U.S.-Sweden at Home Depot Center

There are two debutants on the starting U.S. XI tonight – Rolling Hills Estates’ Robbie Rogers and goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

Also starting: two Chivas USA players, a former Galaxy defender and a second player from the Palos Verdes Peninsula. (Bonus points if you know who is who). The most capped player on the starting lineup: Brian Ching (who is also the top scorer with nine).

The full starting lineup: Perkins, Danny Califf (capt.), Michael Parkhurst, Jonathan Bornstein, Charlie Davies, Brian Ching, Marvell Wynne, Ricardo Clark, Sacha Kljestan, John Thorrington, Rogers.

The game is on Fox Soccer Channel.

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A Few Words With New Galaxy Signing Dema Kovalenko

Truth be told, I’ve always remembered midfielder Dema Kovalenko more for his temper and two crunching tackles that broke the legs of Dallas defender Brandon Pollard (ending his career) and Ronnie O’Brien (almost ending his) than his work rate on the field.

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena, who had Kovalenko in his team with the Red Bulls, was I’m guessing looking for a bit of steel in what was on occasion a rather limp midfield last season and looked even worse this year with the departures of Pete Vagenas and Alvaro Pires.

“From the roster that was inherited and remained at the end of the year we needed to shore up our defensive midfield position,” Arena said of the thinking behind signing Kovalenko from Real Salt Lake in a draft eve deal. “I think Stefani Miglioranzi and Dema make us stronger in that position.

“He’s a ball-winner, he’s an experienced player there and again that’s a position where we didn’t have an experienced player last year and it showed,” Arena added. “He can win the ball, he’s a good passer and he’s a good communicator.”

I spoke with Kovalenko Friday after his first training session with the Galaxy:

Question: You’ve played with eight teams (including two overseas) in an 11-year professional career. Is this it for you?
Answer: It’s tough to move all the time, but it’s the way you live – it happens that way in a soccer player’s life. But hopefully it’s the last stop for me. I’ve known Bruce a long time, I respect him a lot and I’m glad that I’m here. He gave me that chance – I played for him in New York and then he left and I’m glad I’m playing for him (again). I know what he expects from me and I know what I have to do – play hard and make the team better.

Q: How can you help the Galaxy?
A: He knows what I can bring – it’s what this league is about. It’s about working hard. Its not always about players who can score goals. You’ve got to have a chemistry, you’ve got to have different kinds of players. This team has to get better – it’s three years now they’ve not been in the playoffs.

Q: How much longer can you play?
A: I’m not ready to stop y’know. I’m going to be 32 this summer, I still want to play a few more years. But, I think I can still physically do it and I want to win and that’s the main thing. Every time I step on the field I want to compete – I still want to win a championship. I only won one with D.C. and that’s what we all play for – to win something – because when you’re done you’re done. It’s important when you’re done with your career you remember something.

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Soccer Saturday: U.S.-Sweden at Home Depot Center & More

A young U.S. team plays a young Swedish team at 5:30 p.m. at Home Depot Center (the game is also live on Fox Soccer Channel and Galavision, although plenty of tickets are available if you want to be there in person).

A game preview is here.

Coach Bob Bradley will dress 18 of the 24 players in camp for the game tonight. There’s been so many injuries and changes to the original roster, here’s a reminder who is in camp:
Goalkeepers – Jon Busch (Chicago Fire), Will Hesmer (Columbus Crew), Troy Perkins (Valerenga IF), Matt Pickens (Colorado Rapids)

Defenders – Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (FC Midtjylland), Ugo Ihemelu (Colorado Rapids), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjlland), Chris Wingert (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

Midfielders – Brian Carroll (Columbus Crew), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Jack Jewsbury (Kansas City Wizards), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), John Thorrington (Chicago Fire)

Forwards – Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire)

Sean Franklin’s hernia injury means there’s not a single member of the Galaxy on the roster, but there’s still plenty of local interest; Palos Verdes’ Thorrington will likely continue his career resurgence, Chivas USA’s Sacha Kljestan will undoubtedly be extra motivated knowing Glasgow Celtic is watching him carefully after his recent training stint with them, while Rolling Hills Estates Robbie Rogers (he moved to Huntington Beach at age 16 briefly, which is why U.S. Soccer lists him as being from there, although he was South Bay born and raised) is likely to make a storybook debut in front of friends and family.

(Update) Fellow blogger Luis Bueno has a nice round-up of previous U.S. January games at the HDC and assesses the impact the players involved in the largely experimental lineups eventually had on the national team. Answer: not much.

Elsewhere, Landon Donovan and Bayern Munich have the weekend off before resuming Bundesliga play next week, while David Beckham and AC Milan play a 6 a.m. game (live on Fox Soccer Channel) Sunday at Bologna. AC Milan sat third in Serie A coming into the weekend, six points behind crosstown rival table-toppers Inter Milan.

Said Coach Carlo Ancelotti of Beckham at today’s press conference:

“If Beckham is fine with us, we are happy and the fact that he plays is because he is a tactically intelligent player, disciplined and unselfish. He will decide what to do in his future. For the time (being) it remains confirmed that on March 9 he will return in America. He’s a very good player in the defensive phase, even though he has offensive characteristics and does not create any unbalance in the squad. I was expecting a player who would face more difficulties in adapting to the team, but his intelligence and qualities allowed him to come in and play.”

Also this weekend, CD Guadalajara play Tecos in a game shown live at 5 p.m. today on KVEA.

I will blog from the HDC tonight – so join me for the latest from there – and with any luck I’ll have that promised Dema Kovalenko Q&A up this afternoon.

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Friday Football: Death & the Galaxy

I’ll post an interview with new Galaxy signing Dema Kovalenko Saturday morning.

But first:
*Mexico Coach Sven-Gran Eriksson today announced his squad to face Sweden Wednesday in Oakland:

goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Amrica), Oswaldo Snchez (Santos Laguna), Jos de Jess Corona (Tecos UAG)

defenders: Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Amrica), Julio Csar Domnguez (Cruz Azul), Edgar Dueas (Toluca), Leobardo Lpez (Pachuca), Fausto Pinto (Cruz Azul), Diego Martnez (Monterrey), Israel Castro (UNAM), Edgar Castillo (Amrica)

midfielders: Pvel Pardo (Amrica), Leandro Augusto (UNAM), Luis Prez (Monterrey), Israel Martnez (San Luis), Lucas Ayala (Atlas), Antonio Naelson (Toluca), Marco Fabin (CD Guadalajara)

forwards: Alberto Medina (CD Guadalajara), Vicente Matias Vuoso (Santos Laguna), Carlos Ochoa (CD Guadalajara), Nestor Caldern (Toluca), Csar Villaluz (Cruz Azul)

*Galaxy goalkeeper Charles Alamo has retired before his professional career really began after suffering two serious MCL injuries within a year. He played one reserve game for the team and will return to graduate school.

*Former Galaxy midfielder Quavas Kirk, not retained by D.C. United, will reportedly begin a trial with the Seattle Sounders.

*The club has also finalized a Feb. 12 preseason friendly against the Houston Dynamo in Texas.

*Finally, here’s a contender for soccer story of the week from the Associated Press:

LONDON – An English amateur soccer team mourning the death of one of its greatest players discovered an important error in the tributes by the club and local press to the 86-year-old man — he’s still alive.

Tommy Farrer had the rare distinction of reading his own obituary as a former “legend”
with northern amateur side Bishop Auckland FC.

The mistake came to light when an official of the club, which held a solemn minute of
silence before a match last week, called Farrer’s wife to offer condolences.

A surprised Gladys Farrer said her husband had indeed departed — but only for a few
minutes to buy a newspaper and would be back soon if the official wanted to talk to
him.

Farrer, a former England amateur who played in three Wembley finals, said in Friday
editions of the Northern Echo: “We are not upset, but we did think it was a bit of a joke
at first.”

Farrer said he wants to play down the mistake, saying it was time to “let it
die.”

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A Few Words With Tony Sanneh on His Last-ditch Effort to Prolong His Career With the Galaxy

At age 37, former U.S. international Tony Sanneh is on trial with the Galaxy in a bid to extend his injury-riddled career.

Sanneh began his MLS career winning back to back titles with Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena at D.C. United. But Sanneh has battled injuries of one sort or another ever since moving from MLS to Hertha Berlin in 1998, where he managed just 31 appearances in four years. Since moving back to the U.S. in 2004 he’s played a mere 50 times in five years for four teams, most recently in 2007 with the Colorado Rapids.

After sitting out – but never officially retiring – last year, Sanneh explained after the third day of camp today why he’s giving the pro game one last shot:

Question: How are you feeling?
Answer: I feel a little bit rusty and I’m trying to get in shape, but I think everybody is a little sore. Obviously, haven’t played at this level in a little bit so it feels good to be out here day by day and test my body

Q: What do you offer on the field?
A: I can offer leadership, I can offer experience and obviously a winning mentality. And I know what Bruce wants, so hopefully I can lead by example .

The biggest thing is: can I be injury free and I can I get to my old playing weight?

Q: What does Bruce want?
A: He wants winners. He wants guys to fight to the end. He wants guys to be team players. He wants you to sacrifice. He wants you to do the extra, just in case.

Q: Why come back? Do you have something to prove?
A: I had a lot of injuries and so I haven’t put too many miles on the last five years. I had two hip surgeries and I was playing pick up (soccer) and most of my pain was gone so I decided to get back into shape.

I’m not stupid. I know I’m very old for the game, but it has been done before: Preki was (MLS) MVP at 42 (actually 40, according to Wikipedia) and (Paolo) Maldini is still playing at 43 (he’s actually 40, according to Wikipedia) and I was as good an athlete as both those guys.

Q: What happened last year?
A: I had labrium (shoulder) surgery at the end of the year in Colorado. I was hoping to go somewhere else and it didn’t work out.

So I was training to get back into shape in Minnesota and and (suffered) a bad tackle and ( I had) a deep bone bruise on my knee and I thought that maybe that was a sign from God that I’d had too many injuries and to take it easy. So I did for a couple of months and had a good time. And then I started playing in the local pick up leagues just for fun and as I took care of my body it hurt less.

Obviously I wasn’t playing at a high level, but it hurt less and I thought y’know why not see what would happen if I was in shape, because when I was younger I was so much faster than other people that me losing a step or two might not have as big an impact as it would on other people.

Q: What do you need to do to make the roster?
A: I’m injury free. If everything goes well, I would like to get through the camp (and make the roster). And I need to lose another eight to 10 pounds maybe in 2 1/2 months and I think that’s achievable and playing every day will do that to you. I’m pain free and they have an excellent medical staff here that is familiar with me and I know at this stage I have to do extra stuff to be a better pro.

Q: Is this your last chance to continue your career?
Q: I never really thought of it like that – it’s an opportunity and it was worth exploring and I’m just taking it a day at a time right now.

I wouldn’t want to come here and make a fool of myself. I took eight months off and went to Colorado and I trained a week and a half and I was starting there y’know? So obviously it’s a whole ‘nother year later, but if I didn’t think I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t try.

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Municipal de Ftbol: a Reading & Conversation About Art, Design, and Sport

Pick up soccer in L.A. is a collision of glass and grass in this shot of Lafayette Park by photographer Michael Wells
i-2dfc79cbae299e1babdac8cd8efc3da5-lafayette-park0002.jpg

Soccer fans who see the sport as art and appreciate its cultural context will find this multi-media contribution to the game in Southern California by photographer Michael Wells, UC Riverside Associate Professor of English and blogger Jennifer Doyle and graphic designer Jonathan Maghen an intriguing effort.

Here’s the (edited) official blurb on Municipal de Ftbol:

A slide show, reading and panel discussion … celebrates what is arguably Los Angeles’s largest subculture, the world of those playing in the myriad of soccer leagues across the city, far below the radar of sports media. A project initiated by graphic designer Jonathan Maghen, Municipal de Ftbol was inspired by the pick-up and amateur soccer games played in the densest parts of east and south Los Angeles. Centered on Michael Wells’ photographs of weekend and night games played on dusty fields and in urban parks across the city, Municipal de Ftbol explores the possibilities of “Ftbol Angelino” as a site for art-making. Maghen, Wells, and writer Jennifer Doyle will present their contributions to the project, and talk about their collaboration as graphic designer, photographer and critic and this inspired marriage of art and sport.

The result is a boxed edition of essays and photographs that are a “Whitmanian ode to ftbol culture in LA,” Doyle said.

Full disclosure: Doyle and Maghen are “friends” of mine on Facebook (which is an apt way to learn about a grass-roots art event like this somehow). I asked Maghen how the project came about:

Towards the end of 2007 adidas asked me to pitch a project for either Euro 2008 or the Olympics. Being a huge football fan and active player, I chose Euro 2008. In our first meeting I talked to them about the idea of Mexican, Mexican-American and Central American teams in Los Angeles wearing European National Team kits, and how it is pretty common here, and making a series of eight posters that would be posted in Los Angeles and New York during the tournament. They really loved the idea and asked for a budget. While preparing I thought it would be far more interesting to make a book/edition on soccer in Los Angeles and included that option in the budget. They preferred that idea, we had one more meeting to discuss some details and after that they didn’t interfere at all, really great to work with.

Doyle added this perspective:

This project grew out of midnight pick up games in Lafayette Park – Jonathan and I met playing pick up and then played together in a 7 aside league there (they let our team field a couple women who’d been part of the pick up scene).

He’s a graphic designer, and pitched an art/design/writing project to Adidas – they went for it and underwrote the whole enterprise.

We are all really passionate about the pick up and amateur scenes across this part of LA (east, central, south central), and feel there is a lot more one can do with this topic.

He and I are now actually officers in a new men’s league (Union Football League) in the Pico/Union area.

The first game is Sunday, incidentally.

The 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. event Saturday is free and open to the public. It’s at the Ruskin Theater, 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica (across the street from the Barker Hangar).

It’s part of a larger event called Art LA, BTW.

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Thursday Kicks: Galaxy, Sol & More

Noted:
*The Galaxy play their final preseason game (otherwise known as the “Will David Beckham return from AC Milan lottery?) March 14 in Tempe, Ariz., against the Chicago Fire, the club announced today. The Galaxy opens their season in Carson March 22 against D. C. United.

The game is part of an effort to locate an MLS team in the area, according to the press release:

The PHX Soccer Clasico is the first major event for Phoenix Soccer Development. Founded in 2007, PHX Soccer Development seeks to promote professional soccer in the Valley with the ultimate goal of having an MLS club based locally.

* Landon Donovan has scored two more goals for Bayern Munich.

*Three members of the Los Angeles Sol, the local franchise in the new Women’s Professional Soccer league, have been selected as members of the USA’s Under-23 Women’s National Team when it travels to Europe for matches against Norway Feb. 4 and England two days later in La Manga, Spain.

From the Sol press release:

Sol goalkeeper Val Henderson, selected in the fifth round of last week’s 2009 WPS Draft from UCLA, enters the trip with 14 caps at the U-23 level, the most of any of the 18 players on the U.S. roster. She will be joined by two recent draftees, forward Katie Larkin, taken by the Sol in the third round from BYU, who is currently on seven caps and first-round selection, midfielder Brittany Bock (Notre Dame), in search of her first cap with the U-23′s.

Also on the roster: uncapped Stanford forward Christen Press of Palos Verdes Estates and Portland goalkeeper Kelsey Davis of Thousand Oaks..

Eleven of the 18-player roster are with pro clubs, a record.

The Sol begins its season noon March 29 at the HDC against the Washington Freedom.

*My apologies to Cal State Dominguez Hills Coach Joe Flanagan for neglecting to mention earlier as I caught up that he had been named on Monday the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division II Coach of the Year.

He coached CSUDH to its second national title this year.

“It’s not only a tribute to our team that performed well on the field, but also a tremendous honor for our staff,” Flanagan said.. “It’s definitely a ‘we’ award. It’s not about me, it’s about us.

“In 2000, I was along for the ride, but now, after 8 years of battling and trying to get back to this promised land, I appreciate it a lot more knowing what it takes to get here.”

*Lastly, Fontana’s Maurice Edu provides a little perspective on what he and fellow American DaMarcus Beasley face at Glasgow Rangers here.

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Bornstein Questionable for Saturday

U.S. Men’s National Team defender Jonathan Bornstein underwent an MRI on his bruised left foot today and is officially listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Sweden. If the MRI is negative, Bornstein should be able to play.

Updated: Welcome back to blog contributor Scott Wolf, who hopefully will remain with us throughout much of the MLS preseason and into the new one.

The Chivas USA defender is just the latest to suffer an injury while in camp and some of the previous victims – such as Riverside’s Chad Marshall and the Galaxy’s Sean Franklin – have been forced to pull out.

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Vegas Catch-Up: Galaxy Open Pre-season Camp & More

I’m back from Vegas, but still technically on vacation until Monday.

Still, since I’m scanning on-line what I missed, I may as well pass along what I’m reading:

*The Galaxy players hit the field for the first time Wednesday at Home Depot Center and the Galaxy released their pre-season roster.

Noted:
*Projected starting right back Sean Franklin went under the knife in Germany to resolve a hernia injury he picked up training with the national team. Given the struggles we’ve seen the likes of Chivas USA striker Maykel Galindo endure to come back from hernia surgery, Franklin must instantly be a doubt for the March 22 season opener, no matter what the club says. More here.

*The Galaxy confirmed Tuesday the acquisition of midfielder Dema Kovalenko from Real Salt Lake in exchange for allocation money and a conditional draft pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. The 10-year MLS veteran has made 220 MLS appearances for the likes of the D.C. United, Chicago Fire and Red Bulls, (scoring 37 goals and adding 38 assists) so he’s a known commodity for Coach Bruce Arena:

“I have the greatest respect for Dema. He is a very good player and a winner,” he said. “His work ethic and competitiveness will be a real plus for our team.”

He arrives in camp the South Bay late Thursday.

*There are 33 players on the roster with 24 in camp; 20 were with the Galaxy last year. Trialists include the Venezuelan defender (Bautista) I mentioned last week and veteran U.S. defender Tony Sannah, 37, who has been slowed by injuries and missed all of last season.

*Newly acquired goalkeeper Ricketts and top draft pick Gonzalez arrive next week.

* Landon Donovan scored a second goal Monday for Bayern Munich.

*Chivas USA opens camp this coming Wednesday.

*The U.S. women kicked off a 25-player, 17-day camp in Carson Tuesday ahead of the Algarve Cup in Portugal in March. What’s most notable about the roster U.S. Soccer released? It includes players’ WPS affiliation for the first time:

goalkeepers – Nicole Barnhart (FC Gold Pride), Hope Solo (St. Louis Athletica)

defenders – Rachel Buehler (FC Gold Pride), Lori Chalupny (St. Louis Athletica), Stephanie Cox (Los Angeles Sol), Marian Dalmy (Chicago Red Stars), Kendall Fletcher (Los Angeles Sol), Heather Mitts (Boston Breakers), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC)

midfielders – Shannon Boxx (Los Angeles Sol), Tina DiMartino (FC Gold Pride), Tobin Heath (North Carolina), Carli Lloyd (Chicago Red Stars), Christine Nairn (Penn State), Heather O’Reilly (Sky Blue FC), Lindsay Tarpley (Chicago Red Stars), Kacey White (Sky Blue FC), Angie Woznuk (St. Louis Athletica)

forwards – Tina Ellertson (St. Louis Athletica), Angela Hucles (Boston Breakers), Natasha Kai (Sky Blue FC), Ella Masar (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (Boston Breakers), Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom).

*The weekly Thursday night MLS game has either been dropped or had 27 of 37 scheduled games moved to other days or nights depending on who is doing the spinning. MLS claims the move gives the league greater flexibility; media reports have cited generally crummy ratings on Thursdays that fell more than 12 percent last year and were on par with the Arena Football League. And we know what happened to their 2009 season.

“It also provides more flexibility for Chivas USA and the Galaxy to appear on ESPN if we have Saturday night games (due to the HDC ordinance with weekday games),” MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche observed in an e-mail to me while I was away.

The complete MLS schedule will be out by month’s end.

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