Thursday College Soccer Update: UCLA, Long Beach State & More

*UCLA playmaker Kyle Nakazawa of Palos Verdes Estates was named a Soccer America magazine first team pre-season All-American

Recently named to the Hermann Trophy watch list, last year’s team MVP has started every game of his collegiate career (45 starts) while notching seven goals and 15 assists. Last year he led UCLA in assists with seven.

The Bruins open their season with a 7 p.m. game Friday at Home Depot Center against Maryland live on Fox Soccer Channel. Parking is free for the game.

*Long Beach State downed Hawaii 4-3 in overtime Wednesday and moved to 2-0 in the young season.

South Bay JC college scores are here.

*At 4:30 p.m. today the Cal State Dominguez Hills women play at 4:30 p.m. against Grand Canyon followed by the men from both schools at 7 p.m. in the Track & Field Stadium at Home Depot Center.

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“Cuddly” Carlos Ruiz Arrives in Toronto

Carlos Ruiz, AWOL after his trade from the Galaxy to Toronto FC, (get used to it Canucks) has finally arrived in the Great White North.

This storymarks the first time I’ve ever heard a coach of Ruiz talk about cuddling him (!), but then if you were down to one healthy striker who is all of 16-years-old you’d probably have the same reaction.

More interesting to me is that we can add Ruiz to the list of Galaxy players who had major problems with the now departed Ruud Gullit.

Of course, considering his temperament that’s not exactly a surprise.

But the more we learn about the Gullit era at the Galaxy, the more it sounds like a case of good riddance Ruud.

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College Previews: Harbor College, El Camino College & Long Beach State

El Camino College players (from left) Stephanie Han, Ashley Martin, Jamie Tribble and Ashley Taylor stand ready for the season.

Photos by Robert Casillas

With the college soccer season looming, previews are coming thick and fast.

Here’s a look at the upcoming season for the El Camino College women and their male counterparts as well as the Harbor College women’s soccer program and the men’s soccer program.

Read the season previews here.

The Long Beach State women are spending the week in Hawaii.

Former North Torrance star Ashley Martin, formerly with Cal State San Marcos, has joined the El Camino College program.

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Tuesday Night Football: Chivas USA Lose in CONCACAF Champions League & More

Well, that was awful.

Chivas USA looked like a team that had studied their CONCACAF Champions League opponents Tauro FC of Panama on the airplane ride down (ahem) going down 2-0 tonight in their preliminary stage two-game series.

Chivas USA did everything wrong.

They gave away a soft early goal, applied pressure, but failed to capitalize, and then swooned on the second (where exactly was Panchito Mendoza?).

Good thing no one cares about the tournament because at this rate Chivas USA won’t make the first round proper. Will even free parking attract fans for Tuesday’s return leg? Chivas USA need to win by three clear goals (3-0, 4-1, etc.) to reach the next round.

The Chivas USA lineup: Zach Thornton, Jonathan Bornstein, Claudio Surez (Jim Curtin, 45′), Shavar Thomas, Francisco Mendoza, Kraig Chiles (Lawson Vaugh, 62′), Paulo Nagamura, Daniel Paladini (Alecko Eskandarian, 45′), Jorge Flores, Sacha Kljestan, Atiba Harris.

Game story.

New England also lost, BTW, 2-1 to Trinidad & Tobago team Joe Public.

For those who can’t get enough Fox Soccer Channel has Montreal Impact-Real Esteli (Nicaragua) at 5 p.m. Wednesday followed by Costa Rica’s Alajuelense against the Puerto Rico Islanders of the USL.

In college soccer action Tuesday, the No. 3-ranked UCLA women beat UC Santa Barbara 2-1 in their season opener.

Olympic stars Lauren Cheney and Kara Lang sat out the match.

Over at USC, Olympian Amy Rodriguez, fellow senior Ashley Nick and junior Kristin Olsen have been added to the Hermann Trophy Watch List for 2008. The trophy is awarded to the nation’s top female college player annually.

USC beat San Diego 1-0 over the weekend in their season opener with a goal four minutes into stoppage time.

Finally, Fontana’s Maurice Edu could make his Glasgow Rangers debut – Sunday in the Old Firm derby against Celtic. Yikes!

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Tuesday’s Column & Chivas USA Gameday

Chivas USA kicks off its CONCACAF Champions League campaign tonight in Panama against Tauro F.C.

Kickoff is at 5 p.m. live on Galavision or delayed at 7 p.m. on Fox Soccer Channel after the Champions League New England Revolution-Joe Public (Trinidad & Tobago) game at 5 p.m.

Here’s what the winners of the preliminary stage are striving for.

*The match is Chivas USA’s first-ever official game outside the U.S.

“Hopefully we’ll have a little bit more luck in this tournament because we’ve had no luck in this league” – Preki on his team’s chances after this weekend’s MLS game.

Will anyone notice?

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The Week Ahead: CONCACAF Champions League, College Season Opens & More

Too much soccer? Find it difficult to keep track? Me too.

Here’s a cheat sheet:
Tuesday – The preliminary rounds of the CONCACAF Champions League, including Chivas USA playing in Panama, get under way in earnest. I’ll have more in the morning both in my column and here. Four hours of live TV beckon for the hard-core.

Thursday – Cal State Dominguez Hills opens its season with a doubleheader, the women playing Grand Canyon at 4:30 p.m. and the men following at 7 p.m. at the Track & Field Stadium at Home Depot Center.

Friday – The women’s college season got under way last weekend and now the men crank up again as well highlighted by a nationally televised (Fox Soccer Channel) No. 14 UCLA verses No. 8 Maryland encounter from Home Depot Center. (General admission tickets are $10 adults, $5 youth, while parking is free, BTW).

Palos Verdes Estates resident and Bruin playmaker Kyle Nakazawa has agreed to blog for 100 Percent Soccer again this year so hopefully we can coax a column out of him before the game. I plan to blog from the game.

Saturday – New Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena takes a second stab at moving the Galaxy toward the playoffs in a 4:30 p.m. game (live on Prime) in New England. Meanwhile, Toronto visits Chivas USA at 7:30 p.m. in Carson. I’ll blog.

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A Few Words With New Galaxy Signing Eddie Lewis

Headed out to Galaxy training today largely to see how new signing and former UCLA Bruin Eddie Lewis was doing after that ghastly looking head injury in Guatemala last week.

Turns out the 34-year-old Cerritos native was just fine – albeit with a chunk still noticeably missing from his head – and went through the entire 80-minute practice with no restrictions and no problems.

Highlights of the interview are below, but a couple of notes from training before I forget:

*Bruce Arena had pretty much his entire squad out on the field today including a presumably jet-lagged David Beckham fresh from his stint “driving” a double-decker bus in China at the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. As Becks ambled past after training he observed he had flown back into LAX at 8 a.m. today and then pretty much drove straight out to training at 10 a.m. in Carson. Brutal.

*Arena knows he has little margin for error if the Galaxy are to make the playoffs (they are just two points out of third and final guaranteed playoff spot in the Western Conference he reminded his troops today): “Everybody’s brain has to be in the game every play,” he said at the end of training.

*Two members of the Under-20 Gambian National Team – 17-year old defender Amadou Sanyang and 16-year old forward Ebrima Bojang – entered their third week of training with the Galaxy today. Under FIFA rules neither is permitted to sign with the Galaxy until they hit 18 years of age so this is really just an opportunity for Arena to take a longer term view of the pair, as well as see how they adjust to living away from home in a foreign country.

Now, here’s what Eddie had to say:

Q: First off, how’s your head?
A: Not too bad. To be honest my ribs are probably a more tender than my head. It was an open cut, but it’s a tough part of your head. It was a split and a few stitches, but I’ll be fine.

Q: Did you see video of the incident?
A: I actually did for the first time this morning. I hadn’t seen it and my sister had it and she showed it to me. I was a little bit hesitant to watch. I probably don’t need to see it again – that’s enough for me. It was a good hit.

In a lot of ways it represented what the qualifiers are all about. If everything that was going on off the ball could be documented you’d think it was more of a wrestling match than a soccer game. It’s how it goes, but certainly there were a lot of Guatemalans upset about Ruiz going in and me coming the other way so there was a lot going on that night. It was a tough hit and probably there was a little bit more going on behind it than just going for the ball.

Q: By the way, is that a slight bit of a Yorkshire accent I detect?
A: My accent is so mangled I can’t tell you. I’ve been from London to Manchester to Yorkshire. Half the time people think I’m South African. I don’t even know. I’m sure after a few weeks back home here I’ll get the California slang back.

Q: Did playing in England (for four different teams) meet your expectations?
A: For me the whole point of going over there was that the sky’s the limit. If you were the best of the best you’d be at the top of the top. If you were not good enough, you’d be sent home right away. I loved it, the whole eight years I was there. There were some great moments, I played in some great games against a lot of good teams. For me it was the memory of a lifetime. As a professional soccer player that’s about as good as anywhere to play.

Q: What was your best on-field memory?
A: It’s hard to say. I thought about that a few times. Certainly, the Premier League and playing at the big clubs is always exciting. Believe it or not probably both (Championship) playoff finals (at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium) probably had an atmosphere I’d never been a part of my entire life. They were better than the World Cups. Two teams split down the middle, 40,000 (fans supporting) on each side – it was an amazing, amazing atmosphere. And my last game in England was against England at Wembley. That’s a memory I’ll always have. … I loved Leeds (United) as a club – I thought that was just an amazing time. Great people.

Q: What prompted the move back to Southern California?
A: I had one more year (on my contract) at Derby and I planned to see that out before making my way back. But they bought 13 players in the off-season and basically had a wage bill they said was out of control. They thought it would be easier to shift some of the players, so they sort of started from the top down. They started with Robbie Savage and started coming at everyone offering them deals to come home or to go saying ‘we’ve got to get rid of this wage bill. It was just too much. We’ve got to cut down some of the earners.’

At that point I talked to (MLS), didn’t really think much of it, but all of a sudden it just fell into place. Derby gave me a great opportunity to come back a year early. I wasn’t going to miss that.

Q: I suppose of all the places in MLS this was the place you wanted to be?
A: Exactly – it was probably the only place. This is an amazing opportunity.

Q: After enduring the year Derby had (unsuccessfully struggling against relegation from the EPL), you come here and the Galaxy are struggling.
A: I should be quite comfortable (laughs). This league is entirely different. Someone said today we’re two or three points off second place (actually third, but close enough). It’s so tight that (if you go on) a small run you’re right in the middle of the playoffs.

The last few games they’ve been having a bit of trouble getting results, but it won’t take long before Bruce’s influence on the whole team improves.

Q: Glad to hook up with Bruce again?
A: Yeah, he’s a fantastic manager, his record speaks for itself. I’m just hoping to fill whatever role he wants to make the team a bit better.

Q: Would you rather play left back or left midfield?
A: We haven’t had a chat. He said we’d sit down at some point during the week, but he probably knows the team a bit better than me at this point. I think really we’ll just see what works best for everybody. For me it’s about trying to help the team get back on track. I’m certainly far along in my career that I just want to do what’s best for the team and enjoy the soccer. Wherever Bruce sees me (doing that), I’m happy to do it.”

Q: How much longer do you want to play in MLS?
A: I’d like to play the rest of this (season) and a couple more. It’s similar to the U.S. team – I’ve never really put any time lines on anything. … As soon as someone tells me I’m not good enough any more or they’re not happy with me, that will be the end. But at this moment I feel good and I’m having fun and playing well so that’s really it.

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San Jose Earthquakes-Chivas USA Post-Game

Not the most stirring of games.

But both teams got a valuable point.

And Chivas USA pulled into a tie with the Galaxy in the standings with an identical 6-9-6 record.

Preki wasn’t happy:

“I’m disappointed we didn’t get three points. I thought we were the better team on the night.”

It was good to see Chivas USA striker Alecko Eskandarian back on the field. He played the last 31 minutes – which doubled his playing time over two other games this season:

“It definitely felt good just to be on the field with the guys,” he said when asked about his health. “I’m getting there. The other two games I played I played without a groin (muscle). It was completely torn off. We just didn’t know it. It just didn’t show up on the MRI until I got into the surgery and found out it was completely torn off at the bone. It was a miracle I even played those games, let alone scored a goal. So now, everything got fixed, hopefully. I’ve just got to start from step one, strengthening and work on my fitness.

On coming on as sub:

“As a striker any time you come into a 0-0 game you know there are chances there that are waiting for you. I just wanted to help make an impact. We definitely had chances to score and put the game away. In the end it was a little disappointing, but at the same time it was good to be a part of it and create some chances.”

On his injury ordeal:

“These last five months with this mystery injury, not knowing what it is and then surgery and then no surgery. I could probably write a book about the frustration I’ve had and gone through, but I don’t want any sympathy and I ‘m not going to sit here and cry about it. I’m just going to put it behind me. I’m going to focus on right now. The team has nine or 10 games left and we have to get results.”

I spoke with the Earthquakes’ Darren Huckerby, the star player at former team Norwich City. I wore my yellow and green City jersey for the occasion (full disclosure – I grew up in Norwich and remain a huge fan) eliciting a “what the bloody hell are you wearing?” comment from Hucks (I like to wear it when Frank Yallop comes to town; he was a long-serving Ipswich Town defender, the team considered Norwich’s biggest rivals. And Frank did a double take and rolled his eyes.).

Huckerby probably had the quietest of his five MLS games so far, with Chivas USA doing well to cut off service to him:

“As a team we didn’t play well, we didn’t pass the ball well today. As a winger you kind of rely on everybody else getting you the ball so …. we’ll take a point and move on.”

(Incidentally, the Earthquakes didn’t get their first shot on target until the 63rd minute; Hucks took it).

On any comparison between MLS and the Championship, the division Norwich play in:

“It’s a different standard of play to be honest. They’ve got me good players here. It’s probably not as physical here. It’s a lot more rough and tumble over there.”

On how teams deal with him over here compared to England:

“I got double-teamed a lot in England. Not many teams played me one on one. Its been a little bit different here they kind of play me one on one.

He finished the game with two shots, one on goal, four corner kicks and one offside call.

Here’s Yallop on Huckerby:

“He’s dynamic. Tonight for some reason we couldn’t really get him the ball in the right areas. Chivas did a good job of shutting him down. They did a nice job of sort of denying him the ball. But when he did get it, it was exciting for us and everything good came of that when we did get him the ball in space. But we didn’t play well, we didn’t really get him the ball. But having said that when he did get it I thought he was dynamic and had a chance to win the game at the end. He’s a player who’s exciting to watch, but he’s good to have on your team because he stretches teams.

He’s very direct, that’s one of the reasons I’ve really liked him. I’ve seen him for years. He gets it and goes straight at the defender and tries to get in a cross or a shot. He’s not looking to keep the ball, he’s looking to go at people and he wants to make the difference in games and I love that.”

*Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton got his first shutout in his fifth appearance for the club.
*Jonathan Bornstein played on the right side of defense for the first time since last season.
*Chivas USA departs LAX at 8 a.m. Sunday for Panama City, where they play the first match of their home and away CONCACAF Champions League qualifying series against Panamanian club Tauro F.C. at 5 p.m. Tuesday live on Galavision.

Game story.

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Final Result: San Jose Earthquakes at Chivas USA

This was a yawner of a scoreless game punctuated by a few – I stress few – scoring opportunities, mainly for Chivas USA who had the better of the play for much of the game.

Still, the Earthquakes probably had the best chance of the game, Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton saving with one hand a Ronnie O’Brien shot in the 86th minute from the top of the box that appeared destined for the back of the net.

Chivas USA’s best move came in the 76th minute, when a build-up that began deep in their own half produced two scoring opportunities one after another.

Goalkeeper Joe Cannon parried an initial Atiba Harris shot, while a Alecko Eskandarian follow-up shot went wide of the far post. Incidentally, it was only the third appearance of the season for Eskandarian, who nonetheless brought an attacking verve to the game when he came on as a substitute.

Chivas USA actually had the ball in the net in the 73rd minute, but the effort by Esky was ruled offside.

San Jose finally began to threaten at game’s end, but it was too little, too late.

An unfortunate 12,209 sat through this one.

There’s not many talking points in the game, so I don’t expect to write much in the way of post-game notes.

Besides, I’ll be collecting material for a CONCACAF Champions League preview for Tuesday’s column.

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