Friday, July 31, 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson leads tributes to Sir Bobby Robson

Ben Smith from the Times Online reports how Sir Alex Ferguson pays tribute to one of the great leaders of English football.

His notable characteristics - boundless energy, a wicked sense of humour and an ability to make friends wherever he went - made him the perfect standard-bearer for Newcastle, the city he came to represent. Newcastle United have confirmed that St James' Park will be open until 5pm to allow supporters to leave their tributes to the former manager, while the FA said flags at Soho Square and Wembley Stadium would fly at half mast.

The Manchester United manager said he was mourning the passing of a great friend, who had shown strength and courage during his fight with cancer and whose knowledge of football was unsurpassed.

"I was never too big or proud to ask him for advice which he gave freely and unconditionally," Ferguson said. "And I'm sure I am speaking for a lot of people when I say that.

"In my 23 years working in England there is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson. I mourn the passing of a great friend; a wonderful individual; a tremendous football man and somebody with passion and knowledge of the game that was unsurpassed.

"His character was hewn out of the coal face; developed by the Durham County mining background that he came from. His parents instilled in him the discipline and standards which forged the character of a genuinely colossal human being. He added his own qualities to that which then he passed on to his sons.

"The strength and courage he showed over the past couple of years when battling against his fifth bout of cancer was indescribable. Always a smile; always a friendly word with never a mention of his own problems.

"The world, not just the football world, will miss him. Let's hope it won't be long before another like him turns up because we could never get enough of them."

Former England manager Sir Bobby Robson is dead

Sir Bobby Robson, the former England manager, has died aged 76. He passed away at his home in County Durham this morning after losing a long battle with cancer.

"It is with great sadness that it has been announced today that Sir Bobby Robson has lost his long and courageous battle with cancer," a statement read.

"He died very peacefully this morning at his home with his wife and family beside him. Sir Bobby's funeral will be private and for family members only.

"A thanksgiving service in celebration of Sir Bobby's life will be held at a later date for his many friends and colleagues. Lady Robson and the family would very much appreciate it if their privacy could be respected at this difficult time."

Newcastle United held a minute's silence at their training ground this morning in honour of their former manager.

The national team’s most successful manager since 1966, he was best-loved for guiding England to the World Cup semi final in 1990. Robson began his football career while still at school in Langley Park, Durham. He signed with Fulham in 1950 and went on to play for West Bromwich Albion and England. However, he was better known as a coach, managing Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven, PC Porto and Newcastle United. He was voted European manager of the year in 1997.

Robson made 20 appearances for the England team himself after making his debut in 1957. He played for Fulham and West Bromwich Albion.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Among all-time coaches, Wooden's No. 1

A panel of 118 distinguished coaches from all sports was put together by The Sporting News to rate the 50 greatest U.S. coaches from all sports.

The result: John Wooden won...again.

The winner of 10 NCAA basketball titles in a 12-year span was honored Wednesday by The Sporting News as the greatest U.S. coach of all time.

"Of course he was," current UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "That had to be very easy for the panel."

Wooden was a runaway winner, picking up 57 first-place votes. Finishing second, with 20 first-place votes, was Green Bay Packers legend Vince Lombardi. Rounding out the top 10: Bear Bryant, Phil Jackson, Don Shula, Red Auerbach, Scotty Bowman, Dean Smith, Casey Stengel and Knute Rockne.

Wooden doesn't travel much anymore and is not the fixture he once was at UCLA games at Pauley Pavilion. He gets around mostly in a wheelchair.
But his sharp mind — and wit — are intact.

So is his modesty.

"No one is deserving of being called the very best," he said in his slightly raspy voice. "No one."
He then pointed out to the middle-aged men who had once been his young men.

"They're the ones who make coaches," he said of his players. "Coaches help. But if you don't have the youngsters, you're not going to do the job."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are Americans becoming soccer fans?

MATTHEW FUTTERMAN and NICK WINGFIELD of Wall Street Journal talks of how the soccer boom this past month shows that soccer is in fact growing in the eyes and hearts of American sports fans.

For MLS commissioner Don Garber, the challenge is teaching Americans a new way of following a sport. “At their base level, sports are local and they are tribal,” Mr. Garber said.

“It’s got to be about that experience of a father and a son or a daughter going to a game and sharing something as they root for their local team together.”

The best example of this is the league’s Seattle franchise. In its first season, the second-place Sounders (7-3-8) have smashed MLS season-ticket sales records. Attendance for its home games— averaging about 30,000—is the best in the league by nearly 10,000. The raucous fans, who chant and sway throughout the games at Qwest Field, produce better turnout on average than Seattle’s baseball team, the Mariners. Majority owner Joe Roth, the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios, says his dream is “to make the Sounders a mainstream sport in an American city. I think we’re on the way.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Shrewd Businessmen in Ferguson, Berlusconi

Good article by Peter Sevdin that comments on the inflated spending in world football today, and the shrewd business sense of Sir Alex Ferguson and Silvio Berlusconi .

Obviously, these prices thrown down are a result of the ego's of some men and the crazy inflation going on due to the sales of Kaka and Ronaldo and to some degree Benzema.

Ferguson himself said that United bid for Benzema but wouldn't budge over €35 million, which is still a pretty astronomical number, but Real Madrid had no problems with going over that value.
These days players like Sergio Aguero have €60 million on their head, and everybody is saying,

"Well if Kaka is worth this much, then my guy is worth twice as much."

That's why I personally like people like Berlusconi and Ferguson, who instead of using the vast sums of money they received from the sales of their two best players, are just going about picking up players in the "bargain bin" who might turn out to be great, keeping a low profile and waiting till everything calms down a bit.

Ching readies for rematch

The loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final is still fresh in the mind of US captain Brian Ching, and he relishes the opportunity of the rematch between the two in a World Cup qualifier on August 12th.

"It's not going to be hard to carry over those emotions," Ching said. "Standing on the field there, watching them accept the trophy, it's pretty much etched in the back of my mind for a long, long time to come. I'm not going to need any more motivation than that."

Ching realized that the USA have an opportunity to avenge the loss in another game that will matter even more than Sunday's result. They are fortunate it comes so close to Sunday's match.

The U.S. is in second place in the final hexagonal of CONCACAF qualifying for South Africa 2010. The Mexicans are in fourth place. The top three teams will get automatic berths to the World Cup Finals, while the fourth-place side will take on the fifth-place team from South America for a spot.

"If they think the next game is going to be like this, they have another coming," Ching said.
It seemed that Aug. 12 might have become the U.S. team's unofficial mantra.

On Sunday, the U.S. essentially used a group of players that was relatively inexperienced at the international level. The Mexicans had five players who are expected to play on Aug. 12, the U.S. one -- Ching.

"You look at anybody in the United States, this loss has got to anger you," the Houston Dynamo striker said, while twirling an energy drink bottle in his right hand. "I'm (angry). If you're an American and you're not (angry), there's something wrong with you. You just got to channel this anger, use it, and bring it with us on Aug. 12."

From Gold Cup to World Cup 2010: US roster options

Ridge Mahoney from Soccer America reviews the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and looks at how individual player performances from the US team could affect the 2010 World Cup roster.

NO PLAYER, IT CAN BE said, clinched a spot on the 2010 World Cup team by his performance in the Gold Cup, with the possible exception of goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

A tournament used by Coach Bob Bradley to look at potential World Cup backups in a competitive environment went reasonably well until the final. Mexico exploited its speed on the flanks, a sharp tactical plan devised by Coach Javier Aguirre, and a relatively inexperienced U.S. squad to hammer home five goals in the second half and atone somewhat for not only an 11-game winless streak on U.S. soil, but that infamous 2-0 loss in the 2002 World Cup that ended Aguirre's first stint in charge.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Warzycha stays calm under crisis

Columbus Crew head coach Robert Warzycha worked through a seven game winless streak to start his MLS coaching career, but rather than go into panic mode, he was able to stay cool under pressure to work the team back towards the top of the East.

"I was never thinking I was going to be out of a job before I ever got to coach," Warzycha said. "But the thing is, if some bad things happen, it's not just one thing that is coming. It's like they throw a few other things at you, and it's like what's going to happen next?"

The players clearly didn't believe that the man who has played and coached more games than any in franchise history was wrong for the job; there wasn't the slightest hint that they thought the coaching change had caused the team's bad start.

Warzycha didn't either, although he says now that as the winless streak grew, his public insistence that everything would be all right wasn't always expressed in private with the same cool head.

"That was a rough time because you start wondering," he said. "You start waking up in the middle of the night and asking yourself what you can do to help the team, what you can do to get better. Should I change? Should I stick with it? There are a lot of questions, a lot of questions. Sometimes, I'd go for a long jog just to clear my mind."

Magical Ability to Win

Shane Battier is one of the great competitors and leaders in professional sports today, and Ted Sullivan wrote a great piece about the little things that Battier does, which don't always show up in a box score.

Morey says, “When he’s on the court, all the pieces start to fit together. And everything that leads to winning that you can get to through intellect instead of innate ability, Shane excels in. I’ll bet he’s in the hundredth percentile of every category.”

Last season when the Rockets played the San Antonio Spurs, Battier was assigned to guard their most dangerous scorer, Manu Ginóbili. Ginóbili comes off the bench, however, and his minutes are not in sync with the minutes of a starter like Battier. Battier privately went to Coach Rick Adelman and told him to bench him and bring him in when Ginóbili entered the game. “No one in the N.B.A. does that,” Morey says. “No one says put me on the bench so I can guard their best scorer all the time.”

Book List helps mentor coaches

From the Evansville Courier Press, July 12, 2009

Having dedicated so much of my free time to reading books authored about great coaches, managers, and leaders, what originally had started as a hobby of a literature major in college became an obsession. I was eager to learn more and more about what made each of these coaches successful, what motivated them and what they was like away from the field of competition.

The more I read about successful coaches and managers, the more I realize that many of them have been drawn from their experiences of being around other great coaches and leaders to help formalize their own philosophies and the styles of management that they employed in their own careers. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to have worked for two of the real giants in college soccer in John Rennie (Duke University) and Fred Schmalz (University of Evansville). I also know that the opportunity to work with coaches like Rennie and Schmalz, as well as the chance to work in the same athletic department staff as Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, is valuable and not available to everyone.

Most successful coaches have been greatly influenced, be it for good or bad, by the coaches or teachers they have had growing up. Knowing that most of the characteristics of my own coaching personality have been developed by coaches that I have played for and worked with, I also know that a number of coaches and leaders who have authored books that I have read have influenced me as well.

After recommending a book to a former player, I thought that the experiences I had drawn from some of the books I had read might help other coaches or aspiring coaches who have not experienced the mentorship like I have. With that in mind, I put together a resource other coaches could use to help make themselves more effective. Whether that is done by introducing new concepts, seeing “how to do” or “how not to do” or maybe to broaden horizons and provoke thought, I hope this is something that can be put to use.

Listed below is the compilation of a number of the books in my collection I think any leader of a team or company would find beneficial in their own development. Some are biographies, autobiographies or books about coach’s theories or philosophies.

Barnett, Gary: “High Hopes”
Bolchover, David: “The 90-Minute Manager”
Conner, Dennis: “The Art of Winning”
Conroy, Pat: “My Losing Season”
Dent, Jim: “The Junction Boys”
Dorrance, Anson: “Training Soccer Champions”
Falkner, David: “The Last Yankee”
Ferguson, Alex: “Managing My Life”
Giuliani, Rudolph: “Leadership”
Huizenga, Wayne: “The Making of a Blockbuster”
Jackson, Phil: “Sacred Hoops”
Knight, Bob: “Knight – My Story”
Krzyzewski, Mike: “Five-Point Play”
Krzyzweski, Mike: “Leading With the Heart”
Lencioni, Patrick” The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team”
Luttrell, Marcus: “Lone Survivor”
Maraniss, David: “When Pride Still Mattered”
Packer, Billy: “Why We Win”
Parcells, Bill: “Finding a Way To Win”
Riley, Pat: “The Winner Within”
Russell, Bill: “Russell Rules”
Schembechler, Bo: “Bo’s Lasting Lessons”
Schwarzkopf, General H. Norman: “It Doesn’t Take a Hero”
Smith, Dean:” A Coach’s Life”
Tzu, Sun: “The Art of War”
Torre, Joe: “Joe Torre’s Ground Rules for Winners”
Valvano, Jim: “Valvano”
Winter, Tex: “Trial by Basketball”
Wojnarowski, Adrian: “The Miracle of St. Anthony”
Wooden, John: “They Call Me Coach”
Wooden, John: “Wooden”
Wooden, John: “Practical Modern Basketball”

It is important to be able to understand that what works for one leader might not work for you. Trying to lead like Phil Jackson might not fight into your personality – the goal should be to try to read about the experiences that these great leaders had, and see if you can draw common ties with your own personality and philosophies. Nothing breeds confidence like reading about how someone who is successful shares some of the same ideals. I have John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success hanging in my office – it helps remind me each day what things are important to me as a coach, teacher, father and husband.

Someone once told me that there are three kinds of people: Those who know, those who think they know, and those who don’t know. The ones who truly know, who are experts, are few and far between. The people to be frightened of are the people who think they are experts (those who think they know).

Personally, I ‘don’t know’. I am always looking to learn more about coaching and teaching. Don’t think that you can ever really stop learning, whether it is watching other coaches do sessions, meeting with other coaches or reading about others who are successful in management.

Larry Collins lived Arad McCutchan's ideal

From the Evansville Courier Press, July 26, 2009

Youth sports suffered a great loss this past week when long-time little league baseball coach Larry Collins lost his battle with cancer. Larry was a great mentor of young children, and used sport to teach valuable life lessons to those who were fortunate enough to know him and play for him.

At his wake, Larry's daughter Lainie showed me a letter that her father was sent years ago after initially becoming part of the Evansville Little League. The letter was addressed from its commissioner, Arad McCutchan, to the parents of young Larry Collins the player.

I was amazed at both the fact that the letter had survived over the years, and by the content of the letter. McCutchan's letter was a commentary of how parents and players should behave in youth sports, and still serves an important message for both groups today:

"All of us must be aware that with each honor or privilege that comes our way, comes also some responsibilities. The purpose of this letter is to invite your attention to the part you are expected to play.

"The objective of Evansville Little League Baseball, Inc. is to provide baseball for boys. Friendly competition is very desirable' however, this may be carried to such lengths that many evils are associated with it. Competition at this age is undesirable when the wish to win is the chief consideration, and the banner of superiority over opponents is held high. More important are the ideals: The determination to play one's best, to put forth every effort, to cooperate with fellow teammates, to play always with absolute honesty, to be tolerant of the errors of teammates, and to be friendly toward and appreciative of opponents.

"Good play, even without victory, is one satisfaction of a game. If victory comes today, defeat may come tomorrow. If these ideals are held high in our esteem we can have a situation where sportsmanship is observed by all players, managers, coaches, and spectators. This means that as parents we will not tolerate the razzing of any team or boy and that we will remember that these are only boys."

McCutchan's message oozes of core values that transcend sport — that being a member of a team is a privilege and not a right; that competition, when channeled properly, is very healthy; that we should encourage our children to play as hard as possible all of the time; that tolerance and respect of teammates and opponents are as critical as hitting and fielding; that sportsmanship is a lesson that should be shared by both players and parents.

It was hard to read this letter and not think of how it paralleled a lot of Larry Collins' philosophies and expectations for his young players. McCutchan, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, is well-regarded as one of the great coaches and teachers of sports, and is woven in the fabric and tradition of Evansville sports.

After reading that letter, my thought was that surely he helped create a foundation that Collins followed himself. Collins has probably developed as many doctors, lawyers and teachers as he has first basemen or catchers these kinds of lessons that Collins had stressed transcend sport, and last a lot longer than a Saturday double-header.

The art of coaching is not always measured in tactics, but in a coach or manager's ability to motivate, teach and communicate the ability to influence players in a positive manner. Proof of the impact that Larry Collins had was evident at his wake, seeing the crowd of friends and former players that he had impacted filling the room to pay their respects one last time. Clearly, Larry Collins had mastered the art of coaching.

As the legacy of Larry Collins is marked by players with nicknames and fond memories of their little league coach, hopefully these same core ideals that started with Arad McCutchan and was carried on through the teachings of Larry Collins will serve as a reminder to our youth sports community about what playing, coaching and parenting is really all about.

How Mexico routed the USA

Ridge Mahoney from Soccer America recaps the Mexico 5-0 victory over the US in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.

Despite the scoreline, I was very encouraged by Bob Bradley's young team throughout the Gold Cup. Coach Bradley has to walk away knowing that he has strengthened his player pool with young talent, some of which might go to South Africa next summer.

A sign of what was to come occurred in stoppage time of the first half, before a five-goal Mexican onslaught buried the USA in the Gold Cup final Sunday at Giants Stadium in front of a pro-Mexico crowd of 79,156. After a U.S. free kick, Mexico countered, and only Jay Heaps got back in time as Giovanni Dos Santos and Alberto Medina swept forward. Medina, who'd been threatening but hardly fearsome on the left flank, dragged his shot wide of the far post.

Had Mexico scored, the goal would have come against the run of play, for the Americans had dictated the tempo for most of the first half. Yet few good chances had been created and for all their work on a rather soft grass field installed over the Giants Stadium artificial surface, in hot and humid conditions, the Americans had expended energy they would sorely miss in the second half.

A rather young collection of U.S. players hadn't bothered to pace themselves, which wouldn't have been so critical had they scored a goal or two in the first half and thus forced Mexico to chase and work. Yet a maddening tendency to foul up the final pass deprived them of good shooting opportunities. Crosses and diagonal balls were over-hit, through balls slid all the way through, offside flags went up, and both Kyle Beckerman and Stuart Holden betrayed crisp buildups by missing the target from distance.

Mexican coach Javier Aguirre replaced Medina with Carlos Vela for the second half, and the electrifying young Arsenal player would soon torment the Americans. Yet still the USA worked the ball forward effectively, but left back Heath Pearce clipped a cross over everybody, and Holden scythed inside on the dribble to play a ball that Robbie Rogers collected nicely but then blasted a yard over the crossbar.

Vela and Dos Santos kept running at the USA and its desperate, scrambling defenders kept them at bay. Meanwhile, Davy Arnaud shot weakly right to Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa, and Pearce couldn't chase down a long ball from defender Clarence Goodson, another indicator that fatigue and the conditions were taking its toll.

When Heaps got tangled up with dos Santos in the penalty area and grabbed his jersey as they scrapped for the ball, the Mexican threw a right forearm into Heaps' face as they both fell backward. Referee Courtney Campbell whistled immediately and after a brief protest as Heaps gestured incredulously, Gerardo Torrado sent the ball straight into the net as keeper Troy Perkins dived his right.

A team that couldn't score suddenly couldn't be stopped. No American seemed capable of tackling or keeping pace as through balls and dinks cut their back line to shreds. Perkins repelled thumping shots or one-v-ones on several occasions before a good save on Miguel Sabah rebounded to dos Santos, who struck it home for a second goal.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley brought on Kenny Cooper for Arnaud and Santino Quaranta for midfielder Logan Pause, who'd been overrun playing alongside Kyle Beckerman in the middle. Michael Parkhurst, whose quickness and anticipation might have shored up the back line, stayed on the bench as the green waves came forward again and again.

Vela scored the third goal in the 70th minute by running onto a ball rolling through the goalmouth and chipping it over Perkins, who had no chance to get in a block and came off his line a second too late. The USA gained a few minutes of possession in the Mexican half, with Rogers and Holden sparking the sequences, but the lone shot - and the only U.S. shot on goal in the entire match - went from the head of Brian Ching straight to Ochoa from a long ball by Goodson.

Sam Cronin replaced Beckerman in the 81st minute, after Israel Castro had pounced on a ball slipped through by Vela and steered it past Perkins. Heaps picked up a second caution in the 87th minute and Mexico added a final insult when Fausto Pinto flew up the flank and centered the ball to substitute Guillermo Franco, who met no resistance as he fired a low shot past Perkins and inside the post.

Mexico ended an 11-match winless streak against the Americans in the USA and snapped a U.S. streak of two straight Gold Cup triumphs. The nations meet again at Estadio Azteca Aug. 12 in the sixth game of the Hexagonal with both teams expected to field stronger squads than those that took part on Sunday.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gold Cup Final - Scouting Report: Mexico

Bob Bradley and the US National Team staff has taken us on a magical run this summer, from the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa to the CONCACAF Gold Cup here in the United States.

This ride culminates tomorrow in the Gold Cup Final, which will pit the US against regional rival Mexico at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney writes about how Bob Bradley and a collection of MLS standouts have carried on the form that saw a FIFA Confederations Cup final versus Brazil, and hope to land a title tomorrow.

Despite its recent dominance over Mexico, the very idea that the USA could beat its southern rival in a competitive match, or any match, without its top players was ludicrous. It may happen this weekend.

With another USA-Mexico showdown pending in the Gold Cup final Sunday at Giants Stadium (TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Univision, live, 3 pm ET), the Americans will send out a roster consisting mostly of current or former MLS members, with those currently employed domestically far outnumbering those working overseas. Only left back Heath Pearce, currently club-less, has never played in MLS.

No doubt defender Clarence Goodson (ex-Dallas) and goalkeeper Troy Perkins (ex-D.C. United) have improved since their moves abroad in the past 18 months, but they haven't been gone that long. In the quarterfinal against Panama, Goodson replaced Kansas City stalwart Jimmy Conrad, who had been paired during the competition with Crew backliner Chad Marshall, as well as former Rev Michael Parkhurst. After six months in Denmark, Parkhurst may be better, but not dramatically so.

The Americans have faced a watered-down Honduras twice in this competition, and won both times by 2-0 scores. Not much of a challenge had been expected anyway from group foes Grenada and Haiti. Yet the Haitians led until the final minute, when Stuart Holden lashed a spectacular strike into the top corner to extract a 2-2 tie.

Had the USA lost to Haiti, it still would have won the group and played Panama in the quarterfinals. Yet somehow it avoided defeat. Pride and fighting spirit can be discounted, but they can't be disregarded, and since earning that tie the Americans have won two elimination matches without conceding a goal despite injuries and a few more revamps of the roster.

Certainly Coach Bob Bradley deserves credit for instilling a resilient attitude into all of his players, yet this is a much different team than the one that blew away Egypt, 3-0, last month to sneak into the Confederations Cup semifinals, and then stunned Spain, 2-0, and led Brazil, 2-0, before losing, 3-2. The attitude is much the same: that unity and determination - when leavened with skill and talent, of course - can overcome obstacles and setbacks, be they collective defeats or individual struggles.

Jay Heaps had to play a decade and more than 300 MLS games to earn his first cap, in which Haiti undressed him a few times in the 2-2 tie. Under some national team coaches it might have been his last. Many U.S. fans felt the same way, and numerous journalists proclaimed his national team career over, but they don't see what Bradley and his staff and Heaps' teammates see: the physical and mental toughness, the pride, the willingness to learn and get better every training session.

Heaps isn't unique in this regard; he's surrounded by athletes just as honored and zealous about playing for their country, and committed to the cause. The setting and opposition don't matter nearly as much as does wearing the shirt and fighting through adversity. You can screw up - occasionally that is - but you can't give up.

Just as impressive as the run of results is that the U.S. is lighting up the scoreboard without Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and Charlie Davies, dominating foes in midfield without Michael Bradley and Benny Feillhaber, and blanking opponents without Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Spector. (Some of them are MLS products, too.)

Feilhaber and a few other Euro-based players did appear in the Gold Cup but they've all since reported to their clubs for preseason training. Should the USA beat Mexico in the final, skeptics will point out, rightly, that Mexico is a mess. In his second go-round as head coach, Javier Aguirre is trying to rebuild his team's confidence while un-doing the wrongs wrought by predecessors Hugo Sanchez and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

As individual clubs, MLS teams have yet to match to their counterparts in Mexico when it comes to acquiring talent and succeeding internationally. But as a league, with more teams and fewer roster slots, there's fiercer competition as the season unfolds game-by-game and week-to-week, and harsher demands for players to step up at critical moments and make decisive plays. Those who have done so consistently in MLS have earned a shot at the next level. And no one wants to taint that tradition of beating Mexico.

Holden, Robbie Rogers, Kyle Beckerman, Brian Ching, Logan Pause, Perkins, Marshall, et al, have played well to ride out the rough moments and rise to the occasion. Ten different players have scored their 12 goals. Their greatest test so far awaits them.

As is the case so often with a U.S. team playing within its own borders against Mexico, a sea of green may greet them at the Meadowlands. Not long ago, even the most optimistic U.S. fan could expect nothing less than a slaughter if a mostly MLS team met El Tri. This group, though, can't wait to get out there.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Team Unity the Challenge for Hughes, Manchester City

The ability to get a team to gel together is the key component of a successful coach or manager - getting the players to understand and accept their roles, and to buy into the fact that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

This is the challenge that Mark Hughes has in front of him as he looks to mold Manchester City into a cohesive unit, and Alex Dimond writes, will be the difference in City competing for a title this season.

In truth, of greater importance to City’s immediate prospects than addressing the defensive issues is manager Mark Hughes’ ability to get his illustrious squad to gel quickly as a unit.

After all, as Redknapp might agree, 10 of the last 10 Premier League champions have boasted incredible team spirit.

Improving team unity is an undertaking that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As much as it might annoy the City hierarchy, it is not something that can be bought.

We're a soccer nation, after all

This was a great post on DailySoccerFix by Steve Davis, describing the soccer fever that is sweeping our country this summer.

I tell people all the time that there are plenty of soccer fans in this country. It’s just that only a relatively small percentage like MLS. But since that’s the country’s most visible soccer property, it’s irresistibly convenient to use as a barometer.

See, all across this great land there are people who love them some Mexican soccer. Others go gaga for English Premier League. Those networks aren’t scrappin’ for the EPL TV rights for nothing. And we have scattered pockets of amore for Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga, Campeonato Brasileiro, etc.

At World Cup time, TV ratings go all super-sized, adding more punch to my hunch that we really are a land of soccer lovers.

So when you assemble good events with name brand clubs and rosters stacked with quality players, people get in their little cars and drive on out, money in hand. Imagine that.

A crowd of 81,224 locked elbows inside the Rose Bowl for this week’s Chelsea-Inter Milan match. The Home Depot Center was full (27,000) two nights before that for the Galaxy-AC Milan (where David Beckham so unwisely chose to challenge the booing fans – about the worst ideas since sandpaper toilet paper. And a night prior to that, more than 65,000 packed Qwest Field for the Seattle Sounders-Chelsea friendly.

A crowd of 50,306 in the Georgia Dome watched Mexico City’s Club America upset AC Milan. (Did you see the first goal? Que Paso, Gooch? I’ve been worried that this move to AC Milan had more of a downside than people realize for big U.S. international Oguchi Onyewu. Damnit! Right again.)

And more than 82,000 green-shirted Mexican fans turned up in suburban Dallas for the Gold Cup quarterfinal featuring Mexico.

Chelsea’s match against AC Milan set for Friday at M&T Bank Stadium (capacity: 71,000) in Baltimore is already sold out. And you can expect more to come. I’d wager a Cristiano Ronaldo bobblehead that FedEx will be full for the D.C. United-Real Madrid friendly coming up in a couple of weeks.

Look at us! We’re a soccer nation, after all.

Wake Forest's Arnoux set to sign with Everton

Wake Forest forward Cody Arnoux is set to join the American revolution at Everton, as reported by Ives Galarcep on ESPN.

The Premier League team was impressed by the American youngster during his trial at Everton in March. Arnoux is set to sign a contract with the Liverpool-based club, making him the second American player to join Everton this summer. Midfielder Anton Peterlin also signed earlier this month.

Both Arnoux and Peterlin are expected to be with Everton when the club faces the MLS All-Star Team on July 29 in Utah.

Regarded as a top college prospect, Arnoux passed up a chance to sign with MLS after his junior season in order to stay in school. He was projected to be a top-3 draft pick in the 2010 MLS Draft but will now join former Wake Forest strike partner Marcus Tracy in Europe. During the past two seasons, Arnoux registered 32 goals and 16 assists for the Demon Deacons.

I had the pleasure of coaching Cody for a summer with the Triangle Futbol Club in North Carolina, and he was a great kid and tremendous athlete. I wish him the best of luck as he embarks on this tremendous adventure, and next step in his career.

Taking Care of Business

The US got the result they needed last night, defeating Honduras 2-0 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, setting up a trip to the finals against regional rival Mexico.'s J Hutcherson summed up last night in a nutshell --

What we saw last night in Chicago was a United States team working their tactics, pushing a plan, and getting the goals to advance. It's the kind of thing that should make long-term US fans happy, and it sets up yet another matchday with Mexico.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Scouting Report: Honduras - Semifinals preview the US matchup with Honduras tonight in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals.

What has changed since our Group Stage scouting report on Honduras? Well, the 'beat the United States' prediction took a bit of a hit. The United States turned a questionable first-half into a game winning second, beating Honduras 2-0 on July 8th on their way to winning Group B.
Honduras got a 4-0 win in their final Group B game against Grenada, but the United States and Haiti had already shown that Grenada was over-matched in this tournament. Honduras' quarterfinal win over Canada ended with Canada feeling they were the victim of bad officiating rather than a breathtaking show of skill from Honduras. That was helped by Honduras goal scorer Walter Martinez telling the media after the game that he didn't think it was a penalty either.

"All referees make mistakes and are human," he said. "I didn't think it was a penalty, but I was able to score."

Of concern with their second game against the United States in the 2009 Gold Cup should be scoring from the run of play. It's one thing to run up the score against Grenada, but Honduras hasn't had the kind of game that stresses confidence in their attacking players. They have looked dangerous, but that hasn't been reflected on the scoreboard.

Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda isn't making any predictions this time around. In fact, he has been all but silent about his plans for his squad's second chance against the United States. What he is stressing is an understanding that the US players are treating these games as their best chance at proving their worth for World Cup Qualifying and beyond. "It doesn't make it any easier for us," he said on Wednesday.

What should be expected is more of the same from Honduras. Though Rueda has talked about different looks tailored to each opponent, their attack, and to a large extent their game, runs through Carlos Costly. Exemplifying the issues with the Honduras attack, he has yet to get a goal in this tournament. For that to change later tonight, he's going to have to allow the attack to develop rather than rushing forward.

The United States have shown over their games that they aren't afraid to defend in their box. This means needing to beat more than one player to create quality chances. Honduras hasn't been doing enough of that, and without a revamp of their attacking mentality, that's not likely to change.

On the other end of the field, Donis Escober showed the first time around against the US that he won't be beaten easily. Santino Quaranta's goal was so well hit it's doubtful anybody stops it. Brian Ching's was a result of a Steve Cherundolo pass that opened up the Honduran defense.
Canada spent a lot of time in the second-half trying to get shots off in the Honduran box, and a combination of bad selection, bad luck, and good goalkeeping kept them out. For all of Canada's complaints about the officiating, there was the feeling that their best potential result was going to be carrying a scoreless draw past 90 minutes.

Building off of Escobar, there's the same feeling that Honduras has brought into every game except Grenada. Low scoring, trying to breakup plays before they reach their defensive third, and stalling on a lead if they get one. No surprises and not a lot of offense, but it's gotten them to the semifinal stage.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The American Way?

J Hutcherson of wrote an interesting response to Ericksson's move to Notts County, wondering why more US coaches haven't been given the opportunity in the lower levels of professional soccer in England.

-- Let's take former England and Mexico manager Sven-Goran Ericksson's move to Notts County in England's League 2 at face value.

"I started my football management career at a small lower division Swedish club and we managed to get them into the top-flight," Eriksson said in a press statement. "I can think of no better challenge than to attempt to do that again, but this time with the world's oldest football club, where we can add to a proud tradition and hopefully bring some richly deserved success."

Fascination with Nottingham's other club aside, it's an interesting move. Like Champions Manager in real life, putting all that an established name has learned into proving a point with a project club. Disallowing for a massive influx of money to turn Notts County into yet another all-star squad, it's a bold move.

It also raises the question why this hasn't been an option for American coaches with Major League Soccer experience. In terms of skill sets, working within single-entity to build up a winning team should count for something relative to getting results within budget in the English lower divisions. Every team can't go the designated player route here or there. It's not exactly the extreme of tactics to route one the ball up field or try to get the crosses in while making sure your opponent is feeling it on each and every tackle.

Motivation is the basic hallmark of high level coaching in the United States, running from the elite pros to high school. If you want to be a successful American coach, it's almost a given that you have to master the kind of motivational talk that makes no sense outside of a locker room or sideline.

Yet no product of the American coaching system gets enough of a look to end up with a contract. MLS can produce high level executives for bigger North American sports not to mention the guy running Arsenal, but the coaching ranks are apparently closed.
Sure, there have been rumors of links with high-profile jobs. But again, none of these ended up with a product of American soccer getting a job.

Maybe it will take American ownership taking a chance on an American coach. That's the way the sentence has to be written, even if it's not much of a chance. Doing a job in MLS counts, and eventually a club in need of a push will make the call. It just needs to happen before a generation of quality American coaches no longer see it as an option.

Sven-Goran Eriksson joins fourth-tier club

The below wire report is definitely a fall from grace for the former England national team manager. Notts County is the closest professional club to the University of Evansville's Harlaxton College (located in Grantham, England) - although it is England's oldest club, it has fallen on hard times in recent years...dropping all the way down to League Two.

Former England national team coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has bounced back from his unsuccessful stint as Mexico coach and landed at England fourth division (League Two) club Notts County, where he will be director of soccer.

The Swede, who coached England in 2001-06, spent a season with Manchester City before taking the Mexico job in 2008 on what was reportedly a two-year, $7.5 million contract. Eriksson was sacked after Mexico's sixth loss in his 13 games in charge.

Eriksson coached clubs in his native Sweden, Portugal (Benfica) and Italy (Lazio) before becoming England's first foreign national team coach in October 2000. England exited in the quarterfinals of two World Cups and a European Championship under Eriksson.

Notts County, England's oldest club, has not been in the top flight since 1992. It was bought last week by Munto Finance.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What Happened to Arsene Wenger the Manager?

I do not believe a team can build success by continually selling their more dependable players. Manchester United under Alex Ferguson have been the masters of selling players at a good price, but they sell from a position of strength, after successes, not from a position of fourth place in the league and 18 points behind.
Wenger may well find another cheaper replacement for Adebayor, but will it actually make Arsenal better, which is what they must strive to be to win trophies.

Arsene Wenger was once a fantastic football manager who built superb teams who won trophies. Has the constraints of building the Emirates, which was supposed to help Arsenal compete at the top end, actually turned him in to just a very good bank manager?

You can trust him with your money, but it seems, you can no longer trust him to maintain a winning team, and persuade players to stay with the Arsenal project.

Villarreal opens preseason with 27-0 win

For those who wonder about the idea of 'running the score up' against an opponent, read the AP wire report of a pre-season exhibtion between Villarreal and Navata. Where this seems to be a common practice in college football, this has reached a new level in soccer.

GERONA, Spain (AP) -- Villarreal has begun its Spanish league preparations with a 27-0 victory over minnows Navata in a preseason friendly.
New arrival Jonathan Pereiro scored seven goals while strikers Joseba Llorente and Marcos Ruben notched four each as the topflight club beat the third division side from the Catalan league Sunday.
Villarreal finished fifth in the top league last season and will play in the Europa League -- the former UEFA Cup competition -- this season.

Even Steve Spurrier would have problems putting that many points on the board...

Friday, July 17, 2009


Author Charles Swindoll on attitude: "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is... more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do... The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it."

Scouting Report: Panama

Graig Carbino of previews the Gold Cup quarterfinal match up between the United States and Panama.

These two squads are no strangers to one another in Gold Cup play. They met in the 2005 final with the United States eventually taking the title 3-1 on penalty kicks. In 2007 it was the quarterfinals, with Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra scoring in a 2-1 win. Those two players, along with most of the US regulars, will not be at Bob Bradley’s disposal this weekend.

Looking forward to Saturdays encounter in the City of Brotherly Love, Panama should be able to field what coach Gary Stempel considers his first choice starting lineup. Defender Armando Gun and attacking threat Ricardo Phillips were both sent off against Mexico and missed Panama’s last match with Nicaragua. Those players should return to the lineup along with team captain and defensive stalwart Felipe Baloy - out for the last match because of yellow card accumulation.

Baloy, Gun, and the rest of the Panamanian defense will have to be at the top of their games to keep out a United States attack that has scored eight times through three Gold Cup matches.

The US attacking threat will be diminished somewhat by the loss of Charlie Davies and Freddy Adu who have returned to their club teams in Europe for preseason training. Without these two more experienced youngsters Bradley, will turn to tournament standout Stuart Holden (2 goals) to provide the offensive punch to push past Panama.

World Cup veteran Brian Ching (1 goal) is also a good bet to see the field, possibly pairing with Kansas City Wizards forward Davy Arnaud (1 goal) or DC United attacker Santino Quaranta (1 goal).

Mexico-based forward Blas Perez should lead the Panamanian offense after his two-goal performance in the tournament thus far. Perez spent the 2009 Clausura with Pachuca registering nine goals in seventeen appearances.

Short-lived Real Salt Lake striker Luis Tejada will also look to threaten the US backline having scored two goals against Nicaragua. Tejada will be pushing for a chance from the opening whistle having made two substitute appearances thus far. Nelson Barahona and Gabriel Enrique Gomez have also tallied in the tournament for Panama who sit just behind the US on goals scored with six up to this point.

Panama is a team that has certainly given the United States a bit of trouble in the past without being able to actually get a result. They come into the contest on Saturday with a fairly settled team and will look to reverse recent history.

Discounting the inspiration that comes along with the United States' last two Gold Cup victories over Panama would seem shortsighted. As manager Stempel said, “Two previous losses to the United States is somewhat of a motivation for us to change the result.”

Panama also clearly will not be facing the same sort of US team they were up against the previous two tournaments. This is an MLS/less experienced US roster that got even smaller this week as the aforementioned Adu and Davies were joined by defenders Steve Cherundolo and Michael Parkhurst on jets back to Europe. Bradley will need to rely on a mix of a few veterans and many younger, untested players to get the job done on Saturday.

Full complement of first team players or not, international tournaments matter. A positive result for Panama against the United States this weekend would be a huge mile marker for the ‘Red Tide’ to finally cross.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bradley is a proven winner

Bob Bradley has exceed expectations as the head coach of the US National team, and Kerith Gabriel of the Philadelphia Daily News writes about how Bradley has brought a level of consistency to US Soccer as well.

"It's fun watching the fruits of your labor," Bradley said. "To witness the hours of planning, preparation and practice turn into a win is the most gratifying feeling any coach can have. It's always been my mindset that proper preparation produces positive results so that's how I go about my job."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Versatility matters in MLS

Steve Davis from writes about how versatile standouts like Steve Ralston or Jonathan Bornstein have been key components to their team's success this season.

With rosters across Major League Soccer getting stretched like taffy at the state fair, a versatile performer can greatly enhance his value in the big picture in steadily expanding MLS.

It's one thing if an athlete can play in a position beyond his preferred spot and not be a total disaster at the alternate location. But a fellow who can actually fill a hole and manage to be effective as a stop-gap, that fellow has greatly elevated his stock in the eyes of a manager who is straining to make due during times of smaller rosters and swollen schedules.

America: Land of Burgers, Big Blocks, and...Keepers

Attached is a great article about how and why the United States develops some of the world's best goalkeepers.

Americans know how to do a few things quite well. We can deep-fry the hell out of anything, we can make bigger cars than anybody, and, oh yeah, we produce some fine goalkeeping talent.

Former Evansville standout key contributor in Gold Cup

Former University of Evansville goalkeeper Troy Perkins has been a standout for the US National Team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and caught up with Clemente Lisi from to discuss the team's performance so far.

“It is important for us to do well, but we must also not look any further ahead than the next game,” he said. “We need to keep our focus on just the game at hand and worry about getting a result there. So even though we want to win the tournament we are not thinking about anything else than the next game.”

Young Americans make big moves in Europe

US National team phenoms Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies have both made moves to benefit their playing careers - Altidore to Olympiakos (Greece) and Davies to Sochaux (France).

Altidore, the 19-year-old striker who scored in the USA's 2-0 upset over Spain at the Confederations Cup, is reportedly headed to Greek champion Olympiakos from Villarreal (Spain). Altidore played most of this past season on loan with Spanish second division leader Xerez. He had joined Villarreal, for which he made six appearances and scored once, from the New York Red Bulls on a $10 million transfer.

Davies, 23, who has spent the summer playing in the Confederations Cup, is moving from Swedish club Hammarby to French club Sochaux. Davies left Boston College after his junior season for Europe in 2007 and scored 14 times for Hammarby this past season. He had four goals in nine games in this season in Sweden before leaving for national team duty.

"Naturally it's sad that a player like Charlie is leaving us," Hammarby chief executive Michael Andersson said on the club's Web site. "But when a player develops like Charlie has done we don't have resources to keep him. It's a problem we share with other teams in Sweden."

Sideline antics results in suspension for Aguirre

One of the most bizarre sideline incidents in recent history landed Mexico coach Javier Aguirre a three-game suspension, as reported by Soccer America's Paul Kennedy.

During the second half of Thursday's game between Mexico and Panama, Aguirre raised his leg as if to attempt to trip Canalero Ricardo Phillips, who was racing down the sidelines past the Mexico bench.

Aguirre and the stunned Phillips, who shoved the Mexico coach, were both ejected.

Phillips' shove prompted Mexican bench personnel to respond by pushing Phillips and a fracas ensued.

Debris showered the field from the crowd. The match was interrupted for approximately 12 minutes before Phillips could be moved from the field under a security escort and order was restored.

Concacaf's disciplinary committee determined that while Aguirre was not attempting to injure Phillips, he did leave his designated area to engage in activities that resulted in contact and instigated the incident.

"The committee acknowledged that Mr. Aguirre is well known to them as a responsible person and it was their belief that this was an aberration rather than any aspect of his normal behavior," CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer wrote in his letter to Mexican General Secretary Decio de Maria informing him of the decision.

Aguirre, Mexico's fourth coach since the start of a new World Cup cycle in 2006, apologized for his actions on Friday.

Concacaf also noted the "exemplary behavior" of Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in trying to calm matters and help Phillips safely from the field.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mourinho in midseason form

Salvatore Landolina of reports on how Jose Mourinho is already in midseason form when it comes to conducting interviews and press conferences.

"I always have the same objectives. I am satisfied to return. I like working, playing, coaching. I like the competition," added the coach.

"We are to start work straight away for next week's friendlies. I am happy and satisfied."

"The squad size? It's a problem for me. I am not happy. Its not good for working. It's XI against XI in a match and having 30 players in training is not positive."

"The players who I want to go know I don't want them to stay. It's not good for the team. It's negative."

"Today it seems players are interested in money and lifestyle rather than anything else. Some players prefer to stay in a team where the coach doesn't want him, rather than find another team."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Scouting Report: Haiti

Below is a preview of the US-Haiti match tomorrow in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which comes from Graig Carbino of USSoccerPlayers Newsletter.

The United States National Team takes on Haiti at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Saturday evening in each squad’s final Group B match of Gold Cup 2009. With the US already qualified for the Quarterfinals, they will look to clinch first place against a Haitian team that still has it all to play for.

The US come into game three having waltzed past an overmatched Grenada before being made to work a bit against Honduras. In the end, a plus six-goal differential with no goals allowed qualifies as job done for the United States.

Do not be surprised to see lesser-used players like Jimmy Conrad, Colin Clark, Sam Cronin and Kenny Cooper get extended looks on Saturday evening. New England Revolution defender Jay Heaps will be looking for his first international appearance at the age of 32, while young US goalkeeper Luis Robles may deputize for Gold Cup regular Troy Perkins.

For Haiti it’s all about limiting the damage. Sure, they could come out and throw caution to the wind, but why? All they realistically need from this match is a draw. Four points would at least clinch third place in the group and leave the Haitians with a positive goal differential. They would need results from other groups to advance, but they would have done enough to put themselves in position.

Playing against a somewhat undermanned US squad might give Haiti the false hope of being able to really go for a win and reach as high as second place in Group B. If their first two games in the tournament have shown anything so far, it's that they really do not have the offensive capabilities to push six or seven players into the opposition defensive third and generate tons of offense.

In Haiti’s first group game against Honduras they were able to keep Los Catrachos at bay for long stretches without creating any offensive threat of their own. In the end, a relatively even match was decided by Honduran forward Carlos Costly. He's the type of powerful and quick player that Haiti was always going to struggle to contain.

Keeping control of Costly was one thing. Of bigger concern for Haiti is their lack of a similar player. Not having a forward capable of either holding the ball up when it is played in to him or having the speed necessary to run off the ball into dangerous positions have made this Haiti squad a bit of a vanilla bunch.

Sure, they will attack with USL players Fabrice Noel (Puerto Rico Islanders) and Leonel Saint-Preux (Minnesota Thunder) but that really shouldn’t be enough to challenge a US back-line that will be made up of players that regularly compete at a higher level.

Young Real Salt Lake forward Jean Alexandre (who is on loan to USL club Austin Aztex) is also capable of springing a surprise up front. He was substituted early in the second-half against Honduras and did not feature for Haiti against Grenada.

That match against the Spice Boyz was probably the best reflection of what Haiti does offer going forward. The Haitians controlled possession but were basically gifted two goals by Grenada after failing to develop much of their own offense.

The first goal went in off of Noel’s back after Grenada failed to clear a free kick in the 14th minute. If the first goal was luck then the second was just a pure gift. Grenada captain Anthony Modeste ‘dummied’ a ball in his own penalty area allowing James Marcelin to walk in alone and easily slot home the match clincher.

Besides those two simple chances, Haiti were relegated to shots from distance against a usually generous Grenada defense. If you can’t generate offense against Grenada, you will not do it against the United States, first choice lineup or not.

When all is said and done, this match should not be one for the history books. Haiti would be well advised to keep things tight at the back and maybe counter here and there. Do the things that they have done will this tournament without trying to step outside the box too much. The US will look to keep possession and break down a defense that has remained organized and compact.

Haiti playing to their current strengths could prove a tough nut to crack. Going against conservatism and shooting for all three points might prove lethal for a squad that has not shown the ability to push the offense in this tournament.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Murphy is American Success Story in Scotland

Congratulations to John Murphy, who recently became the first American coach to be named as a manager of our domestic team in Europe - given the reigns at Livingston FC in Scotland.

Murphy went from successful coach at the youth, collegiate and professional levels here in the United States to getting named as the goalkeeper coach at Livingston in February. He was just recently promoted as their manager.

“You get one chance over here,’’ Murphy said. “If you get fired, there’s a stigma with that. In Europe, you have to make good on your first job.’’

“With what’s hanging over the club right now, if I can turn it into a better situation, that would reflect very well on me. And if for some reason things didn’t go as planned, maybe people wouldn’t be as harsh.’’
Being a bit of a curiosity as a foreigner might earn a little slack in the beginning but Murphy is wise enough to know that he needs results.

“I want people to judge me on who I am as a coach,’’ Murphy said. “The fact that I’m an American and the fact I have Scottish heritage, that’s part of who I am. But I want to be judged on how I develop teams and, ultimately at this level, about winning games and winning championships.’’

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Traditional intensity is likely

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney previews the USA-Honduras matchup in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

"I'm expecting them to come out for the first 10-15 minutes with a flying start, really putting pressure on us," says U.S. forward Charlie Davies, who watched that match from the bench but has since gained a starting spot. "But I think we'll settle into the game well, and we just have to play our game and we'll be successful."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ince returns to MK Dons

Paul Ince is back at MK Dons and expectations are sky high.

The departure of Roberto Di Matteo to West Bromwich Albion cleared the path for a return for Ince, who has taken a six month sabbatical since his departure from Blackburn.

During his 12-month stint previously he guided the Dons to the League Two title, as well as winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in a memorable campaign.

The lure of the Premier League proved irresistible for Ince, but it soon turned sour as he was dismissed within six months by Blackburn having won just six games in charge.

However, having worked the oracle at Macclesfield Town to keep them in the Football League and subsequently becoming the most successful manager in MK Dons’ history, his reputation is still intact.

And he is looking to enhance it once again after being given another opportunity by Chairman Pete Winkleman who is in no doubt he has made the right decision.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to bring Paul back to Milton Keynes,” he said.

“He enjoyed incredible success during his first spell with us and showed himself more than worthy of a shot at the Premier League.

“But we always felt he had unfinished business here and it feels absolutely right that he should return to the club and build on the very momentum he helped to create.”

"A brilliant move" says Lalas interviews former US international Alexi Lalas on Oguchi Onyewu's move to AC Milan. Lalas is the only other American to play in the Serie A.

“Obviously playing at one of the world’s biggest clubs there will be pressure,” Lalas said. “But on the other hand, you’re also playing with very good players. The pressure will be more because he’s an American than the fact that he’s playing at AC Milan.”

AC Milan Sign Onyewu

AC Milan have completed the shock free transfer signing of Standard Liege centre back Oguchi Onyewu, as reported by Salvatore Landolina of

The 27-year-old impressed during the recent Confederations Cup for the United States, but it comes as something of a surprise that the Rossoneri have moved to snap him.

"AC Milan would like to inform that they have signed Oguchi Onyewu on a permanent basis from Standard Liege," a statement on the club's official website reads.

The contract is for three years.

Onyewu arrives on a Bosman transfer as his contract at Liege had expired. The 6' 4" centerback possesses a Belgian passport, and so will not take up Milan's final non-EU slot.

Formerly with Newcastle United, Metz, and La Louviere, he has won 47 caps for the United States, and is expected to fight it out with Thiago Silva for a place alongside Alessandro Nesta in the center of the Milan defense next season.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ajax Interested in Onyewu

Oguchi Onyewu is in the middle of a bidding war for his services, reports Zac Lee Rigg The latest club to join the party is Ajax.

The 27-year-old's agent, Lyle Yorks, confirmed to that the free agent is in discussions with the Dutch giants.

"[We're] in discussions. That is it at this point," he confirmed.

"We are in serious discussions with a few clubs at the moment. A decision should be taken next week."

After fulfilling his contract with Standard Liege, Onyewu put in a series of imposing shifts at the Confederations Cup with the United States national team to reach the final. Now available for free, several clubs are interested in the 6'3 defender, including Ajax, Birmingham City, and Genoa.

US vs Grenada - CONCACAF Gold Cup

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney goes over the keys to the US 4-0 victory over Grenada in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Against an overmatched opponent, huge gaps and time on the ball offer plenty of opportunities for combination play and interchanging of positions. Central midfielders Logan Pause and Kyle Beckerman held the middle secure, and played as many passes as they could to outside mids Robbie Rogers and Stuart Holden. Grenada couldn't contain either of them, and were so inept one-v-one they allowed many virtually uncontested crosses and clear paths to goal.

Freddy Adu slid into the hole behind Charlie Davies, and while sometimes those two were stretched 20 or 30 yards apart, Grenada's midfielders were often stranded in no man's-land and couldn't put pressure on the ball when it was played out wide. Adu drew out defenders as well by checking back into midfield, and by rarely turning while in possession, kept the ball moving with first-time balls that his teammates used to string six, eight, or 10 passes together.

Given plenty of space and passes, Rogers used his dribbles and cutbacks to constantly unhinge Grenada's defense, and the timing and weight of his touches was impeccable. He stripped Ricky Charles of the ball on the left side and then evaded Marc Marshall near the corner of the penalty area to slide a square ball that Adu tucked away for the first U.S. goal, and set up a second goal by chasing down a low cross from Holden that skipped through the goalmouth, then finding space near the byline to loft a chip Holden headed into the net.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Little league skipper coaches through cancer

As Larry Collins fights his battle with lung cancer, the Evansville Eastside Litttle League hosted a reunion at the fields were named for the little league baseball coach that has positively effected a community and its members.

"I discovered that I loved the age level of 9 to 12," Larry Collins says. "How do I pick them? I look for guts in a kid. If he can throw and catch a little, we can teach him to get better. The hitting usually comes later."

Coach Collins teaches more than the game

That was the title of a letter to the editor in today's Evansville Courier Press, which was written by Mark "WK" Murty in reference to Larry Collins. Collins is an institution in youth baseball here in Evansville, and just recently had the Eastside Little League fields named in his honor.

Below is the letter than Murty wrote, and speaks volumes about what coaching is really about.

I played for Larry Collins from 1987 to 1990. Next to my stepfather, he was the most influential man in my life as a child. I learned just as much about life as I did about baseball.

He was a coach who taught the fundamentals of the game by any means necessary. He once had our team field group balls without gloves to show us the importance of using two hands.

Not only was he my coach, he was also a family friend. I remember him stopping by several times a week just to see how we were doing. As an 11 year old, my family couldn't afford to send me to Jim Brownlee's baseball camp. Mr. Collins showed up at the house one day and told my mother that if she could get me there, I'd be on the roster. To this day I'm not exactly sure how I ended up at that camp.

Wins were great, but meaningless if each and every player didn't learn something about themselves and the game. Mr. Collins genuinely cares for his players, not just statistics. he kept it simple: a swipe across the chest was the bunt sign, a not-so-hidden head nod was the steal sign.

Every kid who plays for Mr. Collins knows how lucky they are to be on the field with him. Thank you, Mr. Collins, not only for teaching me the game I love but also for making me the man I am today.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Jones & Castillo to possibly join US

Midfielder Jermaine Jones could join the U.S. national team later this year, possibly with defender Edgar Castillo, reports Ronald Blum of AP.

The 27-year-old Jones, who has appeared in the European Champions League for Schalke of the Bundesliga, has played three times for Germany’s national team in exhibitions. He holds dual citizenship and has petitioned FIFA for a switch of nationality.

“We’ve had pretty regular communications with Jermaine’s representatives and his advisers,” U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said Thursday. “I think that paperwork for that has probably now been submitted to FIFA. And the earliest he would be eligible to move would be the 2nd of August, which would be 60 days after the rule change came into effect.”
Jones, the son of a U.S. soldier, was Eintracht Frankfurt’s captain before signing a four-year contract with Schalke in April 2007.

Plans aren’t as far along with Castillo, a 22-year-old from New Mexico with Mexico’s Tigres UANL. He made his debut for Mexico’s national team against Colombia on Aug. 22, 2007, and has played in four matches for El Tri.

“We’ve had some discussions with Edgar’s representatives in the last few days,” Gulati said. “Everything is open. I don’t think Bob is ready to say that he’s coming into the team or not coming into the team, but from our perspective we’ve had some preliminary discussions with Edgar.”

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gold Cup Preview

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney previews the Gold Cup.

On the face of it, the task for the U.S. national team is simple: Start off defense of your Gold Cup title with a Fourth of July match in Seattle against one of the smallest nations in Concacaf. Except that things work differently in Concacaf, and though the days of guest competitors from other confederations and the wrong national anthems being played are things of the past, hopefully, just a few days before the tournament began came news of a curious development.

The USA meets Grenada Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, TeleFutura) at Qwest Field with a greatly revamped roster from the squad that finished second in the Confederations Cup, though seven of those players have been added to the 23-man roster submitted last week, as per an announcement that following discussions between Concacaf and U.S. Soccer, Concacaf decided that any nation competing in a Gold Cup played right after a Confederations Cup would be permitted to select game-day rosters of 18 from 30 players, not the standard 23.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hankinson headed to India

Tim Hankinson, who has coached in MLS, the USL and the collegiate ranks and whose globetrotting has taken him to Iceland and Guatemala, is off to India to coach Goa's Salgaocar FC, which won promotion to the 2009-10 I-League First Division.

Hankinson was most recently the men's head coach at Division II power Ft. Lewis. He made a name for himself as head coach of Alabama A&M during its heyday as a D1 power and also coached at DePaul and Syracuse.

He worked in the USL and MLS's Project-40 program before coaching MLS's Tampa Bay Mutiny and Colorado Rapids. He also coached in the Icelandic Second Division.

"Tim Hankinson coming to India will enrich this country's footballing culture," agent Eddie Rock told on India's west coast, Goa has a strong Portuguese influence and is noted for its beaches.

Salgaocar, one of six Goan teams in the I-League, has recently signed Brazilians Luciano Sabrosa and Alexandre D'Silva and Nigerian Chigbo Offor for the 2009-10 season.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Beckham Experiment

Below is the link to an excerpt of the much-anticipated "The Beckham Experiment" by Grant Wahl-

The Morton's dinner was the first time Beckham had held center stage at a players-only meal, and he came out of his shell, answering questions and telling stories about his days with Manchester United, the English national team and Real Madrid. The vibe was comfortable. There was no awkwardness with Beckham. "You can break his balls," said defender Chris Albright, "and he'll break your balls right back." Kyle Martino, a midfielder, was stunned that Beckham could be such a regular guy.

And then the check came.

Beckham was earning a $6.5 million salary, and his income, with endorsements, would balloon to $48.2 million. Martino was making a salary of $55,297 -- before taxes -- and living in one of the U.S.'s most expensive cities. Nearly everyone at the table was thinking, Is Beckham going to pick up the check? But nobody said anything. Beckham, meanwhile, had never been in this situation before. The players on his other teams had all been millionaires, and Real Madrid paid for all team meals anyway. The Galaxy provided only a $45 per diem on the road. What would Beckham do? What should he do?

Donovan eyed the bill from his seat. He had paid for teammates' dinners in the past, and he'd made his position clear even before Beckham's arrival. "He'd better be picking up meals too," Donovan had told teammates, "or else I'll call him out on it." But defender Chris Klein, one of Donovan's best friends on the team, had a different viewpoint.

"If you're out to dinner with the guys and you pick up a check here or there, then fine," Klein said. "But if you start to feel like you're being used, these aren't your friends anymore. These are leeches. You can look at it two ways: Here's this guy that's making a lot of money, and maybe he should pick up the tab. But the other side of it is, maybe he's trying so hard to be one of the guys, if he's paying for everything then he's not one of the guys anymore."

Beckham didn't pick up the check. He put in enough to cover his share and passed it along. That would be standard operating procedure at meals throughout the season. "None of us care," said Kelly Gray, one of Beckham's frequent dining companions. "It's just nice to go out to dinner."

Donovan didn't call Beckham out at Morton's after all, but he could never get over Beckham's alligator arms when the bill arrived. Nobody would have believed it, he thought: David Beckham is a cheapskate.