All of the heavy hitters, minus Vladimir Putin apparently, are in Zurich ahead of Thursday's World Cup bid vote. This is the final push, the last minute glad-handing that is supposed to put a bid over the top; for Qatar, football great Zinedine Zidane is the marquee name. For England, it's David Beckham, Prime Minister David Cameron, and Prince William. For the United States, it's Landon Donovan, Attorney General Eric Holder (See? Our government is behind the bid!), former President Bill Clinton and legendary actor Morgan Freeman.
The backtracking is somewhat detestable, and the revisionist history is a wealth of unintentional comedy (Payne says he always kept "an open mind" about Olsen, despite publicly ruling him out as a candidate). It's not that Olsen is a poor candidate (he's not), it's that the club looks foolish for having declared him out of the running only to hire him permanently when a search for a replacement came to nothing (for whatever reason, though most that come to mind aren't good).
Every so often, one of the hot-button issues in American soccer rears its ugly head among the Internet forum cognoscenti. Whether it’s a well-meaning newbie suggesting promotion and relegation for Major League Soccer, a Europosing troll or a wayward Englishman who feels compelled to remind the colonials that “it’s called football, not soccer!!!”, flurries of posts and flames get exchanged before the issue sinks back into the murky depths, waiting for its next resurrection.
Warning: I didn't know where this was going when I started, so it's completely slapped together and borders on incoherence. Read at your own risk. - JD
Here we are, finally inhabiting the part of the calendar that will see a decision made on the sites of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Anticipation fills soccer fans around the world, from Australia to Qatar (all twenty-something of them - feels good to use that joke after hearing it for so long from American soccer-haters) Russia, England, and the United States.
Happy Monday. Here's your new show, featuring Jason and Zach talking USWNT qualifying for the World Cup, the "spectacle" of the MLS Cup Final, changes to the MLS playoff structure and (maybe) calendar, and the US chances in Zurich this week to secure the 2022 World Cup.
Listening options after the jump.
by John Carlton
After 30 weeks of rigorous prognosticating, the inaugural Match Fit USA Predictions League is in the books and our Champion is Jason Kuenle, who edged out Ross Hopper in the last week of play. Congratulations, Jason! You win the glorious grand prize, an officially licensed t-shirt in the original packaging proclaiming the New England Revolution 2006 MLS Champions!* Thanks everyone for participating. If there's enough interest, we'll get it going for next season.
Jason Kuenle 199
Ross Hopper 190
Jason Davis 186
Ben Aranda 167
John Carlton 163
Matt (NES) 161
Alex Will 72
(*Email Jason Davis with your address info)
by Robert Jonas - Center Line Soccer
It being the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday, one of the traditions at my family’s dinner is to go around the table and describe an event, person, or experience that you were thankful for in the last year. I was quick to describe the day earlier this fall when I dropped my daughter off at her dorm to start her freshman year of college. All of the effort on her part coupled with the sacrifices I’ve made as a parent to help her survive along the path to that point was punctuated by my internal shouts of joy at seeing her ready and prepared to embark on the next stage of her life. I was not alone in seeing her to this point, and so gave thanks to all those that helped me along the way.
Happy Thanksgiving. This year, we're thankful for Chuck Blazer's blog, moments like this, exciting young American talent, the continued support of our readers and Fox Soccer Channel in HD (apologies if you don't have it).
Video of Eric Wynalda talking about World Cup '94 - thanks to Ben from Bumpy Pitch/The Original Winger for passing this along.
Gotta love the shots of Wynalda posing in various locations around the Rose Bowl.
Bid vote in less than eight days.
For the second year running, MFUSA has been nominated for US Soccer's "Best of 2010" alongside some heavy hitters in the soccer blogging game.
A hearty thank you goes out to everyone that nominated us. If you feel inclined to vote for MFUSA, you can do so here. I've also linked to the voting page in the bar at the top of this site.
If you've been following along with the World Cup bidding process and the fallout over FIFA improprieties, you know that much of the discussion surrounding England's 2018 bid involves the role of their media in "sabotaging" their chances. On the surface, it might just seem another example of England's overzealous press torpedoing all things involving the Cross of St. George and the world of football (see: England National Team).
Freddy Adu is back in the news, such as it is, for yet another instance of failure. Danish side Randers, best known to American soccer fans as the club Yura Movsisyan currently calls home, brought in the disappointing American for what was either a trial with a potential contract at stake or a no-expectations training invitation, depending on the particular report. With Adu, the spin goes both ways. Pinning down whether Freddy blew his chance or if there was a chance to be had at all is difficult.
On a chilly night in a half-filled stadium, two of Major League Soccer's founding members played an ugly final decided by an own goal while the American soccer community on Twitter mollified itself by ripping anything and everything taking place north of the border.
The new show was recorded pre-MLS Cup Final, so if you're tired of hearing about how bad the game was this morning, this will be a nice break from the negativity.
Zach and I cover the USMNT friendly in South Africa (AGUDELO!), Garber's State of the League showdown with Paul Gardner, read listener emails on Ted Westervelt's appearance, the MLS playoff structure, and the future of the USMNT, then Jason has an interview with Sporting Club (Sporting KC's parent company) COO Greg Cotton on his team's name change.
My predictions for the Western Conference Semifinals:
SJE over COL
LAG over FCD
So I pulled an o-fer. I'd be willing to wager that a lot of people did. I went for the scrappy underdogs in San Jose, and they got bullied around by the, um, scrappy underdogs of Colorado. But unless your upper appendages are reminiscent of prehistoric carnivores, you probably didn't have LA 0-3 DALLAS on your betting slip.
A lot of bloggers, journalists, and other pontificating mouths are saying this is great for the league and two small-market teams who've been around since the Analog TV days and could use a boost. That's probably true, but it doesn't make me any less annoyed. As a neutral, and cafepress boxer shorts wearing member of the "I hate Conor Casey" society, I don't give two Doug Logans about it. I wanted the attractive, big name grudge match of LA and San Jose.
And yes, I'm just being petulant because I whiffed like Kei Kamara on the last round. And bitter because I could have gone if I had a passport. Which I don't. Last time I went to Canuckistan, you didn't have to have one.
Looking at the teams that are actually involved, it's hard to separate them. Dallas gets the edge on defense, largely thanks to the best keeper in MLS history having something to prove. Colorado have the better offense, due the the more than a bit presumptively named "C+C Goal Factory." Dallas probably have a better midfield, but Larentowicz and Mastroeni are hardly pushovers. Although Colorado lost to DC United this year, which should probably have meant automatic playoff elimination on the basis of league pride alone.
I'm going for the Dallas win. 1-0, with an "Are you watching, LA/KC/Keeper of the year voters?" performance from Hartman
-----Intermission. Match Fit Reserve brand cola available in the lobby.-----
The other big story was the USMNT B team going back to South Africa and kicking its dog. They complained about us not bringing the first team, because obviously, a bit of metal with their national demigod's name on it is more important than the MLS playoffs.
Then we found out during the pregame show that some South African player who couldn't win a spot on the dead-last 2008 Quakes was offended that he wasn't called up for the USMNT despite not having a US passport. And they had those fucking vuvuzelas. Apologies for the language folks, but the South Africans were shitty hosts.
And after all their bitching and whining in an accent that sounds like a mentally deficient New Zealander? They get shown up by the Rugrats. Tim Ream had a solid, smooth debut without any major errors, which is precisely what you want from a player in his position at his age. Teal Bunbury showed the makings of a true target man. Eric Lichaj, apart from one stupid challenge, was fantastic, dealing with a lot of traffic on his flank. Mix Diskerud may be my favorite of the newbies. I've heard a lot about him before, and it was exciting to see him play so well on his debut. He's got a fantastic first touch, a fair lick of speed in him, and the inventiveness of his assist was delicious; the willingness to try that in the box on his debut is just so absolutely pleasing.
And then there's America's new record youngest goalscorer, Juan Agudelo. I was against him going. I didn't think he'd earned it, and I thought he was too young, but all credit to him, he had an opportunity and made the most of it. I'm excited to see more of him, but hesitant to jump on any sort of bandwagon. I've been burned before. I'll wait until he pulls a Geoff Hurst before I'll admit he's not another Freddy Adu or Eddie Johnson.
This was the second time we've won the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup. If we do it again, do we get to keep Mandela?
By Chris Ballard
Steve Davis has a dispatch from Toronto this morning on the potential site and opponent for the 2011 MLS All-Star Game. The new
I was lucky enough to get Taylor Twellman on the phone this morning for a special edition of the American Soccer Show. Taylor talks about his retirement, his plans now that his playing career is over, MLS, college soccer, club re-branding, and much more.
Listening options after the jump.
FIFA released bid evaluations on the nine countries vying for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups this morning. In addition to information on stadiums and projected number of tickets available, each report assessed the bidding nations on their ability to host an event the scale of the World Cup and assigned a risk level; the previously reported US summary put FIFA's risk at "medium." Below are the reports for each of the nations competing with the US for the 2022 tournament, plus a chart with key information on all bids.
Technical reports on FIFA's World Cup bid inspections are due to be posted to the governing body's website tomorrow morning; per POLITICO, the US bid faces concerns over the level of government commitment.
Review: The Ten Shirt - How The United States National Soccer Team (Might Have) Won The 1982 World Cup
by Jason Davis
Viewed strictly on its merits as a work of fiction, Michael Maddox's novel The Ten Shirt: How The United States National Soccer Team (Might Have) Won The 1982 World Cup leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps as a function of driving towards its predetermined climax within its 319 pages, too many characters are introduced only to be thinly drawn and too many story lines are left unexplored. The story moves rapidly, but without much real depth, as Maddox chooses to only briefly rest in each moment before rushing us down the road that leads to US National Team World Cup glory in his re-imagined American soccer history. Luckily for Maddox, American soccer fans who have certainly dreamed a version of his story and are the natural audience for his book will find more than enough to keep them entertained.
Pending a rubber stamp from the Board of Governors, MLS will lift the current restrictions on the number of academy (home grown) players teams can sign to their roster in a given year.
First it was two, then it was four, and soon it will be "as many as you can churn out."
New show is out, complete with coverage of the USMNT roster or the South Africa friendly, a chat with a noted soccer conspiracy theorist, Americans abroad news, and more.
Ignore my tease about a live post-game show for Wednesday; a family commitment has popped up, and I won't be available to do it. I am, however, working on some bonus MLS Cup-related material that should be out later in the week.
We have a final. It's not the one any reasonable observer expected, not does it have much of a glamorous sheen. But this is what playoffs give us; even an adjustment to the structure to give higher seeds more of an advantage in the first round could have given us this result.
A quick heads up - The American Soccer Show will be live at 5:30 Eastern.
Listen through the UStream channel or the "Live Shows" page above.
We'll take calls if we can get them, plus take your feedback via Twitter and email.
I don't envy anyone tasked with marketing most of Major League Soccer's 16 franchises. I can only imagine how difficult it is to sell a product with such a weak national profile whose biggest game is an afterthought during the NFL season, and whose stadiums are too often removed from city centers (i.e., where local media is typically based). More coverage means more awareness, which logically means more fans.
"The postseason partially explained why baseball was so uniquely resistant to the fruits of scientific research: to ANY purely rational idea about how to run a baseball team. It wasn’t just that the game was run by old baseball men who insisted on doing things as they had always been done. It was that the season ended in a giant crapshoot. The playoffs frustrate rational management because, unlike the long regular season, they suffer from the sample size problem. Over a long season, the luck evens out, and the skill shines through. But in a series of three out of five, or even four out of seven, anything can happen..."
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Matthew Higgins, an American journalist working in Beijing. He blogs at Have Notebook Will Travel.
Ronaldinho is going to the Galaxy? Damn, and just when we thought the “aging superstar threatens to take his talents to America if he doesn't get a new contract” meme was finally played out.
Bob Bradley has called in a youngish, slightly hodge-podge roster for the American friendly against South African next week in Cape Town. Included are the rumored Agudelo, Abbossoumonde and Diskerud, plus a surprise in Teal Bunbury (whose national team choice I wrote about recently), Tim Ream, and Eric Lichaj.
This year's version of the drama looks to be much more streamlined, straight forward, and peacful; with USL's end run around D2 sanctioning through the creation of USL-PRO, the NASL is the only organization applying for Division 2 status.
Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor the men and women who have committed themselves to protect the great country in which we live.
To all of those who have served, thank you.
A Norweigan-language report popped up today that indicates midfielder Mikkel Diskerud has been called up by Bob Bradley for next week's friendly in South Africa. Combined with Ives' note today that both Juan Agudelo and Gale Agbossoumonde are the discussion to be there too, and it looks like the roster could have a strong streak of youth.
The rest of this post has a distinct lack of Conor Casey. Somewhat because I can’t stand the “let’s kick it at the big guy’s head and see if it goes in” soccer, partly because nobody in the history of MLS can remember a notable game involving Colorado. They’re a very beige team. Which probably means he’ll score a hat trick in the last 4 minutes of the MLS Cup Final when down 2-0 with two men sent off. And cure Taylor Twellman’s concussions.
Moving swiftly onward. My predictions from before the playoffs started:
RSL over FCD
COL over CLB
LAG over SEA
SJE over NYRB
Three outta four, baby. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than I did in 11th grade chemistry. The only game I missed was RSL/Dallas, which is just further proof that I’m terrible predicting anything having to do with Robbie Findley. Who seems to think that being useless in the World Cup is somehow worthy of a move to Europe. Have fun in the Allsvenskan, buddy. But I digress. This post is about people who don’t choke in the MLS Cup playoffs.*
And Landon Donovan.
The playoffs isn’t about who’s the best team, it’s about who’s hot right now. That’s why San Jose, who play the 8-Convey-Wando** formation, beat the Red Bulls and are going to beat Colorado, whose main threat is about as mobile as the Rockies. Of course, it helps to have the best team and be the hot club. Which is why I’m taking the Galaxy to win it all. Going out on a limb, I know. But the Galaxy have the most dangerous trio since Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, and it only takes one Beckham set piece, one Donovan counter-attack, or one of whatever Buddle does before he scores, and the Gals have their hands on the trophy named after their petty cash drawer.
“And what of Dallas?” you ask, being the kind of perceptive, intelligent reader that leaves insightful and constructive comments and doesn’t pick on Jason’s spelling and grammar. To which I respond “Dallas are a solid team built on a decent defense backed up by great goalkeeping.” And for that reason exactly, I hope they lose miserably. Nobody wants a boring champion. Especially one that plays its home games in front of 80 people. Nothing against the Burn or either of its fans, who I’m sure are lovely, if misguided, people, but that’s a terrible advertisement for the league.
As is the team in the biggest media market and home of three DPs going out to the lowest-seeded team in the playoffs in front of their own fans on national television (Suck it, North Jersey). We don’t need a final not involving LA.***
*Yes, I’m aware he won it all last year and scored a substitute goal against Dallas, but it’s worth the suspension of reality for a moment just to shoehorn in this upcoming dig at Landon. Sorry for ruining the punchline, by the way.
**Joke adapted from an original quip from my buddy Mark Dunfee (@SoBBolton on twitter). He’s kind of an ass, but occasionally funny. There, you have credit. Happy?
***This is a fake footnote. Consider it a DVD extra. In that spirit, here’s some commentary: This post was written around midnight, while I was craving a sandwich. Preferably tuna. I listened to the albums Pinkerton by Weezer and Is This It by The Strokes while I was writing.
Giovanni Trapattoni is on the hunt for undiscovered Ireland-eligible talent, and has turned his eye towards the United States. The Republic of Ireland manager told reporters last week during a media session that he has requested a list of all MLS players with Irish sounding names.
By Chris Ballard
Last weekend, the oldest tournament in world soccer, England’s F.A. Cup, had its first round. This ancient tournament, which is now in its 130th incarnation, is entirely unseeded and has brought up hundreds of ‘shocks’ down the years,. The format means that it is theoretically possible for an amateur team to win the competition, even if it is extremely unlikely.
It's FIFA's world, we're all just living in it.
That's the only conclusion I can draw at the moment, beaten down by the spin world soccer's governing body is able to put on even the most damning accusations of corruption. England's 2018 World Cup bid is in trouble, if reports are to be believed, and all because a few English journalists did their bit to expose the rampant greed that exists within FIFA's executive committee. As the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.
More than money, fame or power, Sepp Blatter cares about his legacy. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is Blatter's pride and joy, a bit of feel good work done to push a country emerging from apartheid towards a new era in its history. As Sepp presided over FIFA when the World Cup finally came to Africa, he'll reap some of the historical reward. That the tournament may not have the long-lasting impact Blatter and FIFA promised and has left South Africa with expensive white elephant stadiums is ultimately none of Sepp's concern.
It's the 50th regular edition of American Soccer Show, and Zach and I celebrate by doing what we always do - engage in fiery debate. Something like that anyway...
There's talk of the MLS playoff structure, the lack of controversy surrounding the league and why it might be better of with a bit, rumors about Michael Owen and Giovanni Dos Santos, and the USMNT prospects of Bobby Convey and Juan Agudelo.
The Colorado Rapids, a member of the Western Conference based 600 miles due west of the westernmost Eastern Conference club, will host the San Jose Earthquakes, another Western Conference club based east of nothing but the the world's largest body of water, in a game that will be officially titled the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference Final.
Weekend fare. Not a tour really, but a question and answer session on the Timbers stadium renovations with the ongoing work in the background. Video courtesy of Steeplechase3k on Twitter.
The difference between paper mache models of human legs and the actual legs of Michael Owen is a matter of durability. The former are slightly more so. They are legs only another Owen (perhaps one whose family name begins with "Ha" and ends with "rgreaves") could envy.
San Jose shocked New York 3-1 at Red Bull Arena last night, thanks to a pair of goals from Bobby Convey and a well placed header by Chris Wondolowski. Despite playing at home with a 1-0 aggregate lead, New York came up short against a determined Earthquakes team. The Red Bulls controlled much of the game and a majority of the possession, but defensive lapses ultimately doomed them.
A few notes worth passing along, in regards to both this site as well as my other efforts around the web.
1. Bylines, especially the ones here in tiny print at the top of a post, are sometimes missed by readers. In an effort to keep down any confusion and prevent something excellently done by another MFUSA contributor being attributed to me, I'm going to start "signing" shorter posts with my initials. I haven't yet asked our other writers to do the same, but I think they'll figure it out from this post. Longer, more involved efforts will get a byline to make it extra clear to whom the piece belongs.
2. I've started writing a weekly-ish column for USSoccerPlayers.com; my first effort was published Monday and focused on Pablo Mastroeni's goal last week.
3. I'm also re-dedicating some of my time to the Four Four Two blog I neglected for much of the last few months. There's a new post there as well, on why MLS needs playoffs.
4. Somehow MFUSA has been nominated for an award alongside the likes of Soccer by Ives and Daily Soccer Fix. I'll forgo the "We're not worthy stuff" and just say that I'll let you know when the voting is open.
And now, back to our originally scheduled programming.
Kansas City Wizards striker and 2009 Hermann Award winner Teal Bunbury appeared on It's Called Football last night (interview starts about 14:30). Hosts Ben Rycroft and Duane Rollins asked the Canadian-American about his rookie season, his goals for next year, and his international intentions. Bunbury's answer about whether he plans to play for Canada was intriguing; not just because it indicates he's perhaps leaning towards the US, but because he clearly identified it as a career decision rather than a simple choice of loyalty.
by Jason Davis
In the universe that is New York City's soccer culture, gravitational pull is not a matter of new stadiums, flashy signings, or success on the field. It's a matter of history.
|"The Cove", Sydney FC's supporters section|
Australia's A-League faces many of the same challenges that MLS contends with in the United States; secondary status to more popular professional sports, issues over how best to market the league and its teams, questions of financial stability, how to approach the signing of aging marquee players, etc. etc. All of the parallels are there, while allowing for cultural differences and unique city-to-city attitudes towards the game.
Taylor Twellman has a press conference scheduled for tomorrow. It doesn't require much imagination to guess what he might announce. In fact, Steve Goff is reporting that he has confirmed what has seemed inevitable for much of the last year; Twellman will retire, his brilliant career unfairly cut short by head injuries.
Here's a not-so-bold prediction: MLS will have a team in the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
The prediction isn't so bold because it's now guaranteed by the draw; MLS sides Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew will play in the quarterfinals. And, without a Mexican club on their side of the bracket, there's a reasonable chance we'll have an American CCL finalist come April.
It must be tough being a highly paid professional athlete. Sure, the money and fame seem nice, but when your every move is analyzed, criticized, and scrutinized, living a normal life must be nearly impossible. One misstep, one mistake, one action that could be perceived as evidence that your commitment is lacking or that you're not holding up your end of the social contract, and BOOM, the world falls down upon your head.
How bout those playoffs?
One leg down in each of the first round series (not going to call them "Conference Semifinals"), and every match-up is separated by a single goal. Last night's Sounders-Galaxy game was entertaining (in part because of the atmosphere), New Yorks' win in San Jose was a blast of a track meet of a soccer match, and those other two games had moments of their own. Real Salt Lake's trek to Texas was certainly interesting, no? Pablo Mastroeni, a man with less than 10 goals in his entire career is the one that breaks the ice for Colorado?
A full show this week, including two great guests. Dave Clark of Sounder At Heart stops by to talk to us about the Sounders' season ticket kerfuffle and Cascadia away support for 2011 in the first segment. I talk to Adam Spangler of This Is American Soccer about the new New York Cosmos, and then Ginge and I hit on some of the biggest news of the week.