can learn and adapt. Spain presents their hardest challenge so far in 2008, but this team is good enough to make it competitive. Anything less then a quality match, especially after last week, will put a very gray cloud over US soccer.

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