Wednesday Kicks: UCLA’s Rowe added to U.S. U-23 roster & more

*CHICAGO (AP) — Borussia Dortmund forward Terrence Boyd and UCLA midfielder Kelyn Rowe have been added to the U.S. under-23 roster for a training camp ahead of men’s Olympic soccer qualifying.

Thirty players will gather for the camp with new coach Caleb Porter. It will be held from
Thursday through Dec. 23 at Lakewood Ranch, Fla.

The U.S. opens qualifying against Cuba on March 22, then plays Canada two days later and El Salvador on March 26, with all three games at Nashville, Tenn. The top two teams in the group advance to the semifinals of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, and the two semifinal winners qualify for the London Olympics.

The updated roster -

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose), Bill Hamid (D.C.), Sean Johnson (Chicago), Zac MacMath (Philadelphia)

Defenders: Gale Agbossoumonde (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Royal-Dominique Fennell (Stuttgarter Kickers), Sebastien Ibeagha (Duke), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston), Zarek Valentin (Montreal), Jorge Villafana (Chivas USA), Andrew Wenger (Duke), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia)

Midfielders: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia), Bryan Arguez (Montreal), Joe Corona (Tijuana, Mexico), Danny Cruz (Houston, Mixx Diskerud (Stabaek, Norway), Dilly Duka (Columbus), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz, Germany), Sebastian Lletget (West Ham, England), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia), Kelyn Rowe (UCLA), Michael Stephens (Los Angeles)

Forwards: Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Will Bruin (Houston), Teal Bunbury (Kansas City, Jann George (Nuremberg, Germany), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim, Germany), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia), Andrew Wooten (Kaiserslautern, Germany)

*The team from Torrance’s Japanese sister city, Kashiwa, was bounced from the Club World Cup today.

The lovely Neymar goal is worth watching:

Lastly, here’s a video update from the USWNT camp going on out at Carson’s Home Depot Center right now:

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MLS’ competition for big name players – China

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Big guns: Aging stars like, from left, Robert Pires, retired Brazilian striker Ronaldo (well, OK maybe it’s a little late for him) and Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, seen here at a charity game in Hamburg, Germany today, may have less motivation to take MLS money now that China’s newly rich have jumped in the game (AP Photo).

I thought the following column was worth running, given how it sorta dovetails with my weekly piece that ran today.

Who knew a bunch of Commies would flaunt their cash like this anyway?

Here’s AP Sports Columnist John Leicester with more:

PARIS (AP) — With more than 100 billionaires and counting, it was only a matter of time before China’s financial muscle started making dents on world soccer, following in the designer-clad footsteps of moguls from the Middle East and Russia.

This, after all, is a sport happy to be a play thing for those with money to burn, with players who don’t give two hoots who signs their paycheck — just so long as it has lots of zeros on it.

But becoming wealthy enough to buy the twilight years of a fading star like Nicolas Anelka, who is moving from Chelsea in the English Premier League to Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, is not the same thing as spending wisely on Chinese stars of tomorrow. Anelka will deliver to Shanghai that thing craved by many rich owners in sports — attention.

Yet such glamor buys, alone, aren’t going to help China unearth an Anelka of its own in decades to come or stop it from being, on a per capita basis, arguably the most underachieving soccer nation on the planet. The next World Cup in 2014 will take place without China, which again failed to qualify.

Anelka is making Chinese soccer noticed outside China. But, if being talked about is all that comes of this, then China won’t be much closer to becoming a respected soccer nation or fielding a homegrown 11 of top-notch players in the foreseeable future.

“This is just the beginning. Every transfer window from now on you will expect to see more 30-plus world stars, or previous world stars, starting to take big salary payments for a couple of years in China,” said Rowan Simons, a Beijing-based expert on soccer in China and author of “Bamboo Goalposts,” which recounts his efforts to help grass roots soccer take hold there.

“It’s egos, isn’t it? Egos of very rich men. And soccer is a very obvious — you see this all
over the world — place to splash cash. It’s toys for very rich boys,” Simons said in a phone interview. It’s “massive games going on with huge amounts of money that are linked into politics and the egos of oligarchs while having absolutely zero effect on the health of the game of football in China.”

Forget the $300,000 Anelka will reportedly pocket each week. Don’t dwell on the $10 million that another club, Guangzhou Evergrande, splurged in July to sign Dario Conca from Fluminense, smashing China’s transfer record and making the Argentine reportedly the third-highest paid player in the world. Such sums are like a garage of expensive sports cars — nice to look at but not, ultimately, terribly useful in getting you from A to B when faced with challenging, steep and bumpy terrain.

No, the most eye-grabbing figure from China these days is 7,000. That, says the China Daily, is the number of players aged under 18 that the Chinese Football Association had on its books at the end of last year. Just 7,000, from among 1.3 billion people. In the early 1990s, the total used to be 650,000, the newspaper says. Furthermore, it notes that Japan, with a population one-tenth that of China’s, now has 70 times more registered youth players.

Anelka hasn’t played for France since he was sent home from the 2010 World Cup, in disgrace for telling coach Raymond Domenech in no uncertain terms what he could do with his tactics.

At Chelsea, new manager Andre Villas-Boas didn’t appear to have much further use for the 32-year-old striker.

But Anelka will be the biggest name Chinese soccer has ever seen — which, in itself, is a measure of how far behind the sport is there. His renown should lure the curious to Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium, where Shenhua plays with one-third or two-thirds of the 30,000-odd seats often empty.

Which is all very nice for Anelka and for Zhu Jun, the 45-year-old businessman who bought Shenhua in 2007 having made his fortune in computing and online gaming. But where are the hordes of soccer-mad youngsters that China will need if it is to become something more than merely the next Klondike for soon-to-be retirees from overseas?

Well, when I was based in China a decade ago and, most recently, traveled there for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, they either seemed to prefer basketball, to watch broadcasts of the English Premier League and other foreign leagues, or were too focused on cramming for exams to play soccer. Corruption and match-fixing were so rampant that bribed referees even had their own nickname — “black whistles” — something that also turned fans away.

“It’s kind of one of those love affairs where the partner kept on cheating on you and cheating on you and you kept on forgiving them and they kept on cheating on you,” Terry Rhoads, a former Nike executive who runs Zou Marketing, a Shanghai-based sports consultancy focused on the China market, said in a phone interview. “It got to the point where the Chinese soccer fan … is very jaded. They have just been abused in the relationship for 15 years.”

Anelka’s move is another signal that Chinese soccer is bouncing back, having hit bottom. Rhoads likened money coming from Chinese tycoons as “the beginnings of an arms race” and said he’s advising clients “that Chinese soccer now is a buy.” The government coaxed Wang Jianlin, a real estate tycoon who turned his back on Chinese soccer a decade ago, to help out this July with a $77 million, 3-year-investment, some of it to sponsor youth leagues and to send young players overseas.

One of Wang’s goals, a yardstick by which he says he will measure whether his company’s money has been well spent, is to get more teenagers playing.

“If China’s soccer population increases to 700,000 or 800,000 in three years, then our
cooperation will be successful,” the China Daily quoted him as saying.

Now that, not throwing money at must-have trophy players from overseas, sounds like a goal really worth having.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press.

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Tuesday Kicks: Sarvas, Gomez & Xolos

*The Galaxy have formally announced the signing of Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Sarvas from Costa Rican club Alajuelense, the day after Coach Bruce Arena told reporters about the acquisition during a conference call.

Sarvas, 30, received his work visa today, although judging by his career path so far fans shouldn’t get too attached to him, apparently. From the Galaxy press release:

Sarvas is capable of playing in the center of midfield or on either wing. A product of the successful Corinthians youth system in Brazil, Sarvas appeared in 15 games in all competitions last season for Alajuelense, playing in nine league games during the Invierno and all six of his club’s CONCACAF Champions League matches, including both games against the Galaxy.

After beginning his career in his native Brazil, Sarvas went to Europe in 2004 at the age of 23, signing with Karlskrona AIF of the Swedish Sodra Gotaland. A year later he moved to fellow Swedish club Mjallby AIF and then to IF Limhamm Brunkeflo. Ahead of the start of the 2009/10 European season, Sarvas was on the move again, joining KSP Warszawa in Poland. After one and a half seasons in Poland in which he scored two league goals, Sarvas moved to Costa Rica, signing with Alajuelense on Jan. 17, 2011.

In one year with the Costa Rican champions, Sarvas helped lead Alajuelense to the 2011 Verano title and a berth in the 2011 Invierno championship. He appeared in 21 of the club’s 30 league games in that time, scoring three times, including twice during the recent Invierno.

*Another player who has had a nomadic career is Los Angeles native Herculez Gomez, so it should be no surprise the former Galaxy player is on the move again, especially since he asked fans for input on his possible destination on his Facebook page recently:

MEXICO CITY (AP) — American forward Herculez Gomez has signed with Santos Laguna, his fourth club in the Mexican League.

Club president Alejandro Irarragorri said Monday that Gomez, who played for the United States in last year’s World Cup, will join the northern Mexican team for the upcoming Clausura season.

Gomez scored seven goals in the Apertura season for Estudiantes Tecos of Guadalajara. He previously played for Puebla and Pachuca after spending time with the Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Kansas City in MLS.

Santos Laguna reached the final of the Mexican Apertura playoff, losing 3-1 to UANL Tigres on Sunday for a 4-1 aggregate defeat in the two-leg series.

*Finally, Mexican futbol fans have a chance to see a top tier team for free Wednesday in Ventura County – but the time isn’t convenient for many fans.

The Ventura County Fusion PDL team will play an exhibition match against Club Tijuana at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Oxnard College Stadium, 4000 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard.

Admission is free.

This is the Fusion’s second international exhibition match within a week. Last Friday they beat Chivas Guadalajara’s U-20 team, 3-0.

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Galaxy confirm signing of Brazilian midfielder Sarvas, Inglewood Galaxy academy player Villarreal pondering LA offer to turn pro

Lots of news out of a just-concluded Galaxy teleconference call with GM and Coach Bruce Arena that included:

*Confirmation the Galaxy will formally announce the signing of Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, 30, in the next few days. Arena saw the Alajuelense player twice this year in person when the Costa Ricans played the Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League and was impressed by the “experienced two-way player.”

*David Beckham going to French club Paris Saint-Germain is not yet a “done deal” despite reports from the French press today that a lucrative contract with the team is almost finalized. Arena said the Galaxy remain “keenly interested in keeping the player here.”

*The Galaxy extending contract offers to a pair of Academy players. My sources tell me that one of them is Inglewood’s Jose Villarreal who has been a busy lad this year playing with the U.S. Under-23 team, while also training in Europe with Belgium’s KV Westerlo (who eventually took a pass at this time), Denmark’s Brondby and Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen, Bochum and Kaiserslautern.

Brondby and a couple of Belgium clubs remain interested and I’m told the midfielder is “weighing his options.”

*No decision has yet been made on whether out of contract veteran Jovan Kirovski will return to the club.

*Word the Galaxy have extended contract offers to Sean Franklin and Juninho; the players are mulling their options and Franklin could decide this week.

*That the Galaxy picked the players they did in the Re-Entry Draft because, “we were able to select some players for some positions we needed cover for,” Arena said. The Galaxy have seven days to reach an agreement with the players on a new contract before they can look elsewhere.

“If we get some of them or all of them (signed) they all will be a positive asset for our team,” Arena added.

*Confirmation reserve striker Adam Cristman remains on the Galaxy roster.

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Busy Galaxy take six players in MLS Re-Entry Draft

And they were the busiest MLS team in the draft period.

Two are their own players they hope to re-sign: recently acquired defender Dasan Robinson and seldom used veteran Frankie Hejduk.

The Galaxy also picked four veterans: Chivas USA defender Andrew Boyens, defender Chris Leitch, utility man Pat Noonan and goalkeeper Jon Conway.

This is all subject to agreeing terms with these players, of course.

I’m guessing the suddenly budget-conscious Galaxy will ask Hejduk ($96,000 salary in 2011), Boyens ($60,000), Leitch ($106,00) and Conway ($80,000) to take salary cuts to stay in the league. Noonan only made $48,000 this year with the Sounders.

These are all classic Bruce Arena picks, known quantities he has either worked with before or has seen a lot of over the years.

I thought Hejduk should have retired based on what little we saw of him, Boyens was often a defensive liability for Chivas USA, while virtually all the picks merely add depth in reserve to a Galaxy squad especially thin in the back, aside from possibly Robinson.

Does this mean out of contract defender Sean Franklin and the club expect him to head to Europe? And one has to wonder whether you can’t say the same about the increasingly impressive Omar Gonzalez.

What do you think?

Full draft details are here.

Updated:

Tweeted a noncommittal sounding Robinson this morning: “Interesting day thus far…”

Update II

Bruce Arena will share his thoughts with Galaxy reporters in a 1 p.m. conference call: Stand by for more.

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Galaxy’s Berhalter takes over AEG’s Hammarby helm

Galaxy owner Anschutz Entertainment Group is a part-owner of Swedish club Hammarby, so the news isn’t as strange as it first appears.

Still, Gregg Berhalter has been an assistant coach at the Galaxy for less than a year, so it’s still a big step up.

And it’s a sign of how highly the former central defender is regarded by Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena and clubs in Europe, where Americans generally don’t get much respect, but where Berhalter spent the bulk of his career.

Congratulations to Berhalter, a class act in the locker room and as a person, but as a journalist I bemoan the loss of a great quote. Wonder if he’ll be just as quotable in Swedish?

And here is a quote from Berhalter, supplied by the Galaxy:

“I am excited for the challenge that lies ahead and could not be more thankful to AEG and everyone at Hammarby for giving me the opportunity,” Berhalter said. “While I am saddened to leave a club that means so much to me, I feel that my experiences with the Galaxy both on and off the field have helped prepare me for the journey that lies ahead.”

Full details here.

Who Knew Department: current Galaxy Academy Senior Director Chris Klein is on the Swedish club’s board, the Galaxy said today (now the move makes even more sense).

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Saturday Soccer: UCLA’s NCAA Tournament run ends & more

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Blushing Rose: UCLA midfielder Andy Rose missed UCLA’s first penalty kick in a shootout Friday and North Carolina marched into the College Cup final Sunday (AP Photo).

*It was a noble effort, but after twice taking the lead against top-ranked North Carolina Friday UCLA lost their nerve and the semifinal, yielding to the Tar Heels in the crap shoot of penalty kicks and denying them the chance to meet similar underdogs Charlotte Sunday in the championship game.

UCLA never really gave themselves a chance in the shootout, missing their first two PK’s and sealing their fate.

I watched the game in my local watering hole with a couple of fellow soccer fans (there’s something to be said for sitting there watching a game with an excellent porter in your hand rather than a laptop in a press box) and I’ll say this much: I agree with UCLA Coach Jorge Salcedo that it was an fun game to see, even if the result wasn’t what he wanted.

And I very much doubt we’ve seen the last of UCLA goalkeeper Brian Rowe who kept the Bruins in the game on several occasions with supurb stops. He was credited with nine saves.

*The other must-see game this weekend is the biggest one of the European season so far: Real Madrid-Barcelona at 1 p.m. on ESPND, ESPN Deportes and GolTV. There’s a nasty subtext to this game.

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