USC College Cup Soccer Sunday and More

At 11 a.m. today the Trojans will attempt to put a cherry atop their very unlikely season when they meet Florida State in the NCAA Tournament final on ESPN2.

Both teams see themselves as underdogs. FSU has a bunch of foreign imports. USC Coach Ali Khosroshahin is only the second-ever coach to take a team to the tournament final in his first season.

Plenty of story lines. Let’s hope there’s plenty of action. A preview is here.

New U.S. Women’s National Team Coach Pia Sundhage was in Texas for the tournament and gave this update ahead of her first camp with the team in Carson. I’ll head out to Home Depot Center Monday to meet Pia and will have more Tuesday in my weekly column in the Daily News and Daily Breeze.

USC isn’t the only local college still playing soccer; so are the Cerritos College women, who play at 10 a.m. in the COA Women’s Soccer Championship title game.

Finally, here are the highlights of Saturday’s prep games.

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Soccer Saturday: USC Beats Bruins

The Trojans beat the Bruins 2-1 in a come-from-behind victory Friday in Texas and will meet Florida State at 11:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2 for the national championship.

“We get measured on national championships at USC,” said first-year Coach Ali Khosroshahin. “Until we do that this means nothing.”

Which is exactly what he said after the Florida game at the Coliseum a couple of weeks back. Wonder if the ex-Cal State Fullerton coach is going to need a new sound bite after Sunday?

Almost as important though: USC snapped an 11-game winless streak against the Bruins again using its smothering defense against the much-vaunted, high-powered UCLA offense.

Here’s the game story.

More details are here.

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USC-UCLA Gameday Friday (& More)

Semifinal Shootout in Texas

For the Bruins and Trojans women’s soccer programs, the season has boiled down to this.

I linked to the Daily Bruin and Daily Trojan previews of today’s semifinal between the two schools Thursday; here’s the Daily News’ version.

There’s more info here.

Sophomore USC starting goalkeeper Kristin Olsen of Orange has recorded 11 solo shutouts and three shared this season, equaling last year’s program record program of 14 for the Trojans.

Here’s a Q & A with Olsen.

For those of you playing hooky from work on a gray and rainy Friday in LA, the USC-UCLA semi begins at 4 p.m. on ESPNU (and will be replayed at 9 a.m. Saturday on ESPN2); the Notre Dame-Florida State semi precedes it at 2 p.m., also on ESPNU.

The weather is better in Texas.

Youth is Served II

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team won their first game Thursday under new head coach Wilmer Cabrera, winning 2-0 against Russia at the Development Academy Nike Friendlies in Bradenton, Fla.

Midfielder Carlos Martinez of Las Vegas and Stefan Jerome scored for the U.S.

The U.S. next faces Brazil at 11:30 a.m. Saturday live on Fox Soccer Channel.

Back in the South Bay, Red Bull starlet Jozy Altidore blogs for the New York Times about the U-23 USMNT Training Camp in Carson.

South Bay prep scores are here.

Solo Speaks

Finally, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, blackballed by her teammates after her World Cup comments, has spoken publicly for the first time since then ahead of next week’s Women’s National Team training camp in Carson.

I plan to head out to training camp Monday, so look for more on the team’s first training camp under new Coach Pia Sundhage then.

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Thursday Galaxy and Chivas USA Rumor Mill & More

HDC Roster Moves

Judging by their most recent roster Chivas USA has begun pruning its fringe players, including those named in the recent waiver draft such as Red & White original Orlando Perez and Honduran Ramon Nunez. MLS veteran and former U.S. international defender Carlos Llamosa, who spent most of this year injured, has retired, as expected.

Contrary to a report Wednesday, however, highly rated Mexican midfielder Panchito Mendoza remains on the roster and has not returned to motherclub CD Guadalajara, Chivas USA spokesman Keegan Pierce said. Mendoza’s status remains up in the air.

Over at the Galaxy, 19-year-old Egyptian winger Ahmed Mamdouh will apparently go on trial with the team.

In addition, globe trotting veteran defender Abel Xavier, who missed the Galaxy’s tour of Australia and New Zealand through injury, officially remains with the team – at least for now – contrary to recent rumors.

“He’s in Portugal with an injured knee,” said club spokesman Patrick Donnelly. “Hes still with us. Obviously there are plenty of decisions our new head coach has to make. He hasnt seen him play in person.”

Neither, for the most part, have Galaxy fans. So far Xavier has been a high-priced disappointment and appears to be showing his age in the center of defense.

Meanwhile, contrary to one English tabloid report David Beckham did not sustain a broken rib he supposedly played with against the Wellington Phoenix, although he did have a precautionary scan, the Galaxy confirmed.

The Galaxy announced Wednesday, by the way, that the two games against Sydney and Wellington will belatedly air on Fox Soccer Channel at 8 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. Dec. 19 respectively. FSC couldn’t have got its act together sooner to show these games live?

Speaking of Beckham, he shows up at 10 tonight on Barbara Wa-Wa’s “The 10 Most Fascinating (shouldn’t that be over-exposed?) People of 2007” on ABC.

And ambassador Becks stands ready to help England land the 2018 World Cup.

Bruins-Trojans showdown

The women’s NCAA Tournament semifinal between USC and UCLA will air live at 4 p.m. Friday on ESPNU.

Here are previews from the Daily Bruin and Daily Trojan.

Youth is Served

U.S. Soccer has posted a photo gallery of the U.S. Men’s U-23 National Team camp under way at the HDC.

Fox Soccer Channel will air three games in four days the U.S. Under-17 Men’s (shouldn’t that be boys?) National Team is playing at the 2007 Development Academy Nike Friendlies.

First up live at noon today is the game against Russia; the game against Brazil airs at 11:30 a.m. Saturday; and the U.S. finishes at 5 p.m. Sunday against Turkey in a game shown on same day delay.

Finally, the local prep season is gearing up.

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Galaxy & Chivas USA Announce Home Openers

The Galaxy will face ex-Coach Frank Yallop and expansion team the San Jose Earthquakes in their Thursday, April 3 home opener, the team announced today.

Also, Chivas USA said today they will open their 15-game home season (there are 30 regular season games in total next year) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5 against Real Salt Lake.

As noted Tuesday, both Home Depot Center-based teams open their MLS schedules the weekend before on the road, the Galaxy facing the Colorado Rapids at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29 and Chivas USA playing at noon Sunday, March 30 in Dallas.

Unusually, there are two Thursday night games April 3, but reliable sources tell me it is the David Beckham-led Galaxy that wll see their game nationally televised on ESPN2. The full broadcast schedule is not yet finalized.

As the Galaxy press release observes, the Galaxy game against the Earthquakes marks the resurrection of a fierce intrastate rivalry that ended two years ago when the previous incarnation of the ‘Quakes moved to Houston and became the Dynamo.

From the (edited) Galaxy press release:

In their past 12 season openers, LA has a record of 6-4-2 including a 0-0 draw with the MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium last season. Despite a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas last season, the Galaxy are even better in their first 12 home openers, compiling an 8-4-0 record, including a 1-1-0 mark against San Jose.

Fans looking to attend the Galaxys home opener on April 3 against San Jose can purchase the LA Galaxy Holiday pack which, for as little as $88, gets you four tickets to the game, two Galaxy scarves, two tickets to an LA Riptide game and a holiday card courtesy of the Galaxy.

Chivas USA beat Real Salt Lake all three times the teams met last season by a combined score of 8-2.

The Chivas USA press release has yet to hit my e-mail inbox, but I’m sure the team will have ticket deals, too.

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Extra Time Tuesday: MLS Openers & More

MLS 2008 is Here

MLS teams (erratically) began to release their 2008 home openers and other league games today for the season that begins March 29, a week earlier than last season.

Confirmed opening matches:
March 29
Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado Rapids
Chicago Fire at Real Salt Lake
D.C. United at Kansas City Wizards
Houston Dynamo at New England Revolution
Toronto FC at Columbus Crew
The Red Bulls are reportedly visiting the expansion San Jose Earthquakes (the game may still being finalized).

March 30
Chivas USA at FC Dallas

April 3
New England Revolution at Chicago Fire

April 5
Toronto at D.C. United
The Columbus Crew are reportedly at New York Red Bulls

April 6
FC Dallas at Houston

April 19
Real Salt Lake at Toronto

The Galaxy will officially unveil its home opener Wednesday. The full MLS schedule will be released early next year.

Pia in Carson

From the (edited) U.S. Soccer press release:

The U.S. Womens National Team will hold its first training camp under new head coach Pia Sundhage beginning Saturday at Home Depot Center in Carson.

Sundhage will bring in 24 players for the four-day mini-camp designed to give her a quick look at the core of the U.S. team, plus a handful of young players just coming off the college season, before the squad regroups in early January to prepare for the Four Nations Tournament in China.

The camp is basically the beginning of the run to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, with the USA preparing for the CONCACAF Womens Olympic Final Round qualifying tournament, being held April 2-13 in Chihuahua, Mexico. Two countries from the six-team tournament will advance to China.

Its a short camp, but it will be valuable time spent together as a team and a unique moment for me to have a chance to work with the best players in the United States for the first time, said Sundhage. It will give us the chance to get to know them as players a little bit more, theyll get the chance to learn my style and Ill also get the chance to get to know them off the field. It will be a good start to something new.

The roster:
GOALKEEPERS: Nicole Barnhart (Gilbertsville, Pa.), Briana Scurry (Dayton, Minn.), Hope Solo (Richland, Wash.);
DEFENDERS: Rachel Buehler (Del Mar, Calif.), Marian Dalmy (Lakewood, Colo.), Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Heather Mitts (Cincinnati, Ohio), Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J.), Cat Whitehill (Birmingham, Ala.);
MIDFIELDERS: Yael Averbuch (Upper Montclair, N.J.), Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo.), Tobin Heath (Basking Ridge, N.J.), Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.), Leslie Osborne (Brookfield, Wis.), Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif.), Nikki Washington (Mesquite, Texas), Angie Woznuk (El Cajon, Calif.);
FORWARDS: Michelle Enyeart (Hemet, Calif.), Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawaii), Casey Nogueira (Raleigh, N.C.), Heather OReilly (East Brunswick, N.J.), Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich.), Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y.).

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Olympic Team Training Camp Opens in Carson

Late blogging today because I headed out to the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team week-long camp at Home Depot Center in Carson today, the first under Coach Peter Nowak.

I’ll have more on the camp in Tuesday’s column in the Daily News and Daily Breeze, but here’s a pictorial taste of Day 2 courtesy of Daily Breeze photographer Brad Graverson.

At top left is Nowak, top left and middle right is Columbus Crew midfielder Robbie Rodgers, who despite what the U.S. press officers say grew up in Rolling Hills Estates in the South Bay; middle right is Red Bull New York (for now) striker Jozy Altidore; bottom left is defender Mike Randolph, virtually the only member of the Galaxy’s back four who covered himself with a measure of distinction last season; and bottom right is a winded Altidore.






Incidentally, the Crew’s Eddie Gaven Eddie Gavin was a late scratch from camp for personal reasons (good ones, I was told without anyone being specific) and replaced by Aaron Hohlbein of the Kansas City Wizards.

Rogers, who came on strong during the latter part of the Crew’s season sounded like he enjoyed playing with Argentine star Guillermo Barros Schelotto and hopes he will return to Columbus next year.

“Every time I played with him it was so much easier,” Rogers said. “It made me a better player, playing with him.”

Fontana’s Maurice Edu who said he set – and achieved – his goal of becoming the MLS Rookie of the Year is reveling in living and playing in the multicultural, European-like atmosphere of Toronto.

“I like it a lot,” he said. “(The fans) are really passionate about the game. They live and die for it.”

Striker Sal Zizzo said the same about Germany, where he believes he’s getting closer to making the 18-man first team squad in Hannover. His last name is pronounced Ze-Zo, by the way, not Ziz-Zo.

The last time I saw him in person, Zizzo was the best player on the field for UCLA in a preseason game against Loyola Marymount a little over a year ago.

Now he’s turned pro, got picked up by a Bundesliga team and made his debut for the U.S. National Team.

“It’s been a wild trip since then,” he said. “It’s great. (I’m playing) the best soccer I’ve ever played.”

Now if he can just pick up the language (Zizzo has had two dozen German lessons).

Peter Nowak, who has a reputation for being brusque with the press, was friendly and accommodating, by the way.

I asked about the differences between coaching in MLS and at the national team level and Nowak observed that unlike in the frenetic pace of club soccer, you don’t necessarily have 10 months to work with a team on a daily basis to put things right. There’s less margin for error and the job is consequently more challenging despite the apparent slower pace, he said

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Sunday Soccer: Euro 2008 & More

The Euro 2008 draw was held this morning, with Holland, France and Italy drawn in the toughest group along with Romania.

Croatia was drawn in Group B and opens with hosts Austria on June 8, meets Germany on June 12 and concludes with Poland on June 16.

The tournament opens with a June 7 game between Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

All 31 games are live in the U.S.on ESPN. Here’s the complete schedule.

Chivas USA plays its final game of the year at 4 p.m. today in Santa Ana in what is a benefit game for the victims of the devastating recent flooding in Mexico.

Among the many Mexican futbol stars scheduled to participate are the likes of former Galaxy strikers Carlos Hermosillo and Luis Hernandez.

Tickets start at $15.

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