*Argentine midfielder Walter Gaitn has signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Blues of the new USL Pro division, the club announced today. The 33-year-old scored 76 goals in 197 games for Tigres UANL and Necaxa.
*Former Ajax America Head Coach Brian Boswell, a five-time WPSL Coach Of The Year, has joined the new OC Wave of the Women’s Premier Soccer League as an assistant coach to Abner Rogers, the former LA Sol coach.
“I have known and respected Abner for almost 20 years and really enjoyed working with him at the Los Angeles Sol,” said Boswell. “I couldn’t say no to a new challenge working with Abner … especially as I knew they had a support staff behind the teams. I wish Ajax all the best in the future. They will always be a part of me.”
The Wave and Northern California sister club the Bay Area Breeze have considerably deeper pockets than Rolling Hills Estates-based Ajax and will field professional teams in what is usually a semi-pro (and that’s being generous) league.
Rogers will scout for players at the Algarve Cup in Portugal and the Wave will host open tryouts late next month in Mission Viejo.
South Bay youth coach Kenyon Lohn, who has coached at FRAM, which shares Nansen Field with Ajax, has taken over for Boswell.
*And that’s all from me for a few days. I’m off to celebrate my mother’s 83rd birthday this weekend and there will be no column from me Tuesday.
And it essentially amounts to this: two new teams in the league means the playoffs expand from eight to 10 teams.
The top three finishers in each conference qualify (last year it was the top two in each conference) and then it’s the next best four clubs irrespective of conference, which is the same as last year.
Not exactly earth-shattering changes.
BTW, the four wild cards will play single elimination games against each other, with higher seeds hosting.
Then it’s a two-game, aggregate goals format (same as last year) for the four conference semifinals.
The conference finals are again a one-off game, hosted by the higher seed.
MLS Cup “will again be a single championship match hosted at a predetermined site to be announced at a later date,” the league said, which at least leaves open the possibility the regular season champion will host the game, I suppose.
Despite all the criticism of the format last year there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of change does there?
*Largely fielding a reserve team, the Galaxy beat the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 today for the second time in two days in Arizona, the victory coming from second half goals by Chad Barrett and Adam Cristman 16 minutes apart.
The Galaxy will now return to Southern California after spending 10 days in Arizona. David Beckham, who trained with the EPL’s Tottenham Hotspur during the offseason, will join the club Thursday for the final three weeks of preseason.
Galaxy lineup: Josh Saunders; Dustin McCarty, Sean Franklin, Leonardo, Todd Dunivant (Ryan Thomas 56′); Michael Stephens, Hector Jimenez, Miguel Lopez, Bryan Jordan (Adam Cristman 56′); Mike Magee, Chad Barrett.
*Incidentally, single game Galaxy tickets go on sale to the general public Wednesday.
*The U.S. qualified for the U-17 World Cup today with a 3-2 overtime win over El Salvador in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF qualifying competition, in a game that saw 13 cards issued including two U.S. red and another for El Salvador.
Chula Vista’s Alejandro Guido got the fourth minute U.S. opener, while North Hollywood’s Mario Rodriguez snatched the the 95th minute second goal. The Galaxy’s Jack McBean did not see action off the bench.
With the Philadelphia Union. Interesting choice of forward by Coach Peter Nowak, not exactly renowned as the tolerant type especially given that Ruiz has played for three different clubs in three years.
How he will work with the party-loving Carlos Ruiz, seen at right playing for Greek side Aris Salonika last September against Athletico Madrid, who used to drive former Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid nuts when he played here, remains to be seen.
Still, the profilfic Ruiz remains the 10th highest goal scorer in MLS history and is still banging in the goals, even though he doesn’t seem to stick around very long with any one club. Here’s more from the Associated Press on the return of El Pescadito:
CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Guatemalan forward Carlos Ruiz has returned to Major League Soccer, signing with the Philadelphia Union on a free transfer from the Greek club Aris.
Ruiz scored a league-leading 24 goals for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2002 and was voted league MVP as the Galaxy won the MLS Cup. He tied New England’s Taylor Twellman for the 2003 scoring lead with 15 goals.
He then scored 31 goals with Dallas from 2005-08. The 31-year-old has since played with
Paraguay’s Olimpia, Mexico’s Puebla and Aris scoring 40 goals in about 65 appearances. He scored three goals this season in the Europa League.
The growth of the rich soccer culture in Southern California is continuing, spurred by Facebook and the Internet.
A decade or so ago, when I first began working at the Torrance-based Daily Breeze, I wrote a story about the Orange County Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club that met in Old Torrance (the South Bay was a compromise meeting place for members in OC and LA counties).
At the time, I knew of only one other club-specific group that met at a place accessible to the public, the Los Angeles Celtic Supporters Club.
Both groups, incidentally, watch their games on closed-circuit TV and charge either an annual membership fee and/or per game admission to pay for the service.
But today there are a surprisingly large number of EPL clubs with fan groups who meet weekly at various watering holes to watch games together, with the vast majority available for free on Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN2 or elsewhere.
And that is the subject of today’s column, one I literally could not have written 10 years ago.
I’m not kidding myself that this is a definitive list. So if you’re one of a group of Club America, CD Guadalajara, Barcelona etc., fans who get together on a regular basis locally drop me a line and let me know.
Upcoming events include:
*Olympique de Marseille vs Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Ye Olde Kings Head pub in Santa Monica hosted by the Manchester United Fans of Los Angeles.
On Sunday, the LA Gooners hold their first-ever fundraiser in conjunction with the 8 a.m. Arsenal-Birmingham City Carling Cup final at The Fox and Hounds in Studio City, a raffle (tickets are $5) to raise money for a Los Feliz animal shelter.
Add Barca – A regular blog reader tells me a group called Barcaloco meets regularly at Hollywood’s soccer-friendly Capitol City Bar & Grill, which U.S. fan group the American Outlaws invaded for a couple of games during last year’s World Cup.
The group’s web site doesn’t say how large the group is, but it is apparently officially recognized by Barcelona – and has been since 2001.
And here’s part deux of the behind-the-scenes-look at the Galaxy’s camp:
*The Columbus crew have signed midfielder Josh Gardner, a member of the Galaxy’s MLS Cup-winning 2005 team and a first-round draft pick the previous year, you’ll recall, to a multi-year contract. He played 21 Galaxy games over three seasons before spending the last four years in the USL with the Seattle Sounders and Carolina Railhawks.
“I am humbled by my journey to get here, but it is a great opportunity to come to a team that has such great tradition,” Gardner said. “I look forward to the hard work and to continue that tradition by helping the team achieve its goals.”
Now, that’s perseverance.
*Pepperdine announced the signings of seven high school seniors to national letters-of-intent today including locals defender/forward Briana Lariviere (Camarillo High) and defender Nikki McKee (Walnut High).
*Tuesday’s column will look at the local fan groups who get together in various Southern Cafornia pubs to cheer on their favorite team. There’s more than you might think.
The game could feature an appearance for United by former U.S. international Charlie Davies, who is on loan from his French club and attempting a comeback from life-threatening injuries he suffered last year in a car crash in Washington after he broke curfew before a World Cup qualifying game.
*An 89th minute winner by Jesus Padilla gave Chivas USA a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps today in a scrimmage in Arizona. The club heads back to Southern California today.
Defender Heath Pearce made his Chivas USA debut at right back.
Chivas USA lineup: Zach Thornton (Sergio Arias 68′), Zarek Valentin (Andrew Boyens 68′), Ante Jazic (Jorge Flores 46′), Jimmy Conrad (Jimmy Asprilla 68′), Heath Pearce (Michael Umaa 31′), Michael Lahoud (Tristan Bowen 68′), Blair Gavin (Gerson Mayn 38′), Francisco Mendoza (Ben Zemanski 68′), Mariano Trujillo (Guillermo Torres 68′), Alan Gordon (Jess Padilla 68′), Alejandro Moreno (Victor Estupian 68′)
*The Galaxy and Vancouver will play out in Arizona Sunday. Here’s a behind the scenes look at the Galaxy camp:
*MLS and Fox, reportedly millions apart in negotiations over a new TV deal, have struck a one-year stopgap agreement that includes a whole bunch of Friday – yes, Friday – night games:
The Galaxy are on seven times including two Friday games at Home Depot Center, which has necessitated moving the game against D.C. United game ahead one day to June 3. Chivas USA are featured just once.
*Incidentally, I’ve updated and streamlined the links at right so the new and updated 2011 schedules for both local clubs and MLS as a whole are all there.
*Voting has begun for the 2011 National Soccer Hall of Fame ballot; the Galaxy’s Cobi Jones is eligible for the first time this year. Full details here.
*My pick for the game of the weekend? Manchester United verses non-league Crawley Town in the FA Cup set for 9 a.m. Saturday on Fox Soccer Channel (all the weekend action is at the Live Soccer TV link at top right).
Here’s a preview:
CRAWLEY, England (AP) — They both are nicknamed the Red Devils and both have fiery Scotsmen as their managers. That’s where the similarities end between Manchester United and Crawley Town.
The gulf between the clubs could hardly be bigger ahead of their meeting Saturday in the FACup’s fifth round, a game billed as among the biggest mismatches in the competition’s history.
United, a world power with three European titles and famous players such as Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs (who just signed a new one-year contract at age 37), has a four-point lead in the Premier League as it tries for a record 19th English title.
Crawley has never played above the fifth tier of English soccer and, until this year,
struggled to attract crowds of more than 500 to its non-league matches. The tiny southeast club would become a household name if it wins Saturday at Old Trafford.
“It’s a dream come true for the club,” Crawley chairman Victor Marley told The Associated Press. “The opportunity to perform in front of 75,000 people is something that every player, every manager aspires to do. It’s also a fantastic moment for the people of Crawley, to go and see their team play the future champions of England. It’s what any non-league club would ever have wished or hoped for.”
Crawley became only the sixth non-league team since the end of World War II — and the first in 17 years — to reach this stage in the FA Cup after beating league clubs Swindon, Derby and Torquay.
It stands to receive “in excess of 1 million pounds ($1.6 million),” according to Marley, in
gate receipts, television revenue and other add-ons from the United match.
The club was about to fold in 2006 under the tenure of brothers Chas and Azwar Majeed, then was rescued by a group of local businessmen.
Debts of more than 1 million pounds were wiped clear and new investors pumped more cash into Crawley to help build a squad of relative quality and depth, costing a reported 500,000 pounds ($800,000).
Crawley is now second in its division of the Football Conference, on track for promotion to League 2 (the old fourth division) next season — and league status for the first time since it was formed in 1896.
Crawley’s manager is Steve Evans, who hails from Glasgow, Scotland, and is known for having a short temper — just like Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Gone are the days when non-league giant killers had a construction worker at left back and a mechanic in central midfield. Unlike most other clubs at its level, Crawley has a roster of professional players, many with extensive league experience.
Players such as Argentine midfielder Sergio Torres, brought in from third-tier side Peterborough, and prolific lower-level forwards Richard Brodie and Matt Tubbs were signed for a combined fee of 270,000 pounds ($434,000) by Evans, helping improve the average attendance at 5,000-capacity Broadfield Stadium by 75 percent to about 2,000 this season.
“We have new investment in and that’s enabled the manager to purchase the players that have pushed us to the forefront,” Marley said. “But you can spend money and still not win the league, as has been seen in the past with other clubs.”