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UNIVERSITY OF AKRON EXTENDS CALEB PORTER'S CONTRACT THROUGH 2020

AKRON, OH - December 17, 2010 - The University of Akron announced Friday that Caleb Porter has signed a six-year contract extension that will keep him as the Zips men's soccer head coach through the 2020 season.

With a career mark of 90-13-10 (.841) over five seasons, Porter, the 2009 NSCAA National Coach of the Year and four-time Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, is the NCAA's winningest active coach.

The Zips captured the school's first team national championship with a 1-0 victory Sunday over Louisville in Santa Barbara, Calif. It was just the third national championship by a Mid-American Conference school all-time, and the first in 45 years.

"The University of Akron is very proud of the remarkable season led by Caleb Porter and his team in bringing home the first-ever NCAA national championship in a team sport to the university. This victory is shared and celebrated by the Greater Akron community and all of Ohio," said UA President Luis M. Proenza. "Coach Porter is as committed to the development of outstanding character and academic success among his players as he is to  achieving victory on the soccer field.  

"I'm very pleased that the University will have Coach Porter for 10 more years. I think it's important that we not only reward Caleb for the job he's done, but also give him the support and stability he needs to keep our men's soccer program a successful and nationally-respected program for many years to come. Indeed, this win builds upon Akron's winning tradition in soccer that began over 50 years ago and marks an unforgettable moment in our university's history."

In five years under Porter's leadership, the Zips have become the standard for all college soccer programs with a brand of play that is attractive and attack-oriented, yet effective on both sides of the ball.

"Caleb Porter is the best soccer coach in the country and we are proud to keep him here at The University of Akron," UA Director of Athletics Tom Wistrcill said. "This contract shows the University's continued commitment to its athletics department and to fielding the perennial men's soccer program in the country. Caleb is a model coach who builds champions and pursues championships. He develops the complete student-athlete, dedicated to excelling in the classroom while competing and winning at the highest level."

In the past two seasons, no team has been as dominant as Akron, which has lost just one game during the regular run of play over its last 50 games. During that time, the Zips have posted an overall mark of 45-2-3 while becoming the first school to advance to the national championship game in back-to-back seasons since Indiana accomplished the feat in 2003 and 2004.

After matching an NCAA record with 23 consecutive wins in 2009, Akron reached two more Division I milestones during its historic run in 2010 by posting its 11th consecutive shutout and running its home unbeaten streak to 39 games.

"I want to thank Dr. Proenza, (Vice President and Chief of Staff) Candace Campbell Jackson, Tom Wistrcill, (Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator) Mary Lu Gribschaw and the Board of Trustees for their continued commitment to the men's soccer program," Porter said. "With their unwavering support, we were able to achieve our goal of winning the national championship. There are plenty of places to have a coaching career and raise a family, but The University of Akron and this community are truly unique and special.

"I am loyal to Akron and I want to leave a legacy for Akron Soccer. I am proud of our program and the success we have had. Over the last five years, the friendships I have made and the support we have received from our alumni, fans and the AK-Rowdies brings meaning to what we do. I look forward to building on our tradition of excellence for many years to come."

Porter and his staff have developed a proven track record of recruiting and developing the top talent in the nation.  

The Zips have produced a Hermann Trophy finalist in each of the last three seasons, including Teal Bunbury, who became the first UA player to win the prestigious award in 2009, and five Major League Soccer draft picks overall under Porter's watch.

English-born striker Steve Zakuani, who led the nation with 20 goals as a sophomore in 2008, became the No. 1 overall selection of the draft after just two years in Porter's system. In that same mold, Bunbury was the country's top goal scorer in 2009 as a sophomore with 17 goals and was an NSCAA first team All-America honoree.

Additionally, eight Akron players have earned NSCAA All-American status since 2006, including junior forward Darlington Nagbe, a Hermann Trophy finalist in 2010, and junior defender Kofi Sarkodie, the 2010 ESPN Academic All-America of the Year.

As a team, the Zips have been just as impressive in the classroom under Porter's watch.

Akron was ranked eighth in the nation with a cumulative GPA of 3.33 last academic year, highlighted by 10 players posting a GPA of 3.3 or better and five, who earned a 3.8 or better. Including Sarkodie, who became the first player in program history to earn Academic All-America First Team honors in consecutive seasons, four UA players landed on the ESPN Academic All-America squad this season, which marks the most representatives by any single team in UA history.

In all, seven Zips have been named to Academic All-America teams in five seasons under Porter.

Furthermore, Akron midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong, an ESPN Academic All-America Third Team honoree this season, was the recipient of the 2010 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in NCAA Division I men's soccer. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

Excitement for Akron soccer has escalated to unprecedented heights under Porter. After finishing seventh nationally for attendance in 2009, the Zips drew an average of 3,213 fans to Lee R. Jackson Soccer Field in 2010, which was the second-highest figure in the country and represented an increase of more than 1,000 fans on average from the previous season.

This out-pouring of support from the community led directly to the complete renovation of Lee R. Jackson Soccer Field during the summer of 2010 that included the installation of a new playing surface, a two-tiered grandstand with reserved chair-back and bleacher-back seating, field lighting and team meetings rooms, among other amenities.

VORTEX SIGN INDOOR STAR

CANTON, OH - December 14, 2010 - The Ohio Vortex continue to make waves in the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL-Pro), signing star forward Nebojsa Stamenkovic.  The Serbian striker made his Vortex debut in Saturday's road match against the Detroit Waza, logging an assist and two fouls in the 8-7 defeat. 

Nebojsa last played with the New Jersey Ironmen in the Xtreme Soccer League (XSL) and was best known for scoring the first playoff goal in Ironmen history.  

"He is a good indoor player with a strong physique and good soccer knowledge," former teammate and current FC Tampa Bay defender Gordon Kljestan commented. "Unfortunately he was plagued by injuries at the Ironmen."

Nebojsa also played in the USL A-League with the Milwaukee Rampage in 2001 after spending two seasons with the Red Star Belgrade Reserves in his native Serbia.    

Nebojsa's late father, Stan, is one of the most recognized names in indoor soccer history. "The Pizza Man" was the league MVP in 1984 and a three-time MISL All-Star Game MVP. Stan would end his professional career in 1988 after netting 311 career assists and 231 career goals.  An attempted comeback in 1994 ended after just eight matches with the San Jose Grizzlies. 

STAR-STUDDED VORTEX FALL IN DETROIT

TAYLOR, MI - December 12, 2010 – A breakout game by striker Slavisa Ubiparipovic could not save the Ohio Vortex (1-4) from defeat as the Detroit Waza (3-2) came away with an 8-7 victory at the Taylor Sportsplex. 

Ubiparipovic, a former star at Cleveland State University, scored five goals in his road debut.  Defender Jared Dombrowski and Milko Cecez each added a single goal for the Vortex, while newcomer Nebo Stamenkovic tallied one assist and two fouls in his first PASL-Pro match.  Stamenkovic’s late father, Stan, is widely considered one of the finest indoor players to ever play the game. 

Goalkeeper Eric Sebor, in place of the injured Sasha Djuric, led Ohio’s defensive effort with 23 saves.     

The Waza attack was led by Miki Djerisilo, who had a hat trick.  Aaron Byrd, Tino Scicluna, Nelson Diaz, Scotty Wright, and Costea Decu each contributed one goal each.

Vito Lonigro was solid once again in goal for Detroit, finishing with 20 saves in the victory. Lonigro has been golden for the Waza, serving as the starting keeper in all three of the Waza wins this season.

Ohio returns home to face the Illinois Piasa on December 18th at the Canton Memorial Civic Center. 

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

VORTEX FALL AT HOME TO KINGS

CANTON, OH - December 4, 2010 - Four goals and two assists by forward Allen Eller were still not enough as the Ohio Vortex (1-3) fell to the Cincinnati Kings (5-0) by a score of 11-8.  This would be Ohio’s third defeat at the hands of the Kings this season. 

Cincinnati’s Eddie Herstenberg shared the spotlight with Eller, leading the Kings with 4 goals and 1 block. Former Canton Invader Matt Breines would finish with a hat trick for the visitors, while Drew Ducker logged another 2 goals for Cincinnati.  Jeff Hughes and George Davis rounded out the goals for the Kings’ attack.

The Vortex would get two goals and an assist from striker Adis Kuduzovic with singles added by midfielders Steve Gillespie and Milko Cecez. 

Defensively both goalies performed well with Cincinnati’s Jay Schneider netting 14 saves and Ohio’s Eric Sebor finishing with 10 saves. 

Cincinnati’s dominance of the Eastern Division continued in this match where the Vortex never took the lead, playing “catch up” the entire game.  The home team was able to keep things close until the final moments where Cincinnati finally pulled out of reach.

“We came out kind of sloppy, gave up some goals that we could have done away with,” Ohio Vortex defender Ross Cochran commented. “The second half was definitely an improvement.” 

The Vortex hit the road on December 11th for a match with the Detroit Waza before heading back to the Canton Civic Center to face Illinois Piasa on December 18th.

CSU STAR JOINS THE VORTEX

Slavisa Ubiparipovic is one of the most talented strikers to ever play for Cleveland State University, earning First Team All-Horizon League honors in both 2008 and 2009.  Now he starts a new challenge and a new chapter in his career, signing with the Ohio Vortex (PASL-Pro). 

Ubiparipovic started 19 games in 2008, registering 5 goals and 4 assists for the Vikings. His stats would continue to improve in 2009 when he tallied 6 goals and 5 assists.  Before joining Cleveland State, Slavisa was a First Team All-Area and Second Team All-Ohio selection at Mentor High School.  Ubiparipovic would initially sign with Xavier University, where he was a member of the 2006 All-Atlantic Rookie Team after starting 17 games for the Musketeers.  He would go on to start 15 games in 2007 before heading home to finish his collegiate career with CSU. 

The 23-year-old striker gained additional experience with the Cleveland Internationals PDL team. Slavisa was on a short trial with the New York Red Bulls after the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, joining his brother Sinisa as a professional.  Slavisa is certainly headed for stardom in the PASL-Pro; he only has to make the transition indoors after so much success in the outdoor game.  He is a difference maker, a pure scorer with unlimited potential.  The Vortex are very lucky to count  him as one of their own. 

ELLER LEADS HIS TEAM INTO BATTLE

The term “captain” is not taken lightly when talking about a sports team.  It is a term that requires great leadership and bears great responsibility.  A captain is looked upon for guidance on and off the field, often taking on the role of teacher and mentor. 

Forward Allen Eller is the unquestioned leader of the Ohio Vortex and the obvious choice for the squad’s captain.  He is a veteran striker with over a decade of experience indoors and out, spending time in some of North America’s best-known leagues. The 2009-2010 season would see Eller lead the Vortex in goals (34), assists (19), games played (15), and shots (93). He would also earn an All-League First Team selection after establishing himself as one of PASL-Pro’s top attackers, but his humble beginnings in the sport came much earlier.

Eller’s exemplary play at the University of Akron (OH) would catch the eye of the Cleveland Crunch (NPSL), where he signed his first professional contract in 1999. He would go on to play for several more clubs, including the USL's Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1999-2001), WISL's Houston Hotshots (2000), MISL's Harrisburg Heat (2002), USL's Cincinnati Riverhawks (2002), MISL's Baltimore Blast (2002-2005), and MISL's Cleveland Force (2005).

Having a player with such diverse experience is certainly an asset for the Vortex, who are now in their second season.  Eller understands why the indoor game is so attractive to casual and hardcore fans alike.  “Indoor is faster.  You get the ball more and the pacing is different,” Eller commented in an interview with International Soccer Network.  “Your touch has to be better and your decision-making has to be faster.”

Players with experience are always at a premium, which makes a player like Eller invaluable to the young Canton, OH club.  “I use my experience to teach the proper way to play,” Eller continued.  “We get the guys ready to play and help them stay focused.” 

Focus is an integral part of a game that resembles a hybrid of soccer and hockey, a game where a simple mistake can lead to a quick goal.  A handful of goals can be scored in a matter of minutes and a full match can yield more scoring than 10 outdoor matches. The good news is that Eller is usually the one scoring those goals in any match featuring the Vortex. 

The Vortex captain started the 2010/2011 campaign with an incredible 5 goals against the Detroit Waza in Ohio’s home opener. He followed this up with a hat trick against Cincinnati at home and a goal and an assist against the Kings on the road. Currently Eller is tied for second in scoring in the PASL-Pro with 10 points, trailing just 3 points behind Jeff Hughes, last year’s league MVP.           

The Cleveland native realizes that the indoor game has changed over the years and is still evolving.  Players now have regular day jobs to go along with their professional careers in arena soccer.  “People do this because they love soccer,” Eller contended.  No player or club is making a million dollars in small market franchises in the PASL, but this allows the game to be played with a different sense of passion and desire.  People play in this league because they love the game and want to pass it on to younger fans.

VORTEX FALL ON THE ROAD

CINCINNATI, OH - November 27, 2010 - The Ohio Vortex (1-2) limped to their first road loss of the season, falling 10-6 to the Cincinnati Kings (4-0). The undefeated Kings improved to 18-0 at home.

The Vortex would get goals from Jared Dombrowski (2), Steve Gillespie, Allen Eller, Milko Cecez, and John Ball. Dombrowski and fellow defender Ross Cochran would lead the defense with 2 blocks apiece. Assists would come from Cecez, Eller, and Ball.

Vortex newcomer Eric Sebor got his first professional start in goal and came away with 11 saves after facing 20 shots. The Canton, OH-based club certainly stayed competitive, but a second half surge from Cincinnati put the nail in the coffin.

The Kings' attack was certainly potent and firing on all cylinders. Eddie Hertsenberg, Jeff Hughes and Drew Ducker each added two goals while Kenney Bertz, Matt Breines, Kwame Sarkodie and George Davis chipped in one goal apiece. Hughes continues to lead the Kings in scoring and is building quite a case to repeat as league MVP, far surpassing Eller's performance on Saturday night.

Cincinnati's Craig Salvati once again showed his goalkeeping brilliance after tallying 11 saves from 17 shots, earning his fourth consecutive win.

The Vortex now head home to prepare for a December 4th rematch with the Kings. Ohio will then finish up the four-game series when they return to the Cincinnati Gardens on January 29th.

CINCINNATI KINGS REMAIN UNDEFEATED

CINCINNATI, OH - November 27, 2010 - The Cincinnati Kings professional indoor soccer team earned their fourth win of the season and outscored Canton-based Ohio Vortex, 10-6.

Eddie Hertsenberg, Jeff Hughes and Drew Ducker each added two goals while Kenney Bertz, Matt Breines, Kwame Sarkodie and George Davis IV chipped in one goal apiece.

Goalkeeper Craig Salvati earned his fourth consecutive win in the net for the Kings. The Kings' next home match is Saturday, Dec. 18 against San Diego, 7:35 p.m. at the Cincinnati Gardens.

VORTEX PREPARE FOR ROAD TRIP TO CINCINNATI

CANTON, OH - November 26, 2010 - The Ohio Vortex (1-1) prepare for their first road trip of the young PASL-Pro season as they face the Cincinnati Kings, currently first in the Eastern Division with a 3-0 record. 

The Vortex continue to grapple with the injury bug, forcing several key players out of the lineup.  Goalkeeper Sasha Djuric will be given a rest this weekend as newcomer Eric Sebor will be between the pipes for Ohio. 

Sebor, a four-year letterwinner at Mount Union College (OAC), was recently signed by the Vortex to serve as a backup to Djuric, who started the first two games in goal. 

Also new to the Vortex is forward Tyler Johnston, who replaces Adam Campellone.  The midfielder continues to struggle with nagging injuries, but is a returning starter from last season’s 8-8 squad.  Johnston also played in the OAC, but spent his time with Ohio Northern University.  The 22-year-old striker is expected to see his first professional action against the Kings this weekend.

Defender Michael Pertz returns to action after suffering a back injury in training.  He is expected to anchor the backline with Marshall University graduate Jared Dombrowski and Scottish international Ross Cochran. 

The Ohio attack is in the capable hands of forward Allen Eller, who has already accumulated eight goals in just two games.  Eller is perhaps the only player that can match the scoring of Cincinnati’s Jeff Hughes, who is another league MVP candidate.  Midfielders Steve Gillespie, Milko Cecez, and John Ball all should provide excellent service to Eller, who finished the 2009-2010 season with 34 goals and 19 assists. 

This is a challenging match for many reasons.  First and foremost, the Kings have home field advantage, hoping for another large crowd at the Cincinnati Gardens.  Cincinnati broke their attendance record last week with 1,310 in attendance. 

Second, the offensive weaponry for the Kings is almost as impressive as their stingy defense.  Reigning league MVP Jeff Hughes leads the attack with help from fellow striker Matt Breines and Sam Fiore.  Kwame Sarkodie, George Davis, Shawn Rockey, and Drew Ducker are as formidable a midfield as you will see in the entire league. 

Jeff Henderson and Kenneth Bertz anchor the defense for the Kings along with goalkeeper Craig Salvati, who may very well be the best keeper in all of the PASL.  The University of Maryland alum kept the Vortex attack at bay in a 9-4 victory at the Canton Civic Center on November 19th.    

The Vortex will then head home for a December 4th rematch with the Kings.  Ohio will finish up the four-game series when they return to the Gardens on January 29th.

CREW’S BRUNNER AND MOFFAT SELECTED IN 2010 MLS EXPANSION DRAFT

NEW YORK, NY - November 24, 2010 - Major League Soccer held its 2010 Expansion Draft Wednesday for the League’s 17th and 18th teams, the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. The two teams selected 10 players each, from 12 of the 16 MLS teams, to begin constructing their roster for the 2011 season including defender Eric Brunner and midfielder Adam Moffat who were selected by Portland.

The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps will both be members of the Western Conference. The Timbers will play in the newly renovated PGE Park slated to re-open in time for their inaugural MLS season to begin while the Whitecaps will begin play at Empire Field, a temporary stadium erected while their new soccer-specific BC Field is being built. BC Field is slated to open in the summer of 2011.

The 24-year-old Brunner was originally signed by the Crew on May 18, 2009, after acquiring his rights from the New York Red Bulls. The Dublin, Ohio native made 39 appearances, 36 of them starts, in his two seasons with the Black & Gold, recording two goals and one assist in that time. Adam Moffat was signed by the Crew via discovery on Sept. 18, 2007. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Moffat saw action in 44 games 36 of them starts. During his tenure in Black & Gold he scored five goals, recorded one assist and was instrumental in helping the Crew win two Supporters Shields and the 2008 MLS Cup.

“We are sorry to see both Adam and Eric go in the expansion draft,” said Crew technical director Brian Bliss. “Moffat was a very important part of a team that won three major trophies while Brunner was extremely helpful in the back line these past couple of years. Both players are great professionals and we wish them all the best in Portland.”

Four teams did not have a player selected – Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy, New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls. Each of the League’s 16 teams was allowed to protect 11 players, leaving all others unprotected and available for selection by Portland and Vancouver. No more than two players were allowed to be selected from each team and once the first player was selected, each team was able to protect one additional player.

ISN MOCK EXPANSION DRAFT

It’s time for everyone’s favorite, post-MLS Cup event – the Expansion Draft! I can hear the cheers of millions of kids on this glorious day! Okay, it’s not that exciting, but hey, it officially kicks off the 2011 MLS season, something that for many of the league’s fans can’t get here soon enough.

Wednesday, we learn the fate of players left unprotected by their current MLS club, so the new kids on the block (Vancouver and Portland) can start the task of building their roster. It’s a necessary evil for the current teams and a 48 hour non-stop board meeting for the expansion teams to determine their depth chart, as the list was released on Monday evening.

If I’m John Spencer or Teitur Thordarson, I’m looking to draft a team with potential and take a few players of value. Do you take a top tiered player and “hold ‘em for ransom” aka allocation money and draft picks? I would, but let’s see the approach of the Northwest clubs today in the draft. In the meantime, here’s 10 players that should find themselves in new threads come 5 pm Wednesday.

Portland

1) Juan Pablo Angel - With the first pick in the 2010 Expansion Draft, the Timbers sacrifice cap room for a proven goal scorer and someone who will bring people to PGE Park in 2011. They probably won’t make the gutsy move, but they should. Who cares if NYRB gave you Jeremy Hall for pennies, draft JPA.

Vancouver

2) Blaise Nkufo – Blaise gets to play in his favorite North American City and Vancouver get their veteran goal scoring presence in the Swiss international. Potential captain?

Portland

3) Dax McCarty – This guy’s stock fluctuates more than the price of gasoline, but it’s a buyer’s market and he’s a bargain right now. Wonder if rumors of a flare up with MLS Coach of the Year Schellas Hyndman have anything to do with his FCD departure.

Vancouver

4)  Devon McTavish – Tommy Soehn doesn’t overlook one of his former United players. McTavish’s versatility will be the determining factor in his selection.

Portland

5) Anthony Wallace – Hoist the cup one day, pack your bags the next. See Brad Evans circa 2008.

Vancouver

6) Eric Brunner – The Crew centerback is an MLS starter…he just shared the role with Andy Iro. The OSU product goes West to pair up with Jay DeMerit on the Whitecaps backline.

Portland

7) Alex Nimo – He has played over 40 games on loan from RSL over the past two seasons, a rare opportunity to draft familiar talent.  But if there is a way to sign Nimo without drafting him, I don’t think Portland will waste a draft pick on Nimo if that is the case.

Vancouver

8)  Pat Onstad – This move is similar to Seattle bringing in Kasey Keller in its first expansion season. The difference here is the age. Onstad has got about one year left in the tank. He could spend it in Vancouver.  If the Whitecaps want to go younger, look for them to steal Chris Seitz from Philly.

Portland

9) Pat Phelan – The Revs D/M has played in 57 MLS matches since 2008. His experience for his age and versatility will suit John Spencer’s side well.

Vancouver

10) Stefani Miglioranzi – With Brian Carroll in the Union fold now, Migz is on the outside looking in. His calming and patient presence in the middle is just what is needed on any expansion side, just ask Peter Novak.

Other players that could be picked…

Toronto FC - MID Julian de Guzman - A lot of people have him going to Vancouver. I could see it, but if he was anything but Canadian, that selection would not make sense. A designated player who can’t pass and can’t score….why would you want that mess on your books?

Columbus Crew - FWD Guillermo Barros Schelloto - It’s pretty quiet on the Schelloto front, but I could see either expansion team taking Guille and having him build a locker room up like he did in Columbus. Plus he did lead the Crew in scoring in 2010. Legs or no legs, the guy’s brain put him on an MLS bench alone.

San Jose Earthquakes - DEF Tim Ward - Solid, young defender who can play either left or right back. Plus he looks like a younger, leaner Mr. Clean. I smell sponsorship!

Sporting KC - MID Sunil Chhetri - Drafting the most popular Indian player could be an international marketing coup for a front office who is up to the challenge. Think about it…1 billion people and he’s India’s Landon Donovan. He’s not too bad on the field either.

New York Red Bulls - FWD Ibrahim Salou - Before Juan Agudelo, Salou was turning heads in Red Bull Arena.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Jr.

OHIO FALLS TO CINCINNATI IN SECOND HOME GAME

CANTON, OH - November 19, 2010 - Allen Eller's hat trick was not enough as the Ohio Vortex (1-1) fell to the visiting Cincinnati Kings (2-0) by a 9-4 margin at the Canton Civic Center.

The Kings’ roster included several professional players who apply their trade outdoors with the Rochester Rhinos, Cincinnati Kings PDL, and the Dayton Dutch Lions.

Cincinnati’s defense, led by goalkeeper Craig Salvati, produced an unbelievable 19 blocks to go along with 14 saves. 

“Craig’s a machine,” midfielder Jeff Hughes commented in a post-game interview. “He’s a vocal leader. If we have him out there, I always feel like we are in the game. He’s not going to make silly mistakes; he’s not going to give up the easy goal.”

The Kings got a pair of goals from Jeff Hughes, Sam Fiore, and George Davis. Single goals for Cincinnati would come from former Canton Invader Matt Breines, Chris Dobrowolski, and Kwame Sarkodie.   

The Vortex did get three assists from Steve Gillespie and another goal from Milko Cecez in addition to the Eller hat trick.  Jared Dombrowski and Louie Rolko would bolster the Ohio defense with two blocks apiece. 

The next home game for Ohio is December 4th at the Canton Civic Center as they face the Kings in what looks to be an exciting rematch.   

LIGHTNING FALL TO WAZA IN TENSE MATCH

LOUISVILLE, KY - November 19, 2010 - The Louisville Lightning dropped their second game of the season to the Detroit Waza 6-4 Friday night. It was the first victory for the Waza over the Lightning in six meetings all-time. The Lightning got off to a fast start against Detroit.

Kolby Lacrone, who was making his Lightning debut, scored the opening goal to put the home side up 1-0 with 5:40 remaining in the first period. Detroit’s Costea Decu evened things up just over a minute later, and the defender would lead the Waza with two goals and an assist on the night. The two teams traded goals for most of the game, with neither team able to build more than a one-goal lead until the final moments.

Detroit gained the advantage despite numerous looks from the Lightning. Louisville had 37 shots on the night, and Detroit goalkeeper Vito Lonigro finished with 28 saves. The Waza went into the final moments with a 5-4 lead when coach Ted Nichols pulled goalkeeper Frank Peabody in hopes of finding an equalizer. Instead, Detroit added an extra goal in the final moments to secure the win.

The Lightning was led by Jerry Chavez, who scored twice for the home side. In addition to Decu, Detroit’s Matt Johnson chipped in two goals for the Waza.

“This was simply experience versus inexperience,” Lightning coach Ted Nichols said after the game. "Detroit has a lot of players that have been playing together for many years, and we have a lot of players that are new to the indoor game. We’ll get there, but it’s disappointing to drop this one,” Nichols said.

The Lightning now have a week off before their first road trip of the season, visiting San Diego and Tijuana in early December.

PASL-PRO NAMES ELLER PLAYER OF THE WEEK

The Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL-Pro) named Allen Eller as its first ever Player of the Week. Eller of the Ohio Vortex led all scorers during the opening weeked of the 2010/11 season with five goals, helping his team to an 11-10 home victory at the Canton Civic Center.

Eller, 33, tied for the league lead in scoring last year with 53 points and was second with 34 goals. The veteran signed with the Cleveland Crunch (NPSL) in 1999. He would go on to play for several clubs, including the USL's Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1999-2001), WISL's Houston Hotshots (2000), MISL's Harrisburg Heat (2002), USL's Cincinnati Riverhawks (2002), MISL's Baltimore Blast (2002-2005), and MISL's Cleveland Force (2005).

The PASL-Pro kicked off its third season last weekend, but this is the first time that the league will recognize a single player for excellent play each week. One player each week, regardless of position, will be selected.

OHIO VORTEX NEAR IMPORTANT MATCHUP WITH DIVISION RIVALS

CANTON, OH - November 18, 2010 - The Ohio Vortex (1-0) face a stiff challenge this Friday night from the Cincinnati Kings (1-0), who are the reigning Eastern Division Champions in the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL-Pro).

The match has the potential to be a high scoring affair as Cincinnati’s Jeff Hughes and Ohio’s Allen Eller face off in this important matchup early in the 2010/2011 season. Hughes registered 37 goals and 16 assists to lead the PASL-Pro last year, while Eller finished with 34 goals and 19 assists.  Hughes started the season with a hat trick in the 6-5 win against the Louisville Lightning, while Eller scored an unbelievable 5 goals in the 11-10 victory over the Detroit Waza. 

The Kings would seem to have an advantage at goalkeeper with Craig Salvati, who started the season with 14 saves in the win over the Lightning.  Salvati is considered to be one of the premier keepers in the entire league after finishing with 211 saves and an 11-2 record in 2009/2010.  However, the Vortex have a shot stopper of their own in Serbian keeper Sasha Djuric.  Ohio would get 12 saves from Djuric in their home opener on November 13th. 

Ohio hopes to keep the Kings in single digit scoring and this is certainly a possibility with an array of strong defenders: Louie Rolko, Michael Pertz, Jared Dombrowski, and Ross Cochran.  The Kings have Hughes to lead their attack, but have to learn to live without John Mellencamp and Kevin Noschang. 

The Vortex have no concerns with putting points on the board thanks to Eller and their other offensive weapons: John Ball, Milko Cecez, Pete Angelokostopoulos, Steve Gillespie, and Adis Kuduzovic.  Putting a ton of goals past Salvati will certainly be easier said than done, but the Vortex have the personnel to make it happen. 

This certainly has the makings of a classic matchup in professional indoor soccer.  Will it be a goalfest or a defensive struggle? Will Eller continue to lead the league in goals or will Hughes become an early MVP candidate? Stop by the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Friday night at 7:30 pm to find out.

Tickets are still available by calling 330-354-7778 or by visiting http://www.ohiovortex.org or the Civic Center box office. 

THE OHIO VORTEX PARTNER WITH OTTO ORF

CANTON, OH - November 15, 2010 - Helping the less fortunate through the game of soccer is a common mission for both the Ohio Vortex and Otto Orf's HandsOnSports Foundation. 

The Canton, Ohio based Vortex have selected the HandsOnSports Foundation as a game night partner for Friday, November 19th.  Proceeds from that night's ticket sales will go directly to Orf's non-profit that is planning to build an inner-city futsal court in Akron, Ohio.

"It is a win-win situation," Orf commented. "It is a great thing for Canton, a great thing for Northeast Ohio, and a great thing for the less fortunate." 

The former Cleveland Crunch and Cleveland Force goalkeeper is excited about the Vortex, who play in the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL-Pro).  "It is a great opportunity to promote the local talent that we have," Orf, a player with 21 years of professional soccer experience, stated.

The Vortex are likewise excited about working with Orf and HandsOnSports.  “Otto's HandsOnSports Foundation does important work in many communities as he reaches a lot of less fortunate kids and helps expose them to the sport of soccer,” Ohio Vortex founder Nick Bogdan declared. “You never know if one of them will be the next Pelé.”

Tickets for the November 19th matchup between the Vortex and Eastern Division rivals the Cincinnati Kings can be ordered at http://www.handsonsoccer.com or by calling 330-354-7778.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

VORTEX START SEASON WITH BIG WIN OVER RIVALS


CANTON, OH - November 13, 2010 - The Ohio Vortex (1-0) defeated the Detroit Waza 11-10 in PASL-Pro action on Saturday night.  The Vortex attack was buoyed by five goals from veteran striker Allen Eller, who finished last season with 34 goals. 

“Allen is our leader on the field and off the field as well,” Vortex midfielder Milko Cecez commented. “He led us in goals last year so we know we can rely on him. We try to feed off his energy on the field.”

The match was quite a rollercoaster for both sides with the result in question until the final seconds of the game.  Detroit (0-1) would get a hat trick from both Dan Dragoi and Rodrigo Gonzalez and a solid performance from goalkeeper Anthony Santilli, who finished with 13 saves on the night.    

The Vortex would enjoy 12 saves from keeper Sasha Djuric, making his first start with the Vortex. Djuric would replace Nate Rausch, who did not return this season after registering 145 saves in 2009/2010. 

“He made some good saves down the stretch, some key saves,” Cecez continued.

The Vortex return to action at the Civic Center on Friday, November 19 as they face the Cincinnati Kings with a 7:30 pm kickoff.   

In Friday’s action from the PASL-Pro, the Kings defeated the Louisville Lightning by a 6-5 margin thanks to a hat trick from Jeff Hughes.  The Cincinnati striker had a great start to the 2010/2011 season after leading the league in goals with 37 last season.  The Kings also got a great performance out of keeper Craig Salvati, who finished the night with 14 saves.

Louisville looked equally impressive, especially with the duo of former MLS players Othaniel Yanez and John Michael Hayden taking the field together.  Both Yanez and Hayden scored a goal along with Safet Kovacevic, Adam Boyer, and Chad Hagerty. 

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

SEASON UNDERWAY FOR VORTEX

CANTON, OH - November 11, 2010 - The Ohio Vortex of the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL-Pro) are proud to announce their roster for the upcoming 2010/2011 indoor season.

The return of Allen Eller highlighted a successful offseason for the Canton, OH club. Eller led the Vortex in goals (34), assists (19), games played (15), and shots (93). He would go on to earn an All-League First Team selection after establishing himself as one of the league's top attackers. The veteran forward will be counted upon to provide offense and leadership on a squad built on both experience and youth. 

Several other projected starters were retained, including John Ball.  Ball is one of the most decorated players to ever play in the PASL.  The former Rochester Rhino midfielder has spent time with the Chicago Fire, Chicago Storm, California Cougars, Cleveland Force, and the U.S. National Futsal Team. 

The Vortex also invested in several new additions, including former Scotland international Ross Cochran.  Cochran spent time with the U-19 National Team in Scotland along with St. Mirren and Patrick Thistle.    

The Vortex hope to build off a successful inaugural season that saw them finish 3rd in the Eastern Division with an 8-8 record.  They begin play with their home opener at the Canton Civic Center on November 13, 2010 as they face the Detroit Waza. 

The full professional roster for the 2010/2011 Ohio Vortex includes: forward Pete Angelokostopoulos, midfielder John Ball, forward Adam Campellone, midfielder Milko Cecez, defender Ross Cochran, defender Jared Dombrowski, goalkeeper Sasha Djuric, goalkeeper Mark Eden, forward Allen Eller, midfielder Steve Gillespie, defender Chad James, midfielder Rick King, forward Adis Kuduzovic, midfielder Lucas Martorana, midfielder Ryan McClay, defender Michael Pertz, forward Georgi Petrov, defender Louie Rolko, defender Ronnie Stoltz, and defender Nate Yates.

Projected Lineup for Detroit Waza on Saturday, November 13: GK Tony Santilli, DEFs Ryan Mallord, Scotty Wright, Costea Decu, Mario Scicluna, Matt Johnson, MIDs Aaron Byrd, Niki Djokic, Dan Dragoi, George McCatty, Chris King, FWDs Rodrgio Gonzalez, Dominic Scicluna

Projected Lineup for Ohio Vortex on Saturday, November 13: GK Sasha Djuric, DEFs Michael Pertz, Louie Rolko, Ross Cochran, Jared Dombrowski, MIDs Pete Angelokostopoulos, Steve Gillespie, Lucas Martorana, Milko Cecez, John Ball, FWDs Adis Kuduzovic, Adam Campellone, Allen Eller

FC DALLAS SCORES 3-0 WIN OVER L.A. GALAXY IN WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL 

LOS ANGELES, CANovember 14, 2010 - FC Dallas earned its first trip to MLS Cup Sunday night with a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. 

Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman made four saves in the first 25 minutes to weather the storm until MLS MVP candidate David Ferreira got FC Dallas on the board first in the 26th minute. On the play, defensive midfielder Daniel Hernandez played a long ball over the top of the Galaxy defense. Forward Atiba Harris shielded off a defender long enough for Marvin Chavez to gain control of the ball on the right flank. With the ball, Chavez cut inside before delivering a cross to Ferreira, who cut back quickly to open a shooting lane between defenders Omar Gonzalez and A.J. De La Garza. Ferreira struck the ball well from the top of the box, beating defenseless goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts with a shot that caught the far side netting.

Hartman continued his stellar form with a one-goal lead. He denied Landon Donovan on a breakaway attempt in the 31st minute. Then, defenders George John and Ugo Ihemelu got forward to attack, giving FC Dallas a 2-0 advantage in the 54th minute. The play began with an FC Dallas corner kick taken by Ferreira. The Galaxy cleared the ball twice, only to have Chavez knock it back into the area. The second loose ball was controlled by Ihemelu at the top of the area and sent wide to streaking outside midfielder Brek Shea. Shea touched the ball inside before sending a ball low to the back post, where John was waiting to finish off the cross.

FC Dallas weathered another barrage of pressure from Los Angeles before grabbing a 3-0 lead in the 73rd minute. Harris outworked multiple defenders to gain possession in Dallas’ attacking third of the field before finding Ferreira who delivered a cutting ball to Chavez at the back post. Chavez dribbled in against Ricketts and picked out the back post for Dallas’ third goal of the match. 

With the win, FC Dallas earned the first MLS Cup appearance in franchise history. The Dallas side will travel to Toronto to take on Eastern Conference Champion Colorado on Sunday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.

EARTHQUAKES FALL 1-0 IN EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

COMMERCE CITY, CO - November 13, 2010 - The San Jose Earthquakes season came to an end Saturday night with a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids. Defender Kosuke Kimura provided the lone goal in the 42nd minute when his cross found the back of the net after Omar Cummings failed to get a touch. The Rapids advance to the MLS Cup Final next Sunday, Nov. 21 against the winner of tomorrow’s Western Conference Championship between FC Dallas and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Earthquakes had a number of quality chances, but were unable to find the finishing touch on Saturday night, as their 2010 season came to a close. The Earthquakes posted their third highest point total in franchise history with 46 and made the playoffs for the first time since their return to MLS in 2008. They dispatched the top seed in the Eastern Conference in the New York Red Bulls in dramatic fashion in the Conference Semifinals.

MLS MVP finalist Chris Wondolowski won the Budweiser Golden Boot, scoring 18 of the team’s 34 goals in the regular season, and added the series-clincher against New York. The 2011 MLS regular season kicks off in March of next year.

 

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

CREW FALL ON PENALTY KICKS AS RAPIDS ADVANCE

COLUMBUS, OH - November 6, 2010 - Soccer is a game full of irony and twists of fate. The Columbus defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Saturday afternoon, but the Rapids advanced 5-4 on penalty kicks as the teams were tied 2-2 on aggregate.

10,322 fans certainly got their money's worth after 159 minutes and a set of penalty kicks that sent Colorado on to face the San Jose Earthquakes for the MLS Eastern Division crown. The Rapids won the first leg 1-0 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on October 28th, which put the pressure on Columbus.

It all started off well for the Crew, who began with three shots on goal in the first 10 minutes and were having success pushing forward. Columbus Head Coach Robert Warzycha hoped the addition of Peruvian international Andres Mendoza to the Crew starting lineup would provide a spark on the offensive end. Warzycha has used a variety of players (Steven Lenhart, Jason Garey, Emilio Renteria) in the slot opposite Guillermo Barros Schelotto with Mendoza being a strong option on the attack.

The Crew brought things even on aggregate with a goal by Eddie Gaven in the 22nd. The play started with a cross by Brian Carroll, which took a bounce to Schelotto. The Argentine striker then headed it to the front of the goal, where Gaven struck it into the goal past Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens.

Colorado got their first scoring opportunity of the afternoon when a shot by Jeff Larentowicz rattled off the crossbar in the 28th minute. Schelotto would receive a yellow card in the 30th for a hard challenge on Drew Moor. Several Colorado players pleaded for red, but referee Michael Kennedy would hear none of it. Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan would get a yellow of his own 8 minutes later.

The Rapids would threaten just before halftime with shots by Larentowicz and Jamie Smith. Greuenbaum handled the situation with the hopes of a clean sheet for the match.

Statistics from the first half showed fairly even play as both sides had 8 shots, 4 on goal. Columbus led in corner kicks (4), saves (4), and offsides (4). The Rapids committed more fouls (10) than the Crew (5).

The second half would start with a flurry of activity as both sides turned up the intensity and continued to push forward. Colorado's Conor Casey received a yellow card in the 48th, followed by a yellow in the 52nd for the Crew's Emmanuel Ekpo.

The 58th minute would bring a scary moment for the hometown Crew as they struggled to clear the Rapids from the box. The Rapids appeared to have some momentum and were pushing forward with a sense of urgency.

The Crew went up 2-1 on aggregate with a goal by Robbie Rogers in the 70th. The young midfielder saved his best for last, scoring only his second goal of the season. Rogers owes Ekpo a thank you for a perfectly placed pass that allowed him to get past the Colorado defense for the score. He would earn a yellow for his "shirt off" celebration, but it was worth the price. The match would end with a surprising seven yellow cards.

Kevin Burns went on for Ekpo in the 81st, hoping to bolster the defense for the remainder of the match. Things didn't go quite as planned as Casey scored in the 84th minute to put things even on aggregate. Cummings was a thorn in the side of the Crew again, this time setting up Casey with a pinpoint cross.

Things got particularly tense from there and into 4 minutes of stoppage time. Neither side could get the magic goal so it would go into extra time.

A weak shot by defender Frankie Hejduk couldn't get the job done in the 96th minute even though the captain was wide open and got good service from Schelotto. Burns would worry Pickens with a shot moments before the end of the 1st overtime period. but it rolled wide right.

The second overtime period would show Gruenebaum in command, making yet another solid save in the 109th minute. Shaun Francis and Schelotto both looked to be down with injuries in the final 15 minutes, but both reentered the game shortly after stepping off the pitch. Both sides used all three subs in a very physical and demanding match.

There was an overwhelming sense that the match was headed for PKs and that it was simply inevitable. Things would be even on PKs until Brian Carroll's attempt went high on the fifth attempt, prompting a celebration on the field by Colorado players and coaches. The Crew players, led by Carroll, immediately went to the Crew's most devout supporters to show their appreciation.

It was unfortunate that the defeat would fall at the feet of Carroll, who was a first-class leader the entire season.

"It's a penalty," Warzycha commented in the postgame press conference. "The best players sometimes don't score. You have Maradona. You have Platini. You have all of these names. At some point they did not score, but you have got to move on."

"The guys have been great in helping me out, saying how good it is to step up and be the one to want to take that," Carroll said in postgame locker room interviews. "The staff had confidence in me, going in and taking it. I just didn't hit it like I normally do."

Falling 5-4 on PKs and winning the game itself is an awkward situation, but the season has to be considered a massive success for Columbus. It was a shame that more people couldn't come out tonight to see their hometown Crew in what looks to be an instant classic in Major League Soccer.

Hopefully it won't be the last time we see the one and only Guillermo Barros Schelotto take the field at Crew Stadium.

"I want to keep playing here," Schelotto commented. "I hope to stay here. They have the option for the next year. If they don't pick up the option I don't know what can happen."

Facebook Match Photos

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

RAPIDS HEAD TO EASTERN CONFERNCE FINALS

COLUMBUS, OH - November 6, 2010 - Even when the Columbus Crew took the series lead with their second goal of the night at Crew Stadium Saturday night in Columbus, the Colorado Rapids still kept the faith of moving onto the Eastern Conference Final.

“Overall, it was a extremely competitive,” Rapids Head Coach Gary Smith said. “I am just glad we were able to take that next step. The players have been rewarded for their endeavors.”

With just six minutes left in the match, and their season, trailing 2-0 in the match and 2-1 on aggregate, Conor Casey scored on a cross with Omar Cummings to put the game into extra time.

“I thought the second half was a different story to the first,” Smith continued. “It was a lot brighter and we were able to keep the ball more."

“Omar was able to get it out wide," goal scorer Casey said. “I was able to beat my man, he put a great ball into the box and I got the toe on it. It was definitely a good time (for the goal). It gave us confidence, but more importantly it got us back into the game.”

Casey’s 14th goal of the year brought the Rapids even on aggregate after they beat the Crew over a week earlier in Colorado.

Casey’s scoring partner knew that the opportunities were going to come. “I think we just needed to patient and pass the ball around,” Cummings said.

The Crew pushed for the winner, but the Rapids’ defense stood strong, even after 30 minutes of the extra play.

“Going into the extra time, I felt we had momentum in our favor,” Smith said.

That momentum aided the Rapids in the shootout. With each kicker scoring the first penalty for both teams, second half sub and a player they traded for in September, Macoumba Kandji stood to take his shot.

The Senegalese striker took the penalty. Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum dove to his left and got a hand on Kandji’s low kick. The ball was knocked down by Gruenebaum, but as he called it "jabbed" under his hands and rolled into the net, giving the Rapids to 2-1 lead in penalties.

Both teams converted their penalties, until Crew midfielder Brian Carroll pushed his kick well over the net in the fifth round.

“Right now we are going to celebrate this one and during the week worry about San Jose.” Cummings said. “It’s a little odd to see two Western Conference teams in the Eastern Conference Finals, but I am happy to be here and I’ll take it.”

For the second year in a row, a Rocky Mountain team defeated the Columbus Crew in the first round of the MLS playoffs, as eventual 2009 MLS Champions Real Salt Lake beat the Crew after getting a 1-0 win in the first leg, as did the Rapids.

The Rapids have a home match to determine the Eastern Conference winners Saturday night (Nov. 13) after San Jose beat the New York Red Bulls to advance to the matchup.

The season series was tied at the end of the year, as the Rapids beat the Earthquakes 1-0 in Colorado in early August, but fell the Quakes in California on May 1. 

CREW DOWN 1-0 AFTER FIRST LEG OF EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL

COMMERCE CITY, CO - October 28, 2010 - The Crew dropped a 1-0 decision to the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal at Dick Sporting Goods Park on Thursday night. Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni tallied the lone goal in the 24th minute to give Colorado the advantage going into the second leg of the home-and-away aggregate-score series.

The return match will be played at Crew Stadium on Saturday, November 6. The Crew came out strong in the opening minutes of the game but the Rapids were able to find their rhythm quickly and started creating chances. In the 24th minute Rapids forward Omar Cummings came down the left side and crossed a ball towards Conor Casey who was looming at the near post. Casey let the ball slip through and Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni slotted the ball to the right of Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum for the 1-0 lead.

The Crew turned up the heat in the second half, showing more composure and creating several chances, but was denied by Colorado keeper Matt Pickens. The Black & Gold had the best chance of the night towards the end of the match when Andy Iro headed in a cross by Eddie Gaven only to see it saved by Pickens. The Crew will have a chance to reverse the result of this match on November 6, when the Colorado Rapids visit Crew Stadium. The match, which kicks off at 4 p.m., will be televised nationally on Telefutura and regionally on ONN-TV.

HEATH, AZTEX LEAVE FOR ORLANDO

AUSTIN, TX - October 25, 2010 - It was confirmed today that the Austin Aztex have accepted an offer from a UK led consortium to acquire the Aztex USL franchise, which involves the relocation of  the team to the City of Orlando, Fla. 

 “We have been actively seeking to broaden the investment base for the Aztex for the past 12 months. It has proven extremely difficult given the economic climate,” Aztex President Phil Rawlins said. “Our first and overriding preference was always to keep the Aztex in Austin. But after we exhausted all our options this has not proven possible.”

“I know the new investors very well -- they are football people and have been interested in working with us for some time. They like what we have achieved on the field and in the community,” he continued. “However, they made it very clear that their investment was contingent upon the team relocating, citing Austin’s lack of a soccer specific stadium with any corporate facilities, the inability to sell alcohol at games and the geographical isolation of the team within the new USL-Pro League. In short, they didn’t see Central Texas as the right market for the team and their future plans.”

And into the picture walked the Orlando.

“Together with the City of Orlando, the new owners approached us about relocating the franchise to Central Florida. As much as we would have loved to keep the Aztex here, it’s proven impossible to find local business leaders who are willing to invest alongside us and who believed in this market.”

The team will relocate in time for the beginning of the 2011 season and will play in the new USL-Pro League.  Head Coach Adrian Heath and all the retained players will be making the move with the team.

“This is a very, very bittersweet decision for us. The fans in Austin have given us fantastic backing and fully deserve pro soccer. I know many of our fans and their families personally and they will know that our decision to relocate has been taken with a very heavy heart. I know many people will be bitterly disappointed but we have been left with no local options of backing.”

“I would like to thank all the loyal Aztex fans for their support over the past three years. However, the new investors made it very difficult for us to turn down their offer. They bring much needed additional capital, expertise and connections. They have plans to add another professional sports team to the franchise which will give us year round revenue potential. Their goal is to build up the soccer operations so that we can pursue an MLS franchise in the next few years."

 

Photo Credit: Robert Ivory

CREW FIND STRIDE, BUT LOSE HESMER

COLUMBUS, OH - October 24, 2010 - The Crew had technically nothing to play for, but may have lost everything Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union at Crew Stadium. 

“We wanted to end on a high note because we are trying to get some momentum, which I think we did,” Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha said.

The Crew had a 3-0 lead, the spark they needed going into the playoffs, but in the 85th minute Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer collided with a member of the Union and had to leave the match clutching his shoulder. It would be later diagnosed as a fractured shoulder that will sideline the keeper for the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs.

“I think (Hesmer) had a solid game today, one of his best this year,” Warzycha said.

The Crew finishes the 2010 regular season with a record of 14-8-8, ending with 50 points, one more than last year, but one behind this year’s Eastern Conference winners, New York Red Bulls. 

As for the game, Hesmer led the troops out to the last home match of the 2010 regular season against the expansion Philadelphia Union.

The Crew had the pressure of the Union early and would be rewarded just 14 minutes into the game.

On a throw in close to the Union goal line, Guillermo Barros Schelotto threw the ball into Eddie Gaven, who passed the ball to Schelotto, who made a cutting run into the side of the box, then was taken down by Eduardo Coudet, who Gaven raced past.

The Union protested that the foul occurred outside of the box, but the referee awarded the Crew the PK. Schelotto took the PK and put the ball in the left hand corner as Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz dove right.

“I think we started the game really well,” Warzycha said. “There was a lot of pressure of Philadelphia. We had a bunch of corner kicks and fouls around the box and that led to the penalty.”

Emilio Renteria gave the Crew their second of the day just four minutes before the break. Again Gaven was the catalysis as he put a beautiful pass ahead of Renteria, who was playing on the edge of the Union defense. The Venezuelan international dribbled down the middle of the field on the break away, took a shot at the top of the box and beat Seitz into the right hand corner of the net.

“I think he showed today that he can be dangerous,” Warzycha said. “He is going to be one of the guys (to use in the playoffs) and hopefully he can score the goals.”

His fifth goal of the year was beautiful, but the celebration was gorgeous. Renteria took his boot off, running to the corner flag, dialed it and made a long distance phone call to his family in Venezuela.

“I have a friend in Venezuela who did the same celebration once and I wanted to do the same celebration at home,” Renteria said through a translator. “I tried to call my family, but nobody answered,” he joked.

The game would take a bad turn for the Crew in the second half, though. Renteria would get a yellow card in the 63rd minute along with Union defender Michael Orozco Fiscal.

While Renteria again beat the Union defense, from a long ball from Schelotto, Renteria dashed down the side of the field, came into the box, and Fiscal made a diving tackle that missed Renteria. Renteria shot the ball, then went out of his way to nudge Fiscal’s face with this shin guard, while the defender was still on the ground from the tackle.

Fiscal retaliated with a shove to Renteria and the two exchanged pleasantries and would be awarded cautions. Warzcha used his second sub and pulled Renteria out for Andres Mendoza, since the Crew did not want Renteria to get another yellow, get a red card and miss the playoffs.

Andy Iro took a bump to his right leg in the 75th miunte and had to be taken out, the last for the Crew.

Mendoza made the most of his appearance, scoring in the 79th minute.

Schelotto took the ball from Stefani Miglioranzi, ran down the field, got the ball to deflect to Mendoza, who fired in a shot to the near post from inside the left hand side of the box.

It is the first time that the Crew go unbeaten in three straight matches since they drew at FC Dallas (on Aug. 28), and beat D.C. United twice in four days (Sept. 1; U.S. Open Cup, Sept. 4, MLS).

Hesmer’s day ended in the 81st minute after he blocked a shot wide by Shea Salinas.

The resulting corner came into the box, Hesmer went out to collect the cross, but the Union’s Danny Califf came in, knocked Hesmer and the Crew goalkeeper looked to land awkwardly on his left shoulder.

Hesmer was in pain as soon as he came down the ground. He was on the ground for a while, stood up and luckily was on the north side of the stadium, so he ran directly into the dressing room.

Since Renteria picked up the yellow and Iro got the knock, the Crew had to rely on Eddie Gaven to man the goal for the last six plus minutes since they had no more subs remaining. Gaven came out wearing Crew backup keeper Andy Gruenebaum’s gloves and oversized jersey.

“I don’t know why they put me in goal,” Gaven said.

Gaven would give up the first goal as Sebastien Le Toux rocketed a shot from the top of the box, past Gaven, into the top of the net. The marks Le Toux’s 14th goal of the year and has 71.4 percent of the Union’s scoring. Gaven would string together two saves after the goal.

The Union end their first year at 8-15-7 (31 points), but finish one spot, and nine points, ahead of dismal D.C. United in the East.

The Crew’s next two matches will be the Eastern Conference semifinals against Colorado. The first leg is Thursday night (Oct. 28) on the road, while the return leg is Saturday (Nov. 6) at Crew Stadium with a 4:00 p.m. kickoff.

ENDING ON A JAIME NOTE: UNITED LEGEND SCORES IN FINAL MLS MATCH

WASHINGTON, D.C. - October 23, 2010 - For the legend that is D.C. United striker Jaime Moreno — the competitive, win-hungry beast that tore up MLS defenses since the league’s 1996 inception — it was one final chance to go out on top.

After winning a penalty kick through a thrice pump-faked cross that eventually hit off Toronto FC midfielder Julian de Guzman’s arm, the MLS Original — with 132 goals to his credit, tied with Dallas FC’s Jeff Cunningham — naturally picked up the ball to try and score one last goal to leave him on top of the charts going out of his storied career in America.

But before he could shoot, TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic — a former United goalkeeper who was drafted by the club before moving north of the border — had a question for Moreno.

“Where are you going to kick it?” Kocic said.

“Well, you have to guess,” Moreno replied.

Kocic tried to guess, but as XX out of XX goalies in the American game found out before him, there isn’t much reason or reward. Even though diving the correct way, Moreno — on an elongated run-up — coolly dispatched the ball into the side netting past Koscic, leaving the Toronto goalie no chance.

The goal put Moreno back atop the MLS All-Time goal scoring list with 133, and with Cunningham not scoring in Dallas’ final match of the season, he will end his career as the top scorer, peerless and unparallel.

“He saves a little bit of magic till the last night,” D.C. Unitd Head Coach Ben Olsen said in admiration. “Several times it really looked like the Jaime that we all know and love; he’s treated us to so many good times.”

And he treated the fans to one last good time Saturday night. A pre-season presentation — complete with Commissioner Don Garber and ex-United alumni Eddie Pope, John Harkes and Marco Etcheverry — was moving, but not nearly as moving as United’s opening attacking sequence which remarkably resulted in a goal.

A sweeping move in the 2nd minute started with a diagonal ball from center back Julius James, who fed the ball to rookie sensation Andy Najar on the right sideline. Najar played an overlapping ball to right back Devon McTavish, whose cross fell to Pablo Hernandez. Hernandez saw his shot stopped only for the rebound to fall to an onrushing Santino Quaranta, who slammed home from point-blank range.

Toronto tied things up off a long ball by midfielder Nick LaBrocca that found striker Maicon Santos just outside the 18-yard box. Santos corralled the ball with a touch then blasted a half volley past Perkins and into far post’s netting.

That’s when Moreno decided to make his mark.

CREW CAPS CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGE WITH 4-1 WIN AT JOE PUBLIC

MACOYA, TRINIDAD - October 21, 2010 - Emilio Rentería's penalty kick in the 50th minute gave visiting Columbus the lead and he added an insurance tally in the 80th as the Crew defeated Joe Public FC of Trinidad, 4-1, Thursday to cap a successful Group Stage in the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League in which it advanced to the quarterfinals for the second straight season.

Forward Andres Mendoza opened the scoring in the 20th minute, off a Jason Garey cross, and midfielder Duncan Oughton capped the night with a goal in the 90th minute, off a nifty Dilly Duka heel pass.

Joe Public evened the game at 1-1 on a dubious penalty converted by Trent Noel in the 27th minute. But Columbus took the lead for good when Leandre Griffit sent a service into the box where rookie defender Josh Williams' snap header hit the hand of a Joe Public player. Renteria, who entered to start the second half for Mendoza, promptly converted the ensuing penalty kick.

Columbus (4-2) had clinched second place and a spot in the quarterfinal round for the second straight season Tuesday courtesy of Santos Laguna's win over Municipal.

HESMER MAKES HISTORY IN DRAW WITH TORONTO

TORONTO, ON - October 16, 2010 - The Columbus Crew came away from BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario with a thrilling 2-2 draw on Saturday afternoon. Defender Chad Marshall (2) and goalkeeper William Hesmer (1) tallied goals for the Crew while Guillermo Barros Schelotto (9) and Chad Marshall (2) both recorded assists.

The Crew are still in the hunt for the lead of the Eastern Conference just one point behind the New York Red Bulls who lost to the Philadelphia Union 2-1 later in the evening. Columbus took the lead early when Chad Marshall headed in a corner kick by Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Midfielder Eddie Gaven earned the kick with a run down the left side of the field and a cross deflected by a Toronto defender. 14 minutes later Toronto would equalize with a blast by forward Maicon Santos from about 30 yards out that ended to the left of Crew keeper William Hesmer and into the back of the net. Toronto would find another goal before the end of the half with midfielder Jacob Peterson who tapped in a cross by midfielder Nicholas Lindsay to fix the result at 2-1 at the half.

The second half turned phisycal very quickly with the Black & Gold creating chances and outshooting Toronto FC seven to three. The Crew's Steven Lenhart and TFC's Conway were both ejected for an altercation in front of the Toronto goal with 20 minutes left in the match. Both players will miss their season finales next weekend, when TFC hosts D.C. United and the Crew hosts the Philadelphia Union. The equalizing goal finally came in stoppage time when Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer slotted the ball in the back of the net on a header by Chad Marshall fixing the result at 2-2 and allowing the Crew to retain the Trillium Cup for the third consecutive year.

The Crew now travels to Trinidad and Tobago to face Joe Public in the final match of CONCACAF Champions league on Thursday, October 28. The Balck & Gold returns to MLS play on Sunday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. for the final match of the regular season as it welcomes expansion team Philadelphia Union to Crew Stadium.

SEASON ENDS IN PLAYOFFS FOR AZTEX

AUSTIN, TX - October 9, 2010 - The playoff run ended at home for the Austin Aztex Saturday night as they lost 3-2 to the Montreal Impact and 5-2 overall in aggregate. After losing 2-0 last weekend in Montreal, the Aztex had to beat the Impact by three to advance to the next playoff round but failed to gain momentum as early Impact goals in both halves detoured an Aztex comeback.

“We were looking to get a win and we threw everything we had at them, said Aztex defender Leonard Griffin. “Unfortunately we came out on the losing side.”

An action packed first half saw the first goal come in the first five minutes by Impact player Ali Gerba from a set piece, making it 4-1 on aggregate.

Three minutes later, Aztex had a chance to even the score when Lance Watson was taken down in far left corner of the penalty box.  A Jamie Watson kick to the right corner was read by goalkeeper Matt Jordan to continue the uphill battle for the Austin Aztex.

J. Watson’s repercussions for missing the penalty kick left the striker visibly upset:  “I’ve made 4 out of 4 this year,” said J. Watson. “I did the same thing I did all year and he saved it, it feels horrible letting the team down."

Despite the unsuccessful penalty kick, the Aztex’s tempo continued to increase as they had many near chances in the first half. 

In the 16th minute, a ball played from Eddie Johnson passed through the Impact defense to reach the penalty box but neither Maxwell Griffin nor J. Watson could provide the scoring touch. The Aztex attacked again when Kevin Sakuda’s cross reached Johnson’s head and caused goalkeeper Jordan to make a jumping save. Another cross from Sakuda, this time meeting J. Watson, was volleyed first time towards the back of the net before Jordan intercepted the goal-bound shot.

The Aztex were forced to play high pressure football to overcome their goal deficit and pushed many players forward, making them vulnerable to an Impact counter attack. This allowed Gerba to find space in behind the Aztex defense and have a one on one with Miguel Gallardo that eventually saw his shot deflect out of bounds.

“You are always playing a difficult game when you’re playing for the offsides, but we had to do something,” said Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath. “We had to try to keep the game as condensed and compressed as we could and get the ball in their half and try to make it uncomfortable for them.”

On the opposite side of the field, Griffin stormed the box in the 42nd minute after J. Watson’s chip took a deflection that allowed the aggregate score line to be narrowed down to 3-1.

The defense had a difficult time containing Gerba, he once again capitalized on the defensive gap and shot a dagger into the Aztex’s net as he scored his second goal of the night.

The Impact’s star striker has a vendetta for the Aztex as he scored his fourth goal against them in two games. The goal also marked the Canadian’s 13th goal of the season, placing him third in the league even though only being with the Impact for the second half of the season.

Montreal Impact Head Coach Marc Dos Santos understands the power Gerba provides: “In my opinion, Ali [Gerba] is an MLS striker. In my opinion, Ali [Gerba] is probably the best forward Canada has.”

In minute 57, the Aztex would counter with Lawrence Olum’s pass assisting Johnson, tying the game at 2-2.
Yet as the clocked dwindled down, the chance for an Aztex victory was declining and it was hook, line and sinker in the 89th minute when Impact’s Eduardo Sebrango scored the game winner. Sebrango was left unmarked on the left side and Gallardo was helplessly left to pick the ball up out of his own net.

In only their second year ever as a soccer club, the Austin Aztex were the obvious underdogs in the Impact-Aztex clash. Impact are part of MLS expansion plan for 2012 and are also the champions of last year’s United Soccer League.

Heath adds to the David versus Goliath premise: “This is a huge club. They’re wage bill is 3 or 4 times bigger than ours. They’re averaging or 14 to 15,000 people at a game.”

The Aztex’s progress this year is shown by gaining ten more wins than their freshman season. They close their season with 55 goals, more than any other team in the USSF Division II Pro League. In addition, Eddie Johnson and Maxwell Griffin both place into the top five for the most goals scored in the league so far, with 15 and 10 goals respectively, and Jamie Watson fourth in the league for assists.

As Heath believes, the Aztex should look forward rather than looking down. “The players kept battling and I couldn’t ask anymore from them. We made huge strides his year and I hope we make the same next year. My players have done me proud this year."

Photo Credit: Carol Estrella

CREW FIND NO RELIEF ON THE ROAD

BRIDGEVIEW, IL- October 8, 2010- It may have been the 129th anniversary of the ignition of the great Chicago Fire Friday night at Toyota Park, but the Columbus Crew‘s chances of winning the Eastern Conference title may have been extinguished.

The Crew lost 2-0 to the Fire and dropped to 13-8-7, still fourth in the MLS playoffs and a point behind the New York Red Bulls, who host Real Salt Lake on Saturday, for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We tired right now,” Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha said. “With all these games we know that we will be better.”

Cleveland native and Fire defender Dasan Robinson was substituted in just the 15th minute with a leg injury. Just a minute later, Freddie Ljungberg appealed for a penalty, after he had been taken down in the box by a Crew defender.

The Crew had much trouble in the first half finding their forwards. The team would push up, but could not find the pass it needed in the final third. That reoccurring theme hurt the Crew and could not make a dent into the Fire defense.

Adam Moffat did not help the cause in the opening half as he was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a late challenge to Logan Pause. On the play that came from the free kick, Moffat again had a late foul, just seconds after the previous foul. He did not receive his second yellow, but made his name known to referee Edvin Jurisevic and Warzycha, who pulled Moffat at the half.

The Fire finally broke through a half an hour in as Peter Lowry beat the Crew defense and banged it past Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer.

The play started from Patrick Nyarko, who made a great short pass to Lowry. Lowry dribbled in on Chad Marshall, turned Marshall around in the box and fired the ball off the outside of his right foot and into the left side of the net. Hesmer had no chance on the brilliant shot.

The Fire led 1-0, as Lowry scored the 600th in Chicago Fire history.

Columbus again had to deal with a yellow card as Eric Brunner was the guilty party for a rough tackle close to the Crew’s 18-yard box. Despite a few chances in the attacking zone, the Crew could not get a good chance on net and were down 1-0 at the half.

Brian McBride set up and scored the second goal for the Fire in the 53rd minute. After a pass to Nyarko going towards the goal line, Nyarko slid the pass between the legs of Brian Carroll right to McBride who slid and kicked the ball into the back of the net.

Absent from the match was both Emilio Renteria (Venezuela) and Shaun Francis (Jamaica) who were called up to national team duties.

The Crew got their first shot on goal in the 65th minute when Frankie Hejduk put a low liner into the box that was easily kicked away by a diving Andrew Dykstra. They would finish with four, but all were easily grabbed by Dykstra.

Even when Kevin Burns beat Dykstra in the 89th minute, Fire defender Bratislav Ristic was there to clear the ball off the line.

The Crew next head to Toronto next Saturday (Oct. 16) for a 4:00 p.m. kickoff. They finish the regular season the following Sunday (Oct. 24) at home against the expansion Philadelphia Union after facing Joe Public on the road on Oct. 21.

FIRE STILL ALIVE IN PLAYOFF HUNT

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - October 8, 2010 - The Chicago Fire dominated in scoring and possession opportunities in celebration of their 13th anniversary for a rewarding 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew.

In the 30th minute, defender Steven Kinney built up a steady pass to midfielder Patrick Nyarko who slipped the ball to Peter Lowry.  Lowry  dribbled the ball down past Crew defender Chad Marshall, then directed the ball past goalkeeper William Hesmer inside the left post for  the 600th goal in Chicago Fire history and a 1-0 lead over the Columbus Crew.

In the 53rd minute Chicago Fire captain Brian McBride pushed his team to a 2-0 lead. Forward Freddie Ljungberg rolled a ball from the right to midfielder Patrick Nyarko, who sent the ball to an open McBride for a quick foot on the ball to the back post and into the net.

The Fire’s second goal gave the Crew motivation to put some pressure on the Fire.  In the 90th minute Crew’s midfielder Kevin Burns broke through the Fire’s defense and past Dyksta only to be cleared off in the goal box by Chicago defender Bratislav Ristic for a 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew.

The Fire played a strong game showing the hunger that they still possess for a spot in the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs.  The win puts the Fire (8-11-8) fourth place in the Eastern Conference for a hope at postseason.  They are eight points back of the San Jose Earthquakes for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Fire are content to be where they are.  They feel good about the group heading in the right direction and will continue to fight until the end.  Their playoff destiny is still up in the air as Chicago must win the remaining two games and receive loads of help from other clubs to sneak into the postseason.

Nyarko continues to have an ankle problem that led to an injection during half time yet yielded the assists that gave the Fire their victory.

“He stuck it out. He dug in deep and that is a good mentality that the whole team needs.  We need more guys like that,” Assitant coach Mike Matkovich stated about Nyarko’s assists on the goals.

The Fire will have their remaining home matches at Toyota Park against the Kansas City Wizards on Tuesday, October 12th at 7:30pm CT (My50) and their final home match on Saturday, October 16th at 3:00pm CT (Comcast SportsNet/Telefutura).

KICKING IT WITH TIM HOWARD

Members of the media were welcome to talk to members of the U.S. Men’s National Team before their international friendly against Poland in Chicago. Luckily, International Soccer Network’s was able to get a few quality minutes with USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard.

ISN: Is it weird we are already looking forward to the 2014 World Cup?

HOWARD: I think we have set a target for the Gold Cup being important for us this year. The competition does not interfere with any other competitions, as it has in previous years. We are going to bring our strongest team to the tournament. I was on the squad that won the competition in 2007 and it was such a memorable event for the coaching staff and myself. That is all part of the growth, without looking too far ahead.

ISN: There is word that Mexico and the United States may not play each other in the World Cup qualifiers. What are your thoughts?

HOWARD: I think it is important for us to play Mexico and I think that the rivalry is fiery and healthy. To take that rivalry away would be disappointing because there is so much good from that rivalry. There is very little that is wrong with it. I think both sides would be bitterly disappointed.

ISN: MLS has had a hard time gaining respect from other leagues around the world, especially in England, where you play. Is the MLS getting the respect they deserve overseas?

HOWARD: I think the MLS is getting so much respect because of the players we are importing and also because of the players that the league is exporting. Players in my generation have gone over to other places for substantial transfer fees and we have shown the quality of the MLS. I am a big fan of it, I like the way it is run, I like the teams that are involved, the stadiums that are in place, and I love the competition in the league. Even though I am not there now, I still enjoy watching it and I think it is fantastic.

ISN: What about the match against Poland on Saturday, do you think there is an advantage for the United States players from Europe all playing together?

HOWARD: I think we always enjoy coming together. It difficult in that we all come from different environments, long ways away, different agendas with our club teams. I think what is important about our consistency is that we can not be together for a month, but come back on day one and not have to start over from scratch. We know each other and we know what coaches expect from us and we can get on with our work.

ISN: Chicago has a big Polish population. Does that make this game a little bit more interesting playing on U.S. soil with another country’s support?

HOWARD: There will be a strong Polish crowd, I am sure. We are no strangers to playing at home with crowds not on our side all the time. Soldier Field is fantastic and Chicago as a community comes out and supports us. We are not worried about that. I think it is going to be a fantastic and electric atmosphere You cannot ask for anything more than that in an October friendly.

ISN: Last time you guys met, you won 3-0 in Krakow. Do you think Poland is looking to return the favor?

HOWARD: They are a very good team. We remember that night well because we played well. We understand that they will be coming here to get a result. However, we need to match that intensity and I think it will be a great test for us.

ISN: What does it say that Poland will face one of the toughest teams Saturday in preparation for Euro 2012 in Poland?

HOWARD: I think they need to. I think that it is important that they show that they are prepared at the Euros by getting good results and they do that against good teams.

CREW FALL IN OPEN CUP FINAL

SEATTLE, WA - October 5, 2010 - Sanna Nyassi scored twice as Seattle Sounders FC defended their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew Tuesday before a crowd of 31,311 at Qwest Field, which is largest ever for a final in the tournament's history. The Sounders become the first MLS team to win two straight Open Cup crowns, and the first team to win consecutive titles since the New York Pancyprian Freedoms won in 1982-83.

The Crew opened the scoring with a goal from Kevin Burns, on a classy finish in the 24th minute, but couldn't hold on. Nyassi was ultimately the hero, scoring in the 38th and 66th minutes to help Seattle rally from the early 1-0 hole. The Crew nearly equalized in the 85th minute when Robbie Rogers - playing in just his second game back from nearly two months sidelined with a knee injury - rattled a shot off the crossbar after a cross from Hejduk.

Andy Gruenebaum started in goal for the Crew, as he has for every one of the club's Open Cup and Champions League matches. William Hesmer, meanwhile, has started every one of the Crew's league games. The Crew was playing in its third Open Cup Final, joining the 2002 squad that defeated L.A. to win the tournament and the 1998 team that fell to Chicago in overtime.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer and is recognized as the federation's National Championship. The tournament has now crowned a champion for 97 consecutive years dating back to 1914. It is the oldest annual team tournament in U.S. sports history and among the oldest soccer tournaments of its type in the world. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor long-time soccer pioneer and Crew Founder Lamar Hunt. Tuesday's attendance smashed the previous finals record involving an MLS team, set in 2000 when Chicago beat the Miami Fusion in front of 19,164 fans at Soldier Field. The previous attendance high for a USOC final was set back in 1929, when 21,583 fans attended the final played at Dexter Park in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Crew returns to league action this Friday (Oct. 8) at Chicago's TOYOTA Park, in a match that will kick off at 9 p.m. ET and be televised live regionally on ONN-TV.

FIFA SOCCER 11 REVIEW: OH YEAH, IT GETS BETTER

I am always stricken with the dilemma of buying a sports game year, after year. After playing FIFA 11, I am so happy that EA Sports picked up where the left off last year…and they have gone even further. Not to mention, you have listened as the game has sold 2.6 million copies in just five days…

Once you pick up this game, you are going to spend plenty of hours just drooling over the play that the game gives. The game gives a free playing feel, one that you really can play at 360°. To break that down, it means the interaction between you and the opposing team looks and feels even more real. Not to mention he gameplay is even more clean and crisp.

What makes the game even nicer it the new passing system that EA has introduced. No longer can you push a button and expect the perfect pass. You have to really understand how far your target is, how hard you have to kick it, and where your defender is. Perfect passing really has to come from the gamer.

The biggest introduction to the series is the "Be A Goalkeeper" function. As a goalie myself, I have been waiting for a football game to tackle this and I am really impressed. Yes, you have to judge angle, speed, and the forwards all looking to score on you, but you also change your camera angles when your team is on the attack and you have the opportunity to influence the attack.

Ok, so the gameplay looks fabulous, the controls are magnificent, and you are dominating the world as a goalie.
But you need a team, right?

Career Mode has also gotten a makeover and has an interesting twist in this year’s edition. You have the choice of being a player, a manager, or even a player-manager. I really like the player-manager route because you can make the squad changes and tweaks, but you can also play as your own created player or your Virtual Pro.

The one specific thing that I love from the game was the creation of your new pro. When you enter your name and pick your traits, you pick what body size and height your new player will be. What you choose effects your player’s abilities. For instance, lets say your height is 6'8", in no way are you going to be as fast as somebody 5’11". Just another little twitch that the game makes to make the gameplay and the realism come to life.

Players have finally gotten their true talents noticed in the virtual world. For the true fans that know their favorite players, the Personality Plus will be the biggest asset FIFA 11 brings to the table. More now than ever, players look, react, and play like they do in real life. The skill set that they bring to FIFA 11 are close to those that you see on TV. With that comes the ability to do wicked tricks that only the best in the world can do.

Online content is great as well. Creating teams and players on the EA website and then getting those onto the game console is fantastic! Not only does FIFA 11 add to what last year’s game was able to do, but it goes much farther!

Photo Credit: RobertIvory

EARTHQUAKES SECURE ROAD POINT IN PLAYOFF PUSH

COLUMBUS, OH - October 2, 2010 - A point may not seem like much, but with their scoreless draw against the Crew Saturday, San Jose push closer to returning to the MLS playoffs.

The Earthquakes move to 11-8-7 and the Crew go to 13-7-7. The point clinched the Crew’s playoffs spot, but the home team was overtaken by the New York Red Bulls for tops in the Eastern Conference.

“It is a good road point for us,” San Jose Head Coach Frank Yallop said of his club. “This is always a hard place to come and we are certainly happy to get the point.”

Play between the two clubs was chippy from time to time, a total of 20 fouls, but only one yellow card was awarded. However, on a night that was very soggy from the constant rain, both goalkeepers had to step up in big moments.

Earthquakes keeper Jon Busch had the save of the night. In the 75th minute, Crew midfield Chad Marshall was in prime position to put the first goal of the night in the back of the net. Off the corner, Marshall headed the ball from inside the six-yard box, but Busch had to push the header over the net. Marshall could only put his heads on his head.

“Tonight was us,” Busch said. “We are a blue collar team. I am proud of that because we work until the end of the day. At the end of the days its 0-0, we want to pick up points every game. We want three, but we’ll take one. You never want to leave with zero.”

Busch also admitted that the Crew had the majority of the chances, but the team is again happy with that critical point. San Jose finished with just three shots on goal and did not feature Geovanni until the 69th minute.

“There was a good balance of play,” Yallop said. “It think the draw was the fair result. It’s another point towards our playoff push.”

The point puts the Earthquakes at 40 for the year, which is good enough for sixth in the Western Conference. However, it also retains them at the eighth and final playoff spot. They are just seven points above Kansas City, but Yallop knows that you can never say never.

“There are still a few games to go,” Yallop said. “Hopefully we can get that win in our next game. Funny things happen in football, so we need to keep playing like we have been playing all year.”

Kansas City sits seven points behind the Quakes with each club having four MLS matches left in the season. If the Earthquakes can hold on to the final place, they would return to the playoffs for the first time since they won the Supporters’ Shield in 2005.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody, Sr.

CREW DRAW, BUT CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT


COLUMBUS, OH - October 2, 2010 - Superb goalkeeping for both the Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes caused their match to end in a 0-0 draw on a rainy and slippery pitch at Crew Stadium. The Crew had the bulk of scoring chances, but were unable to put one in the back of the net. The draw combined with a loss by Kansas City guaranteed the Crew a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs so the night had to be considered a success.

The Crew were hoping to make a statement during Saturday's match, putting the recent run of poor form to an end. Losses to Seattle and Municipal have caused a little doubt in what has been a spectacular season for Columbus. It would also be an important matchup for the San Jose Earthquakes, who are currently in the 8th and final playoff position.

The Crew put together several nice runs in the first fifteen minutes, putting Quakes keeper Jon Busch under a little pressure. San Jose would threaten in the 18th, but the Crew defense responded with a clearance from Andy Iro. Steven Lenhart and Eddie Gaven would provide much excitement for Crew fans as they continue to push and pull their way into Quakes territory. There was a feeling that there had been quite a few close calls and something big was about to happen, but nothing came of it.

The final minutes of the first half were full of tension and apprehension. Ryan Johnson got a yellow card in the 37th minute and continued to argue the call with head referee Jorge Gonzalez. Moments later Guillermo Barros Schelotto had some words with the linesman about a call. The first half came to an end with a 0-0 score and a lack of momentum for either side.

The second half would be one of opportunity for the Crew attack. It began with a scare as defender Chad Marshall went down hard in the 52nd minute after being tripped up by a San Jose player. Marshall had struggled with an assortment of injuries this season, but he returned to the field a few minutes later.

The 63rd brought about what looked to be a sure goal for Columbus, but Lenhart was unable to get a hold of a brilliant pass. Three minutes later the Crew would make their first substitution with Emilio Renteria taking the place of Emmanuel Ekpo. Renteria has been this season's version of Alejandro Moreno, getting things done with physical play and lots of persistence.

The Earthquakes would make a change as well, sending in their Designated Player, Giovanni, for Eduardo in the 69th minute of play. Crew keeper Will Hesmer came away with a solid save a minute later after a pinpoint cross reached the head of Chris Wondolowski. Hesmer was able to get an outstretched hand on the ball, getting it out of play and over the crossbar. This was the only genuine scoring chance of the night for the Quakes.

Lenhart would get yet another opportunity in the 72nd, but an awkward bounce had it miss the right corner of the goal by just an inch or two. Busch would have his own moment of brilliance, knocking a Marshall header just over the bar in the 75th.

"I think Busch was Man of the Match today," Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha stated. "He saved Stevie's chance and saved Chad Marshall's chance."

Busch's post-game comments showed similar praise for Warzycha. "Honestly he has done a great job," Busch continued. "When I played with him here and then he retired I knew he would be a great head coach one day. You can see what he has done since Sigi left. He is a tremendous player and a tremendous coach."

Three minutes later midfielder Robbie Rogers would take the field, making his first appearance since knee surgery knocked him out of the Crew starting XI. Gaven would head to the bench, leaving Columbus with just one remaining substitution. Warzycha would use that in the 84th sending in Peruvian international Andres Mendoza for Lenhart, who provided some offensive punch for 80+ minutes.

Sam Cronin would make an appearance for San Jose in the 87th, coming in for Scott Sealy. Renteria would send a header inches wide left in the 90th, which proved to be the final chance of a Crew score.

Earthquakes Head Coach Frank Yallop was satisfied with the his team's effort and the final score. "I think a draw is a fair result to be honest," Yallop commented. "We're happy with the point, another point toward our playoff push."

The Crew must now turn their attention to the U.S. Open Cup Championship in Seattle on October 5, while San Jose returns to the West Coast before heading east again to face D.C. United on October 9.

Earthquakes Starting XI: GK Jon Busch, DEF Brandon McDonald, DEF Tim Ward, DEF Jason Hernandez (C), MID Chris Wondolowski, MID Khari Stephenson, MID Brad Ring, MID Bobby Convey, FWD Scott Sealy, FWD Ryan Johnson, FWD Eduardo

Crew Starting XI: GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Chad Marshall, DEF Shaun Francis, DEF Andy Iro, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Brian Carroll, MID Kevin Burns, MID Emmanuel Ekpo, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto, FWD Steven Lenhart

Facebook Match Photos

CREW DROPS 2-1 DECISION AGAINST MUNICIPAL

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA - September 29, 2010 - The Crew fell 2-1 to Municipal on Wednesday night at Estadio Nacional in Guatemala City in match day five of CONCACAF Champions League Group B play. Former LA Galaxy forward Guillermo Ramirez netted both goals for the home teamwhile defender Andy Iro tallied the lone Crew goal.

Daylong heavy rain continued through the match leaving the pitch at Estadio Nacional with standing water in several places. Players struggled with footing and balls skipped in some spots and came to a halt in others.

The result left Columbus with nine points and dropped it into second place in Group B, one point behind Santos, which beat Joe Public 5-1. Municipal climbed to eight points, but will have to travel to Mexico to face Santos in its final match on October 19. Columbus will travel to face already eliminated Joe Public on October 21. Only the first two teams of each group qualify for the quarter finals.

AUSTIN AZTEX NOTCH 4 GOALS TO BEAT ST. LOUIS

AUSTIN, TX - September 25, 2010 - In the last home game of the regular season, the Austin Aztex were looking for revenge Saturday night against the AC St. Louis team that has defeated them last weekend. Six goals were notched between the two teams in the thrilling game but the Aztex came on top with a 4-2 score line.

From the very beginning both teams exerted an abundant pressure on the opponent’s defense. However, the Aztex were lucky to keep the score at a stalemate in the first five minutes of the game. St. Louis was twice able to get in behind the Aztex defense and dribble inside the penalty box leaving goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo in a one-on-one situation.

“We felt we were too stretched as a team,” said Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath. “What we try to do is get the back four up the pitch  a bit more, condense the plays, see if we can get closer to people and we did it a lot better in the second half.”

The Aztex responded ten minutes later with their first shot of the game resulted in a goal when Jamie Watson’s corner kick deflected and fell for Michael Callahan. Callahan shot a stinger to the upper left corner that left no chance for the St. Louis goalkeeper.

“I’m pleased with Callahan, what you see is what you get from him,” said Heath. “He gives you what he’s got and for him to give you a goal like that, it is probably the best goal he has ever scored.”

Aztex increased their lead to two goals when Jamie Watson assisted from a corner kick that this time met Kieron Bernard’s head in the 30th minute.

St. Louis was not going to lie down and die when they rejuvenated a two goal comeback in five minutes.

St. Louis player Gauchinho was involved with both goals when he received the ball inside the penalty box to shoot the ball past Gallardo. Gauchinho once again proved a threat when his pass to Luke Kreamalmeyer inside the box allowed the score to even up at 2-2.

The Aztex proved why they were in first place in the USL Division by changing the tempo in the second half by dominating possession and pressure.

Maxwell Griffin netted his ninth goal of the season from 25 yards out in the 51st minute.

“Right when I got the ball I saw [the goalkeeper] take a few steps off his line and I thought why not just try it,” said Griffin.

To end the game on a high note, Randi Patterson scored in the 93rd minute of stoppage time to make the final tally 4-2.  Patterson capitalized on a clearance from Sam Brill and beat an unprepared St. Louis defense. Patterson was one-on-one with the goalkeeper as he shot the ball into the back of the net.

The Aztex next face two away games as they take on the Carolina Railhawks and Montreal Impact. Austin will play their first ever home playoff game October 9.

WINLESS STREAK CONTINUES FOR THE FIRE

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - September 25, 2010 - After several goal attempts and a couple of yellow cards, the Fire proved to be no match for the Seattle Sounders FC, who snatched a 1-0 win over the Fire in Saturday’s match.

In the 88th minute, Seattle Sounders  forward Blaise Nkufo took advantage of the assist from teammate Steve Zakuani and fired a 12-yard shot that deflected off a sliding C.J. Brown. This would give the Seattle Sounders a 1-0 advantage, which was enough to win the match.  The defeat added to the Fire’s growing winless streak, which now stands at five games.

The loss puts the Fire (6-10-8) 13 points out of playoff position with six games left.  This puts a lot of pressure on Chicago because they are on the verge of missing the postseason for just the second time in franchise history.

A clearly disappointed Carlos de los Cobos stated, “We had a good first half. Yet we had the intention to win, knowing that a tie would not be good. But at the end carelessness unfortunately gave them a goal.”

The Chicago Fire will take to the road to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes on September 29th at 10pm CT (CLTV, Comcast Sport Net Chicago Plus) and FC Dallas on October 2nd at 7:30pm CT (FOX Soccer Channel, FOX Sports en Espanol).  They will be back home on Friday, October 8th at 8:00 pm CT (Comcast Sportsnet) against the Columbus Crew.

CREW DRAWS WITH REVS ON THE ROAD

FOXBOROUGH, MA - September 25, 2010 - The Columbus Crew staged a second-half comeback against the New England Revolution Saturday at Gillette Stadium to earn a 2-2 draw and restore its lead atop the Eastern Conference.

The Crew are now one point ahead of New York, which defeated the Galaxy 2-0 on Friday night.

Pat Phelan handed New England the lead after two minutes and Shalrie Joseph doubled it by slotting home the Revs' first penalty kick of the season after 56 minutes.

But Steven Lenhart pulled a goal back for the Crew six minutes later, off a Shaun Francis cross, to set the stage for a dramatic finish. Guillermo Barros Schelotto scored the tying goal from the penalty spot with 10 minutes to play to give the Crew an important point.

Columbus Crew Starting XI - William Hesmer, Andy Iro, Eric Brunner, Frankie Hejduk, Emmanuel Ekpo, Eddie Gaven, Kevin Burns, Brian Carroll, Shaun Francis, Steven Lenhart, Guillermo Barros Schelotto

New England Revolution Starting XI - Matt Reis, Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes, Cory Gibbs, Seth Sinovic, Sainey Nyassi, Shalrie Joseph, Pat Phelan, Kenny Mansally, Ilija Stolica, Marko Perovic

Photo Credit: Robert Ivory

MENDOZA SENDS CREW TO TOP OF GROUP B IN CCL

COLUMBUS, OH - September 21, 2010 - For as exciting and controversial as the first match between these two clubs was in Mexico, the return leg was just as exciting as the Crew knocked off Santos Laguna 1-0 with an 87th minute tally by Andres Mendoza Tuesday night at Crew Stadium.

The Crew now hold the group in their hands as they leap over Santos into first place. Columbus now has nine points (two more than their Mexican counterpart) and are looking like they will move onto the Quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Trailing Santos by just one point in the Group B standings, Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha had eight of the starting eleven from the weekend’s 4-0 home defeat by the Seattle Sounders in the lineup.

“They left their heart on the field today,” Warzycha said. “I think we created more chances then them.”

The first half contained much possession by Santos, but the Crew got their chances. With two shots on goal, Columbus was not ready to sit back. Most of the Crew’s chances came in the second half. Jason Garey entered the match at the half as Emilio Renteria was pulled after suffering a groin injury.

Chad Marshall had to be taken out in the 67th minute when Santos forward Oribe Peralta put a high boot to Marshall’s face. Marshall would be down for several minutes as Peralta was shown a yellow.

Jason Garey started the second half momentum for the Crew in the and in the 71st minute almost had the opening goal. Emmanuel Ekpo laid a ball into the six-yard box for forward Jason Garey, but Garey just poked the slow roller wide of the net.

“You really can’t fault us,” Garey said. “We had really great chances.”

In the 76th minute, Mendoza received a pass from Eddie Gaven inside the box.

Mendoza tapped the ball ahead of him, pulled the shot off, but either the sliding goalie or the Santos defender blocked the ball wide.

Finally, the backbreaker would come just three minutes from time when Mendoza slipped the game winner past Santos goalie Rafael Figueroa. Mendoza tried to play a ball across to Jason Garey, but the ball was blocked and Mendoza put the rebound home.

“Garey made the play, I took a shot, it got blocked and fortunately it rolled back to me,” Mendoza said though a translator.

The Peruvian went to the ground quickly after the shot and was subbed out with cramping.

“I was feeling a strain around the 70th minute,” Mendoza continued. “I just kept pushing and stretching.”

Columbus now travels to New England to play the Revolution on Saturday (Sept 25) for a MLS clash. Their last two games of Group B are away fixtures; they travel to Guatemala to play Municipal next Wednesday (Sept 29) and finish up with Joe Public on Oct 21st.

Photo Credit: Robert Ivory

LADY LUCK ABANDONS CREW AT HOME

COLUMBUS, OH - September 18, 2010 - A disastrous first half for the Columbus Crew (13-7-5) put them in an early hole against the visiting Seattle Sounders (10-9-6). A hat trick from Blaise Nfuko and a single goal from Nathan Sturgis put a major hurting on the Crew defense in a match that ended with a 4-0 victory for Seattle.

The Sounders quickly set the tone with a quick strike from Nfuko in just the 4th minute. Crew keeper Will Hesmer faced a barrage of three shots on goal in a matter of seconds, but was only able to save two.

The Crew would respond just 10 minutes later with nice combination play, which resulted in a near miss by forward Steven Lenhart. Three precise, pinpoint passes set up the shot from Lenhart. Opportunities continued for the Crew as they dominated possession early in the first half and had their share of corner and free kicks.

There were several moments where it felt like something was going to happen, but it came down to the lack of finishes for Columbus. The Sounders had the momentum coming off the early goal, but the Crew were playing in front of a raucous home crowd of 17,144.

Seattle would get on the board again in the 39th as Nkufo beat the Crew defense to put a goal in the right corner past an outstretched Hesmer. Things would get even worse as the Sounders were awarded a PK in the 42nd and Nathan Sturgis would convert for his first career goal and a 3-0 lead to Seattle.

Halftime would be a time of reflection for the Columbus squad. The Crew led in just corner kicks (3) and saves (4), while the Sounders dominated the most important categories: shots (9) and shots on goal (7). Robert Warzycha's squad aimed to stop the bleeding on defense and start finishing on the offensive end.

Columbus had a great opportunity in the 54th, but they came up empty after an electrifying save by Seattle keeper Kasey Keller and a high shot by Eddie Gaven off the rebound. Gaven would get another chance nine minutes later, but another save by Keller was the result. Warzycha would call on Emilio Renteria and Andres Mendoza as substitutes, but it was too little, too late.

Chances would dry up for the Crew attack, but certainly not for Seattle. Nkufo would get his third goal of the night in the 77th as the Swiss striker drilled another one into the upper 90 after a nice pass from the University of Akron's Steve Zakuani.

Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid was obviously happy with the 4-0 victory against the Crew at home, but wasn't willing to trash his former team. "I don't think the difference between the two teams was four goals, even though that was the score tonight," Schmid said in his post-game comments.

The Crew's head coach was calm and collected after the match and wasn't willing to panic at the first sign of distress. "We have to be a little bit lucky at some point," Warzycha commented. "We have players on the field who can score. They are getting looks at the goal and sooner or later they are going to score."

Saturday's night match was the first opportunity for Crew fans to see the club's newest signing, Cleveland State midfielder Josh Williams. The Akron, Ohio native was thrilled with the opportunity to finish out the season with Columbus.

"It's been a whirlwind down here," Williams responded. "I remember my dad taking me to the first Crew game in their inaugural season. I remember sitting there thinking this is exactly what I want to be doing when I am older. Now I found myself here. It is definitely a dream come true."

The loss left Columbus with a bad taste in their mouth, but they don't have long to lick their wounds as they face Santos in CCL play on Tuesday. The result was an undesirable one, but the play of Emmanuel Ekpo and even Kevin Burns were positives for the Crew.

Crew Starting XI - GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk, DEF Chad Marshall, DEF Andy Iro, DEF Danny O'Rourke MID Emmanuel Ekpo, MID Kevin Burns, MID Brian Carroll, MID Eddie Gaven, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto, FWD Steven Lenhart

Sounders Starting XI - GK Kasey Keller, DEF Zach Scott, DEF Jeff Parke, DEF Patrick Ianni, DEF Leo Gonzalez, MID Steve Zakuani, MID Nathan Sturgis, MID Osvaldo Alonso, MID Sanna Nyassi, FWD Fredy Montero, FWD Blaise Nkufo

Facebook Match Photos

Photo Credit: Carol Estrella

DOMINATING WIN GIVES SOUNDERS HOPE FOR THE PLAYOFFS

COLUMBUS, OH - September 18, 2010 - The Seattle Sounders made an impressive statement Saturday night, as they beat the defending MLS Eastern Conference Champions, 4-0 at Crew Stadium. Designated Player Blaise Nkufo tallied three goals for the Sounders and Nathan Sturgis scored the first ever penalty in MLS play for Seattle.

 Former Crew coach and winner of the 2008 MLS Cup (With the Crew) Sigi Schmid came back to give the Crew its worst loss home loss since 2005.

“We were really efficient tonight in our finishing,” Schmid said. “I thought we were well motivated.”

The Sounders were well motivated out of the gate as Nkufo would put the Sounders ahead just four minutes into the match to stun the Crew faithful. Off a corner, Colombian Fredy Montero found the ball at his feet in the six-yard box, but was denied by Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer. Hesmer saves then quickly made a save of Nkufo’s rebound, before Nfuko put his own rebound into the back of the net.

“Of course it’s a great feeling scoring my first goal in MLS and for the Sounders,” the Swiss international said. He did, however, see the goal as a part of a bigger goal.

“I think the most important part of the night was the three points. As a striker, I believe that I can score goals,” Nkufo said.

Nkufo scored his second MLS goal just 35 minutes later when he was left at the corner of the 18-yard box with a single Crew defender. Nkufo dribbled in the box towards the line, took a left footed shot and slid it to the far post past a diving Hesmer. The Sounders striker really took a difficult shot, but made it look easy.

“Today he was happy because he finished,” Schmid said. “Maybe that will get him finishing consistently."

Blaise Nkufo came into the game without an MLS goal in seven games as a Sounder. He previously scored 114 goals with Dutch side FC Twente, which is a Twente record.

The Sounders finished the Crew off in the 41st minute, when the Crew’s Danny O’Rourke was beaten by forward Sanna Nyassi and O’Rourke violently grabbed his jersey and brought him down in the box. Nyassi started the play with a great give and go with Montero, who returned the ball to the cutting Nyassi. Nathan Sturgis would then go on to beat Hesmer from the spot and become the first Sounder to score on a penalty kick in MLS history, which was also his first MLS goal.

“I am excited,” Sturgis said. “I was definitely ready to take the shot; it felt good to put one away.”

Nkufo would make it a hat trick and a 4-0 lead for the Sounders in the 75th minute. University of Akron product Steve Zakuani received a past from Nkufo and dribbled the from the halfway line to the goal line, then laced a perfect pass to the waiting Swiss international, who drilled home the 15 yarder into the top corner of the net.

Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller had five saves on the night and his 10th shutout of the year. “I was proud that we kept them to zeros,” Keller said. “It’s a great step for our playoff position.”

Schmid now owns a 7-3-6 all-time record against his former team and has the Sounders in the last playoff spot.

They are still just two points behind Colorado for sixth in the playoff hunt. Seattle travel to Monterrey in the middle of the week for CONCACAF Champions League play, then travel to Chicago to take on the Fire next Saturday.

Coppermine Match Photos

Photo Credit: Cleveland State University Sports Information

FORMER CSU STAR SIGNS WITH THE CREW

CLEVELAND, OH - September 17, 2010 - Josh Williams, a former midfielder at Cleveland State, has signed a contract with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer. The Crew announced the signing on Thursday, September 16.

“We’re very happy about it,” said CSU head coach Ali Kazemaini. “Part of what we try to do at Cleveland State is attract next level talent and Josh is an example of somebody who was good enough to play professionally and trained hard enough to play professionally.”

The Crew called Williams on Wednesday, September 15 to offer him the contract. Williams signed it and drove to Columbus to officially join the team.

“They called me a couple days ago and asked me if I was in shape,” Williams said. “I said, ‘I sure am.’ They told me to just be ready, and then called me again yesterday to say I was on the team.”

For Williams, signing with the Crew was more than just an opportunity to play professionally.

“It was a dream come true,” Williams said. “My dad took me to the first Crew game their inaugural year and I remember watching the players and thinking that this is what I want to do. I want to be out there playing soccer. I’ve been a Crew fan ever since that game.”

Williams got his first opportunity to play with the Crew back in April.

“The Crew invited me to play with them during the exhibition season,” Williams said. “I guess I played well enough for them to keep me in mind.”

Williams started 74 games for the Vikings between 2006 and 2009. As a senior last fall, he finished tied for fifth in the Horizon League in goals (6) and tied for seventh in points (14). His performance earned him first team All-Conference honors.

Williams finished his CSU career with 12 goals and eight assists for 32 points. His five game-winning goals were the most by any Viking between 2006-09.

“Josh came here not knowing if he would be able to play at the Division I level,” Kazemaini said. “He’s somebody who went from not knowing if he could play at this level to someone who will be playing professionally in just four years. We’re glad we were able to help him develop.”

Williams credited his success to the coaching he received from Kazemaini, a former professional soccer player with the Cleveland Force of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

“Coach Kaz prepared our team like he was preparing a professional team,” Williams said. “He knew how the professionals trained, and that’s how he coached us. It definitely helped ready me for playing with the Crew.”

For now, Williams is focusing on moving from being on the team to cracking the game day lineup.

“I just want to perform well enough in practice to earn some time on the field,” Williams said. “I’m going to work hard and show my coaches that I can play.”

CREW WIN CONCACAF TILT WITH THREE SECOND HALF GOALS

COLUMBUS, OH - September 14, 2010 - The Columbus Crew defeated Joe Public 3-0 Tuesday night at Crew stadium, as Columbus now distances themselves from both Joe Public and Municipal at the bottom of Group B of the CONCACAF Champions League. Leandre Griffit, Jason Garey, and Steven Lenhart all scored second half goals for the Crew.

“I think it was a good start to the second half (the play opening up),” Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha said after the match. “Before the game, we were expecting to win and tonight we took the three points.”

Sandwiched in between games between two Western Conference opponents in the MLS tilt, the Columbus made eight changes to the squad that lost 3-1 in Los Angeles the previous Saturday. The Crew possessed most of the ball in the first half, but only would come close on a couple of chances.

“Everything went to plan (in the first half),” Joe Public Head Coach Derek King commented. “The players stuck to the game plan and the second half is where it all went wrong.”

The Crew finally got their opening goal from Leandre Griffit just two minutes into the second half. As the Crew slowly mounted a counter into the attacking third, Mendoza played a well-crossed ball from right to left to Griffit.

The French midfielder settled the ball, dropped into the left hand corner of the box, turned his defender around and put a curving ball into the corner of the net. After a subpar first half, the Crew led 1-0.

“I just try to do my best when I play,” Griffit said of his second goal as a member of the Crew. “For me, it was good to score.”

Warzycha noted after the game that the plan was to have Griffit make more cuts to the net, rather than pushing outside with the ball and crossing it in.

“I think it was a really great finish by Leandre,” Jason Garey said of the first goal. “It really helped us out.” It certainly got the Crew going in the right direction early in the second half.

Just moments later, the Crew took the decisive two-goal lead as Garey notched a terrific header. Crew midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo chipped a ball from the right side corner to Garey. The striker then headed the ball from inside the six-yard box, before it got to the mouth of the goal, and put it into the corner of the net, just over the outstretched hands of Joe Public goalie Marvin Phillips.

“(Emmanuel) played a great ball,” Garey said. “I think it was at a critical time to get that goal.” The Crew led 2-0 in the 51st minute and did not look back from there.

Peruvian forward Andrés Mendoza played 60+ minutes in the Crew victory, but was subbed out for the fan favorite named Steven Lenhart. Mendoza provided energy and lots of opportunities in the Columbus attack.

Lenhart put the final touches on the game as the forward would put the Crew up 3-0. The play started with great one touches among the Crew, when rookie Dilly Duka stepped over the ball and a soft pass with the outside of his right foot sucked defenders in. That passed found a wide-open Lenhart who put a charge into the shot from 12 yards out.

The Crew now have six points in three games in Group B of the Champions League, but are three points behind Santos. They host Mexican side Santos Laguna next Tuesday with an 8:00 pm kickoff. However, the Crew host the Seattle Sounders first, as the two meet Saturday at 7:30 pm as the Crew attempt to separate themselves atop the MLS Eastern Conference.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

WES BROWN SIGNS WITH CONCAVE

TORONTO, ON - September 13, 2010 - Concave Sports announced today their signing of Premier League defender Wes Brown  as a brand ambassador for their new technology football boots.   Brown, a regular for Manchester United, is already wearing Concave’s latest boot model, the PT+ Classic, following a rigorous trial period during team practices and the team’s preseason tour of the United States earlier this year.

Since making his senior debut in 1998, Brown has become a regular first team player and has been described by Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, as "without question the best natural defender this club has had for years”. Equally comfortable at right back or centre back, Brown has also made 23 international appearances for England and was part of the 2002 FIFA World Cup squad in Japan.
 
Following his signing, Brown said, “Being a professional footballer means I’m always looking to maximise my performances and gain an edge on my competition. Playing for Manchester United means that you have to perform at the highest level and I was looking for boots that could meet that challenge. I’m confident that with Concave, and the advanced technology and research that has gone into their football boots, I’ve found them. I am really happy to become part of the Concave family and hope to be for the rest of my football career.”
As the latest England professional player to join with Concave, Wes Brown joins his fellow Manchester United teammate and Republic of Ireland international John O’Shea, as well as Portsmouth striker Danny Webber and Crystal Palace midfielder Neil Danns.
 
Commenting on Brown’s signing, Concave CEO Jim Grimes said, “We are delighted to welcome Wes to Concave and look forward to developing a great relationship with him. Wes is one of the best defenders in the world and to have him think so highly of our products and sign with us is a great validation of what Concave is about. The things that drive him – performance and passion for football – are the same values that Concave epitomises.”
 
Brown’s choice of boot,  PT+ Classic,  sits at the top of the brand’s extensive range. Patented innovations on the PT+ Classic include a distinctive sweet spot four times larger than any boot  on the market today; giving players up to 15 per cent more power and 30 per cent more accuracy, while protecting them against foot injuries. Its Shank Balance Stabiliser provides further support and reinforcement to the mid-foot area and prevents an over-extension of the middle of the foot that can lead to metatarsal bone damage.

Concave offers a range of technologically advanced boots, which come in a range of colourways and outsoles. Following the introduction of the prototype Concave PT1 boot to UK consumers in 2008, the new Concave PT+ was voted one of the “Top Ten Football Boots of the Decade” by the authoritative Footy Boots website.

 CREW FALL TO GALAXY IN BATTLE OF CONFERENCE LEADERS

CARSON, CA - September 11, 2010 - The Los Angeles Galaxy regained sole possession of the top spot in MLS by defeating the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew, 3-1, Saturday at The Home Depot Center in a highly anticipated showdown.

The match also marked Galaxy midfielder David Beckham's 2010 debut. The Galaxy scored two first-half goals and added a third before Beckham came on for the final 20 minutes of the match. Peruvian international Andres Mendoza scored his first MLS goal late for the Crew.

Former Crew forward Edson Buddle scored his league-leading 14th goal from the top of the six-yard box to open the scoring in the 13th minute. Dema Kovalenko's first goal of the season doubled LA's lead in the 35th minute and Jovan Kirovski made it 3-0 10 minutes into the second half.

In the 70th minute, Beckham replaced Juninho to a loud ovation for his first action nearly six months after tearing his Achilles tendon. He picked up a quick yellow card for knocking down the Crew's Emmanuel Ekpo just a few minutes into his return.

THE BRADLEY DILEMMA

By J.D. Smith

Last week, U.S. Soccer elected to extend the contract of Bob Bradley. Whether that news makes you say “Four More Years!” or “Four...MORE...years???”, the thing to do here is to look for common ground. After all, no amount of internet arguing is going to un-ink the signatures on that U.S. Soccer contract. And despite what some of us may think, Bob Bradley is not the best or worst thing to happen to the U.S National team: He’s most likely not going to miraculously win a World Cup four years from now; and most likely, he’s not going to miss qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. All in all, re-hiring Bob Bradley is neither terribly exciting nor terribly surprising.

But at the end of the day, maybe the US Soccer system needs to be shocked into the next cycle. After all, heroic performances from Landon Donovan aside and Michael Bradley (and unofficially, Maurice Edu) aside, the U.S. team has some issues to address in the next four years. Chief among those duties should be shoring up a defense that seemed prone to mental lapses in the World Cup. Of course, the fact that a forward hasn’t scored in the previous 2 World Cups and counting is weighing heavily on the psyche as well. While Bob Bradley can’t just conjure up a couple of unflappable rugged defenders and a 20-goal scorer, he can certainly look to nurture some young talent. In fact, it would seem to be one of the biggest things Bradley should focus on in the next calendar year: identifying which young players can help he U.S. now, and which ones could help in four years.

But it also would seem to be imperative that Bradley and Co. win the Gold Cup next year. Sunil Gulati, the President of U.S. Soccer, said as much in the re-introductory press conference for Bob Bradley. Never mind that awful travesty that we saw last year, in which the U.S. brought second teamers to a competition that might as well have been called the “It’s not the Confederations Cup” Tournament. The loss to Mexico stung because it was, well, a loss to Mexico (and the final scores was equally ego-bruising). But the loss ultimately didn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. Mexico has regained some swagger, sure, but they were bound to at some point. If the U.S. wants to continue to establish its dominance in CONCACAF, securing our spot AGAIN in the Confederations Cup over Mexico will certainly go a long way. Obviously, U.S. Soccer fans go mental when we lose anything, so winning a trophy next year would also be a nice way to forget about Asamoah Gyan (unless, like me, you’re a Sunderland fan. Dammit).

Sadly, the problem I’m seeing is that these two goals of fostering the next generation and wining the Gold Cup at all costs are at odds with each other.

Obviously, the Gold Cup and lead up to it would be invaluable experience for the likes of Omar Gonzalez, Alejandro Bedoya, and...dare I say it...Freddy Adu. Yes, I realize that one or all of these guys may not factor into the equation in 2014, but at some point, they need to be playing in some meaningful games. And guys like Gale Agbossoumonde and Juan Aguodelo may be a year or two away, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be invited to the camps of some of these friendlies. The question is, will Bob Bradley be able to justify these roster spots when Sunil Gulati has made the 2011 Gold Cup the immediate priority?

To have the best shot in the Gold Cup, US Soccer needs it’s current stars to show up and play big. That means, of course, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard. But what does it mean for Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, and Robbie Findley? If Bradley relies on veterans who likely won’t be a part of the picture in 2014, he runs the risk of taking a very green and naive team to Brazil, not to mention stagnating the program for another cycle.

But not to worry - I believe I have a happy compromise:

Bradley and Gulati must make it clear to all involved what the purpose of the Gold Cup is next year. If the main goal is to get the US qualified for the 2013 Confederations Cup, then so be it. But they damn well better do it. OR, they could come out and say that US Soccer has one goal for the next 4 years, and that is advancing further than the 2002 national team did. In theory, it’s possible that both could happen - Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore could be banging home crosses from Stuart Holden as Freddy Adu directs traffic in front of Omar Gonzalez and Chad Marshall (or whoever, make your own squad of youngsters), but the likelihood is that one goal will sacrifice the other. Bradley’s next great task is figuring out which one of these goals will take precedence in the coming year, and how to continue the growth of U.S. Soccer into the 2014 World Cup.

And to be honest, I don’t envy him one bit.

J.D. Smith hosts a weekly podcast at www.nationalsoccerradio.com. The podcast is also available on iTunes. You can follow his musings on twitter @natsoccerradio.

CREW MOVES INTO TIE FOR SUPPORTERS' SHIELD LEAD WITH 1-0 WIN AT D.C. UNITED SATURDAY

WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 4, 2010 - Playing in its fifth match in two weeks, the Columbus Crew made a first-half goal from Guillermo Barros Schelotto hold up for a 1-0 victory over D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday night to remain atop the Eastern Conference standings and move into a tie with the LA Galaxy in the Supporters' Shield race. Columbus took the lead on a first-half mistake by D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid, and made the most of that break with a composed, confident performance.

One goal was all the Crew would need for its second win in Washington in four days. The Black & Gold secured passage to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Wednesday, and on Saturday maintained their push toward a third straight Supporters' Shield.

Under pressure from Schelotto, the 19-year-old Hamid muffed a back pass, then whiffed on a half-volleyed clearance. The Crew's Argentine maestro seized the loose ball and side-footed his shot into the net. Columbus did not allow the home team a single shot on goal in the game, meaning that keeper William Hesmer did not have to make a save to secure his 10th shutout of the season.

The Galaxy played the Chicago Fire to a 1-1 draw on Saturday, allowing the Crew to draw level with them on 44 points, heading into next Saturday's marquee matchup between the two teams at The Home Depot Center. The Crew extended its lead in the East to seven points over New York, which lost at Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

New signing Andres Mendoza made his MLS debut in the 89th minute, entering the match as a substitute for Schelotto. Mendoza's arrival came in the nick of time as Columbus is still without Robbie Rogers (knee), Emmanuel Ekpo (groin), and Adam Moffat (yellow card accumulation).

RUDE AWAKENING: UNITED'S DREAM RUN DASHED

WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 1, 2010 - It was too good to be true. D.C. United’s disastrous, dark season had been clinging onto a single ray of light in form of the U.S. Open Cup before Wednesday night’s semifinal matchup with the Columbus Crew.

And when striker Pablo Hernandez powered a 1st half penalty kick to give United a 1-0 advantage, supporters could have been forgiven for dreaming of two USOC finals two years running.

But when it was all said and done, perhaps it was fitting that, in a season where everything that can go wrong has, they were completely abandoned by Lady Luck, once and for all. United’s 2-1 loss to Columbus included a phantom red card that put the team in a shell for the final half an hour after holding a comfortable lead, an at-the-death equalizer and two gilt-edge opportunities thereafter blown.

You name it, United suffered it.

“It was everything, obviously,” United midfielder Santino Quaranta said of the Open Cup defeat. “It's gut wrenching… there’s not too many words I have to describe it.”

Other members of United were similarly at a loss for words, too. Head Coach Ben Olsen sported glassy if not teary eyes and was nearly inaudible at his press conference; defender Julius James took questions quietly. When James was done answering questions, however, he asked reporters if he could share a statement of his own.

“I just want to say one thing… this is a really tough time for us and especially for [the fans],” James said. “The most important thing is we satisfy the fans and we haven’t being doing that this year, and I just want to sincerely thank the diehard guys for coming and supporting us.”

It didn’t have to be so doom and gloom, though.

United were maintaining a comfortable lead against a seemingly disinterested Crew when the game’s turning point came in the 59th minute. United’s goalscorer, Pablo Hernandez— an expensive Argentinean exploit still looking to find his feet in the American game— got tangled up in a tackle with Crew defender Danny O’Rourke and, in the midst of falling to the ground, flailed out slightly.

Though only minimum contact with O’Rourke was made, the Crew defender stood over Hernandez’ face and berated him before referee Chris Penso consulted with his fourth official and then awarding the Argentinean a red card.

United remained in a 4-4-1— with Honduran sensation Andy Najar moved up top— and coped admirably with 10 men for most of the second half. But as the game wore in, United slipped more and more into a defensive shell, and eventually were made to pay for their change in style of play when Crew substitute forward Dilly Duka danced around the box before dishing a pass to defender Andy Iro, who hammered the ball into the back of the net.

Literally seconds later, right from the kickoff, Najar was put in 1v1 on net, but Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenenbaum charged out and Najar nipped it wide.

Seven minutes into overtime, United yielded a penalty that Guiellermo Barros Schelotto dispatched to put the Crew up. Seven minutes after that, United defender Dejan Jakovic summed up United’s entire season with a jaw dropping miss: A shank of a shot from three yards out, off a cross on the ground, with a wide open net at the taking.

After the game, United players, staff and even team president Kevin Payne stood around in the locker room watching the replay of the red card repeatedly, in seeming disbelief that their last run at redeeming had ran out.

Indeed, it was as if the team couldn’t let go of a daring dream in the midst of a nightmare season.

“I’m not going to lie: [the Open Cup] was a big part of the rest of the season,” Olsen said. “We had it. You know. We just can’t reward ourselves, it’s very frustrating."

BATTERY CLAIMS USL-2 CHAMPIONSHIP AS SEASON COMES TO A CLOSE

CHARLESTON, SC - August 28, 2010 - The Charleston Battery claimed the 2010 USL Second Division Championship with a 2-1 victory over the always competitive Richmond Kickers. A crowd heavy with Battery supporters saw their regular season champions take a two goal lead thanks to the play of Lamar Neagle and Ian Fuller. An Edson Elcock goal in the 73rd minute gave the Kickers hope, but the 2009 champions just couldn't find the equalizer to push the match into overtime.

Former Cleveland City Stars defender Alioune Gueye spent 90+ minutes in the Charleston midfield, helping to slow down the Richmond attack. Prolific scorer Matthew Delicâte was kept under control, leaving the match without a goal or an assist for the Kickers.

Fuller would be the hero of the night as he cleared a Delicâte volley off the line with just seconds remaining in stoppage time. The potential goal would have sent the game into extra time, 30 minutes to be exact. Scoring a goal and making a critical defensive stop were major accomplishments for the Battery midfielder. Tim Melia proved to be an asset in goal, making eight saves and commanding the Battery backline.

With the season now over, players from USL-2 scramble to continue playing during the American outdoor season. Harrisburg City goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski has been invited to train with the Philadelphia Union, potentially serving as their third MLS goalkeeper. Chencinski's Harrisburg teammate, defender/midfielder Sheanon Williams, has also joined the Union after signing a pro contract with the MLS club. The U.S. youth national team product played in both the U-17 World Cup in Korea and the U-20 World Cup in Egypt.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND, BUT NO GOALS

COLUMBUS, OH - August 28, 2010 - The stellar performances of Brek Shea and Emilio Renteria were the talk of Saturday's matchup between FC Dallas (9-2-10) and the Columbus Crew (12-5-5), even though the result was a 0-0 draw. Both players displayed playmaking abilities, good speed, and solid technique. Danny O'Rourke of the Crew and Zach Loyd of FC Dallas were given the arduous task of marking and containing Shea and Renteria, respectively.

The Crew's first opportunity came in the 10th minute as FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman mishandled the ball off a potential save. The ball fell to the Crew's Chad Marshall for what looked to be a sure goal. Quick thinking by midfielder Atiba Harris saved the day for Dallas as the St. Kitts native scrambled to get the block.

FC Dallas threatened just six minutes later as Shea made a run and laid down a bullet of a shot, but it was wide left. Harris would take a shot of his own in the 24th, but it was also off target. Shea would challenge the Crew defense again in the 35th minute, but he would come up empty after his shot went just left of the goal.

Renteria would set up one of the best opportunities of the match four minutes later, delivering a beautiful cross near Jason Garey, who wasn't able to convert it into a goal. Renteria would take his own shot in the 40th from outside the area, but suffered a hard foul from Loyd.

Seconds later, a Guillermo Barros Schelotto free kick looked to be another good chance, but the shot deflected off the Dallas wall. A quick breakaway for FC Dallas would follow with Shea getting yet another chance at goal, but nothing would come of it. A physical first half would end in a 0-0 score, but there was promise for a more interesting second half.

"Once again for some reason we played a little better in the second half," Crew striker Jason Garey continued. "We got to try to figure out how we can do that in the first half. I thought we definitely were better in the second half, trying to create some more chances."

The first big moment of the second half came off a beautiful Shea cross, which landed at the feet of David Ferreira. The striker's shot was high, but a good opportunity nevertheless. Renteria would then get the ball after a Schelotto free kick, but his kick was also high.

Renteria would be manhandled yet again in the 60th, resulting in a Crew free kick just outside the area. Iro would connect with the cross, but couldn't convert it into a Columbus goal. Hyndman hoped for a spark in the 61st and 62nd, sending in veteran striker Jeff Cunningham and young midfielder Eric Avila.

The 68th minute provided the Crew with another opportunity and another brilliant play by the Dallas defense. A solid shot by Schelotto would be blocked by Loyd, ending the Crew advance.

Ten minutes later yellow cards would be handed out to captains Schelotto and Daniel Hernandez. Dallas would go on to use their final sub in the 72nd minute with Jackson Goncalves entering the match. Steven Lenhart would find his way onto the field in the 82nd, taking over for a battered and beaten Renteria.

"Probably the guy who caused us the most trouble today was Renteria," FC Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman commented in the post-game press conference. "He was just a handful. Physical and caused us to be back on our heels a lot. That was one player we were not ready for."

The scary thought is that Renteria has only been with the Crew for roughly a year. "I think he has room for improvement. I think he is going to be a better player," Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha explained. "He got called for the (Venezuelan) national team and that is an indication that he is getting better on the field."

Schelotto himself would come out in the 90th, making the way for Kevin Burns in a tactical move by Warzycha. Burns was asked to fortify the Crew defense for the final minutes of stoppage time, keeping the match scoreless. The game would end with little drama in a 0-0 draw.

The Crew now hit the road for two games against D.C. United on September 1st and 4th, while Dallas heads home for a match against Toronto FC on September 4th.

Columbus Crew Starting XI- GK William Hesmer, DEF Danny O'Rourke, DEF Andy Iro, DEF Chad Marshall, DEF Shaun Francis, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Brian Carroll, MID Adam Moffat, MID Emilio Renteria, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto (C), FWD Jason Garey

FC Dallas Starting XI- GK Kevin Hartman, DEF Heath Pearce, DEF George John, DEF Zach Loyd, DEF Jair Benitez, MID Atiba Harris, MID Eric Alexander, MID Daniel Hernandez (C), MID Brek Shea, FWD David Ferreira, FWD Milton Rodriguez

Columbus Crew Bench- GK Andy Gruenebaum, DEF Eric Brunner, DEF Kevin Burns, MID Dilly Duka, MID Leandre Griffit, MID Duncan Oughton, FWD Steven Lenhart

FC Dallas Bench-GK Dario Sala, DEF Edson Edward, DEF Jackson Goncalves, MID Eric Avila, MID Martin Chavez, MID Bruno Guarda, FWD Jeff Cunningham

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CREW GAIN RESPECT IN CONTROVERSIAL LOSS TO SANTOS

TORREON, MEXICO - August 24, 2010 - Santos Laguna used a second-half stoppage-time goal from Ivan Estrada to claim a controversial 1-0 victory over the Crew Tuesday at Estadio Corona in CONCACAF Champions League action. Santos Laguna now has six points from two games in Group B, while the Crew, which was less than a minute from bringing home a point from Mexico for the first time, has three.

The Crew had an apparent Andy Iro goal, off an Emilio Renteria cross, disallowed in the 22nd minute. Renteria was forced to the sidelines after a clash left him bleeding from the head. After being bandaged, he was waved back onto the field by referee Luis Rodriguez prior to a Duncan Oughton free kick in the mid-third, at which point he immediately played a key role in the scoring play. However, Rodriguez subsequently nullified the goal because the jersey Renteria changed into (from his bloodied one) did not have a number on it, despite the fact that the fourth official seemingly approved his reentry.

For the second straight Champions League match, goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was stellar between the posts for the Crew, making seven saves on Tuesday, but he appeared to be screened on Estrada's last-gasp, one-timed left-footed side volley and could not keep it out of the net.

It was a gutty performance by a Crew team that did not feature regular starters Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk, Danny O'Rourke, Adam Moffat and William Hesmer, while midfield regulars Eddie Gaven and Emmanuel Ekpo came on as second-half substitutes.

AZTEX COME FROM BEHIND TO GAIN THREE POINTS

AUSTIN, TX - August 22, 2010 - The Austin Aztex defeated the Carolina RailHawks last night in front of a 4,000 plus crowd. After trailing by one in the first twenty minutes, the Aztex eventually fought back to achieve a victory of 3-2. Fresh off their goalless defeat last weekend against Puerto Rico, Eddie Johnson, Yohance Marshall and Randi Patterson all netted one for the Aztex.

Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath praised his team’s performance and the determination they displayed: “Not only were the goals great, but so was the reaction of the players. I really thought this was one of our best performances tonight.”

Although the Aztex dominated possession, Carolina opened the scoring in the 18th minute after Josh Gardner found Daniel Paldini inside the box.

Fifteen minutes later, Lance Watson made a critical tackle, dispossessing a RailHawk player. Watson crossed to Johnson who drove the ball low into the left corner to even the score at 1-1.

“After the loss in Puerto Rico, we knew that we couldn’t take things for granted even though we have been doing so well,” said Johnson. “We proved again tonight that we have the ability to beat everybody in this league.”

In the second half the game opened up even more with Yordany Alvarez assisting Yohance Marshall in the 66th minute.

Substitute and recent newcomer Randi Patterson put pressure on the Carolina defense within minutes of entering the field. After outrunning the defense to pick up a ball played over the top, Patterson was one-on-one with the goalkeeper his touch played right into the keeper’s arms.

However, Patterson would eventually increase the Aztex lead by two goals, marking his first-ever Aztex goal.

The RailHawks attempted their own comeback in minute 83 when Allan Russell scored after congestion inside the penalty box. Russell capitalized on a deflection after Aztex goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo failed to get a firm hand on a previous shot.

Next up, the Aztex have a tough schedule by traveling to Portland on Thursday, who currently sit in second place behind the Aztex. Austin will then take on the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are in first place in the NASL Conference, on Sunday.

However, Heath does not seem worried about the upcoming schedule with a playoff berth inevitable.

“We’re mathematically ok, but what we want to do now is win the league. We have two very big games coming up, but I feel the win tonight was very important for the belief in our players.”

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

RAIN, RAIN, RAPIDS GO AWAY WITH A LOSS

COLUMBUS, OH - August 21, 2010 - Thanks to goals from three different players, the Columbus Crew (12-5-4) turned a short rest into a 3-1 victory over the visiting Colorado Rapids (7-5-8).

Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha went with a similar lineup despite mounting injuries and a very crowded schedule. Midfielder Robbie Rogers (knee cyst) and defender Gino Padula (knee inflammation) remained out with injuries, while Brian Carroll returned from illness to find a spot on the substitute bench.

Eddie Gaven gave the Crew their first opportunity of the night in just the sixth minute after he was taken down in the box by an overaggresive Matt Pickens. The PK would go to the one and only Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who beat Pickens to deliver a 1-0 lead for the Crew. Schelotto has been the "Iron Man" of the Crew this season, leading all field players in minutes played.

The Crew attack would then go quiet for almost 25 minutes with Columbus focused on repelling the advance of the Rapids. The defense for Columbus held strong despite several chances produced by Colorado. Crew Stadium would fall silent in the 46th as veteran Pablo Mastroeni brought the score even just before the half. Emmanuel Ekpo lost track of Mastroeni, while Andy Iro was caught out of position on the Rapids' goal. Colorado's captain worked in combination with Mehdi Ballouchy to get the goal for the Rapids. There seemed to be a shift in momentum towards the visiting team at the half, but the real answer would come in the final 45 minutes.

"When we came in at 1 each at halftime I was very, very pleased," Rapids Head Coach Gary Smith commented in the post-game press conference. "The guys felt that they could go on to win the game. At that point there was no reason to suggest that we couldn't."

However, the second half became an entirely different story, one dedicated to the Crew attack. A Crew squad that had fallen asleep for nearly half an hour suddenly came to life. Jason Garey, who has now put together a string of solid performances, pushed the Crew up 2-1 in the 53rd, thanks to a solid opportunistic effort. Garey would threaten again in the 61st, but slipped on the wet turf trying to reach a precise pass from Eddie Gaven.

The heavy rain seemed to rejuvenate the Crew attack as several breakaways resulted in even more opportunities for Columbus. Garey had a sure goal disallowed minutes later as the Rapids struggled to keep pace. It looked to be a legitimate offsides call even though several Crew players disputed the decision.

"I think Jason Garey did a good job today," Coach Warzycha suggested. "He was very busy, obviously that was a good finish on the second goal."

Both coaches would make some tactical substitutions with the Rapids opting for Jamie Smith, Claudio Lopez, and Quincy Amarikwa. The Crew called on both Carroll and Steven Lenhart.

Warzycha's decision to bring Lenhart off the bench provided immediate dividends as the Crew scored their final goal in the 80th minute. A Schelotto corner kick connected with Chad Marshall, who deflected it to Lenhart for the finish. The 3-1 lead for the Crew gave the Rapids a lot to think about, but not much time to act. The match would end with no change in score, even though the visitors put forth a great effort to get back into the game.

When asked about his lineup choices and the rationale behind them, Warzycha stated, "We are not putting the players on the field to fail. We put them on to succeed."

"Whether they are coming off the bench or starting the game, they are doing what they are supposed to do: they play hard and they play for the team," Warzycha continued.

Without a short turnaround, the Crew's focus changes back to CONCACAF Champions League play as they face Santos Laguna on Tuesday evening.

A potentially hostile environment awaits the Crew on their trip to Estadio Nuevo Corona in Mexico. Veteran midfielder Duncan Oughton admits he has seen a little bit of everything. "You kinda know what you are going to get. They usually throw different stuff at you. We'll see what they come up with this time."

Columbus Crew Starting XI- GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Chad Marshall, DEF Andy Iro, DEF Shaun Francis, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Adam Moffat, MID Danny O'Rourke, MID Emmanuel Ekpo, FWD Jason Garey FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Colorado Rapids Starting XI- GK Matt Pickens, DEF Marvell Wynne, DEF Julian Baudet, DEF Scott Palguta, DEF Drew Moor, MID Wells Thompson, MID Pablo Mastroeni (C), MID Jeff Larentowicz, MID Mehdi Ballouchy, FWD Omar Cummings, FWD Conor Casey

Columbus Crew Bench- GK Andy Gruenebaum, DEF Eric Brunner, MID Brian Carroll, MID Leandre Griffit, MID Duncan Oughton, FWD Steven Lenhart, FWD Emilio Renteria

Colorado Rapids Bench- GK Chris Sharpe, DEF Danny Earls, DEF Kosuke Kimura, MID Ross LaBauex, MID Jamie Smith, FWD Quincy Amarikwa, FWD Claudio Lopez

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KICKERS EARN CHAMPIONSHIP BERTH

Ohio Vortex star Louis Rolko gets 90 minutes in loss to Richmond

RICHMOND, VA - August 21, 2010 - The Richmond Kickers earned their sixth Championship appearance in the past nine seasons with a decisive 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the USL Second Division Semifinals Saturday night.  Forward Matthew Delicâte contributed a goal and an assist to send the Kickers to the final round, which will be held in Charleston, S.C. next Saturday, August 28th.  The Kickers will face the regular season champions Charleston Battery at 6:00 p.m., LIVE on Fox Soccer Channel.

Both the Kickers and the Riverhounds entered tonight’s high-stakes match with one result in sight, as each team tested their opponent’s defense in the early going. 

First, in the 17th minute, Delicâte connected on a bouncing pass from Foglesong inside the box but his half volley was deflected by a Pittsburgh defender. 

Six minutes later, Riverhounds forward Jeremy Deighton played a high cross from the right side, finding Matt Tuttle on the far post, but the resultant left-footed strike sailed wide.

Things took a more serious turn in the 31st minute when Kickers midfielder Mike Burke lofted a cross into the box from the left wing.  The ball found Gerson dos Santos in the air, who made a leaping effort to out-jump his opponent and nodded the ball against the running direction of the ‘keeper, only to be denied by the post.

Looking to capitalize on the momentum and building confidence, Kickers midfielder Luke Vercollone fed a through ball to an onrushing Burke, streaking down the left flank.  Approaching the box, he delayed the play and laid the ball off to a wide-open Delicâte at the penalty spot.  With one touch, Delicâte launched a strike on goal but a well positioned Hunter Gilstrap was able to keep the Kickers' leading scorer off the scoresheet.

Delicâte proved to become a familiar foe for Gilstrap, getting the better of the Riverhounds goalkeeper less than one minute later.  This time, defender Dave Hertel worked the ball down the right sideline and served a cross to the lurking forward.  Winning the ball in the air, he redirected it from the six yard line and then watched as the ball rebounded off the underside of the crossbar before bouncing over the goal line behind the helpless goalkeeper.

Determined to make life difficult for Gilstrap all night, Delicâte was back in action in the 39th minute.  Forward Edson Elcock broke free on the left side and crossed the ball to the Kickers resident hit man but Gilstrap was ready this time and blocked his 10-yard missile.

Relentless on the Pittsburgh goal as the final minute of the half ticked on, the Kickers nearly collected another tally before the break.  Shaking his defender, Sascha Görres played a pinpoint pass to dos Santos inside the six-yard box.  Face-to-face with Gilstrap, dos Santos redirected the ball from point blank range but his effort deflected off the big goalkeeper’s chest. 

The second half began no differently than the first, with a battle in Pittsburgh territory ensuring out of the gates.  Within the first five minutes, a streaking Burke carried the ball along the left wing, eluding his defender and launching a rocket over the crossbar

The home side solidified their lead in the 50th minute when Delicâte received a long ball from Görres at the far post.  Playing it back across the box, he fed the ball to a trailing Foglesong, who buried a right footed volley into the back of the net.

Looking to pull a goal back in the 75th minute, the Riverhounds found a second wind when forward Chad Severs beat his mark and unleashed a low left-footed strike inside the 18-yard box that deflected inches over the target.

Without giving up hope, the Riverhounds saw their best chance of the night fall just short in the 90th minute.  Midfielder Travis MacKenzie struck from distance, only to have his attempt ricochet back into the mix and fall to the foot of Deighton 12 yards out.  Anticipating the second strike, Kickers goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale kept his composure and deflected Deighton’s effort over the end line to preserve the clean sheet.

Photo Credit: Pamela E. Moody

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IS HERE

COLUMBUS, OH - August 18, 2010 - The Columbus Crew are becoming quite good at balancing a tight schedule as the club is a serious contender for four pieces of hardware: the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters' Shield, the CONCACAF Champions League, and of course the MLS Cup. Wednesday night started their journey into the Champions League competition as the Crew defeated Municipal, champions of the Guatemalan First Division, 1-0 at Crew Stadium.

Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha fielded a competitive squad that included regular starters and the likes of "super sub" Jason Garey, speedy Emmanuel Ekpo, and keeper Andy Gruenebaum, who is regarded as one of the best backup goalkeepers in the league. It was an opportunity to give players some minutes, provide rest for ailing starters, and still be a force to be reckoned with.

Ekpo would start the game with a flourish, threatening the Municipal keeper 5 minutes in with a bit of flashy play. He would be denied the goal, but that wouldn't be the case in the 14th as he put the Crew up 1-0 with spectacular individual play. Assisted by captain Frankie Hejduk, Ekpo was able to put together a collection of moves, going out and around the Municipal defenders to score the first goal of the match.

Municipal keeper Jaime Penedo would continue to be under pressure by the Crew attack. Jason Garey made quite a run in the 17th minute, but was taken down in the box without a call. Penedo would respond with an assortment of saves in the 18th, 30th, and 32nd minutes as the hometown Crew pushed forward early and often. Halftime would come with little fanfare as the Crew held their 1-0 lead. The legendary Guatemalan club still found themselves in the game thanks to an MVP-type performance by their keeper, who had four saves in the first half. Municipal could have faced a much deeper deficit going into the second half without Penedo's solid play in goal.

Municipal would make two substitutes at the half, hoping to change the momentum of the match. Gruenebaum would be forced to make a quick save just a few minutes in as the Reds started the attack. Garey and Schelotto would link up for a nice run in the 50th minute, but the play was broken up before a legitimate scoring opportunity could be had.

The pressure on Municipal continued in the 59th as Penedo got a hand on a shot, which resulted in a Schelotto corner kick. Hejduk would take a shot of his own moments later, but it landed squarely in the hands of the keeper.

The legendary Guillermo Barros Schelotto would have quite an opportunity in the 61st minute, receiving a perfect pass with space to work. Schelotto took the uncontested shot with considerable power, but it drifted up and over the bar. Chad Marshall would follow up with a narrow miss off a header during some seriously physical play in the box.

The Crew would continue their aggressive push forward in the 70th as Eddie Gaven's shot went just wide of the goal. The always dangerous Emilio Renteria would enter the match in place of Adam Moffat in the 70th. Columbus would continue to commit lots of players forward in the attack, creating lots of opportunities.

Gaven would make another run at the goal in the 77th, but got tangled up with the Los Rojos keeper. The Crew's dominance continued even though the scoreboard showed just a 1-0 lead for the Crew.

Ekpo took a hard challenge in the 82nd, but it did not warrant a call from referee Roberto Garcia. He would be subbed off for Leandre Griffit a moment later. A heated conversation between Renteria and Garcia would result in a yellow card in the 86th, but the very physical play continued.

The Crew closed out the final minutes of the game with little suspense and no change in the score. Clearly it was a good start to the competition for the Crew.

"I thought we created a pretty good amount of chances," Crew striker Jason Garey commented. "It could have been 2, 3, 4 for us. That is something we are going to work on, but we are just happy with three points."

The Crew return to MLS action this Saturday against the Colorado Rapids as they continue to maneuver through a crowded schedule. Columbus will then transition back to CCL play on August 24th as they head to Mexico to face Santos Laguna.

The sheer number of games in a short period of time is demanding for players, but definitely doable for the experienced Crew squad. "We can keep our own style, that's the way we like to play," Crew midfielder Adam Moffat stated. "If it's a battling game, we can battle. If it's a passing game, we can pass. We are quite versatile that way."

Columbus Crew Starting XI- GK Andy Gruenebaum, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Andy Iro, DEF Chad Marshall, DEF Shaun Francis, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Adam Moffat, MID Danny O'Rourke, MID Emmanuel Ekpo, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto, FWD Jason Garey

Municipal Starting XI- GK Jaime Penedo, DEF Jaime Vides, DEF Pablo Melgar, DEF Yony Flores, DEF Pablo Soloranzo, MID Gustavo Cabrera, MID Cristian Noriega, MID Sergio Guevara, MID Gonzalo Romero (C), MID Guillermo Ramirez, FWD Mario Rodriguez

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U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM SET TO FACE POLAND ON OCT. 9 AT CHICAGO’S SOLDIER FIELD 

CHICAGO, IL - Aug. 18, 2010 - The U.S. Men’s National Team will face Poland on Oct. 9 in Chicago, the home of the U.S. Soccer Federation.  Kickoff at Soldier Field is set for 7 p.m. CT, and the match will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel and the Univision networks.  Fans can also follow along on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and twitter.com/ussoccer.

Ticket information for the match will be available in the near future.

"These fixture dates are a fantastic opportunity to have the group together for an extended period and then put the work to the test with a difficult match,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley.  “We know this is an important opportunity for Poland as they prepare for the 2012 European Championship, so we expect a challenging game.  Chicago has a fantastic tradition of supporting soccer and the U.S. national team, and with the large Polish community in the area it should make for an exciting atmosphere.”

Against Poland, the United States has an all-time record of 7-7-2 in a series dating back to 1924.  The teams have met seven times previously on U.S. soil, Poland holding a 4-2-1 advantage. Their most recent encounter in the United States came July 11, 2004, when Carlos Bocanegra equalized in the 88th minute to lift the U.S. to a 1-1 draw in front of nearly 40,000 fans at Soldier Field. The teams last met on March 26, 2008 in Krakow, where goals from Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu and Eddie Lewis paced the U.S. to a comprehensive 3-0 victory.

Poland will co-host the 2012 European Championship along with Ukraine.  Having qualified for the FIFA World Cup seven times, the Poles twice finished in third place in that tournament, in 1974 and 1982. 

After an 11-year absence from Chicago, the U.S. will now be playing its sixth match at Soldier Field since 2004. Having hosted the semifinal and the sold-out final of the 2007 Gold Cup in which 60,000 fans saw the United States defeat Mexico 2-1 to secure its second-consecutive Gold Cup title, the Windy City also welcomed nearly 48,000 fans in 2005 when the U.S. suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of England. The U.S. has a 3-3-2 record in Chicago since 1992, which includes a win against No. 8-ranked Portugal and a draw with four-time World Cup Champion Italy.

CREW FALLS TO REAL SALT LAKE 2-0 SATURDAY AT RIO TINTO STADIUM

SANDY, UT - August 14, 2010 - Javier Morales scored both goals as Real Salt Lake defeated the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew, 2-0, Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in a match between the past two MLS champions.

RSL struck just 11 minutes in as Fabian Espindola found fellow Argentine Morales with space to work on a short corner kick. Morales appeared to move in to float a cross to his fellow attackers, but instead he blasted the ball off the far post and in. The Crew nearly scored late in the first half when Steven Lenhart received a cross into the box and managed to get a head on the ball that forced RSL keeper Nick Rimando into a fine diving save at the far post.

Columbus came out with much more attacking fight in the second half, creating a couple of good chances early on. In the 54th minute, Adam Moffat challenged Rimando with a left-footed strike that forced the RSL keeper to once again come up with an acrobatic diving save. However, Morales capitalized on a free kick from just outside the area in the 59th minute, drilling a low shot that went through the wall and bounded past Hesmer to give RSL a 2-0 advantage.

Columbus was left playing catch-up and kept pressing hard. Its best chance of the night came in the 87th minute off a chip by substitute forward Leandre Griffit, who caught Rimando off his line. But the RSL 'keeper made a last minute leap that preserved the clean sheet.

RICHMOND DRAWS IN FINAL FIGHT

RICHMOND, VA - August 14, 2010 - The Richmond Kickers were back in action Saturday night at UR Stadium to host the Real Maryland Monarchs in the regular season finale. The match marked the fourth meeting between the two clubs. The first three were played across two weeks to open the season; two ended in Richmond’s favor, the other in a draw—and the fourth meeting would end just the same as the clubs placed the final stamp on the series this summer in a 1-1 draw.

The third annual “FAMILY FEST” rang in with a breezy 80-degrees and fans were in great attendance. The festivities began at 4 PM and consisted of games, inflatable attractions, food, and music; Kicker fans attended the game for just $10 per family if arriving before 6 PM. Fans swarmed City Stadium and continued to show their enthusiasm for the finale well in to the start of the match.

A sluggish start began the match. Richmond’s attempt in the 38th minute almost secured a goal; however, the goal post stood in the way of a rebound shot in to the goal. Further saves by Monarch goalkeeper Brian Visser concluded the first half 0-0.  

The scoreboard saw its first change in the second half’s second minute of play when Monarch midfielder Alan Sanchez took a shot just inside the box, placing the ball in the top center of the net. With Real Maryland leading 1-0, Richmond quickened the pace of their game taking shots on goal with each possession. Visser remained on his feet saving shots from Kicker forwards.

Kickers fans released sighs after each attempt on goal. In the 65th minute, another attempt was offset when the ball bounced off the crossbar; Richmond continued in search of vengeance. In the following minutes, several shots sailed over the goal.

After taking several shots on goal, Kicker midfielder Jonathan Villanueva was successful in the 73rd minute. He was wide open and took a left-footed shot about 25-30 yards outside the goal, tying up the game 1-1.

And that’s all it took for Richmond to gain momentum and Real Maryland to tally-up yellow cards.

In the 75th minute, Kicker midfielder Neil Barlow ran down right field toward the goal as a Monarch defender came from behind with a trip. Richmond took a penalty kick of which would have given Richmond the lead; however, Monarch goalkeeper Visser prevented Richmond from doing so with a save by his right foot, sending the ball up and out of bounds.

The second-half action certainly didn’t disappoint fans, most of who by this time were no longer sitting down in City Stadium. And as if the fans weren’t already biting their nails, referees added four minutes of stoppage time to regulation.

Kickers goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale made his save of the night just moments before the end of stoppage time. His save ended the match in a 1-1 draw.

Richmond now holds a 5-1-2 series against Real Maryland. While the Monarchs seasons came to close after Saturday’s match, Richmond will move forward to the USL-2 division playoffs. In the July 31 match, Richmond guaranteed either a first or second place league finish by edging the Harrisburg Islanders 1-0.

Richmond (9-5-6) entered the Aug. 14 match against the Monarchs just three points behind USL-2 leader Charleston Battery. The Battery won their Aug. 14 match against the Charlotte Eagles 3-0, awarding themselves with an additional three points and the USL-2 regular season title. The win secured the Battery’s No.1 seed in the USL-2 Championship game which is to be played Aug. 28.

The Kickers will return to UR Stadium to host the third-place Pittsburg Riverhounds on Aug. 21. The winner of the 7 PM semifinal match will continue on to meet Charleston at the championship. Tickets for the Aug. 21 match can be purchased online via RichmondKickers.com.

AZTEX DEFEAT ROWDIES IN TENSE MATCH

AUSTIN, TX - August 12, 2010 - The Austin Aztex defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies 4-2 in a thrilling match last night with all 6 goals coming from the action-packed first half. The match was riddled with many controversial calls from referee Niko Bratsis as a questionable goal by Jay Needham and a red card to Long Tan was given.

“There were some big decisions tonight that [Tampa Bay] will probably feel went against them. But I always thought we were going to score more than them tonight,” said Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath.

In the last two meetings between the teams the Aztex gave away late goals to be held to a draw against Tampa Bay.

The Aztex were eager not to repeat history as the first goal came from the second shot of the game. Aztex defender Jay Needham finished with his head from a corner kick by Jamie Watson in the 14th minute.

After the first goal, the game truly opened up with Lance Watson running onto a cross from Maxwell Griffin to tap in the ball right on the goal line.

Seconds later Tampa Bay retaliated by referee Bratsis awarding a penalty kick for a foul by Aztex defender Kevin Sakuda on forward Aaron King.  Ricardo Sanchez stepped up to take the kick and sent Aztex goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo the wrong way as the score became 2-1.

Sanchez again punished the Aztex as he was able to split the defense with a through pass to Tan who brilliantly timed his run to beat the offside’s trap. Tan was one on one with Gallardo and tied the score up in the 24th minute.

Ten minutes later Jay Needham scored his second goal of the night with once again an assist from Watson’s cross. However, the goal is highly debated as Rowdie goalkeeper Darryl Sattler insists the ball never crossed the goal line: “There are maybe 10 players around the ball and no one saw the ball cross the line. The linesman calls it a goal as the ball is already cleared out and 30 yards away. We were right in front of it. I disagree with him, but that’s just part of the game.”

The decision by the referee would continue to go against Tampa Bay as they were reduced to 10 men with Tan receiving a red card in minute 38. Tan was dismissed for fouling Tyler Hemming for throwing his elbows out when jumping in the air to receive a ball.

“I thought the sending off was harsh. Everyone uses their arm to give them leverage when jumping in the air. We have known [Tan] for a long time and he is not malicious,” said Heath.

In the final minutes of the first half, Maxwell Griffin dribbled into the penalty box and shot to the corner of the goal, giving the game its final goal with a score of 4-2.

Despite the win, Heath voiced his concern over the performance of his players: “I felt we were very careless tonight. We were careless in our passing, in our decision making. I felt some of our play was good, some was lackluster, and some was careless,” said Heath.

The play involving new signing Randi Patterson was positive as he pressured and attacked the goal when he came on as a substitute in the second half. His performance was reflected in Heath’s glowing reviews: “He is just the type of player we are looking for.”

“I’m glad to be here,” said Patterson after the game. “I am also extremely happy we were able to get a win tonight.”

The Aztex will next venture overseas for their next match in Puerto Rico against the Islanders on August 14th.

USA FALLS TO BRAZIL 2-0 AT THE NEW MEADOWLANDS STADIUM

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - August 10, 2010 - The U.S. Men’s National Team fell 2-0 to Brazil in the first match for both teams since the end of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The match was played in front of a crowd of 77,223 on a balmy night at the New Meadowlands Stadium. 

U.S. head coach Bob Bradley started nine players who were members of the 2010 World Cup Team, including team captain Carlos Bocanegra, goalkeeper Tim Howard, midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Landon Donovan. The two players getting starts who were not in South Africa were Omar Gonzalez, who earned his first full national team cap in the center of the defense, and Alejandro Bedoya, who earned his fourth cap after getting the nod at right midfield. 

"Early on, the ball was moving quickly and we had good energy,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. “The fact that we were not able to sustain that is certainly more of an indication of where the players are at this point in the year in terms of pre-seasons. 

“We were able to reestablish ourselves in the second half but I would still say it shows that defending against the best teams in World Cup or teams like Brazil is just something we need to work on. To be able to play in these kinds of games where you can be dangerous with the ball, move it quickly, create chances and still defend, that's what we're always shooting for."

Brazil, playing its first game under new head coach Mano Menezes, brought a young team to the friendly, but did start all four players on its roster who represented Brazil in South Africa: defenders Thiago Silva and Dani Alves and midfielders Robinho and Ramires. 

The U.S. had the first good chance of the game which came in the third minute as Edson Buddle did well to evade a defender and played a short penetrating pass to Landon Donovan who was cutting into the penalty box. Donovan deftly touched the ball past David Luiz and then rode the tackle of Thiago Silva, but the U.S. forward did not go down in the box and the ball was toe-poked away for a corner kick. 

Brazil utilized its outside backs well to control the pace of the game in the first half and opened the scoring in the 28th minute off a cross from left back Andre Santos. Neymar created a bit of space to free himself from U.S. defender Jonathan Bornstein and headed the ball into the lower left corner from 10 yards out. 

Brazil scored its second goal in stoppage time of the first half as a nice build-up through the center of the midfield led to Ramires playing a ball behind the U.S. defense to Pato. The AC Milan striker had plenty of time and space to evade Howard with a dribble to the right before rolling the ball into the open net. 

Earlier in the half, Brazil also appeared to score in the 32nd minute, but Pato ran over Howard as he bundled the ball into the goal and the tally was quickly waved off for a foul. 

The USA threatened twice more in the first half as Brazilian goalkeeper Victor had to punch away a free kick service from Donovan and Bocanegra headed a corner kick service over the crossbar in the 40th minute. 

Bradley made three changes at halftime, sending on Sacha Kljestan for Benny Feilhaber, Jozy Altidore for Buddle and changed ‘keepers, giving Brad Guzan 45 minutes in place of Howard. 

Just seconds into the second half, Pato got through in the left side of the penalty box, but drilled his shot into the side netting. Brazil’s other second half chances included Robinho hitting the right goal post after a scramble inside the box in the 53rd minute and Neymar pounding a shot at the U.S. goal from the left side of the penalty area in the 61st minute, but Guzan did well to bat that chance away at the near post.

The USA also had a goal called back in the 56th minute when Kljestan bent a cross into the penalty area after receiving a short corner kick from Donovan. The cross was perfect, but Michael Bradley was in an offside position when he headed the ball into the roof of the net from inside the six-yard box. 

In the 67th minute, Kljestan struck a free kick from just outside the penalty box on the left side that Victor had to smother at the near post. 

Both teams made numerous substitutions during the match, with Bradley using all six of his allowed changes and Menezes calling on five of his reserves. World Cup squad members Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez entered the fray in the second half, in the 62nd and 67th minute, respectively. When Findley replaced Donovan, the New Meadowlands Stadium crowd rose to their feet to applaud the three-goal scorer from the 2010 World Cup. 

The USA’s best chance of the match came in the 85th minute, when substitute Gomez nearly pulled a goal back. Right back Jonathan Spector whipped in a trademark bending cross, which Gomez met at the near post. His downward header was firm but Victor did well to scrape the ball around the side of the post. 

Guzan was called to action in second-half stoppage time as Andre Santos received the ball from Ganso in a dangerous position in the box. Santos’ shot was firm but Guzan did superb to get down to his right and block the ball out of bounds for a corner. 

On the final whistle, the crowd rose to show their appreciation for a U.S. team who captured their imagination during this memorable World Cup summer. The U.S. players acknowledged their fans and applauded the support while standing in the center circle as fireworks were set off around the stadium.

LOUIE, LOUIE KEEPS THE BALL ROLLING IN PITTSBURGH

Vortex star shines brightly in the Steel City

How ironic is this…a Cleveland native is helping a Pittsburgh team push for the playoffs?

Defender Louis Rolko has made his name known throughout the USL-2 this year with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a team that will soon qualify for the playoffs, but still is jumbled for the last two playoff spots.

“I did catch a little slack for being from Cleveland,” Louis joked about playing in a city that Clevelanders generally do not like. “When we go out to camps I usually tell people my name and that ‘I am from the greatest city in the world.’ Then all the kids ask what city I am from and when I say Cleveland they start booing.”

All joking aside, ‘Louie’ (as he is better known by) has represented his city well with the Riverhounds, as he is a part of a special breed of defenders that hail from Northeast Ohio (Dasan Robinson of the Chicago Fire and Barry Rice of D.C. United).

When asked why Cleveland had done so well, the defender said, “I think there is a good level of coaching there. Growing up I think I was very lucky to have coaches with World Cup and professional experience. Foreign coaches especially gave their insight to the game and that has been very beneficial to us.”

Rolko added that playing with different nationalities adds flavor and competition that players may not get at another place. “I think that is unique to our area.”

Cleveland has seen her players play in different levels of soccer throughout the country, but without a team of her own, one may wonder if Cleveland can continue to give the game the great players like it has. Rolko disagrees and adds, “I think the quality (of players) is there, even the college programs in the area will help put good players out there even though they are lacking that next level.”

Like most other athletes in the country, Louis had to choose the sport that fitted him best, “When I was 10 I played baseball, basketball, football and soccer. Football was first to go because it was the biggest conflict with soccer, then basketball went because it wasn’t fun, and then baseball went because of the time commitment.”

Louie points out that he had to give all to his commitments. “It was almost impossible and unfair to the other players on my team in the other sports because I was not always going to be there, and I had to have a full commitment in one sport.”

Not only has Louis committed to several different teams in his career, but he has spent time indoors, recently with the Ohio Vortex, of the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL). “Playing with the Vortex was different,” he said. “Nobody really teaches you how to play indoor soccer, so there was a big adjustment and a big change. I think we were lucky to have Denzil (Antonio) as our coach, since he has a wealth of indoor experience. I think it was a good experience and I really look forward to playing with those guys again.”

Louis is surrounded, in Pittsburgh, by another Cleveland native, “I did not know Jeremy (Deighton), of Broadview Heights, until I met him here. We have gotten to know each other and we live together, so it’s cool getting to play with somebody from Cleveland. When we go back (to Cleveland in the offseason), we’ll probably train with each other.”

Now these two Clevelanders will be searching for a USL-2 crown, no matter how big of a rivalry Cleveland and Pittsburgh have.

CREW DOWN MORENO AND THE UNION

CHESTER, PA - August 5, 2010 - Two goals from substitute Steven Lenhart was the difference in the Crew's 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Thursday night.

The Crew's first-ever meeting with the expansion Union was televised live nationally on ESPN2. Lenhart, who entered the game in the 27th minute for Jason Garey who was forced to leave with a stomach ailment, powered home two headed goals to put a dent in the Union's impressive home record while helping his Eastern Conference-leading Crew bounce back from a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Chivas USA last weekend.

Scoring on either side of halftime, Lenhart's first strike was matched by a Sebastien Le Toux penalty kick just before the break, but the Union weren't able to bounce back a second time. It was Lenhart's first two-goal game in league play.

THE BEST FORM OF ATTACK: MOVE FOR DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER MARQUEZ SIGNALS INTENT

If the age-old adage that defense wins championships is true, you probably couldn’t deduce as much from MLS’s Designated Player list before Wednesday.

DP’s— MLS’s artful attempt to attract the world’s best players while striking a balance between the former NASL’s over-paying madness and the league’s otherwise relatively low spending compared to that of major leagues elsewhere in the world— are, in theory, acquired to help their teams to achieve the ultimate aspiration: Securing silverware.

However up to this point, nearly all DPs have been offensive players; tricky, if not flashy, attacking gems catering to goal-fiends and families who are, above all, looking to take in as many goals and good times from global demigods as possible.

Yet with the New York Red Bulls, MLS’s newest and most prominent evil empire, already now boasting the league’s most formidable strike force in Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel— who could, quite frankly, still start for at least half the teams in any league in the world— the Red Bulls front office finally turned their attention to showing the rest of the league how influential a defensive Designated Player signing can be too when they announced the long-awaited arrival of defensive midfielder Rafael Marquez.

Marquez, the 31 year-old Mexican international who is fresh from F.C. Barcelona and would have almost certainly landed at a fellow highly prestigious European club if he hadn’t become NYRB’s third and final DP, will instantly bring such undoubted class to the Red Bull lineup that head coach Hans Backe will be synchronizing the team’s formation around Marquez; perhaps more accurately, around those sides Marquez has been so successful in.

Though keeping with the 4-4-2 he instituted when he became manager this past winter, Backe stated he would be switching to a diamond shape to play Marquez in his patented defensive midfield position, a spot that allows him to take care of the dirty work where it counts most: In between the midfield and defensive lines, where space is either created and utilized by an opposing attacker or snuffed out and turned back into possession by the defensive midfielder.

With play in front of him, Marquez will make that possession in significantly more sophisticated, too. Though lacking a potent scoring prowess, the Mexican international posses an exceptional passing repertoire that could see the making of a devastating counter-attack between Angel, Henry and teammates like Mac Kandji and Joel Lindpere— who set Henry’s debut goal against Tottenham two weeks ago.

Behind him, Red Bull’s center back pairing of Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes should also be big time benefactors of a player that will gobble up a sizeable portion of the loose balls that have been dumped in their direction this season; a feat which should let the defenders focus more on marking those who get through (highlighted when the team gave up a stoppage-time equalizer off a header from a cross in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Houston).

And around him, the diamond-shaped midfield could be implemented with instant payoff if Backe can position the right players into the right spots on a roster that already has a host of midfield options, including players like Joel Lindpere and Mac Kandji—both of whom greatly raised their level of play in the recent Barclays New York Challenge, where Henry made his debut, to the extent that Kandji attracted interest from the other European teams involved in the tournament.

All in all, New York (and yes, MLS too) is gaining another world-class player, in an increasingly critical position in world soccer, who chose to come over to the United States because he had achieved everything he could in Europe and wanted to achieve something new; intentions that bode well for the leagues growth that seem apparent, if at times abstract.

Red Bulls aggressive captures of three world-class players bode well for the league equally, and their tremendous trifecta will now be coming to an American city near you, believe it or not. The organization now finally has the tools to bring the club its first MLS Cup.

Indeed, it seems Angel and Henry— the offense— were brought in to help the team win games; Marquez— the new dominant defenseman— to win championships.

AZTEX ARE NOW EVEN MORE DANGEROUS

Austin has just added another weapon to their attacking arsenal with the acquisition of forward Randi Patterson from Baltimore Crystal Palace, pending league approval.

Patterson was picked up by the Aztex for an undisclosed transfer fee with his contract running through the rest of this season with an option for the 2011 season.

The 25 year old forward comes from Baltimore Crystal Palace where he notched four goals in 17 appearances for the club.

Prior to playing with Baltimore, Patterson suited up for the Charleston Battery, New York Red Bulls and the Carolina Dynamo. Through his entire professional career Patterson has scored 39 goals and added three assists in 101 total appearances.

Patterson originally hails from Hackensack, New Jersey and played his college ball at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. At UNC-Greensboro Patterson was twice named Southern Conference Player of the Year and finished his collegiate career with 61 goals and 19 assists.

Although he was born inside the United States, Patterson has elected to pledge his services to the Trinidadian National Team. In March of 2008 Patterson made his debut for the Soca Warriors when they took on El Salvador.

The young forward will meet up and begin training with his new teammates later this week and will be available for the Aztex next match which is August 7 at 7:30 p.m. at House Park against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

AZTEX PUSH HIGHER WITH WIN OVER MIAMI

AUSTIN, TX - July 31, 2010 - The Austin Aztex won 3-1 at House Park against Miami FC Saturday night as Eddie Johnson, Lawrence Olum and newcomer Kendall McFayden all entered the scoring sheet. However, despite the score line, the Aztex missed many scoring opportunities and were lucky to walk away with a two goal lead.

Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath voiced his discontent with his team’s performance: “I thought we were very wasteful in the first half. To be honest, I’m a little bit disappointed with us tonight.  We were sloppy in a lot of things we did; I think overall it was a sub-par performance.”

The Aztex pressured hard in the first 10 minutes where the score easily could have been 3-0.

Eddie Johnson in the 8th minute ran onto a ball played over the top, beating the defense and taking a onetime shot that went wide of the goal. A corner from Jamie Watson met Lawrence Olum’s head; however Miami player Mike Randolph cleared the ball off the goal line in the 10th minute.

Miami’s best chance of the first half came after Abe Thompson took a shot from 25 yards out. The shot deflected off Aztex keeper Miguel Gallardo and he was forced to leave his goal line to retrieve the loose ball. Thompson ran onto the ball and took a second shot from inside the box into an open goal but was saved by off the goal line from an Aztex player. Gallardo was then able to scramble back to make the final save.

“It’s uncomfortable for any goalie to come out of his goal but sometimes that’s just how it goes,” said Gallardo about the save. “Fortunately I was able to come out and I was able to beat the guy. Unfortunately they were able to get the rebound, but I was luckily able to get back and make the save.”

Minutes later, the Aztex offense was able to reward the defense’s close encounter by leading 1-0 in the 44th minute. An assist from Lawrence Griffin met Eddie Johnson as he headed the ball into the back of the net.

The second goal came early in the second half with Jamie Watson crossing a low ball to Olum, who tapped the ball in with his left foot to the back corner.

However, those reminiscent of last season were reminded of how the Aztex sometimes struggle with holding off late goals from the opposing teams.

The Aztex defense failed to mark their players as Miami was allowed to dribble inside the box and Paulo Araujo Jr. to take a shot. The shot ricocheted off a Miami player to reach a completely unmarked Thompson, who then took the rebound and scored in the 75th minute.

In extra time, Aztex substitute McFayden ran in behind the Miami defense and beat the goalkeeper in a one versus one to have the game end with the score of 3-1.

This was McFayden’s first goal and season appearance in league play and the Aztex players showed their appreciation by dumping a full water cooler all over the newcomer.

“It’s a dream come true,” said McFayden about the goal. “I have been waiting to have my number called since the beginning of the season. To be called up to the professional team after being on the U-23 team is an amazing opportunity.”

This win marks the Aztex having only lost 1 of their last 18 regular season games and they remain in first place in the USL Conference.

The game also was for a good cause as the Aztex teamed up with The Breast Cancer Research of Texas to auction off autographed warm-ups from the Aztex players to benefit breast cancer research.

The Aztex’s next home game is this Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:30.

CREW FALLS TO CHIVAS USA 3-1 SATURDAY AT HOME DEPOT CENTER

Lenhart nets lone Columbus goal; Black & Gold's lead in East now seven points over New York

CARSON, CA - July 31, 2010 - Chivas USA extended its MLS unbeaten streak to four games on Saturday evening with a 3-1 victory over Eastern Conference leaders Columbus at The Home Depot Center on Saturday night. The Crew is now seven points ahead of New York in the East. The Red Bulls played Houston to a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Justin Braun, Blair Gavin, and Carlos Borja scored for Chivas, while Steven Lenhart netted late for the Crew. In the 88th minute, Jason Garey chipped a ball into the Chivas area from the right flank that found Lenhart in the air. Without missing a beat, Lenhart calmly headed past a charging Dan Kennedy.

Just 15 minutes in, midfielder Eddie Gaven suffered a head injury when he collided with Kennedy's knee. He was forced to leave the game and was replaced by Robbie Rogers.

 

CREW TROUNCE DYNAMO AND MOVE EIGHT AHEAD OF NY

COLUMBUS, OH - July 24, 2010 - Only two weeks removed from both the Crew and the Dynamo drawing nil-nil in Houston, the two teams returned for a fixture in Columbus. But, there would be no tie at Crew Stadium as the Crew took out Houston, 3-0 Saturday night in front of 13,585 enthusiastic fans. The Crew (10-3-4, 34 pts) would get a goal gift wrapped to Emilio Renteria (his fourth of the year), and goals from Andy Iro and Léandre Griffit (his first MLS goal). Houston (5-8-4, 19 pts) have not won since their May 22nd clash with D.C. United.

The matchup included Crew forward Emilio Renteria’s first consecutive games in the starting eleven and Shaun Francis making his first ever MLS start in a Crew uniform at left back.

The Crew were the first to score as Dynamo keeper Tally Hall, making only his second career MLS start, should be nominated for ‘Gift of the Year Award.’ Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven played a long ball down the right side over the Dynamo defense. Renteria beat his defender, but Hall should have had no problems booting the ball away as he charged at it at the outside of the box.

However, he tried to dive backwards to land on the ball in the box, but missed, leaving only Renteria and the ball in between the goal. It was 1-0 Crew as Renteria broke out the dance party. The goal in the 34th minute also marked his second goal in his last two games.

“I feel really proud of my second goal (two in two weeks),” the forward said through a translator. “It just says that I can score and I am happy that I can bring a lot to the team.”

The Crew finished the half ahead and looked to have a tight hold around the Dynamo, as the Crew had nine shots, three of which were on goal.

Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell went off in the 72nd minute as he received his second caution for what looked to be a knock to Renteria, as the Crew forward tried to get past Boswell. Renteria, who had been fouled hard and often throughout the game, was immediately subbed off by Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha with what looked to be a left calf injury.

“My leg is not bothering me right now,” Renteria said after the game. He did add that it may hurt later on in the week.

The Crew added goal number two in the 84’ to seal the deal. A free kick from Guillermo Barros Schelotto from the right corner was placed perfectly to the unmarked Andy Iro in the box and he put it in the back of the net to make it a 2-0 advantage for the Crew.

After Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers was taken off in the 88’, Léandre Griffit made his MLS and Crew debut. The 26 year old did not disappoint as the French international scored his first MLS goal only minutes from coming in. He was able to put away a ball that was scrambling around in the box. Hall made a save, but Griffit got the rebound, dribbled, and put in another goal in stoppage time.

“I have been working really hard. You have to do something in two minutes to let coach know you are here,” he said.

Houston have now only gotten three points out of their last seven games, but Columbus had put in five goals in two games after going three straight games without a tally. The Crew are now eight points ahead of the New York Red Bulls in the East, but New York has a game in hand. Columbus travel for three straight road matches in a row.

KICKERS BEAT PITTSBURGH HEAT

RICHMOND, VAJuly 24, 2010 – The Richmond Kickers faced a traditional dog day of summer in a Saturday evening match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The 7 PM match marked the fourth meeting between the two clubs this season; the Riverhounds defeated the Kickers in all previous games, and Richmond was sure to change it up this time by ousting Pittsburgh 1-0.

The evening included several activities for all in attendance. Fans participated in hot yoga exercises to burn the calories they would only recount at the Tropical Shaved Kona Ice booth. Kicker fans were friends to those on four legs as well; numerous fans attended the match with their best friends to honor SPCA night. “Tail Wag’ N” provided a station with miniature pools for cats and dogs, both big and small, to cool down.

Despite the triple-digit heat, loyal fans came out to show support, and they didn’t have to wait long for some action. In the ninth minute of play, a cross from midfielder Dave Hertel landed within reach of fellow midfielder Bobby Foglesong for a shot on goal, advancing the Kickers one over the Riverhounds.  

Slight disagreement occurred between Riverhound forward Lee Kouadio-Tobey and an official during the 36th minute of play. Kouadio-Tobey mishandled the ball, and out of frustration, kicked it out of the playing area. The match would continue with one minute of stoppage time, the Kickers leading 1-0 into the locker room.

Shelley Sowers and her Kicker posse put on yet another fun-filled halftime performance. Representatives from the Air-National Yoga Championship were present to illustrate their flexibility; the three performers promoted a motion to make yoga an Olympic sport. Following the exercises, the HCA Virginia Frisbee toss was on; if contestants threw their Frisbee on the target, they won a gift certificate toward future Kicker events.

The second half got off to a slow, yet cooler start as temperatures lowered. During the 54th minute, Riverhound midfielder Travis MacKenzie received a yellow card and the game continued. A substitute came into the game for midfielder Luke Vercollone after he hit the field on a previous play. Vercollone’s sister was present for the game, celebrating her 19th birthday.

Kicker forward Edson Elcock brought his game in the following minutes. He took several shots on goal, all of which were wide or blocked by Riverhound goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap (#1). During the 65th minute, Midfielder Stephen Nsereko delivered a cross from left field, which Elcock just missed. Elcock missed another opportunity in the 75th minute of play.

Eight minutes later, Kicker midfielder Ross Mackenzie made an attempt on goal, which went wide right. The Kickers continued to push toward the goal, with several additional attempts following, including another by the Elcock-Nsereko duo.

Kicker goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale had his save of the evening in the final minute of regulation. The second half saw three minutes of stoppage time, and the game would go down as a win for the Kickers.  

The Kickers earned three points with the win against the Riverhounds, giving the club 29 overall points in the standings. Richmond will continue the race for second place in the USL-2 division through their performances in the three remaining games this season. The Kickers will return to UR Stadium on July 31 when they take on the Harrisburg City Islanders for the third time this season. Tickets for the match can be purchased in advance via RichmondKickers.com.

BRING ON THE CREW

D.C. United hasn’t been feeling soccer’s most fundamental feeling— scoring a goal— a lot lately, and when they have, it’s been to tie up a match— more relief than rejoice.

But in a season where seemingly nothing can go right in league play and the antithesis is true of ties in the U.S. Open Cup— a competition in which United had reached the semifinals in the two previous seasons— Wednesday’s Open Cup quarterfinal matchup between United and USL-2’s Harrisburg City Islanders was bound to be the squad’s best opportunity to exorcise recent finishing demons.

D.C. did so: scoring 41 seconds into the start of the match— virtually the first attack, by either side, of the game— and scored their second just over a minute into the second half, never looking back in a 2-0 victory that catapults United into the Open Cup semifinals against Columbus Crew; notching the team’s semifinal streak up to three years running.

“We wanted to get this game over with early,” United’s captain on the night, Carey Talley, said. “The longer these games go with lower division teams, the tougher they get and usually don’t go the MLS team’s way.”

United’s satisfaction with the win was amplified when taking into account the first goal scorer: new Designated Player Branko Boskovic, whose finish off of Santino Quaranta’s slide-pass from the left byline was dispatched with the sort of cutting edge class that the team has been in severe search of almost since the first game of the season.

Fellow new signing Pablo Hernandez also put on quite the display; exuding confidence with superior passing exchanges in United’s attacking third with Boskovic, Quaranta and Aussie striker Danny Allsopp, who had a goal called back for offsides in the 30th minute and could have had one or two more with slightly more clinical finishing.

“I thought our approach was good; at times we played very good soccer," Head Coach Curt Onalfo said. “Most importantly we got the result.”

The Islanders' best chance came in the in the 25th minute when Kai Kasiguran blazed a half-volley attempt from the 18-yard box just over the crossbar with United goalie Bill Hamid at full stretch. However D.C.’s makeshift rearguard— on this night featuring yet another new quirk with usual midfielder Stephen King deputizing at right back— won nearly every loose ball and battle throughout and, impressively, yielded not even a single shot on goal the Islanders the entire match, let alone a goal.

D.C. put the game out of reach just 75 seconds into the second half. After Boyzzz Khumalo was put in down the right hand sideline, the South African attempted to cross the ball to onrushing teammates looking to get on the end of the offering, but scoffed so badly the cross found its way onto net instead with the goalie, anticipating a cross, caught off guard and off his line.

The week of the semifinal will be another busy one for the team: for the second time this season, D.C. will face a team in the Open Cup in the midweek before facing the same team in league play on the weekend.  United’s semifinal matchup against Columbus— who beat Charleston Battery 3-0 in the quarterfinals— will be held September 1 at 7:30 p.m. at RFK Stadium.

Photo Credit: Rob Ivory, International Soccer Network

DESIGNATED DIVIDENDS: MLS’S TICKET TO TENURE

Right as the hype surrounding the 2010 World Cup tapers off, Major League Soccer’s quest to not let soccer fall into the American abyss of athletic apathy, once again, begins anew.

And almost as if on cue, the worst kept secret in the league’s long history of having badly kept secrets has been revealed: French legend Thierry Henry joined the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday.

The Parisian playmaker and playboy takes MLS’s Designated Players into double digits by becoming the tenth player since the rules inception in 2007—though that has quickly changed to 11 with Chicago’s acquisition of Mexican attacker Nery Castillo, which was announced Saturday night— and he will join fellow DP Juan Pablo Angel up top to form the league’s most formidable partnership.

Henry also looks set to trump, at least in soccer terms, the most designated of all Designated Players, David Beckham, whose arrival to the league appeared more about glamour than greatness and has been beset by injuries.

However the Frenchman, a longtime admirer of the United States and New York specifically, seems seamless with the spotlight and, with close friends including NBA stars Steve Nash and Tony Parker and hip-hop heavyweight Jay-Z, will be mingling well within sight of the infamous New York media’s eye.

In the process, league executives might have possibly finally found a happy medium to their Designated Player strategy— and with it a chance of breaking into America’s upper echelon of sports, which, for years, have seemed so set in popular American sentiment’s stone that one got the feeling they were carved into Mount Rushmore.

Performances on the field notwithstanding, almost all of the near dozen DP’s thus far have failed to capitalize for their clubs off the field, with the exception of David Beckham, whose chief complaint was that he sought the fanfare too much.

Henry’s aspirations to turn around a franchise whose best finish in the league’s 15 year history was a 3-1 loss to Columbus in the 2008 MLS Cup Final while showcasing his still remarkable talent will be good for the league. His constant presence throughout mainstream America, where he has the ability to turn into a media obsession, might be better.

MLS executives hope Henry’s transfer may be the catalyst towards breaking through the glass ceiling that’s left the very club he’s transferred to struggling to even come close to filling its brand new, European-styled stadium that’s described as stunning.

If successful, his ability to do so may prove twofold: While also heightening the stature of the game in the U.S., his move also significantly breaks down the barrier that stands between the world’s best player’s standards for play and MLS. Suddenly, with Henry on board, DP rumors are running wild with multiple teams rumored to be pursuing European and South American targets that may be just that much more willing to play in the league.

Real Salt Lake’s owner, Dave Checketts, let the world know as much may be true when he hinted at the L.A. Galaxy acquiring A.C. Milan’s Ronaldhino, who just recently completed an American tour with the club and is rumored to be on the outs of the Italian based team. Henry’s French compatriot, Robert Pires, has also been heavily rumored with a move over to the MLS, as have a slew of other internationals with years still left in the tank.

No one wants a retirement league; luckily Henry is years off from his, a fact he shares with most other Designated Players in the MLS.

His arrival will certainly spike ticket sales and stimulation in the short term; it’s the long-term viability MLS is beginning to aspire towards.

AZTEX REMAIN IN FIRST PLACE

AUSTIN, TX - July 17, 2010 - Austin Aztex extended their first place lead in the USL Conference to six points Saturday night by defeating AC St. Louis. St Louis was reduced to 10 men after a red card, but a successful penalty kick by Jamie Watson and a goal from Maxwell Griffin gave the Aztex a much deserved 2-0 victory.

“I felt our combination play was exceptional, the two wide men coming in off the line. We played some good football this evening,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath.

This was the second meeting between the two teams this season and while St. Louis had a new coach and remained undefeated in their past four games, the end result would be the same. The Aztex dominated possession with a shot count of 25 to 8 as evidence.

In the 14th minute Aztex player Jamie Watson dribbled and beat the goal keeper, Alec Dufty, only to be grabbed and held back by the St. Louis player. Dufty was cautioned and a penalty kick was given as Aztex player Eddie Johnson stepped up to take the kick. However, Johnson’s kick was saved and the score remained 0-0.

The Aztex continued to pressure the St. Louis defense and Maxwell Griffin had two near-misses within two minutes of each other.

The pressure paid off in minute 34 when a St. Louis player was shown a red card after a handball in the box. This time, Jamie Watson took the kick and scored after placing the ball to the far right corner.

“I’ve never seen a keeper save a penalty kick and then minutes later have another penalty kick. There were definitely some mind games. I just had to be confident,” said Watson.

In the second half, the speed of the Aztex allowed them to get in behind the St. Louis defense; Eddie Johnson had several goal-scoring opportunities by cleverly timing his runs.

In minute 67, Griffin controlled the ball inside the box and beat the goalkeeper on his near-post to extend the lead to two goals. 

The best chances for St. Louis came from Mike Ambersley in the 77th and 78th minute. Both of his shots troubled Aztex keeper Miguel Gallardo. Gallardo was forced to make two diving saves in order to keep the clean sheet.

The Austin Aztex have now gone five games unbeaten and will hope to continue their success with their next game at home against Miami FC on July 31st.

CREW BLANK RED BULLS 2-0

By Derek Smith

Perhaps in a response to the cries of Crew supporters across the globe, Robert Warzycha inserted Emilio Renteria into the starting lineup. Renteria did not disappoint, scoring the first Crew goal in the match, the club's first goal in the past 225 minutes. After Juan Pablo Angel lost possession of the ball in midfield, Guillermo Barros Schelloto found a streaking Renteria who calmly chipped RBNY keeper Bouna Coundoul to put the Crew up 1-0.

Shortly after halftime, Brian Carroll made the most of a bouncing ball outside of the penalty area. A few seconds later Carroll was celebrating a brilliant goal that rocketed past the outstretched Coundoul, giving the Crew the insurance goal it desperately was seeking in this Eastern Conference showdown.

The majority of the match was dominated by the Crew, with the Red Bulls having no ability to pressure the Crew into mistakes. RBNY coach Hans Backe stated in the post-match press conference that he was "embarrassed" at his team's performance. Rightly so, Mac Kandji, inserted at halftime, had the game's only real chance for the Red Bulls. In the end, the shot went wide right and the shutout was preserved.

Here are some fun observations from the match:

-- Thierry Henry not only was in attendance, but conducted interviews, signed autographs, and won the hearts of young and old alike all over Crew Stadium. David Beckham....this is how you win over America.

-- Crew defender Shawn Francis made his MLS debut and served a brilliant ball that was mishit by Emilio Renteria. Francis has surpassed expectations and has become a fixture in the 18 man gameday roster.

-- The Gahanna-Lincoln HS Boys Soccer team was honored at halftime for their State Championship in November of 2009. Better late than never.

-- The Red Bull locker room had an unusually quiet, somber atmosphere. A quiet locker room is the norm after a loss, but few players even made eye contact while being interviewed. The exception being "The Ambassador" TH14. My assumption is that Hans Backe has some choice words for his under-performing team immediately following the match.

-- The rumors in the grandstands were that Crew front office staff member Brad Kessler and Chris Wilson are no longer with the club. I hope that all is well with them and they will be missed. It's a shame two of the hardest working staff members are not with the club anymore.

-- To the 6'6” Englishman who spent 10 minutes talking about fan culture in America and England, that was one of the funniest conversations I've had in a while. Thank you.

CREW GUTTED BY LOSS TO KANSAS CITY

By Derrick Smith

COLUMBUS, OH - July 14, 2010 - On a day that began with such hope and promise, many of the Black and Gold faithful left Crew Stadium in silence. Not even the Buck-A-Brat and $1 dollar drafts could cheer them up after seeing the Crew lose 1-0 to the lowly Kansas City Wizards. With just 12 points taken in the first half of the season, the Wizards grinded out the victory for a much needed three points.

Rookie Teal Bunbury scored his first MLS goal with a well placed shot through the legs of Crew keeper William Hesmer. Bunbury, who went to college in nearby Akron, Ohio, ran to the Nordecke and sarcastically saluted the crowd in celebration of his 16th minute goal.

The Crew did put up a fight however, but every chance was swallowed up by Wizards keeper Jimmy Nielsen. At least 3 times, Nielsen saved sure goals from the Crew attackers. After the game, Nielsen and the rest of the Wizards locker room were in good spirits, looking forward to their next game against the Colorado Rapids.

Tidbits:

-- As Crew keeper William Hesmer left the field, he said to the fans that they (The Crew) will win on Saturday against the Red Bulls.

-- 11,000 + fans did make it out to Crew Stadium, disappointing given all of the promotions (or lack thereof) for this game.

-- OT Yanez (aka Othanieal Yanez) has got to be one of the nicest guys that you probably don't know. Here's to hoping the kid gets in a match later this year.

-- Le'andre Griffit was once again left off the 18 man roster for the game. Let's hope he doesn't go down the road of Sergio Herrera.

-- Once Lenhart and Rentereia were subbed into the game around the 65th minute, the game opened up. Will Coach Warzycha look to start on of the two on saturday against the Red Bulls?

-- Check that, Lenhart could have a possible broken nose given out (accidentally) by his own brother-in-law. In the waning moments the two collided as Adam Moffat connected on a cross putting a shot on goal and his bro in the hands of Paco and the rest of the training staff.

-- The Crew played well, but Jimmy Nielsen was just that much better. I would say he was so hot he was smoking.

-- No matter how good a World Cup match looks on TV, nothing beats walking into Crew Stadium and seeing the hometown team live and in person. Wherever you may be reading this article, be sure to catch your local side's match every once in a while, even if it's a PDL or USL club.

RED BULLS SIGN INTERNATIONAL STAR THIERRY HENRY


SECAUCUS, NJ - July 14, 2010 - Red Bull New York announced today that it has signed star French forward Thierry Henry to a multi-year contract as its second Designated Player. Henry, a World Cup, European Championship and UEFA Champions League winner, will be available for selection for New York pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and after the July 15 international transfer window. His debut for the Red Bulls is expected to be on July 22 against English Premiership club, Tottenham Hotspur, in the Barclays New York Challenge at Red Bull Arena.

“It is without question that Thierry Henry is one of the most successful and recognizable soccer players over the past 15 years,” said Dietmar Beiersdorfer, Head of Red Bull Global Soccer. “We are thrilled that Thierry has decided to come to New York to help the Red Bulls compete for championships this year and for years to come. His international pedigree is second to none and he is a proven winner.”

“This marks an exciting new chapter in my career and life,” Henry said. “It is an honor to play for the New York Red Bulls. I am fully aware of the team’s history and my sole goal during my time here is to help win the club its first championship. Knowing Red Bull’s significant commitment to soccer locally and internationally, I am confident that my teammates and I will succeed.”

The press conference will be streamed live with a pre-press conference show on www.newyorkredbulls.com.

The former FC Barcelona, Arsenal, Juventus FC and AS Monaco striker known for his sublime technical ability, sharp acumen and nose for goal, most recently represented France in the World Cup for a record fourth time. Henry, a member of the 1998 World Cup-winning side and leading scorer, has scored a national-record 51 goals and earned 123 caps for his country. Henry also helped France win the 2000 European Championship and the 2003 Confederations Cup.

“Thierry is not only a world class player who will undoubtedly improve our squad, but he has shown most importantly throughout his career that he is a winner,” said Erik Soler, Red Bull New York General Manager and Sporting Director. “He has made it clear to us that he is committed in the short and long term to help in our vision of making our organization the premium franchise in Major League Soccer.”

Famous for his trademark “14” jersey, Henry most recently played for FC Barcelona, where he scored 49 goals and had a successful stint with the Catalan side. In his first season, Henry was the top scorer and led the team with 19 goals. A year later he went one better not only scoring 26 goals but being an integral part of the squad that went on to win six championships – the UEFA Champions League, La Liga Title Copa del Rey, Spanish Supercup, UEFA Supercup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Prior to joining FC Barcelona, Henry played for London-based club, Arsenal FC. Henry rose to legendary status with the Gunners, becoming the club’s all-time leading goal scorer with 226 goals from 1999-07. The French marksman was the top scorer in the English Premiership (2002, 2004-06) a record four times and helped his club win the Premiership championship in 2002 and 2004. The 32-year-old also helped lead his team to three English FA Cups and he won the European Golden Boot in 2004 and 2005.

During Henry’s first season, he recorded 26 goals – an indicator of his future success with Arsenal. In the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Henry was a runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year and was the first-ever back-to-back winner of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. In 2005, Henry was given the Captain’s Armband and became the club’s all-time goal scorer with a brace against Sparta Prague on Oct. 17, snapping Ian Wright’s previous record of 185. He again was named the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, becoming the only player to win the award three times.

For fans interested in purchasing tickets for the Red Bulls’ July 22 showdown versus Tottenham Hotspur, please call 1.877.RB.SOCCER or visit www.newyorkredbulls.com to order online.

CREW STAYS ATOP EASTERN CONFERENCE SATURDAY WITH SCORELESS DRAW AT HOUSTON

HOUSTON, TX - July 10, 2010 - The Columbus Crew maintained their lead atop the Eastern Conference and extended the Houston Dynamo’s winless streak to six league games as both teams played to a defensive stalemate that ended scoreless at Robertson Stadium on Saturday night. 

The first half was a physical affair with Crew center backs Chad Marshall and Andy Iro battling Houston forwards Brian Ching and Cam Weaver. Both teams failed to create many first half opportunities with only one shot on goal each.

The defensive struggle continued into the second half with the best opportunities for both sides falling in a two-minute span. Houston substitute Brian Mullan laid a ball into the path of Weaver in the 80th minute, but the forward’s blast went mere inches wide of goal.

Just two minutes later, the Crew almost took the lead itself. Robbie Rogers fed the ball across the Houston box and found second half substitute forward Steven Lenhart open at the far post. As Lenhart lined up an open shot on goal, Dynamo defender Mike Chabala came out of nowhere and made a sprawling block on Lenhart’s effort.

The Crew now returns to friendly confines of Crew Stadium as it prepares to host a pair of MLS matches this week. The Black & Gold first welcomes Kansas City to town on Wednesday (July 14) at 7:30 p.m. on Bob Evans Buck-a-Brat night. The Crew will then host the New York Red Bulls on Saturday (July 17), also at 7:30 p.m., in a match-up of the Eastern Conference’s top two teams. Both matches will be broadcast live regionally on ONN-TV.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

NATIONAL SOCCER EVENT COMES TO CANTON, OHIO

CANTON, OH - July 9, 2010 - High school and club soccer players from across the United States and Canada will be traveling to Canton, Ohio for the Concave Sports National Soccer Combine Presented by Chick-fil-A at the Mall and Mercy Sports Medicine.  The event will take place on July 16th and 17th at the Diamond Sports Complex in beautiful Plain Township.  Unlike other national soccer events, the combine is free for all participants.

Our event will feature some of the best players in North America, including the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year (Zach Moyers), Olympic Development Program players (Mitch Brown, Cameron Lewis, and John Vasquez), United States Soccer Federation Academy Select Players (Bijan Malaklou), and All-State Selections (Emerson Barros).

The event will consist of combine drills, structured practices, and exhibition matches. College coaches will also be in attendance and a significant media presence is expected.  Up to 60 players will have been selected through an application process to participate.  These elite players hail from all regions of Ohio, Indiana, Montana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Texas, California, Florida, and Ontario.

We would like to thank the following for making this event possible: Concave Sports, Chick-fil-A at the Mall, Mercy Sports Medicine, the Ohio Vortex, Primo Sport, Lamry Limousine Service, Hampton Inn and Suites of Canton, Spectrum Soccer School, the Plain Township Parks and Recreation Department, Star Goalkeeper Academy, Connecticut Soccer School, Kishman’s IGA, Markham Machine Company Inc., Farmakidis Allstate Agency, Gotschall-Hutchison Funeral Home, HandsOnSoccer, Johnny Malloy’s Sports Pub of Akron, Subside Sports, International Soccer Network LLC, and National Soccer Radio.   

Further information about our event, including schedules and updates, can be found at http://www.concavecombine.com. 

Alex Gotschall
Canton United, Minerva HS (OH)
Cole Sutek
Canton United, Minerva HS (OH)
Brandon Johnstin
Canton United, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (OH)
Cole Blasko
Spectrum Soccer Academy, Valley Forge HS (OH)
Justin Niedenthal 
Canton United, Central Catholic HS (OH)
Cory Schepp
Everest, Copley HS (OH)
Dylan McLean
Canton United, Carrollton HS (OH)
Marco Pavlek
Canton United, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (OH)
Mike Womack
Everest, Mentor HS (OH)
Zach Smith
Spectrum Soccer Academy, Normandy HS (OH)
Kyle Wright
Blast FC, Galloway HS (OH)
Dylan Seybert
Everest, Canfield HS (OH)
Bijan Malaklou
Irvine Strikers, Northwood HS (CA)
John Vasquez
Albion Hurricanes FC, Cypress Ranch HS (TX)
Emerson Barros
RI Bayside FC, Shea HS (RI)
Mitch Brown
Columbus Express, Shelbyville HS (IN)
Graydon Lynch
Caledon Strikers, Shelbourne Royals (ON)
Nakeno Amiri
Mount Forest District SC, Norwell District (ON)
Philip Pirogowicz
Field HS (OH)
Alex De Carolis
Sarnia Fury Men’s Premier, St. Christopher’s (ON)
Alec Culbertson
Rootstown GAASA, Field HS (OH)
Hunter Gordon
Olmstead Falls (OH)
Zach Fagan
Gainesville LEG-A-Z, Citrus HS (FL)
Travis Harlan
Radcliff FC, North Hardin HS (KY)
Corey Jackson
Sarnia Fury Men’s Premier, St. Christopher’s (ON)
Jacob Atkinson
Hilliard FC, Hilliard Darby HS (OH)
Cameron Lewis
LA Fire, St. Paul's (LA)
Colin Douglas
Minerva HS (OH)
Jonathan Antos
Crew Juniors, Hilliard FC, Hilliard Darby HS (OH)
Mack Bostard
Hilliard FC, Gahanna Christian Academy (OH)
Todd Sabol
Summit FC, Barberton HS (OH) 
Ben Knotts
Carrollton HS (OH)
Conrad Burns
Carrollton HS (OH)
Zane Pyles
Carrollton HS (OH)
Enrique Revilla
Central Crossing HS (OH)
Adam Aden
Dublin Scioto HS (OH)
Mike Bauman
Central Crossing HS (OH)
Andrew Shephard
Westland HS (OH)
Chris Kyger
First Capital FC, Gallia Academy HS (OH)
Zach Moyers
Billings West HS, Magic City (MT)
Ayoub Ettayem
Dublin Scioto HS (OH)
Josh Kocsis
Oberlin HS (OH)
Cody Lemke
Woodridge PFC, Woodridge HS (OH)
Patrick Homerick
Claymores, Perry HS (OH)
Josiah Smith
Strikers, St. Thomas Aquinas (OH)
Matt Gensley
St. Thomas Aquinas (OH)
Alex Rich
Perry HS (OH)
Michael Kline
Canton United, Canton Central Catholic HS (OH)
Andrew Kostiuk
Akron Metro Futbol Club, St. Thomas Aquinas (OH)
Newton Praseuth
Garfield HS (OH)
Peeya Vorasane 
Garfield HS (OH)
Meho Karalic
Garfield HS (OH)
Michael Vargo
Garfield HS (OH)
Oscar Lopez 
Garfield HS (OH)
Zayd Abed
Garfield HS (OH)
Sahad Judeh
Garfield HS (OH)
Ryan Dietrich
Internationals SC (South), Lake HS (OH)
Jeremy Shirkey
Internationals SC (South), Perry HS (OH)
Ben Barry
Internationals SC (South), Green HS (OH)
Justin Raber
Internationals SC (South), Lake Center Christian HS (OH)
Darius Scott
Internationals SC (South), Lake Center Christian HS (OH)

 

RSL BEAT FIRE ON PENALTY

BRIDGEVIEW, IL -  July 8, 2010 - Real Salt Lake’s streak of not losing games rose to 10 in a row after defeating the Chicago Fire 1-0 at Toyota Park.

The Chicago Fire had their second defeat in a row after coming off of a loss last weekend at Columbus Crew.

The Fire started the game at a comfortable pace on their home turf controlling play and passing the ball to feet. However, late in the second half Real Salt Lake began to apply pressure. Robbie Findley hit the post in the 37th minute nearly scoring. Just a minute later, Fire captain C.J. Brown committed a questionable foul in the box which the ref granted to Real Salt Lake with a penalty kick.

“I don’t want to say much about the referees because I respect them, but I think he made a mistake, a big mistake,” said Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos. “I believe the referee was in the wrong position. Brown had very normal contact in the box for a defender.”

Findley, having just missed the goal a minute earlier took the PK. Dykstra dove the wrong way and Findley tucked the ball into the right corner.

Findley had another opportunity just minutes later as he found himself again, alone with Dykstra. This time, Dykstra made the play and forced Findley to turn the ball around away from his defensive goal as Fire defenders worked back.

The Fire had minimal opportunities in the first half; none of their shots created much worry for RSL keeper Nick Rimando.

The Fire came out with vigor at the start of the second half as substitutes Justin Mapp and Brian McBride created options for the Fire’s offense to build on.

De los Cobos said it, “Chicago Fire is going to be known as a team that is not easy to beat.” Although losing today, they did not make it easy for Real Salt Lake to pull out a victory.

In the first three minutes of the second half they had already created more dangerous chances than the whole first half combined.

In the 48th minute, Mike Banner found the head of Steven Kinney who got up for the ball and headed it down, but it caught the post. Then in the 57th minute, it was deja vu for the Fire as the same play occurred. Once again, a Banner corner found Kinney’s head and he hit the post.

Kinney did not stop there, in the 66th minute he had another opportunity to score off a corner but hit the ball wide of the goal.

“Kinney showed a strong personality. He showed a lot of confidence for a young player and made very good work,” said de los Cobos.“We have a potential player with him in this position and I am very happy him for him.”

Although the second half was nearly all played in the Fire’s offensive half and fans enjoyed 45 minutes filled with Fire corners, free kicks, crosses, and headers going just wide of the goal or hitting the post, they could not get the equalizer.

The Fire had 10 corner kicks in the match while Real Salt Lake had just one.  This usually is a good indicator of who had the most possession, but in this case, not who came out on top.

“We had two or three very good opportunities,” said de los Cobos. “The guys made a big effort. We had good moments, but we made mistakes on attacking and finishing.”

The Fire remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 17 points. Their next match is July 17th against Monarcas Morelia in Chicago.

CREW WIN HANDILY OVER BATTERY

By Derrick Smith

COLUMBUS, OH - July 6, 2010 - A dominating performance propelled the Crew to a 3-0 victory with goals from Emilio Renteria, Steven Lehnart and second-half sub Eddie Gaven. The game was controlled by the Crew with few shots landing on target from the Battery attackers. A penalty was awarded to the Crew in the 37th minute as Steven Lehnart was upended by Battery midfielder Stephen Armstrong, changing the complexion of the game with less than 10 minutes to halftime.

Once the second half began, the Crew carried the play and were quite effective at creating chances on goal. The insertion of Eddie Gaven and the long awaited debut of LeAndre Griffit added to the Crew's creativity. Griffit's patience on the ball opened the door for Ekpo to feed a perfect ball that Gaven struck home for the third and final goal of the night.

Griffit seemed content to not do too much. Having been given just 15 minutes so far this season (all during last night's game against the Battery), Griffit seemed timid to some, but patient in my eyes. I look for Griffit to open up as the minutes increase.

The Crew look poised to advance to the final, the only thing that stands in their way is the winner of the Harrisburg City/D.C. United match to be played later this month.

The rest of the stuff.....

-Although small in number, the home crowd was boisterous and lively. At times, the Nordecke were "blowing" fake vuvuzellas, perhaps in homage to ex-Crew player Stephen Armstrong, a South African. But more than likely just for the sake of getting on the nerves of the Battery players.

-At one point the Nordecke shouted "show no mercy" over and over again. Good stuff.

-I love the U.S. Open Cup competition. A lot of fans and media members do not give this tournament enough credit. But when I see the opposing coaching staff walking through the tunnel, taking pictures with their phones, or players bending over to pet the grass and arise with a big smile, you have to love what this tournament means.

-The Crew are two wins away from hardware, no matter how you spin it, that's a good place to be.

Photo Credit: Pam Moody

CREW GRABS WIN OVER RIVALS

Frenzy of Goals Leads Crew to a 2-1 Victory

COLUMBUS, OH - July 3, 2010 - Three goals in a span of five minutes at the end of the first half would be the deciding factor in Saturday night's match between the Columbus Crew and the visiting Chicago Fire (4-4-5). The Crew (8-2-3) would emerge with a 2-1 victory over the rivals, giving up only an own goal to the Fire.

There were no injury concerns for the Crew and only two for the Fire (FWD Calen Carr and MID John Thorrington). It was an active week for both clubs with the U.S. Open Cup in full swing for MLS clubs. The Crew advanced with a 2-1 win over the Rochester Rhinos, while the Fire were eliminated in a penalty shootout after a scoreless draw with the Charleston Battery. The Crew also were busy on the personnel front, releasing striker Sergio Herrera.

The first half was characterized by physical play and possession changing hands early and often. The Fire had some success getting behind the Crew backline, but several scoring opportunities weren't finished by Chicago.

The final minutes of the first half got rather interesting. Adam Moffat would put the Crew up 1-0 in the 43rd, taking advantage of a loose ball near the goal. Jason Garey set the play up by charging at the Fire keeper, who lost control of the ball. Moffat was able to connect with a short strike for the lead.

The excitement for the Crew didn't last long as the Fire got on the board just a minute later thanks to an own goal by Frankie Hejduk.

All was not lost as a Jason Garey header would find the back of the net minutes later. The potential nominee for MLS Goal of the Week was assisted by Eddie Gaven, who delivered a precise cross between two Fire defenders to the head of Garey.

"There was great emotions just before halftime," Adam Moffat said in a postgame interview. "We showed great character, going straight back up there and getting the lead back."

As Moffat suggested, the 2-1 halftime score would give the Crew some serious momentum going into the second half. Playing at home in "the fortress" called Crew Stadium doesn't hurt either.

The physicality and fast pace continued as the teams returned to the field. Both clubs would find themselves often in the attack, but opportunities were just that as defenses bent but didn't break. Both coaches used substitutes to keep the energy going. Emilio Renteria, Danny O'Rourke, and Steven Lenhart came in for Columbus, while Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Stefan Dimitrov tried to be difference-makers for Chicago. The game ended with little drama and no change to the 2-1 score.

The Crew look to continue their winning ways at home on Tuesday as they face the Charleston Battery in the U.S. Open Cup. The Fire have a game Thursday night against defending champs Real Salt Lake.

Game Photos

Facebook Photos

Columbus Crew Starting Lineup: GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Chad MArshall, DEF Andy Iro, DEF Gino Padula, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Brian Carroll, MID Adam Moffat, MID Robbie Rogers, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto, FWD Jason Garey

Chicago Fire Starting Lineup: GK Andrew Dykstra, DEF Dasan Robinson, DEF C.J. Brown, DEF Wilman Conde, DEF Krzysztof Krol, MID Marco Pappa, MID Logan Pause, MID Mike Banner, MID Baggio Husidic, FWD Patrick Nyarko, FWD Brian McBride (C)

KICKERS GRASP INDEPENDENCE WIN

RICHMOND, VAJuly 3, 2010 – The Richmond Kickers were back in regular season action as they hosted Charleston Battery in a Saturday afternoon match. The one o’clock match marked the third meeting between the two clubs in three weeks and ended in a 2-0 win for the Kickers. Richmond defeated Charleston 3-1 at home on June 5 before losing to the Battery 4-1 a week later on the road. The clubs will meet again on July 9 when the Kickers travel to Charleston for the fourth match.

The holiday weekend weather was pleasant and brought temperatures in the 80s. Loyal Kicker fans came out for the day and enjoyed several forms of entertainment brought in by loyal businesses in honor of the “Independence Day Bash” held at UR Stadium. Fans participated in moon bounces, dunking booths, and slides while indulging in cool summer treats of ice cream and shaved ice.

To continue with the holiday theme, KickerRoo searched for red, white, and blue. He found ‘The Most Patriotic Fans’ and those lucky few were awarded with the traditional prize of field-side seats.

Richmond received its first free kick just three minutes into the game. Kicker defense was sharp and fought several balls that beckoned their territory. The Battery was called offsides twice within two minutes and the defense continued to push forward.

Kicker midfielder Luke Vercollone took a shot on goal 16 minutes into the game. Charleston goalie Tim Melia saved the shot, which resulted in a corner kick for Richmond. One minute later, a cross from the right side of the field by Kicker defender Stephen Nsereko resulted in handball by Battery defender Nigel Marples; Marples received a yellow-card for the contact and the match continued.

The scoreboard changed to read 1-0 during the 21st minute of play when Kicker forward Matthew Delicâte assisted fellow forward Edson Elcock who was credited with the goal.  

After 30 minutes of play, Vercollone took another shot for the Kickers; however, Charleston’s Melia made the save. Moments later, the Battery’s Caleb Norkus missed an opportune free kick. A shot by Kicker’s Sasha Görres went just over the goal during stoppage time. The Battery was called offsides twice more before the first half concluded, with the Kickers taking a one-goal advantage over the Battery to the locker room.

Kicker affiliates held a hula-hoop contest on the field during half time in which a crowd of kids battled for the Hula Champion title. Music assisted the kids as they hula-hooped, and one-by-one they were eliminated for failing to hula and follow specific instructions. Lori Anderson was crowned winner and awarded with a prize pack.

And the fun wasn’t over yet. A Sumo-Soccer match took place next; two parents battled it out until one scored a goal for the win and a $100 gift certificate, compliments of Moon Bounce. The traditional Frisbee toss took place just before the second half got underway.

The second half saw early action when Richmond’s Delicâte missed an early shot on goal. At the 50-minute mark, a foul against Richmond was whistled at the top of the box; the Battery received a free kick after a yellow-card for Richmond’s Nsereko. Charleston’s free kick flew over the bar and the action continued on.

Battery goalkeeper Melia made several saves within the half. Richmond’s Delicâte was just wide on a shot after 58 minutes of play. One minute later, Elcock almost racked up his second goal for the day, but just missed the free kick.

After 65 minutes of game action, Tom Heinemann’s shot for the Battery went wide after a deflection from the Kickers. The Battery’s corner kick sailed just over the goal, and moments later Charleston took another wide shot.

Kicker goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale had a close call near the 74th minute; however, he managed to make the clean save. The Battery made their fifth, and final, substitution after 83 minutes. Minutes later, Melia saved Delicâte’s header attempt. The attempt sparked more enthusiasm with Richmond fans and a chant of “let’s go Kickers” hummed across the crowd.

And the chanting seemed to help.

In the 91st minute of play Richmond’s Vercollone took an attempt from the goal line and Melia went for the save. After two more attempts to kick the ball in the net, Melia’s deflection placed the ball in the center of the box near Kicker midfielder Gerson DosSantos, and that would set up the shot for the second goal of the match.
With Richmond now holding a 2-0 advantage over Charleston, four minutes of stoppage time was added to the half and the score would not change.

Richmond recently came off of a run at the U.S. Open Cup in which the club played two games per week. Richmond’s play in the Cup ended when MLS team D.C. United defeated the Kickers 2-0. The Kickers also took on Crystal Palace Baltimore and the Real Maryland Monarchs in the Cup before losing to D.C. Charleston also saw action in the U.S. Open Cup; most recently the Battery defeated the Chicago Fire after a penalty kick shoot out which ended 3-0.

The Kickers now hold an 18-17-4 series advantage over Charleston Battery. The Kickers will return to UR Stadium on July 24 when they take on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Saturday match will be the third between the two clubs; May 29 the Kickers fell to the Riverhounds in a 3-1 match. Tickets for the July 24 match can be purchased in advance via RichmondKickers.com.

Photo Credit: Dan Gaspar

MY WORLD CUP JOURNEY HAS ENDED

By Dan Gaspar

Portugal was defeated by Spain 1 to 0. Portugal was in Group G, “The Group of Death” that included Ivory Coast, North Korea and Brazil. Portugal played against number 1 team in the world, Brazil and number 2 in the world, Spain. I believe our players represented Portugal with dignity, honor and pride. Although we are sad and disappointed and certainly not satisfied to have to leave South Africa at this stage of the competition, we do come home with our heads held high. It was an absolute fantastic experience.

I want to share my gratitude for all your kind comments and support throughout my World Cup experience. I never say goodbye, but instead see you soon my friends. Now, I am anxious to return to the U.S. and see my family and friends and to share my unique experiences as an American born coach participating in the 2010 South Africa World Cup with the Portugal National Team. It was a great opportunity for me to learn and grow as a professional coach as well as have the opportunity to make contributions at the highest levels.

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy.

CONCAVE CONFIRMS RETAIL PARTNERSHIP WITH DICK’S SPORTING GOODS

Customers will be able to test award winning boots in store and learn more about ground-breaking technology
 
Concave Sports is pleased to report that Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc., always in the forefront of bringing exciting new technology products to its customers, is introducing the revolutionary Concave soccer shoe line in 60 of its stores across 13 states.  

To support the launch, which begins in early July, Concave and Dick’s are collaborating to give customers a unique opportunity to test the boots in kicker tube events.  The Concave kicker tube calculates the speed of individual shots, allowing participants to experience the effect of 15 percent more power and 30 percent greater accuracy that the boots deliver, according to independent testing.  The events will rotate among stores nationally on a set schedule.

Earlier this year, at the Avid Soccer Equipment Review’s annual awards in Los Angeles, California, Concave won “Best Boot” and “Most innovative Product” awards over some of the best known brands in the market.  And the United Kingdom’s highly influential football website, footy-boots.com, cited the Concave PT+ as one of its “Football Boots of the Decade”, claiming Concave is an “inspiration”.

What is most unique about Concave boots is the patented concave shaped component on the upper ridge line, which creates a four times larger striking surface, or sweet spot, than any other boot.  It is what allows players at all levels of competition to execute kicks with more accuracy, control and power than with a conventional soccer boot – which is reminiscent of how tennis racquets and golf clubs with larger sweet spots revolutionized their sports.  

The concave component, which is made from a patented lightweight polyurethane foam element, ‘cups’ the ball to generate more accuracy, power and control on a consistent basis.  The cushioning also protects against foot injuries – just when current mainstream soccer boot designs are being widely suspected of failing to provide adequate injury protection.

 Although Concave is a relative newcomer to the soccer boot industry, having introduced its first technologically advanced prototype model in the fall of 2008, the brand has been in development for nearly eight years of research and testing involving both players and industry leading test equipment.  Now the boots are being worn exclusively by an expanding community of professional, semi-professional, amateur and grass roots players of all descriptions and are being worn at the highest levels of FIFA, UEFA and USSF sanctioned competitions.  

John O’Shea, veteran star of the English Premier League’s perennial powerhouse Manchester United, is a leading spokesman for the brand.  He said:  “The boots are unique in design and offer exclusive technology which hasn’t been seen before.  They offer me increased protection and confidence, and I hope to be wearing Concave for the rest of my career.”

He added:   “As a professional football player it is crucial that I wear a boot that can help maximise my performance on the pitch.  I believe the Concave PT+ Classic is the next big thing in football.”

Dick’s will be offering a range of Concave boots that extends from the new PT+ Classic at the top of the line, priced at $199 and worn predominantly by professionals, to the PT Mini children’s line.  In between are the PT+ and PT1, plus the PT Dome indoor shoe.  Some color variations are available, including two that are exclusive to Dick’s.  

The sole plate comes in firm ground blades and a rounded mould configuration. The outsole is comprised of lightweight two-part injected TPU, boasting a minimal external heel counter that contributes to additional stability and comfort.

A Shank Balance Stabiliser in some models provides further support and reinforcement to the mid-foot area to prevent over-extension of the middle of the foot that can lead to metatarsal bone damage. The upper of the PT+ Classic is made of premium K-leather for maximum durability and comfort in a minimum weight package that is aided by the boot’s unique concealed lace system.

All Concave boots feature the brand’s exclusive, revolutionary technology. 

Mark Mackay, Concave’s senior vice president, global sales and marketing, stated:   “We are delighted to be able to partner with Dick’s Sporting Goods, who are leading the way in offering consumers the very best selection of products and innovation in the rapidly growing soccer category.  This is a perfect match because Concave technology is destined to evolve the game of soccer.”

MONSTER EFFORT FROM MORENO LIFTS UNITED OVER KICKERS

FAIRFAX, VA - June 30, 2010 - With the World Cup break over and a myriad of meaningful MLS matches fast approaching, a cautious approach towards the U.S. Open Cup might be expected and accepted from D.C. United.

But for a team that’s coming off a 2-0 loss to Columbus last weekend and remains seemingly rooted to the cellar of the Eastern Conference—despite an ascending run of form prior to the two-week break—all of a sudden every opportunity to win becomes that much more savored.

So after United—playing as the home team at a stadium they had never set foot in—defeated the Richmond Kickers 2-0 in their Round of 16 matchup at George Mason University Stadium before 2,985 fans, United assistant Kris Kelderman summed up his feelings quickly. “Yeah, for sure. Winning is good, and losing sucks,” said Kelderman.

The win feels all the better for the team when considering who broke the deadlock in the 47th minute—team legend yet nonetheless maligned striker Jaime Moreno. Moreno, MLS’s all time leading goal scorer and the only player remaining in the league to have played in every year since its 1996 induction,  has seen his role as a starter slowly evaporate as he’s aged, but according to team members, has remained a vital segment of the squad.

“It’d be easy for Jaime to get frustrated (with his role)…but he’s not that guy,” said midfielder Santino Quaranta. “I can’t say enough about him; I don’t know how I’d act if I was put in that situation.”

Moreno’s goal broke what had been an uneventful and even game between D.C. and the Richmond, in which United holds an all-time record of 5-3-0.

The best chance of the first half for United fell to the former Bolivian international, too, when he blazed a shot over the bar after a slick-moving play that started with a surging run from Quaranta in midfield who dished to Aussie Danny Allsopp who crossed across the box to the onrushing Moreno.

The scariest moment of the first half was reserved for United striker Luciano Emilio, who was clobbered on a cross by Richmond goalie Ronnie Pascale and was knocked unconscious before leaving the field under his own power.

United’s breakthrough came just two minutes into the second half when a swift counterattack by United saw Thabiso “Boyzzz” Khumalo find Moreno just inside the 18-yard box, and the 35-year old rifled a shot past Pascale.

“There was some good build-up leading up [to the goal],” said Moreno. “I tried to make the most of my chances, and it was important to score to stay in control of the game.”

United effectively put the game out of reach in the 55th minute when Quaranta exchanged a pair of passes in the box with Moreno before attempting a chip that deflected into the back of the net.

With the win United advances to the Open Cup Quarterfinals versus the Harrisburg City Islanders, who upset New York Red Bulls in the Round of 16.

“The Open Cup means a lot to the fans, and as players we enjoy playing in these types of tournaments,” United forward Chris Pontius said. “The win was huge tonight—no question.”

LATE STRIKE BY LENHART LIFTS COLUMBUS

By Derrick Smith

COLUMBUS, OH - June 29, 2010 - Ah, The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The tournament that many want to do away with produced another entertaining game tonight as Columbus outlasted Rochester 2-1, thanks to a late goal by the hard charging Steven Lenhart. Much of the game was controlled by the Crew, with Andy Iro nodding in a goal in first half to give the Crew a lead at the break. After a stellar first half, Crew midfielders Dilly Duka and Emmanuel Ekpo were subbed off by the 70th minute by coach Robert Warzycha in favor Danny O' Rourke and Emilio Renteria. While pleased with the play of Duka, Warzycha felt the Crew needed more bite in the final third of the match and brought on O'Rourke.

Rochester's Darren Spicer scored a brilliant goal in the 72nd mintue to bring the score to 1-1. The goal briefly lifted the side with confidence until Felix Motogalvan took down Emilio Renteria in the 84th minute with a hard challenge. After taking a few moments to assess the situation, referee Hilario Grajeda issued a red card to Motogalvan, thus putting the Rhinos on their heels yet again.

As the minutes ticked down, the game looked destined to be headed to extratime when a generous bounce from Rhino defender Frankie Sanfilippo to the thigh of Crew forward, Stephen Lenhart, who lifted a half volley past Rhino goalie, Scott Vallow, giving the Crew the lead with less than 2 minutes in the match.

The Crew were thrilled to get the win and continue on their quest to hoist the U.S. Open Cup. The Crew's next game in the tournament will be at home against Charleston Battery on Tuesday, July 6th.

A few tidbits about the game from the stands:

-The Nordecke went nomadic tonight. Due to the low attendance (I'd say well below 2,000), the best supporters this side of Quest Field wandered to the South End of the stadium during the second half to watch the Crew on the attack. A few people started the trend as the halftime whistle blew and by the 50th minute the Nordecke was fully dispersed in the lower Southeast corner of the Crew Stadium.

-Throughout the game the creative duo of Dilly Duka and Emmanuel Ekpo drew a lot of "Oooos" and "Aaahhhs" from the small crowd. However, both were taken off within the first 25 minutes of the second half. Still both had a decent showing and were not phased when Robert Waryzcha made a switch, going with Danny O' Rourke in the middle of the park to get the "bite" back that the Crew were missing after halftime, grinding out the win 2-1.

-I found out that a member of the Nordecke is a MyFC owner of Ebbsfleet United in the Blue Square South (English Sixth Division) just like me. Considering that there are only 3,000 of us in the world, it was nice to meet a fellow team owner.

-The idea was kicked around by some after the game to have the July 6th Charleston USOC game be promoted as a $1 beer night. I'm not opposed, there needs to be more butts in the seats period. Especially against Charleston, they are a good side.

DAN GASPAR'S INTERVIEW WITH GARY MELO, ROGERS SPORTSNET.CA

When you start the journey that is the World Cup, there's always a sense of anxiety. You try to focus on the two segments of the tournament: there's the qualification aspect, which Team Portugal has already achieved, and then there's the knockout phase, which requires a winning mentality. The loser goes home and the winner stays. We've reached that stage and we don't want to go home. As Team Portugal prepares for the match against Spain, we're in a good space and a good frame of mind. The game plan is on track. We haven't conceded a goal at the World Cup and if we can maintain that discipline and sense of structure, we're always in a position to compete.

I think our game against Spain is going to be a lot like a boxing match. Each opponent is going to take a few punches here and there to see how the other team adjusts and reacts. That will determine the rhythm of the match and I think that will be extremely important. These are two teams with skilful players who will try to assess the opposition. The teams who are able to identify and expose areas of weakness and capitalize on their opponent's mistakes generally are the teams that come out on top. It's only natural that the history between these two nations gives the match a bit more significance. After all, we are neighbors. It's also kind of ironic that the two counties have combined efforts to bid for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup and now we're in opposing positions where one of us will go home.

Entering the knockout phase, there has been a greater emphasis on penalty kicks in training. We divide the players into three teams with each player taking three penalty kicks, rotating at three different goals. I've taken the opportunity to share my philosophy on defending penalty kicks with Portugal's three goalkeepers. Ultimately, it's their style and personality that should dictate how they react to a shooter. There are a number of things a goalkeeper can look for as the opposing player prepares to shoot. Essentially, it's psychological warfare between the shooter and goalkeeper. When penalty kickers train, they try to master a routine: they get a bag of balls, put them down, place one ball down in a particular way with the valve facing a certain way, they take so many steps in their approach. What a goalkeeper can try to do is interrupt that routine and there are various ways to do that: taking their time to set up, walking up to the ball, moving on the line, switching to a second pair of gloves.

Then, you get into the technical aspects by looking at the approach the shooter takes. If it's a normal approach to the ball, then in most cases it's a normal swing from the player. For example, if a right-footed shooter stands to the left of the ball, then the natural swing would be the right foot kicking to the right of the goalkeeper. If there's some sort of deception used, like a long run to the ball or a short arching one, they're likely to go against their natural swing. Then, a goalkeeper can look at physical aspects such as where the hips are facing. If the hips are opened up to a certain side, then generally that's where the ball is going. These things happen very quickly and it's very difficult to process all this in a few split seconds. Some players are getting craftier now. They have those little hesitation run-ups to see if a goalkeeper moves. If he does and the shooter is clever enough and skilled enough to go to the other side, he has an advantage. If a goalkeeper doesn't fall for it, the shooter will try going to his strongest side.

And of course, we try to get a history on the opposing players. Even during the match, you try to study the tendencies of certain players. If a player has had several shots on goal and tends to go to the same side, chances are that's his favorite side in taking a penalty kick. Sometimes during a warm-up before games, a potential penalty taker wants to practice his penalties and we try to alert our team to those types of situations. All these may help prepare a goalkeeper, but I don't have the perfect answer or solution. If I did, then you could only imagine how valuable I would be to a team!

On Monday night before the match, we had a special guest visit the Portugal team. Francois Pienaar, the former rugby player who captained the Springboks when they won the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, spoke to the players. If you've seen the movie Invictus with Matt Damon as Francois and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, then you are familiar with his story. The players watched an edited down version of the movie and the highlight of the presentation was having Francois there to give an incredible inspirational message to the team. Number one, he asked the players to imagine. He asked them to imagine the support of the nation; to visualize those young boys and girls who wear their jerseys with their names on it to bed the night before in great anticipation to watch them play. Number two was no "ifs." Don't accept the word "if" like, "What if I don't make the right pass? What if I don't make the right tackle? What if I don't take the right shot?" He told the team to remove that word from their language. Instead use the word “if” I do this than there is a positive outcome. And the third point was positive energy. From the moment you wake up, maintain positive energy because it's contagious. Francois truly captivated our players and he left them with one final message: Don't play with fear, but play with excitement.

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr, International Soccer Network

CREW COME UP BIG AGAINST UNITED

COLUMBUS, OH - June 26, 2010 - The Columbus Crew (7-2-3) were able to defeat D.C. United 2-0 with a strong second half performance and goals from Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Eric Brunner. United (3-9-1) played well for the first forty-five minutes, but came under increased pressure in the second half.

Both teams had to shake off the rust from the World Cup break. Columbus had the advantage of just two injuries (Frankie Hejduk and Danny O'Rourke) and a 3-0 exhibition win over the PDL Dayton Dutch Lions. D.C. United was unbeaten in the last six matches, including a 3-2 defeat of Seattle Sounders FC on June 10. Unfortunately, United was still reeling from nine reported injuries. Their defense was particularly hard hit with four regulars out of action.

Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha went with a 3-5-2 formation with Emilio Renteria taking up residence in the midfield. Renteria would be everywhere on the field, showing a good touch on the ball and creating space wherever he was. Adam Moffat moved to right back position shortly after kickoff, creating a more conventional 4-4-2 formation. He played well in an unfamiliar position.

The first half was all about opportunities and defenses that bent a little, but didn't break. United's best opportunity came off a miscue by Brunner in the 38th minute. His pass did not find its way to keeper Will Hesmer, but instead landed at the feet of United striker Adam Cristman. Hesmer moved forward to defend as Cristman looped a shot just over the bar.

Jason Garey would have the Crew's best chance for a score just four minutes later, but his shot was also high. Garey was setup by a series of crisp passes that put him in front of goal. Halftime would come with the score still tied up at 0-0. The consensus was that D.C. United owned the first half in terms of possession and scoring opportunities. D.C. Head Coach Curt Onalfo agreed, saying "For me we had clear-cut chances throughout the game, especially in the first half. We had three or four big-time chances."

United keeper Troy Perkins faced a barrage of goal line shots minutes into the second half, but was somehow able to keep the ball out of the goal. The Crew were clearly cooking up something big on the offensive end.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto put the Crew on top 1-0 with a controversial goal in the 57th minute. D.C. emotionally appealed for a handball, but referee Terry Vaughn would hear none of it. Reporters didn't get much of a comment from either coach when the issue was brought up at the post-game press conference. Onalfo avoided the issue, but did offer a brief comment that explained his frustration. "I don't want to comment on it because I don't want to be fined. I think you guys, everybody in the stadium saw it. But we are not a group that looks at those things."

The disputed goal was not only the only goal of the match, but it did turn the tide against United. "You will have some calls for and against," Warzycha commented. "That is going to even out at the end of the season."

The Crew would remain on the attack with Renteria and Garey often pushing forward. Steven Lenhart and Emmanuel Ekpo would enter in the 70th and 77th minutes respectively as Warczycha made fresh legs on the pitch a priority.

Pressure continued on both sides of the field, but it was Columbus who added another score with a goal by Eric Brunner, assisted by both Schelotto and Lenhart. The Brunner header in 87th put the nail in the coffin, but the Crew were given yet another opportunity in the 92nd minute.

A penalty kick was awarded to the Crew after Lenhart was tripped up in the box. An on the field decision put Lenhart on the spot, but his shot went right to Perkins. The match ended 2-0 advantage Crew, but it could easily have been 3-0.

The Crew return to action Tuesday, June 29th for a U.S. Open Cup match against the visiting Rochester Rhinos of the USSF D-II Pro League.

Game Photos

Columbus Crew Starting Lineup: GK William Hesmer, DEF Eric Brunner, DEF Chad Marshall, DEF Gino Padula, MID Emilio Renteria, MID Brian Carroll, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Adam Moffat, MID Robbie Rogers, FWD Jason Garey, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto (C)

D.C. United Starting Lineup: GK Troy Perkins (C), DEF Devon McTavish, DEF Dejan Jakovic, DEF Julius James, DEF Jordan Graye, MID Chris Pontius, MID Stephen King, MID Clyde Simms, MID Andy Najar, FWD Santino Quaranta, FWD Adam Cristman

U.S. EXITS 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP WITH DEFEAT TO GHANA

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - June 26, 2010 - The U.S. Men’s National Team fell 2-1 in extra time to an inspired Ghana team in their 2010 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 matchup in Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa. The USA’s first loss of the tournament ends the team’s impressive World Cup run that saw them win their group over England, Slovenia and Algeria. 

Following a 1-1 draw in regulation, Ghana scored a brilliant game-winner in the third minute of extra time on a 15-yard blast from Asamoah Gyan, who expertly split the U.S. defense and fired his shot over goalkeeper Tim Howard. Gyan was sprung by a high, searching ball played by midfielder Andre Ayew from his own defensive half. 

The USA dominated play in the second half and tied the match on a penalty kick from Landon Donovan, set-up by one of the team’s many chances in front of the net in the final 45 minutes. On the goal, it was Donovan’s clever back heel touch from a hard pass in the midfield from Benny Feilhaber that enabled Clint Dempsey to skip the ball through the legs of Ghana’s captain John Mensah and into the area where he was taken down with a late challenge by Jonathan Mensah. 

On the ensuing penalty kick, Donovan calmly banked his shot off the right post as Ghanaian goalkeeper Richard Kingson dove the wrong way. With the goal, Donovan now stands atop the U.S. World Cup record book for matches played (12), goals scored (5) and consecutive games with a goal (3). 

Despite numerous opportunities, the U.S. could not get the second goal they needed in regulation play to avoid participating in their first ever World Cup overtime match. The two best chances for the U.S. to grab the late lead came in the 76th minute off the foot of Michael Bradley, who beat the Ghana offside trap and hit a turnaround left-footed shot in the penalty area that Kingson got low to save. Just four minutes later, Jozy Altidore battled through his defensive markers and, while falling to the turf in the same part of the penalty area as Bradley’s attempt, was able to lift a light shot past Kingson that bounced just outside the right post. 

The USA’s best chances to score in overtime, fittingly, came in the 120th minute of the game with Dempsey having a dangerous shot blocked from eight yards out by the scrambling Ghana defense. That attempt came after a cross from Steve Cherundolo was headed down dangerously by 91st minute substitute Herculez Gómez. Immediately following that attempt, Gómez hit a vicious shot from 20 yards that deflected dangerously close to the left post. On the ensuing corner, the U.S. pressure increased and Kingson was forced to make consecutive one-handed punch clearances in traffic, with the last gasp U.S. attempt coming on a looping 20-yard side volley from Jay DeMerit that went over the bar by just a few feet. 

As they did in two of their Group C matches, the U.S. fell behind early, with Ghana striking in just the fifth minute after a giveaway in the center circle by midfielder Ricardo Clark. With Ghana midfielder Kwando Asamoah nicking the ball away to Kevin Prince Boateng, it was immediately on for the Ghanaian midfielder who dribbled straight forward with pace against the surprised U.S. defense and was able to slot a perfectly placed shot into the lower left corner of the goal past Howard. 

The U.S. had an excellent chance to tie the match in the first half with Dempsey springing Robbie Findley free into the area for a one-on-one shot with the goalkeeper, but Kingson was up to the challenge, denying the U.S. forward with a kick save from 12 yards out. 

The U.S. finished their strong World Cup showing with a 1-1-2 record in four matches, scoring five times and allowing five goals. The World Cup appearance was the sixth consecutive for the Americans who have advanced to the knockout stages in three of those tournaments, including a run to the quarterfinals in 2002. 

Ghana will now face Uruguay in the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals on Friday, July 2, in Johannesburg.

ESPN’S 30 FOR 30 INCLUDES THE STORY OF THE TWO ESCOBARS

As part of their anniversary celebration, ESPN has brought sports fans the greatest of documentaries, but none was quite like the story of the The Two Escobars. The stories of Colombians Pablo Escobar, notorious drug baron and vivid soccer fan and Andrés Escobar, a defender that played for his home nation at the 1994 World Cup and was killed after for scoring an own goal against the United States.

Directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist bring us the story of these two infamous figures in Colombian soccer history. The first Escobar, Pablo, loved the game of soccer and used his team in Medellin to launder countless millions of dollars. He built soccer fields, along with houses and other buildings, for the poor in the community. Many in Medellin looked at him as a god for giving away so much to the poor and desperate (even paying for homes for over 700 families that lived in the landfill).

Pablo and other cartel bosses, owned their own teams throughout Colombia to bring in a period called “narco soccer.” However, Colombian soccer rose because they could afford better international players and better talent with that money. Pablo’s Altético Nacional was the first Colombian side to win the prestigious Copa Libertadoes in 1989. Even at his own jail (called "the cathedral") he persuaded officials to build him soccer fields, even inviting the Colombian National Team to his "prison" before the team left for the United States.

Andrés Escobar was known as “the Gentlemen of Football” and his play as a defender made him the first Colombian player to be looked at from Italian giant AC Milan. Andrés rose to play for the Colombian National Team, who were looking to change the way people looked at Colombia; as "El Pibe" Carlos Valderrama said, “people always called us drug dealers."

Los Cafeteros were one of the hottest teams coming into World Cup 1994 and even beat the almighty Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires in the last CONEMBOL qualifier before the World Cup and the Colombians were even favorites to win their first World Cup.

In their second game during the Group Stages, Escobar put in an own goal that cost Colombia the win and cost many cartel leaders abundant amounts of money since they bet on Colombia to win. The team did get death threats while in the U.S. before the match, making the coach not play certain players, so that those who would play in their presence would get notoriety and be sold off to better clubs around the world (those players being from the cartel’s team).

Escobar was shot six times when he returned to his native land.

The Two Escobars is a fascinating look into these two stories and how Andrés may still be alive in Pablo as not killed in 1993. With great interviews with family members of Pablo Escobar, his #2 man, fiancée of Andrés Escobar, and especially those Colombian players that played with Andrés, this documentary should be on every soccer fans must see list.

WE WON, BUT WE' RE NOT DONE

U.S. defeats Algeria 1-0 on Donovan Goal to Win Group C

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - June 23, 2010 – In the most dramatic moment in U.S. Men’s National Team history, forward Landon Donovan scored a 91st minute goal to give the United States a 1-0 victory against Algeria to earn first place in Group C and a berth into the Round of 16 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The U.S. will now play Ghana at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on Saturday, June 26, at 2:30 p.m. ET live on ABC HD and Univision.

With the other Group C match seeing England defeat Slovenia 1-0, the Americans needed a winning goal or they would have been eliminated from the World Cup.

It was Donovan, the USA’s all-time leading scorer, who provided the dramatic goal with a clinical finish from seven yards out after a brilliant attack that pierced the Algerian team from goal line to goal line. After Tim Howard snared a looping header on his goal line, he immediately surged forward and hit a streaking Donovan in the midfield with a perfect throw. Donovan then blazed forward at a blistering pace and found Jozy Altidore with a pass into the penalty area.

Altidore, who played a fantastic match despite getting pounded repeatedly by Algerian defenders, had enough left in the tank to dribble into the penalty area at speed and slip a square pass to Clint Dempsey. With Algerian goalkeeper Raïs M'Bohli lunging for the low cross, Dempsey got a touch that ricocheted off the goalkeeper and rolled to the center of the penalty area where Donovan stroked it home, setting off a wild celebration as almost the entire U.S. team dog-piled near the left corner flag and the stadium erupted with patriotic fervor.

“It’s a match where both teams need to win, so it turns into a very wide open game," said U.S. MNT head coach Bob Bradley. "Algeria is a very good team, skillful and well-organized, but the game now takes on a different tone just because of the need for both teams to win.

"In this last cycle, guys have grown, taken leadership roles, as a team we’ve grown stronger, we’ve had experiences where we’ve been hardened...We believe that in soccer sometimes you can’t always control a call or a bounce, but you can control what you’re all about as a team, what you put into it, how committed you are to giving everything in the game. I think that has become the special quality of this group.”

After the match, former President Bill Clinton, who is the honorary chairman of the U.S. Bid Committee for the 2018/2022 World Cup, came to the locker room to personally congratulate the team on the historic victory.

Donovan’s goal, the 44th of his international career, gave the USA a World Cup group title for the first time in 80 years (since the very first World Cup in 1930). It was also the fourth World Cup goal of his illustrious career, tying him with Bert Patenaude on the USA’s all-time list. The match was also Donovan’s 11th all-time World Cup appearance, tying him for the U.S. record with Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart. Donovan has started 11 consecutive World Cup games for the United States dating back to 2002. He also becomes the only U.S. player to score multiple goals in two different World Cups.

Throughout the evening at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, the USA were the better team and the aggressor for 90 minutes and into stoppage time. Donovan’s late heroics might not have been needed, however, but for another controversially disallowed goal by the United States.

This time it was Dempsey scoring from close range in the 20th minute on what appeared to be a valid goal that was nullified for offside. On the play, forward Herculez Gomez calmly crossed the ball to him at the top of the six-yard box after collecting his own rebound from a close range shot that was saved by M'Bohli. Gomez’s attempt was the result of a steal by Altidore in the midfield as he managed to nick the ball away from the Algerian defense, then square a pass to midfielder Michael Bradley, who had the ball tackled away at the top penalty area, only to have it roll for Gomez to hit on goal.

The rest of the first half (and the game) was more of the same, with the U.S. compiling near-miss after near-miss in front of a partisan crowd cheering their every move.

In the 35th minute, Altidore, Donovan and Dempsey almost combined for the first goal, this time with Altidore hitting Donovan on a cross-field pass that Donovan then slotted to Dempsey in a clever opening in the center of the penalty area. A sliding Algerian disrupted his shot and he could only Dempsey couldn’t get a good strike on the ball as it was saved by the M'Bohli.

Two minutes later the USA created an even better chance, this time with Bradley finding Donovan open deep into the right side of the penalty area. Donovan lifted the ball over the sliding Algerian ‘keeper, but it deflected into the air and dropped to Altidore. Donovan was also lurking for the rebound, but Altidore got to it first and blasted his effort over the bar from close range.

Throughout the first half, Algeria attempted a number of long range shots, the best of which came off the foot of Rafik Djebbour in the 6th minute that crashed off the crossbar after defender Jay DeMerit couldn’t clear a long pass that landed at the top of the penalty area and skipped through. In the 38th minute, Karim Matmour hit a blast from 25 yards out that Howard pushed out for a corner, taking no chances with the accurate, hard shot.

Overall, the USA defense was stout throughout the game, and recorded their first shutout in World Cup play since the team’s historic 2-0 victory over Mexico in the Round of 16 of the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea Republic (a span of seven games). The shutout was also just the second for the United States in 22 World Cup matches dating back to 1950.

Jonathan Bornstein made his World Cup debut in a revamped U.S. backline, slotting in at left back, while Carlos Bocanegra lined up centrally alongside DeMerit. In addition to Bornstein, Edson Buddle made his first-ever World Cup appearance as a late second half sub and DaMarcus Beasley made his seventh all-time World Cup appearance in his third World Cup tournament when he replaced Bornstein in the 80th minute. For Gomez, the start was just the second of his USA career, dating all the way back to a game at the 2007 Copa America.

In the second half, the U.S. had as many as five great scoring chances, before finally breaking through in the 91st minute. Included in those chances was a shot by Dempsey that hit the right post after he was sprung with a long cross from Altidore. Dempsey then had a chance to sweep his rebound into the net as it bounced behind M'Bohli, but he couldn’t turn the attempt on net.

In the 65th minute, second-half substitute Benny Feilhaber snuck into the right side of the penalty area, took the ball tight along the end line and tried to guide a cross in front of the goal behind the diving M'Bohli, but the Algerian goalkeeper knocked the ball out for a corner with his legs.

Buddle had a headed attempt on goal in the 68th minute on a cross from Steve Cherundolo, but couldn’t get squeeze it past M’Bohli, and just two minutes later a cross from Altidore from the right wing was almost knocked into his own goal by Algerian defender Madjid Bougherra.

The last definitive U.S. threat before the goal came in the 79th minute on a free kick from Michael Bradley that he drove straight on goal for M'Bohli to punch away.

After the U.S. goal, the emotions of the Algerians got the best of them as Anthar Yahia was sent off after receiving two consecutive yellow cards for arguing with referee Frank De Bleeckere of Belgium following a foul call on the North Africans in the waning minutes.

U.S. forward Robbie Findley missed the match for the United States after picking up yellow card cautions in the team’s first two games, but the entire U.S. line-up will be available for selection when the team takes the field in the Round of 16 against Ghana, which will be re-match of the USA’s final group match at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, a game in which the U.S. was eliminated from the tournament after a 2-1 loss.

Special pre-game coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on ABC HD. Fans can also follow along on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker and at twitter.com/ussoccer.

Photo Credit: Dan Gaspar

PORTUGAL'S MAGICAL MOMENT VERSUS NORTH KOREA

By Dan Gaspar

Now that is how you play football! Portugal's 7-0 win over North Korea on Monday was obviously a big moment for the team. It really was the perfect game for Portugal. Our head coach Carlos Queiroz and staff prepared the team very well. The tactical plan was executed flawlessly by our players. We saw great mental preparation from the players so we couldn't have asked for a better effort or a better result. You could see the desire in their eyes and could feel the intensity in the locker room. And most importantly, it certainly puts us in a very good position to get through to the next round.

Having six different players score for our team was huge. To have that kind of variation in scoring, from six players, is tremendous for Portugal. It was a total team effort. The team had four changes in the starting line-up from the previous match and that can be a primary motivator for the players. For the coaching staff, it's important to have players who can be called upon at any given moment. We have a roster of 23 and we know we can depend on any of those players to get the job done. They all have been prepared to be called upon if needed.

I think the biggest difference between this win and our draw against Ivory Coast was our flank play, and quick and deep runs from midfield. They were all very effective. And to the credit of the North Koreans, they came to play. Even though they use a 5-3-2 system, which is a very defensive set-up, they came to play football. Ivory Coast literally parked the bus in front of goal against us and were just totally reliant on counter attacking. Portugal's last matches against North Korea, the 5-3 comeback win at the 1966 World Cup, certainly served as motivation for our team.

Two great players who played that game and were part of that successful run in 1966, the legends Simoes and Eusebio, are here with the team. They are here to offer inspiration and wisdom and to share their knowledge and experiences. I would have to say that that was a factor in our performance. And Both Simoes and Eusebio were extremely excited and thrilled about this 7-0 win, so that shows you how historic a result this was for the Portuguese team. What's important now is to focus on the next task at hand. When you're in the winning business, all a victory does is bring relief. You only celebrate when you win a championship so for us the win was a relief and it instilled a tremendous amount of confidence, enthusiasm and spirit. After the match, you enjoy the moment but as of this morning we start preparations for Brazil.

I believe the Magic began a few days before our match versus North Korea It was not a great pass, spectacular finish or perfectly timed tackle. It was Bingo! We played Bingo in South Africa. In Portugal we would play every other day. Often times for no particular reason staff and administrators would win the prizes. The players would always complain that it was the same winners all the time. When we played in South Africa the players asked two servers of the hotel to sit with them and enjoy the game of Bingo. Well, guess who won the first bingo game. It was me the American! I was the first to complete one line with the correct numbers. The second prize was won by one of the servers. He had a huge smile on his face while he was collecting his prize. The team leaped from their chairs and gave him a standing ovation. It was a celebration. Well, guess what happened next? The second prize was won by the other server. Once again there was a standing ovation and celebration. I wondered how this was possible. The numbers were called out in Portuguese. The servers had no idea what numbers they were calling.

The players decided collectively that when a number was called they would tell the servants it was a number on their card, even though it was incorrect. The servers had no idea and believed they had won. It was an act of kindness and concern for others. Naturally, I could not be selfish and keep my prize. We called someone from the kitchen and I donated my prizes to them. The kitchen employee put the prizes down on the floor and starting dancing and chanting. We all were jumping up and down with joy. I felt I was at a church revival. His happiness was contagious. The Valley Lodge manager was thrilled for the employees. She told me the winners gave her all her prizes to put into the safe. She said the winners were considering various options on how to get the prizes home safely. Why? Because these are prime prizes that if they walked home with them there would be a good probability that they would get stolen.

Here we are in a room full of super egos with great abilities to play soccer; Portugal's national gladiators who are preparing themselves for battle to defend their country on the soccer field. Yet, they were sensitive enough to recognize that the servers were the stars tonight. For sure the servers will never forget this evening. This experience for me has not only been about the X's and O's, it’s been about the human side of things and the goodness that we are all capable of sharing. It was a magic moment. The feeling in the room was of joy and happiness for the three servers who won the prizes. I will never forget the atmosphere and the kindness of our players. Having the humility to understand at that moment was really important. It was moving moment for me and those who were present. You know, I was thinking of the differences of being associated with a team that qualifies for the World Cup as compared to being a fan at a World Cup. I would not give up my seat for anyone, but other than game day we are isolated from the World Cup atmosphere.

My family called me the night before the North Korea match. I asked, “What's all that noise?” They told me that the Portuguese immigrants have taken over Cape Town. People would be having dinner and someone would stand and begin to sing the Portuguese National Anthem. We are not exposed to the spirited environment. Just before kickoff against North Korea I had a huge surprise. One of the staff members sitting in the stands was able to get my attention. I was able to run over and give my wife and sons a kiss and a hug. It was a very surreal moment. I could see their happiness and pride for their husband and dad.

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy. 

U.S. V. SLOVENIA: ESPN'S MOST-WATCHED SOCCER TELECAST

Friday morning's United States vs. Slovenia FIFA World Cup match on ESPN - in which the Americans overcame a 2-0 halftime deficit to earn a 2-2 draw - is the most-watched soccer game among households in the history of ESPN networks - 3,906,000, based on a 3.9 fast national rating for the two-hour contest (10 a.m. ET - noon).

It ranks third most-watched among viewers (P2+ - 5,200,000), behind the Germany/Italy semifinal (5,850,000) on July 4, 2006, and the US/Germany quarterfinal on June 21, 2002 (5,335,000). Through Friday, June 18 and 23 games on ABC and ESPN, the 2010 World Cup is averaging a 1.9 U.S. rating (for the two-hour match window) -- up 60% from 2006 (1.2). Household impressions are up 66% (from 1,336,000 to 2,333,000) and P2+ impressions are up 71% (from 1,720,000 to 2,950,000).

San Diego was the top market for yesterday's Team USA game, delivering an 8.5 rating - all the more impressive considering the 7 a.m. local start time. Rounding out the top five were Washington, DC (6.4), Miami (6.2), West Palm Beach (5.9), and San Francisco (5.7). San Diego was also the top market for the USA/England game on ABC (11.5).

USA/Slovenia Sets Records for ESPN3.com and ESPNRadio.com ESPN3.com - The U.S. vs. Slovenia was the most-viewed event ever on ESPN3.com with 798,911 unique viewers, including both live and on-demand viewing; 624,425 hours consumed; and an average time spent of 47 minutes.

Live and replay World Cup matches have been viewed on ESPN3.com by almost 3.4 million unique viewers from June 11-18, generating 342.7 million minutes of viewing (over an hour and a half per viewer).

U.S. RALLIES TO EARN 2-2 DRAW AGAINST SLOVENIA

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - June 18, 2010 – The U.S. Men's National Team played Slovenia to an epic 2-2 draw in its second Group C match at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, an early second-half strike from Landon Donovan and a fantastic finish off a half-volley from Michael Bradley evened the score and earned the USA a critical point before another boisterous pro-U.S. crowd of 45,573 at Ellis Park.

The result puts the USA’s destiny in their own hands, with a win in their final Group C match on Wednesday, June 23, against Algeria at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria automatically earning the Americans a spot in the knockout phase. With Algeria’s 0-0 draw with England in the other Group C match, the U.S. sits in second place in the group tied with the English on two points, but ahead in the standings based on goals scored (three for the United States and one for England). The U.S. can still advance with a draw against Algeria if England loses to Slovenia or if England draws and the U.S. maintains an advantage in total goals scored.

“I think this team has shown that it keeps fighting until the end and we have now had the experience of pushing games when we’re behind,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. “It’s a credit to the mentality of the players and to the fact that they’re going to fight for 90 minutes every game. We have a third match where we still have the chance to determine our ability to move into the final round.”

The USA comeback began just three-minutes into the second half, with a world-class strike from Donovan, who roofed a shot past Slovenian goalkeeper Samir Handanovic from six yards out after dribbling freely into the right side of the box from a tight angle. Donovan was freed into the area on a perfectly placed pass from the halfway line by standout defender Steve Cherundolo that eluded the Slovenian defense.

After several goal mouth chances for the U.S. throughout the half, the USA finally cashed in for goal number two with one of the most skillful tallies in team history. The goal came in the 82nd minute on a lunging half-volley toe-poke from Bradley, who was set-up in the right side of the penalty area, by a perfectly weighted knocked-down header from Jozy Altidore. The big U.S. forward got his head on a service sent by Donovan from midfield and put it right into the path of the charging Bradley. The ussoccer.com Man of the Match scored his eighth career goal, and his first in a World Cup.

The inspiring U.S. comeback could have netted the team all three points just a few minutes later, but Maurice Edu’s volley into the back of the net on a perfect free kick from Donovan in the 85th minute was disallowed by Malian referee Koman Coulibaly for an apparent foul.

Including Edu, four players made their World Cup debuts for the United States in the match. Edu and midfielder Benny Feilhaber were halftime substitutes that helped spark the U.S. attack. Late sub Herculez Gomez and starter Jose Torres also appeared in their first-ever World Cup matches.

For Donovan, the match was his 10th all-time World Cup appearance, moving him to within one game of the all-time U.S. record (11, Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart), and his goal was the third of his World Cup career (tied with Brian McBride for second best all-time, just one behind Bert Patenaude). He also became the third player in U.S. history to score in two different World Cups (2002 and 2010), joining McBride and Clint Dempsey.

The first half was a difficult one for the United States, who struggled early to break down the compact Slovenians. Slovenia benefitted greatly from a 13th minute goal from Valter Birsa, who hit a perfectly placed strike into the upper right side of the goal from 27 yards out after finding a soft pocket directly in front of the U.S. backline. The shot from Birsa gave goalkeeper Tim Howard no chance.

In the 42nd minute, Slovenia created its second goal on a fast break following some sustained pressure from the United States. On the goal, forward Milivoje Novakovic beat U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu’s offside trap by playing a perfect ball into the run of midfielder Zlatan Ljubijankic, who tucked his shot easily into the center of the goal underneath an onrushing Howard.

Prior to that goal, the U.S. had been all over the Slovenian net. In the 36th minute, Jozy Altidore was fouled at the top of the box on a dangerous U.S. attack, and Torres expertly hit the ensuing free kick to the near post causing Handanovic to make a diving save. On the corner kick that followed that save a clearance by Slovenia was headed tantalizingly close by defender Jay DeMerit from the top of the box but it flew just outside the left post.

Just three minutes later, forward Robbie Findley was given a yellow card after a dangerous U.S. corner kick when he was whistled for a phantom handball on a cross that ricocheted off his upper chest. With two yellow cards in two games, Findley will be suspended for the USA’s final Group C match against Algeria.

Two minutes after that, the USA’s best attack of the first half preceded Slovenia’s fast-break goal. With a nice build-up in midfield, it was Findley who nicely controlled a ball in traffic at the top of the area and found Dempsey overlapping into the right side of the penalty box. Dempsey took one touch and then slid a pass across the goal mouth that was cleared out of play by defender Miso Brecko just before Donovan could tuck it home from the doorstep.

The USA’s second half chances included a 51st minute free kick from Donovan from the left side that was just out of reach for a sliding Onyewu at the far post. In the 70th minute, Altidore was fouled again at the top of the box and Donovan hit a free kick that bounced around before the 20-year old forward turned fired on goal, but Handanovic made a tough save look easy with a confident catch. For reaction from National Soccer Radio, please click here.

The USA's World Cup journey continues on Wednesday, June 23, against Algeria in Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. Here are the possible outcomes of the USA v. Algeria:

USA Advances:
• U.S. win
• U.S. tie and England loss
• Tie and England-Slovenia tie, and the U.S. maintains it’s +2 goals scored advantage (USA 3 GF, England 1 GF)

USA Eliminated:
• U.S. tie and England win.
• Lose

USA Advances and Wins Group:
• Win by a greater goal difference than England wins by
• Win and England win by same goal differential while the U.S. maintains its +2 goals scored advantage
• Win by two or more goals and England / Slovenia tie
• Win by one goal and England / Slovenia tie while scoring more goals than Slovenia

Photo Credit: Dan Gaspar

GAME MUST BE MORE THAN VUVUZELAS AND JABULANI

By Dan Gaspar

Figo, 2001 FIFA Player of the Year and former Portugal National Team captain, and Pauleta (all-time leading goal scorer for the Portugal National Team) stopped by our hotel to give their best wishes.

Our first match of the World Cup was a draw versus Ivory Coast. This game highlighted the challenges of Group G also known as the "Group of Death." This means any one of the four teams has the potential to be one of the two teams that is capable of getting through to the next round. They waited until the deadline to decide if Drogba would dress and he did. He sat on the bench for Ivory Coast. No doubt he is their leader. I noticed after the game he pulled his teammates together and formed a circle. This leads me to believe he is also their spiritual leader. When he stood on the touchline to come into the match, the roar of the crowd shook the stadium. When he entered the field you could sense his presence. The only time that I had a similar sensation was when I was with the South African National Team and Thierry Henry from the French National Team came into the game. Like Drogba, when Henry received the ball everyone on the pitch backed off out of respect for his ability.

There were over thirty seven thousand people attending the game. All six African teams who have qualified for the World Cup will be well supported and stadiums packed to the max. Lots of attention has been given to the Vuvuzelas and the adidas soccer ball -- Jabulani. My thoughts are that we are guests of South Africa and that the Vuvuzelas is part of their culture and we need to accept the Vuvuzelas as part of the soccer match. The Vuvuzela has definitely made the South African World Cup unique. It is a reverberating sound that makes bench and player communication impossible. It's a plastic horn buzzing sound and has become an iconic accessory at the matches.

Everyone is going ballistic over the new adidas ball, Jabulani. The name of the ball Jabulani means "happiness." Apparently it has brought very little happiness to goalkeepers and field players. There are eleven colors in the ball representing the eleven languages in South Africa and also the eleven players that lined up before the game. Should Portugal get into the next round, we will play our matches in higher altitude. The ball will move a little faster and bounce higher. In my opinion, too much focus has also been given to the adidas ball.

The goals conceded that I have observed have not been a result of the trajectory of the ball, but rather technical mistakes from goalkeepers. It is what it is. Inside this ball are their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Players need to love the ball. Quality, technical players will adjust and discover the best way to manage the ball. The ball dips and bends and players need to keep their eyes on the ball at all times. Players cannot assume anything. The World Cup should not be about the Vuvuzelas or the adidas ball; it should be about the game.

I had the good fortunate of bumping into Didier Drogba after the game and naturally took a photo with him. My first impression was good. He was pleasant and patient. We needed to take three photos to get it right and he accommodated me.

In the past World Cups the African players were free spirited. They played with joy and imagination -- no fear of losing, sending numbers forward. Today, many of the African players are playing in top clubs around the field where they must be responsible and accountable for their actions. Tactically they are more disciplined and the African countries expectations are higher than the past. So, the fear of losing has increased. Fewer risks are taken. More of a defensive position with quick counters is implemented.

The entire country is euphoric about Bafana Bafana. The entire country stops to watch and support their national team. I hope they move on to the next round. This World Cup is more than just a soccer tournament for South Africa. It's a moment for them to shine and potentially be a moment of glory. They want to prove to the world against all odds that they can successfully host the world's biggest sporting event. It's a rebirth, a second wind for this country and continent. It was Nelson Mandela's dream to unite the nation through sport. So far the World Cup has taken my breath away. The true test in any major event is to take this amazing and wonderful spirit beyond July 11th.

We need a positive result versus North Korea. They managed a goal against Brazil. They are disciplined and well organized with two quality forwards. We need to find the back of the net more than they do.

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy. 

For analysis of all of the day's action, check out National Soccer Radio World Cupdate #7 (Thursday, June 17) podcast found here.

ESPN COMMITTED TO SOCCER

ESPN Executive Vice John Skipper is regarded as one of the best in the business. International Soccer Network had the privilege of speaking with him during a recent media conference call from South Africa. The basic theme of the call was that ESPN is very pleased with the World Cup coverage so far. Rightfully so as this year's offerings are on pace for breaking records for viewership. It is safe to say that casual fans and the curious have joined hardcore fans worldwide in large numbers for this historic World Cup.

“We have a pretty significant commitment to the sport. I don’t think we would have been deterred if we were disappointed. Now, the fact that we are thrilled will embolden us to think about what other soccer we might present and will embolden us to think we might make real progress with the soccer we’re already committed to," Skipper commented.

Skipper mentioned that he talked soccer with MLS Commissioner Don Garber over dinner last week. It is clear ESPN has a plan for programming and that soccer is part of that planning.

"It’s going to take a few more years, but we’re going to present soccer as a year-round domestic and international sport on our air and across all of our platforms. What’s going on here at the World Cup will give us some confirmation that we’re on the right track," Skipper concluded.

For analysis of all of the day's action, check out National Soccer Radio World Cupdate #6 (Wednesday, June 16) podcast found here.

YOUTH DAY FEATURES TO HIGHLIGHT ESPN STUDIO COVERAGE OF FIFA WORLD CUP WEDNESDAY
ESPN’s 2010 FIFA World Cup studio presentation on Wednesday, June 16, will include special coverage of Youth Day in South Africa.  The annual holiday commemorates the horrifying and unforgettable events of the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976. This day each year is treated not as a day of mourning but as a day of remembrance and celebration, honoring the children of South Africa for their commitment and courage in facing down the armed forces of the former Apartheid Government.
 
ESPN World Cup reporter and former U.S. Women’s National Team captain Julie Foudy will host coverage from the ESPN studios at the International Broadcast Center in Johannesburg, where she will be joined by ESPN’s South Africa cultural consultant Moss Tau – a 63-year-old lifelong resident of Soweto who lived through Apartheid – and ESPN World Cup analyst and former South African National Team player Shaun Bartlett. ESPN’s Sal Masekela, who is covering cultural and human interest stories throughout the World Cup, will report live from the Moretele Park Music Festival outside Pretoria.
 
In addition to studio coverage, host nation South Africa will return to action on this day with a pivotal match against Group A opponent Uruguay at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Tshwane/Pretoria. ESPN’s planned Youth Day features:
 
Voices of South Africa: Soweto
A signature piece in the “Voices of South Africa” series, “Soweto” is a moving portrait of the Soweto Uprising and the spirit of the people who populate the township today. The memories of that terrible and significant day still linger, but the people have moved on, embracing their new freedoms and the possibilities a post-Apartheid South Africa offers them. The “Voices of South Africa” series was created exclusively for ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
 
Umlando: Sharpeville
In Episode Four of Sal and Hugh Masekela’s father and son journey through South Africa, Sal gains a deeper understanding of the troubled history of his father’s country – though he wasn’t prepared for what he would saw on March 21st, the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, one of the most significant days in the country’s history. The Sharpeville Massacre focused world attention on the evil of Apartheid, and today March 21st is commemorated around the world as International Human Rights Day. Hugh’s lifelong friend Moss Tau met Sal before dawn last March 21st to bring him to the old cemetery in Sharpeville – ground zero in the South African people’s great struggle for freedom. This episode of Umlando: Through My Father’s Eyes, produced by eight-time Emmy Award-winning director, writer and editor Jonathan Hock, is an informative and moving memorial to the Sharpeville Massacre and to the movement it inspired.
 
Masana Sam Nzima
Sal Masekela offers a feature about Masana Sam Nzima, the man who photographed 18-year-old schoolboy Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying away 12-year-old Hector Pieterson’s body away from the rioting crowd at the student protest in Soweto on June 16, 1976. He was both a witness and a documentarian on this day. Towards the end of 1976, the South African Security Police began targeting and going after students and journalists, as well as photographers, who had been at the June 16 uprising. This continued into 1977. A friend of Sam’s, who was a member of the Johannesburg police at the time, informed him that he was a target too. Sam then decided to go back to Lillydale. He fought for the legal rights to the photo for many years and now fully owns the image. Today, Sam still lives in Lillydale, Bushbuck Ridge, where he runs a school of photography after being donated a black and white enlarger by The Sowetan. He also serves on the Bushbuck Ridge municipal council and the council of Bohlabela District.
 
Soweto Feature:"‘A Man that Marched"
In 1976, the South African government introduced the mandatory use of Afrikaans language as a medium of instruction in the black school systems. Tension over this new ruling mounted and, on June 16, thousands of students gathered to march in protest. The plan was to march from school to Orlando Stadium to list their grievances, but this didn’t happen. A Man that Marched tells the story through a first person account of that fateful and politically significant day by a man who was there. Revealing, emotional, sometimes haunting, the piece is an unfiltered look back at a day South Africa will never forget.
 
Apartheid Museum Feature
Tau, ESPN's South Africa cultural consultant, takes Foudy on a tour of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg where he shares the first-hand experience of what he and his country went through to end Apartheid. It took years of struggle, but freedom ultimately came to South Africa, and the museum conveys the nation’s startling legacy of oppression.
 
What is Youth Day? Feature

The events of June 16, 1976 were horrifying, unforgettable and historically significant. From the tragedy of the Soweto Uprising, a national holiday has emerged. Since high school students were the ones who took up the cause against the mandate to teach in Afrikaans, the language of their oppressors, the youth of South Africa are honored on June 16th for their commitment and their courage in facing down the armed forces of the Apartheid Government. This feature explores the holiday as it is currently observed, not as a day of mourning but as a day of remembrance and celebration.

For analysis of all of the day's action, check out National Soccer Radio World Cupdate #4 (Monday, June 14) podcast found here. National Soccer Radio also has World Cupdate #5 (Tuesday, June 15) available here.

MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR PORTUGAL NATIONAL TEAM

Photo Credit: Dan Gaspar

By Dan Gaspar

The moment of truth is just around the corner. Portugal plays its first World Cup match, Tuesday, June 15th at 4:00 pm versus Ivory Coast in Port Elizabeth at the beautiful Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. As many of you know, we defeated Cameroon 3-1 in a preparation match in Covilha, Portugal. Eighty thousand people bid us farewell from the Eduardo VII Park as we departed from Lisbon. When we arrived in Johannesburg we were greeted by thousands of Portuguese immigrants at the airport as well as along the highway. I’ve never seen so much green and red colors. Portuguese immigrants are the largest number of immigrants in South Africa. Our training sessions are also attended by thousands of Portuguese fans. According to the police, 200 cars followed us to our final destination.

There are eight teams who are receiving the most security attention. The United States is considered a high-risk team and has extensive security. The Portugal National Team is also on that list as a result of the popularity of the team.

We also defeated Mozambique 3 to 0. These results were beneficial on many levels. Cameroon and Mozambique are similar in many aspects to Ivory Coast. These positive results have build momentum and confidence that will prepare us versus Ivory Coast. Our players have worked very hard physically, emotionally, mentally and tactically to meet the challenges of our World Cup opponents. Our desire and hope is that our players can deliver the results that will make all Portuguese citizens and fans proud of our efforts. Soccer is without doubt full of surprises. The expectations are high and the demands are immense, but our hope is that we realize our potential.

The Portugal National Team and staff understand that is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We cannot make any guarantees, but we can promise that everything they have will be left on the field. A strong team becomes one in purpose and desire. Carlos Queiroz has done a very good job in organizing events to establish cohesiveness, both on and off the field. Everyone is encouraged to participate and communicate in team building activities, creating a dynamic environment and encouraging creativity. You can build trust with well planned activities. The goal is to strengthen the group through building team work. A soccer team is a collection of people who come together to share something in common. In our case, it’s to go as far as we possibly can in the World Cup, preparing our team to be in the best position to compete.

Our circle is closed tight. I cannot share our preparation in detail, in particular on the field preparations and team meetings. Those are sacred areas and require ultimate respect and confidentiality. However, here are some off the field activities that you might be interested in knowing about.

Portugal Air Force

Our players lived a different experience. When our players arrived at Santos Pinto Stadium they were surprised to discover that they would be trading their uniforms and soccer shoes for camouflage military clothes, painted faces with National Team colors and were given paint ball arms. The Portuguese Air Force turned the soccer stadium into a theater of combat and special operations. They were involved in a strategy of cooperation organized by the Portugal Air Force. The focus was on creating a spirit of cohesion, loyalty, discipline and completing a mission. We all had to work together in order to achieve success. Our team was divided into two groups. Each had to perform activities that required cooperation and communication. After each event they earned an envelope with a note inside. Gathering all the envelopes allowed the players to group the notes together to understand the mission. The leader of each group read a quote from Aristotle and Christopher Reeve.

Joao Garcia

Joao Garcia is an alpinist. He is one of ten who have climbed 14 of the biggest mountains in the world without oxygen. His idea was if one Portuguese has climbed the biggest mountains then one team can win the World Cup. His message was that you need to love what you do and do it with honesty and hard work; that the event should be the motivation and that anything is possible. He said that 12 people have gone to the moon, but only 10 have climbed the 14 biggest mountains.

Black Eyed Peas Concert

The Black Eyed Peas held a concert in Lisbon Portugal at the Portugal National Team Stadium. The Portugal National Team adopted the song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ as its theme. We were in Covilha at our training camp and could not attend the concert. They organized a live feed to the concert and transmitted images of our team and staff viewed on a large TV screen at the stadium as 40 thousand people chanted ‘Portugal, Portugal Portugal.’ The song ‘I Gotta a Feeling’ has motivated us, relaxed us and helps give us positive results. As Nani said we would have loved to attend the concert, but we cannot and asked the crowed to enjoy the concert for us.

Fernando Rocha

Comedian Fernando Roach performed for our team. Laughter is a great stress reliever. He had us all rolling on the floor. By the end of the evening we felt like we had done a thousand sit-ups. Our abdominals were sore because of the strain of laughter.

Lion Park Safari

You cannot come to South Africa and not experience a Safari. We had three jeeps filled with players, coaching staff and administrators. We saw plenty of animals and took plenty of photos. Although we felt safe inside the jeep, it’s amazing to see such great athletes and players fear and respect these massive, dangerous animals, especially the lions. That was another great team event that helped bring the team together. When you are together for over a month team bonding is crucial on and off the field.

Gala

After our victory against Mozambique we attended a Gala. One of our players and a coach sat at each of the tables. It was a first class occasion. Coach Queiroz, Ronaldo, Simao and Deco were on stage to answer questions. We were all in our official Portugal suits. My guess is that there were at least 400 people in attendance. It was a fun evening with excited Portuguese fans from South Africa. Bingo Often we play Bingo. There are lots of drama and plenty of banter. One night, I got up and yelled, “I Love the Game!” They assumed I won, but I never said ‘Bingo.’ Countless dinner napkins were tossed at me. It’s on video… cannot wait to see it!

H20 Spa

Incredible spa facility… Naturally these superstars have traveled the world and have experienced the best of the best. They were impressed with the first-class environment. After a demanding training camp in Covilha it was a great move to have the players relax and regenerate. Players had all types of relaxation methods -- from the pool, sauna, steam, hot and ice baths, massages, fresh and salt water, whirl pool etc. The spa was on top of a mountain with some great views. Everyone was chilling, big time!

Fernando Ferreira

Fernando Ferreira world class singer performed for us. He imitates 100 voices of famous singing artists in several languages. He was amazing and our players and staff truly enjoyed his talents.

South African Magician

Each magic trick was more challenging than the one before. Players were impressed. They thought they had figured the magic trick out, but they could not catch him. He was too quick and a professional. Some of the magic tricks at the end would just shake your head.

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy.

For analysis of all of today's action, check out National Soccer Radio World Cupdate #3 (Sunday, June 13) podcast found here.

HOWARD LEADS USMNT TO DRAW WITH ENGLAND

The 1-1 draw between U.S. and England represented the biggest result in U.S. soccer history. As one ESPN commentator remarked, "No one won, but everyone will remember what happened in Rustenberg."

The opening match for both the U.S. and England was a suspenseful one that could have gone either way. There were a lot of opportunities for both sides, but each squad did enough to keep the other from capitalizing on those opportunities. Simply put, it was an epic battle between old rivals made new.

There were several common themes found throughout the match. One goalkeeper (Tim Howard) was "lights out"; another (Robert Green) made one of the biggest blunders in a generation. Two stars (Wayne Rooney and Landon Donovan) had little impact on the game, while two often overshadowed players (Steven Gerrard and Clint Dempsey) scored a goal and earned the glory. Two substitutes (Shaun Wright-Phillips and Edson Buddle) played better than the starters (James Milner and Robbie Findley) and two unheralded players (Emile Heskey and Oguchi Onyewu) put in solid performances despite doubts about their form.

The U.S. and England now look like the favorites in the group, but each must be careful about Algeria and Slovenia. Every match must be treated carefully; there are no pushovers in the World Cup.

For analysis of all of today's action, check out National Soccer Radio World Cupdate #2 (Saturday, June 12) podcast found here.

IT'S FINALLY HERE

Day 1 of the 2010 World Cup was great as expected. The atmosphere, crowds, and stadiums were simply magnificent. South Africa outperformed their skeptics to earn a 1-1 draw with Mexico. South Africa, called the worst host team ever by some critics, came away with a point even though both sides had plenty of opportunities.

France and Uruguay played to a 0-0 draw in a defensive effort. The French seemed frustrated by Uruguay's tactical pressure. Diego Forlan drew the attention of French defenders, but was unable to come away with a goal. Overall the result was not a surprise.

For more analysis check out National Soccer Radio World Cupdate #1 podcast (Friday, June 11) found here.

VORTEX DOMINATE IN EXHIBITION PLAY

AKRON, OHJune 11, 2010 – It was a beautiful evening for soccer as the Ohio Vortex (PASL-Pro) strolled to a 6-0 victory over the Akron Metro Futbol Club (AMFC) U-18 squad in an exhibition matchup.

It was clearly “a game of men against boys” as the AMFC U-18s struggled to find any sort of rhythm against a veteran squad.  The Vortex would put up three goals in each half in an easy victory for the Canton, Ohio franchise. The lone bright spot for Akron Metro was Dylan Parsons, who was a difference-maker on the field.  Parsons, a senior at Archbishop Hoban HS, was perhaps the only player who could even compete with the older professional players. 

The reason for the match was simple: both clubs share the same coach, Denzil Antonio. Both the professional and youth players appreciate the work of Antonio.  “He really teaches you a lot. He really gets you ready for college,” Parsons commented. “He can tell you what to do and what you need to work on to be part of a college team one day.”     

ESPN GEARS UP FOR THE WORLD CUP

ESPN hosted a media conference call with Bob Ley, Scott Guglielmino, and Alexi Lalas Wednesday afternoon. The three discussed the upcoming World Cup that is just hours away.

“This is one of the most complex, ambitious, the most dedicated production I have ever seen,” said Ley, who is working on his fourth World Cup with ESPN.

“Some paint will be drying, blacktop maybe cooling, but the facilities are marvelous,” Ley said of the worries of South Africa not being ready. “There is a palpable energy around the city of Johannesburg.”

The trio also focused on the studio that they will call home for the next five weeks. ESPN has built from scratch, a HD studio 28-feet above Soccer City in Johannesburg.

“I was here in February and that patch of ground was mud and grass and when I came back three and half months later, it is a functioning TV studio.”

With that studio, ESPN will be bringing their mantra of “wherever, whenever” into full force as they introduce new media and ways of producing the games.

“You can get [the World Cup] on broadband, on wireless, on television, and on radio. A big part of our analysis of how successful it was is how successful audience levels are on the newer media,” Guglielmino said.

Lalas was also on hand to answer questions about the player side of what playing in a World Cup is like.“It’s all the clichés,” Lalas said. “It’s the realization of the dreams and an opportunity of a lifetime.”

“It makes me very happy to know that within this next month that this sport, and this tournament, are going to change the lives of a handful of soccer players,” Lalas concluded.

SCORELESS DRAW FOR RED STARS AND BEAT

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - June 6, 2010 - The Chicago Red Stars have made some changes since their last match-- a 1-0 win against FC Gold Pride on May 29. On Thursday, they announced Omid Namazi as the organization’s second full-time head coach. He replaced Emma Hayes who coached the Red Stars during the 2009 WPS season and the first six matches of 2010.

Not only that, but they also brought aboard three Athletica free agents: midfielder Nikki Washington, Elk Grove Village native Elise Weber, and England National Team member Anita Asante. The club said goodbye to Ifeoma Dieke, Brittany Klein, and Michele Weissenhofer.

The changes seemed to be positive as the Chicago Red Stars (2-4-2) outplayed the Atlanta Beat (0-6-2), despite a scoreless turnout. The Red Stars outshot Atlanta and controlled majority of the possession. This was the first-ever meeting between the two clubs.

The first half ended scoreless with only a few good chances at a goal for either side. In the 2nd minute Karen Carney had a free-kick just outside the eighteen that marked the first shot of the game. Atlanta gained possession and had their own chance to score just seconds later as they got in front of the goal with a hard shot that was deflected out for a corner. They could not convert.

The Red Stars had another opportunity in the 17th minute when Carney sent in a corner which found the head of Casey Nogueira and then the feet of Cristiane who got a shot off. The shot went high. Then, in the 22nd minute Carney found Cristiane alone in the box on a through ball, but she was just steps offsides.

The Red Stars came out a lot stronger at the start of the second half getting several attempts at a goal in the first ten minutes.

In the 50th minute, Cristiane crossed a ball to Megan Rapinoe wide open in the eighteen but her shot was not hard enough and it went right to Atlanta's Hope Solo, considered to be the best goalkeeper in the women's game. In the 53rd minute Nogueria looked to play Rapinoe again in the box but the ball was sent too hard allowing the Beat keeper to intercept it. Perhaps the best opportunity came in the 72nd minute when a corner from Carney was played back to Dalmy who dummied over the ball then made a run as Engen received it and played her one touch. Dalmy was able to cross it inside the six yard box to a diving Chapman. The ball was moving too fast and despite sliding, she was could not able to get a foot on it. Moments later Formiga sent in a vigorous shot, unfortunately at savable height for Solo.

Although their chances were few in the second half, Atlanta had their own near goal in the 83rd minute when defender Tina Ellertson planted a hard header just over the goal off a corner kick. It was a frustrating match for both clubs as neither was expecting to leave with a scoreless draw after so many changes.

The Red Stars next match is June 12th on the road against the Washington Freedom.

KICKERS BRING HEAT IN WIN OVER BATTERY

RICHMOND, VAJune 5, 2010 – The Richmond Kickers hosted Charleston Battery in a Saturday night match at 7 PM. The 3-1 win over Battery marked Richmond’s fourth of the season. The Saturday evening match was the first between the two clubs since August 2005; they will meet again July 3 in an afternoon match at UR Stadium. Thunder and lightening threatened, yet neither delayed the match. In addition to troubling weather, the evening brought temperatures in the high-80s.

The festivities associated with the evening’s game began early. The Kickers hosted a “School’s Out Festival,” of which numerous local organizations and businesses sponsored. Some of those participating included Great Clips, Q94, Soccer Post, Camp Hanover, and Master Cho’s Tae Kwon Do, to name a few. The celebratory event began at 4 PM and attracted fans of great number who furthered their stay throughout the match. Fans participated in games, exercises, and other activities until the match’s start.

The Kicker Kangaroo, Kick-A-Roo, made his grand entrance in efforts to seek the “Most Enthusiastic Kickers Fans.” The lucky winners were awarded with the traditional “best seat in the house,” a field-side view of the game.

The first free kick of the evening was granted to Charleston after just two minutes of play. The following early minutes brought continuous back-and-forth action between the two teams. Richmond took a corner kick at the 10-minute mark. In the next few minutes, there were multiple header-attempts, none of which resulted in a score change.

Kicker forward Edson Elcock took several opportunities to reach the goal. His consistency and agility contributed to the Kickers’ early shots. At the 20-minute mark, Battery forward Amaury Nunes crossed to fellow forward Brandon Massie in what looked to be a goal; however, Kicker goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale was credited with the save. Moments later, after strenuous play, Richmond was granted two free kicks, neither of which the ball saw the back of the net.

After 24 minutes of play, Kicker midfielder Dave Hertel demonstrated his aesthetics in a fashionable throw-in; unfortunately, the throw was wide-right and rolled out-of-bounds. Minutes later, Hertel exited the field to replace his cleats, which were faulty from a previous play.

At the 30-minute mark, Kicker fans were back on their feet. A cross from Elcock to midfielder Bobby Foglesong landed just over the goal, with the scoreboard still reading 0-0.

Pascale was credited with another save three minutes later, further earning his three-time USL-2 Goalkeeper of the Year title. Hertel crossed once more after 36-minutes of play; the cross, resulted in another missed shot over-the-goal.

Kicker defender Sascha Görres received a yellow-card after 40 minutes of play. Following the card, Charleston made another attempt at goal; however, was unsuccessful. Richmond’s Elcock made another attempt after 44 minutes; his deflection was wide-right. Stoppage time was not awarded for the half.

During halftime, fans continued to participate in the evening’s activities. A Bounce 2 The Moon express train carted young children around the parking lots and walkways. Moon bounces and slides were also inflated for fan pleasure.

The second half was underway moments after 8 PM. The combined efforts of Richmond forward Matthew Delicâte and midfielder Foglesong contributed to a nice shot on goal, which was saved by Battery goalkeeper Tim Melia. A minute later, Kicker defender William Yomby took a header attempt, which went over the goal.

The action heated up at the 55-minute mark when the evening saw its first goal. Another Richmond goal-attempt and a Charleston foul resulted in a free kick for the Kickers. The kick touched the cleats of multiple players until it reached the feet of Kicker forward Elcock and went in the net for the goal. Elcock obtained the ball after a deflection from Charleston goalkeeper Melia.

With a one-goal advantage over Charleston, the Kickers continued to bring the heat. Charleston fought back on their next goal attempt when midfielder Pierre-Rudolph Mayard took a shot that deflected off of the left goalpost. Charleston continued with several goal-attempts in the following minutes.

After some intense play, Charleston received a foul and the Kickers took another free kick. The kick, which was taken at 70 minutes, resulted in another goal for Richmond. The goal was credited to Foglesong with the assist to Luke Vercollone.

With the scoreboard reading 2-0 Richmond, Charleston had ground to cover. In efforts to answer back, Battery defender O’Brian Woodbine received a yellow-card. The card was followed by another header attempt toward the goal.

The Kickers weren’t satisfied with a 2-0 lead over their opponent. Görres took a shot from 35-yards out and the ball found the upper-right corner of the net. This third goal came after 77 minutes of play.

Mayard scored Charleston’s first goal off a header after 80 minutes of play. Moments later, defender Nigel Marples racked up another yellow-card for the Battery. The match concluded with three minutes of stoppage time.

The Richmond Kickers now hold a 17-16-4 series advantage over Charleston Battery. The Kickers (4-3-2) will not return to UR Stadium until they take on Battery (6-1-3) again on July 3 at 1 PM. Tickets for the match can be purchased in advance via RichmondKickers.com.

FIRE TRUMP UNION 2-1

CHICAGO, IL - June 5, 2010 – The Chicago Fire used goals from Baggio Husidic and Marco Pappa to snap a four-game winless streak and dispatch Philadelphia Union 2-1 at TOYOTA PARK. Husidic and Pappa both notched their third goal of the season and Patrick Nyarko added his sixth assist as the Fire earned three points over the expansion Union in the first meeting between the two clubs.

The Fire (3-3-4, 13 points) earned their second home victory of the year, the last coming 41 days prior, when Husidic scored in the death of the first half and the Fire topped the Houston Dynamo 2-0 on April 24. The Fire increased their record to 2-0-1 when leading at halftime.

Justin Mapp began the buildup to the first goal when he fed Nyarko on the left, who in stride darted toward the touchline, penetrating the Union defense. Running out of space, the crafty Ghanaian sent an angled pass to the feet of Husidic, who redirected Nyarko’s cross past Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz in the 14th minute.

Marco Pappa almost doubled the score in the 47th minute, lashing a curving left-footed blast that hit the crossbar and the post in the top right corner of the goal.

The Fire added to their lead 27 minutes later. Husidic started the opportunity with a run down the right flank, feeding a wide open Mapp just inside the 18-yard box. The Fire veteran fired a driven shot on goal forcing Seitz to dive to his right for the save. The ball deflected back into the area and eventually rolled to Pappa and the 22-year-old Guatemalan would not be denied, as he clinically placed the ball into the back of the net to score the eventual game winner in the 74th minute.

Danny Mwanga, the first overall selection in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, scored a consolation goal for Union in the 92nd minute when he poked a ball past Dykstra; gathering his third consecutive stoppage time goal of the season.

The Fire round out their six-game home stand at TOYOTA PARK against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, June 9 at 8:00 PM CT (My50). During MLS’ first-ever World Cup break the Fire will have no league games for the duration of World Cup group play. The team will play the NSC Minnesota Stars in an exhibition match at NSC Stadium on Sunday, June 20. For tickets please call 1-888-MLS-FIRE (657-3473) or head to the club’s official website at www.Chicago-Fire.com.  

CREW FALLS TO COLORADO, 1-0, SATURDAY AT DICK'S SPORTING GOODS PARK

COMMERCE CITY, CO - June 5, 2010 - The Columbus Crew fell to the Colorado Rapids, 1-0, Saturday night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, in the club's final match before the league-wide break for the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In what was a battle between the second and third stingiest defenses in MLS, both sides struggled to create openings throughout the first half and much of the second. The first clear-cut chance of the night came in the 73rd minute, as the Crew poured forward in a counter-attack opportunity after Pablo Mastroeni passed loosely into the path of the Crew midfield. Eddie Gaven pushed forward and passed to Steven Lenhart, who then laid the pass off to an open Guillermo Barros Schelotto. However, the Argentine rushed his shot, pushing the scoring chance over the crossbar. With five minutes remaining on the game, the Rapids would finally break the deadlock from a set piece. Jamie Smith took the free kick from near the midfield mark and sent in a high cross into the box for a diving Drew Moor. The defender struck the ball hard and into the ground, sneaking it in between the post and Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer. The Crew will now enjoy a three-week break from MLS play, due to the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa on June 11. The Black & Gold will next take to the field on June 26, when it hosts D.C. United at Crew Stadium. The match, which is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET, will be televised live regionally on ONN-TV.

U.S. TOPS AUSTRALIA 3-1 IN FINAL TUNE-UP
BEFORE OPENING GAME OF 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP

ROODEPOORT, SOUTH AFRICA - June 5, 2010 - In the final tune-up game before the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team used two goals from Edson Buddle and a late score from Herculez Gomez to earn a 3-1 victory against Australia in front of a small but boisterous crowd at Ruimsig Stadium.

Buddle’s goals were the first and second of his national team career and they came in just his third appearance. Gomez’ stoppage time tally was his second career goal in four appearances.

The match came five days after the USA arrived in South Africa and a week before the Americans their 2010 FIFA World Cup against England at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. The match kicks of at 2:30 p.m. ET live on ABC and Univision.

U.S. head coach Bob Bradley made several changes from the lineup that defeated Turkey 2-1 on May 29 in the USA’s final domestic warm-up match, inserting veteran Steve Cherundolo at right back and using both Buddle and Robbie Findley at forward while dropping Clint Dempsey back from striker to left midfield.

Buddle rewarded his coach’s confidence with an impressive individual effort that led to a goal in just the fourth minute. It came after he tracked back to pick the ball off the feet of an Aussie defender and then raced toward an off-balance Aussie defense. Buddle beat a defender with a nifty move to his right and stuck a dipping a shot inside the right post past diving Australia ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer to give the Americans an early advantage.

Australia’s Tim Cahill leveled the score in the 19th minute on a corner kick, finding space inside the penalty box to volley the cross through traffic and into the lower left corner.

Both teams wanted to avoid any injuries with their World Cup openers on the horizon but the match was far from conservative. The teams combined for 25 shots and both countries attacked with energy.

The Americans regained the lead in the 31st minute when Cherundolo got past his defender with a great burst down the right wing and played a teasing cross to the far post where Buddle got in front his mark and headed home from close range past the helpless Schwarzer.

At halftime, Bradley changed goalkeepers, replacing Tim Howard with Marcus Hahnemann who earned his first cap since 2007. Hahnemann was forced into several tough saves, but kept the Socceroos off the board in the second half. It was the first of five changes made by Bradley, who also gave Oguchi Onyewu 30 minutes in place of Clarence Goodson while Jonathan Bornstein replaced captain Carlos Bocanegra for the final 36 minutes. DaMarcus Beasley also came on in 72nd minute in place of Buddle while Gomez got on the field in the 82nd minute in place of Dempsey, who certainly did not cruise into the World Cup. The Texas native showed plenty of attacking energy despite Australia taking at least three nasty whacks at his legs during the match.

The USA had a goal disallowed in 51st minute after a wild sequence that started when Landon Donovan put Buddle through into the left side of the penalty area. Buddle’s cross found the sliding Findley at the back post, but his shot hit the crossbar. It bounced in the box before it was poorly cleared by Australia to Michael Bradley, who dribbled at goal and unleashed a blast that Schwarzer could only bat into the air. Dempsey came flying through to send a diving header into the net, but it was waved off for offside.

The final goal came after a crisp series of passing by the U.S. near the top of the penalty box in the third minute of stoppage time. Donovan got possession on the right side and rewarded a good run from Gomez, skipping a cross into the middle for the forward to first-time a shot into the left corner of the net from seven yards away.

The U.S. Men's National Team is in Group C at the 2010 FIFA World Cup with England, Slovenia and Algeria. After the England match, the USA will face Slovenia on June 18 in Johannesburg and Algeria on June 23 in Tshwane/Pretoria.

Photo Credit: Dan Gaspar

NELSON MANDELA AND THE WORLD CUP

By Dan Gaspar

The Beauty and Power of South Africa

In 2000 I had the honor of working with the Bafana Bafana soccer team. I was invited by the South African National Team Head Coach Carlos Queiroz. They were preparing for the African Nations Cup in Mali.  There were three profound memories from my time there that impacted my life.  The first was the incredible natural beauty and power of South Africa. The lightning storms were spectacular -- the cracking sounds of the lightning makes you realize how we are not in charge. Going to the Lost City and taking a safari was spectacular. Seeing the big five: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, and buffalo forced you to respect wildlife.  The roar of the lion made you quickly on alert. The power of the rhino made you realize inside your jeep is where you belong. The massive size and strength of the elephant makes you understand why they have survived so many years. The speed of the leopard makes you realize they were untouchable and the buffalo's stare freezes you in your tracks. 

The Mystery and Magic of Muti

The second memory was when the South African National Team was preparing for their match versus the reigning World Cup and European champion, France. I was in the locker room and one of the assistant coaches came to me said, “I know you have attended a number of coaching courses and have traveled the world. What is about to happen no book or course has ever prepared you for.”   I became concerned. I quickly walked backwards and put my back up against the wall. All of a sudden there was a peculiar knock on our door. The locker room became silent. Muti entered the room.  Who is Muti? Muti is a witch doctor wearing a tribal costume.  He began chanting and spreading white powder and what seemed to be small bone chips… spreading it around the locker room. All of a sudden - poof! - he disappeared. No, he did not vanish into thin air.  He walked out of the locker room.  One by one each South African player began singing their individual tribal battle song until at the end they were all singing the same battle song. It is impossible to share with you the spirit that was created in the locker room. It was a special environment. We drew with France 0 to 0. The South African players demonstrated imagination, creativity, elegance, power, speed and no fear in taking risks. I was coaching the A-League Connecticut Wolves and took the opportunity to hunt for players. Instead of returning to the Connecticut Wolves with players, I brought back Muti with me! 

Handshake of Inspiration

Last and the most profound memory was when the Portugal National Team was invited to Nelson Mandela's compound.  Having had the opportunity to listen to Nelson Mandela share his journey to freedom while he was in prison for 29 years was amazing. We shook hands and to this day I can feel that handshake. Nelson Mandela was a former boxer. His hands were strong and thick.  Today when I encounter what I perceive as problems I reflect back to our handshake and realize that my problems are miniscule compared to his. I realize how trivial my issues are. His smile transmitted peace and serenity. He was so gracious and patient with us all.  He loves soccer. As a result of soccer I have had the good fortune to have worked with or personally witness world-class coaches and players.  With all respect to those stars, none have impressed or impacted me more with simply an introduction to Nelson Mandela. The game of soccer represented diversity and we all know how he feels about that. We all hope we will witness Nelson Mandela at the age of 91 kick off the 2010 World Cup. We could not have a more deserving human being.  Ten years later I return to South Africa to participate in the World Cup with the Portugal National Team.  My hope is that once again I have the privilege and honor of shaking Nelson Mandela's hand.

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy. 

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Jr.

NORTHERN OHIO BECOMES CENTER OF SOCCER UNIVERSE

First the U.S. Women's National Team came to Cleveland Browns Stadium. Then 250+ teams descended on the city of Westlake for the 27th Annual Westlake Invitational Soccer Tournament (WIST). Local clubs would be the focus of the competition, playing against some of the region's best youth soccer talent.

Cleveland Croatia of Eastlake, OH was the most successful claiming two championships in their respective boys U-10 and U-13 divisions. Canfield (OH) Soccer Club experienced a great deal of success, serving as finalists in the boys U-10 as well as the girls U-12 and U-14 divisions.

Spectators were most impressed with the play and talent level of Flower City United (Rochester, NY). The club traveled a long distance to the tournament, but did not disappoint despite struggling to a 0-3 record at the WIST. The squad, led by Coach Jeffrey Reese, featured speed, pure athleticism, and raw talent. Several observers commented that the club could have 5 or 6 legitimate collegiate players on the pitch over the weekend.

The play of the kids on the field was obviously priority #1 for all involved, but it is noteworthy to mention the economic impact of this tournament. Thousands of dollars were funneled into the local economy as players, coaches, and their families filled local hotels, restaurants, and stores.

CREW DRAWS WITH SAN JOSE, 2-2, WEDNESDAY AT BUCK SHAW STADIUM

SANTA CLARA, CA - June 2, 2010 - The Columbus Crew rebounded from its lone loss of the season last Saturday (May 29) to secure a 2-2 draw with San Jose Wednesday night in a lively match at Buck Shaw Stadium. Columbus pushed from the opening kick, and it paid off almost immediately.

In the fourth minute, right back Jed Zayner's cross fell to the feet of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who held off two defenders and put a shot on goal. Joe Cannon pushed the rebound aside, but the ball trickled to Jason Garey in the goalmouth, who centered the ball to his right to an unmarked Eddie Gaven for the easy tap-in.

However, the 'Quakes would equalize less than a minute later. San Jose's Andre Luiz collected a loose ball on the right side and flicked a pass on to midfielder Arturo Alvarez, who struck a low, hard shot that just beat Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer at the near post.

The Crew regained the lead 70th minute when a Schelotto corner kick found the head of Chad Marshall, who rose above a crowd to nod home his first goal of the season. In the 79th minute, San Jose would again respond with an equalizer when Bobby Convey's corner kick found Scott Sealy, who then headed the ball across goal to Chris Wondolowski, where the forward headed home his sixth score of the season.

NAJAR THE STAR: UNITED'S YOUNGEST PLAYER CONTINUES HIS VETERAN PLAY

WASHINGTON, DC - June 2, 2010 - The look on Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran’s face was one of such flabbergast and fluster that one would think the defender had seen a ghost or goblin rather than a goal in a soccer game.

But alas, after D.C. United substitute and 17-year old prodigy Andy Najar inexplicably shimmied and shook through Beltran and another RSL defender on the edge of the box and then deftly slotted the ball under charging goalkeeper Kyle Reynish in the second extra period of overtime to hand United a 2-1 victory, it appears Beltran’s classic hands-on-the-heads moment was instead in awe of a flowing, glorious goal in a match packed with anything but.

The result catapults United into the U.S. Open Cup proper—a contest in which they’ve made the finals two years in a row and won in 2008— and makes United the eighth and last MLS team to qualify for round of 16.
“He did well and was magical, man,” United midfielder Santino Quaranta said of Najar. “He’s fun to watch, he’s dynamic; he can change a game.”

That he can, and did. The strike was Najar’s mere second touch of the match (he almost scored on his first touch, too) after he came in as the team’s last sub 105 minutes in and is now his third goal for the club overall after scoring in United’s first Open Cup play-in game versus FC Dallas and in the team’s 3-2 victory over Chivas USA in league player last Saturday.

Perhaps more impressively, it came in a static match that lacked any sort of spunk, spirit or spark and indeed seemed more reminiscent of one of the league’s reserve games with both teams fielding under-strength lineups in light of the team’s match up in the league on Saturday.

It also marked the team’s third win in a row, if including the team’s 3-2 exhibition victory over AC Milan last Wednesday— the team’s longest streak of the season by far after starting out the season in dismal form.
“Every time we put our shirt on and play in front of our fans we have an obligation to ourselves and the club to do well and as of late we’re starting to understand that,” said United midfielder Santino Quaranta. “It takes a lot of work to get victories in the league no matter who you play.”

Overtime was forced in the first place after a Luciano Emilio penalty kick in the 75th minute was nullified five minutes later by a Will Johnson penalty kick. D.C.’s penalty was awarded by what appeared to be a handball by RSL’s striker Collen Warner; RSL’s penalty was definitely awarded by a handball call, this time on D.C. United’s Barry Rice.

Rice, an Ohioan who played at the University of Kentucky and was signed by United this season, marked his first start for the club in fine fashion despite the apparent handball, highlighted in the waning moments of extra time when he cleared the ball off the line to ensure United’s victory.

“Barry’s a gutsy guy, he was cramping from probably the 60th minute and just got through it, he’s a very, very mentally tough individual,” said United Head Coach Curt Onalfo. “He persevered and cleared a ball of the line at the end of the game and had a real solid performance.”

Onalfo was made to watch the match from the stands after being sent off in last round’s victory over FC Dallas. That, however, didn’t spoil what has been a tough thing to come by for United this season: Victory.

"It wasn’t fun not being on the sidelines,” Onalfo told internationalsoccernetwork.com. “But it is what it is and we got ourselves a good result."

Robert Ivory

BEAT ADD THREE FROM ST. LOUIS

The Atlanta Beat Women’s Professional Soccer  team has agreed to terms with U.S. National Team starting goalkeeper Hope Solo, defender Tina Ellertson, and current WPS leading scorer Eniola Aluko.  The Beat acquire these three players from the recently dissolved Saint Louis Athletica after placing No.1 draft pick, Tobin Heath on season-ending injury reserve and releasing both Lauren Sesselmann and Marisha Schumacher Hodge. 

“We’re very excited to bring in three players of their class,” said Beat head coach O’Sullivan.  “We know they will make an immediate impact on our team.” 

Building from the back, goalkeeper Hope Solo joins the Beat with an impressive resume both on the professional and international levels.  In 2009, she was named WPS Goalkeeper of the Year and was a member of the WPS All-Star team.  She led all votes in fan balloting for the All-Star game and started 17 of 17 games that she was available to play in the league’s inaugural season.  Not only did she record back-to-back shutouts on three different occasions in 2009, but she also recorded the first ever assist by a goalkeeper in WPS history. 

As the starting keeper for the U.S. Women’s National Team,  Solo is an Olympic Gold Medalist who was named 2009 U.S. Female Athlete of the Year.  She was named MVP of the prestigious Algarve Cup after a spectacular performance in the championship game, and according to O’Sullivan, “She is the best goalkeeper in the world.” 

Defender Tina Ellertson joins the Beat as one of only seven players league-wide who started every game of the 2009 season.  She has so far logged more minutes than any Athletica player in 2010 and will rejoin Kia McNeill at the centerback position.  “We feel Tina and Kia will make a great partnership at the back,” said the Coach O’Sullivan.  In 2009, the duo (along with Solo) allowed the second fewest goals WPS (15) earning the second lowest goals against average(0.75) and the second most shutouts (10). 

Also joining the Beat  is Aluko, a forward from England’s National team who currently leads WPS in scoring with four goals in six games after tallying six goals and four assists in 2009.  “Eni brings a lot of pace and a goal scoring threat to our attack,” said O’Sullivan. “She is constantly improving her game, and we look forward to seeing her continue at the top of the WPS scoring charts.”

A.C. MILAN TOPS CHICAGO FIRE 1-0 IN FRIENDLY MATCH

CHICAGO, IL - May 30, 2010 - A.C. Milan is the fourth European club to visit Chicago in May as they played the Fire in a friendly match at Toyota Park.

Fire Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos was excited about the opportunity to get to play against a team from “the best league in the world,” as he called Italy’s soccer league.

The stadium was stirring with energy and excitement as 20,356 fans from across the country came out to see some of the best players in the world. This was the first ever sell-out for an international game in Toyota Park history. Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato, and Clarence Seedorf came to represent A.C. Milan and are three of the most skilled players in the game.

Ronaldinho received roaring cheers as his name was announced in the starting lineup, then got the standing ovation as he left the game in the 74th minute.

Everyone in Chicago wanted a moment with Ronaldinho, especially the fan who ran out onto the field during the 32nd minute of play to kiss his cleats. Of course, he was promptly chased down by security and escorted off the field in handcuffs, but he got his moment.

The Fire did not play as if they were intimidated, coming out very strong in the first half. They got the first two shots of the game. The first came from Justin Mapp in the second minute who forced a Fire corner kick. McBride collected the serve and got another quality shot off.

The Fire played consistent, utilizing the strengths they possess. Nyarko used his speed and even flicked a ball over Ronaldinho’s head, McBride got shots off, Poppa took several long shots, and Mapp dribbled through defenders. The Fire took 8 shots in the first half to A.C. Milan’s 6. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to capitalize on any of their opportunities. Neither was A.C. Milan, as the half ended scoreless.

A.C. Milan captain Clarence Seedorf got the only goal of the game in the first minutes of the second half as he dribbled behind two Fire defenders. Andrew Dykstra misread his touch and came out too far, allowing Seedorf to pass it into the back of the net.

The Fire got their most dangerous chance of the game in the 54th minute when Husidic played it out to Martinez on the right side who took a hard shot, which was then deflected by the keeper out of bounds.

Then, in the 65th minute, Mike Banner dribbled past A.C. Milan defenders and hit a shot just wide of the goal. Banner got one more attempt in the 81st minute as he shot wide of the goal again. Stoppage time got fans up on their feet as back-to-back corners nearly resulted in a Fire goal.

Carlos de los Cobos was happy with his team's performance. “It was a good match for us. We played a very big team with very big players and I am happy with our players' effort,” said de los Cobos.

“Once again, we had those clear chances to score and we missed. We will continue to look to improve and if we do the work, we will,” said de los Cobos.

The Fire head coach made a lot of substitutions throughout the match, allowing several players the opportunity to play against some of the world’s best. ‘The best way for the players to grow up and improve is to play in games like this against these kinds of guys,” said de los Cobos.

Robert Ivory

CREW GET "BLACKOUT" IN LOSS TO GALAXY

COLUMBUS, OH - May 29, 2010 - On "Blackout the Galaxy" night in Columbus, the Crew dropped a 2-0 decision to the Los Angeles Galaxy Saturday night at Crew Stadium in front of 18,000 strong. Michael Stephens scored his first career MLS goal and Bruce Arena got his 100th career MLS coaching win, only the fourth to do so, as the Galaxy is now the last unbeaten team in MLS.

The Crew came out looking to score quickly as the Galaxy were fresh from their friendly with Argentina’s Boca Juniors on Sunday and Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle being absent due to their call-ups to the U.S. World Cup roster.

But it would be L. A. that would score first in the 10th minute, when midfielder Michael Stephens scored his first MLS goal. Stephens received a pass from Chris Birchall and Stephens was left all alone by the Crew defense and put his shot past crew keeper Will Hesmer, quieting the Nordeke.

“I floated to the back post,” Stephens said. “Birchall played a good ball across the box and I was wide open for an easy goal.”

The Crew had the better half offensively; ending with ten shots, but could not put away the goal. Steven Lenhart was a thorn in the side of the Galaxy as he continually tested Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (who had four saves all night). Lenhart got closer and closer to equalizing, but never could find the answer.

Andy Iro almost had the first Crew goal in the 75th minute, as he put a header on the right posts. It looked like the Crew were sniffing their big goal.

Columbus Head Coach Robert Warzycha had his team push for that equalizer and would even use all his subs before the 75th minute. Most notably of those subs was Jason Garey, who thought he had a goal when he put the ball past Ricketts and the stadium erupted. However, Garey was called for offside and the goal disallowed. Just a minute later, the Crew looked to have L. A. down to ten men after Birchall cut down Emilio Renteria from behind, but he was only cautioned.

Warzycha threw everything he had at the Galaxy in the last fifteen minutes, putting all of his men forward looking to get the goal the Crew usually get at the end of games.

“I think they threw a lot of energy in at the end of the game,” Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena said. “Be my guest to figure what formation they were playing at the end. It looked like everyone they had they threw in there.”

The difference was Ricketts, who leads the league with 8 shutouts and 9 wins, has not conceded a goal since a 4-1 win over Philadelphia on May 2. 

The Crew would dominate the stats, as they out-shot LA (21-3), shots on goal (4-3), corner kicks (15-0), and LA out fouled (12-4), and were cautioned four times to the Crew’s one.

“You can win the game on the stat sheet, but you have to finish your chances,” Warzycha said after the game. 
Galaxy forward Tristen Bowen put the game away in the 87th minute, when he got a nice pass from Chris Klein and had enough time to put it past Hesmer for the nail in the coffin. The start for Bowen was only his second of the year, but his services were needed with the absence of Donovan and Buddle.

“We’re often criticized for how old our team is, nice to see some of the young guys helping us out,” Arena said, “And they have done a good job.”

The Galaxy still lead the Western Conference with 29 points, most in MLS, and the Crew stay at 20 points, five ahead of New York Red Bulls.

KICKERS LOSE IN BATTLE

RICHMOND, VAMay 29, 2010 – The Richmond Kickers were back in action Saturday at 7 pm as they took on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The 3-1 Riverhound defeat over the Kickers marked the Kickers' second home loss this season. The Saturday night game marked the second meeting between the two clubs. In the first meeting, nearly a month ago, the two clubs played on Pittsburgh’s home turf in what ended in a 1-1 draw. The Kickers and Riverhounds play again on July 24.

Despite Memorial Day weekend, Kicker fans were of great number and included those of local Boy Scout troops, as the date was claimed “Scout Night.” The Kicker Kangaroo brought fans to their feet before the match was underway. The evening’s 80-degree weather contributed to fans’ high spirits. Four fans were chosen as the “Most Enthusiastic” and were awarded the best seat in the house, a field-side view of the game.

Early minutes brought back-and-forth action between the two teams. The Riverhounds took their first corner kick at three minutes; the kick was later followed by a center cross by forward Chad Severs in what gave Kicker goalkeeper Mark Murphy a save. The Kickers saw their first free kick at eight minutes; the ball quickly found its way into the hands of Riverhound goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap. Shortly after, nearing the 10-minute mark, Kicker forward Edson Elcock took a powerful shot just over the goal.

One minute later, Kicker midfielder Jonathan Villanueva attempted a point for the Kickers, which went wide right of the goal. Matthew Delicâte, the league leader in goals, missed a header attempt after 13 minutes. The Riverhounds followed with an attempt at the goal, in which midfielder Travis MacKenzie shot wide-left. The failed attempts maintained a scoreless game thus far.

At the 24-minute mark, Riverhound forward Lee Kouadio-Tobey was offsides just as he released the ball. One minute later, Kicker midfielder Luke Vercollone crossed to Delicâte; Delicâte attempted another header, shooting over the goal.

Kicker defender William Yomby went down after 27 minutes of play and exited the field. He reentered the match three minutes later.

The Kickers missed another attempt after 30 minutes of play. At the 32-minute mark, Delicâte nearly made the evening’s first goal as Riverhound goalkeeper Gilstrap struggled with handling the ball until gathering a firm grip for the save.

The Riverhounds made a change in the scoreboard at 36 minutes of play. A controversial foul call on Kicker midfielder Bobby Foglesong awarded the Riverhounds a penalty kick; Severs took the kick, scoring the evening’s first goal. Severs made another attempt at goal, two minutes later; however, his shot missed wide-left.

Kickers had another near-goal at the 45-minute mark. The half concluded after two minutes of stoppage time.

During the second half, after 54 minutes of play, Kicker midfielder Dave Hertel took a corner kick, which did not result in a goal. Both teams continued the battle to clinch a win. At the 68-minute mark, a yellow card on the Kickers put a pause to the momentum. They regained that energy two minutes later as forward Neil Barlow nearly made a goal, but Riverhound goalkeeper Gilstrap was quick for the save.

The action sparked at 76- minute mark when Riverhound forward Kouadio-Tobey sprinted to catch the rebound from a previous goal attempt; he shot on an open-net, giving the Riverhounds a 2-0 advantage over the Kickers. Kicker players Charlie Reiter and Edson Elcock were also caught in this rebound action.

The Kickers answered with their first goal of the evening just under two minutes later when Delicate scored, also off a rebound from defender Sascha Görres. One minute later, Kicker fans witnessed another near-attempt when several players competed for the ball inside the box.

The excitement continued on. After 85 minutes of play, Riverhound midfielder Thomas Gray altered the scoreboard for the fourth time of the evening. In what initially looked to be a save, Kicker goalkeeper Murphy dropped the ball and it rolled into the net.

Once again, the Kickers attempted to answer. Barlow nearly made a goal off of a cross from forward Jordan Evans; however, with only two minutes remaining in regulations, the scoreboard still read 3-1. Stoppage time did not award either team any additional goals.

The Richmond Kickers now hold a 17-8-7 record; they are still over Pittsburgh, despite the Saturday night loss. The Kickers (3-1-4) will return to UR Stadium next Saturday, June 5 at 7 PM to host the Charleston Battery. Tickets are available in advance via RichmondKickers.com.

U.S. DEFEATS TURKEY 2-1 IN FINAL SEND OFF-SERIES MATCH BEFORE DEPARTING FOR SOUTH AFRICA
 
PHILADELPHIA, PA - May 29, 2010 - In its final match before leaving for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the U.S. Men’s National Team put together a marvelous 2-1 come-from-behind win against Turkey with second half goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, both of which were assisted by Landon Donovan.
 
A crowd of 55,407 red, white and blue-bathed fans turned out on gorgeous afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field and their energy helped propel the U.S. team to a an excellent second half performance.
 
Against the Czech Republic last Tuesday, U.S. head coach Bob Bradley gave time to numerous players as a last look before the World Cup team was selected the next day. Against Turkey, many of the players U.S. fans will surely see on the field during the World Cup were on display as goalkeeper Tim Howard, defenders Jonathan Spector, Jay Demerit and team captain Carlos Bocanegra, midfielders Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark and Benny Feilhaber and forwards Dempsey and Altidore – all of whom were rested against the Czechs – got the nod into the starting lineup.
 
Still, it was a choppy first half against Turkey who was the aggressor with Tuncay Sanli pushing a great chance from close range just a foot wide of the left post five minutes into the match while Arda Turan looked menacing coming down the left flank.
 
In the 15th minute, Turan cut hard into the middle from the left side and tried to stuff a shot inside the near post, but Howard had it covered and it skipped wide of the goal.
 
Turkey opened the scoring in the 27th minute after Spector made a nice attacking run on the dribble up the middle. He was dispossessed near the top of the penalty area and Turkey launched a lightning-quick counter-attack into the space he had just vacated on the right side of the U.S. defense. Colin Kazim-Richards released Turan down that wing with a perfectly-weighted pass and it became a footrace into the penalty box between Turan, center-back Jay Demerit and Spector, who had sprinted back at top speed to catch the streaking Turkish attacker. Just when it seemed that both Demerit and/or Spector had done the work to block the shot, converging on Turan with slide tackles, the Galatasaray star lifted his shot over the legs of both U.S. backs and into the left side of the net past Howard, who was also charging to the cut off the chance.
 
The USA struggled to create dangerous opportunities in the first half even though Dempsey got shots early in the game and several corner kicks did give the Turks some issues before they managed to clear.
 
In the 40th minute, Turan got around the U.S. defense again down the left wing, but there was no one in the middle to get on the end of his cross after he had powered to the near post before serving.
 
The U.S. foreshadowed what was to come in the second half with just two minutes left before the break as Altidore beat three defenders on a slashing dribble into the right side of the penalty area. He spun a cross on the ground through the middle of the six-yard box, but the sliding Dempsey couldn’t get a foot on it or he surely would have swept it into the open net.
 
Bradley made four changes to start the second half, sending on Steve Cherundolo for Spector, Oguchi Onyewu for Goodson, José Torres for Ricardo Clark and Robbie Findley for Feilhaber.
 
The Americans found their spark after the break and immediately took the game to the Turks. Less than a minute into the half, Bocanegra sent a long cross from the left wing past the far post where Donovan expertly brought it down before laying a pass back to the cutting Bradley, but his shot from about nine yards was well-blocked by a sliding defender.
 
Torres did some fine work in midfield, winning balls and keeping possession while Findley looked dangerous down the flanks in stretching the Turkish defense. The Real Salt Lake striker was playing in just his fifth match for the USA, but he had a cross from the left that had to be collected on a dive by Turkish goalkeeper Volkan Demirel in the 49th and tried to bend a shot into the left corner from 25 yards out in the 55th.
 
Findley then played a key role in the tying goal in the 58th minute as he took a pass out of the back from DeMerit before turning toward goal and sending a chip over the top of the Turkish defense to Donovan. The USA’s all-time leading scorer blazed into the penalty area, beat Demirel to the ball and with the sole of his left foot, pulled off a perfect touch to round the ‘keeper to the outside.
 
Altidore was on a powerful run straight up the middle and Donovan hit him in stride for the big striker to blast the ball into the open net. It was Altidore’s ninth international goal in 25 caps, with Donovan has assisted on five of those.
 
As the second half progressed, it was the U.S. team which surely looked more likely to get a winning goal as the Americans pushed forward in the attack. In the 68th, Donovan burst through two defenders about 35 yards from the goal, but they cut him off before he could get clear for the breakaway and he fouled one of them.
 
The winning goal came with 15 minutes left and it originated off a throw-in seconds after the game had momentarily paused for Bornstein to replace Bocanegra. Cherundolo threw the ball into Donovan on the right wing and he spun towards goal before lifting a short pass to Dempsey inside the penalty area. Dempsey’s first touch pushed the ball forward and then he showed great balance in riding the tackle of Sabri Sarioglu before stuffing his shot under Demirel from five yards away.
 
It was Dempsey’s 18th career goal in his 61st cap for the USA.
 
The USA protected the lead well in the final quarter of an hour, although substitute Mehmet Topal got a good look at net while firing from distance in the 79th minute, but Howard gobbled up the shot with no sign of a rebound. Earlier, Onyewu had done well to give up his body, throwing himself into a dangerous shot from inside the box to block the ball away.
 
Turkey’s best chance to tie the game came when substitute Sercan Yildirim burst through into the right side of the U.S. penalty area, but his cross on the ground rolled all the way through the goal mouth without a Turkish player anywhere close enough to get a touch on the ball.
 
Turkey’s final chance of the game came in the 85th minute as Nihat Kahvechi bent a free-kick from near the sideline on the left wing and it sailed enough that Howard had to push it over the top of the goal for a corner kick. Kahvechi then blasted his volley off the ensuing corner kick high and wide and Turkey didn’t have another chance in the remaining five minutes plus stoppage.
 
The U.S. did, however, as Dempsey hit the outside of the right post in the 87th after running onto a great cut back pass from Bradley, who had darted into the box on the right side. Moments later, Torres came close to sneaking a free-kick from the right wing inside the near post, but it hit the side-netting.
 
The USA fired eight of its 10 shots in the second half and earned five of its seven corner kicks.

Pam Moody

TOP-FLIGHT SOCCER IN WESTLAKE

Westlake soccer tournament now among Midwest’s biggest and most popular tourneys

WESTLAKE, OH - May 27, 2010 - The Westlake Soccer Association (WSA) will be holding the 27th Annual Westlake Invitational Soccer Tournament (WIST) over Memorial Day weekend (May 28-May 30).  The WSA welcomes teams and their fans from Michigan, New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and all parts of Ohio. The competition is bound to be first-class as a record-high 256 teams will be participating during the three-day event. 

The tournament started small in 1984 with just fourteen teams participating.  Through the efforts of many, the tournament has grown tremendously over the years.  In the early years, teams traveling from out of town would stay with the families of Westlake players.  Today, visiting teams fill nearby hotels.  The tournament still has the personal feel of those early years, yet provides some exciting competition for all who participate.

The WIST truly has become a community event. With over 300 volunteers from the WSA and the support of the City of Westlake, the Westlake Recreation Department, the Westlake Service Department, the Westlake City Schools and St. John Westshore Paramedic and Emergency Care. With 3,000 participants and 10,000 spectators this event has a significant economic impact to the city of Westlake and the surrounding communities.

The WSA is very fortunate to have the strong support from area businesses in organizing one of the largest soccer events in Northern Ohio. Major supporters of this year’s event are Buca di Beppo and Panini’s Bar and Grill in Westlake. We also appreciate the long-term support from Weed Pro, PODS, Markers Inc., and the Westlife News.

The proceeds from the WIST are used to support soccer activities in the community of Westlake which include the WSA Travel Program, WSA Recreation Program, WSA Tops Soccer for Handicapped Players, the Westlake High School program, and charitable organizations within Westlake. The WSA is a non-profit 501.c3 charitable organization operating the WSA Recreation Program (800 members), the WSA Travel Program (330 members), and the Westlake Invitational Soccer Tournament.

For more information regarding the WIST, please visit http://www.westlakeinvitational.com/.

CHICAGO FIRE AND FC DALLAS END IN 1-1 DRAW

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - May 27, 2010 - It was 75 degrees and sunny for the 7:00 kick-off between the Chicago Fire (2-3-4) and FC Dallas (2-2-6). Neither team could argue the conditions were perfect for a soccer match, however the outcome may have been less than ideal for both sides. After ninety minutes, the game ended in a 1 to 1 tie.

The first goal came early for FC Dallas as Conde stumbled over the ball just outside the box in the sixth minute, allowing David Ferreira to strip him of it. Then, faking out C.J. Brown, Ferreira scored upper 90 with his left foot over the keeper, Andrew Dykstra.

The Fire worked hard trying to get the equalizer as they had two good opportunities before the eventual goal in the first half.

The first chance came from a header from Husidic in the 20th minute as he headed it down to the keeper who tipped it out for a corner. Then off the corner, Conde almost made up for his previous mistake as he headed the ball just over the goal.

The 35th minute lined up to what seemed to be a sure opportunity for a Fire goal as Mapp won the ball and crossed it to Banner on the ground. Despite the open net, Banner slid and served the ball too high over the goal.

The Fire were finally able to put the ball in the back of the net in the 40th minute as Mapp crossed it to captain Brian McBride, who crept behind the defender and headed it past the FC Dallas keeper.

The second half was a bit of a let-down from the highly energized first half which was filled with scoring opportunities. Chicago ended the match with 10 shots, while FC Dallas took 9. Only 3 of Chicago’s shots were taken in the second half.

Perhaps the best chance for the Fire to score in the second half was in the 74th minute. Nyarko layed the ball off to Collins John who hit a good shot into the right side of the net.

The teams split on yellow-cards as well, each having one member receive a warning.

“It was a difficult game for us, as we knew coming into the match. All games are complicated and we haven’t reached the consistency that we strive for yet,” said Carlos de los Cobos.

The Fire accumulated their fourth tie of the season, unable to produce the win. “You always seek for players to make it happen, but sometimes it just doesn’t,” said de los Cobos.

The Fire’s next match will take place this Sunday, May 30th as they host the legendary A.C. Milan.

U.S. HEAD COACH BOB BRADLEY NAMES 23 PLAYERS TO REPRESENT THE UNITED STATES AT THE 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP IN SOUTH AFRICA   

CHICAGO, IL - May 26, 2010 - U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley has named the 23-man roster that will travel to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The team departs for South Africa on May 30, and will play their opening match of the tournament against England on June 12 in Rustenburg live on ABC at 2 p.m. ET. 

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (All-Time World Cup Roster Appearances)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (2010), Marcus Hahnemann (2006, 2010), Tim Howard (2006, 2010)

DEFENDERS (7): Carlos Bocanegra (2006, 2010), Jonathan Bornstein (2010), Steve Cherundolo (2002, 2006, 2010), Jay DeMerit (2010), Clarence Goodson (2010), Oguchi Onyewu (2006, 2010), Jonathan Spector (2010)

MIDFIELDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (2002, 2006, 2010), Michael Bradley (2010), Ricardo Clark (2010), Clint Dempsey (2006, 2010), Landon Donovan (2002, 2006, 2010), Maurice Edu (2010), Benny Feilhaber (2010), Stuart Holden (2010), José Torres (2010)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (2010), Edson Buddle (2010), Robbie Findley (2010), Herculez Gomez (2010)

Detailed Roster

“We have been working for almost four years to reach this point, and we are grateful to all the players who have been part of the process. There is a tremendous amount of respect for the efforts and professionalism that everyone has put into building this team,” said Bradley.  “It’s important in any team building process to get to the final 23, and clearly there were some tough decisions to make. We are confident that this is a group of players that will work together and be committed to doing whatever it takes to be successful. We feel the roster has a good balance of players who have been a part of previous World Cups, those who have gained great experience in qualifying and Confederations Cup and some newer faces that have proved they belong. We are extremely excited to play the final Send-Off match in Philadelphia and then begin the great challenge of playing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.”

The U.S. squad carries a variety of World Cup experience into South Africa, as fifteen players have been named to their first World Cup roster. Meantime, six players have played in a World Cup game, with midfielder Landon Donovan leading the team with eight appearances – all as a starter – while DaMarcus Beasley has six World Cup caps to his credit.  That duo and Steve Cherundolo are earning a place in their third World Cup.

A total of 92 players received at least one cap under Bradley during the four-year cycle as the team compiled a 35-19-6 record.  Additionally, 43 players were used during the 2010 qualifying campaign, 19 of whom made the final roster. Those players accounted for 29 of 42 goals scored in qualifying, including Jozy Altidore’s team-leading six goals.

Donovan is the leading capwinner on the roster with 121 international appearances. The USA’s all-time leader in goals (42) and assists (42) is one of two players with a World Cup goal in the books, along with Clint Dempsey. The Bronze Ball winner from the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup is coming off a banner year, having become the first American player to reach the final of a European cup competition.

The defense is backstopped by goalkeeper Tim Howard, the Golden Glove winner from the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup who allowed less than a goal per game in 13 appearances in 2010 World Cup qualifying.  Team captain Carlos Bocanegra – whose 12 career goals give him second place on the all-time scoring chart for U.S. defenders – is the third most capped player on the roster with 77 appearances.  Oguchi Onyewu has made his return to action following a seven-month recovery from a ruptured patellar tendon suffered last October in the team’s final qualifier, a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica. Jonathan Bornstein, whose stoppage-time goal in that game gave the U.S. first place in CONCACAF qualifying, along with Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson and Jonathan Spector, have the chance to appear in their first World Cup.

In the midfield, Donovan’s dominance shone in the final round of qualifying, where he contributed to 12 of the 19 goals scored. His five goals overall tied for second place along with Dempsey and Michael Bradley, who also shared the most appearances in qualifying with Donovan (15). Bradley is joined in the center of the park by fellow 2008 Olympians Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber and Stuart Holden. Edu and Beasley earned a Scottish Premier League title with Rangers in 2010, while Feilhaber earned his place in U.S. Soccer lore by scoring the goal in the 2007 Gold Cup final against Mexico that gave the U.S. a chance to shine in the Confederations Cup in South Africa. Holden made his first appearance for the national team less than a year ago, scoring a goal in his debut against Grenada in the opening match of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Ricardo Clark scored the lone goal in the 1-0 win away to Trinidad & Tobago in qualifying, while José Torres is one of two players on the roster to ply his trade in Mexico.

The strike force is led by Altidore, who has eight career goals in 24 appearances and is the youngest U.S. player in modern history to score a hat trick. A trio of forwards – Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez – did not appear in World Cup qualifying for the United States. Buddle, who had not appeared for the national team since 2003, became the 92nd player to collect a cap under Bradley when he assisted on the first goal against the Czech Republic on May 25 in East Hartford. Gomez, who entered camp after becoming the first American player to lead a foreign league in scoring when he scored 10 goals for Puebla in Mexico, recorded his first goal for the full team against the Czechs.

Overall, players representing clubs from 10 different countries will be heading to South Africa.  A record 19 players on the roster play professionally for clubs outside the United States.  The average number of caps earned is 34, compared to 44 in 2006. Likewise, the team is slightly younger than four years earlier, the average age slightly under 27 years old while in 2006 that number was closer to 28.5 years of age.

The U.S. will play their final home match before departing for South Africa when they face Turkey on May 29 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (tickets), where more than 45,000 tickets have already been sold. ESPN2 and Galavision will broadcast the match live beginning at 2 p.m. ET.  ESPN will have a 30-minute pregame show beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.  The United States will play one final friendly before the tournament begins, this time on South African soil when they face Australia on June 5 at Ruimsig Stadium in Roodepoort. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. local time (8:30 a.m. ET), and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

The U.S. Men's National Team has been drawn into Group C with England, Slovenia and Algeria for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The U.S. will open its sixth consecutive World Cup finals tournament against England on June 12 in Rustenburg, and will follow that game with matches against Slovenia on June 18 in Johannesburg and Algeria on June 23 in Tshwane/Pretoria.

U.S. FALLS TO CZECH REPUBLIC 4-2 IN OPENING SEND OFF SERIES MATCH

EAST HARTFORD, CT - May 25, 2010 – In a match that served as a final audition for some U.S. players and a World Cup tune-up for others, the U.S. Men’s National Team fell 4-2 to the Czech Republic in front of 36,218 fans, the largest-ever crowd to watch a soccer match at Rentschler Field.

Both U.S. goals came from players who had never before tallied at the full international level with midfielder Maurice Edu putting the USA ahead in the 17th minute while second-half substitute forward Herculez Gomez knotted the score at 2-2 in the 65th. The U.S. allowed two goals in the final 13 minutes plus stoppage time as Martin Fenin tallied in the 78th and Tomas Necid ended any chance of a late U.S. equalizer with a goal in the 92nd.

U.S. head coach Bob Bradley will announce the 23-man U.S. World Cup roster tomorrow, May 26, live on ESPN during SportsCenter’s 1 p.m. ET hour and then the U.S. team will head to Philadelphia, where the team will play its second and final Send-Off Series match against Turkey at Lincoln Financial Field. More than 45,000 tickets have been sold for the match that will kick off at 2 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Galavision. Fans can follow via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and twitter.com/ussoccer.

“We've worked very hard and guys know we're at a point where tough decisions need to be made,” said Bradley. “There's still a respect we have for what they've put into the camp and into the game. As a player, to come into a camp with the opportunity to make a team and go to the World Cup is a special thing. As it gets closer and closer those emotions come out. On a night when the result doesn't go our way, we know there are things we will still work hard at and we pay tribute to the guys who have been in this camp, the work they've put in and the way they've gone about it.” (More Quotes)

Bradley chose to rest numerous regulars for tonight’s game as captain Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jay DeMerit, Jozy Altidore, Benny Feilhaber and Tim Howard did not dress.

The match marked the return to game action for Onyewu who played his first match since tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee on Oct. 14, 2009, at RFK Stadium in the USA’s final CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. Onyewu played 65 minutes before being replaced by Alejandro Bedoya, who came in at right midfield, moving Stuart Holden into the middle and Edu to center back.

The other players that did start and those that came off the bench got the chance to make a final impression before the selection of the roster tomorrow. Those players included Gomez, who brought his torrid scoring streak from the end of the Mexican season to the international stage. The goal originated from a Holden corner kick that he spun in from the left corner. Six-foot-four Clarence Goodson rose high to meet the cross, looping it back to the far post where an unmarked Gomez darted in to power home a header from close range.

The USA had opened the scoring 17 minutes into the match, also on a service from Holden, who bent a dangerous free kick from almost flush on the left sideline all the way to the far post. Edson Buddle, the leading scorer in Major League Soccer this season for the Los Angeles Galaxy, jumped high to nod the ball down as Czech and Chelsea goalkeeper Pert Cech missed his punch attempt and flew past the pack of players. Edu was first to the loose ball and pounded it into the net from close range.

Buddle took a knock to face as he won Holden’s cross and was off the field for almost seven minutes while the U.S. training staff stopped the bleeding and got him changed out of a blood-soaked jersey. Buddle suffered a split lip that required two stitches at halftime.

The Czechs tied the game just a minute before the break on a free kick of their own. Jaroslav Plasil spun the ball from the right side to the far post where it just skimmed just over the head of Onyewu as Tomas Sivok used the big defender’s shoulder to get some extra elevation. He sent a looping header back cross the face of the goal and just inside the base of the right post past scrambling U.S. ‘keeper Brad Guzan.

Bradley made five substitutes at halftime, sending on Sacha Kljestan for Jose Torres, Heath Pearce for Jonathan Bornstein and Robbie Rogers for DaMarcus Beasley. He also changed out both strikers as Brian Ching came in for Eddie Johnson and Gomez replaced Buddle.

The Czechs had taken a 2-1 lead in the 58th minute after David Lafata dribbled down the left wing, cut the ball back and then sent a low cross behind the U.S. defense across the six-yard line. Jan Polak scooted in front of Pearce and re-directed the ball into the lower right corner from seven yards out.

Gomez’ equalizer in the 65th minute was foreshadowed by several quality U.S. attacks. Rogers tested Cech in the 61st with a long distance blast that forced the big ‘keeper to fully extend to his left to snag the ball. In the 64th minute, a nifty back-heel from Ching put Gomez in great position to shoot from the top of the penalty area, but his low, hard drive was smothered by Cech.

The Czech Republic scored the game-winner in the 78th minute as Libor Sionko slashed from the right wing into the U.S. penalty area on a nice dribble run. He cut back a pass back into the middle of the box that bounced around for a moment before a Czech player got a foot on, but the strike was blocked directly off his foot by a U.S. defender. Unfortunately, the ball bounced right to Fenin who cracked his shot into the roof of the net from 12 yards out, giving Guzan no chance.

The Czechs added a goal in stoppage time after Edu misjudged a long ball and Necid ran through on goal after the ball had hit him on the back and bounced forward. The Czech striker drove towards the net and slid his shot past Guzan and into the near post for the final margin.

Bradley also gave starts to Johnson, the veteran Beasley and Torres as well as veteran defender Steve Cherundolo, who captained the side.

The match did not feature many major scoring chances for either team as both countries put just four shots on goal, but the Czechs scored on all four.

CREW OFF TO BEST START IN CLUB HISTORY

KANSAS CITY, KS - May 22, 2010 - The Columbus Crew earned yet another gritty win Sunday, as it defeated the Kansas City Wizards, 1-0, on a hot afternoon at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

Emilio Renteria scored the game-winner for the surging Crew, who earned their third win in eight days and second straight on a brief road swing against conference foes. The unmarked Venezuelan forward pounced on a Guillermo Barros Schelotto corner kick in the 64th minute and blasted a header past helpless Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.

Robert Ivory

DECISIVE VICTORY FOR U.S. WOMEN

CLEVELAND, OH - May 22, 2010 - 10,321 strong saw the number one ranked U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) beat up on number two ranked Germany 4-0 Saturday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The U.S. got two goals from Abby Wambach and tallies from Heather O’Reilly and Kristine Lilly. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo looked strong as she had six saves included in her clean sheet.

The Americans had a difficult time in the first 15 minutes and the team could not get the right passing combinations to get down field. Germany held tight and the game settled into a midfield battle.

However, the U.S. started the scoring off less than a half an hour into the game when U.S. forward Abby Wambach was brought down inside the box and was awarded the penalty kick. The Germans argued that Wambach fell down too quickly as it seemed that not much contact was made, but the U.S .got the penalty. Wambach then slid the ball to the left corner on the PK and the Americans led 1-0 just 29 minutes in.

“When we struggled, she was the one to step up,” USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage said after the match. “Today she showed what a skillful player she is.”

“I think that throughout the entire game we kept getting better,” Wambach said. “I’m really proud of us scoring four goals against a great team.”

Wambach’s goal (career number 106) passed Michelle Akers and is now the third highest scorer in U.S. Women’s National Team history. “I think that Michelle is a player I always looked up to and to be in the same sentence as her is probably one of the greatest honors I’ll ever have,” the striker said of her achievement.

Germany had a spell of possession after the goal, but the U.S. would press for their second goal and teamwork would help them find it. Heather O’ Reilly would put in a tapper less than three yards out as Amy Rodriguez passed the ball along the mouth of the goal to O’Reilly.

Solo had little work to contend with, but came up big when she needed to. In the 58th minute, German midfielder Kerstin Garefrekes took a right footed shot inside the box. Solo dove to her left and if not for a stellar save, Germany would have closed the gap. Instead the Americans kept the 2-0 lead.

“I think she’s the best goalkeeper in the world,” Sundhage said of her keeper.

“It feels really good,” Solo said after the game. “I haven’t been at the top of the game for awhile and I haven’t seen a zero either.”

Despite four getting into the German net, goalie Nadie Anderer had several minutes of brilliance as she denied a point-blank shot by U.S. captain Shannon Boxx. If not for her ability to stop the difficult stops, the Germans could have conceded twice as many goals.

Abby Wambach was not done being an offensive threat as she had a hand in the final two goals of the game. She first played a ball in from the corner, dribbled down the goal line and passed it to a waiting Kristine Lilly. The wide-open Lilly put the easy goal away off the inside of the goal post and the States were comfortably ahead, 3-0. It was Lilly’s 130th career goal and her first since Oct 17th, 2007.

“It’s fun to play at the highest level with great players,” Lilly exclaimed after the game. “I was happy, it felt really good to score.”

The U.S. would finish with another Wombach goal in the 63rd minute when she tapped in a perfectly placed cross from Amy Rodriguez.

Next up for the women are two friendlies against Sweden in July. The next installment of the FIFA Women’s World Cup starts June 26, 2011 in Germany.

U.S. WOMEN’S SOCCER DISMANTLES GERMANY

CLEVELAND, OH - May 22, 2010 - The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) beat Germany 4-0 at Cleveland Browns Stadium Saturday night in front of 10,321 fans.

Abby Wambach scored two goals, and Heather O’Reilly and Kristine Lilly each added a goal of their own in the rout. Wambach’s first goal, a penalty kick, moved her to third on the all-time career scoring list, behind only Lilly and Mia Hamm.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo recorded her 49th career shutout with six saves, while Cincinnati native Heather Mitts got the start and received her 108th cap.

Robert Ivory

SOCCERTOWN USA

For one day Cleveland, Ohio will be the center of the soccer universe. Two of the world's top women's soccer nations meet tomorrow at 6 p.m. ET at Cleveland Browns Stadium in a match televised live on ESPN2. The clash between the USA and Germany marks the first meeting in the United States between the two perennial powers since the Germans took down the USA in the semifinal of the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The match will be the seventh international for the U.S. women this year (tickets) as preparations continue for the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, which will serve as Women’s World Cup qualifying, to be held in late October/early November with dates and venues still to be determined.

While the USA is without several key players due to injuries – Carli Lloyd (ankle), Tobin Heath (ankle), Kelley O’Hara (foot) as well as missing Lauren Cheney (personal commitment). Germany is also without several of their top players – most notably Fatmire Bajramaj, Babett Peter and Anja Mittag -- due to the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final that pitted Turbine Potsdam against Olympic Lyon of France on May 20.

Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) will be taking the weekend off from competition so none of the players will be missing any club matches. While U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage has called in 22 players for the match, she will name 18 to suit up against the Germans. Since coaching her first game for the United States in January of 2008, Pia Sundhage has compiled an overall record of 46-1-3 with the only loss in regulation time coming in the first game of the 2008 Olympics. She coached her 50th match for the USA in Sandy, Utah, on March 31 against Mexico, a wild 1-0 win played in ankle-deep snow.

 

KICKERS MAKE STATEMENT

RICHMOND, VAMay 21, 2010 – The Richmond Kickers took on the Charlotte Eagles Friday evening in what ended in a 3-1 win for the Kickers. The game marked the second meeting between the two teams in a month. On the April 24 meeting, the Eagles handed the Kickers their first regular season defeat at the University of Richmond Stadium since 2006. In the Friday night performance, the defending USL-2 Champions retook their claim to victory.

The Kickers mascot was also present for the event. The kangaroo introduced the match referees and encouraged the fans to begin their chants early. The evening brought impeccable weather in the 80s.

Midfielder Jonathan Villanueva scored his first career goal just two minutes into the match. The score was the result of a free kick a few yards shy of the box. Ten minutes into the game, fan favorite Mike Burke missed a header attempt that landed to the left of the goal.

Kicker fans were quite enthused. The stadium search was on for the “Most Enthusiastic Kickers Fan” after only a few minutes of play. Paige and Ryan were the two winners of the contest and were awarded with “the best seat in the house,” a field-side view of the game.

The Kickers continued the game with strong defense. Henry Kalungi played center defender and was attentive during the half with quick reflexes. The Kickers were offsides on their next goal attempt. Twenty minutes into the match, Matthew Delicâte took a shot over the goal, and a goal kick by Eagle goalkeeper Erik Lefebvre continued the game.

Just two minutes later, Delicâte scored off the crossbar, marking his sixth goal of the season. After what Eagle fans deemed a controversial call, the scoreboard read 2-0 Kickers. Defender Sascha Görreswas credited with the assist.

At the 27-minute mark, Kicker forward Edson Elcock crossed from left field to center in a pass Delicâte just missed. Just under the 30-minute mark, Kalungi made a header attempt to the goal off a corner kick from Villaneuva.

The Eagles made it back down the field after 31 minutes of play. The team was offsides on a goal attempt and the Kickers received a free kick. Shortly after, the Kickers had another near-goal when the ball flew over the net for the second time.

Eagle midfielder Chris Lemons made a powerful kick to the goal from the left side of the field; however, Kicker goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale was in the box and ready for the save. At 37 minutes, Elcock just missed wide-left after a smooth pass from Burke up the center.

With five minutes remaining in the first half, the Kickers continued to bring the heat. In the 43rd minute, Kalungi received a yellow card, resulting in an Eagle free kick. Numerous saves by Pascale and four minutes of stoppage time concluded the first half.

The second half was underway at 8:11 PM and brought some early action. Eagle goalkeeper Erik Lefebvre saved a powerful free kick from the Kickers. Shortly after the half’s opening, the Eagles received two yellow cards—the first by midfielder Jorge Herrera, and the second by midfielder Greg Dalby. Dalby’s yellow card at the 51-minute mark handed the Kickers another free kick of which Burke scored the Kickers third goal of the evening.

Three minutes later, Herrera answered back for the Eagles, scoring an unassisted goal. With a 3-1 score, the Kickers were hungry to regain momentum. The action dwindled as the second half continued; the half saw multiple free kicks and continuous back-and-forth ball playing. Three minutes of stoppage time closed the match.

The Richmond Kickers now hold an all-time series advantage of 17-8-6 against the Eagles. The Kickers (3-1-3) will return to UR Stadium next Saturday, May 29 at 7 PM to host the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Tickets are available in advance via RichmondKickers.com.

CREW NOW IN FIRST

HARRISON, N.J. - May 20, 2010 - The Columbus Crew got goals from Eddie Gaven, Andy Iro and Emilio Renteria, as it leapfrogged New York into first place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 win over the Red Bulls in its first trip to Red Bull Arena. The victory also kept the Crew unbeaten at 5-0-2 and snapped an 11-game winless streak at New York (0-8-3, all at Giants Stadium).

Columbus opened the scoring in the 35th minute, when Frankie Hejduk whipped in a cross from the right flank, which found the head of Eddie Gaven. The former MetroStars midfielder then nodded home his second goal of the season past a diving Bouna Coundoul. Gaven's perfectly weighted drive into the box off a corner kick four minutes later met a rising Andy Iro, whose header found the back of the net to double the score.

The Red Bulls broke through to make a game of it when second-half substitute Tony Tchani scored a header for his first career goal off Carlos Mendes' cross in the 81st minute. But moments later, Columbus' second-half substitute Emilio Renteria got the ball deep in the attacking third. The forward swept the ball to his right and past the keeper, placing his shot into an empty net for his first goal in league play.

Dan Gaspar Seen with Portugal Team Security

HYSTERIA IN COVILHA FOR THE PORTUGAL NATIONAL TEAM

By Dan Gaspar

The entire village of Covilha is ecstatic about hosting their special guest, the Portugal National Team. Carlos Queiroz, his coaching staff and the FPF administration (led by Carlos Godinho) have left nothing to chance. The attention to details has been impeccable. This level of organization and commitment to perfection is meant to limit any potential surprises. Their mission is to create an environment that does not allow any excuses for failure.

Let me give you an inside tour of the steps taken to assure that all aspects of preparing Portugal for the World Cup have been taken.

We first arrive in Covilha to assess hotel facilities and field conditions back in March after our National Team friendly versus China.  Then after our initial visit our coaching staff led by Carlos Queiroz and the administration staff arrived on May 12th, 2010 two days prior to the arrival of the Portuguese National Team players.

Each staff member carefully reviewed all they need to successfully execute their responsibilities related to their expertise at a first-class level. Careful inventory of facilities and all equipment is taken and a back-up plan is always in place. Logistics are carefully planned. There is no doubt when and where you should be.  All staff is interrelated. One cannot function successfully without the other. You truly see the meaning of vertical integration that will provide a first-class experience by all those involved in the process. Everyone is obsessive in their task.

Carlos Queiroz and Carlos Godinho had a staff meeting to request feedback from all of us on any items that we need, or challenges that we may experience.  Their goal was clear -- Portugal had a very difficult qualification process. Yes, we should be pleased and proud that we are going to South Africa, but everyone now must give a little bit more of themselves.  Always giving a little bit more. To succeed in South Africa, it’s not enough to just dream about a good World Cup. We must work hard at all aspects of our functions in order to compete.  The message was clear and no doubt that the challenge posed will be accepted by all of us.  We are consumed by the process.

We will be staying at two hotels: the Hotel Turismo da Covilha, 649 meters above sea level; and Hotel Serra Da Estrela, 1487 meters above sea level.  It is very difficult to find this variation in altitude conditions in such a close proximity.   We train in the valley and sleep in the mountains… sun in the valley and snow in the cold mountains when we arrived. It’s heating up now.

When you arrive in your room you have a beautiful hospitality basket waiting for you and a nice note from management stating, “It is our pleasure to welcome the entire National Team delegation.  Our mission is to help in your success to the World Cup.”  Players will be at one end and coaching staff on the other end.  Administrators will be above and below the players and coaching staff. Security guards are placed at the entry points on the floors. Any time we move, the security guards communicate to each other in advance to let those involved with security know where we are at all times.  Both hotels were completely scrutinized by the Portuguese National Police, including sniffing dogs for explosives.  Blueprints of both hotels and fields were obtained. This gave a good visual of the field dimensions and hotel access points. All these measures are to protect the safety of the players and the confidentiality of the group. This creates an environment that gives the group comfort and peace.

The hotel in the valley was fully equipped by the Portuguese Football Federation with the latest in gym training equipment. The hotel in the mountains is primarily to live and rest, although we do have medical rooms set up.

Game rooms are offered to the players at each hotel.  It's great to see them away from the field and enjoy themselves with table soccer, ping pong, pool and video games. They still remain competitive regardless of the game they play.  There is a third hotel which is a beautiful spa -- fantastic for relaxation. We will visit that hotel on occasion for recovery purposes. 

During our meals the players sit at one long table.  The coaching, medical staff, and administrators sit at another long table.  There is an established meal protocol; the staff and administrators will begin to eat only when everyone has arrived.  When the players are done with their meal, they all stand up and leave at the same time.  That is determined by the senior players.

We have two South Africans on our coaching staff that will make sure our transition from Portugal to South Africa is seamless.  All the precautions that have been taken in Portugal will be implemented in South Africa as well.  Having the South Africans with us assures that there will be no surprises awaiting us. They were here for our match versus China in March and were fully briefed on what the level of expectation is.

Also, in the room is a detailed training camp binder of our itinerary and plan for the 2010 World Cup preparation.  The program takes us from Portugal to South Africa every step of the way. All daily events are outlined; the traveling delegation is highlighted with photos of each member, photos of all the hotels as well.  The program indicates what training sessions are open or closed to the public and press. 

We also have Nike gear inside our rooms.  We have a little green basket where we leave our clothes after our training sessions and then it's replaced with new gear daily. 

There are sacred areas that only the coaching staff and administrators are allowed -- soccer fields, locker room, bus and specific hotel areas.  Anyone who wishes to enter our hotels must be approved by security.  There are a number of fenced off areas where the public is allowed to take a peak or sneak an autograph from the  heroes as they enter the bus or enter or exit the fields we train in.  Essentially, the players are isolated. In every turn or twist you always are in the presence of security.  Outside or inside, they are everywhere. No one is allowed near the team unless they have proper credentials.  Either they have the official Portugal gear or have a badge that identifies them. You must remember that these players are national treasures. Both hotels are exclusive for the Portugal National Team.

Transportation to and from hotels and fields are with the official Portugal National Team bus as well as two shuttle buses.  All travel is by police escort. As we travel to and from our destinations all intersections are controlled by police as they wait for us to drive by.  The traffic is stopped to allow our bus to move with ease. The roads are tight and winding.  The police who travels with us are responsible for taking a head count. During our travel it's amazing the passion of the people as they wave Portuguese flags with excitement and cheer us on with encouragement.

Our first training session was open to the public and press.  We had approximately three thousand fans attend plus an incredible number of press members.  We have two soccer complexes at our disposal and all the training equipment that you may ever need to do your job.   The soccer stadium up near the mountain is Estadio da Estrela and the other soccer stadium in down in the valley is named Complexo Desportivo Covilha.  You request what you need for training equipment and they set it up for you on the pitch -- including the official World Cup adidas ball! 

Portuguese television is obsessive with soccer. You cannot watch any channel without soccer coverage every few minutes.  The game of soccer is as important as the general news coverage or any popular show in the Portuguese culture.  You get all the Portugal National Team details in real-time. 

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy. 

TAMPA BAY'S KLJESTAN SCORES IN DRAW WITH AZTEX

AUSTIN, TX - May 19, 2010 - In front of a record crowd of 6,051 people, the Austin Aztex and Tampa Bay Rowdies played relentlessly en route to a 3-3 draw Wednesday night at House Park.

The Aztex (4-1-2) got to work quickly taking the first couple shots of the game.  They were really able to push the pace early and were extremely aggressive defensively as they put a lot of pressure in the Tampa Bay midfield and defensive thirds.  Due to that pressure, the Aztex were able to dominate possession in the first 10 minutes and created some positive scoring chances.

The Rowdies (2-1-3) were almost able to put one in early when Jay Needham was tripped up and lost control of the ball in the Aztex defensive half, but Yohance Marshall had other ideas as he quickly recovered for his teammate and thanks to some stingy defending was able to take the ball away from the Rowdies’ attacker.

Then the Aztex attack created some opportunities with one coming on a back heel from Max Griffin, which was deflected away by a defender. Only seconds later the Aztex were given a free kick just outside the top corner of the box. 

Leonard Griffin took the free kick and placed it beautifully onto the head of a running Marshall for the first goal of the game in the 28th minute. Two minutes later, the Rowdies almost evened the score but Aztex goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo was up to the task and came up with a big stop.

The Rowdies did get their chance in the 35th minute, however, when they pushed the ball down the left flank and eventually put the ball into the center of the goal box where it was bounced around and finally ended up on the foot of Aaron Wheeler of the Rowdies who was able to put it away.

This is when the Rowdies began to find their stride as they were finally able to put the Aztex under some pressure in their defensive third. Gallardo was again up to the task and came up with a few big stops.  This surge of momentum carried the Aztex defensively as they continued to put pressure on the Rowdies’ backline. 

The pressure by Eddie Johnson on the Rowdies right back Joe Donoho forced the right back into giving up the ball and eventually led to another Aztex goal. Once again, it only took the Rowdies a couple seconds and a corner kick to knot it up at 2 and to give the Rowdies an edge going into the second half.

The Aztex quickly did away with the Rowdies momentum as Johnson put another goal in at the 53rd minute mark off of a corner kick from Olum.

Midway through the second half, the Aztex turned up the intensity. Shots by Johnson and Olum were either pushed wide or cleared away by Lambo.

The Rowdies almost found a blessing when Gallardo lost control of the ball outside of his goal box.  Gallardo was able to quickly react to the play and got a leg out in time to knock the ball away from danger.

After a foul called on the Aztex about 30 yards out from their own goal box, the Rowdies’ Gordon Kljestan sent a ball curling into the far post just over the outstretched arms of Gallardo. This goal tied the game at 3-3 and gave the Aztex their second draw of the season.

BIG WIN FOR KICKERS

ROCKVILLE, MD - May 16, 2010 - The Richmond Kickers left their mark in Maryland Sunday night, shutting out the Real Maryland Monarchs, 2-0.  Midfielder Luke Vercollone notched his first goal of the season, courtesy of Edson Elcock in the 43rd minute.  Elcock reversed roles in the second half, connecting with the target after a series of missed opportunities to double the score.  The Kickers outshot the Monarchs 17-8 but Maryland goalkeeper Brian Levey posted nine big saves to hold the opposition at bay

Hungry for three points, the Kickers did not waste any time with their offensive pressure.  Three minutes in, they created a chance when a bad back pass from a Maryland midfielder narrowly missed a defender in a dangerous position.  Kickers forward Matthew Delicate seized the opportunity and struck from 20 yards out but Levey leapt into action to ward off the attack.

Later, Delicate was in scoring position again in the 20th minute when Vercollone delivered a cross from the left side.  Weaving through the Monarchs defense, Delicate drove a determined shot on goal but Levey came up big again, smothering his attempt.

Vercollone was instrumental again minutes later when Jonathan Villanueva played a short corner combination into the box from the left side.  Vercollone played the ball back to midfielder Mike Burke at the top of the box but his shot shook the paint off the post as it whizzed inches past.

The pair was not to be denied in the 43rd minute when Burke split two players at midfield and fed the ball to an onrushing Elcock.  The midfielder played the ball back to Vercollone, positioned at the top of the 18-yard box, who curled it around defenders and buried it into the lower right-hand corner.

The second half opened with the same intensity as the first when a couple of close calls nearly increased the scoreline.  Immediately after the restart, Villanueva was played over the top by Delicate, and was left 1v1 with the last Monarchs defender.  His laser strike from 14 yards was punched back into the mix by Levey.  The rebound fell to Elcock, stationed four yards out but his left-footed attempt sailed wide.

After his failed chance minutes earlier, luck was on Elcock’s side in the 50th minute.  Burke lined up a free kick on the right flank and served it to the opposite post.  A defensive mistake allowed Elcock to burst through the scene and he capitalized on the blunder by slipping the ball into the far corner.

Maryland made three substitutions and changed the lineup to aggressively play with four forwards.  The change of scenery nearly paid off in the 69th minute when a wide-open Ben Hunter volleyed a bouncing ball from 20 yards out but his ill-timed attempt sailed over the sideline for a throw in.

Four minutes later, the Monarchs saw their best chance of the night stifled by Kickers goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale.  Defender John Borrajo delivered a cross from the right side to the far post.  Finding Nicki Paterson in the air, his nod from six yards out split the defenders and fell idly into the arms of the ‘keeper. 

The Kickers nearly closed with a big finish in the final few minutes of regulation when midfielder Stephen Nsereko played the ball into the box to a well-positioned Neil Barlow.  The rookie midfielder took one touch and blasted a left-footed attempt directly into Levey’s gloves.  Then, Nsereko made an effort to score himself in stoppage time when he received the ball from Gerson dos Santos at the top of the box.  Unmarked, he settled the ball and curled it to the far post but Levey made one last heroic save to deflect it from harm’s way.

The Richmond Kickers return to the University of Richmond Stadium on Friday, May 21st to host the Charlotte Eagles at 7:00 p.m.  The first 100 fans through the gate will receive a seat cushion, courtesy of Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods.  Order tickets in advance at RichmondKickers.com and save big on admission.

EA SPORTS COMES UP WITH ANOTHER GEM

Landon Donovan says that it’s “a cool game, authentic, and real.”

And you have to agree with LaDo that 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa from EA Sports is a cut above the rest. The presentation of the game is simply outstanding, with everything you would expect from an international soccer broadcast, especially one in the World Cup.

Included in that presentation is the continual successful management of detail that was put into the game, from the confetti and streamers on the field to great precision on the appearance of players and coaches. Yep, they even included Diego Maradona's stud earrings! Not only does the game give the precision of the world stars, but it includes shots of fans in the stands that you would usually see on TV and not on your video game console.

Oh yes, and even a continual appearance of the Vuvuzelas, that South Africa is famous for their bumblebee noise, makes it’s mark on the game. Speaking of sound, the crowd chants are authentic to the region as playing.

The World Cup tournament is great on the game, but it gives you so much more; from qualifying in a specific region to replaying qualifying moments over the past three years, from World Cup 2006 in Germany, and even World Cup 2010 (playable after it happens in South Africa, of course). Not to mention the inclusion of South Africa into the menu music and even talked about in the match commentary, including the significance of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Think you can captain your national team to South Africa? EA lets you create your player and lead your team to the finals, climbing the ladder of competition in your own nation. Or, more impressionably, take your already created superstar from FIFA 10 and download them right into World Cup 2010!!

The computer AI is a bit tougher, so your better bring your "A" game to this creative and realistic portrayal of the 2010 FIFA World Cup!

AZTEX TAKE THE TOP OF THE TABLE

AUSTIN, TX - May 16, 2010 - The Aztex take first place in the USSF D-II Pro League after defeating Crystal Palace Baltimore 2-1 Sunday night in Austin.  Lance Watson and Jamie Watson both entered the score sheet in the 35th and 69th minute respectively.

“I told the players before the game, I didn’t think one goal would be enough to win the game,” said Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath. “There was a desire to go and score a winner… I was pleased with the response of the players. This is a big win for us.”

The Austin Aztex felt the pressure coming into the game; a win would guarantee a first place spot for the first time in their club history. First, however, they would have to defeat the Crystal Palace, the same opponent who shockingly took down former first place team the Portland Timbers last Thursday.

Baltimore started off strong with their offensive speed troubling the Aztex.

In minute 13, Baltimore player Matthew Mbuta timed his run perfectly to out run his defender and create a one-on-one with Aztex keeper Miguel Gallardo. Luckily for the Aztex, Gallardo held his ground and Mbuta’s shot hit the far post to get cleared by the Aztex defense.

Aztex thought they had scored an early lead when Jamie Watson’s bicycle kick was goal bound, but grazed the head of Lawrence Olum to reach the back of the net. The referee ruled Olum to be offsides and the game was still scoreless in the 20th minute.

The Aztex kept possession and tested the Baltimore goalkeeper with Leonard Griffin’s free kick barely being tipped away to avoid the feet of two incoming Aztex players.

In minute 35, the pressure paid off with Eddie Johnson providing a through ball to Lance Watson that split the Baltimore defense. Watson fired the ball in the top right corner to give the Aztex a one goal lead.

“I just made a run to the outside, I found myself in behind the defense and just took it across my body and hit it with my left foot,” said Lance Watson.

However, the Baltimore speed proved to be too much for the Aztex defense when Mbuta, this time, capitalized on his second one-on-one with Gallardo and shot to the right corner to equalize.

Their lead would be short lived though, Aztex forward Maxwell Griffin crossed to an open Jamie Watson who provided the game winning goal.

“The team talked about how important this win was for us, it’s has given us more confidence,” said Jamie Watson. “This year there is a different mentality, a different mindset. We’re now getting three points instead of one.”

The Aztex’s next match is this Wednesday at home against third place Tampa Bay Rowdies.

EARLY GOAL PUSHES INDEPENDENCE TO VICTORY

BRIDGEVIEW, ILMay 15, 2010 - A goal in the 6th minute scored by Philadelphia’s Joanna Lohmann would end up being the only thing the Independence needed to pull out the win against the Chicago Red Stars.

A questionable play that could have been called a foul on the Independence instead turned into a goal. The assist came from Amy Rodriguez as Johanna Lohmann sent the ball right past the Chicago goalkeeper to the right side of the net on a poorly defended play by the Red Stars.

It wasn’t until halfway into the first half that the Red Stars started to string some passes together and get opportunities to score where as before, Independence clearly dominated play. Once they did that, they seemed to control most of the possession.

The Red Stars (now 1-4-1) came out in the second half with a several attempts right off the whistle. In the 76th minute, Formiga got a good shot off outside the eighteen-yard box, but it was too high. Then Karen Carney hit a wide-open shot that didn’t get off the ground and was handled easily by the Philadelphia keeper. Carney played a good ball through to Ella Masar in the 85th minute, but she was a little too far in front of the ball and could not get a touch.

With all the opportunities and outshooting Philadelphia 12-7, the Red Stars were not rewarded. They were not able to capitalize on any of their chances and the game ended in a 1-0 loss for Chicago. The Independence improved their record to 3-1-2 on the season with the victory on Saturday.

Chicago native Julianne Sitch was out of the game with a sprained ankle as was defender Ifeoma Dieke after being issued a red card in their previous match against FC Gold Pride.

The Red Stars will get a chance to avenge their loss with their next home game coming on May 29th against FC Gold Pride who beat them 2-0 last week.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Sr.

WORLD CUP HOPEFULS FACEOFF IN COLUMBUS

COLUMBUS, OH - May 15, 2010 - The Crew's Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers will be seeing Chivas USA's Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein a lot in the coming days. All four have been named to Bob Bradley's preliminary roster of 30 for the World Cup in South Africa. However, tonight they would find themselves leading their respective teams in an important matchup that ended in a 1-0 Crew victory.

The Columbus Crew were literally 100% healthy with no injuries reported. Chivas was a different story and would be without the services of defender Ante Jazic (knee sprain), goalkeeper Dan Kennedy (hip strain), defender Yamith Cuesta (oral surgery), striker Maykel Galindo (ankle sprain), and midfielder Cesar Zamora (U.S. U-20 national team).

The match started quickly with a shot from the Crew's Adam Moffat in just the 2nd minute. It was high, but it set the tone for the match. The first half was much like a rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs. The Crew's Eddie Gaven had a breakaway in the 12th minute and was able to connect with Steven Lenhart, whose header was just off target. Jesus Padilla of Chivas USA, who impressed many with his speed and precision, would have moments of his own. His shot in the 22nd was a narrow miss to the left of the goal, just outside the reach of Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer. Padilla would get another breakaway in the 24th, but nothing other than a corner kick came of it.

Moffat would send a rocket from forty yards out in the 26th off a Crew free kick. Three minutes later Lenhart connected on another header, but still no goal. Halftime would come with a 0-0 score. Chivas and the Crew both had scoring opportunities, but most would say the visitors had a better first half. Little did we know that a bit of luck would swing the way of the home team.

Things continued to heat up as the teams left the locker room. Chivas had easily the best opportunity of the night in the 58th minute. There was quite a sequence of events, but it ended in two goalmouth blocks by Gino Padula. The visitors were literally inches away from a goal.

Chivas striker Justin Braun would go on the attack in the 84th minute, getting into space with two Crew defenders in pursuit. Hesmer would make two good moves, lunging forward to take away the chance of another shot. The Crew defense has been tested early and often, but had somehow held firm through a strong performance from Chivas USA. Some might even call it a dominating performance from the Goats.

Lady Luck smiled on the Crew in the 90th as a penalty kick was awarded to the Crew. Marshall was pulled down in the box by Braun just minutes away from a potential 0-0 draw. The legendary Guillermo Barros Schelotto came forward and cooly converted the PK to the cheers of the home crowd. This is just another instance of the Argentine striker winning it for the Crew.

The Goats tried to make a comeback in the final minutes, but to no avail. A victory was just not meant to be for Chivas despite a "lights out" performance by Zach Thornton and some fiery, passionate play from Sacha Kljestan. There was a bit more energy coming from Kljestan, fresh off the news of the World Cup roster."Obviously I was very excited. It has been a goal of mine for a very long time to play in a World Cup," Kljestan commented. "Camp is going to be very tough and very competitive. I will do everything in my power to make the 23 man roster."

Kljestan may have been the best player on the field Saturday night despite playing a bit out of position as a third forward. This change provided him with the opportunity to roam the field, creating opportunities along the way.

The statistics didn't tell the true story of the play on the pitch. The visitors had an advantage in shots (14), corner kicks (6), and saves (5). The hometown Crew had a slight advantage in just one category: shots on goal (5). Chivas USA put together a hands down, dominant display at Crew Stadium and still came away with nothing. There is something to be said for homefield advantage, a little luck, and a lot of hard work.

The atmosphere in the locker rooms couldn't have been more different. You could hear a pin drop in the visitors' locker room. "It's disappointing to come out of here with nothing after playing 85 or 86 minutes of good soccer,"Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein commented.

The Crew locker room was quite light hearted and jovial as expected. "They were a good team. They keep the ball and possess it well," midfielder Adam Moffat said of the opposing squad. "We never gave them too many chances. Just working hard you know."

The unbeaten Crew (4-0-2) now head out on a a short road trip, facing the New York Red Bulls (May 20) and the Kansas City Wizards (May 23). Chivas USA (3-5-1) returns home to face the defending MLS Champions Real Salt Lake on May 22nd before two road games against D.C. United (May 29) and the New York Red Bulls (June 5).

Columbus Crew Starting Lineup: GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Eric Brunner, DEF Chad Marshall, DEF Gino Padula, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Brian Carroll, MID Adam Moffat, MID Robbie Rogers, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto, FWD Steven Lenhart

Chivas USA Starting Lineup: GK Zach Thornton, DEF Mariano Trujillo, DEF Michael Umana, DEF Dario Delgado, DEF Jonathan Bornstein, MID Ben Zemanski, MID Blair Gavin, MID Michael Lahoud, FWD Sacha Kljestan (C), FWD Jesus Padilla, FWD Justin Braun

KAMARA LEADS WIZARDS TO 2-2 DRAW AGAINST FIRE

KANSAS CITY, KS - May 15, 2010 - Julio Martinez and Brian McBride scored to give the Fire a 2-0 advantage, however, it wasn’t enough to propel the Fire to a road victory as Kei Kamara tallied two goals, including one in the 89th minute, to erase the Fire’s lead and tie the game at 2-2 after 90 minutes of play at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, KS. 

The Fire (2-3-3, 9 points),who have only lost once in their last five matches, tied for the third time this season as Martinez opened his MLS account and McBride notched his 77th career MLS goal.

The “Men in Red” broke the early deadlock in the 14th minute when Logan Pause sprung Marco Pappa with a perfectly weighted through ball on the left side. The fleet Guatemalan took one touch and sent a cross into the six-yard box where a charging Martinez outpaced Wizards defender Roger Espinoza for the inside track and with a sliding effort powered the ball over the goal line and past Kansas City Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen for his first career MLS goal.

The Fire deflected danger in the 25th minute as the Wizards peppered Dykstra’s goal with five consecutive shots from within the 18-yard box. Dykstra mishandled the initial corner kick, but recovered to save Espinoza’s rebound attempt. Conde and Pappa were credited with goal line clearances as Dykstra saved shots in succession from Jimmy Conrad and Jack Jewsbury to preserve the Fire’s one goal advantage. With eight saves on the evening, Dykstra increased his save total for the year to 31 on the season.

Entering in the 48th minute, McBride made his presence felt immediately. Patrick Nyarko found space on the right side and sent a deft pass to a cutting McBride who turned and slotted the ball inside Nielsen on the near post to give the Fire a two goal lead.

Kamara rallied the Wizards and snatched a goal back in the 50th minute when his deflected shot found the back of the net, past a frozen Dykstra. The Sierra Leone product pulled the Wizards level with an opportunistic goal in the waning moments of the match. In the 89th minute, Teal Bunbury’s tight-angle shot on goal was saved by Dykstra, only for the rebound to carom to Kamara who gently tapped the ball over the line to tie the match at 2-2.

The Fire return to TOYOTA PARK for a four-game home stand, beginning with a match against Paris Saint-Germain in the first match of the Chicago Sister Cities International Cup on Wednesday, May 19 at 7:00 PM CT, and will play against either Legia Warsaw or Red Star Belgrade in the final round of the Sister Cities International Cup on Saturday, May 22. Brimstone Cup rivals FC Dallas come to TOYOTA PARK on Thursday, March 27 (7:00 PM CT, ESPN2) just three days before the Fire host AC Milan at TOYOTA PARK on Sunday, May 30 at 7:30 PM CT. For tickets please call 1-888-MLS-FIRE (657-3473) or head to the club’s official website at www.Chicago-Fire.com.  

EAGLES SOARING HIGH

CHARLOTTE, NC - May 14, 2010 - The Charlotte Eagles pulled off another win at home as they handed the Pittsburgh Riverhounds a 2-1 loss in front of a packed crowd.

Looking for another win at home Eagles forward Debola Ogunseye opened up the game with a quick hard shot to the back of the net in the 7th minute off a pass from defender Brady Bryant.  Pittsburgh keeper Hunter Gilstrap appeared stunned as the shot zoomed past him.

“As a forward you have to always find yourself in the position to score,” said Ogunseye when asked if he felt that he will score in every game.

With Ogunseye maybe being the smallest man on the field Pittsburgh was quick not to judge that book by its cover. They met Ogunseye with a double team every time he touched the ball.

The Eagles defense had an answer for Riverhounds Koffi Kouadio stopping him on several attempts to drive in for a score.  Pittsburgh remained scoreless at the half.

In the 61st minute, Eagles Brady Bryant scored Charlotte’s second goal off of a penalty kick just outside the goalie box to the left of the net. The goalkeeper got a hand on it, but was unable to pull it in due to the curve of the shot.

With the Eagles defense seemingly winding down Eagles keeper Erik Lefebvre put on another spectacular display of pure talent and skill as he stopped a goal just inches from inside the net while sitting on the ground.  The
shot was so close to tying the game that the referees had to rush in to break up the players.  When Erik was asked what he was thinking when he stopped the shot, his response was “You can’t think, just react if you
think the ball is in the back of the net”.

Pittsburgh’s Chad Severs was able to finally make something happen when he snuck a goal in and brought the score to 2-1 in the 71st minute. Although the Riverhounds put up a fight it would prove fruitless as the Eagles hold on to get the win.  The Eagles record is now 3-2.

Charlotte’s next home game is Saturday, June 5th at 7pm as they host the Harrisburg City Islanders.  For more information or to purchase tickets please visit the official website of the Charlotte Eagles.

Dan Gaspar

PORTUGAL WORLD CUP PLAYER GALA

By Dan Gaspar

I almost did not make it to the Portugal National Team official player presentation. I had flight delays resulting from airplane technical difficulties and then the volcanic dust cloud. The airport was absolutely chaos. I just made it in time, but my bags arrived a day later. That is another story for another day.

On May 10th, 2010 Carlos Queiroz announced his selection of 24 players who will have the honor of representing the Portugal National Team and defend the Portuguese national pride.

It was a gala event, not unlike a Hollywood red carpet affair. It was a attended by the Who’s Who of Portugal.  Pedro Pinot from CNN was the host, and he did a magnificent job.  The honored guests were: Fernando Couto and Carla Couto; former Portugal National Team captains as well as Joao Pinto; Eusebio, Portugal’s legendary player and Portugal National Team Ambassador; Monica Jorge, Women’s National Team Head Coach; Portugal Football Federation President, administrators and Men’s National Team staff; various politicians, and of course there was an incredible number of TV and radio reporters as well as journalists.  This event was televised live for an hour.  The broadcast covered the history of the National Team, highlights of the qualification games, interviews as well as action highlights of the players that were selected. It was a fantastic production.

Portugal soccer fans were all sitting on their edge of the seats and holding their collective breath in great anticipation of Carlos Queiroz's final selection.

Professor Queiroz and his staff spent many hours in tracking players, both attending live matches and evaluating game footage. It was a very tedious process that consumed a great deal of time and effort, as expected.  The staff established rigorous criteria and logged the data collected. The selections were based exclusively on the player’s merit. Professor Carlos Queiroz signed off on the official player roster document with his lucky pen and handed it to the Portuguese Football Federation Director of Sports, Carlos Godinho.

Unlike the typical soccer fanatic who sees a match once and is a loyal supporter of their club. Naturally, these influences affect the fan's perspective. Here are the 24 selections for the Portugal National Team World Cup squad:

Goalkeepers (3): Eduardo (Sporting Braga), Beto (FC Porto), Daniel Fernandes (Iraklis)

Defenders (9): Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Miguel (Valencia), Rolando (FC Porto), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Ricardo Costa (Lille), Jose Castro (Curunha), Duda (Malaga), Fabio Coentrao (SL Benfica)

Midfielders (9): Pepe (Real Madrid), Pedro Mendes (Sporting Lisbon), Miguel Veloso (Sporting Lisbon), Raul Meireles (FC Porto), Tiago (Atletico Madrid), Deco (Chelsea), Simao (Atletico Madrid), Danny (Zenit), Nani (Manchester United)

Forwards (3): Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Liedson (Sporting Lisbon), Hugo Almeida (W. Brennen)

When the team was announced there was an immediate buzz, in favor or against. The debates were and continue to be intense.  It is impossible to keep everyone happy, and there will always be disappointment at certain players being left home.  But there were some far more contentious decisions made by the managers of other countries.  Diego Maradona has left Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti, at home;  Marcello Lippi has ignored Luca Toni; and the organizers of the World Cup in South Africa expressed their disappointment that Brazilian Head Coach Dunga excluded Ronaldinho from his squad.  Even the U.S. squad couldn't escape controversy when Bob Bradley told Charlie Davies that he would be left home after receiving a letter from Sochaux indicating that the U.S. ace would not be fit, and that they would not medically clear him before the World Cup.

After the ceremonies we had a wonderful dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant it was impossible not to sense some disappointment as well as agreement with the players selected from all that were in the restaurant. We sat, raised our glasses and toasted to “Go Work”.

Carlos Queiroz and I took the taxi back home. We knew we were going to get some hassle; the majority of the taxi drivers are loyal fans of SL Benfica and those fans were not pleased with some of the decisions.  But it was also clear that in the end, Carlos Queiroz, the taxi drivers, the wait staff and patrons at the restaurant, and I all want the same thing -- to win the World Cup.

The next day there was a live broadcast on Sport TV reviewing the player selection. At the end of the broadcast they shared the final results of those who were in favor and in disagreement with the selection.  Ninety one percent were not in favor. I cannot think of a better way to motivate the Portuguese National Team players.

Despite the opinions, former Portugal National Team player Joao Pinto said during his TV interview, “From this moment on, these players selected are my National Team.”

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy. 

GASPAR'S WORLD CUP ODYSSEY BEGINS

Coach Dan Gaspar, University of Hartford

By Dan Gaspar

Well the moment has arrived. I leave for the Portugal National training camp in preparation for the South Africa World Cup! 

I have been fortunate to have worked on three different continents with world-class players at all levels. However, I never had the opportunity to participate in the World Cup. In fact I never even attended a World Cup. That is all about to change.

Since I was notified to join Portugal’s National Team staff, for the past month I have been functioning on few hours of sleep.  From my responsibilities to the University of Hartford to my soccer camps, Connecticut Soccer School and Star Goalkeeper Academy to my family, our two pugs Max and Nuno. It has been an insane pace. But this is my life and soccer is my passion.

It is not often that you get to experience an ultimate dream. Participating in the World Cup competition was the only missing link to complete my professional career dreams.

It is important for me share that my success is very much as a result of people who I was very fortunate to be surrounded by.

People who no mater what had faith and confidence.  People who gave me courage to pursue my dreams.  People who presented opportunities for me to learn and grow. People who shared their wisdom and knowledge with me. People who were kind and generous with me. It is them I pay tribute and the credit goes to them. I am so grateful to all those who impacted me more than they can ever imagine.

I am proud to be an American born coach who has earned and been given this opportunity.  It was in the USA that my formal soccer foundation was developed. I feel I am a reflection of our outstanding coaching system and that I in some way serve as a USA soccer ambassador during my international travels. My goal was to develop my American ingenuity and combine that with my unique European experiences. This combination has shaped me as a coach. Have no doubt that we have outstanding soccer educators in this country and the rest of the world should recognize this fact. I happen to be the fortunate one. This does not mean I am better or special, but simply I am unique. Hopefully, in the near future we will have more like me who will have the opportunity to display their skills in the international arena.

I am so excited about being involved in the South Africa World Cup.  What a competition. Think about the magnitude. 204 countries participate. 850 games down to 32 teams who will play 64 games. Finally one team will be crowned “World Champion”. This process is certainly worthy of the title “World Champion”.

My only regret is that it is not possible to put all my friends and love ones inside my body and have the opportunity look out through my eyes what I will be experiencing. I’m sure it will be difficult for me to express in words what I will see and feel.

When I was notified that I was selected to join the Portugal National Team coaching staff. I went through a maze of emotions. It was as if I was a bottle and the cork was removed and all my emotions spilled out. I began to reflect on the sacrifices that a lot of people had made to allow me this opportunity. I drove back to Colts Park in Hartford and began walking around in the areas that my father used to train me. The tree that I used to throw the ball off and catch is still there.  My father was a former professional goalkeeper in Portugal. He was my mentor, my inspiration, and my hero. You cannot imagine how proud he is. In fact sometimes his pride is embarrassing when he is with his friends having coffee or sipping on a glass of red wine. It’s all good. He loves his son and I love him.

Since I was informed by Professor Carlos Queiroz, head coach of the Portugal National Team, the process began for me to mentally and physically prepare myself for the challenges I will be encountering.

Mentally I started the process by assembling selected motivational songs on my IPod that would be part of my daily life. Physically I needed to accept who I am today and not what I was 16 years ago when I was also part of Portugal’s World Cup qualification process.  We lost to Italy in Sao Siro Stadium in the 1993. That loss prevented Portugal to qualify for the 1994 World Cup hosted by the USA.

The University of Hartford players were very patient with my regime. I received total support from my players and coaching staff.  Their support and understanding was awesome.

The goalkeeper preparation has begun in my mind as well as offering suggestions on team bonding and mental preparations to cope with the pressures of the World Cup competition.

I am sad and the anxiety is high as I depart my friends and love ones. It’s my comfort zone. Now I take this exciting adventure and journey to South Africa. Thinking and hoping everyday that the Portugal National Team will represent their country with pride, dignity, and honor. There are so many factors that we cannot control. One thing is for sure; our players and coaching staff will be as best prepared as possible.  No detail will be overlooked. I am confident if there were World Cups awarded for preparation that Portugal would be a very serious candidate to lift the Trophy. Unfortunately, there is no such award. It’s about results on the field and the rest is about conversation.

Within the next few hours, I will step off the plane in Portugal and I will smell, eat, drink and eat soccer. The fierce soccer debates start immediately.  From the taxi driver to the little kids to the grandparents everyone will have an opinion on the Portugal National Team. This is a country that is completely embraced by the game of soccer.  They live it, breathe it, they are consumed by the beautiful game and so am I.

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy. 

 

BRADLEY ANNOUNCES 30-MAN PRELIMINARY ROSTER
FOR 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP IN SOUTH AFRICA

CHICAGO, IL - May 11, 2010 - U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley has submitted to FIFA the 30-man preliminary roster for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. From this list, a squad of 23 players must be chosen by June 1 for the final roster that will travel to South Africa. The 30 players will begin reporting to Princeton, N.J., on May 15 for the start of training camp, with field sessions beginning two days later.

The U.S. will face two of the traditionally stronger teams from Europe in the Czech Republic and Turkey in the Send-Off Series prior to departing for South Africa. Nearly 25,000 tickets have already been sold for the match against Czech Republic on May 25 in East Hartford, Conn. (tickets) Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN and Galavision. The final home tune-up match against Turkey will be played May 29 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (tickets), where almost 40,000 tickets have already been sold. ESPN2 and Galavision will broadcast the match live beginning at 2 p.m. ET. For both matches, ESPN will be airing a special 30-minute pre-game show. Fans can also follow the games live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and at twitter.com/ussoccer.

U.S. TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION - Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton)

DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (12): DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), José Torres (Pachuca)

FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla), Eddie Johnson (Aris Thessaloniki)

"Throughout the past three years a number of players have contributed to our journey toward South Africa and we appreciate all of their efforts," said Bradley. "We are very excited to get this group together to begin our pre-World Cup training camp as we continue to prepare for the challenge of the World Cup."

The U.S. team will depart for South Africa on May 30, arriving the following day. The United States will play Australia on June 5 in Roodepoort, South Africa, one week before playing its first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Kickoff at Ruimsig Stadium in suburban Johannesburg is set for 2:30 p.m. local time (8:30 a.m. ET), and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Fans can also follow along live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and at twitter.com/ussoccer.

The U.S. Men's National Team has been drawn into Group C with England, Slovenia and Algeria for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The U.S. will open its sixth consecutive World Cup finals tournament against England on June 12 in Rustenburg, and will follow that game with matches against Slovenia on June 18 in Johannesburg and Algeria on June 23 in Tshwane/Pretoria.

MEXICO EDGES SENEGAL IN CHICAGO

CHICAGO, IL- May 10, 2010 - A sellout crowd of 60,610 at Soldier Field was the motivation that Mexico took advantage of in their 1-0 victory against Senegal.

Senegal’s goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye did an excellent job of intercepting a few threats throughout the game for a scoreless first half.  However, Alberto Medina was the hero for Mexico’s 1-0 triumph. In the 59th minute, Ndiaye disrupted Andres Guardado’s attempt for a deep send but a loose ball from the keeper was the opportunity that Medina took as he crossed it on the ground for a score.

“If the error on Senegal’s goalkeeper would not have happened we probably would not have scored because it was our only goal.” Mexico’s coach Aguirre stated. “But it is not just to blame the goalkeeper because in soccer it is not about what could have been, that does not exist.  In the great leagues you have one opportunity and you need to score it.”

A few minutes before the play, former Chicago Fire star Cuauhtémoc Blanco came in for Bautista and was greeted with cheers.  Although he did not get the start, he came in on the 56th minute in order to assist his teammates in several scoring opportunities. Throughout the game, Mexico took twelve shots against Senegal’s six.  Although some opportunities were missed, they took advantage of the one that gave them the victory.

Mexico’s next stop on the U.S. Tour will be against Angola on May 13 in Houston.

PROMOTION AND RELEGATION: AN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE

By Derrick Smith, Co-Host of The Short Corner

Uh oh here we go again.

It's that magical time of year - the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming and moms are busy washing out all those grass stains from kids playing soccer all across America.

This also marks the time that guys like me will once again begin the "Great Debate" where someone asks the question: Will relegation ever work over here? Some say yes, other say no. But whether or not you want admit it, the more popular the game gets here in America, the more promotion/relegation will be on the minds of footy fans from sea to shining sea. Before we all get our flak jackets and helmets on for battle that will ensue, allow me to offer this white flag of information that could steer you one way or the other. 

Leagues all across Europe and South America experience the excitement and gut-wrenching disappointment that is promotion and relegation. Teams go up, teams go down - that's just the way of life for fans of the beautiful game, and for the most part, the fans stick by their side through it all, with the help of course the warmth of the pub water to get them through the cold harsh summer of despair.

There are two ways to take relegation, in the "Black" or in the "Red". Teams who are relegated, while staying within their budget, are bound to yo-yo right back to the higher within a year or two of going down. Burnley of the Premier League have made a science of this practice and are the definition of a "Yo-Yo" club. Birmingham was another yo-yo club, however a new owner with a load of cash, not to mention a terrific start, kept the Blues safely in the top flight. Both clubs have made good fiscal decisions and seemed to have mastered relegation, minimizing its effect on the club's overall "health". 

Then there are teams who amass huge debts while trying to stay in a higher division. Therefore, going into bankruptcy and possible extinction is a distinct possibility if no new money is injected into the club's coffers. This season, teams like Hull City and Portsmouth come to mind. Both have gone deep into the "red" and both have slim chances of going straight back up after next season. Dig a little deeper and you'll find Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, and Southampton. All three teams enjoyed success in the top flight many moons ago and took years before they were able to start the move upward, due to their books having more red ink than the California State Budget.

You can uncork your ears, the history lesson is over. Now onto the meat and potatoes. 

Soccer is growing in this country at such a rapid rate. Sure we've all heard about almost millions of kids playing youth soccer each weekend but here are a few hard hitting stats to chew on. America ranks as one of the highest nations in regards to footballers per population even though soccer is not America's most popular sport. The most encouraging statistic is the amount of players registered with the USYSA. Over 3.2 million children play "club" soccer across this great country, almost triple the amount of registered players during the early 1990's. While I do believe the game needs to be free or as cheap as possible to encourage the best athletes to partake in the beautiful game, the amount of players committing to the club level of soccer is a boost to building the foundation that will one day transform America as a soccer-mad nation.

As the country changes, so will its mindset on issues relating to how the game is played and managed both on the field and in the board room. The Dutch posses, the Brasilians have Jogo Bonito, and the Americans....well we're fast and, oh, we've got Landon Donovan. With the performance of the Confed. Cup in 2009 and with a good performance next month in South Africa, the U.S. has a chance to solidify and market its "brand" of play. It's ever evolving.

One day I hope to smile on my grandkids as they run around the pitch and say "Ah, he's playing like an American." Right now, the pieces to the puzzle are being connected, but will someone ever say that America will never win the World Cup? No! It might take 40 or 50 years, but every one reading this story has that hope that one day before you die, you will see that trophy hoisted above the head of an American captain who, with tears in his eyes, pumps his fist to the heavens to thank all those who paved the way before him. Who would dismiss that hope?

Likewise, the discussion of relegation becoming a part of the American soccer landscape should not be dismissed. Do I think that Don Garber, in his State of the League address in November, will say that the MLS and USL/NASL are going to have promotion/relegation starting in 2011? No, however I do think that avoiding the inevitable will only stifle the growth of the professional game in this country. What do the Europeans have on us? Like 90 years of league play. Fair enough. But someone, somewhere had to have the idea of rewarding the champion of a lower division and punishing the last place team in the highest division, or else Europe would have the same sporting system that all major American sports have today.

I do find it ironic that Europe, mostly Socialistic in nature, adopt the Capitalist approach to keeping a balance to their leagues by promoting the best and relegating the worst teams.  Meanwhile,  the Capitalist Americans take a Socialistic approach to their sports, with salary caps and entry drafts creating a fair playing field.

So how do we reach this "Promised Land" of relegation? How does a single dandelion in an empty field spread over time to cover the whole piece of land? With one seed and one honeybee and a bit of rain. If one state association at the High School age level was to promote and relegate clubs throughout its league system (example-Premier, A,B,C Divisions), based on performance over the course of a year, the seed would be planted. As word spreads more and more associations would join in. In return, American teens would grow up with the joy and heartache of being promoted and relegated that when they become fans and business leaders, they will be more apt to stand by their team as millions of fans do every season in Europe.

Come to think about it, the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to draw thousands per game and have ceased to be anything more than be a doormat for NL Central opponents to walk over on their way towards a pennant race. By the end of May, you need two hands to count how many teams are already out of any hopes of making the MLB playoffs, yet fans still attend by the thousands. How much more interesting would going to a late August baseball game in Pittsburgh against the Cincinnati Reds, if one team were in the running to be relegated to AAA? The stands would be packed. The managers, knowing their head will roll if the team are relegated would pitch the best pitchers, pull the suicide squeeze and double switches to get victory and the much needed safety to stay up in the big leagues.

Imagine in 20 years when the MLS stadiums are renovated and are consistently drawing 40,000 or more per game. With a balanced salary cap and a unified USSF sanctioned ladder of leagues, relegation may not be such a bad idea after all. Sure, attendance could dip to about 10,000 for a relegated side. However, a proper parachute payment plus the excitement and struggle to get back to the top would keep the fans coming back even in a relegated season.

Remember, there are more than two divisions in American soccer. The current ladder goes all the way down to fourth division. Wouldn't it be great to someday have a setup in America to where one can start a part-time soccer club and work up through the ladder to full time status and into one of the top four divisions? Again, someone had to come up with that concept a long time ago in Europe, why couldn't we do it in the future here in America? Laugh all you want, but it could happen.

Before I go, I want to clarify, I am not a Euro-snob, I love the MLS and am an American first and foremost. I enjoy my Saturday nights strolling through MLS stadiums all across this great country. I just see the benefit in learning what has worked best for the country with the most extensive ladder of soccer leagues in the world and trying to apply it in the future here in America. In order to work properly it must be started at a grassroots level. Average fans can and will stick by their relegated teams should it ever happen. Use me as an example.

As a shareholder in a relegated club, Ebbsfleet United, I know what it feels like to be on the short end of the stick. While I might not see the top Blue Square Premier forward duo of Magno Viera and Moses Ashikodo return to The Fleet next season, I will renew my ownership share to the club, and press on hoping to get back to the 5th, yes 5th, Division in 2011-2012.

One day, I could see a club lower-division club in America being promoted to MLS, just like I envision some American player holding that golden World Cup trophy as champions of the world. Today's dreams are tomorrow's realities. But only if you make it one.

Derrick Smith is the co-host of The Short Corner on the RadioU Network. You can contact Derrick at [email protected]. For more information, visit theshortcorner.com.

Gary L. Moody Sr.

FANTASTIC FINISH FOR ROGERS, CREW

COLUMBUS, OH - May 8, 2010 - The New England Revolution's attack was quite prolific Saturday night, putting away three goals against the Columbus Crew. Unfortunately for the Revs (2-5-1), one of them was an own goal by defender and captain Cory Gibbs. The game ended in a 3-2 victory for the Crew (3-0-2) thanks to a late strike by midfielder Robbie Rogers.

The Revolution came into the match ready to make a statement after Wednesday's 4-0 drubbing by Chivas USA. This was easier said than done as the injury list for New England had simply gotten out of hand. Head Coach Steve Nicol was lucky to find eleven players fit for the match. The Revs were without the services of defender Emmanuel Osei (leg infection), goalkeeper Matt Reis (knee/shoulder), forward Taylor Twellman (concussion), midfielder Mike Videira (ankle), and defender Kevin Alston (illness). New England clearly missed the dynamic play of star midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who reportedly has joined the league's substance abuse program.

The Crew on the other hand were near 100% as both of their injured players, Gino Padula (knee) and Chad Marshall (hamstring), started the match.

The frigid weather clearly kept some fans at home. The crowd of 10,197 was treated to a match with five goals and a plethora of scoring opportunities. Rogers may have been a hero for the hometown Crew, but midfielder Zak Boggs nearly stole the show after scoring two goals for New England in the first 40 minutes. Nicol praised the play of his young player, who made his MLS debut this season on March 27 against the L.A. Galaxy. "He's done fantastic. His second goal was a finish that anybody would be proud of. I don't care what league you're playing in," Nicol commented during the post-game press conference.

The game was physical from the start, but it took nearly 30 minutes for anyone to score. Boggs got a weird spin on his first shot; it got away from Crew keeper Will Hesmer in the 29th. Just two minutes later Eddie Gaven brought things even at 1-1. Gibbs struggled through the match, scoring an own goal in the 35th to put Columbus ahead 2-1. Boggs would get his second goal of the evening in the 40th minute; halftime came with the score knotted up at 2-2.

Lots of opportunities, especially for the Crew, came in the second half. Revs keeper Preston Burpo played much better than the stats (6 saves, 3 goals allowed) suggest. Burpo's "lights out" performance easily denied the Crew of three or four more goals. Columbus had a ridiculous 16 shots, including 13 in the second half.

Colombian striker Sergio Herrera saw his first action of the season, coming in as a late Crew substitute. Herrera helped set up the play that resulted in the goal by Rogers in the 91st minute. Herrera's few minutes on the pitch still provided dividends for the victorious Crew.

A clearly frustrated New England squad would have left town with a point if it wasn't for Rogers' shocking goal in extra time. "We can't ask for any more from the players," Nicol commented. "We got punished for three mistakes. We end up going away with nothing."

Both teams return to action on Saturday, May 15. The Revs look to turn things around with a home game against the upstart San Jose Earthquakes, while the Crew face Sacha Kljestan and Chivas USA at the fortess known as Crew Stadium.

Game Photos

Facebook Photos

Columbus Crew Starting Lineup: GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Chad Marshall, DEF Eric Brunner, DEF Gino Padula, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Brian Carroll, MID Adam Moffat, MID Robbie Rogers, FWD Steven Lenhart, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto

New England Revolution Starting Lineup: GK Preston Burpo, DEF Chris Tierney, DEF Cory Gibbs (C), DEF Darrius Barnes, DEF Pat Phelan, MID Joseph Niouky, MID Seth Sinovic, MID Zak Boggs, MID Khano Smith, FWD Kheli Dube, FWD Sainey Nyassi

DELI SCORES AGAIN IN DRAW WITH MONARCHS

RICHMOND, VAMay 8, 2010 – The Richmond Kickers battled the Real Maryland Monarchs to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at the University of Richmond Stadium.  Scoring sensation Matthew Delicâte gave the home team an early lead with a 17th minute tally when he connected on a cross from rookie midfielder Jonathan Villanueva.  The Kickers controlled the run of play, out-shooting their opponent 18-4 but could not rally back after conceding an own goal in the 63rd minute.

Searching for their first home win of the season, the Kickers came out of the gates determined to send the Real Maryland Monarchs home disappointed.  Applying pressure early and often, the Kickers tested goalkeeper Brian Levey several times before the 20 minute mark. 

An all-out attack in a five-minute span started with a free kick in the 12th minute.  Mike Burke delivered the ball into the box, but Edson Elcock’s header on frame was denied by the well-positioned ‘keeper in the 12th minute.  Burke struck again in the 14th minute, firing a rocket from 23 yards that sailed just wide. 

Three minutes later, the Kickers persistence paid off when Elcock played a nice flick on header to Villanueva, who raced down the sideline.  He played a perfect cross from deep on the left flank to an onrushing Delicâte, who redirected it past Levey from point-blank range to give the Kickers a 1-0 lead.

Later, the Kickers were looking to draw blood again with two great opportunities in the 35th minute.  First, defender David Hertel served a high cross to the far post, finding Villanueva airborne who nodded the ball toward goal.  Levey’s first clearance found Burke at the top of the box.  Taking one touch, he fired the rebound but his left-footed attempt was smothered by the big goalkeeper, just inside the post.

Soon after, the home team was denied by the woodwork when Delicâte attempted to bury a cross from six yards out but his determined strike rattled the crossbar.

Delicâte nearly was the hero again right before the break when Burke played him in behind the defense, leaving the physical forward 1v1 with Levey.  With an unwavering composure, Levey’s kick save kept the Kickers from doubling the score.

The firepower did not relent after the restart as Levey was forced to respond again minutes into the second half.  Elcock supplied a cross from the left side, finding Villanueva crushing to the near post but the netminder made the save with his legs before stifling the ball on the ground.

The Monarchs nearly dug their own grave in the 50th minute when the Kickers were awarded a penalty after a handball in the box.  The Kickers failed to capitalize on the opportunity when Burke was unable to slip the ball past Levey who kept his nerve and stretched to push the ball over the crossbar.

Maryland brought the score level in the 63rd minute, with some assistance from the Kickers, when an unfortunate own goal resulted from an ill-timed clearance by Henry Kalungi.

Looking to break the stalemate in the 80th minute, midfielder Nicki Paterson attempted a shot from 25 yards out.  His strike took an unpredictable bounce, and Kickers fans held their breath as Pascale bobbled the ball before he could settle it down.

The Monarchs saw their best chance of the night slip by the far post in the 83rd minute when Paterson lined up a free kick at the left edge of the penalty box.  Bending the ball around the defensive wall, he was unable to sneak it past a diving Ronnie Pascale who punched the ball from harm’s way.

As stoppage time was destined to end at any second, a loose ball bounced to defender Sascha Görres, just outside the box but his volley missed the target by inches.

The Richmond Kickers face the Monarchs again next Sunday, May 16th in Maryland before returning to UR Stadium on Friday, May 21st to host the Charlotte Eagles at 7:00 p.m. 

FIRE FALL TO TORONTO

TORONTO, ON - May 8, 2010 - Logan Pause scored his second career MLS goal on a 35-yard blast, but it wasn’t enough for the Fire to overcome Toronto FC’s three second half goals, as the Fire were defeated 4-1 at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario. Toronto FC’s second interval offensive onslaught included a brace from Chad Barrett and two assists from Dwayne De Rosario to give TFC the win and snap the Fire’s three-game unbeaten streak.

The Fire (2-3-2, 8 points) have not given up four goals in one match since September 21, 2008 when the club allowed four goals to FC Dallas in a 4-1 defeat at TOYOTA PARK. 

TFC took the lead in the 24th minute. Following a cleared corner kick, Julian de Guzman laid the ball off to Nick LaBrocca who sent a lofted cross into the Fire penalty area. With a strong wind blowing inward on the Fire’s goal, LaBrocca’s cross was caught by the wind and carried into the back of the net to put the Reds up 1-0. 

The Reds added to their lead two minutes into the second half when Barrett fed De Rosario on the right side of the field. The Canadian centered the ball to a charging O’Brian White who shanked the pass but got enough on it to put it over the goal line and give TFC a two goal advantage after 47 minutes.

Pause pulled one back for the Fire in the 50th minute. Krzysztof Krol laid the ball off to Pause who wound up and sent a rocket into the top right corner past diving Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

With two goals in the course of four minutes, Barrett put the match out of reach. The former Fire forward got on the score sheet in the 66th minute when he took a pass from White and powered it past Dykstra for his first goal of the season. In the 69th minute De Rosario sprung the forward with a long pass that put Barrett one-on-one with Dykstra. Barrett drove a shot past the Fire goalkeeper, to give TFC a 4-1 advantage and their third victory of the season.

The Fire will wrap their two-game road swing with a trip to Kansas City to take on the Wizards on Saturday, May 15 (7:30 PM CT, FSC/FSE). The club returns to TOYOTA PARK for a four-game home stand, beginning with a match against Paris Saint-Germain in the first match of the Chicago Sister Cities International Cup on Wednesday, May 19 at 7:00 PM CT, and will play against either Legia Warsaw or Red Star Belgrade in the final round of the Sister Cities International Cup on Saturday, May 22. Brimstone Cup rivals FC Dallas come to Chicago on Thursday, March 27 (7:00 PM CT, ESPN2) just three days before the Fire host AC Milan at TOYOTA PARK (Sunday, May 30). For tickets please call 1-888-MLS-FIRE (657-3473) or head to the club’s official website at www.Chicago-Fire.com.  

EAGLES HEAT IT UP

CHARLOTTE, NC - May 7, 2010 - Erik Lefebvre's brilliance in goal held the Harrisburg City Islanders scoreless as the Charlotte Eagles marched on to a 2-0 victory.

A muggy eighty degree evening in Charlotte set the scene as the Eagles put on quite a show for their hometown fans. Although the game remained scoreless at the half the Eagles looked to have on their game faces as they executed skillful passing along with Lefebvre’s spider-like abilities in the goal. It was apparent this game was nothing like the season-opening loss to the Charleston Battery.

During the first seconds following the half the Eagles’ Darren Toby left the game with an ankle injury. In the 53rd minute of the game Charlotte Eagles Debola Ogunseye would not be denied during a goal kick from Lefebvre. He drove forcefully to the goal scoring hard to the back of the net, sending the crowd wild.

Not even ten minutes later Eagles Brady Bryant would skate one in, scoring Charlotte’s second goal of the game in the 62nd minute with a header off of a corner kick from Diego Martins. With the score at 2-0 and Harrisburg fighting to stay alive, Erik Lefebvre made an unrealistic stop taking away what appeared to be a sure goal from the City Islanders and any chance of them gaining momentum in the 66th minute of the game.

The Charlottes Eagles finished strong, giving Charlotte fans what they came for: a victory on their home field. Charlotte’s next home game is Friday, May 14th at 8pm. The Eagles play host to Hunter Gilstrap and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. For more information or to purchase tickets please visit the official website of the Charlotte Eagles.

Gaspar and Ronaldo

THE REAL CRISTIANO RONALDO

By Dan Gaspar

I want to share a story about Cristiano Ronaldo.  It’s a story that I’m sure you are not aware of, but one that needs to be told.  I believe in destiny -- this is an example. Behind the superstar celebrity is a genuine and caring human being.

I was fortunate to be invited by Professor Carlos Queiroz, Portugal National Team Coach to join their staff in preparation for the 2010 South Africa World Cup qualification process.  I have worked with Carlos before, and I felt honored to be a part Portugal’s preparation.

Not long after, I received a phone call from a good friend, John Moreira.  John has worked at Star Goalkeeper Academy, a camp which I own.  He and his family are good friends of mine and have been for many years.  His son Brandon, who was a quality soccer player, was experiencing knee problems.  The doctors initially thought that he was suffering from a soccer injury.  It turned out that Brandon had Osteosarcoma (bone cancer).

The Moreira’s had a difficult decision to make; amputate the leg or receive chemotherapy in the hopes that they could catch all of the cancer.  Brandon’s passion was the game of soccer.  The thought of having one of his legs amputated was devastating to the teenager.  He couldn’t imagine a life with one of his legs missing.  The family opted for chemotherapy.

Throughout this trying period, John had kept in touch with me and regularly updated me on Brandon’s status.  So it was devastating to hear that not only did the chemo fail to shrink the size of the tumor, but the cancer had metastasized to other parts of the body.  John and I shared a special bond, and I felt compelled to be there for my friend and his family.  I jumped onto a plane and flew to Toronto.

Brandon was a very special young man.  Instead of me offering Brandon support and courage, Brandon gave me much more than I could give him. He was calm, brave and his warrior-spirit imbued his house with a sense of peace.  He was an inspiration. Despite having lost considerable weight and entangled in oxygen tubes, in his soft-spoken voice he always managed to say just the right thing.  He pleaded with everyone not be angry and that God is good. Sixteen years old!  That was his gift to all of us.

His dad John said that Brandon had created a bucket of wishes. One of his wishes was to go to Old Trafford and watch Ronaldo train.  Given the circumstances, that wish was not going to come true.  Like so many kids around the globe, Ronaldo was Brandon’s idol.  He thought Ronaldo was the best footballer on the planet.  Pictures of the Portuguese winger in full gallop gliding with ease past bewildered defenders covered Brandon’s bedroom wall.  John asked me if I would contact Ronaldo and ask him to call his dying son. I informed John that I did only one game with Portugal’s U23 team with Ronaldo. The likelihood of Ronaldo remembering me was remote but I would do my best.  I wanted so badly to fulfill Brandon’s wish.  He was a remarkable human being, and it was the least that I could do for my friend and his son.

I called the Head Coach of Portugal National Team, Carlos Queiroz and explained Brandon’s situation. Carlos and I have worked together on many projects and we have known each other for years. We are brothers. I said to Carlos, “I have not asked you for much, but this is a special request and it would mean a lot to me if you could help me as well as my friend".

Carlos said he would do his best, but he could not make any promises.  But I knew that if anyone had the influence to be able to help me to help Brandon and his family, it was Carlos Queiroz.  To contact Ronaldo you have to go through several layers of people – agents, managers, lawyers, etc… and you never know how long that may take.

Carlos called me back the same day and said, “The mission is in motion”.  I knew that Carlos would come through.

In the meantime, I knew Brandon was a Manchester United, Benfica and FC Porto fan. I called my contacts and asked if they could call Brandon, to give him strength and urge him to continue to fight his battle.  José Moreira from Benfica, Carlos Queiroz from Manchester United and Vitor Baia from FC Porto all called to wish him well and to have the courage to continue to fight.  They were all special, but they were not Ronaldo -- he had still not called.

I needed to get back to the University of Hartford. The Hartford Hawks had a game on Saturday evening and I flew back on the Friday before.

Saturday was a great evening.  The University of Hartford beat The University of New Hampshire and I also received a call from John that Ronaldo did call. It was a tremendous relief for me, and I knew what it meant to Brandon. In fact, he promised Brandon he would call the following day. 

Brandon’s house was full of his friends, anxiously waiting for his phone to ring. Ronaldo did not disappoint. He called and Brandon and a house full of friends and family were overjoyed.  Manchester United was playing away to Chelsea that weekend in September.  Ronaldo promised to send his match jersey and boots to Brandon.  Brandon was ecstatic, but it was the conversation that he cherished most. He said "I can't believe I just spoke with my idol, Cristiano Ronaldo -- I am the happiest kid alive.”  A couple of days later Ronaldo went on to text Brandon to see how he was feeling. 

Brandon, only 17, died on Oct. 3, 2008. Ronaldo sent his autographed boots, framed jersey and a telegram with his condolences.  But in his telegram it was this message that moved Brandon’s family the most. It said, “true champions are those who fight till their last breath, and that is the image I have of Brandon."

I returned to Toronto to attend Brandon’s wake and funeral. All of Ronaldo’s items were wrapped around the casket. It was amazing.

In February I returned to Toronto to do a goalkeeper seminar. John asked me to go for a ride. We went to Brandon’s mausoleum.  I was stunned by what I saw -- Cristiano Ronaldo’s bronzed jersey and boots.  Beneath them were engraved the words from Ronaldo's text message.

Carlos Queiroz invited me to join the Portugal’s National Team as it prepared for its World Cup qualification match against Albania last June 6th, 2009 and a friendly match against Estonia on June 10th.  It’s fascinating how life works; of course I accepted the invitation to join Portugal’s staff with honor.  The team included the FIFA selection for the 2008 World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo.  His transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid was a world record of $133 million.

When John’s family knew I was going to join the National Team they had a request.  They had several items they wanted Ronaldo to sign and they wrote a thank-you card for him.

I flew to Toronto to meet with John’s family and to pick up the items they wanted signed by Ronaldo. Then it was off to Lisbon for a national team training camp.  When I arrived at training camp I let a few days pass before I approached Ronaldo. As you can imagine, everyone wants a piece of him.  During lunch one afternoon, Ronaldo and I were near the buffet table. I told Ronaldo that I had a special story to share with him, and could we spend a few minutes together? He agreed and met me in my room.

It was an emotional meeting as I shared with Cristiano all the details of the impact he had on Brandon, his family and friends. Ronaldo listened carefully.

I wanted to emphasize the responsibility an athlete like Cristiano has to young and impressionable people like Brandon.  As we talked, it was touching to see a vulnerable and compassionate side to a guy who is a warrior on the field.

The last thing I mentioned to Ronaldo was that Brandon had kept a daily diary. On the last page it read, "I spoke to Ronaldo, I can now go to heaven." That is the truth behind the real Cristiano Ronaldo.

Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Currently, he also serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy. 

MLS WEEK 6 POWER RANKINGS

By J.D. Smith, Host of National Soccer Radio

It’s going to be a busy week in MLS, as all 16 teams are in action at some point, and many of them have two games, as there are four games on Wednesday night. Makes sense because this is going to be a busy week for NSR too. We are making some behind the scenes changes that we feel will really help the show, and of course, have a big announcement to make on the podcast that will be posted tomorrow.

Since this week is off to an early start, the predictions for the week are posted below as well.

Power Rankings :

1. Los Angeles Galaxy - Getting all the points they can right now is critical, since they will most likely be losing Donovan AND Buddle for a significant portion of the early summer. And yes, that means I think Buddle will be going to South Africa. How could you not, at this point?
Last week: 1st
 
2.  New York Red Bulls – Another win puts them back in the top two. I know it was against D.C., and although United have been nothing more than a black and red doormat this season, you have to figure at some point they are going to break through. Kudos to the Drinks for not letting it happen on their watch.
Last week: 3rd (+1)

3. Seattle Sounders FC - They had the better run of play against Columbus, but the scoring touch eluded them for the majority of the game. It is troubling that they weren’t able to find a winner despite having been up a goal 3 minutes into the game and had Columbus down to 10 men for the final minutes. But that midfield is looking to be firing on all cylinders.
Last week: 4th (+1)
 
4. Columbus Crew – Bunker and defend took on new meaning after having Danny O’Rourke was sent off, but give the Crew credit for finding their way into the match on the head of Steven Lenhart. Two points in two road games and six from two home games is exactly what you are supposed to do, so give them credit for taking care of business, albeit in a highly methodic and trudging way, in their first 4 games.
Last week: 5th (+1)

5. Real Salt Lake – Did what they needed to against a Toronto side that held off some of it’s best players until the second half. It sure seems like it felt nice to be home.
Last week: 7th (+2)

6. Kansas City Wizards – On paper, they are one of the best teams in the league. But they looked abysmal after losing Davy Arnoud to a red card, and weren’t much better before that incident in going down 3-0 to Houston. I can’t keep them in the top 5 in good conscience since they haven’t scored a goal in 3 games.
Last week: 2nd (-4)

7. Colorado Rapids- Falls to a wonder strike from Chris Wondolowski and a standing-on-his-head performance from keeper Joe Cannon at San Jose, who aren’t as bad as everyone expected (and believe me, that’s high praise considering how bad they were expected to be). The Rapids will find out how real they are when they take on the Galaxy tonight.
Last week: 6th (-1)
 
8.  Houston – Luis Landin and Samuel Appiah getting on the board are great signs for an offense that needs to find help. The team seem to have rallied themselves around the loss of their stars Cameron and Ching. Good signs for all involved.
Last week: 10th (+2)

9. New England Revolution – managed to get a point despite losing two players to red card. No easy task for them when they travel to Columbus after taking on Chivas for 2 games in 4 days.
Last week: 9th

10. Chicago Fire – They need to take all points at home, lest those rowdy Section 8 fans grow restless.
Last week: 8th

11. San Jose Earthquakes – Pitched a shutout to one of the highest scoring offenses in MLS so far this season. Defense was an issue last year, but so far, the mix of talent in San Jose seems to be starting to come together. Still, just like Jack Bauer, I need more time before I’m sold on this Quakes team being legit.
Last week: 12th (+1)

12. Chivas USA -  The point in Chicago  is definitely a good sign. Michael Lahoud getting suspended by MLS for two games for his viscious tackle on Justin Mapp, however,  was not so good.
Last week: 11th  (- 1)

13. FC Dallas – Dominated New England on the road, but could not find the winning goal, despite only having 9 men defending their 11. Schellas Hyndman needs to teach his men to find the, ahem…testicular fortitude to nut up and get a winning goal already.
(And yes, I’m looking for every excuse possible to use that video for the rest of the season.)
Last week: 14th (+1)

14. Philadelphia Union – looked flat against the best team in MLS, on the road, without their leading scorer. Not what one would call a surprising result. At least they didn’t have to run. Or get tasered…
Last week: 15th (+1)

15. Toronto – Preki didn’t want to talk to the media earlier this year, perhaps becaus ehe doesn’t want to have to explain his odd decisions, such as not starting Dwayne DeRosario and Julian De Guzman? Toronto has been outscored 11-2 on the road this season, which I’m guessing isn’t something that has made the TFC boss happy. Still, what’s the point in grounding two of your best players, especially one (De Rosario) who has been one of the hotter scorers in the early season?
Preki’s logic makes this seem almost explainable by comparison.
Last week: 14th (-1)

16. D.C. United – Guess who doesn’t have an alibi? D.C. United is ugly as sin right now. Is this the week they finally get a win? Or even a  point?  No team should go this long into any season and have it still be pointless. Haha, actually, maybe that’s the best way to describe Curt Onalfo’s strategies…

Last week: What do you think?

MLS Preview: winners are in bold, ties are in italics.

Wednesday:
KC at DC – ESPN2 7:00PM
Chivas at New England – 7:30PM Direct Kick
Dallas at Houston -  9:00PM Direct Kick
LA at Colorado – 9:30PM Direct Kick

Saturday
LA at Seattle - 4:00PM Telemundo
Chicago at Toronto – 4:00PM Direct Kick
Philadelphia at RSL - 4:00PM Direct Kick
New England at Columbus- 7:00PM Fox Soccer Channel
DC United at FC Dallas- 9:00PM Direct Kick
New York at San Jose- 10:00PM Direct Kick
Houston at Chivas- 10:30PM Direct Kick

Last Week: 4-4
Year to Date: 21-23

KICKERS GET LAST SECOND EQUALIZER TO DRAW WITH RIVERHOUNDS

PITTSBURGH, PA - May 2, 2010 - The Richmond Kickers snuck away with a 1-1 draw in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon, in their second game in 24 hours.  The Riverhounds took an early lead when a missed clearance resulted in an own goal and held the visitors off the scoreboard for the majority of the match.  It was not until the 90th minute that forward Matthew Delicâte notched his second goal of the weekend to bring the score level.  The Kickers round out the two-game road stand with four points and return to the University of Richmond Stadium next Saturday, May 8th to host the Real Maryland Monarchs at 7:00 p.m. 

Inclement weather left the pitch in an unfavorable condition as the Riverhounds controlled possession early on and stifled the Kickers attack.  Their persistence paid off in the 13th minute when midfielder Matt Baker received the ball on the right wing.  Carrying the ball into the box, he slotted a low cross on target.  Kickers midfielder Luke Vercollone attempted to clear it from harm’s way but his tackle went awry, redirecting the ball to the near post, and past a diving Ronnie Pascale’s outstretched hand.

Soon after, Baker created another dangerous opportunity when he delivered a cross from the right side to a well-positioned Niko Katic seven yards out, but his header soared over the crossbar.

The Kickers came out more offensively and applied pressure following the second half restart.  The visiting side’s first chance of the night came in the 70th minute when Mike Burke initiated a nice combination in the box, laying the ball off to a wide-open Jonathan Villanueva.  The rookie midfielder lined up a shot from point-blank range but narrowly missed just wide.

Searching for the equalizer in the 82nd minute, Burke served in a cross from the right side, finding Ross Mackenzie in the air but his nod to the left corner from 10 yards out was blocked by goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap.

On the counterattack one minute later, Baker was played through on the right side and fired a rocket from 14 yards, scarcely missing the far post.

The back-and-forth battle found the Kickers in scoring position with less than a minute remaining on the clock when Vercollone dished up a perfectly placed cross from the right side of the box.  With nearly every player crowding the box, defender Yomby William just missed the loose ball inches from the goal mouth.

Seconds before the final whistle, the Kickers fate was saved when Pascale served a free kick from the midline into the teeming box.  A Riverhounds defender cleared the ball to Sascha Görres, positioned 25 yards out.  Settling the ball, he chipped it back into the mix, locating an unmarked Delicâte six yards out.  Without wasting another moment, he headed the ball on frame, which made contact with Gilstrap, who could not stop the momentum as it whizzed past.

The Richmond Kickers return to the University of Richmond Stadium on Saturday, May 8th to host the Real Maryland Monarchs and Rec-stravaganza at 7:00 p.m.  All recreational soccer players are invited to attend with their Youth Pro Passes and parents and friends can purchase discounted tickets in advance.  Order general admission tickets via RichmondKickers.com and save $2.00.

RED BULL BRUISING: UNITED OFF TO WORST START EVER

WASHINGTON, D.C. - May 1, 2010 - Not even thirty minutes into Saturday night’s matchup against New York Red Bulls, D.C. United’s massive frustration in a season that’s going atrociously amiss revealed itself for all to see in an impromptu act of signboard smiting.

After United forward Adam Christman completely whiffed on a perfectly weighted cross from United’s Christian Castillo, the team’s supposed Salvadoran sensation who has struggled so far since his move from Mexico,  the midfielder took a wild kick at a sponsors’ signboard even with the game still goalless.

The chance was one of many in the 2-0 loss in what turned out to be the third home match in a row in which D.C. United dominated a first half only to switch off in the second and allow the visiting team to walk out winners.

“There’s not a whole lot of positives to take, we’re 0-and-5,” said Head Coach Curt Onalfo. “We just lost in front of our home crowd again 2-0 and that’s unacceptable.”

D.C. United is now off to their worst ever start in the team’s 15 year history and are two games away from tying the league’s all-time worst record-mark, of which the dubious record belongs to the 1999 Kansas City Wizards.
Goals from Salou Ibrahim and Juan Pablo Angel, which both featured glaring mistakes from a United defensive unit that’s given up the most goals in MLS, put United to the sword all too easily and expectedly, with Ibrahim’s first strike coming just six minutes after halftime.

Angel’s strike followed nine minutes later when he managed to win a header off a free kick from 35 yards out that left United goalkeeper Perkins rooted to the spot.

The goal marked the third home game in a row in which United gave up two second half goals while scoring none after a scoreless first half.

“You know, we’re just not clicking right now. Maybe we’re going to have to sacrifice some goats or some chickens, because we have to get this [losing streak] off of us,” Perkins said. “You have to stay positive, we have to keep our heads up, because we have to learn and we a young team that can learn from our mistakes.”

CREW STAYS UNBEATEN SATURDAY WITH 1-1 DRAW AT SEATTLE

SEATTLE, WA - May 1, 2010 - The Columbus Crew withstood a strong first half by Sounders FC, rallied for an equalizer and held on for a 1-1 draw Saturday night at Qwest Field to retain it's unbeaten start to the 2010 season.

Seattle got off to a quick start with a score by Steve Zakuani in the match's fourth minute. After a series of passes in the midfield, Freddie Ljungberg sent a pass to a streaking Zakuani behind the Crew defense. Zakuani ran onto the pass and evaded Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer before sending his shot into the open net.

As the first half came to a close, the Crew's Danny O'Rourke ran on to pass from Eddie Gaven down the left flank before sending in a precise cross into the Seattle penalty box, where Steven Lenhart snuck through the Seattle defense to head home his first goal of the season and to silence the crowd at Qwest Field.

QUAKES DEFEAT RAPIDS IN RIVALRY MATCHUP

SANTA CLARA, CA - May 1, 2010 - The San Jose Earthquakes knocked off the Colorado Rapids 1-0 on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium to improve to 3-2-0 on the season.

Chris Wondolowski scored for the third consecutive match to give San Jose the victory. Wondolowski was played through by Johnson after Ramiro Corrales found Johnson from the back. The Danville native then put it in the back of the net from just inside the area on the half-volley catching the crossbar on the way.

FIRE AND CHIVAS BATTLE TO 1-1 DRAW

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - May 1, 2010 - It was a beautiful night for soccer at Toyota Park as Chivas USA tied the Chicago Fire 1-1.  Baggio Husidic got his second MLS goal of his career as he put the Fire (2-2-2) up by one in the 53rd minute. However, Chivas USA (2-3-1) got the equalizer in the 76th minute off of a corner kick.

“We were expecting a hard match,” said Fire Head Coach Carlos De Los Cabos. “Throughout the week I mentioned to the team how good Chivas has been playing.”

It was a battle throughout the entire match as the first half ended without either team capitalizing.

Collins John was scheduled to start up-top in the Fire’s 4-5-1 formation but an injury in warm-ups put him on the bench for the entire match as captain Brian McBride got the start. As the center of the Fire’s offense, McBride is always contributing. He had a few good chances to score including a cross from Husidic in the 24th minute which ended in a bad touch.

Nyarko proved to be the most dangerous player throughout the match, working the right flank all game.

It was his assist which put Husidic on the board, tallying his assists to four for the year. Husidic scored his second goal of his career after getting his first one just last week against the Houston Dynamo.

“Baggio participates a lot up top. He has gotten more minutes this year and has been playing really well especially these last two games. He’s becoming one of the top members on the team,” said De Los Cabos.

Chivas USA struck back in the 76th minute when a Sacha Kljestan corner kick found Maicon Santos head, directing it to the back of the net.

Three minutes later, Nyarko again, almost contributed to another Fire goal. He took the ball up the right flank, fainted the defender, and then got a shot off into the goalie’s legs.

That would be the last real opportunity for the Fire with the exception of a questionable non-call in the 88th minute which would have given them a penalty kick. Dimitrov got taken down in the box and was hoping for the call as one last desperate attempt at a goal-scoring opportunity.

De Los Cabos was happy with the way his defense played but said he felt that the team was lacking offensively. Chivas USA outshot Chicago 14-4, with five shots on goal to Chicago’s three.

“We created several opportunities but we didn’t finish. We seemed to have a lack of final concentration,” said De Los Cabos.

The Fire’s next match is at Toronto FC on May 8th.

WIZARDS DOMINATED BY DYNAMO

HOUSTON, TX - May 1, 2010 - The Kansas City Wizards endured a frustrating outing on Saturday night, losing 3-0 to the Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium in Houston, Texas. Luis Angel Landin, Brian Mullan and rookie Samuel Appiah scored for the Dynamo, while Wizards captain Davy Arnaud was sent off midway through the first half.

Things started quite well for Kansas City, as Kei Kamara nearly put the Wizards on top in the opening stages of the game. The Sierra Leone striker did well to latch on to a through ball on a breakaway, but his shot at the Dynamo goal went just wide of the near post.

The Dynamo had their first good chance of the game 17 minutes in when Matt Besler brought down midfielder Brian Mullan just outside of the Wizards’ penalty area. Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis took the ensuing freekick, with his swerving effort skipping narrowly wide of the goalmouth, bouncing off the near post and out of play.

Houston would get on the board midway through the first half. With the defensive line pushed high, Dominic Oduro was able to feed Luis Angel Landin with open space between him and the Kansas City goal. Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen came out to cut down the angle, but Landin did well to hit a chipped finish over the big Dane and into the back of the net.

The Wizards had a chance to get an immediate reply after Houston’s opener, as Smith smartly fed a wide-open Davy Arnaud at the left of the Dynamo penalty area. Arnaud put a good cross in to Wolff on the opposite side, but last year’s leading scorer couldn’t quite cut the ball back to Kei Kamara who was waiting in the center of the penalty area.

Kansas City was dealt another blow in the first half with the sending off of midfielder and captain Davy Arnaud in the 34th minute. The incident occurred when Onstad came out early to gather a loose ball in the center of the penalty area while Arnaud gave chase. Terry Vaughn elected to eject Arnaud for what transpired during the 50/50 ball with Onstad.

The Wizards managed to create chances despite being a man down, with Kamara testing Onstad on a snap header from a Michael Harrington cross in the 35th minute.

Houston nearly doubled their advantage at the start of the second half, as Oduro and Landin worked a nice one-two before cutting the ball across the box for Corey Ashe. Ashe’s shot was on target, but Nielsen did well to move across the goal and punch the ball away from danger.

The Dynamo would score their second in the 52nd minute, as Landin fed Brian Mullan on a breakaway. Mullan took a touch and rifled a shot that found its way between the legs of Besler, ricocheting past the outstretched arms of Nielsen into the back of the net.

Oduro had a golden opportunity to increase Houston’s lead in the 59th minute as he found himself one on one with Nielsen with nobody within 20 yards of either player. Oduro juked past Nielsen in the box and attempted a low rolling finish from a tight angle that bounced off the post. Oduro then took control of the rebound and lofted a cross in the box for the onrushing Landin. Landin’s first header was blocked by Besler, and his second attempt at a finish was denied by a diving point-blank reaction save from Nielsen.

The Dynamo had another breakaway opportunity in the 66th minute as Oduro fed Brian Mullan on a counterattack from a Kansas City corner kick. Fortunately for the Wizards, Mullan’s effort went wide of Nielsen’s far post.

Houston would continue to dominate possession over the next several minutes, as the Wizards found themselves unable to find any footing in the match. Rookie midfielder Samuel Appiah gave Houston the icing on the cake in the 87th minute, finishing a good cross from Dominic Oduro after he slid behind the Wizards defense.

The Wizards will look to bounce back from the defeat on Wednesday, when they travel to RFK Stadium in Washington to take on D.C. United on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. CT.

LATE COMEBACK FROM AZTEX STUNS MINNESOTA

BLAINE, MN - May 1, 2010 - Two late second half goals finally gave the Austin Aztex a reward for the pressure they put on NSC Minnesota throughout much of the match on Saturday for a 2-1 Aztex victory at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn.

The winning goal came on a precision strike by Jamie Watson in the 84th minute of the match. Watson’s shot came from the left side of the field and crossed through the box to beat the keeper to his left. Less than 10 minutes prior, Eddie Johnson’s header put the Aztex (3-1-0) on the board for the first time of the evening.

Early on, there was little offensive action, but it quickly picked up toward the end of the first half, starting with a goal by NSC Minnesota’s (2-4-0) Brian Cvilikas. Following the tally, the Aztex looked primed to score when goalkeeper Joseph Warren’s 6’4" frame proved to be just long enough to stop a penalty kick by Johnson as he dove to his right and tipped the shot to temporarily preserve the Stars 1-0 lead.

The penalty kick was set up when defender Daniel Wasson tackled J. Watson in the box and was handed a red card for the action. The card gave Austin a one-man advantage for much of the second half, until defender Joey Worthen was given a red card to level the playing field in the 80th minute.

The half ended with the Stars ahead 1-0.

Austin came out of the locker room for the second half flying high above the defense with chance after chance on headers that went just over the crossbar, just wide of the net and just soft enough to be saved. Only 10 minutes into the half the Aztex had four near misses on header attempts.

Johnson though would not be denied. In the 75th minute, his header by tied the score at one goal and finally put the Aztex on the scoreboard, rewarding them for all the pressure they had put on Warren all game long.

With the score knotted at 1, Minnesota seemed to regain momentum in the 80th minute with Worthen’s red card, but J. Watson’s goal ended the suspense and sent the Aztex home victorious.

Austin’s next match comes on Saturday at Tampa Bay at 6:30 p.m.

GASPAR JOINS INTERNATIONAL SOCCER NETWORK FOR WORLD CUP

One of North America’s Top Coaches to Report from South Africa

MINERVA, OHMay 1, 2010 – Dan Gaspar, a member of the Portugal National Team coaching staff, will be providing exclusive content for International Soccer Network.  Gaspar will provide an insider’s perspective into the World Cup in South Africa.

Gaspar is one of the premier coaching talents in the United States.  He possesses four coaching licenses and is a Hall of Fame Inductee for the Connecticut State Soccer Association, University of Hartford (CT), and New England Soccer Coaches.

Currently, he serves as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach for the University of Hartford, President of the Connecticut Soccer School, and Founder of the Star Goalkeeper Academy.  All of this is in addition to his responsibilities with the Portugal National Team, currently ranked 3rd in the world by FIFA.  Portugal is expected to be a contender at the World Cup with such talent as Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Deco, Ricardo Carvallho, Paulo Ferreira, and Jose Bosingwa.  

Gaspar has decades of coaching experience from all over the globe.  His professional team experience includes time spent with the Connecticut Wolves (A-League), FC Porto (Portugal), SL Benfica (Portugal), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), New York Metrostars (MLS), and Nagoya Grampus Eight (Japan).

He also has experience at the national team level with the U.S. Women’s National Team, U.S. Olympic Team , U.S. U-17 and U-18 National Teams , South Africa National Team, and all levels of the Portugal Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Coach Gaspar has learned from the world’s best coaches, including Carlos Queiroz, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Jose Antonio Camacho, Vitor Fernandez, Jose Mourinho, Anson Dorrance and Glenn Myernick. 

KICKERS NO LONGER WINLESS

ROCKVILLE, MDMay 1, 2010 - The Richmond Kickers claimed their first win of the 2010 season Saturday night, edging the Real Maryland Monarchs 1-0 on the road.  Scoreless through the first half, Kickers forward Matthew Delicâte connected on a well-placed cross by defender David Hertel in the 77th minute.  With three saves on the night, goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale preserved the clean sheet.  The Kickers head to Pittsburgh to take on the Riverhounds at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 2nd before returning to the University of Richmond Stadium on Saturday, May 8th. 

Maryland applied pressure out of the gates, but could not create any dangerous changes early on.  The Kickers maintained better possession and were the first to strike when defender Sascha Görres delivered a cross from the left side to a well-positioned Mike Burke in the 15th minute.  Instead of trapping it, Burke ran over the ball and drew the defender, leaving Jonathan Villanueva wide open, who struck from 12 yards out but goalkeeper Brian Levey prevented the goal with a kick save. 

Later, Burke served a corner into the box, finding defender Yomby William in the scramble.  Yomby’s shot was deflected to Delicâte, positioned seven yards from the mark but his point blank side volley tested Levey who punched the ball from harm’s way. 

Two minutes before the break, the Kickers looked dangerous again when Villanueva played the ball to forward Edson Elcock, through to goal.  Lining up a shot from inside the box, he narrowly missed the target, just inches wide of the far post. 

The second half saw Maryland denied by the woodwork twice in span of five minutes.  First, a 63rd minute long ball was played over the top and a defensive lapse allowed Hamad Diallo to collect the loose ball.  His strike from 20 yards out beat Ronnie Pascale but was blocked by the inside of the post, falling directly into the keeper’s arms. 

Then, the Monarchs delivered a corner from the right side, finding former Kickers midfielder Ben Hunter in the air.  His nod ricocheted off the near post and was cleared by the Kickers defense.

Richmond broke the ice in the 78th minute when Hertel carried the ball down the right wing, eluding two defenders as he approached the box.  He made a smart cut-back pass to a heavily marked Delicâte, who took a step back to break free from his defender and one-timed a close range strike to the near post, leaving Levey with no chance.

As full-time neared, the Monarchs attempted to level the score in the 88th minute after consistently applying offensive pressure and sending several long balls into the box.  Midfielder Nicki Paterson fired a spiraling rocket from 25 yards out but Pascale was able to get his fingertips on it and touched it over the crossbar to preserve his first clean sheet of the season.

The Richmond Kickers return to the University of Richmond Stadium on Saturday, May 8th to host the Real Maryland Monarchs and Rec-stravaganza at 7:00 p.m.  All recreational soccer players are invited to attend with their Youth Pro Passes and parents and friends can purchase discounted tickets in advance.  Order general admission tickets via RichmondKickers.com and save $2.00.

A FATHER'S DREAM: THE KLJESTAN FAMILY STORY

Part II in an Orignial Series

The dreams of Gordon and Sacha Kljestan can be traced back to their loving father, who passed his love and passion for soccer onto his two young sons.  Gordon recalled that it began at birth, saying that there was a soccer ball in his crib.  It would continue for years as Slavko passed on his knowledge of the sport through drills, practice, and the teaching of technique.  “I give full credit to my father,” Gordon commented. “I was so lucky to have him.  He was my biggest mentor.”  The love, admiration, and appreciation for their father is known by anyone who meets Gordon and Sacha. 

Gordon began playing competitive sports at age four, excelling in both soccer and baseball.  Eventually, he was forced to make a difficult decision. At the age of 16, he had to choose from two sports he loved and was good at.  He needed to focus on one; it is obvious that he made the right choice.  Gordon would have to make yet another just a few years later, choosing a university that would take his game to the pros. 

Gordon would stay on the West Coast, enrolling at Cal State-Fullerton.  He would join his brother Sacha after just one season in a transfer to Seton Hall.  This gave them the opportunity to play on the same squad, take the same classes, and live together once again.  It was a special time for the Kljestan brothers, where they developed on and off the field. 

The pitch was a place of comfort for both; each took on an important role with the Pirates squad. Head Coach Manfred Schellscheidt found quite a duo in the Kljestan brothers as each brought something to the pitch.  Schellscheidt was impressed with Sacha’s fitness and mental speed.  This allowed Sacha to think and play faster than other players.  Schellsheidt recalled, “The ball doesn’t slow him down.”

Gordon’s deep understanding of the beautiful game gave him quite an advantage.  Together they played what their coach called “soccer with ideas,” a creative approach to the sport.  It could almost be described as an art form, something that has to be seen to be truly enjoyed and appreciated.  The relationship between player and coach and university was beneficial to all involved.  The Kljestans greatly developed their game under the expert tutelage of Schellscheidt, while the brothers’ success at both the collegiate and professional levels brought the program much notoriety.

Their time at Seton Hall would be the last time they stepped on the field as teammates. 

SOCCER PROVIDES HOPE

AUSTIN, TX - April 29, 2010 - Walking on to the field of the House Park Stadium last night, the Austin Aztex turned to face their opponents. The visiting team stood circled together arm in arm, tightly clenched and enthralled in their pre-game speech. The challengers did not embody a vision of weakness or invite an image of pity, instead the prime symbol of Haiti beamed with confidence and pride. As the huddle dispersed, a cheer echoed through in their native tongue of French-Creole. While their words fell on foreign ears of the American audience, their resonating joy was understood by all: Haiti was very much alive.

It all began with a phone call. Two weeks ago the Haitian national soccer team contacted the Austin Aztex, and said they would be training in the Central Texas area and wanted to know if they would be interested in an exhibition match.

“Of course the answer was yes,” said Aztex owner Phil Rawlins. “The entire Aztex community was very excited to have them come here.”

The display of encouragement from the audience was enormous. The display of encouragement from the audience was enormous.  The traditional hostile reaction to any visiting team from Aztex supporter group Chantico’s Army, was replaced by frequent chants of “Haiti”. Fans held signs that read “We love Haiti” and gave continuous applause for any Haitian player entering or leaving the field.

The support continued with the friendly serving as an opportunity for fans to donate money and soccer gear to the Fédération Hatienne de Football, which lost 30 people and their stadium after the destructive earthquake on January 12th. The Aztex were able to raise over $11,000 and 10 trashcan-bins full of soccer gear ranging from cleats to t-shirts, overhauling the FC Dallas exhibition game that raised $3,000 last Friday.

The match in its entirety was composed with both teams having equal scoring opportunities but none amounted into a serious threat. The Haitian offense’s speed proved the most influential in creating chances with the Aztex having to adapt to their quicker paced style.

The first chance on goal didn’t occur until the 12th minute, Haitian player Jeremie Oscaldo was left unmarked and after receiving a cross, shot the ball that barely missed and went over the goal.

Aztex goalkeeper Sean Kelley displayed why he was voted Man of the Match by the audience when he made a crucial save in minute 16. Haitian Jean Baptiste Fritzson shot low to the left corner, causing Kelly to make a diving save before it reached the feet of an awaiting Haitian player.

The Aztex’s best break came in the 84th minute when Wes Allen’s shot was blocked by the goalkeeper and Max Griffin rebounded with a header that hit the goal post.

The game concluded in a scoreless draw, an appropriate ending for both teams’ evenly balanced performance.
The score was just a side note of a much greater issue. For Haiti, this game and the sport of soccer is providing far deeper significance. Soccer has united the country of Haiti by continuing to raise awareness of their ongoing situation and has offered the players and the people to have an escape from the destruction and chaos.

“This is the sport of the Island,” says Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath. “The one great thing about this game is that it does give people hope and it brings people together.”

As the final whistle blew ending the game, the Haitian National team was welcome with a standing ovation from the audience. Signifying that while their circumstances are no longer splashed across the front page headlines, their grief is understood and their resilience is admired.

Although separated by a language barrier, the gratitude was not unnoticed by the Haitians. “I just want to say thank you to everybody, thank you for everything,” said Haitian player and Captain Peter Germain. “It means a lot for the people. In Haiti we now have nothing, and soccer gives us something, and we can give that to the people.”

MLS WEEK 5 POWER RANKINGS

By J.D. Smith, Host of National Soccer Radio

Poor Kei Kamara. His epic fail last week against Los Angeles made the front page of yahoo.com yesterday. Truly, it was one of the worst misses you will see in sometime. At minimum, it cost Kansas City valuable points they could have used after missing their chance at a point last week against Seattle. But the true travesty is that it cost the Wiz a shot at the #1 spot in the power rankings. Maybe in the new stadium they are building in Kansas City, they can slant the pitch towards the goal to help Kei get on track.

But I came not to bury Mr. Kamara. I came to do the Week 5 MLS Power Rankings. Here we go:

1. L.A Galaxy

Because of a narrowly-and-comically-bad-missed opportunity by the Wizards Kei Kamara, the Galaxy have still conceded exactly one goal all season. Their defense is the best part of their game right now (sorry Edson Buddle).

2. K.C. Wizards

I'm a little leery of putting them this high on the list, because in successive weeks they have failed to score a goal. But in two games against the most potent offenses in MLS this season (L.A. and Colorado), K.C. gave up zero goals, the second being a game without their star defender Jimmy Conrad. And K.C. dominated the possession against L.A. on their baseball field. Goalscoring continues to elude them though.

3. New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls really didn't play well enough to earn a 2-1 win against Philadelphia. Then again, sometimes you create your own luck, and the Energy Drinks continue to create chances. 4 wins out of 5 is good enough for first in the East, but I think K.C. has played better competition, so they get the nod here.

4. Seattle Sounders

2 games within 72 hours isn't something I would wish on my worst enemy. But the last minute iffy call against them in their Thursday night game with Dallas took what little wind they would have had for Toronto out of their sails. Defensive miscues by Tyrone Marshall and Osvaldo Alonso did in the Sounders, and the scoring touch looked to have disappeared again. But we'll chalk up the first game to a bad call, and the second game to fatigue to keep Seattle relatively high.

5. Columbus Crew

2 of Columbus's last 3 goals have come by way of the penalty spot. Still, even in slick conditions in Columbus on Saturday night, they took a very hard shot from the defending champions and came out with 3 points at home. But they are creating too many chances to have scored only one goal last week. Finishing needs to be a priority. It will be interesting to see if either Seattle or Columbus can correct their scoring issues against each other this weekend.

6. Colorado Rapids

8 goals through just 5 games is enough for the overall MLS lead in the category. Some people might wonder how long it will be before Omar Cummings is picked up by some overseas club.  He is very, very entertaining to watch. But Jeff Larentowicz is the player to watch in the midfield for Colorado; he has been playing excellent soccer.

7. Real Salt Lake

4 of their first 5 games on the road? How's that for a Champions welcome? Of course, who wants to play in Salt Lake City in March or April? It's cold.

While I don't have the exact stat in front of me, RSL has only won 12 road games in the clubs existence. I believe they lost 4,347,298, and have tied 11. Something like that. Anyway, 4 out of their next 5 are at home, with cupcakes like Philadelphia and Toronto being just want RSL fans need to help their queasy early season stomach. Besides, anyone who thinks RSL is a bottom half team is crazy. I'll defend them for at least another game. Maybe.

8. Chicago Fire 

Did they just win at home? Is that going to start happening all of the sudden? The Fire look to be on the rise after wins against D.C. and Houston.

9. New England Revolution

Losing to Colorado is not so bad, but losing Shalrie Joseph for an indefinite period of time as he deals with personal matters? That's cause for concerns on multiple fronts.

10. Houston Dynamo

Similar situation to New England. Losing Geoff Cameron for the season with a torn knee ligament is horrible news for a club already missing Brian Ching, who could be sidelined for another month. And, when Ching comes back, he will be leaving for National Team Camp, meaning the team won't see him until the end of June or later.

11. Chivas USA

I'll need to see one more win before I'm convinced they are a top-10 team.  Still

12. San Jose  Earthquakes

I'll need to see more against a team like Chivas before I'm convinced. But slowing down a fired up Quakes team at home has to boost their confidence.

13. Toronto FC

They move up slightly, but don't get a whole lot of credit for winning against a depleted running on fumes team.

14. F.C. Dallas 

No wins means we sing, "How low can you go..."

15. Philadelphia Union 

Not as bad as they look. I honestly believe that there is some real talent on this team. But dumb mistakes in the back have to be cut out before they can move forward.

16. DC United 

Well, at least we didn't have to watch them...

Carol Estrella

NORTHEAST OHIO PRODUCT READY TO MAKE BREAKOUT IN NATION'S CAPITAL

WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 28, 2010 - The proud Major League Soccer franchise, D.C. United, has seen better days. United have won four MLS Cups since 1996, but have not qualified for the MLS playoffs in the past two seasons.  

Despite what has happened over the past several seasons, the United defense has a bright star that is soon to take the pitch at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.

“I think (D.C. United) is getting a tough player that wants to prove himself again,” Parma native Barry Rice said as he stood in the locker room after a tough 2-0 D.C. United loss to the Chicago Fire. The St. Ignatius graduate said he will bring to the club much to the club in the future, but knows he has plenty work to do. “It's kind of weird being at the bottom of the totem pole, but I am very passionate about the game and want to win.”

Rice, born in Euclid, left the comforts of Northeast Ohio and left to play soccer at the University of Kentucky where his expectations were high: “I went down there on an official visit and loved everything about it. They had some of the best soccer facilities, the coaches were passionate, especially when they explained to me how they wanted their players to strive for their best. I really liked that.”

What the Wildcats got was one of the best defenders to ever lace up their boots in Lexington. He became the first player in UK history to be named All-American in two consecutive seasons. Other awards for Rice included back-to-back Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, as he became the only player in Conference USA to be a two-time winner. Not to mention, Rice finished as a three-time first-team All-Conference USA selection, even wearing the captain’s armband for a time throughout his career.

When asked about his stellar career, Rice says that his achievements are not accredited to just one person:
“A lot of it was my coach. He taught me a lot of things in a lot of ways including how to properly defend, which I think set me apart from other defenders in the league, as well as the country. It was also my personal strive to be the best, it has been something that I have always wanted to do, especially growing up with a group of friends that competed with each other.”

One of those friends, Justin Morrow, is also from the Cleveland area and a St. Ignatius grad. He played a terrific career at the University of Notre Dame (All-Big East Second Team and team captain in 2009) and is currently on the San Jose Earthquakes roster.

As for his experiences on the professional level, Rice is ready take on the MLS, but admits signing his first professional contract was something special.

“It was a little surreal,” the defender said, “it still hasn’t really kicked in yet. It was a great feeling and it was something that you dream about doing. I’ve watched Javier Moreno and all the guys on TV and I realized then, I wanted to do that. Now that I’m here, it’s a great feeling to do what you love as your job.”

But despite the success in college, Rice knows that there is a tough road ahead. Barry has already learned that lesson first hand as the former Wildcat, who is seventh-best in UK history with 78 games played, suffered a concussion in a reserve game less than a month of receiving his contract.

“College and the professional ranks are night and day from each other. Everybody is on your same physical level, you are not going to find too many players that are below-par. For me, I’ve been told and have learned that its about finding a rhythm and separating yourself from everybody else and doing the little things. It all about doing those little things right.”

With all the talent that Barry has, he definitely is looking to help D.C. United to get back on their winning ways. “I know the history behind D.C. United, their great tradition, and they have won a lot of trophies. Winning has been instilled here for many years and I just want to continue to do that.”

The defender says that the biggest thing he wants to do at the professional level is something he did not do in school.

“I want to win championships, which was something I was not able to in college. That is my goal, I want to contribute to the team as much as possible and win a championship of any kind.”

AUSTIN AZTEX FALL 2-1 TO ROCHESTER RHINOS

AUSTIN, TX - April 25, 2010 - Coming off a successive two game winning streak and playing at home with an audience of almost 3,000, the Austin Aztex had all the motivation needed to continue their 2010 campaign with a 3-0 record for the first time in their history. First, however, the Aztex had to overcome the Rochester Rhinos, a team that consecutively defeated the Aztex in all three matches last season. The Rhinos would be searching for their first win of the season after suffering a loss and a tie in their past two matches.

With Aztex central defender Kevin Keiron picking up an ankle injury in practice a few days ago, the Rhinos capitalized on his absence, putting relentless pressure on the Aztex defense. Within the first minute, Rhinos’ player Tyler Rosenlund charged the Aztex defense and was in a goal scoring opportunity until he opted to dive in the penalty box and receive an automatic yellow card.

In the fifth minute the Aztex issued pressure with Eddie Johnson passing to Sullivan Silva, who beat his defender to release a shot just wide of the goal.

Despite a strong start, the Aztex were forewarned when Rhinos player Anthony Hamilton was left unmarked and scored in the eighth minute only to be ruled off-sides. Only one minute later, the Rhinos capitalized on a lazy back-pass from Aztex defender Lance Watson, which caused goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo to take out an incoming Rhinos’ player. Gallardo was given a yellow card and the Rhinos a penalty kick and one goal lead after a shattering delivery from Andrew Hoxie to the left side of the goal.

A foul on Michael Callahan in the 18th minute allowed the Aztex to receive a free kick just outside 10 yards in great scoring position. Leonard Griffin took the opportunity to become the team’s leading goal scorer so far with two goals as the left footer bent the ball into the right corner of the net.

“This was something I had been practicing,” said Griffin. “We have done a lot of repetition taking free kicks. I started to feel confident about taking them and in the game Coach was kind enough to tell me to run up and take the kick.”

The first half closed with both sides given notable chances to grab the lead. Watson’s cross went straight across the goal in the 39th minute, only to barely miss the toes of the Aztex offense and minutes later both shots from Hoxie and Rosenlund were saved seconds apart from an impressive Gallardo.

The second half opened similar to the first with another Rhinos’ player, Hoxie, given a yellow card in the 52nd minute after a dangerous tackle on Watson. The similarity continued, with after a streak of Rhino offensive pressure, Anthony Hamilton scored inside the penalty box in the 64th minute.

The Aztex enjoyed nice possession but did not impose enough pressure in the second half to threaten the Rhinos’ defense, with their goalkeeper not making his first save until minute 73.

It wasn’t until stoppage time when a second yellow for Tyler Bellamy left the Rhinos with only 10 men, gave the Aztex a much needed boost. The final opportunity of the match came when Jamie Watson’s cross landed for substitute Max Griffin only feet away from the goal line, but the Rhino goalkeeper was quick to dispel any chance of a shot.

Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath provided no excuses for the team’s loss, describing it as “the nature of the game.” Says Heath, “We’re still a work in progress…we’ve had a good start, but that’s what it is, a start. We will re-group and we will get ourselves ready for next week.”

The Aztex’s next opportunity is a home game against the Haitian national team in a friendly on Wednesday, April 28.

KAI SENDS SKY BLUE TO VICTORY

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - April 25, 2010 - Sky Blue FC (2-1-0, 6 points) was able to overcome some tough playing conditions tonight to take three points on the road, defeating the Chicago Red Stars (0-2-1, 1 point) at Toyota Park by a count of 1-0. For the second time this season, forward Tasha Kai provided the game-winner for her club over the Red Stars after netting a Kacey White assist in the 52nd minute.

"This is huge for us as a team," Sky Blue FC head coach Pauliina Miettinen said after the game. "For us to go on the road, fight through the elements and take the victory says a lot about our character. This is a win that will certainly build the confidence of our team."

Facing severe wind and rain meant that players would have to back up one another on the pitch, and in no place was this more evident than on the Sky Blue FC back line.

"As a unit, we played much more disciplined," Miettinen continued. "We showed the willingness to sacrifice ourselves when necessary. We were constantly getting in front of the ball to block shots and never gave up on defense. The team fought for this win, and I am proud of our efforts."

The wind was the biggest factor in the early-going of this match, and the strong gusts played a role in slowing the pace just a bit. In the 5th minute of the game, Sky Blue FC earned its first corner kick of the evening, and midfielder Carli Lloyd struck a ball just slightly off target on the ensuing kick. The visiting side remained on the attack on the following possession, and Kai delivered a powerful shot that was turned away by Chicago goalkeeper Jillian Loyden.

The first break in the action came in the 18th minute when Lloyd was issued a yellow card after a hard tackle of Red Star forward Cristiane. However, the play did not cost her team, and the Delran native continued to help create opportunities on the offensive end. In the 27th minute of the match, a scare was sent throughout the Sky Blue FC sideline when Lloyd suffered an apparent ankle injury on an aggressive play. She was then replaced on the pitch by midfielder Kacey White and will be evaluated by the Sky Blue FC medical staff before a prognosis is made on her injury.

The team maintained its aggressive approach during the final portion of the opening half, and Kai nearly gave Sky Blue FC an advantage in the 44th minute. After being fed a ball from outside the box, she struck it towards the net, but Loyden was able to send it over the crossbar following a fingertip save.

As the rain began to pour down on Toyota Park, the second half whistle was blown. In the 52nd minute, White fed a ball to a streaking Kai down the center of the field. The Hawaii native then fought through on a breakaway with Loyden, who was forced to come off her post. Once Kai saw her opening, she chipped the ball over Loyden's head to put the first goal of the night on the scoreboard, 1-0.

The second half of play saw solid recovery from the entire back line of Sky Blue FC, with Meghan Schnur and Daphne Koster clearing away a handful of offensive opportunities for Chicago. Defenders Brittany Taylor and Keeley Dowling also played aggressive roles on the defensive end. Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Karen Bardsley continued to look very comfortable in goal for her team, and the English National Team netminder certainly earned her second shutout of the season against the Red Stars. There were a few late scares for the visiting side, but an impressive group effort led to picking up three critical points on the road.

Sky Blue FC now improves to 5-0-1 over Chicago over the past two seasons, and the team has yet to give up a goal to the Red Stars. For the year, Sky Blue FC is now 2-1-0 and sits atop the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) Standings even with FC Gold Pride (2-1-0) at six points.

SOUNDERS FALL TO TORONTO ON THE ROAD

TORONTO, ON - April 25, 2010 - Seattle Sounders FC allowed two second half goals and fell 2-0 to Toronto FC on the second leg of a two-match road trip on a rainy Sunday afternoon at BMO Field. Seattle Sounders FC (2-2-2, 8 points) are in sole possession of third place in the Western Conference after the first five games while Toronto FC (2-3-0, 6 points) won its second of the season at home.

Dwayne De Rosario scored the game-winner in the 58th minute. After a Toronto cross hit the referee, De Rosario dispossessed Osvaldo Alonso at the top of the box and fired a shot into the side netting of the far post. De Rosario scored the first five Toronto FC goals this season. With two shutouts last season, it was also the first time Sounders FC allowed a goal by Toronto FC.

De Rosario also figured in the second Toronto FC goal. In the 76th minute, De Rosario's cross found O'Brian White who finished a left-footed shot into the center of the net. It was the first time Sounders FC conceded multiple goals in consecutive games.

Kasey Keller, who started Sunday's match despite suffering a head injury four days ago, was tested early on a shot by White. White fired from just inside the 18-yard box but the diving Keller deflected the ball wide for a Toronto FC corner.

Steve Zakuani entered the match in the 60th minute for Sanna Nyassi. On his first touch, Zakuani played a ball through the Toronto FC defense to Brad Evans who fired a one-time shot on goal that was deflected out of bounds by the keeper. Another second half substitute, Fredy Montero, blasted a shot from close distance in the 83rd minute but it was deflected away by Stefan Frei for a corner. Seattle had the advantage in total shots, 11-5, and shots on goal, 4-3.

With two road games in four days, head coach Sigi Schmid shuffled the starting lineup, making six personnel changes from Thursday. Seattle has had a different starting XI every game this season. Four Sounders FC players earned their first start of the season on Sunday: Patrick Ianni, Sanna Nyassi, Nathan Sturgis and Tyson Wahl. Brad Evans started up top with Freddie Ljungberg, marking the first time Evans started at forward for Seattle. Seattle Sounders FC plays two in a row at home on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field beginning May 1 at 7:30 p.m. against the Columbus Crew.

EARTHQUAKES FALL 3-2 TO CHIVAS USA IN CARSON

SANTA CLARA, CAApril 24, 2010 - The San Jose Earthquakes fell 3-2 to Chivas USA on Saturday night at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Sacha Kljestan put the home side up 1-0 in the 25th minute on a long range effort.

Chris Wondolowski pulled the Quakes level at one on a penalty in the 42nd minute and then Justin Braun scored his fourth goal against the Quakes in his last four appearances to put the home side up 2-1 in the 54th minute. As the Quakes pushed for an equalizer, Chivas broke on the counter attack and substitute Chukwudi Chijindu put the home side up 3-1 in the 87th minute.

San Jose pulled one back as rookie Steven Beitashour scored his first career goal, but it was too little, too late, as they fell 3-2.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto

PAYBACK TIME

COLUMBUS, OH - April 24, 2010 - Chippy, scrappy, rough and tumble. Those are the words that were used to describe the matchup between the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening. The match had many ups and downs, but ended in a 1-0 victory for the Crew.

Real Salt Lake entered Crew Stadium with quite a bit of history. They are the defending MLS Cup Champions. They knocked the Columbus Crew out of the playoffs last year. A new rivalry was definitely in the works.

Whatever the case, the Crew were looking to make a statement. They started the season strong with a victory over Toronto and a draw against FC Dallas. An awkward schedule had Columbus playing more exhibition games than real ones. Coach Warzycha sent the message that they were focused on getting three points from a match early in the season.

The players seemed to have revenge on their mind. "They are walking around as the champion, saying that they're the champion," goalkeeper Will Hesmer commented. "They were sub-.500 last year. That doesn't sit well with us. We think we have been the class of the league for the past two years. We wanted to prove it."

Defender Jed Zayner sent the same message. "You want to make sure they know and that other people know that last year was a fluke. They aren't the champions. We want to be the champions. We wanted to set the tone early."

Both clubs would have the bulk of their players available for the match. The Crew would be without defenders Shaun Francis (ankle injury), Chad Marshall (hamstring), and Danny O'Rourke (suspension). RSL would be without midfielder Ned Grabavoy (knee) and defender Chris Wingert (hamstring).

Hesmer would earn his first save of the night in the sixth minute, stopping a Salt Lake header. Hesmer would find himself in danger just four minutes later as RSL went 1 v 1 after getting behind the Crew backline. An awkward pass by defender Eric Brunner was to blame.

Hesmer stretched out to take the ball away from Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio, saving a goal in the process. It was a moot point as the whole play was called offsides. The weather began to deteriorate rapidly as the game progressed. The pitch held up, but there was a lot of slipping and sliding with the waves of rain pouring into the stadium. Several players said it was like playing on a field covered in oil.

Defender Andy Iro would send a header high for the Crew in the 15th. Striker Steven Lenhart would send another shot wide left two minutes later. RSL midfielder Andy Williams would have a shot deflected in the 24th minute. The weather continued to be an issue, but the physical play continued.

The 38th minute would bring the first big moment of the match. Striker Guillermo Barros Schelotto would be called on to take a penalty kick after midfielder Robbie Rogers was taken down in the box. The always reliable Schelotto drove home the PK, sending it left past keeper Nick Rimando. The final minutes of the first half provided some opportunities from both sides. Saborio would send a shot high in the 42nd, while Rogers sent one of his own wide right in the 45th minute. The Crew held on to their 1-0 lead going into the locker room.

Statistically, the first half was pretty even. The Crew had a slight advantage in shots (5 to 4) and corner kicks (3 to 1), while Real Salt Lake were called offsides 3 times.

The rough play continued into the second half. Kyle Beckerman was given a yellow card in the 50th for a reckless foul on Frankie Hejduk. Rogers would take a bad fall just moments later; Gino Padula would leave the field with an apparent knee injury in the 54th minute. Zayner would take Padula's place on the pitch, making his first appearance of the season. "I feel good. Like a lot of people say it is good to get out there and get some minutes in. Get the cobwebs out of your system," Zayner said. "It's been almost seven weeks now. I wanted to help the team in any way I can."

The Crew began to push on the attack just moments later. Solid passing, perhaps the best of the match, gave the Crew some opportunities on the RSL side of the field. Crew forward Steven Lenhart would find himself with an open shot, but hesitation closed the door of opportunity. Midfielder Eddie Gaven would take a shot of his own in the 57th minute, but it was deflected by a Salt Lake defender.

RSL would make noise with some tactical moves, sending in both Robbie Findley and Javier Morales in the 62nd. It didn't seem to pay immediate dividends for Salt Lake, who were lackluster in the attack. A crucial corner kick from Schelotto a minute later reached Brunner, who sent a header high.

Schelotto would breakaway in the 75th minute. The striker would unselfishly pass it back to Rogers, but the play was broken up by the RSL defense. A Crew corner came again in the 78th ended with a shot by midfielder Adam Moffat that went high over the crossbar.

Things got more intense in the final fifteen minutes. The RSL attack had suddenly come alive after failing to register a shot in over 34 minutes. Findley and Morales seemed to catch fire, pushing their team forward.

Hesmer was tested in the 81st, but made a great save to his left. The ball bounced around before Will Johnson took a shot, which landed in the back of the net. Luckily it was called offsides, nullifying the RSL score. Morales would nearly bring the score even three minutes later; his shot went just wide left of the Crew goal.

Hesmer would be called on again, making a nice kick save in the 88th minute. Findley was on a breakaway and was left alone with the Crew keeper after the pursuing Zayner took a fall. Hesmer, an easy choice for man of the match, was responsible for three solid saves in roughly a five minute span. Simply put he was brilliant in goal and proved why he is regarded as one of the top keepers in the entire league.

Stoppage time was a worrisome time for all Crew fans as Salt Lake continued to press forward. RSL had opportunity after opportunity, but the Crew defense held firm. No extra time goals would be given away on this night. 14,322 fans celebrated the second home victory of the season for the Crew as the game came to a close.

The large breaks between matches for the Crew is thankfully a thing of the past. The Crew hit the road for an important away match against the Seattle Sounders on May 1st before returning home on the 8th to face the New England Revolution.

Game Photos

Columbus Crew Starting Lineup: GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Eric Brunner, DEF Andy Iro, DEF Gino Padula, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Brian Carroll, MID Adam Moffat, MID Robbie Rogers, FWD Steven Lenhart, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Real Salt Lake Starting Lineup: GK Nick Rimando, DEF Robbie Russell, DEF Jamison Olave, DEF Nat Borchers, DEF Tony Beltran, MID Will Johnson, MID Kyle Beckerman (C), MID Andy Williams, MID Collen Warner, FWD Alvaro Saborio, FWD Fabian Espindola

HOME SWEET HOME FOR THE FIRE

BRIDGEVIEW, IL- April 24, 2010 - In honor of Earth day, the Fire wore commemorative uniforms to host the “Fire Goes Green” game at Toyota Park and celebrated a 2-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night.

In the first half, the Fire controlled possession and outshot the Dynamo 13-2. In the 28th minute a goal by McBride seemed almost inevitable as the shot went past goalkeeper Pat Onstad yet Dynamo’s defender Mike Chabala blocked and kicked the ball out of range.  However, a minute before the end of the first half, a shot by Tim Ward was stopped by Onstad, who redirected the ball. It was rebounded by midfielder Baggio Husidic, who scored his first MLS goal leading the Fire 1-0.

The second half was an excess of yellow cards and two ejections.  The Fire were issued a total of 5 yellow cards and Dynamo received 4.  Houston’s Danny Cruz was ejected in the 79th minute for a second yellow card caution while Chicago’s Krzysztof Krol was ejected in the 85th minute for violent conduct after head-butting Luis Landin in retaliation for being pushed.

Regardless of the conflicts between Houston and Chicago, it did not stop the Fire from making their first home victory of the season.  In the 67th minute Patrick Nyarko dribbled toward the touchline and fired a cross toward the post and Peter Lowry used his chest to direct the ball past the diving goalkeeper Onstad for a score of 2-0.  This was the end of the Dynamo’s unbeaten record at Toyota Park.

Fire Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos was very pleased with the team’s results and declared that “the team is improving, their confidence is strengthening, and this result is very good for the motivation of the team.”

The Fire will try for another home win when they face Sacha Kljestan and Chivas USA at Toyota Park on Saturday May 1st at 7:30 PM CT.

ROOKIE GEARS UP FOR THE FIRE

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - April 24, 2010 –Kwame Watson-Siriboe made his MLS debut on April 3rd in Colorado against the Rapids as he became the first rookie of the 2010 season to not only see the field, but also get the start, and play the entire 90 minutes.

“It was a really good thing, a cool moment for me. Its something you always dream about,” said Watson-Siriboe of his debut. “I wasn’t expecting to start at all. CJ Brown is a veteran player and so fantastic. He was hurt, so I had to step up. It felt good that the coach trusted me to do so.”

The defender from Chino Hills, California came to the Fire after playing four seasons at the University of Connecticut. The 6-3, 196-pound center back played and started 19 games for the Huskies in 2009 and earned First Team All-Big East honors.

The Huskies are at the top of the rankings as far as college soccer goes. Competing in the Big East Conference, one of the best in the nation, Watson-Siriboe got the experience that would be needed to hang with the big boys in the professional arena. During Watson-Siriboe’s reign at Connecticut, the team went to the NCAA tournament every year, making it to the quarterfinals on two occasions. Watson-Siriboe was named the 2009 Big East Co-Defender of the year his senior year.

“My best memory at UConn was in 2007 when we won the Big East tournament and made it to the Elite 8 of the NCAA’s. The experience, it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Watson-Siriboe described the difference between playing at the college level and playing professionally, “The biggest thing is the speed of play, it’s so much faster at this level. You have to think faster and play faster. Every play you have to be two possessions ahead.”

He was drafted to Chicago in the second round as the 26th overall pick, giving them seven natural defenders on the roster.

His transition to the big city? Smooth so far.“I love Chicago, it’s a really nice city and you can’t beat the shopping.”

WIZARDS AND GALAXY END IN DRAW

KANSAS CITY, KS - April 24, 2010 – The Kansas City Wizards had plenty of chances to hand the Los Angeles Galaxy their first defeat of 2010 on Saturday night, but Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts came up big to preserve a 0-0 draw.

The first half started on an attacking note for the Kansas City, as the team’s pressure on the Galaxy back line led to some early defensive mistakes. Wizards forward Kei Kamara had the first good chance just four minutes in, intercepting a ball in the Los Angeles penalty area and firing a shot at goal after working around four Galaxy defenders. Unfortunately for the Wizards, Kamara’s effort went wide of the far post.

Kamara thought he had the game’s first goal after 17 minutes, but referee Hilario Grajeda rightly called it back for a handball. Jack Jewsbury started the attack with a timely interception at midfield before pushing forward and slotting a well weighted through ball to Davy Arnaud in the Galaxy penalty area. Arnaud’s shot was only partially blocked by Ricketts, but Kamara was there to follow the ball as it bounced off the post. Kamara missed the tap-in on the rebound, putting the ball over the goal line with his hand as he slipped on the wet field.

The match began to settle down noticeably after Kamara’s called-back goal, as both sides struggled to build any meaningful attacks past midfield. The Wizards began to ramp up the pressure to close the half, with Josh Wolff intercepting an errant pass out of the back. The Wizards striker turned and fired a shot from the top of the box, but his effort rolled straight to Ricketts. Chris Birchall nearly put the Galaxy ahead on the stroke of halftime, but his volleyed attempt from the top of the box sailed wide of Jimmy Nielsen’s goal.

The second half picked up where the first half left off, with both sides using high pressure and compact central play to create scoring opportunities and force mistakes out of the opposition. The strategy worked well for the Wizards, as they created five quality scoring chances in a ten minute span early in the second half.

Jack Jewsbury was an integral part of the first two opportunities. The central midfielder came close to opening the scoring in the 50th minute, but his attempt at a diving header on a Wolff cross was just a split second too late. Jewsbury would get involved again less than a minute later, streaking down the right flank and laying the ball across to Kamara, whose shot was blocked away by a wall of Galaxy bodies.

Ryan Smith continued the Wizards pressure in the 53rd minute, delivering a pinpoint cross to Kamara in the box that Ricketts did well to rise and tap away before it reached the Wizards forward. Smith was the danger man again two minutes later, as he found space on the left and faked a cross, instead laying a smart ball across the top of the box to Arnaud. Ricketts came up big to parry away Arnaud’s shot, Kamara couldn’t control the rebound and Josh Wolff’s attempt at a follow up was blocked out of play. Ricketts would come up big for the Galaxy once again in the 57th minute, saving a Jack Jewsbury rocket from the top of the box.

The Wizards’ last quality chance of the game came in the 67th minute, when Kei Kamara found space on the right and delivered a crisp pass to Roger Espinoza in the penalty area. Surrounded by four Galaxy defenders, Espinoza waited for an opening before attempting a shot that was blocked out by the Galaxy defense.

Wasting no time, the Galaxy sprinted off on a quick counter, with Landon Donovan bearing down on Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen as defender Pablo Escobar laid incapacitated on the side of the field with a mild concussion. The Kansas City defense was able to recover and prevent Donovan from creating anything dangerous, but Escobar was forced to leave the game for Aaron Hohlbein.

From then, the match settled down in much the same way the first half did. Tackles flew in thick and fast as the Galaxy’s top-rated offense was continually frustrated by the Wizards defense, while Kansas City attackers found space and time hard to come by against a physical Los Angeles back line. In the end, both sides were able to keep a shutout.

The Wizards will look to build off the shutout on May 1st, when they travel to Texas to take on the Houston Dynamo at Roberston Stadium at 7:30 p.m. CT. Like all Wizards away games in 2010, the match will be broadcast live and in high definition on KCWE-29.

EAGLES EDGE KICKERS

RICHMOND, VA - April 24, 2010 - The Charlotte Eagles avenged last year’s Championship match by handing the Kickers their first regular season loss at the University of Richmond Stadium since 2006, edging the home side 1-0.  Eagles midfielder Jorge Herrera connected with forward Gus Bentos in the 29th minute for the lone goal of the night.

Both teams got off to a slow start with few chances materializing on either side of the pitch.  Charlotte capitalized on their first dangerous change of the night 29 minutes in when Bentos received a chip pass from Herrera on the right side.  Controlling the ball with his chest, the forward side volleyed the ball from 10 yards out into the upper right hand corner.

The Eagles increased the pressure three minutes later when a shot from forward Debola Ogunseye struck from the penalty area but Kickers goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale was there to make the save.

The first opportunity for the Kickers came in the 35 minute when midfielder Chris Carrieri lined up a free kick from just outside the box but his bending shot around the defensive wall found goalkeeper Steward Ceus alert on his line.

When a cross from the right side could not be cleared by Charlotte defenders, it appeared the Kickers could level the score but rookie midfielder Charlie Reiter’s hard volley from the top of the box sailed skyward. 

The Kickers nearly closed the gap seconds before the break when forward Reiter chipped the ball to an onrushing Edson Elcock, breaking through the defensive line.  The streaking forward attempted to bury the ball from point-blank range but his lob missed the goal as the first half frustrations for the Kickers continued.

Nearly 20 minutes passed in the second half before either team looked dangerous.  The Kickers received the ball in front of the goal when a short cross from Sascha Gorres found Elcock in scoring position.  Elcock’s well-intended volley was deflected by a Charlotte defender over the end line.

The Kickers saw their best opportunity of the night slip by in the 64th minute when Reiter played a nice inswinger from the right side.  Forward Matthew Delicate could not get a touch on the ball inches from the target and Ceus was able to keep the home team off the scoreboard.

Determined to find the equalizer as the game neared regulation, Görres was able to pick up a short clearance 25 yards out but his rocket strike narrowly missed the target in the 90th minute. The Kickers take to the road for a back-to-back trip to Maryland and Pittsburgh next weekend before returning to UR Stadium to host the Real Maryland Monarchs on Saturday, May 8th. 

FIFA 10 ULTMATE TEAM IS THE ULTIMATE CHOICE FOR SOCCER FANS

Ok, admit it. You didn’t think that FIFA 10 could get any more addictive.

But with EA Sport’s release of Ultimate Team as an add-on for FIFA 10, fans can get a better grip on running their own club from scratch. Many psychics say that your future is in the cards and that is true of Ultimate 10.

The goal of Ultimate 10 is to make the best squad you can buy buying either packs of cards, or buying individual players’ cards that onliners are selling from their squad. Packs are either gold, silver, or bronze (bronze being the least expensive, and obviously less talented players). Not only can you get players from you pack, but you can get footballs, managers, coaches, stadiums, club crests, and rating boosters for your roster.

The main goal is to make the best club by having the best chemistry on your squad. Chemistry starts with players coming from the same nation, the same team, and the same league. Therefore, to get a top chemistry, you would want all players from the same league that can work together. You can have different squads ready to play at anytime, but players have contracts that are reduced by one each game they play. Word to the wise, use your best players in your top matches, don’t waste them playing bad teams.

Now that you are ready to play, you can enter a tournament either against the computer or online, versus other Ultimate Team managers around the world. Gameplay is great against the competition from around the world, but if you are not ready, you can play in single player against the computer in tournaments or a single game. The idea of making all the parts of your team work can be frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Ultimate 10 has a perfect blend of manager simulation games and FIFA 10 gameplay to keep the action going.

Not too many down sides to this add-on, just make sure you can beat your opposition and win trophies, because once you hit a stumbling block in a tournament, you have to start all over again. The best part of the add on is the option of changing your squad anywhere in the world, by logging on to EASPORTS.com. On their website you can move your squad around, see stats, and share your team on social media websites to brag, a great feature to keep you plugged in, even when you cannot get to your gaming system.

Can you make a five star team with total chemistry? Can you do without the divas and have complete team harmony? Add FIFA 10 Ultimate Team and get ready to get kill many, many more hours on the best soccer franchise in the world. Click here for a free five game trial from Xbox LIVE® and PlayStation® Network!

MLS WEEK 4 POWER RANKINGS

By J.D. Smith, Host of National Soccer Radio

Some have asked how we come up with the NSR Power Rankings. While I can't say we just pulled them out of a hat, it's not exactly a scientific method. But let's just say we assign an avatar to each one of the teams, then have those avatars duke it out in an online forum where specific algorithms compute the relative strength of each team from week to week. The algorithms take into account everything from the average attendance of each home team to how well the halftime performers executed their sultry dance moves (or in Seattle's case, their march...).

Or, maybe, I just watch all of the games and go with my gut...

With that said, here's your week four power rankings:

1. L.A. Galaxy

Do I really need to explain this one? The only team with a 1.000 winning percentage. Edson Buddle is on pace to score 52 goals this season. And the goal they gave up on Saturday was the first goal scored against them in 2010. Like I said, no need to explain.

Last Week: 1st

2. Seattle Sounders F.C.

Michael Fucito gave the Sounders the points they should have earned in Real Salt Lake last weekend. The focus was there for the full 90 minutes for the Sounders, something Sigi Schmid no doubt preached about all week after last week's late game nap. The fact they beat the team that was directly ahead of them in the power rankings has to count for something, right?

Last week: 3rd (+1)

3. New York Red Bulls

Yes, they beat Seattle at home, so you can make the argument that they should be ranked above the Sounders. But they dropped a game to woeful Chivas, and needed two penalty kicks to finally dispatch of F.C. Dallas at home. And as long as Bouna Condoul is in net for New York, there will be concerns about the viability of New York's back line. Still, getting Juan Pablo Angel into the scorers column should help the offense get on the right foot.

Last week: 7th (+4)

4. K.C. Wizards

While Pablo Escobar was guilty of forgetting about that whole "Can't be offside on a throw in" rule, Kansas City was otherwise in charge of the possession against Seattle. On the road, in a tough environment, against one of the better returning teams to MLS this season. Next week's game against the Galaxy at home should be interesting, as the narrow field offers K.C. a unique home field advantage. Then again, if they fall asleep again against Edson Buddle, it's a safe guess he will be able to make them pay.

Last week: 2nd (-2)

5. Columbus

Idle. If you're wondering how one team in a 16 team league can be idle, TFC played twice. So...now you know.

Last week: 6th (+1)

6. Real Salt Lake

While there is no shame in losing to a red hot L.A. Galaxy team, a recent smattering of injuries coupled with a congested schedule this week took their toll on RSL. Fortunately, the schedule does lighten up on them, with Toronto, Philly, and Chivas USA all on the calendar in the next few weeks. Unfortunately for the Royals, there is the grudge match against Columbus to worry about this weekend.

Last week: 4th (-2)

7. New England Revolution

San Jose controlled the game in coming up with a 2-0 victory, as the Revs were missing Shalrie Joseph once again with issues related to a bum hip flexor. It's difficult to know if the two wins New England does have amount to all that much, given that D.C. and Toronto have one win combined thus far. But the two road losses come on the West Coast, and one was against the early favorite to win the MLS Cup. The test this coming week will be to see if New England can control Connor Casey and Omar Cummings as Colorado comes to town.

Last week: 5th (-2)

8. Colorado Rapids

The Rapids are playing good soccer, with their only loss coming in a hard-fought contest against Kansas City last week. Connor Casey would enjoy putting away penalty kicks for the rest of the season. But at some point, he and Omar Cummings will be connecting in the run of play. And that will mean a more dangerous attack that was assembled in the off-season will have finally come together.

Last week: 10th (+2)

9. Houston Dynamo

Well, well, well Lovell Palmer. Welcome to the league. Keep shooting like that, and people will be forgetting about Luis Landin. Oh wait, they already are. Is it possible that the fact that Mr. He Ate All the Pies wasn't available for Saturday's game (and thus, slowing down the offense's free-flowing tempo) sparked a scoring output for the Dynamo? Nah...

Last week: 11th (+2)

10. San Jose Earthquakes

Ike Opara's goals in consecutive weeks are a great sign, but even better is the fact that backup Chris Wondolowski was able to find the net. The ability of the bench to contribute will have a lot to say about how far this team can go. And it is very early on in the young season. But two wins in two games can't hurt the confidence of a young team who believes they can be better than last year's losing record indicated.

Last week: 12th (+2)

11. Chicago Fire

Brian McBride added instant offense to the Fire this week, getting a clever assist and goal to seal the deal for Chicago's 2-0 win over D.C. United, their first of the season. Collins John and Patrick Nyarko continue to look dangerous in combination, though John keeps having trouble redirecting into the net from close range. But the most consistent player for the Fire in the last two games? Marco Pappa. His play has added sparks to what was looking like a lackluster attack.

Last Week: 13th (+2)

12. Chivas USA

So, that win last week? Looks more like an aberration at this point. While the Goats of America have had some trouble winning in Houston, you would think they would have put up a little more fight given the momentum-building win over a good New York team. Guess not.

Last week: 8th (-4)

13. FC Dallas

If the referee calls a handball last weekend, FC Dallas would be 0-2-1. They are lucky to be this high. Jeff Cunningham missed some gorgeous opportunities that could have changed the game this weekend. But he didn't connect, and that's what power rankings are all about: singling out the bad performances and overemphasizing them. Right?

Last week: 9th (-4)

14. Toronto F.C.

Some new faces helped TFC to a win in the home opener (as did Danny Califf and Chris Seitz for Philadelphia). But a bonehead play from Julian De Guzman on Sunday kept them from getting points in two straight games. Stefan Frei has to be one of the most underrated goalies in the league. If we was on a team with a defense, he might have 4 shutouts right now. Still, beating Philadelphia at least helped with one thing...

Last week: 16th (+2)

15. Philadelphia

See? I can now definitively say that TFC is better than Philadelphia. At least until next week...

I wonder if making a lazy backpass to your goalkeeper then elbow-dropping an oncoming attacker is "how the men play"?

Last week: 14th (-1)

16. D.C. United

The other easiest decision of these power rankings.

Last week: 15th (-1)

This week's games:

Thursday:

Seattle Sounders FC at FC Dallas 8pm EDT ESPN2/Deportes

Saturday:

Philadelphia Union at New York Red Bull 4pm EDT Telefutura

Colorado Rapids at New England Revolution 7:30pm EDT MLS Direct Kick

Real Salt Lake at Columbus Crew 7:30pm EDT MLS Direct Kick

Los Angeles Galaxy at Kansas City Wizards 8:30pm EDT MLS Direct Kick

Houston Dynamo at Chicago Fire 8:30pm EDT Direct Kick

San Jose Earthquakes at Chivas USA 10:30pm EDT FSC/FSE

Sunday:

Seattle Sounders at Toronto FC 2pm EDT, MLS Direct Kick

Don't forget to check out the NSR podcast this week for more. The podcast will be posted on Wednesday at nationalsoccerradio.com.

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS FOR QUARANTA AND UNITED

WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 17, 2010 - D.C. United midfielder Santino Quaranta could withstand an opening day drubbing at the hands of his coach’s former employers. He could even deal with two following losses including United’s home opener and a loss to an expansion team playing their first ever home game.

But after a lackluster and listless performance in a 2-0 loss at home to Eastern Conference rivals Chicago Fire, in which United gave up the game winning goal in the 80th minute for the second home game running, Quaranta’s optimistic, steely reserve finally eroded. 

“We’re men in here. We're professionals. We can’t just keep staying positive,” Quaranta said. “We have to start holding each other accountable. I mean this is ridiculous.”

Similar to the team’s home opener against New England a fortnight ago, United came into the game looking to collect their first points of the season against a fellow winless squad.

From the offset, United looked more brisk then they did in the entirety of their embarrassing 3-2 defeat to the Philadelphia Union in their inaugural home game last weekend. However Chicago looked dangerous on the counter-attack, and almost took the lead in the 9th minute when United defender Devon McTavish let a ball loop over his head around the 18-yard box and Fire strike Collins John lofted a chip that United goalkeeper Troy Perkins just managed to get a fingertip to, pushing the chance wide.

A crazy two-minute span that followed saw McTavish, Perkins, and 17-year old center midfielder Andy Najar all individually exhibit some form of soccer suicide on three separate plays, but the Fire couldn’t make United pay for their sloppiness.

In the 27th minute United forward Chris Pontius, running full-speed into the box, had a perfectly weighted cross served to him that surely would have been banged into the back of the net had it not been for exquisite marking from Fire defender Wilman Conde, who jammed the header and nullified the chance. Three minutes later, United once again had a guilt-edge opportunity to take the lead through defender Julius James, who headed wide of the goal on a wide-open, un-marked corner kick to send both teams scoreless going into halftime.

The second half lacked any sort of rhythm from the get-go from either side, and United seemingly had abandoned their first-half strategy of utilizing the long length of the pitch to stretch out what had been a shaky Fire defense coming into the game.

“In first half, we used our width good,” Quaranta said. “In the second half we just tried straight down the middle, losing our shape and I felt like I just stood out wide and didn’t touch it.”

With the dour, slow-paced game creeping towards the 80th minute, thoughts of déjà vu began to approach for United. Two weeks ago against the New England Revolution, the Black & Red had allowed a game in which they dominated for long stretches to be ripped from them in heart wrenching fashion after two quick strikes from Revolution midfielder Kenny Mansally.

Fast forward back to Saturday night against the Fire, and almost as if on-cue, United once again let a game they needed badly slip from their grasp in the 80th minute in a late, dooming twist of a fate. First Fire striker Patrick Nyarko kept a ball alive on the byline before passing to substitute Brian McBride, who backheeled a ball to midfielder Marco Pappa, who unleashed a shot past Perkins to go up 1-0.

A mirror image of United’s defeat to New England was finished off in the 89th minute when a long ball by Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra found McBride in the box, who was somehow able to power a strong enough header from 15 yards out to beat a sprawling Perkins.

“They caused us issues all night; they’re a dangerous team going forward,” Onalfo said. “Our backs are against the wall and I was hoping the team was going to find a way to pull out a result under unfortunate circumstances, but that wasn’t the case.”

With the loss, United drops to 0-4 and now have matched their worst ever start to a season, which came when the team started 0-4 in the league’s inaugural season in 1996. Every team that’s beaten United this season was winless prior, and the Black & Red are now the only team in the land left pointless a month into the MLS season.

“We have to come to fight, it’s a very tough league, both physically, mentally, and everything else,” Onalfo said. “Right now it’s not good enough; it’s crystal clear it’s not good enough.”

EAGLES FALL IN OPENING DAY SHOWDOWN

CHARLOTTE, NC - April 17, 2010 - Debola Ogunseye’s one assist and one goal was still not enough to hold off the Charleston Battery’s 3-2 rally to defeat the Charlotte Eagles during their home opener.

Charleston’s Pierre-Rudolph Mayard scored the first goal of the game in the 23rd minute off of a corner kick making the score 1-0.  Not long after Mike Zaher for Charleston scored the second goal of the game leaving the
score 2-0.

Charleston dodges a bullet when Charlotte’s Debola Ogunseye is pulled down by his ankle by goalie Timothy Melia, who received a yellow card in what would have clearly been a walk-in score for Charlotte. The Eagles received a free kick, which would prove fruitless.

Later a free kick for Charlotte would lead to an assist from Ogunseye to Ben Page scoring their first goal of the game before the half.  The halftime score would be 2-1, advantage Charleston.

Seventy six minutes into the game Debola Oguseye scores Charlotte’s 2nd goal tying the game at 2-2.  Fans were still relishing in the spectacular strike when Charleston’s Levi Coleman scored what would be Charleston’s game- winning goal.

Fans rallied around Charlotte as they fought through the last minutes of the game.

Charlotte’s next home game is Friday, May 7th at 7pm as they host the Harrisburg City Islanders.  For more information or to purchase tickets please visit the official website of the Charlotte Eagles.

DELI SCORES TWICE FOR KICKERS IN BACK-AND-FORTH AFFAIR

RICHMOND, VA - April 17, 2010 - The Richmond Kickers opened the 2010 regular season with a 2-2 draw against the Harrisburg City Islanders Saturday night. 

In nearly identical fashion to the 2009 home opener that saw Kickers forward Matthew Delicâte and Mike Burke connect on the first goal of the night, the pair did not disappoint with an 11th minute tally Saturday. Islanders forward Sheanon Williams leveled the score while Brian Ombiji gave Harrisburg the lead five minutes before the break.  Delicâte came up big again to close out the night, converting a Sascha Görres cross in the 76th minute.  The Kickers return to UR Stadium on Wednesday, April 21st to host the Mexican Olympic National Team at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are on sale now at RichmondKickers.com.

The Kickers opened scoring early when Görres played a long, diagonal ball to Burke on the right wing.  The crafty midfielder played a brilliant cross to an onrushing Delicâte, who tapped the ball home for the first goal of the season in the 11th minute.

Minutes later, Kickers forward Edson Elcock volleyed a cross from Chris Carrieri after dispossessing defender Toni Stahl in his own third, but his attempt sailed wide.

The Islanders were not to be held down for long, recording the equalizer in the 17th minutes.  A header from Kickers defender Henry Kalungi to goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale came up short, allowing Williams to get a touch on the ball.  His strike rebounded off Pascale but fell back to Williams, 14 yards out, who redirected it into the back of the net.

As the Kickers searched to regain the lead, a cross from the left side found Carrieri at the far post.  He played a header to a streaking Gerson dos Santos, who fired from 10 yards, only to have his attempt stifled by a Harrisburg defender.

Harrisburg’s first goal of the night was almost repeated in the 33rd minute when Shea Salinas intercepted a Kickers pass back to Pascale.  Although he was able to get around the keeper, Salinas’ shot was from too tough of an angle and fell to the side netting.

The Kickers nearly found the target in the 37th minute when Elcock crossed the ball to an unmarked Delicâte, eight yards in front of the goal mouth.  The big forward was not able to get the header down and the ball grazed inches over the crossbar.

The saga continued five minutes before the break when Harrisburg claimed the lead for the first time during the night.  After a nice combination play in the midfield, Kai Kasiguran was able to head the ball to a wide-open Ombiji at the penalty spot.  With time to control the ball, Ombiji calmly slotted the ball into the left corner.

The Kickers almost answered on the restart with a goal of their own as Burke connected with Elcock but his diving header soared wide right of the goal.

Finding their stride in the second half, Kickers midfielder Gerson dos Santos won a header off a Kickers corner that was barely cleared off the line by a Harrisburg defender on the far post.

Stifling the opposition’s attack throughout the half, the Kickers leveled the score in the 76th minute when Görres delivered a banana-cross from the left side, finding a loosely marked Delicâte who nodded the ball over goalkeeper Danny Cepero from 12 yards out.

As time wound down, Görres launched a free kick from just outside the penalty area.  With seconds until the final whistle, his left-footed attempt narrowly missed the upper 90.

The Kickers host stars of the Mexican First Division next Wednesday, April 21st when they face the Mexican Olympic National Team at 7:30 p.m. at UR Stadium.  Tickets are available for purchase at any Mexico Restaurant location, RISE, Strictly Soccer, Soccer Post and at RichmondKickers.com.

AZTEX KEEPING WINNING

ST. LOUIS, MO - April 17, 2010 - Austin Aztex defender Leonard Griffin scored the first goal in his brief Aztex career in the second half of Saturday night's game from 30 feet out, giving the visitors a 2-1 victory over AC St. Louis at Anheiser Busch Soccer Park in St. Louis.

Forward Eddie Johnson opened the scoring early in the first half to put his team up 1-0. However, the lead would be short lived as AC St. Louis was quick to equalize on a long-range strike that left the St. Louis half of the pitch smothered in smoke from the fireworks erupting in the stands.

The Aztex opened up the game on the offensive, coming up with two corner kicks right off the kickoff. They were unable to capitalize on them, but they put the St. Louis defense on alert for what was later to come. Overall in the half, Austin earned five corners with none given up on the other side of the pitch. The half ended with 1-1 draw.                                                           

The second frame lacked the offensive punch of the first, but Griffin's strike highlighted the half for Austin, which gave St. Louis a loss in its first-ever match at home. Austin's next match is at 6 p.m. on April 25 at House Park against the Rochester Rhinos.

SCORELESS DRAW FOR WHITECAPS

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - April 17, 2010 - In their first-ever away match in the USSF D-2 Pro League, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-0L-1D) had to settle for a goalless draw with Miami FC (0W-0L-2D) at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday night. The NASL Conference rivals battled hard to break the deadlock, which included a second-half penalty save from Miami FC goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell and a number of huge stops by 'Caps number one Jay Nolly, but in the end, both sides had to share the points.

Whitecaps fans would have been confident ahead of Saturday's kickoff after seeing the returning Marcus Haber in head coach Teitur Thordarson's starting XI, as he partnered Marlon James in the Whitecaps attack. It was the Canadian youth international's first appearance for his hometown club since returning on loan from English Football League Championship outfit West Bromwich Albion FC.

Playing in their home colours of all white, the Whitecaps looked well suited to the overcast and cool conditions in South Florida, as they worked tirelessly to try and close down Miami's skillful players. The 'Caps also looked to try and take the early initiative in the contest, with James putting Patterson-Sewell under pressure in the second minute after getting on the end of a Vancouver cross in the Miami FC box. The Blues, however, were able to deal with the danger after the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines international was forced wide to the byline with the ball before clearing his short cross into the six-yard box.

While the Whitecaps attacking intent was evident to see, their ability to complement their forward forays with quality chances proved lacking. Right-side winger Wes Knight had a shot saved by Patterson-Sewell on 10 minutes, while Greg Janicki and last week's goalscoring hero Luca Bellisomo headed a couple of 'Caps set-pieces wide of the target shortly after the quarter-hour mark.

On the other side of the ball, the individual quality of Miami FC remained a matter of concern for the visitors. As the match reached the half-hour mark, the sparse Lockhart Stadium crowd were given something to shout about, as Nolly needed to be at full stretch to make a fine save from Paulo Araujo Jr.'s right-footed drive.

It was the best chance of the half from either side and prompted a decent spell of Miami FC pressure in the latter stages of the opening 45 minutes. By the halftime whistle, however, both clubs needed to gather their thoughts, as the match remained in the balance for the second half.

Much like last Sunday's game with Minnesota, the Whitecaps showed more purpose to try and claim the advantage versus the Blues after the restart. Captain Martin Nash struck a free kick from the corner of the Miami FC box over the crossbar not long after play resumed, while on 53 minutes, James was unlucky to miss the far post with a right-footed curling shot from the edge of the Blues box after Nash did brilliantly to pick out the big striker with a forward ball.

Miami FC, meanwhile, were reliant on new signing Edward Santeliz to provide them with opportunities after the break. While the former Guatemala U-20 international struck the woodwork with two of his three strikes on target, Nolly was able to negotiate the forward's efforts.

The pivotal moment of the contest came near the hour mark. Vancouver earned a penalty from match referee Javier Santos after James' forward run into the Miami FC box prompted a late challenge by Blues defender Martyn Lancaster. James stepped up to take the spot kick himself, but despite making a good connection with his right foot, Patterson-Sewell dove to his right to make the stop and keep the match level at 0-0.

It was a frustrating moment for the Whitecaps, who looked far improved after the break. Thordarson used his maximum number of five substitutions to try and turn the match in their favour, but except for a very strong penalty claim on substitute Dever Orgill in the 86th minute, the decisive match-winning moment would ultimately elude the 'Caps.

Though the final whistle may have been disappointing for Vancouver after the chances they missed, the silver lining was a second-straight clean sheet to start the 2010 campaign.

DYNAMO DELIVERS CRUSHING DEFEAT

HOUSTON, TX - April 17, 2010 - The Houston Dynamo crushed Chivas USA 3-0 Saturday afternoon at Robertson Stadium, getting highlight-reel goals from Geoff Cameron and Lovel Palmer in the first half and posting their first shutout of the year.

The Dynamo improve to 2-1-1 (7 points), the best four-game start in team history. The previous mark was their 2-2 record (6 points) in 2006. It was Houston’s largest margin of victory in an MLS game since beating Toronto FC 3-0 on May 30, 2009.

Houston is now 7-0-3 in its last 10 games against Chivas USA, and the Dynamo ran their shutout streak against Chivas USA at Robertson Stadium to 802 minutes by posting their eighth consecutive home shutout against the LA-based club. The Dynamo have outscored Chivas USA 18-1 all-time at Robertson Stadium (7-0-2 record).

Midfielder Geoff Cameron opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Defender Eddie Robinson headed a clearance to midfielder Corey Ashe, making his first start of the season, and Ashe found Cameron making a run through the Chivas USA defense. Cameron used the outside of his right foot to strike a fierce drive inside the left post for his first goal of the 2010 season.

The Dynamo made it 2-0 in the 20th minute when midfielder Lovel Palmer, making his first start with the Dynamo in his third game after being signed from Jamaican club Harbour View, unleashed a ferocious 40-yard shot into the top right corner of the net, a sure candidate for MLS Goal of the Week.

Houston wrapped the game up in the 65th minute, when defender Mike Chabala and midfielder Brad Davis combined on the left, with Davis getting into the penalty area and drawing the attention of the Chivas USA defense before chipping a pass to Houston forward Dominic Oduro for a simple tap-in. It was Oduro’s second MLS goal with the Dynamo – both against Chivas USA.

Defender Mike Chabala earned two assists on the day, tying his career high set in a 4-3 win vs. D.C. United on August 1, 2009. Defender Eddie Robinson earned his first assist since 2007 on Cameron’s goal.

18-year-old midfielder Francisco Navas Cobo, a preseason signing from the Dynamo Academy, became the first Houston home-grown player to appear in a game when he made his professional debut as a late substitute.

Defender Bobby Boswell made his 140th career MLS start. Midfielder Corey Ashe made his 75th career appearance in an MLS regular season game. Midfielder Brad Davis, the Dynamo’s all-time leader in assists, ran his total to 45 in all competitions when he set up Oduro’s goal. Midfielder Adrian Serioux made his first appearance of the season and first for Houston since the 2006 MLS Cup final when he came on as a late substitute.

RED STARS, ATHLETICA PLAY TO 1-1 DRAW

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - April 17, 2010 - Chicago Red Stars midfielder Casey Nogueira netted her first goal in her young Women's Professional Soccer career, and Chicago played Saint Louis Athletica to a 1-1 draw during Saturday's home opener in front of 5,134 fans at Toyota Park.

Nogueira found the far right post and carved a shot past Athletica goalkeeper Hope Solo in the 59th minute. Red Stars midfielder Katie Chapman assisted the play as Chicago (0-1-1, 1 point) overcame an early 1-0 deficit against Saint Louis (1-0-1, 4 points).

Next up for the Red Stars is a 5 p.m. match on Sunday, April 25, against defending WPS champion Sky Blue FC at Toyota Park. Chicago fell to Sky Blue, 1-0, in the 2010 season opener at Piscataway, N.J.

Saint Louis didn't waste any time getting the upper hand Saturday. In the 4th minute, Athletica's Lori Chalupny had an unassisted goal after Chicago goalkeeper Jillian Loyden batted away a shot earlier in the sequence.

Nogueira had a nearly mirror image of a scoring opportunity in the 89th minute, but she sent her shot well over the crossbar, and a comeback victory did not pan out for Chicago.

Former Red Stars midfielder Lindsay Tarpley made her first appearance of the season for Athletica when she entered the match in the 77th minute for Eniola Aluko. Tarpley was traded to Saint Louis for current Red Stars goalkeeper Loyden during the offseason.

For the game, Solo had six saves for Athletica and Loyden made a pair of saves and batted away several other potential Saint Louis scoring opportunities.

SKY BLUE FC FALLS TO FC GOLD PRIDE IN ROAD AFFAIR

CASTRO VALLEY, CA - April 17, 2010 - FC Gold Pride (1-1-0, 3 points) was able to find its offensive groove tonight in getting a 3-1 result over Sky Blue FC (1-1-0, 3 points) at the Bay Area's Castro Valley Athletic Stadium. Forward Christine Sinclair scored a pair of goals in this match (11', 75') with a late insurance notch from Marta (82') to lead the host attack, while the lone tally of the night for Sky Blue FC came off the foot of Finnish National Team forward Laura Kalmari in the 49th minute.

Fresh off a season opening shutout, Sky Blue FC made the long trip to California for this match-up and looked to jump out to an early advantage over its West Coast foes. However, it was FC Gold Pride who was able to find the first opening of the evening. After Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Karen Bardsley made an athletic save of a shot by FC Gold Pride midfielder Camille Abiliy in the 11th minute, Sinclair was there to score the rebound and make it 1-0 in favor of the host side.

Sky Blue FC then looked to regain its composure in the ensuing minutes, and the team was able to string together three solid possessions in the middle of the first half on the offensive end. In the 28th minute, Kalmari struck a well hit ball towards the FC Gold Pride net, and the next two Sky Blue FC possessions ended with shot attempts by midfielder Heather O'Reilly and forward Tasha Kai. After host goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and the FC Gold Pride back line was able to hold off that attack, it held on for the remainder of the opening half to take a 1-0 advantage into halftime.

Following intermission, Sky Blue FC head coach Pauliina Miettinen made two changes to her lineup. Jessica Landstrom was brought on for midfielder Yael Averbuch, while Brazilian forward Rosana came on for Tasha Kai. The team immediately brought a newfound intensity to the pitch, and its energetic start yielded immediate results. In the 49th minute, Rosana crossed a ball to the center of the field, where Landstrom put a touch on the feed. With the ball trickling towards the end line, Kalmari stepped onto the scene to strike the ball off the far post and into the net for the equalizer.

Sky Blue FC looked to keep feeding off the momentum that came as a direct result of that notch, and it quickly created more opportunities. Battling for the go-ahead tally, O'Reilly nearly put a ball away in the 63rd minute, but Barnhart was there to respond for FC Gold Pride.

With 15 minutes remaining in this match, Sinclair was again able to find an opening for the host side. Following a pass from MAC Hermann Trophy winner Kelley O'Hara, Sinclair struck the ball into the back of the net to regain the lead for her team. FC Gold Pride was then able to rejuvenate its attack following that score, with Brazilian striker Marta giving her team some breathing room in the 83rd minute on her first goal of the year.

The visiting squad continued to battle the rest of the way, but it would be FC Gold Pride who would emerge victorious this evening, 3-1. Tonight's game marked the first of two consecutive road match-ups for Sky Blue FC, with the team traveling to Chicago next weekend for a road meeting with the Red Stars.

May 1st marks the return of Sky Blue FC to Yurcak Field when it will host FC Gold Pride. On an extremely limited basis, fans can purchase an exclusive ticket package to have their photo taken with Marta and Sky Blue FC forward Rosana. To purchase today, call 1-888-SBFC-TIX or visit the team's official website at www.skybluefc.com.

WIZARDS HANDED FIRST LOSS OF THE SEASON

SEATTLE, WA - April 17, 2010 - Michael Fucito scored the game-winning goal in second half stoppage time to give Seattle Sounders FC a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday afternoon on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.

Sounders FC (2-1-1, 7 points) bounced back from a draw last weekend at Real Salt Lake while Kansas City (2-1-0, 6 points) lost its first match and allowed the first goal of the season.

Fucito struck in the 92nd minute. Brad Evans took a quick throw-in that found Fucito on the right side of the box. His right-footed shot went past Jimmy Nielsen and inside the near post from 10 yards. Fucito had entered the game as an 85th minute substitute for Steve Zakuani. It was his first MLS goal and it came in the rookie's second appearance.

Evans was also a substitute, entering the game for Pat Noonan in the 70th minute. Evans now has one goal and one assist in the first four games. 

Just seconds after taking the lead, Seattle's Kasey Keller made a diving save on an 18-yard shot from Chance Myers. In the 50th minute Keller rushed off his line to deny Jack Jewsbury from 16 yards. The shutout is Keller's second of the season. Seattle had a goal by Evans called back in the 72nd minute due to offside.

Seattle also had a scoring opportunity in the 10th minute when James Riley took a pass from Fredy Montero on the right side. Riley's cross found Noonan wide open in front of goal but his shot missed wide left. 

Tyrone Marshall, who started the 250th match of his MLS career, dealt with a bloody forehead throughout the game after receiving a cut in the 15th minute on a challenge with Kei Kamara. Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad was replaced by Matt Besler in the 32nd minute when he left the game with a strained calf.

Zakuani, Riley and Evans were all issued yellow cards on Saturday. It is the second yellow card of the season for Riley.

Veteran midfielder Peter Vagenas saw his first action of the 2010 season when he started Saturday's match. Vagenas played the full 90 minutes. Next week Seattle visits FC Dallas for a nationally televised ESPN2 game on April 22 and then plays at Toronto FC on April 25. Sounders FC is back home on May 1 against the Columbus Crew at 7:30 p.m. PT.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE FINES CREW DEFENDER DANNY O' ROURKE

NEW YORK - April 13, 2010– The Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee today fined Columbus Crew defender Danny O’Rourke an additional $500 for making an offensive gesture toward officials during the Columbus Crew’s 2-2 tie with FC Dallas on Saturday, April 10.     

O’Rourke made the gesture in second-half stoppage time of last Saturday’s game and was issued a red card, which carries an automatic one-game suspension and $250 fine. The Disciplinary Committee reviewed the incident and concluded that he should be fined an additional $500. 

O’Rourke will pay a total fine of $750 and will serve the one-game suspension during the Crew’s next match, which is against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, April 24.

Fines imposed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee are donated to MLS W.O.R.K.S., Major League Soccer's community outreach initiative. MLS W.O.R.K.S. is dedicated to addressing important social issues affecting young people and seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. For more information visit the website at www.MLSsoccer.com/works.

AZTEX START WITH A BANG

AUSTIN, TX - April 11, 2010 - At the new stadium home of House Park, the Austin Aztex’s sophomore season kicked off last night hosting the Montreal Impact. With a stadium that roared with cheers, drums and other various noises makers from an enthusiastic crowd, the backdrop was set for a thrilling Aztex 2-0 win over the 2009 USL-1 Champions.

Aztex Head Coach Adrian Heath expressed his satisfaction with the win.  “We hope this is the beginning for what we hope is a successful season. It was a difficult game against the champions, so this is a big moment for the players.”

The Aztex began the match with an explosive start taking their first shot on goal just 40 seconds in. Eddie Johnson headlined the offense, and his partnership with Brazilian midfielder, Sullivan Silva, flustered the Impact defense early on. 

Johnson’s pressure paid off in the 17th minute when his shot from Lance Watson’s cross hit the goal post and then fell for newcomer Lawrence Olum to fire the ball into the back of the net.

Olum was Coach Adrian Heath’s first new signing of 2010. “This shows what we’ve been trying to do for the whole preseason, so when you get rewarded with a goal it feels pretty good,” said Olum after the game.

In minute 43, the Impact had their best chance of the match when Aztex goalkeeper Miguel Guillardo had to quickly come off his line to make a close save with a fast approaching Impact player.

The second half signified more dominant possession from the Aztex with Jamie Watson beating his defender by cutting to the inside and shooting, giving the Aztex a two goal advantage 65 minutes in.

The Aztex defense consistently frustrated the Impact offense by accurately timing their off-sides trap throughout the game. In the waning minutes of the game, the defense remained resilient as the Impact began pushing more players up to apply pressure. The last minute of stoppage time proved the most difficult defensive challenge as all but the Impact goalkeeper inflicted pressure in a crowded penalty box for an unsuccessful Impact free kick.

“I’m so pleased we got a clean sheet, even though they put a ridiculous amount of pressure on us in the end, we stood firm and withheld the pressure that they were doing,” said Heath. “I thought the shape of the team, the way we defended and the work rate was phenomenal.”

The Austin Aztex will resume practice on Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for their away game against AC St. Louis this Saturday, April 17.

FIRE'S UNEXPECTED HOME OPENER

Busch Not Needed in His Return to Chicago


BRIDGEVIEW, IL - April 10, 2010 –  Although the Chicago Fire’s home opener was the largest  in Toyota Park history, it was not enough to help with the 2-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night.

After a scoreless first half, an awkward collision in the 49th minute between the Fire’s C.J. Brown and Andrew Dsykstra lead to the first score of the game by San Jose’s Arturo Alvarez who took an 18 yard shot over the heads of Brown and Dsykstra while still on the ground.

The Fire came back in the 52nd minute for Marco Pappa’s first goal of the season to tie the game.  Pappa was assisted on the goal by a touchback from Collins John who laid off a pass from Patrick Nyarko directly to the path of Pappa allowing him to shoot past San Jose’s goalkeeper Joe Cannon on the upper right corner of the net.

In a close attempt by the Fire, in the 73rd minute, Patrick Nyarko broke free from the San Jose defense and steered the ball deep then laid a pass off to Collins John who took a shot towards the goal but was blocked and cleared by San Jose’s defender Jason Hernandez keeping the game tied 1-1.

The Earthquakes defender Ike Opara lead his team to victory in the 82nd minute with a cross from forward Bobby Convey past Fire’s goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, giving the Fire its first loss in five home openers with a score of 2-1.

With a disappointing game to a stadium of 20,276 fans, Coach Carlos de los Cobos stated, “The first goal was a very big mistake, but we are starting the season and I believe in my work, I believe in the players.”

Cobos also commented about the score that lead to their loss, indicating that: “Frequently goals are a combination of a mistake and the virtue of the opponent.  In this case, the team lost their mark in to the box and they were able to take advantage of our mistake.”

The Chicago Fire will try to regroup when they take on D.C. United on a road game Saturday, April 17th at 6:30 p.m. CT.  They will return to Toyota Park on Saturday April 24th 7:30 p.m. CT to face the Houston Dynamo.

LIGHTINING FALL TO SOCKERS IN US OPEN FINAL

LOUISVILLE, KY - April 10, 2010 - The San Diego Sockers ended their impressive season by winning the US Open Arena Soccer Championship at Mockingbird Valley Arena. The Louisville Lightning put forth a valiant effort, but eventually fell to the Sockers by an 11-7 margin.

San Diego’s first-quarter play showed Louisville what a champion looks like. Coming in as the winners of the PASL-Pro North American Championship, the Sockers scored five goals in the first quarter of play. Each of the five goals was scored by a different player, showing the depth and talent of the San Diego roster. Louisville, who had looked quite impressive all throughout the US Open Cup, had not faced a high-quality team such as San Diego.

Sockers goalkeeper Riley Swift made 23 saves in the first half, allowing only three goals. His incredible first-half performance gave endorsement to why he was named PASL’s 2009-10 All League First Team goalkeeper. Still, Swift felt that Louisville gave him trouble in goal. “They came in (Louisville) and had a flurry of attacks—that kept me on my toes,” said Swift.

The second quarter proved to be difficult for the Lightning. In 15 minutes of play Louisville gave up 3 goals, were outshot 11-5, and were continually tested by the San Diego’s smothering defense. Louisville’s only surge came late in the second quarter with 2 minutes to go, as Safet Kovacevic scored off a Lightning free kick.  Both teams wearily walked into their locker rooms with San Diego nursing an 8-3 lead at the half. 

Whatever Lightning head coach Scott Budnick said to his team at halftime must have worked. In less than minute—at the 12:06 and 11:33 mark—Louisville’s scored two abrupt goals, which cut San Diego’s lead to 3. But the Sockers kicked their experience into overdrive, as midfielder Eric Wunderle answered back with a screaming kick that sailed quickly past Lightning goalie Frank Peabody. Kovacevic, Louisville’s star midfielder and primary offensive weapon, gave the Sockers a punch in the mouth with two third-quarter goals.  San Diego still went into the fourth quarter with 9-6 lead.

San Diego’s athleticism was too much for Louisville, outscoring the Lightning 2-1 in the fourth quarter. It was a bold effort by Louisville, but San Diego showed Lightning fans why they are the number one indoor team in the country by defeating the Lightning 11-7.  “They were a savvy, experienced, veteran squad, and they certainly showed it tonight,” said Budnick.

The US Open ends the season for both the San Diego Sockers and the Louisville Lightning.

CREW EARNS POINT ON THE ROAD SATURDAY WITH 2-2 DRAW VS. FC DALLAS AT PIZZA HUT PARK

Moffat and Schelotto score before Dallas nets controversial late equalizer

FRISCO, TX - April 10, 2010 - A stoppage-time goal from substitute Eric Avila helped FC Dallas steal a point from the visiting Columbus Crew in a 2-2 tie at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday. Jeff Cunningham opened the scoring for Dallas before Adam Moffat and Guillermo Barros Schelotto tallied for Columbus.

Cunningham's goal came on a penalty kick after David Ferreira was taken down inside the area by Danny O'Rourke.

Moffat's first goal of the year drew things level in the 52nd minute. Steven Lenhart received a fine ball from Frankie Hejduk and sent a great pass to Moffat, who quickly knocked it into the left side of the net to tie the game.

Schelotto's second goal of 2010 came after a penalty kick he took was stopped by Hartman in the 82nd. The Crew was awarded the kick after FCD center back George John took Chad Marshall down inside the box on a corner kick. Schelotto's spot kick was stopped by Hartman, but the Crew forward headed the rebound into the right side of the goal to make it 2-1.

But FCD wasn't done. After Ferreira was denied near post by Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer, the ball popped back into the midfield and appeared to strike Avila's hand. No call was made, however, and Avila struck a low shot that caromed off the far post and into the net for the equalizer.

WIZARDS WIN AGAIN

KANSAS CITY, KS - April 10, 2010 - The Kansas City Wizards continued their winning start to the 2010 MLS season on Saturday night, defeating the Colorado Rapids 1-0 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

Forward Kei Kamara had the lone Kansas City goal, finishing a Ryan Smith service from a freekick with a looping header early in the second half. The goal is Kamara’s second is as many games, with Ryan Smith grabbing his second assist in his second MLS game as well. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made three saves en route to his second shutout in as many games in the League.

Hard tackles and close chances marked the play in the first half, as both sides displayed relentless pressure in an effort to gain a foothold in the match. However, both defenses were able to hold strong despite multiple attacks.

Smith began the game on a lively note, running at defenders and moving into space well to jump-start the Wizards attack. The winger gave Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens his biggest test of the half in the 7th minute, firing at the Colorado ‘keeper after spinning to beat two defenders on the left wing. Smith’s shot gave Pickens enough trouble that he had to stretch acrobatically to palm it over the crossbar.

While Smith provided the Wizards with sparkling individual plays, the Wizards’ second best chance of the half came as a result of some good team passing in the attacking third. After moving the ball smoothly from the left to the right, Kamara worked a quick give-and-go with forward Josh Wolff, who laid it off to Jewsbury just inside the penalty area. However, the midfielder couldn’t get his body around the ball and his shot went right into the arms of Pickens.

The Wizards continued to control the pace of the game after Jewsbury’s chance, disrupting Colorado’s forays into the attacking third with some hard-nosed midfield play by Stéphane Auvray and tough defensive stops by Matt Besler. However, when Colorado did get a chance, the Rapids failed to capitalize. Marvell Wynne did well to get behind the Kansas City defense in first half stoppage time, hitting a good square ball to midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, who skied his effort over the crossbar from eight yards out.

The second half started much the same way as the first, with the Wizards attacking the Colorado goal form both flanks. The Wizards would finally break the deadlock just three minutes in, with Kamara getting the better of Pickens off a Ryan Smith freekick. The Sierra Leone forward rose above the Colorado defense and hit a high, looping header that caught Pickens off his line, floating into the back of the net to give the Wizards a 1-0 advantage.

The offensive pressure didn’t stop there for Kansas City, as the Wizards peppered Colorado’s goal with shots through the rest of the half. Davy Arnaud had his best effort of the night in the 55th minute, firing a low rocket from 25 yards out that forced a sprawling save by Pickens.

Jewsbury had another good chance for the Wizards in the 61st minute, getting in behind the Colorado defense and firing a low shot that was saved by Pickens.

From then on the Wizards effectively killed the game with possession, holding the ball in the middle of the field for minutes at a time as Colorado chased the game. The Rapids’ comeback hopes were dealt a final blow in the 72nd minute when Julien Baudet was sent off for a harsh tackle on Kamara.

With the win, the Wizards move to first place in MLS’ Eastern Conference, despite having a game in hand over the 2nd and 3rd placed teams. The Wizards next MLS test comes next Saturday when they travel west to take on Seattle Sounders F.C.

The Wizards and Rapids will meet again just four days from now in a qualification game for the 2010 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The game will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Stanley H. Durwood Soccer Stadium on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

DYNAMO FALL TO GALAXY

HOUSTON, TX - April 10, 2010 - The Houston Dynamo suffered their first defeat of the 2010 season Saturday, falling 2-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy at Robertson Stadium. Galaxy forward Edson Buddle scored both goals after capitalizing on defensive errors in the first half, giving him five goals in three games. The Dynamo are now one of four teams tied for second in the Western Conference with four points.

Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad made the 200th MLS regular season start of his career, eighth all-time among goalkeepers. The start was Onstad’s 150th start for the Dynamo in all competitions, a club record.

Jamaican Lovel Palmer made his second appearance for the Dynamo when he replaced Richard Mulrooney in the 29th minute after Mulrooney suffered a right knee injury. Midfielder Danny Cruz made his season debut when he came on for Dominic Oduro in the 71st minute.

Houston midfielder Brad Davis made the 120th start of his Dynamo career in all competitions, fifth in club history. Defender Eddie Robinson and midfielder Corey Ashe, a halftime substitute, each made his 105th career appearance in all competitions, tied for 10th in Dynamo history.

The Dynamo played without forwards Brian Ching (hamstring) and Cam Weaver (knee). With Ching injured, defender Bobby Boswell wore the captain’s armband, and Brian Mullan wore it in the second half.

The Galaxy became the fourth team in MLS history to begin the year with three shutouts. Other teams were the 1999 Dallas Burn, the 2007 New York Red Bulls (also coached by Bruce Arena), and the 2009 Seattle Sounders.

The Dynamo host Chivas USA next Saturday in their first afternoon home game of the season, wrapping up Houston’s three-game homestand.

SOUNDERS DRAW WITH RSL

SANDY, UT - April 10, 2010 - Steve Zakuani's early goal helped Seattle earn a 2-2 draw against defending MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Seattle Sounders FC (1-1-1, 4 points) struck first and third to earn one point in the club's first road match of its 2010 season. Real Salt Lake (1-1-1, 4 points) scored a late equalizer in the final minute of stoppage time to earn the draw.

Zakuani put Seattle up early with a goal in the 11th minute. Zakuani took a pass from Fredy Montero and blasted a shot past an approaching Nick Rimando. The ball deflected off of Rimando's left foot and landed in the center of the net.

Will Johnson scored the equalizer for Real Salt Lake in the 53rd minute. Robbie Russell's cross from the right side found an unmarked Johnson who knocked a diving header past Kasey Keller at the far post.

Freddie Ljungberg helped reclaim a 2-1 lead for Sounders FC in the 71st minute. After earning a free kick, Ljungberg placed a dangerous ball in front of goal which took one bounce and landed in the net. Tyrone Marshall applied pressure but it was officially called an own goal.  

Ljungberg also set-up both Seattle goals in the opener against Philadelphia.

Real Salt Lake leveled in the final minute of stoppage time when Alvaro Saborio scored a header off of a corner kick.

Kasey Keller made several key stops throughout the game. A Real Salt Lake breakaway left Keller one-on-one with Kyle Beckerman in the 5th minute but Keller jumped off the line and smothered the ball.

Again in the 21st minute Keller made a right-footed save on an unmarked Will Johnson from 18 yards. Keller also stopped a shot by Russell from 18 yards in the 85th minute.

Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales left the game in the 36th minute after suffering a right groin strain. Morales recorded three goals and one assist in the first two matches this season.

Pat Noonan made his first start for the club after signing just ten days ago. Noonan made his Seattle debut last week against New York, entering the game in the 56th minute.

Defender Tyson Wahl saw action for the first time this season, entering the match in the 48th minute for Leo Gonzalez. Gonzalez felt ill and was removed for precautionary reasons.

Sounders FC returns home to face the Kansas City Wizards on April 17 at 12 p.m. PT.

FAST STRIKES LEAVE UNITED WINLESS

Mansally is a Hero for the Revs

WASHINGTON, DC - April 3, 2010 - A week and some 79 minutes after an opening-day embarrassment at the hands of his former club, Curt Onalfo was watching his team slowly but surely break down a stout and deliberately resolute defensive effort from East Coast rivals the New England Revolution.

Then, out of nowhere in a two minute twist of fate, Revolution reserve Kenny Mansally flipped the game on its head. The Gambian scored two goals from the 80th to 82nd minute, the first of which came against the run of play and the second being a world-class curler, to run out of RFK Stadium with a victory in smash-and-grab fashion and leave United pointless and soul-searching just two games into 2010 season.

“We had the better of the game and we walked away not winning. Sometimes the game is very cruel, and tonight was a perfect example of that,” said Onalfo.

Though United came into the game on the back of a 4-0 romping at the hands of Kansas City, Onalfo’s former employer, New England also came in similarly stuttering after losing 1-0 in First Kick weekend to the L.A. Galaxy.

The Black & Red came out the aggressors in the match and would have taken the lead in the match off 13 minutes in had it not been for a world-class save from Revolution keeper Preston Burpo.  From about 25 yards out, United forward Chris Pontius faked the shot and ran over the ball, leaving Burpo sidestepping the wrong way as the real shooter Santino Quaranta struck a devastating daisy-cutter that Burpo somehow managed to get a shin on as he was falling away from the track of the ball.

After the bright start, however, United’s probing slowed and much of their offensive game was reduced to long, diagonal long balls looking for target-man Chris Pontius. The University of California, Santa Barbara product produced the best chance of the half after getting his head onto a searing cross from right-midfielder Brandon Barklage, but headed the chance just wide, leaving both teams scoreless going into halftime.

“It would have been a lot different (if United had converted early chances). I had the one that could have made the difference in the game (in the first half), and I need to work on putting those chances away,” said Pontius.

The second half started off with a dour, slow pace with United not taking advantage of their possession advantage and the Revolution happy to oblige. 

In the 68th minute, Revolution head coach Steve Nicol made his first change of the match: Kenny Mansally on for the ineffective Zack Schilawski. Onalfo countered in the 70th by bringing in 17-year old phenom Andy Najar, who started but was ineffective in his MLS debut last weekend, for Barklage.

Najar almost paid immediate dividends when he showcased his superb pace and shimmied his way to the New England byline, but the Honduran let off a weak cross and the attack was quelled quickly.

Quaranta continued knocking on the door and had Burpo save a shot off of a strong, driving run. Indeed United looked like they were nine tenths of the way to scoring the first goal of the MLS season when disaster struck.
Mansally, who’s teetered between a starting and reserve role throughout his stint with the Revolution, got on the receiving end of a flicked-on cross in the 80th and powered a shot past United keeper Troy Perkins, who previously faced almost nothing from the Revolution attack.

The goal left the United players and fans shell shocked, and Mansally duly took advantage just 120 seconds later. The midfielder danced his way around a United defender on the top of the left side of the box before curling a shot into the right side of the net, leaving Perkins rooted to the spot.

“It was a great goal,” Perkins said. “It was perfectly placed, and I’ll be the first guy to hold my hand up if I thought it was my fault, but I don’t know what I could have done on the second one.”

United will look to regroup when they face the Philadelphia Union in the Union’s inaugural home match Saturday at 6 p.m.

“There’s going to be lots of emotions and that’s going to be a tough challenge,” said Onalfo. “We’re going to lick out wounds, stay positive, and just focus on the things we did well and move forward.”

FIRE COMES BACK TO TIE RAPIDS 2-2

Collins John Opens His MLS Account; Brian McBride Scores his 75th Career Goal

COMMERCE CITY, CO - April 3, 2010 – The Chicago Fire fought back from a one goal halftime deficit to tie the Colorado Rapids 2-2,  earning their first draw and first point of the 2010 MLS season. In a match that featured goals from both Fire forwards, Collins John and Brian McBride tallied on both sides of intermission for the Fire, to erase first half goals from Rapids forwards Omar Cummings and Conor Casey.

In the 13th minute, Rapids forward Omar Cummings settled a Mehdi Ballouchy pass at the top of the Fire’s 18-yard box. The Jamaican international sent a cracking shot inside the right post, past a diving Andrew Dykstra to give the Rapids an early 1-0 advantage.

Thirteen minutes later, Collins John found the back of the net to pull the Fire level in the 26th minute. In his second-ever MLS appearance, the Dutch striker found space just inside the Rapids six-yard box and headed home Marco Pappa’s corner kick past Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, for his first-ever MLS goal.  

The Rapids regained the lead in the 41st minute when Rapids midfielder Colin Clark was pulled down just inside the area and referee Terry Vaughn immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Rapids forward Conor Casey stepped to the spot and powered the penalty kick to the right of a left-diving Dykstra.

The Fire struck back in the 51st minute. Pappa put Patrick Nyarko through with a leading ball into space on the left side. Nyarko sped past Marvelle Wynne before being taken down from behind by the recently acquired Rapids defender in the penalty area. With John, Casey and Cummings having already tallied goals, Fire forward Brian McBride rounded out the group when he stepped to the penalty spot. The MLS All-Time Best XI forward sent a driven effort just inside the right post for his first goal of the 2010 season and his 75th career MLS goal to tie the game at two goals apiece.

After beginning the season with consecutive matches on the road, the Fire return home to TOYOTA PARK for Opening Night against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, April 10 at 7:30 PM CT. For tickets please call 1-888-MLS-FIRE (657-3473) or head to the club’s official website at www.Chicago-Fire.com.  

RAPIDS SIGN ARGENTINE FORWARD CLAUDIO LOPEZ

Colorado Add Two-Time World Cup Veteran

COMMERCE CITY, CO - April 2, 2010 - The Colorado Rapids signed Argentine forward Claudio Lopez, the club announced today. Lopez will be added to the club’s senior roster pending receipt of his P1 Visa.

“Any time you can add a talented player like Claudio to your club, the group becomes better,” said head coach Gary Smith. “Claudio brings with him a tremendous amount of international experience at the highest levels and he has proven himself as a playmaker in our league. His presence and leadership in the changing room will be a valued asset to our club. Claudio will help us fulfill a lot of roles on this club and complement the talent we currently possess.”

Considered to be one of the most skillful Argentines of his generation, Lopez joins the Rapids after two seasons with the Kansas City Wizards. He began his Major League Soccer career signing with the Wizards on March 10, 2008, as the team's first Designated Player. In two seasons with Kansas City, Lopez recorded 13 goals and 15 assists in 57 games.

Before entering MLS, Lopez enjoyed a successful career abroad, having starred for Racing in his native Argentina before moving to Valencia in Spain in 1996. He enjoyed his most prolific period with the Spanish side, making 123 appearances with 42 goals in five years with the club. Lopez led the team to a Champions League runner-up spot in 2000 and also won the Spanish Super Cup and the Copa del Rey in 1999. In 2000, Lopez was transferred to Italian Serie A side Lazio for $44 million - the third-highest transfer fee of that year and one of the top 50 most expensive transfers of all time. With Lazio, he scored 28 goals in 105 appearances before moving on to Club America, one of the most successful clubs in Mexico, in 2004. With Club America, Lopez scored 27 goals in 87 games and helped the team win the 2005 Clausura and 2006 CONCACAF Champions' Cup.

Lopez has 58 career appearances and 10 goals for Argentina's national team and appeared in both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. Please check out our blog for further analysis and commentary on this topic.

MLS ADDS SECOND DESIGNATED PLAYER SLOT PER CLUB

Clubs may purchase third Designated Player slot; New budget charges unveiled

NEW YORK - April 1, 2010 – The opportunities have doubled for Major League Soccer’s clubs to pay select star players above their club salary budgets. All 16 MLS clubs now have the opportunity to sign at least two Designated Players. The Designated Player Rule is a mechanism that in 2007 began allowing an individual club to pay one player any amount above a fixed salary budget charge. The club salary budgets are an expense shared by all MLS owners.

Under its new parameters, the Designated Player Rule also gives clubs the option of “purchasing” a third Designated Player slot for $250,000 that will be dispersed in the form of allocation money to all clubs that do not have three Designated Players. Designated Player slots may be used to sign and retain existing MLS players, but they are no longer tradable.

“Expanding the Designated Player Rule is another example of MLS’s commitment to providing top-level soccer for our fans,” MLS EVP of Player Relations and Competition Todd Durbin said. “After three seasons, we have seen that the Designated Player Rule improves the quality of play, creates intrigue and discussion, and enhances our clubs’ distinct on-field identities. We will continue to see varied approaches from our clubs in assembling their rosters, and these changes will give them increased flexibility.”

Durbin will answer questions from media members via conference call this afternoon; details are below, followed by a list of current and former Designated Players

A club’s salary budget will be charged $335,000 for its first Designated Player under contract, $335,000 for its second Designated Player under contract and $335,000 if it signs a third Designated Player. If a Designated Player joins a club’s roster in the middle of the season, that club’s salary budget for the year will be charged $167,500.

The previous budget charge for a club’s first Designated Player, $415,000, accounted for approximately 18 percent of that club’s salary budget. The current rules reduce that budget charge to approximately 13 percent of a team’s salary budget.

Additionally, clubs have the option of “buying down” the budget charge of a designated player with allocation money. The reduced charge may not be less than $150,000. Allocation money are funds, separate from the club salary budgets, provided by the League based upon finish in the previous season, fees collected for the transfer of a player abroad, expansion or exceptional circumstances. Allocation money may be used to reduce the portion of a player’s compensation that counts against a club’s salary budget in connection with signing players new to MLS, or re-signing existing MLS players at the end of their contracts.

In the event that an MLS club transfers a Designated Player under contract to a club in another country, that MLS club will recoup the amount it has spent on that Designated Player before any additional transfer revenue is shared with the League.

These changes to the Designated Player rule are effective immediately. The Primary Registration Window -- in which MLS clubs can conduct transfers to acquire players under contract in leagues of other countries -- concludes April 15. The Secondary Registration Window opens July 15 and closes August 14, 2010. Registration windows always apply to the country of destination in a transfer. Players out of contract may be signed at any time. Please check out our blog for further analysis and commentary on this topic.

Gary L. Moody Sr.

CONCAVE IN THE COMMUNITY

Gordon Kljestan the Newest Player to Sign with Concave Sports

SILVER SPRING, MD - March 31, 2010  -  Concave Sports continued to make their mark on the American soccer scene by their sponsorship of the Real Maryland FC Community Soccer Festival. The three-day festival featured some of the finest soccer talent in the D.C. Metro and Mid-Atlantic area.   Most tournaments focus on one level of competition, but this soccer event featured professional, collegiate, and elite youth squads.

Teams that participated in the event  included Real Maryland FC, The Harrisburg City Islanders, American University, Towson University, University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), Loyola University Maryland, Georgetown University, George Washington University, George Mason University, Wesley College, Real Maryland Super Y-League, Potomac Academy, Northern Virginia Royals Super-20 Team, D.C. United U-18 Team, Olney SC, Pachuca FC and Bethesda SC.

The headline match of the weekend, George Mason vs. Real Maryland FC, ended in a 2-1 victory for the USL-2 club. 

Concave had their innovative kicker tube on display, allowing those in attendance to try out the most advanced football boots on the planet.  This is the same display that drew rave reviews at the 2010 NSCAA Convention in Philadelphia. Concave’s appearance at the convention was the start of big things for the company here in the U.S.  A plethora of players have since signed on with Concave, including Tampa Bay’s Gordon Kljestan and Adam Nowland.

Kljestan, a veteran midfielder, recently joined the Concave Sports family.   He represents perhaps the biggest signing in America for the Toronto-based company.  Gordon brings years of experience to the new USSF Division II Pro League, including time in Major League Soccer (MLS) and the United Soccer League’s First Division (USL-1). Kljestan, a first round selection in the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft, spent time with the Los Angeles Galaxy and the 2008 Western Conference Champion New York Red Bulls.  He then signed with the Cleveland City Stars in 2009, where he was a fan favorite as a defensive midfielder.  Gordon is also regarded as an elite indoor player, suiting up for the New Jersey Ironmen of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) in 2007-2008.

All of his success at the pro level can be attributed to his hard work and training at Seton Hall University, where he was an All-Big East Honorable Mention selection in 2005 and an All-Big East preseason selection in 2006. 

SOUNDERS FC SIGNS FORWARD PAT NOONAN

Versatile Two-Time MLS All-Star Ranks 20th in Goals Among Active Players

RENTON, WA - March 31, 2010 - The Seattle Sounders FC have signed forward Pat Noonan, it was announced today. Per Major League Soccer and club policy, terms were not disclosed.

Noonan, 29, is a two-time MLS All-Star selection and ranks No. 3 in career goals and assists for New England. He has 14 U.S. National Team caps. The seven-year veteran was released by Colorado on March 23.

"I'm excited that Pat Noonan was available and we were able to sign him," Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. "My experience with him was a very good one in Columbus."

"Pat is a good player who can play a number of different positions on the field, and is a very solid professional."

Noonan was an integral part of the New England teams which advanced to three consecutive MLS Cup Finals from 2005-07 and won the 2007 U.S. Open Cup. As a rookie he finished with 10 goals and scored a career-high 11 in 2004. Noonan scored two goals and four assists during Open Cup play in 2007 and was named the MVP of the Final.

Over five seasons with the Revolution, Noonan scored 37 goals and 29 assists. He finished tied for the MLS lead in total points in 2004, and was chosen to play in the MLS All-Star game in 2004 and 2005.

In 2008, Noonan signed with Norway's Aalesunds FK, making 11 appearances over a short period before re-signing with MLS and joining Sigi Schmid's Columbus Crew in August of 2008. Noonan made 11 appearances with the Crew and played all four playoff matches, helping win the MLS Cup and the Supporters' Shield. 

Noonan was traded by Columbus to Colorado on June 15, 2009. He made 17 appearances for the Rapids with two starts, scoring two goals.

Noonan ranks 20th among active MLS players in goals. His career totals are 152 regular season appearances, 40 goals and 32 assists.

In 2004, Noonan made his debut with the United States national team in a match against Haiti. He has one goal and two assists in international play. Noonan was a key member of the 2005 Gold Cup champions and an alternate on the 2006 World Cup team.

Noonan was selected ninth overall in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft out of Indiana University, where he left as the Hoosiers' No. 6 career scorer. Indiana won the 1999 NCAA Championship and Noonan played in three College Cup finals.

 EARTHQUAKES SIGN 2008 MLS GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR JON BUSCH

SAN JOSE, CA - March 30, 2010 - The San Jose Earthquakes announced today that they have signed veteran goalkeeper Jon Busch. Per league and team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The addition of Jon gives one of the best goalkeeping corps in the league,” said General Manager John Doyle. "He has been one of the top goalkeepers in the league during his career. We want to have competition at every spot, and this move allows us that luxury at goalkeeper.”

The New York native played the last three seasons with the Chicago Fire, where he made 63 regular season appearances, posting 21 shutouts. In 2008 and 2009, Busch played in every minute of every match for the Fire and with Busch in the net, the Fire advanced to the Eastern Conference Championship the past two seasons. Busch took home 2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Honors, posting a franchise record-tying 10 shutouts and also winning the Fire’s MVP award.

The eight-year veteran made his MLS debut in 2002 with the Columbus Crew, and played there through the 2006 season. During his time with the Crew, Busch appeared in 84 matches, starting 83 of those. He posted 25 clean sheets and won 25 games. During his MLS career to date, Busch has compiled a 60-43-42 record with 46 clean sheets.

In 2005, Busch earned his first appearance for the United States national team, posting a clean sheet in a 3-0 win over Colombia. He was again called into national team camp in 2009, and dressed against Sweden, but did not play.

Busch spent five seasons in the A-League before he came to MLS, where he took home A-League Goalkeeper of the Year and First Team honors in 2001. He played for the University of North Carolina-Charlotte for three seasons, and led the 49ers to a 1996 College Cup semi-final.

MLS CUP 2010 AWARDED TO TORONTO

NEW YORK, NY- March 30, 2010 – Major League Soccer will host its premier event, MLS Cup, in Canada for the first time when the passionate fans of Toronto, the fifth largest city in North America, welcome the League’s 15th championship match to BMO Field on Sunday, Nov. 21 at 8:30 p.m. ET (Live on ESPN and TeleFutura).

“Toronto and the Province of Ontario have proven to be a vibrant market for top-level soccer, and we are pleased to present the city’s fans another opportunity to enjoy a marquee event and showcase their passion,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.  “As we saw last year in Seattle, MLS Cup is more than just our championship match; it is a four-day celebration of the world’s game in North America. We believe Toronto will be a superb backdrop for the festivities.”

Hailed as Canada’s national soccer stadium, BMO Field is the home of Toronto FC and will be the ninth venue to host the prestigious event. It served as the setting for the 2008 MLS All-Star Game, has played host to international soccer giants Real Madrid and Aston Villa, and hosted the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Ongoing renovations to Canada’s soccer mecca will see capacity increased to 21,800 spectators with the addition of a new North End stand and a natural grass field. The Kentucky Blue Grass will replace artificial surface that had been in use since its opening. These improvements are scheduled to be completed by April 15.

Since the inception of Toronto FC in 2007, soccer fans in Canada’s largest city have shown overwhelming support and fervor for their hometown “Reds,” selling out every home match at BMO Field.

"We’re excited to host MLS Cup 2010, one of Major League Soccer’s pinnacle events. This is great news for soccer fans in Toronto and a tremendous benefit for our city,” said Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “We’re looking forward to making MLS Cup Weekend in Toronto a celebration of the beautiful game in an authentic, credible soccer environment.”           

Anselmi added that hosting MLS Cup will promote and profile Toronto to a larger global audience, creating an economic benefit for the city and supporting tourism. MLS Cup 2009 was broadcast live in more than 120 countries. Toronto FC hosted the Pepsi MLS All-Star Game in 2008, which resulted in an economic benefit of $23 million for the City of Toronto. “We look forward to welcoming soccer supporter groups from the other 15 MLS cities.”

Showing their commitment to Toronto FC and the success of Major League Soccer, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has invested $5.5 million in upgrades to BMO Field and the surrounding area. In addition to a new grass pitch and increased seating, the investments will also enhance local community sports amenities to increase public access to year-round soccer facilities. The result of the upgrades will be more than 2,500 hours of community sport use availability.           

The hub of activity and the headquarters of MLS Cup in Toronto will be at Maple Leaf Square, a new $500 million retail, commercial and residential development, the largest mixed-use project constructed in the city since 1977. Adjacent to Air Canada Centre and connected to multiple public transit options and climate-controlled underground walkways, Maple Leaf Square is located just 10 minutes from BMO Field. Maple Leaf Square’s restaurants including Real Sports Bar & Grill, its apparel store, Real Sports Apparel and its public square will host a number of initiatives and activities for soccer fans.

"I'm delighted to welcome MLS Cup 2010 to Toronto," Toronto Mayor David Miller said. "Toronto FC has the best supporters and one of the best soccer-specific stadiums in the league particularly with the addition of a grass pitch and additional seats. The sport of soccer has a massive fan-base in the Toronto region guaranteeing that no matter who is playing in the final, the atmosphere and excitement at the game and the events around it will be a huge success."

Just as they were this year for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the eyes of the world will once again be on Canada when the 2010 Major League Soccer season culminates in Toronto. Last season’s finale, held at Qwest Field in Seattle, drew more than 46,000 fans who saw Real Salt Lake claim their first MLS Cup championship in a thrilling shootout win over the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Information regarding ticket sales for MLS Cup 2010 will be announced at a later date, but Toronto FC season ticket holders will have priority.

Carol Estrella

RED BULLS BEAT FIRE IN "SPECTACULAR" OPENER

HARRISON, NJ - March 27, 2010 - 24,571 fans christened the newest stadium in Major League Soccer on Saturday night as the New York Red Bulls defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0. Joel Lindpere scored a rocket goal in the 40th minute and Red Bulls goalkeeper, and Bronx native, Bouna Coundoul kept a clean sheet.

In what started as a celebration to open the crown jewel of MLS and soccer in the United States, ended in the Red Bulls getting their first three points of the year, something they had a hard time doing last year. The New York club had only 21 points for the entire 2009 season.

When asked if he thought having a new stadium gives them a new angle to win, Red Bulls Captain Juan Pablo Angel replied in Spanish, “No, we still need to prove that we can win this year because last year we did not do that well. ”

The Red Bulls pressured for the opening goal as they had many opportunities in the first quarter of an hour. The team took the heavy emotion and excitement and tried to cash it in with a goal quickly.

“It took us twenty minutes in the first half to find our shape,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said. “After 20 minutes it looked more solid and more compact.”

In the 21st minute, Juan Pablo sent a cross across the goal, but no Red Bull was at the back side of the goal, something that was common throughout the night. Forward Macoumba Kandji had a break from the Fire defense minutes later, fell in the box, but no call was made.

Dane Richards tried to dribble through five Fire defenders in the box, but never got a shot off. Richards knew that his team came out ready to win: “This crowd made us want to go and beat defenders and be dangerous.”

The Fire tried to get their counterattack going and in the 23rd minute almost pulled out ahead. Forward Brian McBride received the ball in the air from a deflected ball and took a semi-bicycle kick. The shot found New York's keeper off guard, but the ball hit the left post after beating the keeper.

“I think we caused them a few problems,” McBride said after the match. “Unfortunately we could not find that first goal. Defensively I thought we were very solid.”

New York went back to work and in the 28th minute Juan Pablo chested a ball to his feet 12 yards out, but the Fire defense was able to clear before he could shoot. The captain would finish the night with only two shots with one of them being on target. In all, the Fire had eight shots on goal to New York’s four, but one of their four made it to the back of the next.

In the 40th minute midfielder Joel Lindpere scored from a ball that was crossed into the area, Juan Pablo fought for the 50/50 ball and headed it to the feet of Lindpere at the top of the 18-yard box. Lindpere put a massive right boot to the volley and put it top net to give the Red Bulls the lead.

“I didn’t know he had a right foot,” the coach joked about after the game. “He’s been outstanding for us the whole preseason for us.”

Despite his goal, Lindpere was not voted man of the match. That honor went to Coundoul, who kept the clean sheet in his first match of the year.

“He made some key saves for us tonight, he’s so quick,” the coach said, “A clean sheet and absolutely perfect.”
Chicago’s best opportunity came in the 61st when the Fire were awarded a free kick at the  top of the box.

Defender Mike Banner took a nice free kick, but Coundoul knocked it away with his first and prevented the well taken free kick from entering the goal. The Fire pounced on the rebound but the New York keeper saw to it that it would make it safe into his hands.

The Red Bulls kept possession of the ball throughout the rest of the second half and limited the Fire’s chances. New York walks away with the full three points in a stadium that their captain calls “Spectacular!”

Gary L. Moody Sr., International Soccer Network

LOTS OF OPPORTUNITIES

COLUMBUS, OH - March 27, 2010 -The Columbus Crew started their fifteenth MLS season with the first leg of the Trillium Cup against arch rival Toronto FC. They would have Toronto's number once again, sending the Canadian club home with a 2-0 loss behind goals from Andy Iro and Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

Both clubs would enter the regular season with some injury concerns. Columbus would be without rookie defender Shaun Francis (ankle sprain), goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum (hip surgery), and defenders Chad Marshall (hamstring strain), and Jed Zayner (knee strain). Toronto would miss the play of defender Emmanuel Gomez (bone bruise), forward Chad Barrett (foot surgery), and midfielder Jacob Peterson (knee surgery). Ty Harden would make the start for TFC even though he was listed as questionable with a knee contusion.

The Crew look to build off their success of last season when they claimed a second Supporters' Shield by way of a 13-7-10 record. Columbus has only improved their squad, keeping their core players in place and adding a few players of note.

Toronto is looking to improve upon their 2009 record of 10-11-9 and finally beat the Crew. Toronto, under the leadership of new coach Preki, has been busy making changes to their roster. Four moves in 48 hours is quite a frenzied pace, the biggest being the trade of defender Marvell Wynne to Colorado for midfielder Nick LaBrocca and a draft pick. Toronto will surely benefit from a full season from their Designated Player, Julian de Guzman.

Things would be competitive, but rather vanilla, from the start. Both sides were trying to assert their dominance with little success. The Crew would earn two early corner kicks in the 9th and 10th minute. The first was cleared by a Toronto defender; the second was knocked out of the box by Toronto keeper Stefan Frei.

A potential opportunity came for the Crew in the 19th as Robbie Rogers broke away, but was then called offsides. Another offsides call would stall the Crew attack in the 25th minute.

Things would change for Columbus in the 29th minute as young defender Andy Iro sent a header into the left side of the goal. Guillermo Barros Schelotto would get the assist on the play.

Schelotto would get an opportunity of his own in the 37th, but was tripped up by the Toronto keeper. Toronto would go on the attack minutes later, but the Crew defense held firm. The Crew would threaten again in the 43rd minute when a Rogers cross almost turned into a Lenhart goal. The first half would come to a close with the score remaining 1-0 to the Crew.

Columbus moved quickly coming out of the locker room, going on the attack in the 47th minute. Toronto would counter and charge toward goal. A slight touch off a diving Will Hesmer sent a surefire TFC shot inches outside of the goal. Adam Moffat would break away in the 49th, going 1v1 with Frei, but the keeper wasn't troubled by a weak kick. The Crew's Eddie Gaven would push forward on his own moments later, but was blanketed by Toronto captain Jim Brennan.

Rogers would take on the TFC defense all by himself in the 58th, trying to play "keep away" with the opposing defenders. Eventually reinforcements would come for Toronto before Rogers could take a solid shot at the goal. Columbus would continue to apply pressure on the opposing squad. The visitors would try to create a change with their substitutions. Gabe Gala would come off for Nick LaBrocca in the 52nd. Preki would then bring in Amadou Sanyang for Argentine defender Martin Saric in the 66th minute.

Toronto would send a ball into the box a minute later, but an aggressive move by Hesmer cleared it out of danger. However, he took down two other players in the process, including a Crew defender.

Another Crew opportunity came in the 75th as Rogers beat his man and made his way toward the goal. A slick pass was sent in the direction of Steven Lenhart, who appeared to be pulled down in the box. There was no call and the decision was contested by the home fans.

Rogers would continue to break through the Toronto back line in the 83rd, but his hard shot was deflected by Frei. Schelotto would put the game away in the 86th, taking advantage of the keeper being down outside the box. A collision between Danny O' Rourke and Stefan Frei created an opportunity for a shot from the Crew's star.

Gino Padula and Jason Garey would enter the game late with the match already decided. While the score could easily have been 4-0 or 5-0, the Crew are happy with the 2-0 result. The Crew led in many statistical categories, including a 10 to 1 advantage with corner kicks.

"The first win in the first game is always good," Head Coach Robert Warzycha commented. Warzycha also praised the play of his keeper, who led the defensive effort to keep TFC scoreless.

The performance of Robbie Rogers was particularly impressive; the talented midfielder was able to create chances and consistently cause fits for the opposing defense. "I just used my speed. Last year at this time I was injured. I came back and I didn't have my legs," Rogers continued. "It is nice to go through preseason and January camp and feel good and strong. I think it shows when I am on and off the ball."

Everyone agreed that the matches versus Toluca FC helped the Crew prepare for the start of the season. While other teams played colleges and universities, Columbus was taking on one of the premier clubs in all of Mexico. A similar lineup from the Crew played well against Toronto FC. All and all it was simply a great start for the Columbus Crew. They hope to continue their success with a road game against FC Dallas on April 10 before returning home to face RSL on April 24.

Game Photos from Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew

Game Photos from U.S. U-17 National Team vs. Crew Soccer Academy U-17/U-18

Columbus Crew Starting Lineup: GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Eric Brunner, DEF Andy Iro, DEF Danny O'Rourke, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Brian Carroll, MID Adam Moffat, MID Robbie Rogers, FWD Steven Lenhart, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Toronto FC Starting Lineup: GK Stefan Frei, DEF Nana Attakora, DEF Jim Brennan (C), DEF Nick Garcia, DEF Ty Harden, MID Martin Saric, MID Julian de Guzman, MID Sam Cronin, MID Gabe Gala, FWD Dwayne De Rosario, FWD O' Brian White

LOCAL PLAYERS MAKING IT BIG IN MLS

Northeastern Ohio has a bumper crop of pro prospects this spring.  Justin Morrow of the San Jose Earthquakes and Barry Rice of D.C. United have helped put the Cleveland market back on the soccer map.

Justin Morrow, a Cleveland native and St. Ignatius grad, was among three players signed to developmental contracts by San Jose. The young defender was chosen in the second round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft after a successful career at Notre Dame. He played in 89 matches, scoring seven goals and seven assists for the Fighting Irish.  Morrow would be named All-Big East Second Team in 2009 while serving as team captain.  Morrow gave credit to his coaches along the way, especially Notre Dame Head Coach Bobby Clark. “Coach Clark is one of the best in the country. He helped me develop as a player on and off the field.”   

The Earthquakes hope Morrow can infuse the club with youth and athleticism.  They do not want a repeat of last season when the squad limped to a 7-14-9 record and a last place finish in the Western Conference.   Morrow is ready for the challenge and hopes to contribute when needed. “Playing in MLS has been a dream.  It is a great feeling,” he added.

Parma native Barry Rice signed with D.C. United on March 25 after a successful preseason trial.  Rice, a standout at the University of Kentucky, started with a bang in his collegiate career.  He started all 21 games as a freshman, earning a selection to the Conference USA All-Freshmen Team.  He would go on to receive Conference USA Defender of the Year honors during the next two seasons.  Overall Rice tallied 12 goals and 7 assists in 78 matches. Rice joins a United squad that narrowly missed the playoffs with a 9-8-13 record.

“Barry has had a good preseason with United and he is deserving of this opportunity,” said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper.  “He is a solid, athletic defender who has a big upside and we are excited about his future.”

SOUNDERS RUIN UNION DEBUT

SEATTLE, WA - March 25, 2010 - Brad Evans and Fredy Montero scored first-half goals as the Seattle Sounders FC opened the MLS season with a 2-0 victory over Philadelphia Union before a crowd of 36,241 on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field on Thursday night.

Evans struck in the 12th minute and Montero scored on a header in the 43rd minute, shortly after Philadelphia went a man down following the second yellow card issued to Toni Stahl.

Kasey Keller made four saves to earn the shutout for Seattle (1-0-0). It was the inaugural match for Union (0-1-0).

The first Sounders FC goal began with Montero passing the ball to an overlapping Steve Zakuani who crossed the ball into the crease. Evans knocked it past goalkeeper Chris Seitz from 10 yards.

Evans had also scored in the 12th minute of last season's opener, scoring the second of three Seattle goals in a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls.

Seattle's second goal came shortly before halftime. Freddie Ljungberg's corner kick was cleared out to Osvaldo Alonso who drove the ball through a crowd from 25 yards out. The ball was going wide but Montero dove at the right post, heading it into the net.

Union forward Sebastien Le Toux nearly scored in the 19th minute after beating Seattle's defense. Keller jumped off the line and dove on the ball. Le Toux played the last three seasons in Seattle before being selected by Philadelphia in the expansion draft last November. 

Stahl left the game in the 40th minute after receiving his second yellow card of the match (first yellow card issued in the 23rd minute). Union played the remainder of the match shorthanded.   

Thursday's crowd set a new Sounders FC match record for MLS regular season and playoffs. The previous record was 35,807, set in the Western Conference semifinal last October. 

Seattle plays its second game at home on April 3 against the New York Red Bulls. The first road test is April 10 against defending MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake.

RAPIDS ACQUIRE DEFENDER MARVELL WYNNE IN TRADE WITH TORONTO FC

COMMERCE CITY, CO - March 25, 2010 – The Colorado Rapids have acquired defender Marvell Wynne in a trade with Toronto FC, the club announced today.

In exchange, Colorado send midfielder Nick LaBrocca and their third round 2011 Major League Soccer SuperDraft pick to Toronto.

Wynne joins the Rapids adding his lightning pace to the club’s backline. Over the last two seasons, he has developed into more of an offensive threat scoring his first professional goals in 2008 and registering a career high five assists with TFC last season. Wynne has three caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team and was a member of the Men's Olympic Team that competed in Beijing in 2008. The former first overall selection in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft by New York has played in 96 career MLS games, 90 as a starter, and recorded two goals and 13 assists.

Wynne will join the team in Los Angeles ahead of their 2010 season opener against Chivas USA tomorrow, Friday, March 26 at 8:30 pm MT.

LaBrocca leaves Colorado having played in more games and in more minutes than any other Rapids player since 2008. He appeared in 61 games with 57 starts and scored four goals for Colorado after originally being drafted by the Rapids with the 35th overall pick in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft.

CHANGE IS COMING

The days following the new CBA have been quite interesting. There have been a plethora of roster moves and more are expected. Some were rather routine; one was rather shocking to all involved.

Goalkeeper Jon Busch has been a stalwart for the Chicago Fire over the past three seasons. Busch would earn the prestigious MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2008 and would go on to play every minute of the 2008 and 2009 seasons. One of the most popular players off the pitch, Busch recently was honored by Comcast SportsNet and the March of Dimes for his work in the community.

Unexpectedly the Fire waived Busch on Monday. Some might think it was the new CBA and the idea of another guaranteed contract. Others are speculating that another keeper is on the Fire's radar.

Busch faces a difficult road ahead as almost all MLS clubs are set with their rosters and have a starting keeper in place. A move back down to USL is a possibility, but an overseas option might be more attractive.

Other moves were a little less surprising. The Colorado Rapids sent midfielder/striker Pat Noonan packing on Tuesday. The seven-year MLS veteran played in 152 games and registered 40 goals and 32 assists throughout his career with New England, Columbus and Colorado. However, limited playing time and a rather hefty salary might have been his downfall. You have to wonder why the Rapids traded for Noonan if they were going to let him go less than a year later.

The Kansas City Wizards waived striker Michael Kraus, who played 11 matches for the club in 2009. D.C. United would let go of midfielder John DiRaimondo. It is believed that DiRaimondo was now expendable with the signing of academy player Andy Najar, who just turned 17. The final move would be the Sounders sending off Chris Eylander, who lost the backup spot to former Cascade Surge keeper Terry Boss.

Jose Argueta/MLS

WHEELING AND DEALING

WASHINGTON, D.C. - March 20, 2010 - A doomsday scenario for American soccer was avoided today as Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Major League Soccer Players Union (MLSPU) came to a new collective bargaining agreement that will span five seasons.

“We are very pleased to have reached agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLS Players Union,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “This new agreement allows us to work with our players to continue our mutual efforts to build the sport of soccer in North America.  We worked hard during the past few months to develop a new agreement that addressed many of the players’ most important issues and look forward to a meaningful and productive new relationship over the next five years.”

"The Union is happy with this agreement as it addresses the core issue of players' rights and we look foward to working cooperatively with the League going foward," said Bob Foose, Executive Director of the Union.

A spirit of compromise was needed to get the job done after marathon talks between players and management. Both sides got something they wanted, even though they could have easily demanded more. League officials and the owners were able to maintain the single-entity system that has become a hallmark of MLS. Players were able to get a substantial increase in compensation and a majority will receive guaranteed contracts as well. A new procedure called a re-entry draft will help deal with player movement issues.

Each side might have hoped for something different, but everyone did what was best for professional soccer in America. Simply put a player strike or a lockout by owners would have crushed the sport, especially in a World Cup year. There were serious doubts about whether a deal could get done after weeks of rhetoric and threats from both sides. All of this negativity can be left behind as we prepare for a season of potential and promise, beginning with some exciting matchups and debuts in Week 1.

Fans hope that the negotiation process has not created any long-term rifts between players and management. We need everyone working together to keep growing soccer in North America. There is still a lot of work to do as only two MLS clubs (Toronto, Seattle) operated at a profit last year.

Rory Prendergast

ENGLISH FOOTBALL IN CRISIS

NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND - March 19, 2010 - As of the last week my former club Farsley Celtic was suspended from the league, the Football Conference. Farsley and Chester City, who were in the Football League only a couple of years ago, are no longer in existence under the same name. The crunch is not only affecting non-league clubs; Portsmouth of the Premiership were wound up in the high court in London for a tax bill and a debt of nearly 70 million pound.

Cardiff City have 53 days to sort their finnances out or they could go the same way, having moved to a new ground at the start of the season. Southend United have not paid their wage bill for the last two months and need a buyer and quick. English football is in a crisis at the moment with money and I think more clubs will follow. Lets hope we have a good World Cup.

DYNAMO ACADEMY TAKES DALLAS CUP U-16 TITLE

Noreiga scores twice as Dynamo win second Dallas Cup title in three years

FRISCO, TX - April 4, 2010 - The Houston Dynamo Academy won its second Dallas Cup title in three years on Sunday, with the U-16s taking a 2-1 victory over Santa Clara Sporting to win the U-16 age bracket. Houston's previous Dallas Cup title came in 2008 in the U-17 age bracket.

Forward Isaiah Noreiga (Humble Kingwood Park) scored both goals, running his total to four for the tournament. Noreiga, who appeared for the Dynamo in the U-19 age bracket last year as a 15-year-old, also netted the clinching penalty kick in Houston's quarterfinal shootout against Solar.

On Sunday, Noreiga opened the scoring with a classy goal in just the fifth minute, but the Dynamo found themselves on the back foot for the remainder of the half. Santa Clara tied the game in the 20th minute, and the teams went into the halftime break tied 1-1.

The Dynamo Academy responded with a great second half, Dynamo Director of Youth Development James Clarkson said, controlling the game at a high tempo throughout. Noreiga broke the tie in the 65th minute with a free kick from outside the penalty area, and the Dynamo held on to celebrate the win and the tournament title.

Houston lost its first group game but then ran off four wins sandwiched around a shootout win to win the group on goal differential and advance through the eight-team playoffs for the title. The Dynamo outscored opponents 8-2 in six games in the tournament.

Dynamo Academy teams return to USSF Development Academy league play next weekend, hosting Solar on Saturday and the Dallas Texans on Sunday at both the U-16 and U-18 levels, with games scheduled for the Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex.

TAMPA BAY ROWDIES ADAM NOWLAND SIGNS WITH CONCAVE

TORONTO, CANADA - March 19, 2010 – Tampa Bay Rowdies midfielder Adam Nowland has joined the Concave team deciding to become the latest professional player to wear Concave soccer boots.

Concave is a relative new-comer to the soccer boot world, having launched its first model of a technologically advanced product last autumn, after nearly eight years of research and development.  Concave was recently the recipient of the 2009 Best Boot Award and the 2009 Best Innovation Award from Avid Soccer.

Now, Nowland joins Concave as the footwear company is introducing its much broader and eagerly anticipated new product line in soccer specialty shops.

“I am excited to have a fresh start in a new club and a new league with new boots as great as Concave’s,” said Nowland who previously played for Blackpool F.C. in England and Nottingham Forest. "This is a perfect combination that gives me confidence every time I walk onto the field."

Concave attributes its patented technology on the top of the boot with giving players at all levels the ability to increase their ball striking skills – in the areas of power, accuracy and control – while also protecting against foot injuries. In fact, tests have demonstrated a 15 percent increase in power and 30 percent greater accuracy when striking the ball, over traditionally designed soccer boots.

“We are excited to welcome Adam on-board with the Concave team," said CEO of Concave, Jim Grimes "He is an excellent player and we can’t wait to watch him this season wearing our boots.

DYNAMO ADD APPIAH TO MIDFIELD

HOUSTON, TX - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - The Houston Dynamo have signed midfielder Sammy Appiah, it was announced today. Appiah was selected in the third round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft and will occupy the fourth and final developmental spot on the Dynamo roster.

A native of Obuasi, Ghana, Appiah turned 25 years old on Thursday. He will be available for selection for Saturday’s MLS opener against FC Dallas.

Appiah appeared in nine of the Dynamo’s 11 preseason games, mostly as a defensive midfielder. He comes to Houston after a four-year career at Boston University in which he totaled 11 goals and 10 assists and was named first-team all-America East in 2009. The durable midfielder played in all 78 games during his college career.

SOUNDERS SIGN ESTRADA AND FUCITO

RENTON, WA - March 24, 2010 - The Seattle Sounders FC signed midfielders David Estrada, the club's first-round selection in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, and Michael Fucito, the club announced today.

Estrada, 22, was selected by Seattle with the 11th pick overall in the 2010 draft. Estrada played in all six preseason games, starting two.

Estrada was born in Mexico but raised in Salinas, California, played all four years at UCLA and was a four-time All-Pac-10 honoree. In 2006, Estrada went from being a walk-on to Soccer America's Freshman of the Year after leading his team in scoring with a UCLA freshman record 12 goals, four game-winning goals, and 28 points. Estrada finished his collegiate career having started 64 of 78 games played, including all 20 games his senior season, and scored 22 goals with 14 assists.

Fucito, 23, was first taken by Seattle with the 46th pick overall in the 2009 draft, signed with the club on July 3, 2009, and appeared in two friendlies against Chelsea and Barcelona before being released on November 25, 2009. Fucito rejoined the team as an invitee, playing in two preseason games.

Fucito was a second team All-American as a senior at Harvard, leading the Ivy League in total points and helping Harvard reach the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament. Fucito finished as the Crimson's No. 4 career scorer with 32 goals and 24 assists.

U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM TO FACE GERMANY ON MAY 22
AT CLEVELAND BROWNS STADIUM


CHICAGO, IL - March 17, 2010 - The U.S. Women's National Team will face Germany on May 22 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, as the world’s top two women’s soccer nations meet on American soil for the first time since the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The match will kick off at 6 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Fans can also follow the action as it happens on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and twitter.com/ussoccer.

Tickets starting at $18 go on sale to the public Friday, March 19, at 10 a.m. ET through ussoccer.com, by phone at 1-800-745-3000 and at all Ticketmaster ticket centers throughout Northern Ohio (including many Giant Eagle locations), as well as the Cleveland Browns Stadium ticket office (open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Groups of 20 or more can obtain an order form at ussoccer.com or call 312-528-1290. Ultimate Fan Tickets (special VIP packages which include a premium ticket, a custom made official U.S. national team jersey with name and number, VIP access to the field before and after the game, and other unique benefits) are also available exclusively through ussoccer.com.

As a sponsor of U.S. Soccer, Visa® is pleased to offer all Visa cardholders access to an advance ticket sale for this match before the sale to the general public. This advance sale starts Thursday, March 18, at 12 p.m. ET and runs until Friday, March 19, at 8 a.m. at ussoccer.com. Visa will be the only payment method accepted through the Visa presale and is the preferred card of U.S. Soccer. Terms and conditions apply.

Germany is returning the game the USA played Oct. 29, 2009, in Augsburg, Germany. In that match Abby Wambach's goal gave the Americans a narrow 1-0 victory in front of an enthusiastic German crowd. The two teams also recently met in the championship game of the Algarve Cup in Portugal with the USA coming away with a 3-2 victory.

Germany and the USA have combined to win four of the five FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments contested so far. Germany will host the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup from June 26 through July 17 in nine German cities.

“It’s rare for the Women's National Team to play in Ohio so it will be special to return to my home state,” said U.S. defender Heather Mitts. “It’s always fun when a player gets to represent the national team especially close to home and to do it against a great team like Germany is even better. We’ve played two amazing games against them over the past few months and we’re all looking forward to another one in May. I know a lot of people will come out to support us and they are going to see a very entertaining, attacking game.”

The match will mark the 27th meeting between the two countries (counting two games against the former West Germany) with the USA having won 18, lost four and tied four. The world’s two most successful women’s soccer nations have met in several epic matches in U.S. history, including a 5-2 U.S. win in the semifinal of the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a 3-2 U.S. win in the quarterfinal of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and a 3-0 Germany win in the semifinal of the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Germany boasts tremendous depth and some of the world’s top players, including team captain Birgit Prinz, who has scored 126 career international goals, and forward Inka Grings, who scored seven goals at the recently completed Algarve Cup. The USA is currently first in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings while Germany is second.

The match will be the first for the U.S. Women during the upcoming WPS season. The league will not play games on the weekend of May 22.

The USA has played in Cleveland just once previously, that coming on June 16, 2007, at Cleveland Browns Stadium with Abby Wambach scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory against China. Current U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage was on the Chinese bench during that match as an assistant coach.

KANSAS CITY SIGNS BIRAHIM DIOP

The Kansas City Wizards announced today that the team has signed Senegalese midfielder Birahim Diop to a Major League Soccer contract. Per team and League policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Birahim is a guy who brings a physical presence to the field," Wizards Manager Peter Vermes said. "He also has a great attitude, and I think he'll make a positive impact for us in 2010."

Diop began his professional career in his native Senegal with hometown team US Rail de Thiès, where he scored 15 goals in 25 appearances with the squad. He then moved to Dakar-based club ASC Jeanne D’Arc, then one of the top teams in the Senegalese Premier League. After a strong season for Jeanne D’Arc in which he scored 12 goals with seven assists, Diop moved to Major League Soccer to sign with the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls), who were coached by current Wizards assistant Octavio Zambrano. After his time in MLS, Diop moved to Deportivo Pereira in Colombia, then to Moldova, where he reunited with Zambrano at FC Tilgul-Tiras Tiraspol.

A holding midfielder, Diop joined the Wizards on a trial basis at the start of the 2010 preseason.

FC Dallas, Rick Yeatts

JOSH LAMBO LOANED TO TAMPA BAY ROWDIES 

FRISCO, TX - March 17, 2010 - FC Dallas has sent third-year goalkeeper Josh Lambo on loan to the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USSF Division II Pro League for the 2010 season, the team announced today. Per the agreement, Lambo may be recalled by FC Dallas at any time during the year. 

Lambo, 19, was selected by Dallas in the first round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. He served as the backup goalkeeper for 15 of the team’s 32 games last year, though did not see action. He started in goal in the international friendly match versus Costa Rica’s Club Sport Herediano on June 10, 2009 and posted a 2-0 shutout. 

The 19 year-old has been a consistent call up for the U.S. Under-20 team and most recently competed in last year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.

FC Dallas kicks off the 2010 season at Pizza Hut Park on March 27 when they host in-state rivals the Houston Dynamo. For more information on affordable season ticket plans or to purchase single-game tickets, visit FCDallas.com or call 888-FCD-GOAL (323-4625). Parking is free for all FC Dallas games at Pizza Hut Park.

 KANSAS CITY INK INTERNATIONAL MIDFIELD TRIO

The Kansas City Wizards today announced the signing of midfielders Ryan Smith and Igor Kostrov to Major League Soccer contracts, along with an agreement to terms with English midfielder Craig Rocastle. Per team and League policy, financial terms of the deals were not disclosed. 

The three players will compete for spots across the Wizards’ midfield, with Smith ‘s natural position on the left, Kostrov on the right and Rocastle in the center.

“We’re excited to add three talented players to our roster,” said Wizards Manager Peter Vermes. “Smith and Kostrov will both play on the flank for us and they both bring pace and skill to their positions.”

Smith began his career in the youth system of Arsenal F.C., making his debut for the first team at the age of 16 in the Carling Cup. Current Arsenal captain and Spanish international Cesc Fabregas, French fullback Cael Clichy and Tottenham winger David Bentley were among the other young players to appear with Arsenal in the competition that year. 

In 2005, Smith headed to Leicester City on loan, where he made 17 appearances and scored a goal. His performances attracted the attention of Derby County, who moved to sign the midfielder before the start of the 2006-2007 season. From Derby, Smith moved to Millwall on loan before signing a permanent deal with the side in 2007. After two years with Millwall, Smith fulfilled short-term contracts with Southampton and Crystal Palace, leaving Palace earlier this year at the end of his deal. 

Smith, 23, joined the Wizards as a trialist this preseason and has scored three goals in the team’s nine exhibition matches so far, including one in Thursday’s intra-squad scrimmage. 

Kostrov began his career with hometown club Dinamo Bender in the Divizia Naţională, the top division in Moldovan soccer. With the team, Kostrov made 65 appearances, scoring seven goals before moving to Israel halfway through the 2008-2009 season to join Hapoel Be’er Sheva. Kostrov was then loaned out to Maccabi Herzliya in 2009. 

Kostrov, 22, joined the Wizards on trial at the start of 2010 training, and has appeared in all of the club’s preseason matches thus far. 

Rocastle has enjoyed a nine-year career with many clubs at all levels of the English game, starting with Kingstonian F.C. in 2001. Following a successful spell with Kingstonian that saw the team reach the fifth round of the FA Cup, Rocastle transferred to Chelsea in 2003. However, he would spend much of his time with the London club on loan. After leaving the club for Sheffield Wednesday in 2005, Rocastle would go on to play in England for Oldham Athletic and Port Vale, as well as in the Greek Super League with Thrasivoulos Filis. Most recently, Rocastle appeared for Forest Green Rovers in the English Conference. 

“[Rocastle] is a guy that’s clean on the ball and sees the game really well,” Vermes said. 

The midfielder, 28, joined Kansas City on a trial basis near the end of the team’s preseason preparations in Arizona in March. His signing is contingent upon his receipt of a P1 visa.

FC DALLAS ACQUIRES GOALKEEPER KEVIN HARTMAN 

FRISCO, TX - March 8, 2010 - FC Dallas has signed goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, the team announced today.  Dallas acquired Hartman in a trade with the Kansas City Wizards, sending them a second round selection in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft in exchange for the four-time MLS All-Star. 

Hartman appeared in all 30 regular season games for the Wizards in the 2009 season, earning a 1.40 goals against average and collecting an impressive 105 saves.  Hartman’s all-time regular season record is 146-120-64 and his post-season record is 22-15-7. 

“I’m excited to be in Dallas,” said Hartman. “It’s the place where I won the 2005 championship with the Galaxy and it’s always held a place in my heart. I’m excited to be here to play in front of the Dallas fans and excited to start a new chapter in my soccer career.” 

The UCLA graduate was drafted in the third round of the 1997 College Draft by the Los Angeles Galaxy where he remained for 10 seasons. While with the Galaxy, Hartman helped lead the team to the 2002 and 2005 MLS Cup titles, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles in 2001 and 2005 and the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2000. In 1999, he was named the MLS Pepsi Goalkeeper of the Year and was voted to the MLS AT&T Best XI team. 

A four-time MLS All-Star (2000, 2003, 2004, 2005), Hartman holds all the major goalkeeping records in MLS history.  He owns the record in games played in goal with 333, games started in goal with 328, minutes played in goal with 29,835, wins in goal with 146, saves in goal with 1,235 and shutouts with 84.  

Hartman appeared in 243 games in goal for the Galaxy before being traded to Kansas City in 2007. In three seasons with the Wizards, Hartman played every minute of the regular season. 

In 2000, Hartman made his first appearance with the U.S. National team in a match versus Jamaica which ended in a 2-2 tie. He made his first career start with the national team on Jan. 29, 2006, when the U.S. shut out Norway 5-0.  He has earned a career total of five caps with the national team. 

Author of a children’s book, Hartman is highly involved in the community, most recently working with literacy efforts in Kansas City.

FORMER WORLD SOCCER STARS COMING TO DAYTON TO PLAY DUTCH LIONS FC

KETTERING, OH - February 25, 2010 - As part of its inaugural season in the U.S., the Dayton Dutch Lions FC will be taking part in an exciting weekend of events between April 29 and May 1 as its ­first appearance in the community. It is the Global United Project. The objective of this project is to ask attention for Global Warming in Ohio and present our club officially to our fans against (former) top international players that have played in World Cup Championships.

The highlight of the activities is a soccer game Friday evening April 30 (Queens Day in Holland) between the Dayton Dutch Lions FC and Global United FC, a club that is comprised of over 150 (former) top international players. Players who regularly play for Global United FC are Lothar Matheus, Zamorano, Cauto, Joa Pinto, Chilavert, Prosinecki, Elber, Kuffour, Oliseh, Litmanen, Bergdolmo, Schuster, Balakov and Dutchmen Ruud Gullit, Ronald de Boer and Pierre van Hooydonk.

Their goal is simply to provide an unique approach to spreading the news of Global Warming and environmentally-friendly initiatives to a variety of markets across the world. This opportunity fits in perfect with the vision of the Dutch Lions FC, which focuses on “creating a professional environment with integrity and ethical conduct, which promotes competitive excellence, sportsmanship and community service.”

The weekend will consist of local school projects, community awareness outreach programs, a fundraiser via a Golf Scramble Outing and many more exciting opportunities. The players that will come to Dayton to play for Global United FC will be announced the coming weeks on www.dutchlionsfc.com.

A FATHER'S DREAM: THE KLJESTAN FAMILY STORY

Part I in an Orignial Series

Fans of soccer in Tampa Bay rejoiced when news of Gordon Kljestan’s signing became public. Officials with the new FC Tampa Bay had reportedly been courting Kljestan for several months. Gordon has the potential to be a gamebreaker in the right system.  He struggled through injuries last season with the Cleveland City Stars, but was able to make an impact on the younger players and of course the fans.   Gordon was quite the fan favorite for the Stars; kids could always be seen lining to get his autograph after the game.  It was a quite a treat to see him play in Cleveland, one that many people missed out on. 

The path to soccer stardom was not your typical journey for Gordon and his brother Sacha.  It all started decades ago with their father’s dream. 

Slavko Kljestan is considered to be many things by many people: a modern day Horatio Alger, a footballer who had great potential in his native Yugoslavia, a coach, a teacher, a mentor, and most importantly a committed family man. Slavko was denied the opportunity to play soccer as a young man despite his obvious skills in the sport.  His father didn’t want him to leave the family farm to pursue his dream.  He was forbidden to play the sport he loved, but that is not the end of the story by any means.  Rather it is just the first chapter in the long, but prosperous journey of the Kljestan family.

SEATTLE EARNS DRAW AGAINST VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

BURNABY, BC - March 6, 2010 - The Seattle Sounders FC are now 3-1-1 in preseason play after a scoreless draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday afternoon at Burnaby's Swangard Stadium. 

The Sounders FC came out aggressive in the offensive third early in the game but could not score a goal. After a scoreless first half, the Seattle defensive line held firm for the remainder of the match as the Whitecaps FC applied more pressure. 

Seattle was whistled for six offsides in the first half, putting a halt to several scoring opportunities, including a header by Steve Zakuani in the 15th minute that found the back of the net. In the 27th minute, Freddie Ljungberg beat Vancouver's defense on the left side of the box but was also ruled offsides. 

Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller kept Vancouver scoreless with two saves, including one on forward Dever Orgill's one-touch shot in the 38th minute. Defender James Riley helped the cause by knocking down a shot by Ansu Toure in the 51st minute to keep the score tied at nil. 

The Sounders FC tried to score late with a couple great opportunities. Mike Seamon, the club's second-round draft pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, had a chance in the 94th minute along with midfielder Stephen King. Both shots were deflected away from the goal by Vancouver defenders. 

Saturday's game was the third meeting between Vancouver and Seattle since the Sounders FC joined MLS in 2009. The previous two games, both won by Seattle, were preseason scrimmages played without a crowd. Seattle won 4-0 on February 22, 2009 at Qwest Field, and also won 3-2 on February 11, 2010 in Casa Grande, Arizona.

ESPN PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCERS FOR 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP
 
Veteran international soccer television voices Ian Darke, Adrian Healey, and Derek Rae will join legend Martin Tyler in South Africa this summer as play-by-play match commentators for ESPN’s English-language coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the United States.  In all, ESPN will employ four teams to call all 64 tournament matches live from the host country, June 11 – July 11.
 
Darke, who currently works for London-based Sky Sports, commentates on Barclays Premier League matches in the U.K. Healey handles ESPN International’s English-language coverage of Spain’s La Liga and hosts ESPN2 Barclays Premier League telecasts. Rae, who joined ESPN in 1994, is a familiar voice to ESPN viewers from his work on UEFA Champions League and other international matches. 
 
“The group of commentators we have assembled represents some of the finest English-language voices for televised soccer anywhere in the world,” said Jed Drake, ESPN’s executive producer, 2010 FIFA World Cup.  “They present the sport at its highest level and their first-hand knowledge of the players who will compete in the FIFA World Cup will greatly inform fans and enhance how we present this global event in the United States.”
 
Tyler, who was previously announced as ESPN’s lead play-by-play commentator for the FIFA World Cup, is one of the most renowned voices of the sport and has broadcast every World Cup since 1978. He will be joined by a trio of announcers who have collectively called the most prestigious leagues and competitions in the world over the past two decades.

RAPIDS RE-SIGN FORWARD CONOR CASEY

COMMERCE CITY, CO - March 4, 2010 – The Colorado Rapids announced today that forward Conor Casey has signed a new three-year contract, keeping the Denver-raised All-Star and United States national team forward in Colorado. Per club and league policies, financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Rapids Managing Director Jeff Plush made the announcement in a press conference held this afternoon at Casey’s alma mater of Denver South High School.

“Today is a banner day for the Rapids organization and we could not be more pleased with knowing that Conor will continue to represent our club with his professionalism and talents in his hometown,” said Plush. “With all his recent successes on the pitch, Conor faced many opportunities to return to playing overseas and for him to make the commitment to the Rapids speaks volumes of the direction our club is headed.”

“I’m really excited that the Rapids are committed to me and that my future is with this club,” said Casey. “I am looking forward to the coming years, as we continue to build something special. Having played in my hometown the last several seasons and now knowing I’m going to be staying here playing for my home club is a great feeling.”

“We’re thrilled to have Conor re-sign with his hometown team,” said Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber. “He was a dominant player during the 2009 MLS season and we hope to see him continue his success with the Rapids and with the U.S. national team.”

Casey was born in Dover, New Hampshire, but moved with his family to Denver at the age of five. Following a standout collegiate career at the University of Portland, he began his professional career in Germany playing with Borussia Dortmund, Karlsruher SC and FSV Mainz over the next six years.

Casey returned to North America in 2007 signing with Toronto FC, where he appeared in two matches before being acquired by the Rapids on April 19, 2007.

The 28-year old target forward is coming off a career year in 2009 posting a MLS MVP type campaign setting a new Rapids single season scoring record with 16 goals to finish 2nd in the league's Golden Boot race only one goal behind FC Dallas' Jeff Cunningham. Casey was named to the MLS Best XI squad for the first time in his career and also garnered MLS All-Star honors.

The three-year MLS veteran has appeared in 62 career games, with 51 starts, and scored 29 goals and added six assists. Casey currently ranks fourth all-time in scoring for the Rapids with 29 goals in just 60 games and is the club’s all-time leader in hat tricks with three. Casey’s scoring rate of .483 is first among all the Top 10 goal scorers in Rapids history.

Casey has 20 career caps with the U.S. national team and has scored two career international goals and registered one assist. His two goals in the U.S.’s World Cup qualifying win against Honduras on October 10, 2009 clinched a berth into the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa for the Americans. Casey is the only player in U.S. soccer history to score two goals in a road qualifier in Central America.

MEXICO TO FACE ANGOLA ON MAY 13 AT RELIANT STADIUM

NEW YORK, NY - March 8, 2010 - The Mexican national team will face Angola in the final match of their 2010 U.S. Tour on Thursday, May 13 at 8 p.m. CT at Reliant Stadium, it was announced today. The match is presented by Degree Men.

Starting today, tickets and suites are available to the general public for the rest of Mexico’s 2010 U.S. Tour matches. Tickets can be purchased at all TicketMaster outlets, including all Houston-area Fiesta stores, online at www.Ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000. Suites can be purchased through the Houston Texans at 832-667-2160.  The Federación Mexicana de Fútbol encourages its fans to go online and purchase tickets using their Visa cards. 

Fans will have the opportunity to watch the Mexican National Team as they finalize their preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. The Houston match, the final game of the Mexican squad’s pre-World Cup tour through the United States, will mark the first time El Tri will face Angola since their last meeting in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, where the teams played to a scoreless draw in group action.    

The match at Reliant Stadium will be Mexico’s ninth in Houston.  El Tri first played at Reliant Stadium in a friendly match with the United States which ended in a scoreless draw in 2003.  In addition to the 2005, 2007 and 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments, Mexico played a pair of matches at Reliant Stadium in 2008, facing the U.S. in a friendly and Belize in a World Cup qualifying match. 

FOXSOCCER.TV LAUNCHES REDESIGNED
PREMIUM BROADBAND PORTAL
  

LOS ANGELES, CA - March 2, 2010 - Beginning today Foxsoccer.tv will expand its premium broadband video offering to feature a multiplex of live and on-demand soccer competitions from the Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Italy’s Serie A,  FA Cup, Carling Cup, Coca-Cola Championship, the England Men’s National Team and the Argentine First Division. 

As the online video complement to Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus, Foxsoccer.tv will also feature the best in live rugby, such as the Guinness Premiership, Heineken Cup and Magners League. 

“Foxsoccer.tv was redesigned to manage an influx of new live and on-demand rights,” said Bhavesh Patel, Vice President of Interactive Media for Fox Sports International. “The enhanced site will offer up to eight live soccer and ruby competitions at once and provide for the ultimate broadband viewing experience.” 

A full slate of matches are scheduled to be streamed live in the first week of the new Foxsoccer.tv including England vs. Egypt at London’s Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, March 3 at 3 p.m. ET; Barclays Premier League’s Arsenal hosting Burnley on Saturday, March 6 at 10 a.m. ET; and an Italy’s Serie A match that pits Fiorentina against Juventus on March 6 at 11:55 a.m. ET 

Fans can enjoy live matches and unlimited access to on-demand viewing through one of two subscription packs: Championship Pass, offering all matches through May 31, 2010, is available for $44.95 and Monthly Pass is available for $14.95. For a limited time, viewers also can experience the excitement of foxsoccer.tv with a Day Pass, offering access for 24 hours, for only $4.95. 

INTERNATIONAL BOXING LEGEND OSCAR DE LA HOYA JOINS TEAM
TO BRING FIFA WORLD CUP TO UNITED STATES IN 2018 OR 2022


NEW YORK, NY - March 1, 2010 – Boxer Oscar De La Hoya – who won 10 different world titles spanning six different weight categories, as well as a 1992 Olympic gold medal – has formally accepted an invitation to join the Board of Directors for the USA Bid Committee in its effort to bring the FIFA World Cup™ to the United States in 2018 or 2022.

Since retiring from boxing in 2009, De La Hoya has taken his business and philanthropic activities to new heights with the focus of improving the quality of life in Hispanic communities in his native Los Angeles and across the country. De La Hoya founded Golden Boy Enterprises in 1999 and has since invested in several Spanish-language newspapers in major markets across the country, a variety of consumer products, a publishing group featuring leading boxing publications and various urban development projects in Latino communities. In 2008, De La Hoya became part-owner of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer.

“Oscar is known around the world as a champion boxer, but he’s an equally impressive champion for Hispanic issues across our nation,” said Sunil Gulati, the Chairman of the USA Bid Committee and President of U.S. Soccer. “In addition to his honorable philanthropic endeavors, Oscar is a passionate soccer fan who is contributing to the growth of the sport in this country with his involvement in MLS and the Dynamo. We are trilled to have him as part of the USA Bid, as we continue to make our case.”

Founded in 1995, the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation is bringing a better quality of life to thousands of East Los Angeles residents annually. Today the foundation and its staff support the Cecilia Gonzales De La Hoya Cancer Center and the Oscar De La Hoya Children’s Medical Center, both located at the White Memorial Hospital, and the Oscar De La Hoya High School, which received a $3.5 million donation from De La Hoya in 2008.

“Thanks to boxing, I’ve experienced first-hand how sports can promote tolerance, equality, and social integration while allowing people to realize their biggest dreams,” said De La Hoya. “Boxing provided me the opportunity to travel the world and through those travels I can attest to the worldwide popularity of football and its power to be a positive force for social change. Being able to join the USA Bid Committee in our mission to bring the World Cup back to the U.S. is an honor.”

A native of Los Angeles, De La Hoya established Golden Boy Promotions in 2001, the first national boxing promotional company owned by a Hispanic. Golden Boy Promotions is one of boxing’s most active and respected promoters, presenting shows in packed venues around the United States on networks such as HBO, HBO Latino, TeleFutura and ESPN.

De La Hoya announced his retirement from professional boxing on April 14, 2009, concluding his 16-year pro career with a record of 39-6 including 30 knockouts. Competing in six different weight classes during the course of his career, “The Golden Boy” defeated 17 world champions and captured 10 world titles. De La Hoya was a decorated amateur boxer as well, recording a record of 223-6 with 163 knockouts that concluded with his gold medal victory for the USA at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. Named the top-rated Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world by Ring Magazine in 1997, De La Hoya was named to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008.

The multi-talented De La Hoya released a Grammy-nominated, self-titled CD with tracks in both English and Spanish in 2000 and authorized a children’s picture book titled Super Oscar, written in both English and Spanish, that won the 2007 Latino Book Awards Best Bilingual Children’s Picture Book of the Year. De La Hoya published his autobiography, American Son, in 2008.

De La Hoya joins the Board of Directors of the USA Bid Committee that recently welcomed Academy Award-nominated director Spike Lee, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ESPN Executive Vice President for Content John Skipper, Washington Post CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth, Walt Disney Company President and CEO Robert Iger, comedian and Seattle Sounders FC part-owner Drew Carey, MLS founding investor Philip Anschutz, Univision CEO Joe Uva, New England Revolution and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, U.S. Soccer Foundation President Ed Foster-Simeon, University of Miami President Donna Shalala, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. National Team icons Landon Donovan and Mia Hamm, and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

MLS ROSTER COMPLIANCE DATE DELAYED

NEW YORK, NY - March 1, 2010 - Major League Soccer issued the following statement today:

"MLS is delaying the roster compliance date, originally scheduled for March 1, while discussions continue over related topics with the MLS Players Union. The roster compliance date will be set in the next few weeks."

VORTEX FINISH STRONG

WINNIPEG, MB - February 27, 2010 - The Ohio Vortex finished the season with two wins over the Winnipeg Alliance during a Saturday doubleheader.  The Vortex made the long journey to play at Winnipeg's MTS Centre in front of 3,000 vibrant fans. 

The first match ended with a 5-4 win for the Vortex. Five different players, including Medina's own Michael Pertz, contributed a goal. 

The second matchup would feature an Allen Eller hat trick in a 7-5 win for Ohio.  Adam Campellone would pace the Vortex with three assists. The Canton-based franchise struggled early in the season, but ended with a respectable 8-8 record. 

FOX SOCCER PLUS SET TO LAUNCH MARCH 1
WITH DIRECTV, DISH NETWORK, TIME WARNER CABLE,
AND VERIZON FiOS 

LOS ANGELES, CA - February 26, 2010 - Fox Soccer Plus has reached agreements with DIRECTV, DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FiOS to offer the service to subscribers beginning March 1, 2010, it was announced today by Mike Hopkins, President, Affiliate Sales and Marketing, Fox Cable Networks.

“Fox Soccer Plus is a dynamic new network that will provide our distribution partners with the ability to profitably reach an extremely passionate subscriber base,” said Hopkins. “Soccer and international sports fans will thoroughly enjoy the diverse and compelling lineup of live events.”

Fox Soccer Plus will feature new exclusive matches from England’s Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, England’s FA Cup, Italy’s Serie A, the prestigious Carling Cup, and action from the Coca-Cola Championship. The network also will showcase an annual selection of live and exclusive England Men’s National Team matches.

In addition to its impressive soccer coverage, Fox Soccer Plus will include premium rugby from the Guinness Premiership, the Heineken Cup, and Magners League. The network's total annual programming package will include nearly 600 exclusive events.

ENGLAND AND BRAZIL FEATURED IN LIVE INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLIES MARCH 2 AND 3 ON FOX SOCCER CHANNEL AND FOX SOCCER PLUS 

LOS ANGELES, CA - February 23, 2010 - Brazil and England, two world powers vying for supremacy in South Africa this summer, will take to the pitch in early March live on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus.

A highly anticipated international match-up between Brazil and the Republic of Ireland will air live on Tuesday, March 2 at 3 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer Channel, the premier television destination in the U.S. for soccer fans.  

The Brazilians, currently ranked second in the FIFA world rankings, take on an Irish side still smarting from its near-miss at a spot in soccer’s biggest tournament.  The match will take place at Emirates Stadium in London.

The following day, Fox Soccer Plus – the new premium network designed to complement Fox Soccer Channel – will continue the international friendly coverage with England vs. Egypt on Wednesday, March 3, live at 3 p.m. ET. This clash at London’s Wembley Stadium will also be streamed live at foxsoccer.tv.

England, currently ninth in the world rankings and featuring superstars including Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard, will be the United States’ first opponent in South Africa this June.  The Three Lions will host the 10th-ranked Egyptians, who are riding high following their recent triumph at the African Cup of Nations.

Immediately preceding England-Egypt at 1 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Plus features live, exclusive coverage of a European Under-21 Championship qualifying match between England and Greece from Doncaster, England.  This will be the first live event to air on Fox Soccer Plus, which launches Monday, March 1.

RSL GETS FUTURE STAR IN TRADE

The Kansas City Wizards announced today that the team has traded the rights to midfielder Luis Gil to Real Salt Lake in exchange for an international roster spot, a 2011 2nd round SuperDraft pick, and 25 percent of any transfer fee, should a club outside of MLS purchase Gil’s rights in the future.

Gil, a 16-year-old who starred for the United States’ U-17 National Team last year, had attracted interest from many European clubs, including Arsenal FC and Real Madrid. However, last month Gil signed a contract with Major League Soccer with the understanding that his family’s desire for him to begin his pro career with Real Salt Lake or Seattle Sounders FC would be accommodated.

As is standard procedure for Generation Adidas players that sign with the League after the MLS SuperDraft, the League allocated Gil’s rights via a weighted lottery. Kansas City won yesterday’s lottery with knowledge of the stipulations agreed upon by the League and its Competition Committee prior to Gil’s signing. This afternoon, the Wizards accepted Real Salt Lake’s trade proposal.

MLS CHAMPS FALL IN PRESEASON PLAY

CASA GRANDE, AZ - February 20, 2010 - Vancouver Whitecaps FC ended their two-week preseason trip to Arizona on a positive note with a 2-1 friendly win over Major League Soccer (MLS) champions Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon. Two first-half goals by Marlon James helped the USSF D-2 Pro League club to a notable victory over the MLS Cup holders at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Arizona. Though Argentine striker Fabían Espíndola replied late on for the Utah-based outfit, the 'Caps held on for the win on the final day of their Arizona training camp.

Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson made three changes to the side that started Monday's 4-1 defeat to MLS club Chicago Fire in Tempe, Arizona. Former Real Salt Lake (RSL) keeper Jay Nolly replaced Dan Pelc in goal, while Luca Bellisomo replaced Greg Janicki at centre back, and Nizar Khalfan came in for Justin Moose on the right-hand side of midfield. New 'Caps signing Nelson Akwari was also given the chance to play against his former club in central defence. RSL head coach Jason Kreis played two different line-ups against the Blue and White on Saturday, but he would not have been pleased with the performance of his first-half group, as a sharper-looking 'Caps side dominated the opening 45 minutes. It only took two minutes for Vancouver to take the lead. A fine through ball from Takashi Hirano freed James, who then eluded the attentions of Salt Lake's first-half goalkeeper Tim Melia near the edge of the RSL box. The big striker took a touch before striking a shot off the right post and into the net for a 1-0 Whitecaps lead. The goal prompted a response from Salt Lake on seven minutes, but forward Abe Thompson's shot from the edge of the 'Caps box hit the inside of Nolly's post and away to safety. At the other end, some sustained Whitecaps pressure resulted in several corners for the Canadian club. On 14 minutes, Hirano forced a good save from former Rochester Rhinos shot-stopper Melia. The match winner came on 23 minutes. Canadian international Will Johnson was caught in possession in midfield, with Vancouver able to break down the left flank. Zourab Tsiskaridze then played a quick give-and-go with James before the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines international struck home his second goal of the game for 2-0. The Whitecaps were in the ascendancy at this stage and pushing for a third goal. On 31 minutes, Tsiskaridze just missed the target with a shot before Mexican midfielder Ricardo Sánchez headed a 'Caps corner over the RSL crossbar a minute later. Nolly would need to make a save before the break, with the Whitecaps number one needing to tip a 45-yard strike from Johnson over his own crossbar on 39 minutes. As a result, the 'Caps took a well-deserved two-goal lead into halftime. 

The start of the second half saw Salt Lake make no less than 10 changes to their lineup, with Jean Alexandre being the only holdover from the first-half group, as he moved from striker to his more familiar position of midfield. Soon after the restart, James nearly completed his hat-trick, but he just missed the target with a leaping header. The fresh legs from Salt Lake tried to get back into the friendly, but Espíndola had a shot saved by Nolly on 50 minutes before Tino Nuñez could not make the most of his opportunity a minute later. The two RSL strikers then had further chances on 56 and 61 minutes, but both opportunities missed the target. Nuñez then squandered another good chance on 65 minutes after heading Espíndola's curling cross wide of goal from close range, while at the other end, a Whitecaps counter-attack saw Khalfan force a good save from RSL's second-half keeper Kyle Reynish two minutes later. Thordarson made several substitutions just after the midway point of the second half, including youngster Simon Thomas replacing Nolly in the Whitecaps goal on 76 minutes. Three minutes later, the MLS champions pulled a goal back. A forward ball from Javier Morales allowed Espíndola to beat Thomas to the ball at the top of the Vancouver box. The RSL striker got enough of a touch to direct it home and make it 2-1.

Salt Lake's late goal, however, proved to be a consolation, as the Whitecaps held on for the victory to complete this latest phase of their preparations for the 2010 season. Thordarson was understandably delighted to claim Saturday's result versus the current MLS Cup holders. "It was a great performance by us today, especially in the first half," he told whitecapsfc.com from Arizona. "We made a lot of changes in the second half and weren't able to keep our tempo up, as we did in the first half, but we were also unfortunate not to have scored two or three more goals in the game. During our time down here, we have managed to get the team together tactically, which was important for us. To then finish the trip off by getting a result against the MLS champions is just fantastic."

The Whitecaps will return home to Vancouver on Sunday and take next week off before returning to preseason training on Monday, March 1.  

WHITECAPS FALL TO MLS FIRE IN PRESEASON MATCH

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - Vancouver Whitecaps FC suffered a 4-1 defeat to Major League Soccer (MLS) club Chicago Fire in the second match of their two-week pre-season trip to Arizona on Monday.

A pair of first-half goals by Dutch striker Collins John set Chicago on their way to victory in their first match of the pre-season, despite Whitecaps midfielder Ricardo Sánchez scoring from the penalty spot just before the break for the USSF D-2 Pro League outfit. The Fire sealed the win at Arizona State University Soccer Stadium when second-half substitute Stefan Dimitrov scored twice shortly after halftime.

Following on from last Thursday's 3-2 friendly defeat to MLS club Seattle Sounders FC, Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson made three changes to his starting XI for Monday's match in Tempe, Arizona. Trialist Dan Pelc replaced Jay Nolly in the Vancouver goal, while Nelson Akwari came in for trialist Wesley Charles at centre back. New 'Caps signing Zourab Tsiskaridze replaced Randy Edwini-Bonsu to partner Marlon James in attack.

On a typically warm and sunny Arizona afternoon, it was the Fire that made the most of their 4-1-4-1 formation set out by new head coach Carlos de los Cobos, with Monday's friendly played over the course of two 40-minute halves.

Chicago needed little time to take the lead. From their first corner of the match on 17 minutes, John took advantage of a partially cleared Joao Baptista set-piece and powered home a right-footed shot for 1-0. The Fire doubled their advantage through another strike by John on 36 minutes. The trialist, who enjoyed a spell in the English Premier League with Fulham FC, struck a half-volleyed effort past Pelc to make it 2-0.

Two minutes after the second goal, however, the Whitecaps pulled one back after English defender Izzy Iriekpen brought down James in the Fire box for a penalty. Sánchez stepped up to convert his spot kick past Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra for a 2-1 Chicago lead at the break.

WHITECAPS ANNOUNCE PRE-SEASON HOME MATCH AGAINST SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced today that on Saturday, March 6, the men's team will host Major League Soccer (MLS) club Seattle Sounders FC at Swangard Stadium in