Thursday, January 25, 2007


Ok MLS, let me get this straight. You prod a second-tier European club to pull another pre-season tour of the States to take part in the '07 All-Star game. You schedule the event at a spanking-new soccer-specific stadium. You tell everyone how excited you are... and then you schedule the game on... a Thursday?

I know there won't be much TV sports competition on Thursday, July 19th to compete with the MLS All Stars' match with Scottish power Celtic at the Big Wang in Colorado, but there's something a little bush about holding the game during the work week. Yes, I know that MLB and NHL put their all-star showcases on weeknights, but for the most part, MLS matches are played on the weekend, and the All-Star Game should be as well.

Of course, the Thursday date fits right in with ESPN2's regular MLS timeslot this season. Keeping in mind the busy July soccer calendar:

The US Open Cup Round of 16 (Tue Jul. 10)
The Copa America Final (Sun. Jul. 15)
MLS All-Star Game (Thu. Jul 19)
The U20 World Cup Final (Sun. Jul. 22)
The start of the SuperLiga (Tue. Jul. 24)

...and that's a lot of "meaningful" games in a very short time frame. Maybe Thursday night isn't such a bad idea. Hopefully the game will take some viewers away from that repeat of Scrubs NBC'll have on. Of course, if you haven't seen it, it's new to you...

A Winning Weekend

Kudos to the US U-20s and the MNT for picking up good results this past weekend. Of course, the U-20s entered their final qualifying match knowing that they had already qualified for the World Cup this summer, but a loose, relaxed, and talented squad blew away host Panama 5-0 to win the group.

There were signs of a hopeful future in the MNT's 3-1 win over Denmark at the HDC. Strong individual performances by Chicago's Justin Mapp, Chivas USA's Jonathan Bornstein, and FC Dallas' Kenny Cooper were the difference makers. Here's hoping the win provided some confidence to the team for the upcoming Mexico match (Feb. 7th in Phoenix).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hats Off in Panama

The US U-20s are one win away from this Summer's World Cup after a 4-1 trashing of Haiti last night in Panama City. Harvard University's Andre Akpan scored a hat trick in the rout, that was blemished only by a Haitian pk in the 73th minute that was nearly stopped by US keeper and RSL draftee Chris Seitz. FC Dallas's John Wallace scored the other US goal in the physical match, where Trinidadian ref Lee Davis handed out seven yellow cards (only two to the US) . RSL's Freddy Adu captained the US Squad, but NY Red Bull forward Jozy Altidore didn't leave Thomas Rongen's bench. Guatemala tied host Panama in the nightcap, leaving the standings this way after one round:

(Top two nations qualify)
Team, Pts, GD
USA, 3, +3
GUA 1, 0
PAN 1, 0
HAI 0, -3

A win vs. Guatemala tomorrow night (6:30pm ET, GolTV) will clinch a spot for the Yanks in the U-20 World Cup, to be held in Burnaby, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Victoria, Canada starting on June 30th. Already qualified for the 24-team tournament are European nations Spain, Scotland, Czech Rep., Austria, Poland, and Portugal, and Asian countries Japan, North and South Korea, and Jordan. The host nation will take part as well, of course.

Guatemala will surely prove a tougher task than the Haitians, but here's to hoping for a smooth and safe qualification for the Gnats. Go get 'em!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stop. Quallie Time.

Panama City's rickety, boisterous Rommel Fernandez Stadium will be the site of the U20 World Cup qualifying tournament for the US, Haiti, Guatemala, and the host canaleros starting tonight when the US faces Haiti at 6:30pm ET on GolTV.

Although US Forward Andre Akpan has said that "the situation with the forwards is kind of shaky," the talented and deep US squad should be one of the top two clubs to advance to this summer's U20 World Cup in Canada. After Haiti, the US plays Guatemala on Friday and the hosts on Sunday. The top two nations in the group .

The Goose is on the Loose
New York-area soccer fans should head to Stout Pub on 33rd Street in Manhattan on Saturday to watch the US take on Denmark at 5pm, then stay to hear future Hall-of-Famer and Red Bulls coach Jeff Agoos answer questions about this year's upcoming campaign. As of this writing, the Red Bulls have yet to announce any free agent signings (Reyna, Wattereus, Ronaldo, hello!) so look for the New York fans to press Mr. Agoos about what to expect from Red Bull, and how it felt to score on Brad Friedel in the 2002 World Cup. While you're there, consider joining the Empire Supporters Club for the upcoming season. You'll be glad you did.

A Liga That's Super?
The MLS-FMF summer tournament was announced this past week, but something with the "SuperLiga" just doesn't seem right to me. If the object is to create battle-tested MLS squads and determine North American club soccer supremacy, then shouldn't some of these matches be played South of the border? I'm sure that the Houston-Club America match at Robertson Stadium will be pro-America, but MLS sides should face the full wrath of Mexican fans to earn respect. Playing all the games in the US just doesn't feel right.

Only 8 in USOC?
Yes, the summer schedule should be crowded. Yes, MLS clubs will be challenged with domestic players taking part in the Gold Cup, Copa America, and the U-20 World Cup, but cutting down the number of sides taking part in the US Open Cup isn't the answer. A recent US Soccer memo noted that only eight MLS teams will compete in this year's tournament. All 12 US-based teams should take part in the longest-running soccer competition in the country. There's been much written and debated about the value of the USOC, as US Soccer has been remiss in marketing the tournament properly. However, omitting top-level clubs isn't the answer. A thumbs down to the league on this one.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's Going Down

The mainstream media has picked up on the buzz that's been percolating for weeks now, that global-uber-persona David Beckham will be leaving the microscope of European soccer for the beaches of sunny California. The Times of London, ABC News, and ESPN Soccernet are all reporting what was first mentioned yesterday morning on the Fox News Channel, that Beckham will sign today with the LA Galaxy for $36million over four years and will join the MLS club this August after the La Liga season ends for Beckham's current team, Real Madrid.

Earlier this week, Galaxy owner AEG sold its DC United club for $33 million, so Uncle Phil Anschutz won't be dipping too deep into his piggy bank to land Beckham, who has already has a soccer academy based at the the Home Depot Center, LA's home field.

Beckham has played stateside a few times over the last few years; for England in their 2005 tour to New York and Chicago, and with Real Madrid in Utah last summer for their match with Real Salt Lake. Beckham even picked up a shovel at the RSL stadium "groundbreaking" project that has since stalled.

Should this news pan out, prepare for the inevitable "It won't matter" columns from the nation's blowhard fifty-something sports editors who constantly deride soccer. Prepare for Frank Deford, a big soccer hater and interviewer of Beckham for HBO's RealSports program a few years back, to state from his high horse that Beckham's arrival won't move MLS into the nation's sports consciousness.

Say this about the "new" MLS: the league is making waves during a traditionally quiet off-season period. Beckham's arrival may prod other teams to open their wallets for some quality talent. They're no denying, however, that an LA Galaxy squad with Beckham and Landon Donovan will clearly be favorites to win the MLS Cup in DC in November.

The Deuce is Loose

Congrats to Clint Dempsey for winning his work permit from the British Home Office. Dempsey should be introduced at Fulham's Craven Cottage today as the latest Yank to join the English Premier League. Go get 'em, Deuce.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Kicking Off the Year

The best year for soccer in the US is always the one ahead of us in the first days of January. There's so much going on, it's hard not to be excited, even if the games have yet to begin.

1) The U-20's are Ready: U-20 coach Thomas Rongen took a look at lots and lots of talented teenagers before selecting his twenty-man roster for next week's U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament in Panama City. On the roster are Freddy Adu, New York's Jozy Altidore, Clifton, NJ's Danny Szetela, and Euro-based Nats Robbie Rogers (Heerenveen), Johann Smith (Bolton), and Preston Zimmerman (Hamburg). Missing from the squad are talented FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty, who didn't seem to meet Rongen's plans, and former Metro Michael Bradley, who wasn't released from Heerenveen. The Nats will play Haiti on Jan. 17th, Guatemala on Jan. 19th, and finish up with host Panama on Jan. 21st. The top two squads will qualify for the U-20 World Cup in Canada starting June 30th.'s Roster Spot video series took a great look inside the most recent U-20 camp, and listened in on Rongen discussing player strengths and weaknesses with assistant coaches Dave Dir and Brian Maissoneuve.

2) The Senior Team is Sweating: Interim coach Bob Bradley's camp is in full swing ahead of the Nats' January 20th match vs. Denmark at the HDC. is doing another great job with a blog and podcasts from the US camp.

3) AEG Divests DC United: Uncle Phil is down to just three MLS club's after this morning's sale of the four-time MLS Cup champs to a group led by real estate magnate Victor MacFarlane. The new owners, "DC United Holdings" ponied up a record $33million for the franchise, which is hoping to build their own home and move out of RFK Stadium in the near future. The new owners, which include former Duke basketball stars Bryan Davis and Christian Laettner, will keep wisely keep DCU President Kevin Payne in place. The sale, the sixth in MLS since 2005, leaves the league closer to single-team ownership.

Current MLS ownership by club:
Chicago: AEG
Chivas USA: Jorge Vergara/Antonio Cue
Colorado: Kroenke Sports Enterprises
Columbus: Hunt Sports Group
DC United: DC United Holdings
FC Dallas: Hunt Sports Group
Houston: AEG
Kansas City: OnGoal, LLC
Los Angeles: AEG
New England: The Kraft family
New York: Red Bull
Real Salt Lake: Dave Checketts (Sports Capital Partners)
Toronto FC: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

For those counting at home, that's ten owners for thirteen clubs, a much, much better outlook than just a few seasons ago.

4) Drafty in Indy: MLS' 2007 draft will be held this Friday, and the mouse networks are stepping up to the plate with an hour of live, first-round coverage on ESPN2. Allen Hopkins will host as he did last year on FSC, and draft previews can be had on From the College to the Pros and 3rd Degree. Top Drawer Soccer has a diary from draft hopeful Greg Dalby.

5) Red Bull additions: BigAppleSoccer has reported that former US National Team and jersey boy Claudio Reyna may be coming home to play for New York. BBC Sport notes that Reyna may return stateside for "family reasons." While the oft-injured Reyna may not prosper on the unforgiving Giants Stadium turf, having that wealth of experience at d-mid would serve the Red Bulls well. Also, one-time Dutch national-team keeper Ronald Waterreus may be an imminent Red Bull signing. There's no denying that the 34-year old Reyna and the 37-year old Wattereus will bring some pedigree to the Red Bulls' roster, but one has to wonder if there are more "in-prime" players that Arena the Bruce will add to the Taurine Army. Stay tuned.