Thursday, January 31, 2008

Looking at the Responses to US Promotion/Relegation Discussion: Revisiting Blasphemy


Above- No, not Hastur the Unspeakable but He Who Should Not Be Named...

Thanks for the thought provoking responses to the MLS promotion relegation question. I agree that MLS promotion/relegation is presently out of the question. In most foreign leagues there are numerous 1st, 2nd, and sometimes 3rd division clubs located in the big cities, ensuring television revenue from the major media centers (i.e., London or Rome). This may be necessary for the success of a promotion/relegation system.

I was impressed when reading Dan Loney’s well written and informative piece on the evolution of professional football and promotion and relegation in England. Yet when did the soccerati secretly met and determine that "(US)promotion and relegation discussions are played out”. My ego asks why the hell I wasn’t invited to that party.

On a serious note, ripples regarding this subject emerged with Dan Loney’s blog on the subject and 8 responses, 13 responses on ours, with Jeff Bull (Center Holds It) having trouble responding and subsequently starting as usual excellent thread on his blog with 3 responses. The responses ranged from “what the @#$* are you thinking bringing this up”, implying that my post somehow undermined MLS stability; to thoughtful discussions of why “it cannot be”. Others considered the possibility or acknowledged preference for promo-relegation but were comfortable with the present system. I was stunned when the author I quoted, Michael Veseth, also contributed several well reasoned paragraphs, stating these discussions are much needed, then adding that the Sounders were a prime example of a successful minor league franchise being “promoted”. The majority of the responses on each site were much more thoughtly constructed than anything I’ve written. Truly, thanks again to those who took the time to respond here, there, or anywhere.

Surviving its infancy and primary years, the MLS now hurtles toward adolescence looking to expand. Decisions about league structure will help to define the culture and future of soccer in the US. Changes in the US’s ethnic makeup could also heavily influence- will the MLS try to attract the new demographic, seeking to lure soccer fans from home country clubs (i.e., Club America or Pumas) to local US teams? Or will marketing toward white suburbia continue? Frankly, I question both the American and MLS sports structure: Is this the consensus of how we want things to be? Is this what we want in 10, 25, 50 years? Years from now, will some of us think we traded ideals for beads and baubles? Perhaps by then I will have become acclimatized to promoting parity, rewarding mediocrity, and the American sports model notion of musical chair championships. Granted DC United, the Galaxy, the San Jose/Houston franchises, and in a bridesmaid’s role, New England have dominated MLS Playoff History, but if the American sports model is the ideal, you might as well tell perennial also-rans like the Red Bulls, don’t worry, you’ll have your day. A Red Bull Crown will be nothing like Man U’s climb back up to the top from the first division (80’s) or Chelsea’s ascendancy. An MLS crown may become less of a big deal- like other American sports leagues; it was merely your team’s turn to win. Feast to famine, famine to feast. If the college system did a better job at developing youth, I think we’d even see cellar dwellers “playing to lose”, seeking the big draft pick.

Dan Loney brought up an excellent and original question, “But why do both sides assume that theirs is not only the preferred system, but never seem to have considered any other?” showing me the discussion has not played out and seems to have more creative energy than a MLS marketing scheme. I think this could be a different direction for a supposedly “played out” discussion.

I am not a fan of the MLS playoffs. Some of the more obvious reasons include LAG '05 and the Rapids ’97. I can only hope the Champions League gathers steam and the US Cup becomes something other than USL teams pitted against MLS reserves. I’ll stop there.

What will the future bring? God only knows. I believe the US Soccer Community is strong enough to handle and not run from conflict. Perhaps someone new to the game will enter the discussion like a breath of fresh air, offering something both workable and revolutionary. I hope the discussion continues, even if in the closet, until then. Read more!

THREE-M: Mercury to the MNT to MLS


Look closely for the football. The image you see here at left is a fabulous photo of a previously-unknown crater on the planet Mercury, dubbed the Spider Crater for obvious reasons. The crater was revealed in a photo sent back by the MESSENGER spacecraft when if flew by Mercury a few weeks ago.

The acquisition of that photo, as well as the MESSENGER and space exploration program in general is an example of what the U.S. does when it does things right. The results are amazing, inspiring and just a tad beautiful. Now, can the same be said about the new U.S. Men's kit?


I think the general reaction to the jersey, which can be bought at Houston's very own Soccer4All, dubbed the best soccer store in the nation in a US Soccer online poll, is that they should all be hurled directly into that pit in spider crater, to be baked by the very close sun during the long Mercurian days and then frozen during the equally long Mercurian nights.

I, however, do not have this reaction. Drew Epperly over at WVHooligan has a fanastic compare and contrast series of photos of US MNT kits since 1994. And when you look at these one by one, you see that the new one really is not that bad. I do wonder what the other options were such that you'd get a group of savvy marketing executives (as I assume the people at Nike are) look at this one and say "Yeah, that's it!" My only serious objection to the kit is that it looks all too much like the dallas candystripers' away and goalkeeper jerseys from last year.

But really, when you look at the others over at WV Hooligan, it's not that bad. And if that's the worst I can say about it, I'll probably end up buying the thing, as it might be a nice thing to wear during the Olympics or on July 4th. It could always be worse, as it could be something like this. Read more!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't try this at home

Saw this promo video for FIFA Street 3 over at The Offside Rules and just had to call attention to it. Easily one of the most amazing examples of straight-out balling skill I've seen. My kids just looked at it and said: "Cooool, freezing cool."

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Finally! The Orange Beast is Alive!!


You know that a transfer season of nothing but mediocre to bad news for those of us of a Dynamaniac persuasion has started to get to us when the potential signing of a 33-year-old backup journeyman goalkeeper from Gretna of all places is considered big news.

But big news it is indeed, and thanks once again to MLS Rumors for providing the sweet elixir. Dominic Kinnear and John Spencer are plumbing the Scotland well once again with the imminent arrival of the well-traveled Tony Caig.


His Wikipedia page has already been updated to show this. Now that's FAST! How's this for a resume, though: 1991-99 with Carlisle United; 99-01 with Blackpool; 01 with Charlton Athletic; 01-03 with Hibs; 03-06 with Newcastle; 06-07 with Vancouver and 07-yesterday with Gretna. Now THAT is a guy who has logged some serious frequent flyer miles in the 21st Century!


The Cleator Moor, England native appeared in eight games, surrendering no goals for the Irons, who currently languish 12th in the 12-team Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League, nine points out of 11th and almost-certain candidates for relegation, though they were just promoted last year prior to Caig's arrival. Caig is no stranger to winning, though, helping the Whitecaps to the USL-1 title in 2006. The following is the '07 season preview for the 'Caps, with Caig the first player interviewed, before his transfer to Gretna:

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Gordan Strachan and the Hurricane

Found the YouTube clip below over on The Offside, some wonderful footage of current Celtic manager Gordon Strachan during some of his playing days for Dundee. GS's hair is awesome, but it's the uniforms that get me. Absolute beauty. (GS is No. 8 by the way.)


By the way, I have been looking for footage of the old NASL Houston Hurricane for years and have yet to find any. First to send me a link thereof, or just point me in the right direction gets a Nutmegged T-shirt (as soon as we get around to making one, that is!).

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OFM and Football Manager: Online Football Strategy Games

During my spare time, I like to play soccer management games. These have varied over the years, from 1-Nil to Sick as a Parrot to play by email and Championship Manager Games. My latest fancies are Online Football Manager (OFM) and Football Manager. Both are free with extra costs for add-ons.

OFM is rather simplistic and most of the game mechanics- lineups, tactics- can be completed within 15 minutes or so depending on the speed of your internet hookup. Games are played nightly and a full season takes about a month to a month and a half depending on the league. Unfortunately, you cannot keep your team (with its subsequent changes) past one season though you can keep playing the same team in the same league year after year. I struggled in my first season with the Dynamo- with a 4th place goal, I only finished 7th. I was ready to quit but lucked into a site discussing tactics. The OFM site is secretive at best on this subject so discovering tactical advice was striking gold. My second season the Dynamo came within 4 points of finishing 1st. I added another team- Napoli in Serie A and was only expected to place 16th, avoiding relegation. Instead, I took the crown by 4 points, overcoming much more skilled and wealthy teams. This is a fun game! I am currently managing two teams predicted for relegation- Excelsior (Dutch League; 5th place now but hoping to move up in the latter 3rd of the season) and Fulham (just beginning season). I’m very happy for the OFM Strategy Discussion to continue here though I am no expert.

Football Manager is much more intricate with league games held 1-2 times weekly. This is truly a game for OCD micromanagers- you control almost everything- stadium, coaches, training, training camps… ad naseum. You don’t get a real team- I currently manage Hicksville. You can rename your team but it costs part of your budget. This is great fun if you have the time- which I don’t often have. Tactics are also somewhat guarded on the site- like OFM, you are encouraged to learn by trial and error and this often means losing. Still, I highly recommend both sites.

I tried to play Hattrick but before I could get started, I had to perform lots of tasks as prerequisites to game play. Looks great but already overloaded, especially playing the above. Feel free to comment on your experiences with Online Soccer/Footy Sims and strategies. Read more!

Monday, January 28, 2008

From Aloha to Alamo in two short weeks


Amid all the hubbub today over the new CONCACAF Champions league, Nate Jaqua heading to Europe and other news, this little nugget from Bernardo Fallas' blog caught my attention. Dynamo's preseason schedule is taking shape. Just two weeks after the Pan-Pacific Championships, and two weeks before the CONCACAF Champions Cup (which dies this year, meaning that if Dynamo win that tourney, they will be CCC holders forever!), Dynamo will be playing in a little round-robin tourney in my other hometown of San Antonio. You can check out the mention on the Express-News' site here, or read it below.

This is awesome news and I plan on making it to San Antonio for at least some of these games. Looks like fun.

(Or maybe this is just the long offseason blahs catching up with me. I HATE this time of year with the only things to see domestically are the Super Bowl and the interminable NBA. No MLS. No spring training. I have had enough, and not even watching Celtic win yesterday is lifting me out of my funk. If the prospect of this little tourney in SA is enough to get my jazzed, you know how bad off I am. Please. Someone. Kick a damn ball!)


Soccer: San Antonio to host 4-team MLS event

Terrence Thomas
Express-News staff writer

The two-time defending Major League Soccer champion Houston Dynamo will train and play three exhibitions this spring in San Antonio.

The MLS club will participate March 3-9 in the Texas Pro Soccer Festival, said Lester Gretsch, Dynamo director of communications.

A news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday in San Antonio to announce the event, said Steve Arters, a board member for the San Antonio Metropolitan Youth Soccer Institute and a co-founder of the Texas Pro Soccer Festival.

Houston Dynamo CEO Chris Canetti and head coach Dominic Kinnear are scheduled to attend the news conference.

"This is a special event for San Antonio," Arters said.

The Dynamo are scheduled to train at Pepsi Soccer Texas, a 12-field complex in Schertz, and will play the exhibitions at Steele High School.

Houston will play exhibitions against D.C. United, Toronto FC and Chivas USA.

Each team will participate in a round-robin, double-header format, with games on March 5, March 7 and March 9.

Among the players expected to play are Houston's Brian Ching and Dwayne De Rosario, Toronto FC's Maurice Edu and Marvell Wynne, D.C. United's Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno, and Chivas USA's Ante Razov and Francisco "Panchito" Mendoza.

Edu was the 2007 MLS Gatorade Rookie of the Year.

The exhibitions will mark the second time in four years that San Antonio has hosted MLS soccer.

In March 2004, Colorado and New York/New Jersey played to a 2-2 tie before 4,204 spectators at the Blossom Soccer Stadium.

Read more!

Was it Beckham? The Eruption of MLS Blogs

Last year, my friends and I scoured the net for ANY MLS rumors. Giddy over our first hometown MLS Cup Championship, we were initially disappointed until piece-mealing- site by site- scraps of news (orts- fave crossword word that I must use just because I never ever have).

Now it’s quite the opposite. MLS blog sites are everywhere; it’s unfortunate the influx of these do not translate into Nielson ratings. Our site is a perfect example of this. Was it Becks that started this or was it natural Bloggo-lution?

On a humorous note, Jeff Bull cited Nutmegged on his excellent Blog, Center Holds It (kudos for the Yeats reference alone). Here are my comments to his blog:

playtherapy: I have no idea why (emphasize a southern nasal whine) your site has so little traffic, Jeff. Maybe its like one of those critically accclaimed TV shows- it’s just too damned good.

Jeff Bull's response: I don’t know how to respond to that one, but to say thanks. We’re actually doing pretty well, at least as far as I’m concerned (I think the other two dudes are happy as well). We’re not “Top of the Pops,” or anything, but I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised by the reaction Breton’s shout-out to readers post did. Thanks again for the nice stuff, though. And do check out Martek’s space. He’s a smart one.

Yep, Mr Bull, I just might check it out. Read more!

Beginning the Forbidden Discussion- Promotion/Relegation in the US

Excellent chapter from Globaloney: Unraveling the Myths of Globalization By Michael Veseth


The Beautiful Game and the American Exception


Read especially page 115

"The structural organization is, in many respects, foreign to American audiences. Most American sports leagues are organized in a very simple way. Teams play each other within roughly geographic divisions (designed to minimize travel costs) to determine a play-off field. Several play-off rounds determine a league titlist. The more games a team plays, the more money it earns, which exacerbates the "winner-take all" element of the business.

Soccer in other countries has a much more complex structure. Most soccer countries have a multiple hierarchy of leagues (in Italy, the leagues are A, B, C1, C2, etc). Teams compete to be at the top of their leagues, of course, but there is also interest at the bottom because the worst teams in league A, for example, are relegated to league B and replaced by the best teams of league B, with similar movements from league B to C1, C1 to C2, and so forth. So there is something at stake at both ends of the league table, which of course gives all the games more meaning. Good teams want to advance and be promoted,; bad teams try to avoid relegation. In theory, it is possible for a team from a lowly C2 league town to advance via several excellent seasons to one of the super-leagues. This actually happened in Italy in the 1990's, a story that was documented by Joe McGinnis in The Miracle of Castel di Sangro (side note: a good read).

Teams in the middle may also compete for International competitions, giving their fans a reason to care." - from Excellent chapter from Globaloney: Unraveling the Myths of Globalization By Michael Veseth, Chapter 4, Excellent chapter from Globaloney: Unraveling the Myths of Globalization By Michael Veseth: The Beautiful Game and the American Exception.

My thoughts- while we do not have the minor league infrastructure to support promotion/relegation- why do we buy the Suits "it'll never work" theme? This seems vaguely reminiscent of the soccerphobes and their columnists (i.e., Jim Romney). The American sports model is exactly that and just because it has never been done another way does not imply it cannot be done. Is it too late- have we all become so McDonaldized that merely the thought of such forbidden subjects becomes "that which cannot be said "(visions of the unutterable portions of the Necronimicon)? We have watched as America's "past time" (Baseball) become more and more McDonaldized, more and more mercenary- that even the mythical numbers become suspect and meaningless. We accept the influence of money in amateur sports- enough to want to professionalize the Olympics and collegiate sports. Sports are becoming further and further away from the ideals sports had for us- even if these ideals were fictionalized. When kids living in norway, My brother and I used to religiously memorize the baseball box scores from the Stars and Stripes sports pages. The numbers created awe, we were fascinated; now they are tainted at best.

I question the blanket adoption of the American sports model and must ask the forbidden questions- if merely for the love of the Beautiful Game and NOT the American exception.

In the words of Cindy-Lou Who of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas fame,



"WHY?"



P.S. More on this to follow- especially if this generates meaningful discussion.


Read more!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Aloha from Hawaii ESPN


February, 2008 marks the 35th year since the famous Elvis Live Via Satellite concert from Hawaii. Well, apparently, ESPN and the Dynamo are, in their own small way, commemorating this titanic, classic TV event by broadcasting the Pan-Pacific Championships on ESPN Classic. Thank you Glenn Davis and, once again, MLS Rumors for this little nugget o' news.



And like I've posted before, Dynamo take on a team from Australia's A-League at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in Honolulu, but that'll be 12:30 a.m. Feb. 21 here. The Men in Orange will take the nightcap after the Gals face Gamba Osaka from the J League at 6 p.m. Hawaii time and 10 p.m. here. Times are the same for Feb. 23/24. Losers face off in the early game, while winners play for the tourney title after that.



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Friday, January 25, 2008

The S stands for soccer

Just a quick note to the seatle front office before they choose an official name....please resist the siren call of the FC appellation.  


I admit it, FC sounds good.   Add it to anything and your organization has an instant glow of class and a glint of secure respectability but come on, seatle already has a football club and they're called the seahawks.

I know we are stupid americans but that is what we are and soccer, not football, is what we call the beautiful game.  MLS has some unfortunate team names but so do all american sports, it's just what we do.  The argument that the name Royals is somehow better than the name Wizards is a thin one.  Seatle, let's continue this american tradition, to simply slap a FC on the name would be robbing us of our birthright.  Houston had the oilers, what the hell is an oiler? What the hell is a steeler or an astro or a mighty duck.  Come on seatle give us something absurd and vague and horrible and then in time we will accept it without question...you can't do worse than the red sox, that's a team named after a freaking article of clothing.  The seatle cravats, how about that for an instant glow of class.


FC Dallas should be SC Dallas ( the queen observing foreigners in canada get a pass) and on the same subject, tangentially, someone please tell me what king they are referencing in Salt Lake.  Team Magical Pajamas would at least have regional significance.  D.C. United, united what, the masses to the virginia suburbs?


Here's the most compelling reason to forgo the FC, the wrath of the gods.  I believe that the soccer gods would take offense and conspire to never let mls seatle slake their thirst on the sweet nectar of glory.  MLS' FC history has been short but in Dallas' case provocative; the soccer gods are not happy and it shows.

D.C. United's successful history, again what did they unite exactly, must be attributable to offerings, burnt or otherwise, proffered by shrewd owners to capricious yet placable gods.  

So seatle if you can't get your hands on D.C.'s supplicatory recipe do the right thing and stay away from the dreaded FC.  

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Late Nate: Jaqua heading to Europe (in two languages!)


Accoring to MLS Rumors and other sources, Nate Jaqua has signed with Austrian Bundesliga division side SC Rheindorf Altach. For those of you who speak German, here is the story from VN-Online:

Jaqua soll für Altacher Tore sorgen
Nade Jaqua überzeugte die Altacher Verantwortlichen beim Test gegen die Austria. (Foto: Riethbaum)
Stürmer der Houston Dynamos überzeugte Neo-Trainer Fuchsbichler.
Dieter Alge
dieter.alge@vn.vol.at, Tel. 72/501-149
Altach/Lustenau (VN) Zwar fehlt noch die Unterschrift des 27-Jährigen Nade Jaqua, dennoch dürfte der großgewachsene Mittelstürmer im Frühjahr für cashpoint SCR Altach auf Torejagd gehen. Neo-Coach Heinz Fuchsbichler ist von den Qualitäten des 1,92-Meter-Mannes jedenfalls überzeugt. "Er ist genau jener Spielertyp, den wir suchen", freut sich Fuchsbichler. Altach hat dem US-Boy ein Angebot unterbreitet und wartet nun auf seine Zusage. "Ich habe mich nach dem Spiel sofort mit seinem Manager in Verbindung gesetzt. Es müssen kleinere Detail abgeklärt werden, aber ich bin zuversichtlich, dass der Transfer zustande kommt." Gestern unterzog sich der Spieler einer letzten medizinischen Untersuchung.


Translated to the english, (thanks to an unnamed friend), that comes to:

"Forward from Houston Dynamo convinced new Coach Fuchsbichler.
The signature of the 27 Year old Nade (?) is still missing, but the tall Forward should be trying to score for SCR Altach in the spring. New Coach Fuchsbichler was very impressed with the quality of the player. "He is exactly the type of player that we are looking for" opined the coach. Altach has made an offer to the US-Boy and is waiting on his reply. "Right after the test match I contacted his Manager. There are some small details that need to be cleared up, but I am confident we will get the deal done." Yesterday the player underwent the Medical Exam."


This is not altogether unexpected, though I for one did not think it would happen. Of course, it still has not officially happened as the club is not expected to announce until Monday, but still, I think we can all assume that Nate is gone. SC Rheindorf Altach is currently sitting eighth in the 10-team table, fighting hard to avoid relegation.

Jaqua was of course one of Dom Kinnear's excellent midseason acquisitions, along with the dearly departed Joseph Ngwenya and the still-here Richard Mulrooney. Apparently, Kinnear is going to have to work some of that magic again this season. I am nervous, but at times like this I just go back to my fall back: TRUST IN DOM. It's worked for me so far.

Nate, we hardly knew ye.

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One week to go ramblings


One week from today, Dynamo start training camp in preparation for their six (!) competitions of 2008, the Pan-Pacifics, CONCACAF Champions Cup, MLS season, SuperLiga, CONCACAF Champions League and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. I repeat all six of these competitions over and over in my mind just to drive myself crazy, I think, at the unfairness of having to play so many fixtures during the season. Oh well, last season, Dynamo played in the second-most amount of games in MLS (DC United was first) and it led to the squad's second consecutive MLS title, so I really shouldn't whine about it all.


The fact is, for committed supporters like the three of us (and for our committal hearings, we ask only for orange-colored straps on our strait-jackets. Is that too much to ask now?) this blog, you can never have too many games. So bring them all on, baby!


When camp opens next week, Bernardo Fallas over at the Chron is reporting that Dynamo will be without our five American heroes, who will be in either US senior national camp or Olympic camp, in order Eddie Robinson, Brad Davis, Rico Clark, Stuart Holden and Pat Ianni. Also in Canadian national team camp right now in Florida are Dwayne De Rosario and Pat Onstad, but I believe that camp will be over by Feb. 1.

First up for the Men in Orange is the Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii. The official site has a nifty little Q&A with DeRo. Among the highlights, this little nugget: "It's a great opportunity to play meaningful games and prepare for the intense schedule ahead of us. So it is all in good timing." Is our boy DDR media savvy or what? Dynamo take on a team from Australia's A-League at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in Honolulu, but that'll be 12:30 a.m. Feb. 21 here. Still no word on TV coverage, if any. But with that team from LA in the event, you've got to think that some coverage will come calling.


Next of course, is the CONCACAF Champions Cup, where Dynamo face CD Municipal from Guatemala City in the first round March 12 (in Guatemala City) and March 19 (at Robertson Stadium). In advance of this, Dynamo have helpfully posted a nice scouting report on Los Rojos, which you can find here. Among my favorite little nuggets there are: It was formed by city hall workers in Guatemala City in 1936; they've never been relegated; they have three guys named Pablo on their roster. For those of us who were there at last season's games against Puntarenas and Pachuca, the CCC is a ton of fun.

Of course, last year, those two series were blamed for Dynamo's somewhat listless start to MLS competition. This year, we'll see just how true or false that is. The Men in Orange open at the New England Revolution March 29 and then at home to raise their 2007 championship flag vs. the Frisco Candystripers April 6 at 2 p.m. here at Robertson.

SuperLiga, CONCACAF Champions League and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are all summer competitions that will severely test the team's depth, as will the Olympics, which might claim Holden and Ianni and various national team call-ups.

So to conclude this somewhat rambling post, here's one of my faves, Dynamo's 10 best goals from 2007. Enjoy.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

An omen of grave portent?

Here's a little snippet from an article on today's mlsnet that caught my eye:

"CAROLINA CHALLENGE CUP (MARCH 15, 19, 22)

The Charleston Battery of the USL First Division hosts this annual classic at its authentic soccer haven, Blackbaud Stadium in Daniel Island, S.C. This year the tournament features the New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, and the San Jose Earthquakes along with the underdog and home team, Charleston Battery.
The fifth consecutive year of this round-robin competition consists of three doubleheaders, and the three MLS clubs will train in Charleston all week. To purchase tickets, call (843) 971-GOAL (4625) or visit http://www.charlestonbattery.com.
"

So what? Well this fired off my synapses in an unexpected way and filled me with the slighest touch of ruin and after searching I found this small bit from 4/01/07 on mlsnet:

"Kinnear-led teams rule the four-year old tournament hosted by the USL First Division's Charleston Battery. In 2005 his San Jose Earthquakes won the tournament before claiming the MLS Supporters' Shield. Last year Houston lifted the CCC before, of course, going on to win MLS Cup. "There may be something to it," Kinnear said."

And now read this further down the page in the same article:

" In each of the four years of the tournament's existence, the winner has gone on to win one of the two major trophies in MLS. In 2004, the Columbus Crew won the tournament, then followed up by winning the Supporters' Shield. The San Jose Earthquakes won the CCC and the Supporters Shield, before moving to Houston for the 2006 season, maintaining their dominance over in the Lowcountry, then winning MLS Cup."

We all know the Dynamo won the 2007 CCC, how I wish that was the Concacaf Champions Cup not the carolina challenge cup, and then won the 2007 MLS Cup again. Coincidence? As Kinnear was quoted," There may be something to it."

Is the march for a record breaking third consecutive mls cup condemned to fail before it begins? Preventing the Dynamo from south carolina will be their participation in the Concacaf Champions Cup so there's no way I'm complaining but as a spoiled Houston fan I like my cup right here.

Should be interesting to see if the Carolina Challenge Cup winner matches the 2008 MLS Cup or Supporter's Shield winner.

MLS Cup or no as long as the naranja play with their customary heart and soul I will never complain. After all, my personal pick for best match of 2007 was their superliga loss to Pachuca. Dale, Dale Dynamooo! Read more!

Haven't we seen these guys somewhere before?


Did you like the U.S. side that beat Sweden? Well, you're in luck. It's all abuzz around the Internets that Bob Bradley et alia have picked the following 21-man squad to train ahead of the U.S./Mexico match here at Reliant Stadium Feb. 6. The official announcement is here. Check out this roster (though this is not the final group as the official release points out there might be some more Euro-based players on the final roster):

GOALKEEPERS – Steve Cronin (LA Galaxy), Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Will Hesmer (Columbus Crew), Zach Wells (D.C. United)

DEFENDERS –Dan Califf (Aalborg BK), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Ramiro Corrales (SK Brann), Todd Dunivant (Toronto FC), Clarence Goodson (formerly of San Jose Earthquakes), Drew Moor (FC Dallas), Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution), Eddie Robinson (Houston Dynamo)

MIDFIELDERS –Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire), Pat Noonan (Aalesund)

FORWARDS – Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution), Jeremiah White (AGF Aarhus)


As Ives Galarcep pointed out, don't be too shocked at what seems like a less than full-strength U.S. squad. It was a less than full strength side that beat a full-strength Mexico 2-0 last February in Phoenix.

I'm not as pessimistic some posters around the blogosphere have been, but I do agree that we should be bringing in the best side we can when it comes to Mexico. They haven't beat us this century on U.S. soil and it's clearly in their heads. It would be nice to keep that going. That being said, I think this is a relatively strong side, and basically the same one that beat Sweden. I wouldn't argue so strongly against this team, especially seeing as how they are several key players who have a good deal of success against Mexican national teams and club sides in the past. Landon Donovan, Eddie Robinson, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Guzan and Jimmy Conrad all fit this mold. (And by the way, Andrea Canales has a nice story about Eddie Robinson at Soccer365. Check it out.)

I'm wondering about a couple of key absences though, particularly Jozy Altidore and Maurice Edu. Having Freddy Adu would also have been nice as he brings more than Rolfe or Jeremiah White. Where Altidore and Edu are, though, is my main question.

UPDATE: Just saw this note on Du Nord, which I should always check before writing anything:

4 guys from the previous roster headed to Florida this week to train with the Olympic team: Jozy Altidore, Maurice Edu, Sacha Kljestan & Marvell Wynne.


Other Euro-based players I'd like to see are: Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey (a good Texas boy!) and Michael Bradley.

The thing that stokes me though, is that as of right now, over 43K of our closest friends (as of right now) will be in attendance, including of course, Mister3d, Playtherapy and myself. I can hardly wait. Read more!

Ladies and gentlemen, our presenter for tonight is Bobby Boswell


Newest Houston Dynamo Bobby Boswell has gotten well known for many things, being the 2006 MLS Defender of the Year, an A-1 blogger (if you haven't seen bobbyboswell.com, you should), and now ace videographer and (for those of us of a certain age) the new Allen Funt. Check out this footage the Bos shot in an airport the other day while waiting to get on a flight. The image of Mr. B at the end is priceless.

Apparently, according to his Web site, someone gave Bobby a new video camera for Christmas. I think the nation owes this mysterious benefactor a serious debt of gratitude.

Read more!

Aztex invade Central Texas


One little historical oddity is that it's always been unclear just where the Aztec nation came from before claiming what came to be Mexico as their home. Legends refer to them coming from the north. Well, the Aztecs may have gone south, but the Aztex are coming north next year.

According to multiple sources, but I'll link to my favorites The Offside Rules and the official announcement, brand new side the Austin Aztex will start play in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) First Division beginning in the 2009 season.


Normally, minor league soccer does not overly interest me, but the odd kicker here is that team is owned by Phil Rawlins, who is also an owner and director of Stoke City FC an English League Championship side. Check out this note from the team on their arrangement:

The Austin Aztex will have an official affiliation with Stoke City which will begin immediately. The affiliation will include the English club holding their summer training camp in Austin, scouting for talent both locally and across the US, exchanging players with the Aztex and sharing best practices between the two clubs.

The Potters are in a strong position for promotion to the Premiership this season, which can only help the fortunes of the Aztex. USL games will be getting play on Fox Soccer Channel, which will only help the league.

MLS clearly will continue to be the American Premiership, for lack of a better term, but if there are fans, and you know there are many (you might even be one of them), of the whole relegation/promotion system who want it in the US, a strong USL can only help make the case. What do you think? Read more!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why Dynamo left SJ, and the value of going back



Just saw this brief story in the San Jose Mercury News this morning. Apparently Dynamo are going to take on the Earthquakes 3.0, or rather, the Bay Area Wanderers, in a few weeks. I think this is great news, but not for the reasons you might think. You can follow the link or check out the brief item here:

New, old Quakes in two warm-up games
By Elliott Almond
Mercury News
Article Launched: 01/23/2008 04:17:54 AM PST

The new Earthquakes will make their debut next month against the old Earthquakes.
The expansion team announced Tuesday that it has scheduled two home exhibitions against the Houston Dynamo, the two-time defending Major League Soccer champion that left San Jose in 2005. The games are Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at PAL Stadium and Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium.
Houston boasts a nucleus of players and staff from the San Jose team that moved to Texas because it wasn't a financial success. That move left a bitter taste for many Bay Area soccer fans.

"They're the Houston Dynamo now," said Quakes defender Ryan Cochrane, who previously played in Houston and San Jose. "As soon as everyone can come to grips with that the better."
Although the Quakes still need to add five players to fill their 18-man roster, Cochrane is glad to play the league's best team immediately.
"It is the best way to start," he said. "Right away you will be able to see where you're at, see what the level is. It's a smart move for us."
Cochrane, a former Santa Clara University star who was the Quakes' first pick in the November expansion draft, also sees the exhibitions as an opportunity to begin a healthy rivalry with his one-time teammates.
"It's going to be exciting for the fans to see the old guys from the Quakes team," he said. "And those guys are going to be excited to come back to San Jose."
The game at PAL Stadium is free for Quakes season-ticket holders. General admission will be $15, with $10 going to the Police Athletic League. At Kezar Stadium, all tickets will be $15 general admission.
Contact Elliott Almond at ealmond@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5865.


I think this is going to be a fabulous way to get up to speed before heading to the Pan Pacifics in Hawaii. Above and beyond the value of playing live competition during training camp, I think these games also might be a good way to put the whole is there/is not a rivalry issue in the past. The teams have more in common than not and are not natural rivals in any way. Dynamo is opposed to FC Dallas and the Bay Area and LA have that whole NoCal/SoCal thing going. A friendly competition between teams who have much in work to do in preseason and a special historical bond? Yes. Rivalry? No.

But the amazing thing is that the story appeared in the Mercury-News at all. Our good friends at the Soccer Silicon Valley blog have a nice reference to a column (read it here) by the SJMN's Patty Fisher that refers to her constant struggles with editors to write more soccer-related stories and have more soccer-related coverage.


As to Fisher's piece, I think that is hitting the nail on the head. The Houston Chronicle's soccer coverage has been beyond all of our wildest expectations here, I think we'd all agree. We get front page coverage of the Mexican leagues and Champions League update, as well as a weekly Soccer Page on Tuesdays. I have found at least a brief soccer item at least every other day in the paper, and frequently more than that. The Chron has stepped up to the penalty spot and realized the benefits with increased readership and national cred in the soccer press. It's waaay past time the SJMN did the same.


The Chron's coverage is of course not perfect, and many who know me may point out my homerism in lauding the paper's virtues in this regard, but I am merely echoing comments made by several outside the city sources, not the least of which are SF at The Offside Rules and Jeff Bull at Center Holds It, as well as Ives Galarcep at Soccer by Ives. Dynamo enjoy tremendous support here in Houston, both of a grass roots and institutional nature. Judging by Fisher's piece, not only was that not true back in San Jose, it still is not true. The Mercury-News pursues this path at their own peril, as evidence points to a significant market there that is not being served by their paper. At a time when so many traditional media sources are having trouble expanding their market share, to turn their back on soccer (or, I guess to be fair, their sides as they cover it sort of), is not only bad editorial policy, but a terrible business decision. Read more!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Orange ya glad you're not Oliver Luck?


With Joseph Ngwenya now heading to Austria and rumors that Nate Jaqua is trying to join him, the Internet (or at least the MLS corners of it) are abuzz with opinions on the problems Dynamo are going to have scoring goals in 2008. And while the problems are real ones, a sober analysis says not to sound the warning sirens just, just yet.

Let's begin by looking at this, like Gene Kranz, from a position of status. What do we have on Spaceship Dynamo that's good? Well, let's start with the four areas:


Goalkeeping: Pat Onstad just put in the best season ever in the history of MLS in terms of goals against. However, he is right now the oldest player in MLS and the only keeper on the roster. Clearly, Dynamo need a keeper to back up the Canadian. Free agent (formerly Chicago Fire No. 1) Matt Pickens is available. Pickens is on trial right now with Norwich City in England, but if that doesn't work out, he would be a great and attractive option. Some problems are that Pickens is a No. 1 keeper and might not want to be a backup. With Dynamo's well-documented fixture congestion problem (Pan-Pacifics, CONCACAF Champions Cup and Champions League, SuperLiga, U.S. Open Cup and MLS), that might not be a problem as there will be plenty of playing time. Still, you can see why a definite no. 1 job elsewhere might be more attractive for him.


Another option is a trade with the Earthquakes for Preston "Mountain Man" Burpo. Though this is where Brad Guzan's possible move to Celtic could complicate matters. If Guzan heads to the Hoops, las chivitas will be without a keeper and in dire straits. Burpo was the Goatboys' No. 2 until the expansion draft made him the Quakes 3.0's No. 1. Now San Jose went and acquired Joe Cannon and he's back to No. 2. I know it's heresy to suggest this, but, how about Craig Waibel to San Jose fulfilling a player/coach role over there for Burpo? I hate losing Waibelinho, but you don't get value unless you trade value and you can't pick Alexi Lalas' pocket every single day.


Back line: Right now, Waibelinho, Patrick Ianni, Eddie Robinson, Bobby Boswell and Captain Wademerica Barrett make up the back, with Richard Mulrooney also being able to fill in. If Ramiro Corrales, who was on the Quakes 2.0's 2001 and 2003 Cup winners, comes back to MLS (and we own his rights after all) from SK Brann in Norway, we have the makings of once again the best back line in the league. (Corrales did tell the Houston Chronicle: “I’m married now, and my wife is not too happy there, I think it’s time to come back.” Sra. Corrales may just be on my new list of favorite people if this happens.) This could be very attractive for both Pickens and Burpo. Also, Corrales' possible move back here makes someone available to leave via trade and sorry, but all signs point to that guy being Waibel. Waibel for Burpo looks better and better the more you think about it. One possible other option, Corrales signs and he's dealt for Burpo. I don't like that one as much, but I'll take it.

Midfield: Again, Dynamo has easily the deepest midfield in the league. Mulrooney, Clark, Mullan, Davis, Holden, De Rosario, Chris Wondolowski, Ashe, who am I missing? Not everyone can start, but it does lead to some interesting combinations. If I had to absolutely, positively trade someone, it would be Ashe, but the deal would have to be great to let go of anyone else.

Forward: Easily the most troublesome point, though not as troublesome as some would suggest. Ching and Jaqua, possibly Chris Wondolowski and, perhaps the perfect solution, De Rosario. Bernardo Fallas in his blog at the Chron posits the intriguing thought of putting DDR back up front to pair with Ching and he guesses at the unlikelihood of Jaqua jumping to Europe.

Pairing Chingy and DeRo is a great idea and will probably happen at some point, but it does not completely address the problems at hand. It is often said about short players who are great that they "are short, but play large." If anything, Jaqua frequently is large, but plays short. How could someone who is that tall (6-3!) lose so many high balls? When he started to play better later in the season, he was finally winning those things, but if he reverts back to his customary form, he is average at best. That being said, the big guy serves the team better on the field than coming off the bench as he doesn't really contribute the speed you'd be looking for in a mid-game sub. So with Jaqua there, DeRo goes back to attacking mid.

Another problem is that you can really only expect that Ching, unless his body suddenly decides to get less injury-prone this season, will play about 60-65 percent of the fixtures. So back up top goes De Ro when Ching is out to pair with the mobility challenged Jaqua. I know, I don't like that pairing either. Another wildcard that Fallas mentioned is that when the Austrian season is over (end of April), it's highly possible that SK Austria will be relegated and Ngwenya released. Dynamo have his rights and he might just be back here before the season is five games old, which, ironically, was how old the season was last year when he came here.

However, as Dynamo prez Oliver Luck said, we cannot go into the season with this roster. Additions will be made, probably in the next 2-3 weeks, so stay tuned.

Options I think are the least likely to happen: Adding a DP slot; a high profile international signing; Jaqua going to Europe.

Options I think are most likely to happen: Trade for a back-up keeper, which is THE most critical need; Corrales coming here; De Rosario moving to forward for at least 40 percent of games this year. Read more!

Eddie, Brad, Rico and other American heroes


Back from a weekend with the family in the Texas Hill Country away from Internet, away from TV and away from Eddie Robinson's first cap and first goal as a US MNT member in the 2-0 win over Sweden. I finally got a chance to watch the game today thanks to my good friends at Fox Soccer Channel, and I cannot tell you how great it felt to finally, finally see some action from one of my teams. And here are my, admittedly Dynamo-oriented, thoughts:

Eddie Robinson. What can you say? First cap, first goal. And numerous, numerous times making Sweden attackers and midfielders pay for roaming into his area. Eddie commits the occasional stupid foul, but the way I see it, these fouls have some method behind them in that no one, NO ONE goes into his area without knowing for a fact that they are in for some punishment and hard work. The boy never stops banging into these guys, winning balls, making forwards and midfielders think twice. You saw right there, especially in the first half, why he has become an indispensable component of the two-time champs. This brings up the Nutmegged poll there to the right. It was Mister3d himself that camew up with the Eddie Robinson on a set piece header option. And please note that it was the only choice NOT selected by our 15 voters. So while Mister3d himself did not vote for ER, nor did he get the header thing right, he DID get the Eddie on a set piece correct, and for that we give him the Nutmegged Pick of the Month award. A gratis paleta sandia is heading to you!


Brad Davis. If he misplayed a set piece, I'm not sure I caught it. Every free kick, all three corners, right where he wanted them to be. (OK, one free kick in the second half went into the wall, but he recovered the rebound and sent it in anyway.) Awesome, awesome performance Bradley. Your country clearly will do well by calling on you and your left foot for more national duty to come.


Rico Clark. Easily lost amid Dynamo's playoff run last year was how much more potent the champs would have been with this guy in the midfield. Rico's speed, his physicality, his presence, were all on display against Sweden. I can't wait to see the Georgia alum back in Orange this year. I think his best years are still ahead of him, and that, my friends, is scary.


Landon Donovan. 25 years old. Are you kidding me? Are we really at a spot now where we have to mention Donovan as the best US MNT player ever? Certainly No. 1 in goals scored and assists. Easily the leader on the field the other night. He was constantly distributing, constantly putting guys in the flow of the game (what flow there was). And still only 25. Still, he just doesn't seem to exude that "best player on the field" sort of aura. He never has, which is why Bretos and Sullivan all game long were continuing the discussion of how the US needs a better striker presence. So here's the question, is Donovan really the best US player of all time, or has he just been in the right place at the right time regarding the development of the US MNT? He's a stud though, no doubt about that.


Brad Guzan. The second best keeper in MLS last year showed again why he's so damn good. Without him and his pinpoint perfect positioning, I think the US would have gone into halftime down 2-1 at least. I still don't get why Celtic wants him with the Holy Goalie locked up for years, or why he'd want to go over there (money notwithstanding) to ride the pine behind Boruc. Brad, you need to play, man.

Everyone else. Hate to spread the love to a candystriper, but Drew Moor was fabulous up the right side. Ramiro Corrales, come home to the US. An orange jersey is awaiting you. Twellman, stop whining everytime someone breathes on you in the box. Push them out of the way for once in your life. Make some space, score a goal and shut the heck up.

Read more!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

MLS All-Stars are Euro Killers

Seems the seasoning that the MNT MLS contingent(hereafter rightfully referred to as mls all-stars) received in the pressurized atmosphere of the Copa Ameica, five out of the eleven starters and six out of the eighteen dressed to play tasted south american mayhem, paid dividends Saturday night as the all-stars played poised and confident against Sweden. O.K., Sweden was missing many important players, among them their beast of a striker, but come on, admit it, watching MLS USA absolutely dominate the first twenty minutes of that match felt really good. Chelsea, Celtic, Fulham and now Sweden--the MLS All-Stars are Euro killers. Bring on Manchester United, Inter Milan, and England! Think of it, a MLS MNT beating the three lions and thus sending the english and their sycophantic anglophiles into a writhing vortex of loathing and pain. The mere hint of such an outcome destroys the slightest possibility of such a match...but wait, now that Beckham is here? On the Dynamo front, all the houston players showed well and as Ricardo Clark should be an automatic call-up every time, let's tackle the MNT call-up prognoses of Brad Davis and Eddie Robinson. Both men strengthened their cause for future consideration, Davis in particular. My Copa America theory falls apart at Davis' feet as he, one without south american experience, showed cool patience and field comfort throughout his playing time. Contrary to reputation, Davis at times applied good defensive pressure and chased Sweden into a loss of possession at least twice by my recall. I thought his touch and passes in the run of play were excellent but the best argument for his inclusion in future matches (mexico!) rests solely on his left foot. Davis is so clearly a set piece trigger man upgrade over Donovan that Bradley must call him up simply for that alone. Now to Eddie. Robinson's man marking was good and combined with his unexpected poached goal, off a superb Davis corner no less, it would appear he has placed himself in the future consideration column. The only thing to give Bradley pause is Robinson's penchant for needless fouls in areas that lead to dangerous free kicks. Last night two of these quintessentially Robinson fouls set up an equal number of near lethal Swedish kicks that only Guzan's magic kept out of the net. Guzan not only saved the ball from our goal but surely Robinson's neck as well. Bradley will give Eddie another shot but can't have been pleased on those occasions. So, Clark is automatic while Davis should get at least a few more opportunities to solidify a spot and Robinson gets one more go around to impress ( and not to foul). A few more thoughts......Brad, kick the ball and pray for the best, Guzan looked very good in goal but did anyone else notice that his distribution tends to be a little scatter shot? Finally, Corrales is an interesting player, I like his instincts and his field ideas are palpably smart and, although his delivery often lets him down, he will undoubtedly be an asset to any MLS team that signs him. An instant MLS best XI.
From this day forward, let Don Garber be told, all future MLS All-Star matches should pit our league against European national teams- England first! Read more!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

All hail the mighty and powerful Waibel

According to Ives, we can expect 3 dynamo players, Davis, Clark, and Robinson, and one we retain the rights to in Corrales to start for the USA tonight. As much as I am looking forward to watching how this dynamo contingent acquit themselves on the field (particularly Robinson), we all know, see the poll to the right, that it will be the powers of an unseen and powerful Houston player that swings the game in the states' favor. Do not be alarmed when the disembodied head of Craig Waibel begins floating above the field of play directing the ball into Sweden's goal. Do not question what you do not understand USA fans, here in Houston we are thankful for the sage Kinnear but deep down we all know that the dynamo owe its success to the metaphysical powers of the one and only Craig Waibel. In a more physical realm, here's to Twellman taking out his recent disappointment and anger on the swedes in the form of a hat trick..it could happen!? Read more!

Bring on the season

Now that the Superdraft is mercifully over, can we please not speak of it again...ever. Let's be real, there are possibly fifty to seventy-five individuals in the world that have enough specific knowledge to postulate an informed opinion on the draft and its participants and, aside from a handful of guys from the go to sites, most of us in the soccer blogging world ain't them. I understand that this internet soccer pond we all swim in is an incestuous referential feedback loop but come on, all this superdraft stuff has just been wan ghostly mirages masquerading as real opinion; Ives presumably knows what he's talking about let's leave it at that. I'm done, absolutely done, with all of this speculative offseason rumor madness draft insanity-bring on the season! Now more than ever give me an official roster to ponder and discuss, give me actual accomplished trades, and most of all, give me competitive matches where you watch, I watch, they watch and then we let the real realm of opinion begin. The USA plays this Saturday, now there's something we can all talk about. Read more!

Friday, January 18, 2008

The big 5-0-0 and other news



Saturday night, the US Men's National team will take on Sweden in the Stars and Stripes' 500th international match. When last we saw the boys, they managed a nice 1-0 win on the road, on the far, far road that is, at South Africa last November.

Against Sweden at the Home Depot Center Saturday at 7:30 p.m. the squad will attempt to get its record to .500, both overall and against the Swedes. The U.S. is 193-194-112 overall and 2-3 against Sweden. The neat part about all of this is that the first-ever US MNT international game was also against Sweden, a 3-2 road victory on Aug. 20, 1916, in Stockholm.

For the past two weeks, the MNT blog at USSoccer.com has been soliciting input on the top moments in U.S. Soccer history. They’re on to the Top Three games of all-time, so you can enter your thoughts here. Also, the folks at U.S. Soccer went back through the history books to chronicle some of the big moments in the first 92 years of U.S. national team action. That is a fun little read and you can find it here. And there is a nice little collection of pregame media notes here.

And as everyone around here in Houston should know, the Stars and Stripes will play Mexico right here in Reliant Stadium Feb. 6. This blog may just shut down for that game as Playtherapy, Mister3d and yours truly will all be in attendance! If you wish, you can join us by clicking on this link right here.

Also, the US MNT, keeping it loose, celebrated the 25th birthday of Chris Rolfe, aka the best player for the Chicago Fire not named Cuauhtemoc, on Thursday. You can see the video of that below, and, yes, that is our very own Brad Davis sitting at the table and eyeing that ice cream cake.



....

If it's possible for me to care less about SuperDraft, I would indeed care less about SuperDraft. For those of you who want to follow it, ESPN2 will broadcast Round 1 live (ESPN2! Has soccer finally arrived or what?) and the rest can be followed at MLSnet.com. Enjoy yourselves and wake me when it's over.

....

The countdown for Dynamo's first games is now on. In the first ever Pan-Pacific Championships, a short 33 (or 34, depending on the technicality of time zones) days from today, the Lads l'Orange will take on a team from Australia's A-League at 8:30 p.m. Honolulu time Feb. 20, though that will be 12:30 a.m. Feb. 21 Houston time. Dynamo play the nightcap of a double-header. The first game features Gamba Osaka from Japan's J-League vs. some team from California at 6 p.m. local (10 p.m. Houston). If you're heading that way and want to cheer on Haleiwa native son Brian Ching and the boys, you can buy your ducats here.

At the link to the tournament Web site above, you can also find a nice little Q&A with our Chingaling. Or you can just click to it here.
....


And if you want to discuss the SuperDraft, the Pan Pacifics or anything else, the Dynamo and Greater Houston Soccer Coaches Association will host an evening Q&A with Dominic Kinnear Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Silver Eagle Distributors on I-10. Space is limited and the first 150 people to e-mail rsvp@houstondynamo.com will be able to attend. Read more!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Soccer is gay? Whatsay?



Big thanks to mister3d for coming up with this great piece by Steven Wells at the Guardian Unlimited Football site.

Easily my favorite excerpts are these:

"Soccer's slow strangulation of real sports like football needed to be stopped," rages a reader of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "High school football programs around the country have nearly succumbed to the foreign-sports terrorism known as soccer ... Young minds and bodies are being wasted by continuing the slide into the soccer abyss."

"As the 'global elitists' attempt to tear all parts of our 'Western European culture' away from us, such as Christmas, the Ten Commandments, the family unit, why should sports be any different? If you can replace an American game with one that is not, you have come one step closer to the fragmentation of our society."

And what have all the theories got in common? They're all bollocks.

America's soccerphobes no longer speak for America. They are a frightened, ignorant, embattled and increasingly bitter minority - an ugly coalition of young fogies, laddish homophobes, snarling misogynists, neo-con nogoodniks and gobbledygook-spewing, tin-foil-hat-wearing, knuckle-gnawing nutjobs. And let's not forget the ever-present and always unfunny comedy-of-conformity-spewing sports hacks.


And finally, my absolute favorite:

"There is nothing more American than kicking a foreigner in the shins, delivering an elbow to the jaw, knocking him on his backside and beating him at his own game. You just don't get that sort of opportunity in most American sports," wrote one reader.


It just brings to mind a great Jib Jab video that can be found here.

Read more!

SuperDraft thoughts


Ives Galarcep on Soccer by Ives is reporting that Dynamo are actively trying to trade up for tomorrow's SuperDraft to get a shot at Texans FC player Brek Shea, a left winger. Shea, pictured, an 18-year-old from College Station, is a Generation Adidas player who apparently has already expressed his desire to play for Dynamo. But the only way that is going to happen is if the Orange brain trust starts in with the wheeling and dealing.

One deal that Galarcep alluded to yesterday was the rumor that Dynamo were actually in play for the No. 1 pick before Kansas City sent Nick Garcia to the Quakes for the top spot. According to Galarcep, Dynamo were prepared to part with Brian Mullan and a 2008 pick for that spot. Personally, I would rate that rumor as very low on the believability scale. I mean, I know Shea looks like the real deal and all, but the SuperDraft has historically been anything but super. Picks come and disappear utterly. And according to numerous sources all over the Internet, this year's Combine had one of the lowest quality of players in recent years. Apparently, the draft looks like more of the same. So trade the co-MVP of the 2007 MLSchamps for a pick in the SuperDraft? Sounds like a very un-Kinnear move to me.

Still, Galarcep is also reporting that he expects Dynamo to move into a Top 4 spot just in order to nab Shea. Anyone got any potential trades that you think would make sense here?

And though the idea of signing a local kid like Shea is always a nice one, it seems that winger is hardly Dynamo's area of concern. With both Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya trolling Europe for job offers, and right now the oldest player in the league as Dynamo's only keeper, it would seem that the team's top areas of concern are the alpha and omega, forwards and in goal. I'm not saying Dynamo doesn't deal. Looking at his track record, Dom never, EVER stands pat when a good deal can be made. I'm just saying that a midfield-heavy team like Houston (Mullan, Davis, Clark, Holden, De Rosario, Mulrooney, who am I forgetting?) seems unlikely to trade up in a suspect draft to get TA-DA, another midfielder.

My personal feeling is that both Ngwenya and Jaqua, even though right now they're both free agents, will return, and the fixture-congested squad will be able to employ their depth to stay afloat in all of their various competitions. Read more!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Power to the people?

What do you think about this plan of Drew Carey's in Seattle to have paying members of the club have a say in who runs the team? I have mixed feelings about this as I think it could keep the team from drawing top talent to the GM job. Who would want to have a bunch of nonprofessionals decide their job status after all?

On the other hand, from a purely fan standpoint, it sounds like fun, and it just might be anarchic and crazy enough to work.

I just know if it were done here, I would vote Dom Kinnear as my Beloved Manager for Life!

Read more!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Naka takes a stand


Why do we love Shunsuke Nakamura? This is why we love Shunsuke Nakamura. The stand the Celtic midfielder has taken against racism in European football, specifically in the Lega Calcio is beyond admirable. Every year in the Champions League this is a problem, some of which gets reported (Hello DaMarcus Beasley, who has famously fought back against the problem) and most of which probably does not.

UEFA's William Gaillard has been very honest about the problem, but it still persists for a variety of reasons. Personally, I think that money will still lure players to the countries of the worst offenders, but eventually, there'll be more players like Naka who will speak up and those leagues may eventually be faced with the "change or attract only second rate players" bargain. It can't come soon enough.

What year is this again?



And here's the full AFP story, for those of you who might have trouble seeing the link:


Italian racism discourages Japanese, says Nakamura
AFP
January 12, 2008
ROME (AFP) - Japan star Shunsuke Nakamura has blasted Italian football for its racism in an interview published on the official UEFA website.

Nakamura played for Reggina for three seasons before joining Celtic in 2005, where he has established himself as one of the stars of the team.

But in his UEFA interview, Nakamura talks about the difficulties of adapting to the move from east to west.

"It's very difficult for a Japanese player coming to Europe," said Nakamura. "There are so many factors in different countries, ranging from the style of play to the obvious cultural differences.

"Sometimes you get racism as well, not in Scotland, but in Italy, which is not nice, and that probably explains why so few Japanese players have made it here."

Nakamura's time in Italy was far from a failure and he helped the little Calabrians retain their top flight status in each year he was there.

He was rumoured to be on his way to Spain or Germany after that but instead opted for Celtic.

However, he is still considering a move to slightly warmer climes, such as Spain or Brazil, particularly with only one year left on his Celtic deal.

"It's true I have thought about playing in those leagues, but the situation is difficult," he said.

"If I was in my early or mid-20s, I could go and play in other countries. But, because I'm 29, it might not be so easy to get that kind of move. In any case, it's not as if I'm desperate to play there."

Nakamura is more settled in Glasgow than he ever was in Italy and has even been joined by his wife and young son, something that has made life much more pleasant.

"My son is now two-and-a-half years old and going to nursery in Glasgow. He speaks better English than I do," joked the midfielder, who is reknowned for his spectacular left-foot free-kicks, which have earned him the nickname 'the Japanese Beckham'.

However, it was another midfielder who convinced Nakamura to become a footballer, although it was not former Japan coach Zico, one of the biggest influences on Nakamura's career.

"Don't tell Zico, but Maradona is my favourite player," he said mischievously. "The first tournament I remember watching on TV was the 1986 World Cup, and that's when I first noticed Maradona.

"I love Brazilian football and admired some of their midfield players like Falcao, but Maradona was something else altogether.

"The goals he scored against England - not the 'hand of God' effort - and Belgium in that tournament were breathtaking and gave me the inspiration to try and make a career in football."

He still has a lot of respect for Zico, though.

"Zico was the one who changed Japanese thinking on football, and as such he's very important for Japanese football. He's a big hero in Japan."
Read more!