WPSL Season Opens: A few words with Ajax America Coach Brian Boswell

The Women’s Premier Soccer League’s Pacific Conference opens this weekend including games in La Canada and at Nansen Field on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, one of the hidden gems of the South Bay and home to 2009 WPSL National Finalist Ajax America.

Ajax America Coach Brian Boswell, a two-time WPSL coach of the year and native of England who is an occasional contributor to this blog, spoke as his team begins their pursuit of a fifth consecutive Pacific Conference title at 2 p.m. Sunday against San Diego WFC at Nansen Field. (Admission by the way is usually free; a hat is generally passed around during the game to help the team offset expenses)

i-a8ecc32c512bbfa19cce58265988232b-brian.jpgQuestion: What’s the after effect locally of the folding of the LA Sol of Women’s Professional Soccer after just one year at Home Depot Center.
Answer: There’s still a definite sense of disappointment. For one year, it was great to see young girls with (the names of Brazilian star) Marta and (USWNT star Shannon) Boxx on the back of soccer shirts and now, it’s back to Beckham. It was a letdown for the families that supported the Sol but unfortunately, there were too few to keep it going another season.

(The team) just lost too much money to tempt in another owner. Will it resurrect? If they set the sights lower and play in a smaller, less-expensive stadium with a better atmosphere. A place like (Titan Stadium at) Cal State Fullerton would be ideal.

Also, do not sign a player of Marta’s stature and wages and then maybe, they could tempt an owner in. According to the WPS hierarchy, they have a couple of interested parties, so who knows?

The Southern California area deserves a women’s team, since so many girls are playing the game. I hope the WPS is working hard to tempt some more West Coast teams in as well. This would create better rivalries and would cut the travel costs a bunch. Unfortunately, there are too many things to do in this area other than go watch a soccer game.

Q: With your affiliate relationship now over with the Sol, what kind of recruiting, coaching and tactical approach are you taking with the team this summer?
A: Our approach is the same as usual. We have a great core and have added some very good players. Week to week, it was nice to have the Sol players, but not knowing who was going to be available to us always made it a bit of a challenge and a balancing act. Last year’s Sol players did a great job for us but through the course of a season, I prefer to have the same group of players playing for each other. It’s more of a team.

Coaching and tactics change a little each year as players come and go and our strengths change. Basically I ask the players to have fun, play hard and leave the rest to me. I understand that playing for Ajax is not the most important thing in their lives. It’s about the fun, the camaraderie and the stuff that happens off-the-field. All my players have lives to lead, careers to be made and at this point, soccer is a relief from the daily grind.

Q: How is the team looking for this summer’s campaign?
A: We are looking good and I’m very happy with our squad right now. We always try to keep a small squad, and my ideal roster is 20 players, while 15 at games is perfect. With that, everyone gets playing time and there are no disappointments. The players are here to play, not watch.

We have picked up some very good players for this year’s team. Our goalkeeper from a few years ago is back after three years in Italy – Anna Picarrelli of the Italian National Team. UCLA’s Jenna Belcher and Kylie Wright and Jess Menzhuber from St. Mary’s have joined us from West Coast F.C. Florida State’s All-American Leah Gallegos is on board while former USWNT member Keri Sanchez – who was with the Sol last year – is staying with us. Sarah McIsaac from UConn is signed as well.

Q: You’ve been with the WPSL since the first matches were played in the league more than ten years ago. What do you think of the league’s evolution into a 50-plus team national women’s soccer league.
A: The league through [WPSL Commissioner] Jerry Zanelli has definitely gained national recognition. Locally, our competition is very good but it always has been in the West. With the North and South Division format, there’s much less traveling now, which makes it much easier for us to continue. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the WPSL: good teams, good people and now that we are expanding, more good teams and more good people.

Q: What has been the secret to the success of Ajax success over the years?
A: It’s about finding the right mix of players – talented players who not only can play together but enjoy each other. It’s so important in the women’s game that the players get on well. It’s the biggest difference in men’s and women’s soccer. In the men’s game, it doesn’t matter if you are liked as long as you can do the job. They only need to like you as a player. The women need to like you not only as a player, but as a person. And it’s the same with the coaching – the women need to like you as a person and not just respect you as a coach.

Q: What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a soccer coach, both on and off the field?
A: The biggest lesson is that there are many things in life more important than soccer – both to the players and myself. I’ve learned to give it my best and make it the best experience I can for the players. I’ve learned to respect the players for who they are, the effort they put in and the work they have done over the years to achieve the level that they are at. I’ve learned that no matter how hard we try, it doesn’t always work, but as long as we put our best into it then we can walk away proud. I’ve learned not to dwell on wins or losses.

I’ve learned the team is more important than the individual, the game more important than the team and both for myself and the players, that family is far more important than the game.

Q: How long do you see yourself coaching?
A: I enjoy it and fortunately, my wife supports it. The last few years I have thought more about stepping aside, but the problem is Ajax has no owner, no money and the coaching staff works for free. Put together, that’s not a good sell to get someone in to take over. If all my players left at once, I could do (leave, too) but as the odd one leaves, new ones join and become apart of the group that I really enjoy and respect. From there, it’s on to another season.

Q: Finally, what are your thoughts on England’s chances in the World Cup? Your adversary in last season’s WPSL National Final – current WPS Philadelphia head coach Paul Riley – picked Fernando Torres and Spain to take it all.
A: My heart says England and they have a chance, but I think Paul is right: Spain are the favored Europeans. However, you can not count out Brazil and Argentina, especially the latter with Messi’s incredible display against Arsenal (in the UEFA Champions League). It will be interesting to see how the teams adapt in South Africa. I think it will favor the Europeans, but more so the Latin teams. I don’t think an African team will do it. They have great individual talent but poor organization.

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Final: Galaxy at Dallas

Dallas 0 Galaxy 1

*Notable: Van Nuys’ Tristan Bowen makes the first start of his MLS career in the Galaxy’s fourth straight shutout.

Galaxy XI: Donovan Ricketts; Todd Dunivant, Gregg Berhalter, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza; Chris Birchall, Michael Stephens, Juninho, Chris Klein (Sean Franklin 70′); Tristan Bowen (Clint Mathis 65′), Mike Magee (Jovan Kirovski 74′).

Starless, but not scoreless.

The Dallas perspective


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Galaxy at FC Dallas Thursday gameday

First, your thought for the day courtesy of a former Galaxy striker hoping to play in a little tournament this summer:

Seize the opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind. ~Bulgarian Proverb

Let’s hope his former team will heed what one Mr. Herculez Gomez wrote above on his Facebook page in Dallas tonight where the Galaxy will really find out what life without Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan is like.

Need a reminder? Click here


Of course, the saving grace here is that Donovan Ricketts will return between the posts and he leads the league in virtually every goalkeeping category including goals against average, shutouts, saves percentage, wins, longest shutout streak in minutes and doodles created while killing time in the net. While I’m no sure about that last one I’d love to link to those stats if only the cruddy new MLS site had them (or if they do make them obvious since I sure as hell can’t find them).

Phil Collin has the game basics here and you’ll notice the game is delayed tonight on TV, so I for one will be staying away from the laptop until later this evening.

But the Angel City Brigade is hosting two viewing parties where you can watch live:

*The Auld Dubliner in Riverside.

*The Off Campus Pub in Carson across from Home Depot Center.

The Galaxy will face former goalkeeper Kevin Hartman who has worked his way into a starting position after leaving Kansas City when the two sides failed to agree to contract terms before the season began.

Here’s the Dallas perspective.

Here’s more from the official Galaxy video preview:

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Late Wednesday Kicks: Boca, Nebraska & Scotto

*General admission tickets for the visit of Boca Juniors at 5 p.m. Sunday at Home Depot Center have sold out the Galaxy announced today.

Note – Expect a Boca crowd the Galaxy essentially said today:

For fans of Boca Juniors, additional supporters sections have been added for the visiting club. Fans wishing to sit with fellow Boca Juniors fans are asked to request tickets in these sections when purchasing their seats.

Boca announced their roster for the game (minus Martin Palermo, who is on the Argentine World Cup squad):

goalkeepers -Javier Garca, Josu Ayala, Sebastin D’Angelo

defenders – Gastn Sauro, Leandro Aguirre, Hugo Ibarra, Leandro Marn, Luciano Fabin Monzn, Ezequiel Muoz, Breyner Bonilla (Colombia), David Achucarro.

midfielders – Jess Mndez, Cristian Erbes, Matas Gimnez, Nicols Colazo, Gastn Rossi.

forwards – Pablo Mouche, Lucas Viatri, Nicols Blandi, Orlando Gaona Lugo ( Paraguay ), Sergio Araujo.

From AP today:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP)–Boca Juniors midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme has had left knee surgery, which is likely to keep him out of the early part of next season.

Riquelme had surgery in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, after picking up the injury in the penultimate game of the season against Argentinos Juniors.

It has been a difficult year for Riquelme, a former Argentina international who has been overlooked for a place on the national team by Diego Maradona, who took over the team late in 2008.

The game is live on Fox Sports West and Univision.

*The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team face Sweden July 13 at Creighton University’s Morrison Stadium in Omaha, Neb., live on ESPN2. It’s the first time the U.S. women have played in Nebraska.

*Chivas USA will host youth team tryouts Simi Valley, Bell Gardens, San Bernadino and Bakersfield this summer. Details here.

*Torrance Mayor Frank Scotto is apparently now a Chivas USA fan.

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Galaxy get Puerto Rico Islanders in CONCACAF Champions League

It’s a preliminary round tie.

The draw was made today in New York.

“Puerto Rico is a team with proven success in the USSF Division-2 Pro League and we are looking forward to opening our Champions League campaign against them,” LA Galaxy General Manager and Head Coach Bruce Arena said. “They have had success in this tournament in the past and have an experienced manager in Colin Clarke, so they will present a difficult challenge for us.”

If the Galaxy beat the USL team as they should – although the Islanders made it to the semifinals of the competition last year – they will play in Group D with the Mexican Clausura champ (either Santos or Toluca) along with Olimpia of Honduras and the Central America 11-Xelaju winner.

The Galaxy will host the Islanders sometime between July 26 to 28; the return leg is Aug. 3-5. Times and dates listed on the CONCACAF Website site as I write this are incorrect both confederation and Galaxy officials just told me; the exact days and times for the games have yet to be determined.

Full details here.

Game schedule here.

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Wednesday World Cup Update

i-3bace333295096565c18a75684d2ee2b-alps.jpgTourists at the Alps? No, the French soccer team doing altitude training today in preparation for the World Cup (AP Photo).

  • The U.S. are up to full strength at camp:

    PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) — The U.S. soccer team has a full roster of 30 players at World Cup training camp for the first time.

    Defenders Oguchi Onyewu and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya worked out for the first time Wednesday in Princeton, N.J., after arriving from their clubs in Europe. They were to go for their physicals after practice along with defender Clarence Goodson and midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who arrived Monday.

    Forward Eddie Johnson (hamstring strain) and defender Chad Marshall (slight hamstring strain) continued to work out on their own rather than practice with the team.

    Goalkeeper Tim Howard (quadriceps strain), and defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit (abdominal strains) participated in part of the training.

  • But there are more personnel problems for the Czech Republic ahead of next week’s game against the U.S.:

    PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Republic will be without Timisoara forward Lukas Magera and Spartak Moscow defender Marek Suchy for its exhibition games in the United States.

    The Czech soccer federation said Tuesday that Magera has not been cleared by his club to join the national team and will be replaced by forward Tomas Pekhart of Czech team Jablonec.

    Coach Michal Bilek also called up Ankaragucu defender Jan Rajnoch to replace Suchy, who has an ankle injury.

    The Czechs will play Turkey on Saturday at Harrison, N.J., then will face the United States
    three days later at East Hartford, Conn. They will be without a number of injured players, including Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky and Galatasaray forward Milan Baros.

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Late Tuesday Kicks: Hat trick

*Columbus Crew forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto was suspended for one game and fined $250 for his “off the ball actions” against Chivas USA defender Michael Umaa Saturday, the Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee announced today. That’s the equivalent of a straight red.

The officiating crew did not see the 79th minute incident.

*The U.S. Women’s National Team will face Sweden at 4:30 p.m. July 17 in East Hartford, Conn (live on Fox Soccer Channel).

*Soccer America caught up with former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, now starting for Dallas, after the Peninsula High product’s exit from the Kansas City Wizards.

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U.S. camp proving grounds for Beasley, Buddle

Will they make it to South Africa? Should they make it to South Africa? They gotta:

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) – Prove it.

Before the U.S. team tries to establish itself on soccer’s biggest stage, several players must prove themselves worthy of being on the squad that goes to South Africa.

i-5b3c329e504683176304a55cb324976c-Bradleyprinceton.jpgBradley: Looking for proof (AP Photos).

Sure, there are the givens – Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore – who, if healthy, not only will make coach Bob Bradley’s 23-man squad, but almost surely will start on June 12 against England.

There are quite a few uncertains, though, starting with midfielder DaMarcus Beasley and
striker Edson Buddle. And they understand their tenuous situations.

“I’m old enough to know what goes into this and what I can and can’t do,” Beasley said Tuesday after a rainy practice session punctuated by running – lots of running.

“Obviously I have to be myself and express myself well on the field and not make myself seem silly with what I do out there.”

For Beasley, it’s a strange place to be. A rising star for the 2002 World Cup, when the Americans made the quarterfinals, he was a mainstay heading to the 2006 tournament. Then Beasley’s career went into decline just as the U.S. squad was falling apart.

Beasley became almost a forgotten man following his poor play at last year’s Confederations Cup. Only recently has he emerged from that funk as he’s bounced from England to Scotland and fought off injuries, including a thigh problem that sidelined him for two months this season with Glasgow Rangers.

He was recalled for a friendly at the Netherlands, and his free kick set up the only U.S. goal in a 2-1 defeat. With his performances improving, Beasley got the invite to this training camp.

“People know what I can do,” he said. “Bob knows what I can do. It’s just a matter of doing it.”

i-0567f8aefca7c15ce55cafd5d7364ab9-Beasleydribble.jpgDonovan believes Beasley, who will turn 28 on Monday, still can do all of the things that made him such a standout years ago.

“In Holland in March, we saw the DaMarcus we know,” Donovan said. “I think that something has clicked in his head and he’s figuring out now what it takes to be an elite player and we’re seeing it again.”

Donovan also has a strong connection with Buddle, his Galaxy teammate. Buddle has been a scoring machine for the Galaxy this season, prompting his invitation to the camp. He’s not even listed in the 2010 team media guide, showing what an outsider Buddle has been in the U.S. national team’s thoughts.

Buddle played 11 minutes for the U.S. team, back in 2003 against Venezuela. Yet he might need to demonstrate less to make the final 23-man roster than does Beasley, because the 28-year-old Buddle has a knack few other Americans can claim: a natural touch near the net.

He’s scored nine goals already in MLS, but realizes the level of competition is about to rise exponentially.

“I have to compete hard with this opportunity,” Buddle said as he ducked raindrops. “I need to combine well with the players we have on the field. And do it quickly.

“I’ve got to be coachable. I have to listen and learn and play my part.”

Again, Donovan provides perspective on Buddle’s challenge.

“The goals he’s been scoring have been impressive,” Donovan said, “but the things he’s doing otherwise have been impressive, too. You just tell the guys coming into camp to keep doing what you’re doing well. For the most part, he just needs to be himself and he’ll be fine.”

Also needing to re-establish their credentials will be players fighting back from injuries:
forwardds Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson, and even Oguchi Onyewu, the long-time centerpiece of the back line. Bradley isn’t about to take anyone who can’t show he will be 100 percent fit for the World Cup.

The coach admits that “DaMarcus is a tricky one.” Beasley hopes to provide some of that old magic for the coaching staff.

“I didn’t communicate with Bob, so I was kind of like a kid waiting to see if he would be
invited to make the team,” Beasley said. “I want to make him see something in me that will make the decision hard.”

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Tuesday’s Column: “Looking for Eric” (Cantona)

i-0670b31f3cabfd04cfcfc8e62313caff-cantonajump0001.jpgPhotos courtesy IFC Films

When I was growing up in England in the early 1970s as an alienated preteen, a little English movie often shown in school classrooms spoke to me.

It was called “Kes” and was directed by a young filmmaker named Ken Loach.

The story revolved an adolescent alienated from his family, school and society who found an escape, a sense of responsibility and discipline in the sport of falconry, training a hawk he named Kes.

It was a solitary pursuit that enabled the kid to shut out the world around him – or so he thought.

The move included a great football scene, wherein a rotund phys ed teacher would live out his footballing fantasies using the children he was supposed to be teaching as props. I actually knew (and disliked) an alleged teacher like that.

Fast forward to now.

Ken Loach, now 73, has made a movie that in many ways is an adult version of “Kes,” based on an idea from French footballing great Eric Cantona.


It is a simple little tale, but one with wit, heart – and Cantona.

I was honored to chat with Loach recently via phone from his home in Bath (alas a Cantona intervew never came off), where he was waiting for the non-league team’s playoff game that following weekend in Chelmsford, Essex (they won, BTW, and after a subsequent win are now back in the top tier of non-league football in England).

It is a little strange to talk to someone whose work you admired before age 10 and I’m not sure Loach quite grasped the parallels I saw in the two movies.

Nevertheless, if you have the opportunity to see “Looking for Eric” before you become engulfed in all things World Cup, I’d recommend it.

A knowledge of soccer is not necessary to enjoy the film (Loach told me he was surprised at how many women who don’t like the sport, but were dragged to the movie by their husbands or boyfriends, loved the film), but it you know much about Cantona, the movie becomes that much richer.

“It touched people in ways that they didn’t expect to be touched, which was nice,” Loach said.

Read the column about the movie here (for space reasons it didn’t make it into today’s Daily Breeze and will likely run Wednesday) in today’s Daily News and check out the trailer below.

Updated 2:15 p.m. Tuesday

For those planning to see the movie this weekend, the film’s publicity folks just released an update on where and when it will be playing this weekend:

“We just learned the film opens in Pasadena and Encino on May 28. West Hollywood and Santa Monica remain on Friday.

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