New Women’s Pro League Announces Name & More

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The new women’s pro league scheduled to begin play next year today announced a straightforward name – Women’s Professional Soccer, – a logo that’s based on Mia Hamm’s image and launched its Web site. From its (edited) press release:

WPS made its official debut today at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) annual convention, taking place through Saturday in Baltimore, Md.

A long and careful process led to the selection of Womens Professional Soccer and the subsequent WPS acronym, said Tonya Antonucci, WPS commissioner. The league and team owners reviewed countless variations of league names and logos and conducted numerous focus groups before ultimately deciding on a brand identity that we strongly believe will resonate with fans for years to come.

The WPS logo, developed by branding agency Adrenalin, Inc., features a deep navy, red, and gold color scheme while showcasing a familiar silhouette FIFA World Cup champion, Olympic Gold Medal winner and Hall of Fame player Mia Hamm, renowned as a pioneer for womens soccer.

I am extremely honored and humbled to personify the WPS brand, knowing full well that this league will be revered by generations of soccer fans around the world, said Hamm. Above all else, this league represents opportunity not just for female soccer players, but for women everywhere.”

The WPS is the successor to the defunct Women’s United Soccer Association.

Before anyone asks, no, I haven’t heard any details about the LA entry into the league that will play at Carson’s Home Depot Center including the team name, coach or GM. I have a call into owners Anschutz Entertainment Group and as soon as I hear anything I will let you know.

The Associated Press released this story today apparently written by someone who has English as a second language:

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The United States will play Poland in an exhibition March 26 in preparation for the European Championship.
The two teams last played in March 2006, with the Americans winning 1-0 on Clint Dempsey’s 48th-minute goal in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Who knew the U.S. was playing in Euro 2008? No confirmation from U.S. Soccer yet, but the opponent has been something of an open secret for some time. The story doesn’t say it, but the game will be played in Europe.

Finally, mark your calendars: Fox Soccer Channel airs a doubleheader March 29 on the opening day of the MLS season at 4:30 p.m. with a rematch of the MLS Cup final between the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution followed at 7:30 p.m. by the Galaxy at the Colorado Rapids.

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(Anti) MLS Draft Preview and Latest Guzan Gossip

First, let’s get the rumor out of the way: The New York Times soccer blog, Goal, is reporting that Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan is on his way to Fulham.

Considering how many Americans Fulham has on its squad, that’s a little like linking CD Guadalajara with every Mexican player that’s available.

Still, it’s clear Guzan is going overseas sooner rather than later and deservedly so. Bet he would prefer Arsenal to Fulham, though, given their relative positions in the EPL.

Now onto Friday’s underwhelming MLS Superdraft, although no-one actually calls it that largely because it’s not so super. It is in fact the least important draft held by any U.S. sports league. (As if to confirm that, ESPN2 will show the first hour only beginning at 11 a.m.).

For a start, relatively few people actually pay attention to college soccer. Unlike the pointy-ball version of football that saturates the airwaves in the fall, college soccer is relegated to obscure cable channels. So while NFL draft analysts can hyperventilate about the latest running back prospect from Weber State and the average follower of college football understands the excitement (or at least recognizes the name), did anyone get pumped about the Galaxy drafting goalkeeper Tally Hall last year out of San Diego State? Probably Hall’s mom.

And where is Hall these days anyway? Not with the Galaxy. For that matter how many of the Galaxy’s No. 1 draft picks over the years are still with the team? Zero. And only two of last year’s draft picks are still with the Galaxy, slow defender Ty Hardin and the hirstute Josh Tudela who got surprisingly few minutes last season given the extent of the Galaxy’s casualty ward.

The draft is likely to decline in importance in the coming years even further as the gap between MLS and the college game widens, as it should if MLS is to continue to improve.

This year’s draft is particularly weak as Michael Lewis pointed out earlier this week in the (New York) Daily News with New York Red Bulls Coach Juan Carlos Osorio pretty much writing off the process as a non-event, considering his team doesn’t have a pick until the second round of the fourth round draft:

“If I am honest with you without criticizing or hurting anybody, I don’t think there will be enough players to wait around for the second round,” Osorio said.

The new coach said he felt that there were five players at the MLS combine in Fort Lauderdale that were good enough to compete for a starting position and not more than 10 players who could make a team.

“I’m not just speaking on behalf of my own opinion but on behalf of the all the coaches as part of a general consensus,” he said. “This time around doesn’t have as many players as previous ones.”

Drafts it seems are all about stats. And soccer is not about stats as much as other American sports. There are more intangibles involved. It’s subtler, it’s about vision and reading a game.

It’s not about how fast you can run a 40-yard dash. Or whether being 6 foot-1 is tall enough for a goalkeeper.

Soccer is more than athleticism or physical attributes (or should be; soccer in the U.S. is still struggling with this concept). No one cared how fast Carlos Valderrama was or whether Kevin Keegan was tall enough. It’s about touch, anticipation and whether a player possessed a soccer brain.

So you can keep your player rankings, mock drafts and endless speculation. Especially since virtually every player picked will be trundled out to interviews afterwards and say a variation on “I’m really pleased to be picked by blank and will try my hardest to make the squad.” Even if they’re not.

Not particularly enlightening, but what do we expect?

Remain unconvinced of the draft’s dubious value?

Then check out the draft history here.

And follow along here.

Wake me when it’s over.

Still, at least the draft provides a modicum of publicity for U.S. soccer.

Check out the guest list for the two-hour show that begins at 8 tonight on Fox Soccer Channel (from the edited FSC press release):

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, NSCAA President Steve Malone, United Soccer Leagues President Francisco Marcos, Womens Soccer Initiative Chief Executive Officer Tonya Antonucci, Houston Dynamo Head Coach Dominic Kinnear, U.S. Youth Soccer Technical Director John Ellinger and Wake Forest University Head Mens Soccer Coach Jay Vidovich. Moderated by Fox Soccer Channels Max Bretos, the program will also feature network personalities Christopher Sullivan and Mark Rogondino and Fox Soccer Reports Bobby McMahon.

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A Hamilton Returns Home (Depot Center)

Stephen Hamilton, the younger brother of late Galaxy GM Doug Hamilton, has joined Chivas USA in the newly-created position of vice president of soccer operations, the club announced today.

Hamilton, 36, “will oversee all aspects of Chivas USAs technical staff and player development initiatives including player identification, acquisition and development from the clubs successful first team to its pioneering youth development teams and Chivas USA Soccer Academies,” according to the club’s press release.

Those responsibilities sound a lot like what most clubs would call a director of soccer.

Hamilton was plundered from the executive ranks of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Galaxy’s parent company, by Shawn Hunter, who left AEG in September to take a part-ownership in Chivas USA as its president and CEO. Hunter worked for AEG for five years as its chief marketing of officer and president of sports and worked alongside Hamilton.

From the Chivas USA press release:

In more than a decade of service to the sport of soccer in the United States, Stephen Hamilton has established himself as one of the bright young minds in the business, said Chivas USA President and CEO Shawn Hunter. I am pleased to welcome Stephen to the Chivas USA family, and am confident his passion and understanding of the sports landscape in this country will prove an important asset to our club.

Hamilton, 36, joins Chivas USA from AEG Sports, where since 2002 he served as the organizations director of team services, where he helped oversee the operation of as many as six Major League Soccer properties at one time. While at AEG, Hamilton played a key role in developing relationships with renowned international clubs such as Real Madrid, Chelsea FC and Club Amrica of Mexico and to promoting the teams exhibition matches in the United States. He also oversaw several non-MLS sports properties, such as the AEG-owned LA Riptide of Major League Lacrosse and the David Beckham Academy in Los Angeles.

Previously, Hamilton served as director of fan development with MLS, as national grassroots manager for soccer for adidas America and as director of business development for cc&c management group. inc., a sports management agency based in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

A native of Hazlet, N.J., Hamilton played collegiate soccer at Appalachian State University and later at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he graduated with a B.S. in Marketing.

Doug Hamilton died at age 44 in March 2006 as he flew back from a Galaxy game in Costa Rica.

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Wednesday Roundup: Trojan Rodriguez Scores Pair in U.S. Win

USC striker Amy Rodriguez scored twice in the 4-0 U.S. win overnight in China against Canada to stake her claim for a spot replacing the pregnant Kristine Lilly on the forward line alongside Abby Wambach. The story is here.

I coached Kristine Lilly with the Boston Breakers and Ive seen her play many times,” Coach Pia Sundhage said after her first game in charge of the team. “That is a great player, one of the best in the world, so I would love to see her on the field. But she is pregnant and I am happy that she will have a great family. That means that other players will have to step up and today we saw two goals from (Amy) Rodriguez and two goals from (Lindsay) Tarpley and thats how it will be in the future, new players stepping up to become leaders and goal scorers.

(Rodriguez’) speed is exceptional and the fact that she scored two good goals today is good confidence for her and for the team,” Sundhage added. “There will be different players stepping up at different times and I think that can be one of our strengths. Its not about one player, it will be about the whole team.”

The first half was a little bit quiet, there was not a lot going on,” Rodriguez said. “Abby and I were trying to look for the ball and we didnt get as much of the play as wed like to. In the second half, things turned around. We definitely played a lot more offense and Abby and I were able to get in, I was making runs in behind and luckily the midfielder and defenders were able to play me in.

Incidentally, the AP reporter in China was wrong that this was Rodriguez’ first appearance for the U.S.; this was her sixth cap, but first start.

Galaxy beat writer Billy Witz has more on Tuesday’s trade that sent striker Carlos Ruiz back to the Galaxy, observing that LA has tied up half their salary cap on just three players.

Sounds like a helluva gamble to me for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs the last two years, but U.S. international Jimmy Conrad was ready with the conspiracy theory:

“The league likes to make sure the large markets have as much an advantage over everybody else as they can,” Kansas City captain Jimmy Conrad said. “It’s an important year – I know the final is at the Home Depot Center this year and they want to make sure they have a good team. It’s interesting they all end up there – they’ve got three Designated Players on their team.”

Lastly, the Daily News explores the dilemma for top prep soccer players who must choose between playing for their high school or elite club team here.

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Ruiz Returns

Relive the bad attitude. The award-winning fake falls. And hopefully the goals.

The Galaxy, without a consistent scorer since Carlos Ruiz departed, today finally announced his “replacement.”

Ruiz is back.

The (edited) Galaxy press release:

The LA Galaxy today acquired forward Carlos Ruiz from FC Dallas in exchange for allocation money and a second round pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Ruiz, who began his MLS career with the Galaxy, helped lead the club to their first-ever MLS Cup title in 2002. He is the eighth leading scorer in MLS history with 81 career goals in 140 regular season games and has scored more than 100 goals in all competitions since arriving in MLS in February 2002.

We are very pleased to be bringing a proven goal scorer and veteran leader in Carlos Ruiz back to Los Angeles, said LA Galaxy Director of Soccer Paul Bravo. Carlos is an experienced forward who has averaged better than a goal every two games during his MLS career and we believe that he will be a tremendous asset to our attack.

Ruiz, who is commonly referred to by his nickname Pescado or Fish, has played six years in MLS, scoring 81 goals in 140 games while adding an MLS record 16 postseason goals in 17 games. The 28-year old striker burst onto the American sporting scene in 2002 when he scored a league-best 24 goals in 26 games on the way to being named the Honda MLS MVP. Ruiz would go on to lead the Galaxy in scoring each of the next two seasons, scoring 15 goals, tied for the most in MLS, in 2003 and tallying 11 times in 2004.

Ruiz spent the last three seasons with FC Dallas after being traded from LA prior to the start of the 2005 campaign. He scored 31 goals in 68 games with FCD, serving as the clubs captain in 2007, while adding another five goals in six post-season matches.

It means a lot to play for the Galaxy again because I feel like I am going back home and I am very excited about that, Ruiz said. I have a big responsibility now because the Galaxys goal is to win every game, so I want to play hard and score as many goals as possible and win the MLS Cup again.

A native of Guatemala City, Guatemala, Ruiz is a member of the Guatemalan National Team with who he has appeared 72 times. Often serving as the captain of his national team, Ruiz has scored 35 goals for Guatemala, leaving him tied with Juan Carlos Plata for the most goals ever for the Chapins.

Predictably, reaction is mixed to say the least. (Warning strong language and opinion in link).

Does this mean the Galaxy at least gets rid of striker Carlos Pavon now?

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Tuesday’s Column: Bob Bradley Goes Deep

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Well, you probably didn’t want to see the U.S. Men’s National Team coach go that deep.

But that’s a good segue into the subject of this week’s column, which looks at the unique nature of January camps when the U.S. looks at untested and unknown players. Read it here.

Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper in England has an update on U.S. striker Eddie Johnson and his pending move to
Fulham.

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Hall of Fame Ballots Out; Preki (& Cien) Eligible

Voters who will select this year’s National Soccer Hall of Fame inductees received ballots today with the names of 35 eligible former players including Chivas USA Coach Preki among 13 new names and Joy Fawcett the most notable of 22 holdovers.

From the (edited) hall press release:

The top holdovers include U.S. National Team stalwarts Thomas Dooley (5th named on 51.8% of the ballots cast), Joy Fawcett (3rd on 67.4%), and Joe-Max Moore (6th on 48.2%). Among the newcomers are U.S. Mens National Team stars Jeff Agoos, Preki, and Earnie Stewart. Top MLS players on the ballot include holdovers Marco Etcheverry (4th on 58.2%) of DC United, Peter Nowak (9th on 29.1%) of the Chicago Fire, and Carlos Valdarrama (7th on 46.8%) who finished his illustrious MLS career with the Colorado Rapids.

Players who receive votes on 75% of the ballots cast will be elected to the Hall of Fame. Induction 2008 is planned for the weekend of August 22 in Oneonta, N.Y.

Eligible players: Jeff Agoos, Brian Bliss, Mike Burns, Mark Chung, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Troy Dayak, Raul Diaz Arce, Thomas Dooley, John Doyle, Marco Etcheverry, Joy Fawcett, Danielle Fotopoulos, Robin Fraser, Brian Kamler, Dominic Kinnear, Frank Klopas, Manny Lagos, Roy Lassiter, Shannon MacMillan, Pato Margetic, Joe-Max Moore, Victor Nogueira, Peter Nowak, Oscar Pareja, Cindy Parlow, Preki, Mike Sorber, Earnie Stewart, Steve Trittschuh, Carlos Valderrama, Tisha Venturini-Hoch, Peter Vermes, Roy Wegerle, Evan Whitfield, Richie Williams.

Hall of Fame members should have had a lasting and influential effect on the game in the U.S. to win admission.

My nominees:
Mauricio Cienfuegos – Creative midfield architect of a formative Galaxy whose legacy may still overshadow the team today.
Marco Etcheverry – Three-time MLS Cup winner with D.C. United and MLS MVP who helped create the D.C. dynasty.
Joy Fawcett – Whose unjust omission when Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy were inducted prompted a rule change in the induction procedures, if I recall correctly.
Shannon MacMillan - World Cup, Olympic winner over 176 internationals.
Peter Nowak – Without whose tenacity and intelligence marshaling the midfield the Chicago Fire would not have won an MLS title.
Preki – MVP in MLS, MISL and CISL, who possessed an opponent-freezing cut-back and venomous shot and was instrumental in the Wizards 2000 MLS Cup-winning season.
Carlos Valderrama – The most amazing passer of the ball MLS has ever seen.

Disagree? Read biographies and cast a ballot in the (unofficial popular) vote here.

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