Monday Kicks: U.S. to play Egypt & more

*The U.S. will play No. 10-ranked Egypt Feb. 9 in Cairo, officials confirmed today.

Coach Bob Bradley had his usual canned reaction:

“Egypt is an extremely talented and competitive team. Their performances in the Confederations Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations have demonstrated their ability to challenge the top teams in the world. To play against the champions of Africa in what will be a fantastic environment in Cairo is a great opportunity as we get ready for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.”

The U.S. beat Egypt 3-0 at the 2009 Confederations Cup with goals from Charlie Davies, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey.

It will be the second game of the year for the U.S.after the 6 p.m. Jan. 22 contest against Chile at Home Depot Center.

*The SportsBusiness Journal has named AEG head honcho Tim Leiweke at No. 12 on their list of the 50 most influential people in sport.

He’s ahead of FIFA President Sepp Blatter at No. 21 (!) and MLS Commish Don Garber at No. 34.

Ameri-centric list? Of course. Here’s the complete list.

*Senior Rafael Baca of Lawndale has become the third player in LMU history to be named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-America team, earning a place on the Third Team. Baca joins Andres Murriagui and Andres Torres (both 2002) and Matt Kovar (2004) as the only Lions to earn NSCAA All-America recognition.

Baca had a league-leading eight assists and three goals last season.

Incidentally, Wayne Rooney just blasted a spot kick over the bar, missing the chance to put Manchester United up by two over Arsenal. The game is on ESPN2.

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Friday Kicks: College Cup in Santa Barbara tonight & more

i-6e66bac4c56a083fd685bff2afa5b66a-385552569c.jpgWe’re down to the final four in men’s college soccer with the two NCAA semifinals scheduled for tonight at 5:30 between North Carolina and Louisville and at 8 o’clock between Akron and Michigan.

Both games are live on Fox Soccer Channel ESPNU and ESPN2 respectively , but if you go tonight (plenty of tickets are still available) bundle up and hope the forecast high winds don’t ruin the games.

The final is at 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.

Meanwhile, American involvement in the FIFA World Club championship is over, Mexico’s Pachuca and its three Americans (including former Galaxy striker Herculez Gomez) seeing their season end with a 1-0 loss to the Congo’s TP Mazembe this morning.

As usual there’s tons of televised football this weekend on TV and online, but really there is only one game that matters this “weekend:” EPL leaders Arsenal facing second-place Manchester United at noon Monday on ESPN2. (Well, OK, third-place Chelsea against fifth-placed Spurs at 8 a.m. Sunday on Fox Soccer Channel is just a notch below that).

For all the games this weekend click the Live Soccer TV link at top right.

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Thursday kicks: MLS transfer rumors & more

Yup, it’s that time of year:

*The Galaxy and Chivas USA have supposedly both made inquiries about Newcastle Jets’ out of contract former Australian international central defender Ljubo Milicevic. So Gregg Berhalter is retiring then?

*David Beckham has reportedly turned down the chance to join England’s Leicester City.

*New USL Pro team LA Blues, which will play most of its games in the OC, unveils their first player Tuesday – an unnamed veteran of Mexico’s top division (and two other new signings).

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Wednesday Kicks: Ball drive lacks bounce & more

As you can tell from the above graphic, the Torrance-based Daily Breeze is more than a few balls short ahead of the Friday deadline.

So c’mon all you local soccer clubs, donate a few soccer balls and challenge your peers to match your contribution.

In other soccer news today:

*It appears the Galaxy reportedly have an English rival for the signature of Brazilian Ronaldinho.

*The Galaxy announced Tuesday that Assistant Coach Trevor James is leaving to join the expansion Portland Timbers in a similar capacity. From the Galaxy press release:

The longest tenured member of the coaching staff having joined the club in 2006, James served as an assistant coach for the club for the last four-and-a-half years, while also taking on the role of Director of Player Development since the start of the Galaxy Academy in 2007.

As the club’s Director of Player Development, James oversaw all aspects of the creation and growth of the Galaxy Academy, including developing the club’s first home-grown signing, forward Tristan Bowen of Van Nuys.

*The expansion Vancouver Whitecaps and new signing John Thorrington of the Palos Verdes Peninsula are wrapping up a camp in Ventura.

*The first phase of the Re-Entry Draft ended uneventfully today with just two players picked including former Galaxy striker Joseph Ngwenya, plucked by D.C. United from Houston.

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Tuesday Kicks: So Cal USL pro team announces name, Chivas USA coaching update

A couple of items to pass along while I watch the DirecTV UEFA Champions League mix (eight games at once!) here at work:

*The new local USL Pro team regular blog readers read about earlier here that will play at Titan Stadium has apparently taken the lead from the inelegantly named Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and will call itself the LA Blues, despite playing most of its games in Orange County. Go figure. Details here.

Let’s hope the picture at that link is not some sort of omen of things to come in terms of drawing a crowd, incidentally.

The Division 3 team is throwing itself a “pep rally” next Tuesday.

*Chivas USA, looking to stun MLS with a daring, innovative choice for its new coach that will make a huge media splash and have excited fans scooping up season tickets is today reportedly interviewing (wait for it) – former Chicago Fire coach Dennis Hamlett.

A real inspirational ball of fire is Denny, BTW.

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Tuesday’s column: U.S. can learn from World Cup failure

i-a00a4f63d0712ba7f06f6395890b7939-qatarcup.jpgThe Qatari challenge: The World Cup will meet the Arab world in 2022 (APG Photo).

As I researched this week’s column on the failed U.S. World Cup bid and what can be done in the future to improve U.S. chances, I spoke Monday with Christine Bird, a marketing executive with the Fullerton-based California State Soccer Association – South.

Bird has worked on a variety of major events including the World Cup and Olympic Games and in 2006 was a venue operations manager in Qatar when the nation hosted the 2006 Asian Games.

The focus of the column shifted and none of her remarks made into print, but Bird’s observations about the three months she spent in the country, although four years old now, remain valid.

Here’s a sampling of what she told me:

*The “culture clash” between Arab and Western society in a country where temperatures during the World Cup can soar to over 120 degrees mean people from both cultures will have to compromise:

“It’s going to be a change for them,” she said, adding she saw lots of burkhas. “They have 12 years to sort of contemplate this and decide how it is going to be. Everyone will be briefed before they go what the rules are going to be. People will have to respect what the attitude is.”

*The heat will be a major issue despite Qatar’s pledge to air condition stadiums:

“It is very hot. I arrived in October and it was over 100 degrees. My coworkers were telling me stories of summertime when it was 125 degrees. … Basically you go from indoor facility to indoor facility. It’s a desert. It’s a very dusty environment.”

*No matter how you look at it, Qatar and it’s World Cup will be a unique adventure for Western tourists:

“It’s an unknown to a lot of the world – I think people will be curious to go and see. By the time the event comes around there will be enough knowledge that it will be a safe and fun event that people will want to go. … They will put on a spectacular show. They have the money. They are very much about greeting guests and being good hosts.”

One final note: Bird observed that for the Asian Games Qatar dangled millions in front of athletes willing to become Qatari citizens and compete for that nation.

Will we see Qatar attempting to import, say, a bunch of Brazilians en masse in an effort to qualify for the World Cup? Stay tuned.

i-3629a6062a85e2a9a1b794a175c8e15f-qatarshirt.jpgBig jersey, big dreams: Qatar created the world’s largest soccer jersey for its successful 2022 World Cup bid. Can the world’s biggest-ever World Cup budget be far behind? (AP Photo).


FIFA responded to criticism of the World Cup bidding process today. The best part of this story – Jack Warner lecturing on the morality of FIFA in comparison to the media:

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — FIFA’s general secretary defended the process for choosing the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups on Tuesday, but did not rule out the possibility of changing it for 2026.

Jerome Valcke said FIFA has until 2018 to decide if it “should or (should) not change” the way host countries are decided. But he said last week’s vote for the World Cup hosts was “perfectly organized, perfectly transparent and perfectly under control.”

Russia beat bids from England, Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal for 2018. Qatar, which was criticized by FIFA for the heat and its small size, won the 2022 vote ahead of Australia, Japan, United States, and South Korea. The vote was greeted with surprise, in particular in England and the United States, and sparked allegations that the process was too secretive and open to corruption.

Before the vote in Zurich, FIFA’s committee members faced intense British media scrutiny about alleged corruption and vote-trading. FIFA suspended two committee members from for violating ethics rules, but said there was insufficient evidence to prove allegations that Qatar and the Spain-Portugal bid had conspired to trade blocks of votes.

“If we say yes, yes it does not work, we would recognize something went wrong,” said Valcke, who was in Abu Dhabi before Wednesday’s opening match of the Club World Cup. “I’m sorry to say we have organized a voting system which was very transparent.

“If the question is it’s not transparent because you don’t know who voted for whom, you will never know for whom I voted for between Nicolas Sarkozy and (French Socialist politician) Segolene Royal three years ago when the election took place. I will not tell because that is my freedom to decide for whom I voted without having to say publicly my choice.”

Chuck Blazer, a FIFA executive committee member from the United States, insisted “the process had not failed at all.”

Blazer said he voted for Russia and the United States, and denied media allegations that he had reneged on a promise to vote for England, and had backed Qatar for 2022 ahead of his own country.

“I’ve been very clear to anyone who was involved in the bidding and had impression on how I was leaning. I never made a promise to anyone how I was going to vote. I certainly never disappointed anyone,” he said. “I voted for Russia and the United States, and I did so for what I believed were good and sufficient reasons.”

Blazer insisted the secret ballot limited outside pressure on the 22 FIFA executive committee members who voted Thursday.

“Personally, I feel there is a need for a closed ballot at FIFA at this level because of the
fact there are many governments and other individuals interested in potentially influencing the votes of members who may be in their own constituency,” he said. “The one way to protect them is allowing them to vote without it being public. People who yell transparency, well there are problems sometimes in that transparency if it has a negative effect on those people who need to exercise judgment.”

FIFA vice president Jack Warner on Tuesday blamed British media investigations for England’s failure in the 2018 vote.

“The FIFA ExCo as a body could not have voted for England having been insulted by their media in the worst possible way at the same time,” Warner said. “To do so would have been the ultimate insult (to FIFA).”

Three days before the vote, FIFA was hit by corruption allegations when three senior officials were accused by the European media of having received secret payments. Executive committee members Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and Issa Hayatou of Camaroon were said to have allegedly received payoffs from world soccer’s former marketing agency. The BBC and Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger and Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that three long-standing members of FIFA’s ruling panel received kickbacks from marketing agency ISL from 1989-99.

Valke and Blazer said it was time to move past these allegations and Blazer insisted the
allegations in no way tainted either winner.

“I don’t want any of that to take away from victory of Russia and Qatar in having been
successful in the vote,” Blazer said. “I was satisfied when I left the voting room that the
vote had been held democratically, that people had voted their own conscious and this was the result.”

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Monday Kicks: More Galaxy-Ronaldinho rumors (& more)

*Steven Goff of the Soccer Insider blog hit the Ronaldinho-Galaxy rumor mill again. It has been several weeks without one so it was about time for an agent somewhere to drop a hint and keep the pot simmering.

All I’ve got to say – shit or get off the pot, Ronaldinho. Frankly, I’d rather pick up Juan Pablo Angel in the Re-Entry Draft anyway.

*While rumor-mongering, let us not forget that former Galaxy striker Herculez Gomez is keeping his MLS options open.

*U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage was named a finalist for the FIFA Women’s World Coach of the Year for Women’s Soccer, joining German Under-20 Women’s National Team head coach Maren Meinert and (the likely eventual winner) full German Women’s National Team head coach Silvia Neid. It’s the first time the award will be given to both men’s and women’s soccer coaches. The winners will be announced in January.

*Now this should be an interesting camp.

The U.S. Under-23 Women’s National Team convenes at Home Depot Center Sunday for a one week camp.

The 23-player roster includes Palos Verdes Estates’ Christen Press of Stanford, which was shut out by Notre Dame for the national championship Sunday; her opposite striking number Melissa Henderson (who had a much better game for the Irish); and her former free-scoring striking partner Kelley O’Hara, last year’s top scorer for Stanford and winner of the Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s best player and who won the WPS championship with the Gold Pride last season before the club went belly up.

Also at the camp: Kylie Wright (UCLA; Rancho Santa Margarita).

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Press-ganged at College Cup

Notre Dame 1 Stanford

i-9cb0813ff7324e2b74a64ea350a8625b-NDstanfordsoccer.jpgShutout: This was about as close as Christen Press, left, got to the Notre Dame goal and any chance of scoring on goalkeeper Nikki Weiss Sunday at the NCAA championship (AP Photo).

Palos Verdes Estates’ Christen Press, the nation’s leading scorer, was held to just one shot on goal by a dominating Notre Dame midfield and defense and Stanford lost for the first time this season in the College Cup Sunday in North Carolina.

It’s the second consecutive College Cup final loss for Stanford and the second time in a row Stanford had gone through the season unbeaten only to fall at the final hurdle

Stanford was fortunate Notre Dame didn’t add one or two more, an excellent performance by freshman goalkeeper Emily Oliver keeping them in the game.

Press, Stanford’s all-time leading scorer, is a candidate for the Hermann Trophy, given to the nation’s best female college player; Stanford’s Kelley O’Hara won last year.

Game story

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