Toronto FC (9-9-7) at the Galaxy (9-5-11)

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena hasn’t exactly rung the changes despite last weekend’s record-setting 6-3 home loss to Dallas.

Sean Franklin has recovered from injury and replaces A.J. DeLaGarza (knee bruise) at right back in his first start since May, Chris Birchall makes his second MLS start in midfield, while Landon Donovan moves up front to partner Edson Buddle, perhaps the lone bright spot for the Galaxy last week when he came on as a sub.

Jovan Kirovski drops to the bench.

Galaxy XI (4-4-2): Donovan Rickets, Sean Franklin, Gregg Berhalter, Omar Gonzalez, Todd Dunivant, Chris Birchall, David Beckham, Stefani Miglioranzi, Eddie Lewis, Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan.

Toronto FC designated player Julian de Guzman makes his MLS debut in what is his first game since the Gold Cup.

Ali Gerba is the lone front runner for Toronto in a 4-5-1 formation. And check out that strong Toronto midfield.

Toronto XI: Stefan Frei, Marvell Wynne, Nana Attakora, Nick Garcia, Jim Brennan, Sam Cronin, Julian de Guzman, Dwayne De Rosario, Amada Guevara, Chad Barrett, Ali Gerber.

The game is on Fox Sports West.

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Friday’s College Scores

Loyola Marymount 1 Missouri 0
Senior Lacey Bartels scored in the 57th minute and senior Allyssa Clark recorded her fifth shutout of the season as LMU upset No. 26 Missouri 1-0 in the opening game of the UCLA Women’s Cup

UCLA 6 Utah 1
Lauren Cheney scored twice in the UCLA Cup romp that saw head coach Jillian Ellis pick up the 200th coaching victory of her UCLA career.

Oklahoma State 0 USC 1
Freshman Samantha Johnson’s 41st minute strike was enough for the 4-3 Trojans to beat No. 21 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.

Cal State Northridge 2 Tulsa 1
Two goals in three minutes from Dylan Riley and Sunghyun Kim gave the Matadors (4-1-0) their second come-from-behind victory in as many games to beat the Golden Hurricane (2-3-1) in the opening game of the Prego Italian Express Invitational.

Long Beach State 3 Pepperdine 1
LBSU improved its record on the season to 4-3, while Pepperdine fell to 4-2 in the game at George Allen Field.

Cal State Northridge 1 Hawaii 0
Junior Kellie Drenner, who missed all of last season due to injury, made 12 saves in goal for the Matadors, while fellow junior Farryn Townley scored her team-leading fourth goal of the season.

San Francisco State 1 Cal State Dominguez Hills 2
West (Torrance) High product Jessica Murphy scored twice for the Toros in the road win.

San Francisco State 1 Cal State Dominguez Hills 2
Kevin Gallaugher’s second half goal gave the 3-2-1 defending national champions the victory.

Michigan State 3 Loyola Marymount 0
No. 15 beat No. 18 as the Lions two-game winning streak was snapped at the San Diego Nike Classic

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Chivas USA/Galaxy Saturday Gameday

Your assigned reading.

Chivas USA-Seattle Sounders Noon FSC:

* Former Galaxy midfielder Vagenas on facing Chivas USA.

* Sounders-Chivas USA: Advantage Goats.

* The Cuban connection.

Galaxy-Toronto 7:30 p.m. FSC

* Game preview from Phil Collin.

* Will we see Chris Birchall in the Galaxy’s midfield?

* Galaxy’s Dunivant has inside scoop on Toronto.

* De Guzman ready for Toronto debut.

I’ll blog from the HDC tonight.

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Waiting for the Weekend

How busy will this weekend be for soccer on TV?

Colorado and San Jose get things under way at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 in a rare Friday evening game.

Oh, and last night the UCLA men beat their Cal State Fullerton counterparts, 2-1. Game story.

For an exhaustive listing of every available game click the live soccer TV link to the right.

But here are my picks for the games to watch, followed by the local college action you can see live this weekend:

7 a.m. Fox Soccer Channel Aston Villa-Portsmouth
9:30 a.m. FSC West Ham United-Liverpool
Noon FSC Seattle Sounders-Chivas USA
1 p.m. GolTV Barcelona-Athletico Madrid
7:30 p.m. Prime Galaxy-Toronto

5:25 a.m. Setanta Manchester United-Manchester City (I don’t usually list games on this pay TV service, but Setanta is having a free preview – at least on DirecTV – that ends Sunday).
-8 a.m. FSC Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur
10 a.m. ESPN2 Xerez-Real Madrid
Noon Telefutura Chicago Fire-Columbus Crew

College games
4 p.m. today Matador Field Cal State Northridge women-Hawaii
4 p.m. today George Allen Field Cal State Long Beach-Pepperdine
4:30 p.m. today Loyola Marymount-Missouri followed at 7 p.m. by UCLA-Utah at Drake Stadium (UCLA Women’s Cup)
11 a.m. Sunday UCLA-Missouri followed at 1 p.m. by Loyola Marymount-Utah at Drake Stadium
1 p.m. Sunday Tari Frahm Rokus Field Pepperdine-Cal State Sacramento (AYSO teams can get free admission to the game. Call 310-506-6018)

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Give Thrifty MLS Its Due

Eurosnobs and assorted critics (like this one) often wish MLS would open its wallet a little more to attract better players and improve the quality of play.

Well, a fiscally conservative approach has its benefits as this story below out of Europe today confirms. Put this one in the careful what you wish for department.

BRUSSELS (AP) — Almost a quarter of Europe’s top division soccer clubs reported major financial losses last year, UEFA said Thursday, with a third of the teams in the rich and successful English Premier League losing at least 20 percent of income.

UEFA secretary general David Taylor warned a conference on financial responsibility in sport that more red ink is expected this year as leagues feel the full weight of the sputtering global economy.

Of the top leagues in the world, the Premier League was by far in the worst position when it came to the number of clubs with major losses. Only Romania, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Poland had more clubs losing money among Europe’s 53 federations.

Italy was in 15th position on the 2008 club losses list, with Spain ranked 35th and France and Germany among those in the best financial shape.

Across Europe, barely half of teams break even or make a profit, UEFA reported.

The financial problems come despite income that’s tripled for clubs since 1997, largely
through marketing and media revenue.

The problem is costs are rising, too. For instance, while income rose 5 percent last year, player costs increased 9 percent.

“The huge spending on players produces constantly an inflationary effect with consequences on the whole club football movement,” Taylor said.

On top of that, “the current financial crisis has exacerbated the situation.”

This offseason alone, Real Madrid and Manchester City combined to spend more than $487 million on new talent.

In an attempt to contain such massive spending, UEFA has imposed new rules for clubs to break even on soccer-related businesses by 2012 or be stripped of their licenses. The governing body of European soccer appointed former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene to lead its campaign to control excessive spending.

On Thursday, the European Union, often at loggerheads with soccer when it comes to imposing sports-specific rules, embraced UEFA’s efforts.

“I welcome and support these,” EU Sports Commissioner Jan Figel said. “I look forward to the implementation.”

Taylor said the system will teach leading clubs to compete for European titles with their
revenues instead of their debt, and to protect the long-term future of the sport. UEFA’s
financial fair play policy has also been endorsed by most club owners.

Early this week, the Premier League also announced a new financial plan to regulate its 20 clubs. The league will take temporary control of clubs that run into financial problems and ban them from buying players or raising salaries. Clubs will have to submit accounts each March to ensure they can begin the next season in August.

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MLS Takes World Cup Break (sort of)

Well, for the group stage anyway and by the end of that phase the U.S. should be done, no? Two weeks off is a huge improvement.

Good to see the MLS suits finally grab a clue.

Now, if they could only have one league division.

Here’s today’s press release with the details:

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced today that for the first time in its history, MLS will not play League games during the group phase of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The group phase includes the first 48 games of the 64-game tournament that begins on June 11, 2010 in South Africa. The last MLS game prior to the World Cup will be played on June 10 and MLS will not schedule any additional League games until after the group phase concludes on June 25. MLS does not plan to schedule games on the days of either World Cup Semifinal nor the World Cup Final.

“The decision to stop League play during the group phase of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is part of MLS’ commitment to deepen its connection with the millions of soccer fans in the United States and Canada,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “The World Cup will be a focal point for all MLS fans and several MLS players will compete with their national teams at the tournament.”

The 2010 MLS Regular Season will again see each team play a 30-game regular season, followed by playoffs among eight qualifying teams. The 2010 season will begin with a single game March 25 and will conclude Oct. 24. The MLS Cup Playoffs will culminate in the championship match, MLS Cup 2010, on Nov. 21.

MLS plans to announce each club’s 2010 home opener in the near future. The complete 2010 MLS schedule will be announced early next year.

Philadelphia Union will play their inaugural season in 2010 as the 16th team in Major League Soccer, joining the Eastern Conference. The two eight-team conferences allow, for the first time in MLS history, clubs to play a balanced schedule – facing each of the other 15 teams twice, once at home, once away. As in previous years, the club with the best record at the end of the regular season will win the Supporters’ Shield, and the MLS Cup playoffs will determine the League’s champion.

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AYSO “Godfather” Honored in the South Bay

Photo courtesy German Alegria/Los Angeles Galaxy

i-6ea6c6b5348e56059c5788ce22e6af6b-hanstim.jpgHans Stierle, a former Torrance resident regarded as the driving force behind the creation of the American Youth Soccer Association and the now national organization’s first president, was honored before Saturday’s Galaxy game. Stierle, who now lives in the Pacific Northwest, was presented with a Galaxy jersey by Tom Payne, president of business operations for the team.

You could argue (and I essentially do, in a story that originally ran in 2003 and is reprinted below) that without the formation of AYSO and the interest in soccer it caused there would be no MLS.

AYSO marks its 45th anniversary this year.

Stierle will also be recognized at 7 p.m. Tuesday by the Torrance City Council and a field at Jefferson Middle School will be named after him at a 12:30 p.m. Wednesday ceremony. The recognition events were organized by Torrance’s Del Amo Rotary Club.

Stierle was a neighbor of the school that became the home field for the first four AYSO teams, one of which counted a young German immigrant named Sigi Schmid as a player. Stierle and a group of other parents organized AYSO in a garage.

“Hans happened to be the catalyst,” said Torrance Mayor Frank Scotto, a long-time AYSO coach and league official who will present the man he called “a soccer idol for me” with the council resolution. “To this day I’m in amazement he started this here at Jefferson and it’s really kind of cool to think that right now there’s over 600,000 players across America practicing this week for their first games Saturday.”

BTW, below is a feature story I wrote back in 2003 2001 profiling the organization, followed by another history piece that ran in the Daily Breeze the weekend before the Galaxy played their first game in Carson in 2003 that traces the history of soccer in the South Bay.

Move over boys of summer, it’s time for the lads and lasses of fall.

Even as the baseball season slides into its late innings, on Saturday more than 18,000 children throughout the South Bay and Harbor Area ranging in age from 5 to 19 engaged in an alternate September ritual — opening day of the American Youth Soccer Organization.

In Hawthorne, more than 1,400 boys and girls — many wearing fashionably fluorescent pink or purple uniforms — paraded before proud parents as local politicians took advantage of the gathering of soccer moms (and dads) to stump for this fall’s city elections.

In Palos Verdes Estates, about 2,700 youngsters posed for team pictures between stints of bouncing on inflatable playground equipment provided by the South Bay-bound Los Angeles Galaxy, while their parents renewed acquaintances with friends they may not have seen since last season.

“It’s a community within a community,” said Rancho Palos Verdes resident John Abelson, a coach and league commissioner with three children aged between 6 and 11 that all play soccer. “We’ve made a lot of friends . . . through (our children) playing together.”

Professional soccer may remain largely a niche sport, but the same cannot be said for a game at the grass-roots level that boasts such broad family appeal — it’s no coincidence the phrase “soccer mom” has become an established part of the political lexicon.

Indeed, this weekend heralds the beginning of a frenetic four months for thousands of local parents.

Offspring and their teammates must be shuttled to weeknight practices and Saturday games.

Dads with a decidedly limited knowledge of the game will suddenly find themselves taking a crash course in officiating or coaching a pack of 7-year-olds who will have insisted upon christening their team The Loony Bears.

Moms will prowl sidelines on game days keeping children — and husbands — in line, while spending weeknights telephoning fellow parents to press-gang them into assuming the multitude of soccer-related responsibilities necessary to keep the less-than- finely-honed organization running somewhat smoothly.

“They have no idea how hard they’ll be working,” said a clipboard-toting Darlene Haezaert of Del Aire, a mother of two soccer veterans aged 10 and 14, as she watched parents escort tiny tykes with colorful jerseys hanging almost to their cleats past an applauding crowd in Hawthorne.

“They’ll be living here,” she added, suppressing a mischievous smile.

Moms, such as 37-year-old Janice Cooper know only too well what catching the soccer bug means.

All three of her children, aged 12, 10 and 4, play in Hawthorne leagues, which translates into devoting at least three days a week to soccer games and practices.

Moreover, Cooper became so enamored with the game that four years ago she began lacing up the cleats with a women’s team, despite never having kicked a ball in her life.

Her husband? Well, every soccer family needs an “assistant driver,” Cooper said with a laugh.

“We’re working on him,” she added.

AYSO, with a participatory philosophy that mandates all children play at least half the game and its emphasis on sportsmanship over winning, is credited by its fans for playing a crucial role in the game’s rising popularity.

Founded in Torrance in 1964 with a mere 125 players, the Hawthorne-based group has grown to become the nation’s second-largest youth soccer organization with more than 650,000 participants.

i-91cbbaf4d80c6dcece82196d7265a67e-Soccer AYSO 1960s.JPGHere’s the 1966-1967 Torrance Mustangs (notice the footwear) at the old Continental Soccer Field, where Alpine Village now stands. (Photo courtesy John Sloway, who is the kid in the glasses).

But in a development that’s enough to make the jingoistic choke on their apple pie, soccer’s growth has come at the expense of such traditional American sports as baseball.

“I play baseball, but it’s too slow,” said Angel Andrade, 14, of Hawthorne, echoing similar comments made by soccer players and parents alike on Saturday. “(Soccer) is a moving sport.”

Indeed, baseball participation among American youths is in “serious decline,” according to a study by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, with the number of players plunging 40 percent from its peak year in 1993.

In contrast, one-third of all children in the United States between the ages of 6 and 11 have played soccer at least once.

AYSO spokesman David Brown said total youth soccer registration in the United States has doubled to 4 million in the past decade.

That translates into participation levels locally that amaze even die-hard soccer fans.

Daniel Juarez, director of the area that includes the beach cities and Hawthorne, quoted El Segundo Mayor Mike Gordon as saying during a recent council meeting that of the approximately 2,700 students in the city school district, about 950 play AYSO soccer.

On the Palos Verdes Peninsula, AYSO participation has leaped by 400 children in just the past two years.

“It’s the single largest team sport for youth we have on The Hill,” said Jim Sala, a Rolling Hills Estates resident and board member with the local AYSO league. “We really saw the numbers jump when the (U.S.) women won the (1999) World Cup . . . It became a cool thing to do.”

Growing popularity has meant growing pains.

Soccer fields are in short supply in many areas.

For instance, the loss of just one Hawthorne field due to construction at a school forced Juarez to lop an hour off the time teams are allowed to practice each week.

On Saturdays, the first games begin at 9 a.m. and the last match at 6:30 p.m. is often finished under the lights. Some games are even played Friday nights.

“It’s a fever,” Juarez said. “There’s just not enough fields for all the kids who are playing.”

Another new initiative this year is the designation of fields where games are being played as a “Kids Zone” by posting behavior standards on signs or badges worn by supporters at games.

The idea: to ensure the disturbing trend of parents becoming abusive or violent toward coaches, officials or other parents doesn’t infiltrate the AYSO ranks. The problem was highlighted in Torrance last fall when a parent assaulted a high school football coach over his son’s lack of playing time. “We offer more than just a place to play soccer,” said Nick Lincir, 68, a San Pedro resident and AYSO volunteer for 26 years who is now director of the area that includes Torrance, the Harbor Area and the Peninsula.

“We offer something I think is sorely needed: integrity and good sportsmanship and the kind of stuff our society is in dire need of. We build character through our program.”

And here’s that history of soccer in the South Bay story:

When the Los Angeles Galaxy kicks off its home season Saturday in its new, soccer-specific stadium at Carson’s $150 million Home Depot Center, it won’t be the first professional soccer team to have been based in the South Bay.

Or the second. Or even the third.

The names Aztecs, Lazers and Sunshine – and there are others, too, even more obscure – probably mean little to all but the most devoted local soccer fans.

Yet they were among the franchises that had short and not particularly glorious existences locally.

In fact, professional soccer in the South Bay can probably trace its roots to the 1964 formation of the American Youth Soccer Association in a Torrance garage.

The initial four-team league has today grown to become a Hawthorne-based organization that involves about 900,000 players and volunteers nationwide.

Soccer interest in the South Bay grew along with it, recalled Marine Cano, a Bishop Montgomery High School graduate who is the women’s soccer coach at the University of California, Irvine and is known locally as director of the long-running Mr. Soccer Camps.

By the 1970s thousands of people were showing up for high school and even high-profile AYSO games, Cano said.

Bumper stickers were common in Torrance that proclaimed the community Soccer City-USA, as boosters cultivated its image as the nation’s capital of the sport.

Local players, including Cano, embarked on professional careers, and entrepreneurs began capitalizing on that grass-roots support in a soccer hotbed.

First up – and most memorably – were the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League.

The Aztecs played two seasons in the South Bay in 1975 and 1976, with offices in Redondo Beach, a training ground at Inglewood’s Hollywood Park and a home field at El Camino College’s modest Murdock Stadium near Torrance.

They drew respectable crowds, averaging 6,000-7,000 spectators.

Incongruously, many of what were then some of the top soccer stars in the world played in the rather inauspicious environment, thanks to the NASL’s reputation of paying salaries that were far too generous.

Among the big names was Pele, who in 1975 attracted a record Aztecs South Bay crowd of 12,176 to Murdock Stadium when the New York Cosmos visited.

Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid, a longtime South Bay resident who along with Cano was on one of those first AYSO teams in 1964, remembers taking the club team he coached to watch the Aztecs.

“What I remember most about El Camino is that you were on top of the action,” he recalled. “It was a (soccer) education, but it was also something for (young players) to look up to.”

Prominent Aztecs of the era included Irish star George Best, a ball wizard who has been compared to Pele and was such a celebrity in England in the late 1960s when he played for famed Manchester United that he was known as “The Fifth Beatle.”

Despite playing 23 times and scoring 15 goals for the Aztecs in 1975, by then Best, who has since had a liver transplant, was more interested in booze than soccer balls. It’s no coincidence a Hermosa Beach bar still bears his surname.

Encouraged by the South Bay support and in search of more money, in 1977 the Aztecs were sold to a group of investors that included Alan Rothenberg, who later became president of the U.S. Soccer Federation and an investor in Major League Soccer, and relocated to the Rose Bowl.

The group boasted in a November 1977 Daily Breeze article that they would transform a “second-class operation” into a first-class one. But as the Galaxy learned, fans wouldn’t commit to buying tickets in a large stadium if they were always guaranteed a seat.

“If they would have stayed and made it the hottest ticket in town they would have been the hottest team in the old NASL,” Cano said. “They made a crucial mistake.”

The Aztecs folded in 1981.

Next up locally were the Los Angeles Lazers in 1978. They also played at El Camino in the second-tier American Soccer League. The league disbanded the team at season’s end.

That year actually saw no fewer than three professional franchises locally. Two teams called South Bay United and the Southern California Cougars played Sunday doubleheaders at Redondo Beach’s now-defunct Aviation High School in something called the Western Soccer League.

Among the players on the United roster was Schmid.

Players received $75 to $300 a game he recalled, although that didn’t guarantee they would show up as scheduled.

During one road trip to Palm Springs a player shortage literally forced the coach to offer a game to a young Latino man walking down the street, said Schmid. He made the starting 11.

Not surprisingly, that league was short-lived, too.

The ASL returned in 1979 with a team called the California Sunshine. Cano, who played for the team, remembers them drawing average gates of 1,300 at games at Torrance’s West High School and at El Camino College.

In 1982 Torrance was awarded a franchise in what was dubbed the Southern California Professional League, another entity that no longer exists.

Finally, from 1986 to 1988 the Los Angeles Heat, based at El Camino College and West High, participated in the Western Soccer Alliance, a precursor to today’s A-League.

The roster included Cano, by then coach at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Beginning next weekend, the newest and already most successful chapter in South Bay professional soccer history unfolds with the opening of the stadium, which fans are calling “Victoria Street.”

Considering the South Bay’s soccer history, the region deserves it, said Torrance resident Nick Geber, co-host of “The Galaxy Soccer Report,” which airs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on KMPC 1540-AM.

“It’s sort of coming full circle,” he said. “Youth soccer was born here and the (nation’s) premier soccer facility is going to be housed here. I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate.”

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