Monday Kicks: Japan’s World Cup Legacy & more

*Soccer in insignificant compared to the misery inflicted by earthquakes and other natural disasters. But the power of sport is its ability to inspire, uplift and unite as the Japanese well know in the wake of their magnificent World Cup win. I’ll have more on the tournament in Tuesday’s column.

*How much did this tournament capture the public’s imagination? ESPN earned a massive 8.6 overnight rating for the game, its highest ever for any World Cup game, men or women’s, according to Sports Business Daily. To put that in perspective, the network’s previous overnight high was for last years U.S.-Algeria game – which came in at 4.4.

*Relive the World Cup final in Long Beach in pictures.

*Check out the beach soccer tournament in Long Beach last weekend in this picture gallery.

*West Bromwich Albion may not be an EPL power, but they are still a different class as the minor league Ventura County Fusion learned Sunday in Oxnard.

*Manhattan Beach-based Doxa Italia just missed out on the national amateur title this past weekend.

Updated

*MLS this morning confirmed the game day roster for the All-Star Game.

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Sunday Soccer brunch: Destiny awaits U.S. women at World Cup

Pregame is at 11 a.m. on ESPN and kickoff is around 11:45 a.m.

i-895bac5b23174e0b19b0db4683b1ba2c-worldcuptrophy.jpg

* Preview

*Here’s the latest from the WNT blog.

Earlier:

*U.S. grooves on unfamiliar spotlight ahead of World Cup final.

*The shadow of 1999 (and the Megan Rapinoe YouTube video).

* Japan’s strength is its system, not stars.

*Has women’s international soccer come of age on the World Cup stage?

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Ronaldo scores unreal highlight reel goal as Real rolls over Galaxy

i-6a53bc07106e176fc06be476c563539e-beckskaka.jpgFun and games: Kaka and David Beckham share a moment Saturday at the Coliseum (AP Photo).

While I was in Carson watching former Barcelona striker Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls play Chivas USA, Staff Writer Phil Collin watched Real Madrid toy with the Galaxy.

The Cristiano Ronaldo goal was the highlight.

Watch:

Senior moments?

There’s hope for the future.

The Galaxy U-16 team won the youth program’s first national title today.

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Chivas USA: Foreign striker signing imminent

With Chivas USA’s season hanging in the balance, Coach Robin Fraser admitted Saturday that a forward – and one who needs a visa – could be signed as soon as next week.

The MLS international transfer window opened Friday.

“It certainly is a very big priority,” Fraser said after seeing Chivas USA fail to get a single shot on target against New York. “We are excited to add some pieces and continue to move forward.”

Chivas USA’s top scorer is playmaker/midfielder Nick LaBrocca with six goals; forward Justin Braun has just four, but three of those came in one game. Chivas USA haven’t scored more than two goals and won a game since the 3-2 win over New York in mid-May.

Through 20 games, Chivas USA have a 5-7-8 record; through 21 games last year they sat at 10-8-3.

So Fraser knows his team has to pick up the pace in the final third of the season or he could meet the same fate as his predecessor, one season and done.

The problems were familiar ones in the 0-0 draw Saturday with New York.

“For most of the first half we didn’t play with any confidence and that led us to turn the ball over quite a bit,” he said. “Overall, for us, we weren’t as sharp in the final third as we wanted to be, we weren’t as precise in the final third as we wanted to be.”

Sounds like a prescription for a new forward.

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Live: New York Red Bulls (6-4-10) at Chivas USA (5-7-7) from Home Depot Center

Final: Chivas USA 0 New York Red Bulls 0

i-6dc816b7da484ed3b66785c640921c6b-redbullschivas.jpgJoel Lindpere of the New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA’s Ben Zemanski battle for the ball Saturday at Home Depot Center (Photo by Getty Images).

You know a game has lacked spark when the biggest drama of the night is the referee consulting with the assistant referee over whether to award New York Chivas USA a penalty for what appeared a possible handball.

He didn’t in the end though.

Thierry Henry sent a shot skittering past the far post seconds after that.

Chivas USA now have just one win in their last seven games, but are unbeaten in two. New York have one win in their last seven games, too.

Guess we should have seen this one coming.

Chivas USA ended the game without being credited with a shot on target.

More later.

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Total LA Carmageddon soccer attendance tonight: 71,049. That’s 56,211 at the Coliseum to see Real Madrid destroy the Galaxy 4-1 and 14,838 for this scoreless draw (with about five minutes left). Hey, at least they had goals at the Coliseum.

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Chivas replaced Victor Estupinan with Chris Cortez in the 68th minute.

Chivas USA may not have had much in the way of offense, but Thierry Henry hasn’t looked particularly happy with the service he’s been getting in this game either. Her’s spent an inordinate amount of time gesturing in frustration to his teammates and throwing his hands up in the air.

******

Well, Chivas improved offensively as the half progressed, but it was still not a particularly impressive showing from the home team.

Justin Braun managed to get on the end of a Simon Elliott free kick cum cross as the half came to a close.

In retrospect the Red Bulls should have done more with a half they largely dominated, but were only given credit for one shot on target (Chivas had none).

Chivas Coach Robin Fraser will want to see a lot more from his team in the second half, his early yanking of the mistake-prone Lahoud telegraphing his unhappiness.

At least the game is hanging in the balance – Real Madrid are walloping the Galaxy 4-0 with about 25 minutes left up the road in the Coliseum.

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Flores just had Chivas USA’s best (only?) chance of the night came in the 38th minute, Justin Braun threading the ball through a defense caught square and Jorge Flores blasting a shot off the bar from 18 yards out.

Second later Mariano Trujillo replaced an out of sorts Michael Lahoud in defense for Chivas USA.

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Dan Kennedy is keeping an impotent Chivas USA in this one making a second huge save on the night from a 32nd minute blast by Jan Gunnar Stol from about 20 yards out. Kennedy pushed the cracking shot onto the crossbar after Stoll had latched onto a poor clearance by Simon Elliott.

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I don’t know what’s more annoying: the fact that Chivas USA have rarely ventured out of their half and had no meaningful offensive impact or the annoying droning from the free plastic horns they handed out tonight.

Joel Lindpere just had the best chance of the night in the 22nd minute, collecting a pass from Teemu Taino from a midfield throw-in and forcing Dan Kennedy to make a save to prevent the ball squeezing in at the near post.

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Some sloppy passing from Chivas USA in these early stages; we’re in the 16th minute. Real Madrid have gone 1-0 against the Galaxy, incidentally, Callejon getting the goal on the half hour mark.

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Happy Carmageddon weekend from Home Depot Center where one press box colleague described the freeway traffic on the way to the game as being about as busy as it is at 3 a.m.

I heard of no problems for Galaxy fans on the Harbor (110) Freeway heading to the friendly against Real Madrid at the Coliseum that just kicked off, too, although I wasn’t taking any chances, which is one reason I’m at the HDC (although a game that actually means something is far preferable to watching Kaka et al wander around for 45 minutes).

Chivas USA Coach Robin Fraser has made just two changes to the starting lineup that disappointingly drew 1-1 with Sporting Kansas City last weekend. (Three times in the last five games Chivas USA has allowed a goal after the 80th minute that cost them points and they won’t want to that again to a team they beat in New York 3-2 back in May behind a Justin Braun hat trick).

Jorge Flores replaces a benched Blair Gavin in midfield and Victor Estupinan is favored over Marco Mondaini, who is also available as a sub.

Here’s the Chivas USA lineup: Dan Kennedy-Michael Lahoud, Michael Umana, Heath Pearce, Zarek Valentin-Ben Zemanski, Simon Elliott, Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores-Justin Braun

Red Bull Coach Hans Backe starts new signing Frank Rost in goal as expected in an effort to bring stability to a New York back four that has leaked five goals in the last two games, including four to Chicago Tuesday in a U.S. Open Cup blowout.

Rafa Marquez is still missing due to a hamstring strain.

Red Bulls: Frank Rost-Jan Gunnar Solli, Carlos Mendes, Tim Ream, Roy Miller-Dan Richards, Dax McCarty, Teemu Tainio, Joel Lindpere-Juan Agudelo, Thierry Henry

John Rooney, Wayne’s brother, is on the bench.

The game is on Galavision and Prime.

Refresh this post for updates.

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Saturday Soccer: Exclusive Beckham interview as he plays former team Real Madrid for the first time and more

i-8bd4a181910088113e69f4aa701026e7-beckhamtrain.jpgMarked man: David Beckham trains Friday at Home Depot Center ahead of today’s game against former club Real Madrid at the Coliseum (AP Photo).

*Staff Writer Phil Collin scored an exclusive interview with David Beckham as the former England international and the Galaxy prepare to face Real Madrid today. And yeah, as of yesterday tickets starting at $50 were still available.

*But with all due respect to the Galaxy, here’s the link fans heading to the game need to check on this Carmageddon weekend and although traffic is light so far most soccer fans have yet to hit the freeways and there are ominous warnings about gridlock on the Harbor (110) Freeway.

The game is also live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

*Good luck to those of you heading to the Coliseum. I’m opting for a competitive game closer to home (surface streets only for me today) at Home Depot Center where Chivas USA play the New York Red Bulls and new signing Frank Rost at 7:30 p.m. (live on Prime and Galavision).

*Meanwhile future Galaxy opponent Manchester City is in the Bay Area today taking on Club America (live at 5 p.m. on KFTR).

*Lastly, Diamond Bar’s Alex Morgan is enjoying new-found fame in the wake of her goal against France in the World Cup semifinal.

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U.S. grooves on unfamiliar spotlight ahead of World Cup final

i-bab1f319760ea4ae58b0fb8114f93f5b-highfive.jpgHigh fives, high pressure: Abby Wambach, right, high-fives teammate Christie Rampone during a U.S. training session Friday ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final (AP Photo).

There were virtually no American reporters outside of those working for ESPN – which holds the broadcast rights to the tournament – planning to follow the U.S. team at the outset of the World Cup.

The recession, a team that lacked the charisma of the Mia Hamm years and several poor results that resulted in the U.S. barely scraping into the tournament had all contributed to the lack of interest.

But as AP National Writer Nancy Armour points out, that’s all changed now:

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — A week ago, there were so few people following the Americans they could hold their daily media sessions around a small table in their hotel lobby.

Now they need an entire ballroom.

The frenzy of attention surrounding the U.S. women ahead of Sunday’s final against Japan is something they’ve never experienced before, and it has the potential to fire them up — or heap even more pressure on what is already the biggest game of their careers.

“I don’t think it’s a distraction,” goalkeeper Hope Solo said. “We’ve had the mentality from
day one that we came here for one reason. Our one and only goal was to win this tournament, and I think people are staying pretty true to that.”

But the challenge gets bigger with each day.

The Americans are used to playing in relative anonymity. Oh, Abby Wambach gets the David Beckham treatment when she goes home to Rochester, N.Y., and Solo has a long had a lengthy list of admirers. For the most part, though, only the most diehard soccer fans could have told you before the World Cup began what position Megan Rapinoe plays (midfield) or what color headband Alex Morgan always wears (pink).

Then, with one thunderous header by Wambach, the Americans went Hollywood.

Fans back home are captivated by the team’s grit and perseverance, and charmed by the players’ personalities. And in typical American fashion, when the country gets behind a team, it goes all in. Hollywood celebrities and pro athletes are leading the bandwagon, and the U.S. games are now must-see TV. Even a little thing like work couldn’t keep fans away, with Wednesday’s semifinal against France — played during the middle of the day back home — drawing the fourth-highest rating of any Women’s World Cup game.

Ever.

About 100 journalists from all corners of the world turned out for the team’s availability
Friday, asking about everything from the first time Wambach headed a ball to Heather
O’Reilly’s plans for her Oct. 1 wedding. No sooner had the media crush ended than the White House announced that Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, and Chelsea Clinton are coming for Sunday’s final.

“It’s just amazing that this team has been able to capture the heart of America, because
normally we can’t do that,” Rapinoe said. “That’s just been an amazing feeling. We’re just
taking it all in. We don’t get it that much, so we’re living it up and trying to keep it
rolling.”

To do that, though, the Americans have to stay focused on their original goal: winning the World Cup title. This is the Americans’ first trip to the finals since 1999, the last time
they won soccer’s biggest prize.

Win, and they’ll be crossover hits like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain. Come up short, and all that buzz they’ve been hearing will fade to silence.

“We want all those things that have happened within the last … few days to be worth it and to be meaningful,” Wambach said. “And the only way we can do that is to secure a win on Sunday.”

On paper, at least, the Americans are heavy favorites — and, yes, there is a betting line on this game.

The U.S. is a two-time World Cup champion, defending Olympic gold medalist and the world’s top-ranked team. Japan has never made the final in any major tournament, and has yet to beat the Americans in 25 tries. The U.S. has a nine-game winning streak going in the series, including a pair of 2-0 victories in warm-up matches a few weeks before the teams left for the World Cup.

But this isn’t the same Japanese team the Americans played in May, and they know it.

Japan stunned Germany, the two-time defending champ, in the quarterfinals, and then made easy work of Sweden, winning 3-1. The Nadeshiko have wonderful ball control and can hold possession for what seems like hours, and they’ve shown a nice scoring touch in Germany, too.

The Japanese are also playing for a greater purpose, hoping their success will provide some relief for a nation still recovering from the devastation of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“They’re playing for something bigger and better than the game,” Solo said. “When you’re playing with so much emotion and so much heart, that’s hard to play against.”

But emotion can overwhelm, too.

“This life, it’s about competition. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, and of
course the players feel the same thing,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said.

Then, a smile playing across her face, the coach who is famous for her unshakable calmness and positive attitude said, “I just tell them, ‘Slow down, you move too fast.’”

As reporters laughed, Sundhage sang Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” — the lyrics never more appropriate.

“Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.”

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Pateadores/South Bay Force U-17/U-18 team wins national U.S. Soccer Development Academy championship

It’s quite an accomplishment for the club, which is based in Orange County, but joined forces with the South Bay Force last summer so that all but a couple of players on the team are from the South Bay.

The team was seeded 31st out of 32 teams who made the playoffs after having a 16 point deduction for fielding two ineligible players earlier in the season. The club also needed to score two goals in the final three minutes of regulation in their previous game to qualify for the final on goal difference.

“It was reminiscent of the Women’s World Cup game Sunday except they needed two goals, not just one,” said Greg Yorke, president of the Force. “They went from being out of it to going to the final in that short a time.

“It’s certainly an exciting season for them, an exciting run,” he added, in something of an understatement.

Read the game story.

Jose Villareal, who had the two goals, attends Leuzinger High and Yorke said he was a late replacement on the U-18 National Team today for a prestigious tournament in Northern Ireland. It’s unclear whether Villareal even knew he made the national team, since Coach Todd Saldaa only learned of his inclusion early today and may not have informed the player ahead of the game.

Teammate Javan Torre also made the national team squad.

Saldaa must be out celebrating with his team; he hasn’t yet returned a couple of calls I made seeking comment.

I’ll update the blog post if I hear from him.

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Friday Kicks: Moody Frenchmen & more

i-00c0ef38b74c59cb588027e1925d2cd7-anelka.jpgMLS Bound? Would you like to see Nicolas Anelka suit up for the Galaxy? See story below (AP Photo).

*The massive, renewed interest in the U.S. Women’s National team has prompted ESPN Radio to air Sunday’s World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan.

It’s the first time ESPN Radio has ever aired a Women’s World Cup game. Coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with analyst Tommy Smyth.

ESPN radio is at 710 AM in Los Angeles.

A total of 3.35 million viewers watched the U.S.-France semifinal making it the most-viewed weekday Women’s World Cup match in the U.S. and the the fourth most-viewed Women’s World Cup game ever.

*The Galaxy have apparently sold out of the lowest-priced $40 tickets for Saturday’s game against Real Madrid at the Coliseum. Tickets priced at $50 are still available.

If you go, go early!

*Meanwhile, Chivas USA host the Red Bulls the same night in Carson, but it sounds like moody Frenchman Thierry Henry is getting a little testy with the American media (and he doesn’t tolerate turf fields either).

*Your transfer rumor of the week has Chelsea’s moody Frenchman Nicolas Anelka heading to the Galaxy or Red Bulls – but only on a free transfer.

*Former Chivas USA technical director Dennis te Kloese is busy recruiting Southern California youngsters and other Americans for Mexican club Tigres.

*The USL PRO Los Angeles Blues make their Fox Soccer Channel debut tonight with their game against Dayton airing live at 8 o’clock.

*Finally, want to win tickets to the Galaxy-Columbus Crew on Wednesday at Home Depot Center? Then donate blood to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (July apparently is a notoriously slow month for donations). The hospital is giving away two free tickets to the game daily in a raffle blood donors are eligible to enter through Tuesday.

Call 323-361-2441 or e-mail andradejac@chla.usc.edu to schedule an appointment.

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