Any soccer freaks out there?

I got this e-mail a few weeks ago:

Ftbol de Primera is pleased to inform you that you have been chosen as part of an elite group of sports journalists to vote for the best player on the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team in 2008.

In 2007, 203 journalists voted Landon Donovan as the winner of the Honda Player of the Year Award for a record fourth time, awarding him with 413 points. Tim Howard was the runner-up with 122 points and Carlos Bocanegra finished third with 105 points.

Created in 1991 by Ftbol de Primera, the Honda Player of the Year Award is now in its 18th year. Voters include print, radio, television and internet journalists from across the nation.

Not bad for a kid who grew up in da hood.

Some background … I covered high school boys soccer at The Orange County Register for four years.

Eight months later, I started covering Chivas USA and Major League Soccer and went on to also cover numerous soccer tournaments including SuperLiga, the Gold Cup, World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies as the soccer beat reporter.

I was never a soccer fan growing up. But when I started covering high school boys soccer I truly fell in love with the sport and the passion. I really got into soccer because I was promoted to cover pro soccer and I really wanted to kick butt by breaking stories, which I did many times. Covering high school and pro soccer was my beat for a long time before I was promoted to cover the Lakers and Angels.

Come high school soccer season I’ll be out on the pitch covering boys and girls soccer, a first for me. St. Francis boys soccer without a doubt is the soccer powerhouse in the San Gabriel Valley along with Damien in La Verne and La Habra, too. But those schools are Tribune and Whittier schools so who cares about them until the playoffs. La Habra plays in Division II so they won’t meet the Golden Knights or the Spartans. The Highlanders, however, are the two-time defending champs in Division II

As some of you know, the U.S. Soccer Federation started an academy which I personally think will fail in a few years after players realize they get more exposure playing for their high school teams. I predicted this when the academy was first announced. More on that when the season gets underway.

I’ve been voting and attending the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year awards banquet and U.S. Soccer symposium the last four years. This year I voted Landon Donovan first, Tim Howard second and Clint Dempsey third, respectively. Dempsey and Donovan both were cool guys to cover. Never met Howard but he seems like a good guy.

Well, enough futbol. Back to football.

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