Friday, October 28, 2011

An American in Egypt

Bob Bradley on being an American in charge of the Egyptian national team-

"As an American I saw on TV and read about the January revolution and I respect what the Egyptians have done for what they believe. And when you are a coach of a national team your team must be connected to the people," he said.

"Players must know when they wear the national team jersey that they are playing for millions of people who love the team of this country."

Bradley doesn't yet know the culture, the language, the league, or many of the players. And his first game as coach is an exhibition against five-time world champion Brazil next month before he begins the work of attempting to qualify Egypt for the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

He may not yet know his best midfield combination or how to shout instructions to his players in Arabic, but he has learned a little. The fish in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria is "so good," he said, and he already likes falafel sandwiches — an Egyptian favorite.

He said he's also looking forward to visiting the ancient cities of Luxor and Aswan down in the south now that he has settled into a hotel apartment in Cairo. His wife is set to join him this week.

"I try to listen and learn about everything, not only football and sports," he said, "and it's very exciting for me to be part of this life every day."

More than anything, he's learned that like the mighty pyramids that loom over his new home city, soccer dominates the sports landscape in Egypt in a way it doesn't come close to doing in the U.S.

"Regarding not qualifying to the World Cup since 1990, everywhere I go, everyone I meet and who talks with me speaks about the World Cup dream. So it's a big responsibility," he said.

"I'm learning every day. In my situation now I meet different people every day and I listen to them. The situation now is very different to when I took the role as coach of the United States. I was familiar with everything, the players and the league. Now when I'm here in Egypt I must be a good student and learn from the people around me."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nowak leads by example

Peter Nowak of the Philadelphia Union is one of the most well-respected coaches in Major League Soccer.

Nowak has achieved at several levels, both as a player and now in coaching. The former US National team assistant and Olympic team coach has his Union squad in form as they head into the Major League Soccer playoffs.

The workload never ceases — not for Nowak. One day last month at training, Nowak took a tactical approach. He disciplined his players on the sport, the formations, the fitness, the regeneration, the focus necessary for competition. Later on, he reminded them of the game’s mental angle, of the finite opportunity within which they can succeed.

The manager of the Union, and the club’s executive vice president, Nowak also wears other hats. He’s the team psychiatrist with a non-judgmental ear, the father figure with a calming influence, the guidance counselor with a grab-bag of solutions to everyday dilemmas. He’s the man who might as well tattoo, ‘Carpe diem,’ across his forehead.

In not so many words, Nowak has delivered that mantra countless times to players occupying the Union’s locker room.

“Some day, you put the boots on the hook and it’s going to be it and you’re not going to play again. And you’ll look back to this moment with me and you’ll say, ‘You know what? Why did I waste those five minutes in training?’” Nowak said. “It could be five minutes, 10 minutes, one practice, two weeks, one month, one game. Instead of playing five years or 10 years in MLS, it could be three in MLS and seven in Europe. I try to show them that this, here with us, this is just the beginning."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nicol held in high regard by Revs

Emotions ran high at Gillette Stadium yesterday morning as the Revolution processed the departure of coach Steve Nicol.

Kyle McCarthy of the Boston Herald writes of the final meeting between Stevie Nicol and his New England Revolution players, as well as the profound effect he had on the Revs.

Nicol came into the Revs locker room and briefly addressed his former players on the day after he and the club mutually decided to conclude their relationship after 10 seasons.

The quick meeting and the following training session — one held without Nicol’s presence on the practice field — reinforced the finality of the news.

“I almost went to tears, to be honest about it,” Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph said regarding his initial reaction to the end of Nicol’s tenure. “I’ve known Stevie for over nine years now. He’s a huge part of my success and a huge part of where I am right now. It’s definitely one of my saddest days as a Revolution player.”

Nicol’s approach to his duties — he cultivated relationships off the field and trusted his players to excel on it — inspired loyalty from many of his charges and made the parting of ways all the more difficult.

“He has a way of keeping things light that’s always great for players,” Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney said. “He’s always got our backs. As a manager through the tough times, he doesn’t point fingers. He always puts it on his back and takes the pressure off of us. He’s a textbook players’ coach. We’ll always appreciate what he did for us in terms of soccer, but also personally as well.”

Martin is model of how to coach the right way

Dr. Jay Martin is more than men's soccer coach at Ohio Wesleyan University, or the man on the verge of having the most wins in college soccer history.

Jay is an institution when it comes to coaching and leadership, and clearly is a model of understands the significance of enriching his student-athletes holds more value than winning or losing soccer matches.

The example he sets for coaching and management transcends the sport of soccer, and has become one of the true gold standards for coaches at all levels.

The coach with the second-highest victory total in the history of men’s or women’s NCAA soccer in all divisions confesses that he can be a contrarian.

On one hand, office No. 105 in Edwards Gymnasium at Ohio Wesleyan University is a museum about the life and times of Jay Martin.

Visitors are bombarded with a display of photos, trophies, jerseys, plaques, caps, plates, flags, clocks and framed newspaper clippings that Martin has accumulated as a soccer player at Springfield College, professional basketball player in Germany, soccer and lacrosse coach and administrator at OWU, and just a plain sports fan.

Hundreds of pictures, many taken during victory celebrations, are underneath a glass overlay on his desk.

Martin has so many autographs of famous athletes — he is close with the great Pele and once had Larry Bird over for dinner — that a professional collector would have to write a check for a large amount to purchase them.

None of that memorabilia, though, means a bag of old soccer balls to Martin compared with the bond he has developed with the boys he has helped turn into men since becoming a coach in 1977.

“You go through life and you accumulate a lot of stuff,” Martin said. “It’s nice, but it’s just stuff.”

Told that the 2011 Bishops have an impressive won-lost record, Martin was surprised to hear the numbers. They are 15-1 and ranked sixth nationally with two regular-season games remaining.

“Oh, is that what it is?” he said. “My focus has been on the process. It has never been about wins and losses. I worry about how our guys are playing at a particular time. If they are playing up to their capabilities, the rest will take care of itself. You just try to make the environment fun for the players. They are the ones who develop and get better. A coach can’t do that. Just make it fun.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Iran national team coaching staff have very strong American ties

Steven Goff of the Washington Post writes of the unique American ties that the staff of the Iran national team share.

During a recent lunch hour in Tehran, Carlos Queiroz, head coach of Iran’s national soccer team, turned to his assistants and asked: “What do we all have in common?”

Omid Namazi knew the answer right away.

“We all had connections to American soccer,” Namazi recalled in a phone conversation with the Insider on Monday.

Queiroz, 58, the former Real Madrid boss and Manchester United assistant from Portugal, coached the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) in their inaugural 1996 MLS season and worked with the U.S. Soccer Federation in player and team development.

For the rest of the story.....

Antonio Simoes, 67, a native of Portugal, played in the North American Soccer League and Major Indoor Soccer League, then coached at various levels.

Dan Gaspar, 56, is a former head coach at the University of Hartford and well-known goalkeeping specialist.

Belfast-born Mick McDermott, 45, played in a lower tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid and served as an assistant at Quinnipiac and Oregon State universities. He is Iran’s strength and conditioning coach.

And then there is Namazi, 46, the only member of the staff with Iranian family roots. Born in Utah, where his father attended college, Namazi lived in Tehran most of his youth before returning to the United States with his family and settling in the Washington area. He studied and played at West Virginia University.

His portfolio is dotted with 15 U.S. pro teams in 17 years, an eclectic mix of indoor and outdoor outfits that included the RFK Stadium-based Washington Diplomats and Columbia-based Maryland Bays in the American Soccer League/American Professional Soccer League between 1988 and 1991. Other stints were with, among others, the Baltimore Spirit, Los Angeles Salsa, New Jersey Stallions and Cleveland Force.

“Between teams that have folded, indoor teams and outdoors teams, coaching men and women, I’ve seen a lot,” he said. “A lot of things have happened. It’s all a journey.”

He has also served as head coach of six U.S. teams, most recently the Chicago Red Stars in Women’s Professional Soccer in 2010.

His ties to Queiroz date to the MetroStars, for whom Namazi made one appearance in 1996. But his connection to Iranian soccer were through Mohammad Khakpour, a former MetroStar and well-known figure in Iranian soccer. Last year Khakpour was hired to coach Steel Azin, a first-division club at the time, and invited Namazi to join the staff.

Khakpour didn’t last long in the position, but Namazi stayed on to assist the new leader. Gaspar had worked with Queiroz on other assignments, including the MetroStars, and when Queiroz was hired by Iran this past April, Gaspar reached out to Namazi. Aside from technical contributions, Namazi bridges language and cultural barriers.

Namazi, who visits his wife and children in New Jersey whenever possible, holds dual citizenship, but when traveling with the Iranian team, he often uses his U.S. passport.

Relations between the countries have been tense for decades and further deteriorated this month when the U.S. government accused agents of the Iranian government of being involved in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

“The political issues haven’t come up while I’ve been here,” he said. “The most difficult part is that, here I am, an American taking over in a job that’s usually for an Iranian. So at the beginning, there was a lot of people saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ Queiroz has a lot of confidence in me, and people see that now, so it has helped in being accepted.”

Iran qualified for the World Cup in 1998 and 2006, the only win coming against the United States 13 years ago in Lyon.

In pursuit of a 2014 berth in Brazil, Iran began Asian qualifying by defeating the Maldives on a two-game aggregate, 5-0. In a third-round group, it has recorded two victories and a draw in the first three matches and is almost certain of securing one of the quartet’s two slots in next year’s final stage. Iran will play at Bahrain on Nov. 11 and Indonesia four days later.

Two Iranians play for Osasuna in Spain’s La Liga: midfielders Javad Nekounam and Masoud Shojaei. Nekounam is the second most-capped Iranian player in history (122) and fourth in goals (29). Most of the national squad, though, is based in the Iranian league.

“It is an interesting time,” Namazi said. “Now that Queiroz has come in, there’s a lot of hope. People are getting excited again. The expectations are going up.”

Nicol parts ways with Revs

Steve Nicol has left the New England Revolution after over a decade with the Major League Soccer side.

New England announced on their website that the 49-year-old former Scotland and Liverpool defender had met with Revolution chiefs Robert and Jonathan Kraft on Monday, where it was mutually decided to part ways.

Nicol, who departs as the longest-serving coach with a single club in MLS history, said: "I'm very thankful to the Krafts for giving me the opportunity to be their head coach.

"I've had some great times and been involved with some great players and great people. My family will always remain part of the Kraft family."

Nicol first took charge on an interim basis for three games at the end of the 1999 season and then, after being appointed assistant coach at the start of the 2002 campaign, he was again promoted to interim coach seven matches into the term.

He ended the season by being named MLS coach of the year after leading the team to the MLS Cup, where they were beaten by the Los Angeles Galaxy, and was subsequently appointed to the position full-time and had been in charge since.

However, the Revolution failed to qualify for the post-season in either of the last two campaigns, and the two parties have now decided to go their separate ways.

Jonathan Kraft said: "Robert and I met with Stevie today and we had a productive discussion about this past season and the direction the club needs to go in the future.

"We all agreed a change of direction was needed to reverse the trend of the past couple of years.

"Stevie was a successful head coach and a tremendous ambassador for the Revolution for the past decade and set a high standard for success, leading us to four conference titles in six years. We thank him for all of his contributions."

Williams hired to lead US Under-18s

Richie Williams, who won three MLS titles as a player and coached the New York Red Bulls as an interim coach on two separate occasions, has been named the head coach of the U.S. under-18 national team, replacing Mike Matkovich.

Williams is the third coaching appointment to the U.S. youth national team program since Jurgen Klinsmann began his tenure as men’s national team, but he has close ties to Klinsmann's two predecessors, Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley.

Williams played under Arena at Virginia and on D.C. United. Bradley was one of his youth coaches on the Union Lancers.

After retiring as a player in 2005, Williams spent one season as an assistant at Virginia and then moved to the Red Bulls, where he worked as an assistant until he was fired on the eve of the 2011 season.

Two other coaches with close ties to Bradley were not retained.

U.S. Soccer director of scouting Tony Lepore will coach the U-15s, whom Princeton coach Jim Barlow has coached, and the U.S. Soccer Development Academy's technical advisers will handle the coaching duties of the U-14 national identification program that Seton Hall coach Manny Schellscheidt has headed.

Barlow played for Bradley at Princeton and replaced him as head coach when Bradley moved to MLS to assist Arena at D.C. United, while Schellscheidt coached the Lancers with Bradley.

Attendance records fall in Major League Soccer

For MLS team attendance rankings and attendance history ...

* MLS's 17,872 attendance average in 2011 marked an 11.4 percent increase from 2010's 16,037 and is the league's highest since the 1996 inaugural season's 17,406.

* Total attendance for 306 games was a record 5.47 million.

* Seattle's average of 38,496 makes it the attendance leader for the third straight year and sets a record for all-time highest season attendance average for an MLS team. Seattle averaged 36,173 in 2010 and 30,897 in its inaugural 2009 season when it beat the Galaxy's 1996 high mark of 28,916.

* MLS newcomers Portland and Vancouver drew 18,827 and 20,406, respectively.

* Twelve of the 16 returning clubs saw an increase in attendance over 2010, with Kansas City, in its new Livestrong Sporting Park, enjoying the biggest boost: up 73 percent to 17,810.

* The 10 games in Week 32, the last of the regular season, averaged 20,144 and included season highs at Chicago (20,237) and Houston (30,018).

Strong field of candidates for MLS Coach of the Year

In a year where Major League Soccer had some outstanding coaching jobs, five MLS coaches are listed on the ballot of finalists for MLS Coach of the Year.

When MLS sends out its ballots for the end-of-the-year awards, clearly stated is that selections should be based on performances in league matches, with all external competitions -- Open Cup, Concacaf, friendlies, etc. -- excluded. Such a decree is easy to stipulate and difficult to implement, since the league has instilled policies of travel, budget, and resources through which its teams can be more competitive in the Concacaf Champions League, for example.

In addition to romping to the Supporters’ Shield with the best overall record, the Galaxy qualified for the CCL quarterfinals.

And ignoring a third straight U.S. Open Cup as well as CCL advancement for Seattle and its head coach, Sigi Schmid, is probably next to impossible. He and the Galaxy’s Bruce Arena top the list of finalists that also includes Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City), Dominic Kinnear (Houston), Peter Nowak (Philadelphia), and Schellas Hyndman (FC Dallas).

Yet even had the Sounders not earned a third consecutive trophy, Schmid would get a lot of votes. An expansion team in name only when it embarked on MLS in 2009, Seattle has qualified for the playoffs in each season, and in 2011 finished second only to the Galaxy in overall points.

In April, dynamic attacker Steve Zakuani suffered a badly broken leg from which he’s still recovering. Seattle stocked up with newcomers Erik Friberg and Mauro Rosales, Fredy Montero scored 12 goals, and Mike Fucito, Lamar Neagle, Osvaldo Alonso and Alvaro Fernandez also took up the slack. The Sounders led the league with 56 goals yet were third in fewest goals allowed (37).

Arena has resources and backing a lot of his counterparts can only dream about, yet in a league as restrictive as MLS, he’s made a good team better. Under his tutelage, midfielder Juninho has blossomed into one of the league’s top midfielders and despite losing starting keeper Donovan Ricketts for the bulk of the season, the Galaxy defense allowed the fewest goals (28). L.A. also became only the third team in league history to finish the regular season unbeaten at home (12-0-5).

Vermes, Kinnear and Nowak overhauled their 2010 also-rans to finish first, second, and third, respectively, in the Eastern Conference. Here are the points-per-game for each team the past two seasons, with 2010 listed first: Sporting Kansas City (1.30/1.50); Houston (1.10/1.44); Philadelphia (1.03/1.41). In each case, the improvement is significant.

Both Hyndman and Jason Kreis at Real Salt Lake steered their teams to solid seasons that have sputtered in the past month or so. They can redeem their seasons in the playoffs but the votes are due now.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Youth coaches can be teachers whose lessons transcend sports/MIKE JACOBS COLUMN

From the Evansville Courier Press, October 23, 2011

When adults look back on those who were most influential on their lives growing up, it is not uncommon to hear a reference about a significant little league or high school sports memory.

Saying that, there is a strong sentiment that youth coaches of this era don't always offer the same level of support. Winning at all costs seems to be a stronger emphasis than learning core values.

Speaking to a group of youth soccer parents and coaches recently, I referenced that I was the only coach in the room who was in "the results business"' — that I needed to win games in my job. But we as coaches still should never compromise the key core components that will stay with our athletes long after their playing days. Coaches need to be educators first, and what I've found is that the very best coaches focus on teaching their players about sport and life, and everything else falls into place.

After discussing one day what has to happen to change the culture of a team, club or organization to focus on the process of getting better as opposed to the outcome of games, I received an article the following day that was written by David Bornstein in the New York Times about the Positive Coaching Alliance. The P.C.A. has trained more than 450,000 adult coaches, who in turn reach about 4 milliion youth athletes. The organization's mission statement is to spread the message that youth sports is about giving young athletes a positive, character-building experience — not to become major league athletes, but to become "major league people."

We always talk with our players at the University of Evansville that being professional is not about how much money you earn, but how you behave. I've been around a number of athletes who earned a living playing but were very unprofessional, and I've been around amateurs who were as professional an athlete as I've ever seen.

Bornstein's article referenced that the Dallas Independent School District, which oversees 800 youth sports coaches, has enlisted P.C.A. for trainings. "There's been such a push from parents about winning at all costs," explained Jeff Johnson, the district's athletic director. "Sportsmanship sometimes goes out the window. The positive coaching has helped my coaches think about more than just winning."

The P.C.A. doesn't discourage coaches from wanting to win — actually, it says, a "relentlessly positive" coach will usually be more successful on the scoreboard. As such, P.C.A. has been able to penetrate the hard-nosed culture of competitive sports. Their research has found that youth attrition rates are 80 percent lower for children whose coaches practice positive coaching — meaning kids actually continue their interest level in playing when they have coaches who practice positive coaching.

The primary focus of P.C.A.'s approach is to train "double goal" coaches —those who balance the goal of winning,with the second, and more important, goal of teaching life lessons. Coaches are taught to help children focus on improving their own game, helping their teammates improve, and improving the game as a whole. This translates into an athlete improving themself, being a leader who helps others flourish, and working to make society better

P.C.A. encourages parents to let go of winning and concentrate on life lessons. "There are only two groups of people whose job is to win games," says P.C.A. founder Jim Thompson. "Coaches and players. Parents have a much more important job: to guide their child's character development."

I can tell you that I'm as competitive a coach as you'll be around, and want to compete and win any game I play — be it an important soccer match or a board game with my young children. But I've also learned that the most successful coaches are the most successful teachers whose lessons last long past a youth's playing days.

I would like to challenge the coaches of our youth sports community to take more pride in making their players better young men and women, and to teach them lessons that transcend sport.

My guess is that they will also win more often than they lose.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Everyone Grows

Johan Cruyff, speaking with Rob Draper of the UK’s Daily Mail, recounted seeing Pep Guardiola for the first time --shortly after Cruyff had been named Barcelona coach and Guardiola was a "scrawny teenager" in Barcelona's youth team

The Barca youth coaches told Cruyff that Guardiola was “one of the best."

But over the next year, the Dutchman said he looked for Guardiola in the reserves and didn’t see him:

“So then I looked at the first youth team, and he didn't play in that team. And eventually I found him in the third youth team.

“So I said to the coaches, ‘You said he was the best one!’ And they said, ‘Yeah, but physically …’ I said, ‘Put him there (in the reserves). He will grow. Don't worry, everybody grows.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, but we will lose.’ I said, ‘If we lose, we lose. We need to create players.’ And he did very well.”

With Guardiola as playmaker, Barcelona won six La Liga titles and the European Cup.

“The people who control the ball very well, they're the most important players,” Cruyff said. “And weak, smaller players, to survive they had to have a better technique than the others. Normally everyone grows -- some a little later, some at different times, but everybody grows. A lot of things will change but the base of soccer is always technique, always should be technique.”

Now in his fourth year as Barcelona's coach, Guardiola's titles include two European Cups, three La Liga titles, a World Club Cup and the Spanish Cup -- with a team famous for 5-foot-7 stars Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

Porter selected to coach US Olympic Team

U.S. Soccer has picked Caleb Porter to coach the under-23 men’s national team that will try to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

Porter currently is head coach at college powerhouse Akron, and will continue in that role while coaching the U.S. team.

“I am honored and feel extremely privileged to be given this once in a lifetime opportunity,” Porter said. “I’m eager to start the process of putting the pieces together in preparation for Olympic qualifying in March.”

Porter led Akron to an NCAA Division I championship in 2010 and has a 90-13-10 record in his first five seasons. He has recruited and developed 12 players at Akron who have been drafted into Major League Soccer in the last five years, including the 2009 No. 1 overall pick Steve Zakuani, No. 4 overall pick Teal Bunbury in 2010 and No. 2 overall pick Darlington Nagbe in 2011.

Five of the top eight picks in last year’s MLS draft were from Akron.

“We are excited to have Caleb join our national team program,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. “Still early in his career, Caleb has been extremely successful and has demonstrated the ability to mentor and develop young players. A proven winner, we believe he will do a great job of leading our under-23 men’s national team as they look to qualify for the Olympic Games next summer.”

Porter has contributed to the U.S. Soccer youth national teams as an under-18 assistant coach and as a scout. Porter played in college at Indiana and briefly in MLS but retired after a knee injury.

Porter is hoping to lead the U.S. team to its second consecutive Olympics and its fifth since the tournament became an under-23 event in 1992. The U.S.’s best finish came in 2000, when the team reached the semifinal round before losing to Spain and finishing fourth.

Ramos on US Soccer

Mike Woitalla of Soccer America recently caught up with United States Under-20 national team coach Tab Ramos to discuss what are key components in playing for the US now that Jurgen Klinsmann is the head coach.

SA: U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna has talked about the national teams at all levels, from Jurgen Klinsmann’s senior team on down, playing similar styles and in a similar system. How does that affect your task?

TAB RAMOS: We discussed that a lot. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to go with Jurgen [as assistant coach] on the last few trips and I sort of know what he’s looking for and the type of player he’s looking for.

One of the most important things with this particular team is to win games, to get us to the [U-20] World Cup and to do the best we can.

But at the same time, one of my jobs is to try to develop players so when they get to the senior team they can play the same way we want to play on the senior team.

SA: How would you describe what Klinsmann is looking for?

TAB RAMOS: I’m sure Jurgen would be able to explain that better. But I think it’s pretty clear that he likes the teams to play out of the back. He wants people who are confident on the ball and confident to be able to make a difference in the game.

He wants guys up front who are direct, who want to go for goal, who want to make an impact on the game.

Not that other people aren’t looking for these things, but I think sometimes we find a lot of coaches who may say that’s how they want to play, but when it comes time to play the game -- you find them playing with one forward on top all by himself.

I think this is something Jurgen has been trying to do different. He’s been trying get more people forward. He’s been trying to give confidence to players to make a difference.

And the youth national teams will try not to be any different.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"They're absolutely dead in there. That's the way you want to go down -- every guy basically not being able to walk after the game. I'm proud of that fact."

-- D.C. United coach Ben Olsen, referring to his players in the locker room after a 1-1 tie with Portland eliminated United from the playoff race

Saturday, October 15, 2011

International imports deepen recruiting pool in collegiate soccer in US

The standard of American collegiate soccer has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, and are now becoming a home for top international imports to ply their trade.

J.R. Eskilson of writes of how international imports arriving in the collegiate game here in the US is changing the landscape of the game.

College soccer is often ridiculed for being a bastardization of the world’s game. From the clock counting down to the modified unlimited substitution, there is a certain quirk that sets the collegiate game apart from anywhere else in the world.

However, the oddity of those subtle rule changes is not stopping youth prospects from some of the most heralded academies across the world from trying their fortune on college soccer fields across the country.

From Real Madrid to Ajax, European players who spent the majority of their youth in some of the finest training environments in the world are now showing up on various rosters across all levels of college soccer.

“There is a time when you have to decide if you want to try and play professionally in England or try and do something different,” University of South Florida forward and England native Dom Dwyer told in September about his path to college soccer.

Dwyer spent his youth with King’s Lynn Community Football, an elite program affiliated with a few professional clubs in less densely populated areas of England. From there, he was given an opportunity by scout Joe McLaughlin to continue his soccer career in America.

McLaughlin, who runs Soccer Icon USA, is a former professional player and has spent time in America as a club soccer coach. He has ties with various college coaches across the country and used that relationship to help foster an environment for talented English players to cross the Atlantic.

Soccer Icon USA is one of many agencies that helps arrange this portal for players looking to continue their soccer careers before going to the professional level. United Sports USA, a similar organization in England, helped defender Shaun Foster land a scholarship with Hofstra where he went on to claim CAA Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman last season.

College of Charleston established a relationship with Ajax, and now rosters two players from the storied Dutch academy. Iona has a pipeline to Spain and has welcomed players from Real Madrid, Getafe, Real Valladolid, and many of the other esteemed youth programs.

UNC-Greensboro, George Mason, and UCSB all have players from top-level German youth programs now on the roster. The list goes on and on and includes many other European nations and many other universities.

So why do coaches turn to this avenue of recruiting, besides any perceived advantage in terms of player development?

Akron head coach Caleb Porter says it offers another talent pool when the American one has run dry.

“It makes it a little difficult when you lose guys late because you have to go overseas because all the top Americans are gone,” Porter told in September about recruiting.

Akron currently has seven international players on the roster including star forward Darren Mattocks from Jamaica. The Zips also lost a couple international players in the off-season in Jamaican McKauly Tulloch and Chilean Diego Navarrete, both of whom landed at other collegiate programs and have enjoyed successful seasons.

If the reigning NCAA champion has to turn to international players to fill the roster, how are developing programs supposed to compete without following the same path? Does this mean that the American talent pool is now failing college soccer?

There are only three teams [Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Virginia – all outside the top 10] in the coaches’ most recent top 25 poll that have no players with an international hometown listed on the roster.

At the junior college level, the administration has already grown weary of this foreign influx and teams using predominantly foreign-heavy rosters to dominate opposition.

In May, the National Junior College Athletic Association’s board of directors passed a rule that would limit the amount of international players on the roster to four players.

“I think it is wrong,” Tyler Junior College head coach Steve Clements told about the rule. “And I don’t know if that is what it will finally come down to either. We have had some form of that rule passed about three times in the years I have been coaching junior college and it has never come out like that.”

Tyler Junior College has been incredibly successful under Clements, as the coach has accumulated a 148-22-8 record over the last nine seasons. This year’s team includes players from England, France, Germany, Scotland, and South Africa.

“I think the principle is a kid is paying his own way to go to college, and most do at this level, they should at least have the opportunity to go out and play sports,” Clements continued. “We want to treat everybody the same like normal students but when it comes to sports a lot of times we don’t.”

“I think it is a really bad decision,” Clements’ former player, Dwyer, said. “I don’t get their logic on it, what are they trying to accomplish?”

Joe Tubb, the NJCAA president, justified the rule to USA Today in May by suggesting they are just trying to get “a handle on older” professional athletes competing at that level.

“We’re looking for some way we can control this with simple rules,” Tubb said.

While suggesting this rule would make its way to the Division I level would be unjust, it could influence the transfer of non-USA players from the junior college level to D-I teams. Players like Dwyer, Andre Grandt, and Ashton Bennett followed that path and are now enjoying fruitful seasons at the D-I level.

The amount of foreign athletes at the top collegiate level has multiplied in recent years in other sports as well. USA Today stated that non-USA athletes at the D-I have increased from 3,600 to 11,000 over a ten-year period that ended in 2010.

For soccer, these non-USA athletes have enjoyed success fairly consistently across the board. Dwyer, Mattocks, Tulloch, and Bennett all lead their teams in scoring.

This potential of adding more quality recruits to the college soccer game may help in the grand scheme of player development. Fringe players that relied on physical, aggressive play are slowly diminishing, and being replaced by a more technical, accomplished player.

College coaches now have increased selection as new recruits notice players like Santiago Solari, Clint Dempsey, and Ryan Nelson who used college experience as a stepping-stone to much bigger careers in Europe.

Despite being the ugly stepchild of the more refined international game, college soccer is making itself the home for those like Dwyer who may need another year or two before making the jump to the professional level.

“They want to improve the game of soccer,” Dwyer said about the direction college soccer is heading. “And I feel like to do that you need to play against everyone.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cool Heads Will Prevail When Manchester United take on Liverpool

Sir Alex is determined United will keep calm in the Anfield cauldron on Saturday and finish the game with 11 men on the pitch. Sendings off have seriously hindered the Reds' hopes in recent years.

"In my time, we've had about nine players sent off in games there which is unusual for Manchester United," declared the boss. "That is down to the atmosphere which can be created there. It's something you have to deal with. "

"Last season, we were playing really well in the game and made two really bad errors to give the goals away. It was hard to overcome that. In the previous two seasons, we had players sent off. There are issues you have to deal with - your temperament and composure in these situations to make sure you handle these sorts of things."

"I give Landon a lot of credit for his leadership as our captain, for having to set the tone each and every day. … You talk about the value players have on teams. We know his value on the field. His value off the field is tremendous. In some ways it’s more influential than it is on the field."

-- Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena praises Landon Donovan

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wrong turn forces Di Canio to complete Swindon run

Paolo DiCanio was always considered a little eccentric as a player, and he hasn't seemed to change from being a little off-balance now as the manager of Swindon Town.

The 43-year-old Italian, who ended his 23-year playing career in 2008, unwittingly completed the town's half marathon after losing his bearings on the fun run course.

He was supposed to sound the horn to start Sunday's main race before completing the two-mile short course, but took a wrong turn and ended up finishing the full 13.1 miles in 1 hour, 49 minutes -- 36 minutes behind race winner Dave Roper.

"I couldn't stop, there was a challenge," he told the BBC. "There were three options, I thought I should start with the fun [run] marathon but unfortunately we changed direction, kept going and followed the first group. Unfortunately I ended up doing a full half-marathon plus 800 meters. At the end I was very happy because I finished without stopping, even for one second. I wasn't ready but I never stopped running."

Chris Woods becomes US goalkeeper coach

Former English national team goalkeeper Chris Woods has joined the U.S. staff under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Woods was at the U.S. team training session Monday, ahead of an exhibition game against Ecuador. Woods has been Everton’s goalkeeper coach for 13 years, and Klinsmann says Everton manager David Moyes had given permission for Woods to take the U.S. job while continuing his role with the Toffees.

Tim Howard is the No. 1 goalkeeper for Everton and the U.S. national team.

“I have a ton of respect for him,” Howard said. “He worked nearly a lifetime under (Peter) Shilton, so he knows what it’s about. He’s got to be one of the best in the world. In the Premier League, he’s so, so respected.”

The 51-year-old Woods had 43 appearances for England from 1985-93, making his debut and his final appearance against the United States. He was England’s starter at the 1992 European Championship.

At the club level, Woods spent most of his career in England and Scotland but was with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids in 1996.

U.S. Soccer Federation spokesman Neil Buethe said a formal contract with Woods was still being worked on.

Friendly: Ecuador 1, USA 0

The United States were unfortunate to not get a better result in their 1-0 loss to Ecuador in a friendly at Red Bull Arena last night.

They created a number of good chances early on in the match, and conceded a late goal for the final 1-0 scoreline.

Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America gives some of his impressions following last night's match.

GOOCH IS BACK. For the first time since suffering a ruptured patellar tendon in the Hexagonal finale against Costa Rica at RFK Stadium nearly two years ago to the day, Oguchi Onyewu is re-claiming his starting spot with the national team.

He followed up a solid 45 minutes -- except for missing a sitter -- against Honduras Saturday by going the distance as a starter in the 1-0 loss to Ecuador. Along with the size and power and strength in the air he’s displayed since debuting for the senior team in 2004, in the last two games he’s anticipated situations rather than reacting to them.

Onyewu thwarted numerous Ecuadoran attacks by reading the play as it approached the penalty area and stepping up to intercept a pass or block a cross. He and central partner Carlos Bocanegra sorted out most of what Ecuador threw at them, and he helped out on the attack, too.

He got into the box during a set play and when the ball wasn’t properly cleared he turned to hit a first-time shot over the bar, and in the final seconds as the USA pushed up for an equalizer, he prodded a ball to Clint Dempsey, who took a shot that was deflected.

Onyewu (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and Clarence Goodson are the only U.S. centerbacks of the large variety, and while captain Bocanegra isn’t small (6-foot, 170) he’s also three years older than Onyewu, who will be 32 at the 2014 World Cup. The need for an experienced veteran to man the middle is critical, and if a big man can fill the bill, that’s a plus.

QUIET ON THE FLANKS. The Americans tightened up their defense after being riddled by Honduras, but fatigue and a more cautious approach also resulted in fewer good scoring chances. Though they put eight shots on the goal, few seriously tested keeper Maximo Banguera.

Right mid Danny Williams, who threatened the Honduran goal three times, seldom got into a good position against Ecuador to either shoot or cross. Both Jozy Altidore and his replacement Juan Agudelo occasionally ranged to the right side to add impetus with only limited success. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann used three outside backs and all were occupied much of the time keeping their corners secure from the raids of Michael Arroyo and Jefferson Montero.

Brek Shea was livlier on the left side than Williams on the right. Shea fired a hard shot in the early minutes that forced a good save. He gave way in the second half to DaMarcus Beasley, who showed the same energy he’d brought to the attack Saturday yet was more effective centrally – from where he launched two shots – then he’d been out wide.

SET PLAYS UNDECISIVE. In the absence of the injured Landon Donovan, several players took care of dead-ball duties, with Michael Bradley providing a significant upgrade to the USA's first-half efforts by Steve Cherundolo and Williams. Nearly all of Bradley’s deliveries dropped into a dangerous area with either a teammate on the end of it or battling for a touch. Some desperate defending and one smart save from keeper Banguera preserved Ecuador’s shutout.

Ecuador scored its winner in the 79th minute when the Ayovi cousins combined to cash in one of the game’s rare threats from the flank during the run of play. Walter Ayovi hit a first-time ball that Jaime Ayovi knifed in front of Tim Ream to head on the bounce past keeper Tim Howard.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann likely wouldn’t sub Ream (he replaced Bocanegra in the 72nd minute) into the game at a late juncture if not for it being played in his home stadium. Still, he got caught on the wrong side of Jamie Ayovi in a standard situation any reliable defender should be able to handle by either winning the ball or at jarring the attacker so he misses the target.

MIDFIELD MIX STILL IN FLUX. Maurice Edu played the more of an attacking role in central midfield, with Kyle Beckerman a bit deeper shielding the back line and ranging from side to side to break up plays.

Both players had good moments, but also some very poor ones. Though Edu did connect with Clint Dempsey a couple of times, he lost the ball in bad spots, and one badly scuffed shot attempt on a very controllable ball opened the gates for an Ecuadoran counterattack. Beckerman won a lot of balls, a few of which he presented to the opponents straightaway without being pressured.

Bradley, who replaced Edu at halftime, brought some stability to the center and instigated sequences that provided balls for Dempsey and Altidore’s halftime replacement, Juan Agudelo. But the lack of bite on the flanks allowed Ecuador to squeeze the field and greatly limit space for Dempsey and Agudelo to get shots within close range.

"We're buying into [Jurgen Klinsmann's] philosophies. We're trying to play, tactically, how he wants. We have some new guys being introduced in the new cycle, and you're always going to have little parts where you're not just flying. It's just frustrating not getting wins, but we're on the right path."

-- U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Freedom of Expression Draws Shea to Soccer

Brek Shea is a rising star in American soccer, and the 6'3" Texan has quite an athletic pedigree.

Shea’s father played quarterback at Virginia Tech and Brek played quarterback and safety in middle school.

While at the U.S. training camp Brek explained to the Miami Herald’s Michelle Kaufman why he chose soccer over football:

“Football was too much yelling, too strict, and soccer gave me more freedom and ability to express myself.”

Klinsmann - MLS needs longer season

New U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann says Major League Soccer must have a longer season to become competitive.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday night's friendly against Ecuador, the former Germany striker says MLS players do not get enough games in their season, which lasts from mid-March until late November, including the playoffs. European seasons run from mid-August until mid-May.

"The big challenge is for MLS overall, how can they stretch that season into a format that is kind of competitive with the rest of the world. Right now it's not competitive. If you have a seven-, eight-month season, that's not competitive with the rest of the world."

MLS teams start training in January and their seasons last until mid-October or late November, depending on playoff success. European clubs begin practice in July and play through late May. The World Cup and European Championship fill June every other year.

College Soccer Attendance Continues to Grow in the US

Paul Kennedy of Soccer America reports of the growing attendance within College Soccer in the United States.

With five weeks to go before the men's regular season ends, seven teams, led by UC San Barbara (5,033), are averaging more than 3,000 fans a game, 12 teams, including four from the ACC, are averaging more than 2,000 a game, and five conferences, led by the ACC (1,844), are averaging more than 1,000 fans a game.

Most impressive is the fact that 10 of the 12 teams averaging more than 2,000 a game -- all but UC Santa Barbara, which finished with an NCAA record average of 5,873 last season, and New Mexico -- have seen their average attendance increase over last season's final average.

2011 Top average attendance

5,033 UC Santa Barbara
4,551 Akron
4,194 Saint Louis
4,093 Maryland
3,861 Louisville
3,593 Creighton
3,177 Connecticut
2,841 Indiana
2,719 Clemson
2,322 New Mexico
2,156 Wake Forest
2,011 North Carolina

2011 Top average attendance (men's conferences)

1,844 ACC
1,483 Big West
1,123 Big East
1,062 Missouri Valley
1,043 Mid-American

2011 Top Men's Crowds

Attendance Game

13,772 1. UC Santa Barbara-San Diego
7,821 2. Louisville-UCLA
7,423 3. Clemson-South Carolina
7,178 4. Maryland-Stanford
5,819 5. Akron-Ohio State
5,648 6. Maryland-Creighton
5,568 7. Saint Louis-Missouri State
5,425 8. Creighton-Drexel
5,417 9. UC Santa Barbara-UC Irvine
5,241 10. Akron-Cleveland State

Winning Mentality Instilled At Manchester United

Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck says that he has been brought up with a winning mentality at Old Trafford and that the club want to beat every team that they come up against.

The 20-year-old had been in fine form for United this season up until a hamstring injury picked up during the 8-2 victory over Arsenal forced him out for a number of weeks, but he has returned well and secured an England call-up.

"It is really important at United that you’ve been brought up with that winning mentality," he told the club's official website.

"It’s bred into you to win everything you take part in. That’s Manchester United for you, a never-say-die attitude as you see time and time again.

"We’re going into different games but there’s always one aim – to win the game. We don’t go into a game and try to get one point thinking that’s okay.

"Being at United, you always get quite disappointed if you don’t get all three points as you believe you can go into every single game and win it."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Coaching lessons can be learned at home/MIKE JACOBS COLUMN

From the Evansville Courier Press, October 9, 2011

The players and teams that continue to get better as the season goes on often prescribe to focusing on the process of getting better, opposed to focusing solely on the outcome and results of their previous or upcoming games.

This applies not only to players or teams, but to coaches, too. For coaches to continue to grow and develop, it has to happen not on a game to game basis, but rather, day to day.

The best way to practice coaching is in your own household with your own children. I often say that most of the best coaches I know are also outstanding parents, because they coach every day in their own homes.

How can you practice coaching in your own household?

Share your core values: it is critical that those who work with you have a clear picture of your expectations, whether that is your players, coaching staff or children. Stress your core values, and make sure you are able to give them clear examples of why they are important. Make sure your children can see that even though cheating may help a specific situation on the short-term that it is damaging in the long-term.

Praise them for short-term success: It's important that your children can draw from positive experiences on a daily basis, and that calling praise to those small victories will lead to larger success in the future. Whether it is praising your child working hard on a project or in a little league game, it is critical that your children understand that putting in the desired effort will lead to success, be it today or tomorrow.

Teach them to draw from their experiences: when it comes to developing instincts, a player needs to have a body of work to use as a reference point. Whether it is in victory or defeat, with an 'A' or 'D' on a term paper, you need to make sure that not only do your children receive a grade or see the score on the scoreboard, but that they understand why they received that grade. Understanding why they earned that result will help them not only grow from that experience, but to draw on it the next time they are faced with a similar challenge.

Set the example and standard: most coaches that command respect from their players practice what they preach. It's hard to demand your players to work hard if the head coach is the last person to arrive; it's hard for a coach to expect their players to be fit if they are grossly out of shape. Successful coaches and parents set the ideal example for their children to follow — if you complain about your boss after a hard day of work, why wouldn't your children complain about their own teacher or coach? If you complain about a referee following a game your children play in, why wouldn't they do the same? Understand that your children are constantly drawing from your example, be it consciously or subconsciously.

Stay true to your core values: the teams that tend to not stand up during tough times are the ones that don't have a strong foundation to lean against. Make a point to share what is most important with your children, and teach them not to compromise them. At any point that values are compromised to allow a player to participate in hopes of earning a victory, the potential short-term gain will come with long-term complications. I don't know that I've ever lost a match due to holding a player out that compromised the core values of the team — in the end, it always proves to offer success in the long-term, and strengthens the integrity of your group.

Players improve their skills by getting repetition through practice. Coaches are the same and the more you practice key areas of your foundation at home with your own family, the stronger it gets when you work with your team.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Schmid builds MLS power

Sigi Schmid has found success at every stage of his coaching career, from the collegiate ranks through the US National Team and in Major League Soccer.

Seth Vertelney of writes of how Schmid has built a consistent power with Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer.

After his team had taken care of business by winning its third consecutive U.S. Open Cup trophy in a 2-0 result against Chicago Tuesday night, Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, as per usual, deflected the plaudits away from himself and towards his players.

“We have a lot of stars on this team, but the star of the team is the team,” he said.

One could understand why Schmid was being modest, but a look at the evidence suggests that Seattle's biggest star may not be on the field at all, but on the sideline, wearing that ever-present green scarf.

The U.S. Open Cup trophy is just another addition to the German-born coach's increasingly crowded trophy case, which includes three College Cups, one CONCACAF Champions Cup, four U.S. Open Cups, two Supporters' Shields, two MLS Coach of the Year awards and two MLS Cups.

Though he's had success at every juncture of his coaching career, his work with the Sounders over the past three seasons may be his most impressive yet.

In Seattle's inaugural season of 2009, Schmid led the Sounders to the playoffs, as they became the first expansion team to achieve that feat since the Fire in 1998 – a season where eight of 12 MLS teams qualified for the playoffs.

In that same year, the Sounders won the U.S. Open Cup, the first trophy won by an expansion side since that same Fire team in 1998.

Last season, Seattle overcame major injuries to key players Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso to reach the playoffs again, and also added its second consecutive U.S. Open Cup crown.

This year, Seattle has again overcome injuries to key players like Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White - both of whom were lost for the season before the end of April – to still be alive for four trophies: MLS Cup, the Supporters' Shield, the CONCACAF Champions League (where it has become the first team to qualify for next year's knockout phase), and of course the U.S. Open Cup, which it's already won.

“Our depth has been good all year and different guys have stepped up and contributed at different times. That's just a reflection of our team,” Schmid said of this year's incarnation of the Sounders. “Being able to balance so many competitions is a tribute to what the club has been able to build up over three years and the improvement of players in that three year period of time," he added.

Marsch quickly making his mark

Noel Butler of TSN writes of how Montreal Impact Head Coach Jesse Marsch is quickly making his mark with Major League Soccer's newest franchise.

As the Montreal Impact's 11th hour - but ultimately unfruitful - challenge for an NASL playoff spot was unfolding all the while and behind the scenes the football brain trust led by head coach Jesse Marsch was sowing the club's MLS seeds. Appointed back on August 10, Marsch has been keeping an eye on the NASL squad whilst his other was firmly fixed on assembling an MLS-caliber team and identifying the technical staff.

MLS's 19th franchise is now in the midst of a week long evaluation camp that will culminate in an intra squad match Saturday morning. Next up, and especially so when factoring in that many players in camp are long term servants of the club, will come some tough decisions. Their wait won't be long though. Marsch telling TSN 990 Radio, "We're going to try and give an indication to most guys soon thereafter. So early in the week we'll have some meetings. Some guys have to travel right away Saturday, so we'll have to catch up with them through the week. They'll be some discussions that will be, yes let's figure out a way to move forward. Then they'll be some that will be no but thanks for everything but we think it's probably best at this moment that we each find our own paths."

That uncertainty for those in camp applies for all but one of the players. 28-year old Colombian Nelson Rivas who on Monday became the first player contracted to Impact Montréal FC. His signing taken after long and careful consideration with Marsch disclosing, "When I first spoke to the Impact back in April part of the discussion of the job and moving forward with the team, also involved certain players that were on their radar. When they spoke about Nelson I was aware of him from just following world football and knew about him."

Rivas will be hoping to emulate fellow countrymen like MLS Cup winner and All-Star defender Jamison Olave and playmaker extraordinaire, David Ferreira, the league's current MVP. The rising stock of Colombian players isn't lost on Marsch who offered this summation, "I think first of all they are used to the physicality of MLS because it is something that is a big part of the league in Colombia. Then I think there is a grittiness, a toughness to growing up in Colombia and trying to be successful. Then getting a chance to get out of Colombia and find a new life for yourself that now the mentality of the players that come to MLS is strong."

Not wanting to limit himself to his contacts in the sport domestically, Marsch recently embarked on an extensive 10-day long scouting trip to Europe. The mission was simple in its focus. The club had identified a number of players over the course of this season and now it was time to sit down and meet them face to face. Marsch remarked on the purpose of the trip, "It was to see what their goals, what their intentions are for their careers and also to let them know my goals and our goals are as an organization." A relationship-building process that continues.

Having announced earlier in the week that Preston Burpa would become the goalkeeping coach, an ex-player familiar to the organization from back in the old USL days and specifically their rivalry with the Seattle Sounders - the club added significant depth to the coaching ranks on Thursday with the appointment of Mike Sorber as an assistant. Marsch couldn't sound more delighted, "As an organization and as a head coach I feel fortunate to have a guy with his pedigree now as part of our staff. I know he'll make us stronger and he'll make me stronger. He's really a great coach." Adding, "We have a history of working together. So we have a common idea of what the environment needs to be like. We're going to create an environment that's about learning, about competing and getting better every day". They are long-time friends and colleagues they haven't always seen eye to eye, which is a positive according to the rookie head coach. "One of the good things about our relationship is we don't see everything exactly the same but we have a good way of challenging each other, communicating with each other so you know like I said he's definitely going to make me stronger".

With the MLS jigsaw puzzle now taking on a public face and shape Marsch is fully aware of the playing philosophy that he and his staff will nourish and foster. "Intelligent and competitive football, along with passing football." Although a blind optimism surrounds supporters of all clubs - even an expansion one - Marsch takes the realistic approach, "We still have to understand that as an expansion team that there's going to be different moments of the season that are going to be a struggle. And so we still have to understand how to be smart at different moments. How to rise to the challenge, how to be a unit, how to handle tough situations because that's what's going to be the difference between us winning a game here, gathering a point there and hopefully making the difference between us been in the playoffs or not been in the playoffs."

Marsch's realism underpinned with a holistic outlook, "It's a process. It's not a turn key thing, it's not overnight success. It's more about trying to put in hard work every day so that everybody is on the same page and everybody gets better."

Montreal Impact add Mike Sorber to coaching staff

Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch continues to fill out his staff for the team’s entry into Major League Soccer with the announcement that Mike Sorber will join the team as an assistant coach. Marsch and Sorber previously worked together as assistant coaches with the U.S. national team.

“Mike's experience both coaching and playing at the international level will be invaluable for our organization as we build towards 2012,” Marsch said in a statement. “He also has great knowledge of MLS players and teams, which will help us prepare for our inaugural season.”

Sorber, a native of Florissant, Miss., was also an assistant coach with St. Louis University from 2001 to 2006.

Sorber, who is fluent in Spanish, played for the U.S. national team from 1992-98, appearing in 67 matches and appearing in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

His professional playing career began in the Mexican Primera Division in 1994. From 1996-2000, Sorber played more than 125 games in MLS with Kansas City, the New York MetroStars and the Chicago Fire. He registered nine goals and 17 assists, as well as one goal and five assists in the playoffs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welbeck's hunger and ambition keeps him focused

“I’m not seeing it as, ‘Whoa, I’ve got to this stage’, or anything like that,” he said. “You just have to take it as it comes, like when you’re playing for the Under-18s. I want to keep improving because I know there are no limits.

“In football, you don’t want to put a limit on anything. You don’t want to be happy with where you’re at.

“If you think of players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, they score goals and break records and they just want to keep breaking them. They don’t want to stop there.

“That’s how everyone should feel. You play your football, you score a goal and you want to score another.”

Lessons from Bora

As Bob Bradley meets with the Egyptian media for the first time, Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times was reminded of the odyssey and adventures of covering Bora Milutinovic while he was the head coach of the United States National team.

Milutinovic has been a modern soccer gypsy, and Dillman writes of some of the lessons that Bradley can draw from Bora's experiences managing in a foreign land.

Whether it was mysterious misdirection or merely deft handling of the media, there was no doubt about meeting soccer coach Bora Milutinovic for the first time.

The man was an original in every sense of the word.

A couple of us soccer newbies had driven to Mission Viejo to what was then the training headquarters of the U.S. men's national team in 1994 to gather material for the upcoming World Cup. (So long ago that it was a soccer world not yet dominated by AEG and so long ago that Alexi Lalas was still playing and defending, not commentating and tweeting.)

Anyhow, Bora was coming in and out of the room, friendly but not revealing much, if anything. At one point, he had left some papers on his desk and returned to flip them over. Certainly, he could have had deep scribbled intelligence on group opponents Switzerland or Colombia and it would not have meant a thing.

The tales of Bora, the Serbo-Latin sphinx, came to mind for several reasons last week. The Serbian-born international man of mystery (now 67) is one of two men to coach five teams in the World Cup — Carlos Alberto Parreria is the other.

Before the American World Cup experience, Bora coached Mexico (1986) and Costa Rica (1990), and after the run with the United States, Nigeria (1998) and China (2002). His club resume is even more far flung.

Now, no one could ever hope to be Bora on any level. But you wonder if former longtime U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley can pull off a modified Bora in his challenging new assignment with the Egyptian national team — a program in deep transition and a country grappling with an even bigger one.

Egypt has twice reached the World Cup, in 1934 and 1990, never winning a game. But its results in the 1990 World Cup were far from shabby: respectable draws against the Netherlands and Ireland and a 1-0 loss to England.

More recently, however, Egypt won the African Cup of Nations in 2010. Surprisingly, it did not qualify for the 2012 event, coming off a loss to South Africa, a tie against South Africa, and a 2-1 loss to Sierra Leone on Sept 3.

Bradley appeared in an Egyptian television interview shortly after his hiring became official and used the words "rebuild the team" in his first answer, taking aim at making the 2014 World Cup.
"I think when you put a team together, you need to have the proper balance between some players that have experience and understand what it takes to be successful with young talent," he said in the interview. "You have to work hard to try to find the right fit. And that will be the biggest part of the job, going forward."

Patience, a passport and, perhaps, a page or two from the Bora playbook with the media.

MLS Attendance Records Set to Fall

The league remains on pace for its best attendance average ever. The 12 games in Week 29 games averaged 18,284 fans as Vancouver sold out its new home and two Wednesday night matches drew unusually big crowds. For MLS attendance rankings ...

* The Vancouver Whitecaps moved into renovated BC Place last weekend and drew a sellout 21,000 crowd -- the max for a soccer setup at the stadium with a 52,000 capacity for Canadian Football League games. The stadium at which the Whitecaps of the old NASL played in 1983 and 1984 was renovated at a cost of more than $500 million. The Caps, new to MLS this season, had been playing at Empire Field, where they'd been averaging just more than 20,000.

* Wednesday night games traditionally don't draw well, but 17,838 in Kansas City watched the home team down Columbus, 2-1, and Real Salt Lake drew 20,762, who saw visiting Chicago win, 3-0.

* On Saturday, the Los Angeles Galaxy sold out for the fifth time this season (a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake). On Sunday, also at the Home Depot Center, Chivas USA drew its third highest crowd of the season (16,134) for a 1-1 tie with Philly.

* New England enjoyed a crowd significantly higher than its average when 21,022 came for the Revs' 2-1 loss to Seattle on Saturday.

* Also improving on its average this season was Columbus, which beat D.C. United, 2-1, in front of 15,566 on Sunday.

* MLS's attendance average so far this season is 17,577. The 2010 season ended with a 16,037 league-wide attendance average.

* MLS's highest attendance came in its inaugural season of 1996 -- 17,406.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Scholes: I'm not bad at tackling, I was just getting people back

Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has insisted he didn't deserve his reputation as a bad tackler, insisting he was simply ‘getting people back’ after they had previously fouled him.

36-year-old enjoyed an illustrious career where he was thought to be the perfect midfielder by many, but fans and pundits alike were very critical of his tackling or lack of ability to tackle, especially towards the end of his playing days.

In an interview with BBC Radio Five live the ex-England international said: “Of course I can tackle. There's plenty of evidence of being able to tackle.

"I was just getting people back. If someone got me early in the game it was always in the back of my mind that I needed to get them back.

“I didn't always do it on purpose, some of it was just bad timing, I suppose.

"But I think throughout my career the record wasn't that bad; there were not that many yellow cards.

“Well, I suppose a few yellow cards, but not many sendings-off. But I think towards the end every time I made one tackle I got booked, because of my reputation I suppose."

Tactics critical in tonight's US Open Cup Final

With the possible absence of both teams’ playmakers, the personnel and tactics chosen by coaches Sigi Schmid and Frank Klopas are particularly important factors for the U.S. Open Cup final (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer.)

Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America reports on the coaches and teams that will be on display in tonight's US Open Cup Final.

Though it's a bit of an injustice to U.S. Open Cup finalists Seattle and Chicago to focus on two doubtful participants, the status of Mauro Rosales and Sebastian Grazzini explains in part why these teams are where they are.

Both Argentines joined their MLS teams this season to spark attacks, make plays, and produce goals, and both have flourished in a league that often smothers and frustrates the skillful. Yet their teams are also stocked with alternatives, in case the primary catalysts are unable to go.

Rosales, an ex-River Plate player and native of Villa Mar, leads the Sounders in assists with 12 and has scored five goals. Grazzini, born in Rosario, came to Chicago in midseason to score three goals and register four assists in nine games. They could both start, come off the bench, or sit out entirely.

A sprained MCL has sidelined Rosales, and Grazzini has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. They are dubbed “game-time decisions” by their head coaches, who nonetheless shouldn’t suffer for incisive creativity.

They tend to be more defensive than offensive, yet the Fire’s Pavel Pardo and Seattle’s Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso are capable in the attack. Chicago is potent from the wings with Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko; Seattle can counter with Alvaro Fernandez, Erik Friberg and Lamar Neagle.

The forwards are in good form; Fredy Montero leads Seattle with 11 league goals, Dominic Oduro tops Chicago with 12. Sounders backup Mike Fucito and Montero have each netted twice in Open Cup play.

While the Sounders are riding a recent run of 11-2-2 in all competitions and are playing at home, where a CenturyLink Field crowd of about 35,000 is expected, Chicago in the past month and a half has shaken out of a malaise to edge into the playoff picture. Of its meager seven league wins, five have come in the last seven games.

Both teams have won three Open Cup games to reach the final, which is being staged more than a month after the semis were played in August. The gap has given the Fire time to jell and incorporate new elements, which have fueled the best season in Oduro’s six-year MLS career. Seven of his goals have been scored in the last 10 games.

“Obviously some late additions have also helped our team, players like Pavel Pardo, who's brought a lot of experience to the team, and a guy like Grazzini,” says Klopas, the Fire's interim head coach and technical director. “We've changed our lineup a little bit and now there's a good understanding of how we want to play.”

Schmid, too, has been juggling his lineup. There’s no other way to get through a season that could add up to as many as 51 games should Seattle reach MLS Cup 2011. Seattle comes into the game, its fourth in 10 days, after tying Comunicaciones, 2-2, in Guatemala City to clinch a spot in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, and beating New England, 2-1, on the road. The club provided chartered flights and top-class hotels to ease the stresses of a 9,000-mile road trip.

“There were certainly guys obviously that we didn't play in the game in New England and rested, like Ozzie Alonso and Evans, who probably could've played, so those guys will be in the lineup,” said Schmid on a teleconference call with reporters Monday afternoon. “But with the rest, we're still evaluating.”

The Sounders are going for a third straight Open Cup title, which would maintain their perfect mark in the competition since joining MLS in 2009. While Schmid played in the competition as an amateur in the 1970s, and has won it three times as a head coach, Klopas has a tighter connection; he played on the expansion Fire team that won the double in 1998, and scored its winning goal in the Open Cup final. He entered the match at the start of overtime and tallied in tthe 99th minute.

“It was different times,” said Klopas, who ended his pro career the following season. “At that moment, being an expansion team in 1998 and winning the MLS Cup and doing the double at home and finishing a season like that, for me the most important thing was winning but scoring the winning goal was just a memory that, moments like that will be remembered forever.

“You can share with that group, whether you see the guys or you never speak to them again, that one year or that special moment will link us together forever.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ferguson encourages team spirit

Sir Alex Ferguson has developed a team at Manchester United that plays hard for each other, and picks up teammates when needed.

"It’s all about team spirit," said Sir Alex.

"In a match, I only need eight of my players to be on top form. If the other three aren’t up to it, it’s not ­serious. The other eight do the work for them.

"There have only been six matches where I’ve had all 11 players perform at their very best. It’s like swallows. They always fly together in a group, in a V formation, and those at the front do the majority of the work. And they alternate regularly.

"If one swallow flies out of formation, two others go to get him and bring him back into the group. It’s the same in my teams – sacrifice, friendship, and the giving of oneself to the team."

Ferguson has reiterated his long-held belief that nobody is more important than the manager at a football club.

The United boss, who is approaching a remarkable 25 years in his post, has praised his Manchester City counterpart Roberto Mancini for his handling of the Carlos Tevez situation this week.

"I can see Mancini is showing strength and character. Strength is important in today's management. We all experience our own difficulties in management and you cope with it the best you can. In my own experience, strong management is important. No-one is more important than the manager at a football club."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"We are beautiful when we make the game easy, but we can be ugly if we don’t make the effort and do what we need to do! We have to make sure on Saturday we defend like a team, stay compact and try to keep a clean sheet." - Patrice Evra

van Gaal casts large shadow on European Football

Louis van Gaal is one of the true tactical masterminds of the past two decades, and has managed European giants Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Stefan Coerts of writes about the polarizing shadow that van Gaal casts everywhere he manages.

September 28 was just any other day for most people, but it was a rather special occasion for one of the most colourful figures of the footballing world. On Wednesday, it was exactly 20 years ago that Louis van Gaal was appointed as head coach for the first time in what would prove to be a rather impressive coaching career.

Although the Dutchman is currently unemployed, following his exit at Bayern Munich earlier this year, there's little doubt that van Gaal is one of the best tacticians of the past two decades, and it all started at Eredivisie giants Ajax in the autumn of 1991.

Club Games Wins Draws Losses Win %

Ajax 286 196 51 39 69

Barcelona 196 108 35 53 55

Netherlands 14 8 4 2 57

AZ 174 101 37 36 58

Bayern Munich 77 47 16 14 61

Total 747 460 143 144 62