Ruud Gullit Speaks on Galaxy Tenure for First Time

i-5ac7a4a8525a3be83e923f526393570f-becksruud.jpgThe jet set: David Beckham and former Galaxy Coach Ruud Gullit discuss hairstyles on the Galaxy’s Australian tour in November 2007 (AP Photo).

At least in any depth, although with Ruud Gullit that’s a relative term.

In truth, the story below is not particularly eye-opening, but then that was one of Gullit’s major traits as Galaxy coach, speaking without actually saying much of substance. Hope ESPN isn’t paying him too much.

Still, for what it’s worth, here’s the Associated Press piece:

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) – Ruud Gullit didn’t take long to realize he was the wrong man to coach David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

“In LA, nobody is talking about soccer. No television stations. You see it nowhere,” Gullit
said. “It’s difficult to swallow because you need that adrenaline to pump yourself up. If
nobody talks about it, it’s almost like an enigma.”

Famous from a standout career that earned him the 1987 European player of the year award, the former Dutch star was hired with much fanfare in November 2007. He left just nine months into a three-year contract, the Galaxy further adrift than when he arrived.

Now a television commentator for Sky Sports in England, the long dreadlocks of his playing days replaced by a close-cropped look, the 47-year-old is preparing to be a studio analyst for ESPN at this year’s World Cup. He’ll be paired in Johannesburg with his former Galaxy boss, Alexi Lalas, a key figure in the expansion of the network’s coverage.

To prepare, Gullit made his first trip to ESPN’s studios this week. During a 30-minute
interview Monday, he was willing for the first time to publicly discuss what went awry during his time in Los Angeles.

“It was too much of a clash between my way of being used to working and the rules of the MLS,” he said.

Gullit couldn’t cope with restrictions such as Major League Soccer’s salary cap and its draft.

Having coached previously at Chelsea, Newcastle and Feyenoord, he was accustomed to the ways everywhere else in the soccer world: When you want a player, you go out and buy him.

His three-year contract was said to be worth $6 million, and he said that was so out of line with MLS standards that it created an uncomfortable situation.

“For the amount of money that they normally pay, I don’t go from Europe all the way to live here. So therefore they need to find sponsors. But who knows Ruud Gullit in America? Who would pay that amount of money? And the moment that you find out nobody wants to pay that, that’s where all the trouble starts,” he said.

Lalas was let go as the Galaxy president and general manager on the same day Gullit departed, the team just 6-8-5 following a seven-match winless streak. The Galaxy missed the playoffs for the second straight season before reaching the MLS Cup final in 2009 under Gullit’s successor, former U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena.

“I think he’s being a little hard on himself to be honest with you. I think there’s plenty of
blame to go around,” Lalas said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I probably should have done things differently to at least help more in some ways. But I think ultimately the learning curve was so big, and he came into a situation that was so different than anything he’d ever been associated with, that it was going to take a long time. And unfortunately for Galaxy, we didn’t have that time. And that’s our fault also.”

In some ways, Gullit is dismayed by the lack of a soccer culture in the United States.

“When USA is playing at home, they don’t play at home. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Certain people don’t want to acknowledge it so much because everybody wants to protect the American sports, and I can understand that. But everybody knows soccer is coming. Everybody plays it everywhere. I think it will be two generations — then people will get used to it, understand the game more. This generation still doesn’t understand it.”

He also can’t get used to the American system of playoffs that MLS uses. Gullit thinks it
creates an atmosphere that’s not conducive to top soccer, clashing with the rest of the world, where the team that finishes first automatically is the champion.

“Every week you have to play well to be the champion. But here it’s just a matter of getting in the playoffs, and how you get there is not so much important as long as you play well in the knockout stages,” he said.

ESPN likes Gullit’s outspokenness. Tim Scanlan, ESPN’s vice president of event productions, recommended Gullit to Jed Drake, the executive producer of ESPN’s World Cup coverage, and the pair met with Gullit in London late last year to sign him up.

“He is just a completely engaging character and one who has been around a good bit of time and has seen the game from a variety of perspectives,” Drake said.

Gullit predicts Brazil will reach the final in South Africa. He has high hopes for the
Netherlands, the team he captained to the 1988 European Championship. But he also has doubts.

And then there is Italy, the defending champion.
“The thing is always with the Italians, they don’t need to play well to get to the final,” he
said.

He also believes the U.S. has the ability to upset England when they meet on June 12.

That matchup in Rustenburg is getting the most attention of the 48 first-round games, already drawing the highest prices in the secondary ticket market.

“I always say to a lot of people all around about American football, I say: ‘Look, you
underestimate it. You go and play in 90 degrees, on turf, in the afternoon, traveling six
hours,’” he explained. “And when they play under the normal circumstances, all of the sudden these teams say: “Hey, wait a minute. This is not as bad. They play some good
football.’”

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Tuesday’s Column: Goals for the Galaxy

i-4a74477b7bca86f3110b9472cc86d91f-mathisgym.jpgNew Galaxy signing Clint Mathis works out in the gym Monday on the opening day of preseason training (Photo by Robert Casillas).

It’s a simplistic argument, but a convincing one: were it not for a lack of firepower last year the Galaxy would go into this season as defending MLS Cup champions.

Coach Bruce Arena, I think, would generally agree with that statement given what he told his players Monday on the first day of preseason training.

Of course, we can argue whether the Galaxy have the players who are capable of scoring more goals, but Arena clearly believes that to be the case.

The Galaxy have until March 27, when they open the season against the New England Revolution at Home Depot Center, to sort it out.

For more, read Tuesday’s column.

There’s always quotes that don’t make it into a column for space reasons.

Here’s Arena on why he chose to “draft” Brazilians rather than take a closer look at the college ranks here:

“There’s only so much you can do with draft picks. I really believe if you’re going to build a team from the college draft, I bet you’re going to have a tough time.”

Here’s Arena on what he expects from those three young Brazilians this season:

“They’re good young players. Like any players there’s going to be a transition period. We have to see how they adapt to being in this country and this league every day and deal with the grind of competing.”

i-57135ef02f9a3e9ac0d1a7598bb785f9-gregggymp.jpgDefender Gregg Berhalter puts his best foot forward Monday in fitness training.

Finally, here’s Gregg Berhalter on the Galaxy picking up Clint Mathis:

“We know Clint. We’re lucky enough to have been around him for many years and he has special gifts that many players don’t have: he can use both feet with equal effectiveness and he has a good eye for a pass, he has a great shot, so we know what he brings to the table. It’s just bringing all of those things out of him and getting him focused on helping the team, which I know he’ll do.”

Also, UCLA striker Sydney Leroux scored a 64th minute winner for the U.S. U-20 team to beat Mexico 2-1 and send the Americans onto a 11:30 a.m. Thursday meeting with Costa Rica in the World Cup semis live on Fox Soccer Channel. FSC will also show the Canada-Mexico semi that immediately follows the U.S. game.

More here.

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Beckham “Forgettable” as Inter Win Milan Derby

At least, that was the verdict of the BBC as nine-man Inter Milan went nine points clear atop Serie A today over rivals AC Milan.

i-a886daa13cb9be9b7cc11e49315ed9f2-forgettablebeckham.jpgInter Milan Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar, left, saves from on-loan Galaxy midfielder David Beckham in today’s Milan derby as Inter Milan defender Davide Santon looks on (AP Photo).

It was the first time David Beckham had tasted defeat with AC Milan while on loan there this season.

Full disclosure: I did not see the game because I’m stuck here at work on a Sunday and we don’t get Fox Soccer Channel at the office.

Read the game story here.

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Chivas USA Names Assistant Coaches

Chivas USA today announced the hiring of former San Diego Spirit coach Carlos Juarez, former Bayern Munich assistant coach Nick Theslof and goalkeeper coach Daniel Gonzalez to the club’s coaching staff.

The trio join Carlos Llamosa as assistant coaches to Head Coach Martn Vsquez on the team’s technical staff.

“These three coaches are talented, experienced, and perfectly suited to help this club move forward,” Vsquez said. “Adding Carlos, Nick and Daniel, and with Carlos Llamosa already here, will help all our players, from youth teamers to experienced professionals, learn and develop.”

In addition to formerly coaching the WUSA’s Spirit, Juarez is a former coach of a variety of U.S. international youth teams and also coached the men’s and women’s teams at Cal Poly Pomona. The L.A. native was most recently with the Claremont Stars club as the organization’s technical director.

Theslof, who takes on the new role of technical coach for Chivas USA, was on the staff at Bayern Munich with Vasquez.

He was also scout for the German National team at the 2006 World Cup and was the coach and GM for PDL club Orange County Blue Star from 2002-2007.

As technical coach, Theslof will work with players on various aspects of their performance, and will also help the club in both player and club scouting, Chivas USA officials said.

Gonzalez is an Argentine native who played with Rosario Central in a 16-year pro career and also was on the staff at the Colorado Rapids for three years.

BTW, Theslof is pretty close to Rolling Hills Estates’ Robbie Rogers, who played for him at Blue Star and had a big influence on him during his formative soccer years. Wonder if that could help Chivas USA lure the U.S. international winger from the Columbus Crew, where Rogers saw his playing time diminish toward the end of last season?

Chivas USA opens preseason training camp Tuesday.

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U.S.-Honduras Postgame

U.S. 1 Honduras 3

How to sum this one up Saturday in Carson?

Here’s one way.

i-4a340bfc087af174bfb53a68eaa02b01-palacios0002.jpgIn general, there was way too much of this from Honduras and forward Jerry Palacios, seen here celebrating what was a sweetly taken second goal for the Central Americans (Photos by Steve McCrank).

And there was far too little of this
i-844fe1e061257406cd0f00a11f5a0bef-conorcasey0001.jpgfrom the likes of second half sub Conor Casey, seen here making one of very few U.S. efforts on goal (the U.S. finished the night with all of two shots on target).

Here’s another, from the always understated coach Bob Bradley:

“It wouldn’t be a game where we’re picking players who stood out.”

Um, no.

He called the passing “poor,” observed that the U.S. put itself in a “bad” position to start the game (joke your way out of that one, Jimmy Conrad) and that it was a “big task” for this particular group of (10) players to come back from behind.

And let’s face it, any game where your most effective offensive threat is central defender Clarence Goodson is not going to be remembered as a vintage attacking performance.

Here’s left winger Robbie Rogers, who moved to left back (a position he has practiced in the last few U.S. camps, BTW) when Jonny Bornstein moved into the middle after Conrad was sent off:

“I’m kind of bummed we started the year this way, but we’ll keep our heads up, we’ll keep moving forward.

“I thought we let them pass the ball, get a little bit too comfortable. It’s tough when you play a team who are good technically and tactically. They can move the ball around and you’re playing a man down.

Here’s Rogers on why he took the 35-40 yard shot that hit the post:

“(I) just felt it. (I’m) kinda mad it went the other way. Wish it would have hit the post and went in.”

Game story.

A wider view.

Check out Steve McCrank’s photo gallery from the game here.

By the way, was this not the best performance by former Galaxy forward Carlos Pavon at the HDC?

For a lot of these players it will be the last time we see them in a national team camp, if previous January camps are any guide.

But some who attended, like 35-year-old former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, back in camp for the first time since starting the first two games of 2006, at least had realistic goals while there:

“It was a great opportunity to stay in shape, stay sharp and get back in with the team. I was excited about it and had a great time.”

The Wizards open preseason training Monday. Hartman was off to make a phone call to see if he needed to be there right away.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this thought.

The new 2010 USMNT media guide was handed out before the game today. Among the player profiles (surprisingly) included: Schalke 04 midfielder Jermaine Jones. But it’s too late for him to make the roster given his recent injuries and the lack of USMNT games before Bradley names his World Cup squad. Isn’t it?

The U.S. regroups in Carson in early February with a camp before traveling to Florida for the Feb. 24 game against El Salvador.

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Final: U.S.-Honduras

U.S. 1 Honduras 3

This one is mercifully over (if you’re a U.S. fan).

Conor Casey shooting wide in second half stoppage time with only the goalkeeper to beat pretty much summed up this poor effort.

A crowd of 18,626 – the largest to see a U.S. friendly at Home Depot Center – witnessed this one and it’s hard to think of an American player who stood out tonight (although Robbie Rogers was pretty active and did hit the post).

In 2002, 13 of the players in the U.S. January camp ended up on that year’s World Cup team and four years later 10 of the campers went to Germany.

Less than a handful who played in this one – perhaps Rogers, Bornstein and Feilhaber – will head to South Africa.

We’ll see if Bob Bradley says anything of note in the post-game press conference.

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Update: U.S.-Honduras

U.S. 0 Honduras 3

Oh, dear.

An intricate three-man move inside the U.S. penalty box was finished off by the Kansas City Wizards’ Roger Espinoza in the 53rd minute to give the Hondurans a comfortable three-goal cushion.

Robbie Rogers blasted a 35- to 40-yard shot off the Honduran post out of nowhere a couple of minutes before that, but he’s about the only U.S. player with his shooting boots on: Sacha Kljestan and Kyle Beckerman have both shot high over the bar with ghastly efforts.

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Halftime: U.S.-Honduras

U.S. 0 Honduras 2

We’ll let former U.S. National Team Coach Bruce Arena sum this one up so far:

“I think the best team is ahead,” he said. “Honduras is a much more experienced team at the international level and it shows.”

Stats don’t always tell the complete story in soccer but this one does: The U.S. has zero shots on goal, Honduras three (the official stats say two, but I don’t believe that’s correct) – and, of course, they scored on two of them.

Arena, BTW, was up in the press box at half time to react to being named to the National Soccer hall of Fame.

“It’s a great individual accomplishment,” he said, while observing hundreds of people throughout his career helped him achieve the honor.

Updated: Central defender Clarence Goodson has come in at the half for striker Jeff Cunningham to plug the gap left by Jimmy Conrad’s sending off.

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Update: U.S.-Honduras

U.S. 0 Honduras 2

Jerry Palacios just got on the end of a cross Carlos Pavon whipped in, connecting with a diving header from six yards in the 38th minute while central defender Chad Marshall did a fine impersonation of a statue.

Pretty goal, but the U.S. is in real danger of losing its undefeated record in January games here in Carson.

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