Tuesday’s (non-existent) column & more

It’s not, you understand, that I resent my regular Tuesday column being held to an as yet unspecified day.

It’s that, if it is held, it’s for a better reason than that obscene excuse of a game of pointy-ball college football I had the misfortune to catch in a desolate Torrance pub last night. That was the culmination to the season?

No wonder I stopped regularly watching American football (well, that and the fact the UW Huskies and Seattle Seahawks went through years of being only slightly better than Chivas USA).

And talking about nonsensical time-wasting, check out the over-wrought ad from MLS below hyping the increasingly irrelevent less than SuperDraft set for later this week:

Good grief. And if you want people to take this event seriously do you really want to remind them about Freddy Adu, especially given the massive role he’s played in MLS and U.S. Soccer in general (ahem).

In other more worthwhile news, the U.S. will play Italy Feb. 29.

And before anyone asks, no, I’ve seen no update from the Galaxy yet regarding the injury to Omar Gonzalez.

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Southern California soccer coach Ralph Perez honored by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America

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University of Redlands Coach Ralph Perez, a former Galaxy assistant coach, is a class act.

He (gently) coached me when I participated in a Galaxy fantasy camp for a column.

He is often an analyst on Galaxy radio broadcasts with Joe Tutino.

And he has assumed numerous coaching roles – arguably at more levels than anyone else – over decades of service to the sport.

Now he will receive the 2012 Walt Chyzowych Memorial Fund Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual National Soccer Coaches Association of America Foundation-Walt Chyzowych Awards Ceremony Jan. 14 at the 2012 NSCAA Convention in Kansas City, Mo.

I’ve known Perez for a long time now dating back to his tenure with the Galaxy as an assistant coach.

He’s one of the good guys of American soccer: Selfless, dedicated and an ambassador for the sport.

Sister paper the Redlands Daily Facts has more.

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Friday Kicks: Galaxy’s Stephens, Chivas USA’s Villafaa, UCLA’s Rowe named to U-23 team camp roster & more

Clearing up a few odds and ends before the weekend (that would have posted hours sooner had our soon-to-be-replaced blogging software not freaked out):

*Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens, Chivas USA’s Jorge Villafaa (formerly Flores) and UCLA midfielder Kelyn Rowe were named today to the U-23 camp set for Sunday through Jan. 25 at Carson’s Home Depot Center and in Costa Rica. All but four of the 22-player roster, including Rowe, were in the December U-23 camp in Florida. Full roster, camp details here.

*The increasingly unimportant MLS Combine, a precursor to the increasingly unimportant MLS Draft, is under way in Florida.

There are several Southern California-based players involved from the likes of UCLA and Cal State Northridge. The complete roster of combine participants is here. You can watch the combine here.

*Chivas USA President Jose Domene tweeted this morning that a new player signing was imminent.

The club has also released four players who won’t be missed: starting midfielder midfielder Marcos Mondaini; defender Michael Umana, a second time wash-out in MLS after featuring for Steve Sampson’s Galaxy back in 2005; striker and noted braggart Victor Estupin, who boasted he would score 25-plus MLS goals and ended up with one; and third choice goalkeeper Sergio Arias.

*Former Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen has joined Toronto as Academy director, the club announced today.

*Toronto also announced today that tickets for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against the Galaxy will go on sale next Friday. Tickets start at $29. Anyone making the trek from LA?

*Hermosa Beach native Dan Tobias has joined the South Bay Force as director of coaching for the club’s girls program. The Mira Costa High grad and was a two-time PAC-10 Coach of the Year at the University of Arizona during a seven-year tenure at the school.

*Glasgow Rangers manager Ally McCoist said the club turned down an inadequate offer from French club Sochaux for midfielder Maurice Edu of Fontana.

McCoist was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the bid, which he didn’t disclose, “was so far away that I would be very surprised if they came back in.”

Sochaux is already home to American forward Charlie Davies, who spent last year on loan with D.C. United.

“I can tell you that I want Maurice Edu to sign a new contract rather than go anywhere,” McCoist said.

*There’s yet more on the scandals involving FIFA and CONCACAF today:

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA says former vice president Jack Warner peddled “inaccuracies and falsehoods” when he claimed last month that he got World Cup television rights for $1 in exchange for supporting Sepp Blatter’s presidential campaigns.

FIFA confirms that Warner received Caribbean broadcasting rights for $1, though from 1986 and not — as Warner claimed — from 1998 when Blatter was first electe d.

FIFA says the deals had “nothing to do” with Blatter’s election campaigns.

FIFA says World Cup rights were often sold until 1998 for nominal sums to maximize coverage in developing nations, and provide soccer bodies with extra revenue from selling on rights to broadcasters.

The governing body says Warner was expected to raise money for the Caribbean Football Union.

*Finally, if you only watch one game this weekend, I recommend the Manchester derby in the FA Cup third round that’s set to air locally at 5 a.m. Sunday on Fox Soccer.

Enjoy what is shaping up to be another stunning winter weekend in Southern California.

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Galaxy’s Gonzalez likely out for season after blowing out knee

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The Galaxy will begin the defense of their MLS title without the best defender in the league after Omar Gonzalez tore his ACL in his first training session on loan with a German club after leaving the USMNT camp.

Gonzalez collided with fellow American defender Timothy Chandler at the club’s camp in Turkey. The Galaxy said this morning that Gonzalez will return to LA this weekend.

Here’s a Google translation of the club announcement:

Serious injury in training camp: U.S. national team must return to surgery and rehab in Los Angeles.

The MRI scan at the hospital in Antalya on Friday, 6/1/12, brought the sad fact: U.S. national player Omar Gonzalez has been in training camp of the 1st FC Nuremberg, the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee torn and must return to the United States.

“This is very bitter for Omar,” said Martin Bader, Director of Public Relations and Sport first FCN against representatives of the press: “He wanted to show us what he can and we have put great hopes in him.”

Bader: “All the best!”

In a duel in the first practice with the team was the 23-year-old had been left, and stop the unit. After the sad diagnosis, the club organized the repatriation of the defender in Los Angeles.

“The important thing is that Omar is healthy and fit again. We wish him well, “Martin Bader gave him the best wishes for the journey:” In the 24 hours we have shared it as a sporty character and met interesting player. ”

Surgery and rehab in Los Angeles

In the U.S., Omar will have surgery next week by the team doctor from LA Galaxy and then complete the rehab. The first FC Nuremberg wishes you, dear Omar, all the best and a speedy recovery!

Tweeted Gonzalez about 8:20 a.m.:

Still in shock that this happened. Your support and well wishes will carry me through a strong (and hopefully quick) recovery!

Los Angeles native Herculez Gomez is pointing out on Twitter that recovery times from the injury vary considerably.

However, press box colleague Luis Bueno, also on Twitter, notes the names of two Galaxy players who suffered similar injuries last season: Leonardo and Sean Alvarado.

And we didn’t see them on the field at all after their respective injuries. Odds of Leonardo returning to LA just went up now, I’m guessing.

Lest we forget how important Gonzalez was to the Galaxy’s championship winning team, which was built on its rock solid defense, here’s what the Galaxy wrote in a press release issued at 3:08 p.m. Thursday about the young central defender heading to Germany:

The 2011 MLS Defender of the Year, Gonzalez appeared in and started 40 games for the Galaxy in all competitions last season, scoring four times from set pieces while adding two assists. He was named to the MLS All-Star First XI and MLS Best XI for the second straight season. A central figure in the Galaxy defense that tied an MLS record with 17 regular season shutouts and allowed just 38 goals in 46 games in all competitions, Gonzalez was also voted the Galaxy’s Defender of the Year for a second consecutive season.

Updated 11:30 a.m.

In response to a reader’s comment on this post I inquired about the status of Leonardo with the Galaxy.

Here’s what a club spokesman said:

“We are currently in discussions for Leonardo to return on loan again from Sao Paolo. I do not have an update on how soon he would return to the field.”

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Mexican League Preview: With more than one Yank (or two), they’re off beginning Friday

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Tigres Triumph: Tigres’ players, seen here celebrating their team’s league title after beating Santos de Torreon Dec. 11, begin their championship defense this weekend as the Mexican league begins anew (AP Photo).

If it isn’t enough that American soccer fans will experience the longest MLS season ever this year, while Galaxy fans are keeping tabs on the EPL (where Landon Donovan is plying his trade) and the Bundesliga (ditto Omar Gonzalez) U.S. players are increasingly making a breakthrough south of the border, too, (an out of shape Eddie Johnson aside, who is apparently incapable of playing for any team any where in the world these days).

The Mexican league cranks up again this weekend with relegation-threatened Tijuana (who trained in Oxnard during the preseason and are seeking to capture Southern California-based Mexican futbol fans’ hearts that just don’t flutter when it comes to Chivas USA) facing Morelia at 6 p.m. on KAZA.

To get you primed, here’s the Associated Press season preview:

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tigres’ determination to defy the odds by winning back-to-back titles in the Mexico Clausura saw them sign Mexico international right winger Elias Hernandez.

Tigres last month won their first title in 29 years but aren’t sitting on their laurels.

The other front-runners in the Clausura should be the four traditional powers — Chivas, Pumas, Cruz Azul and America — with Morelia, Monterrey and Santos Laguna there or thereabouts.

Unlike many other foreign leagues, the Mexican first division is unpredictable: Eight different teams have won the last 11 championships and no team has won consecutive titles since Pumas in 2004.

At the other end, Atlas, Estudiantes Tecos and Club Tijuana are set for a relegation battle that will see one team drop to the second division when the regular season ends in late April.

The season kicks off on Friday with Morelia against Club Tijuana, with the other first-round games set for Saturday and Sunday.

Tigres have kept together a stingy defense, and have added Hernandez as they also prepare to play in Latin America’s biggest club tournament — the Copa Libertadores.

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Tigres Passion: Fans will be hoping the club can repeat their title triumph.

“I think defending the title adds an extra ingredient,” Tigres’ Argentine captain Lucas Lobos said. “Becoming champions again would be something beautiful.”

Tigres have lost only attacking midfielder Danilinho, who has been loaned to Atletico Mineiro in his native Brazil.

“The challenge will be to maintain what the team showed last season,” added Tigres midfielder Carlos Salcido, who signed five months ago from English Premier League club Fulham.

Tigres’ city rival Monterrey signed the top scorer from the Clausura 2011, Angel Reyna, who was unwanted at America. Reyna made critical comments several months ago about America defender Aquivaldo Mosquera, and was subsequently dropped from the first team.

“They were off-the-pitch things that are now in the past,” Reyna said. “I’m totally determined and motivated for the current season and already thinking about the first game.”

Reyna’s former club America — one of the most popular in Mexico — has undergone a major overhaul including a new coach in Miguel Herrera, who moved from Atlante.

Herrera has signed Venezuelan defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, as well as goalkeeper Moises Munoz, forward Christian Bermudez and midfielder Jose Maria Cardenas, as America seeks to improve on its poor 17th-place finish in the Apertura.

Like most Latin American countries, Mexico divides its season into two parts: Apertura (Opening) and Clausura (Closing).

America’s big rival, CD Guadalajara, was quiet in the transfer market and is set to
challenge for its 12th title, again relying on players from the club’s youth academy. Chivas fields only Mexican players.

Clausura 2011 champion Pumas will also go with youth. The Mexico City side has not made new signings, and has lost experienced forward Francisco Palencia, who retired at the end of last season.

Santos, runners-up last season, have opted for continuity after reaching three of the last four finals. The only addition is American international striker Herculez Gomez from Estudiantes Tecos.

Cruz Azul has not managed to lift the league trophy since 1997, despite regularly getting close. The club has signed experienced striker Omar Bravo, who was playing for Sporting Kansas City in MLS.

Morelia hope to be stronger with the signings of defender Oscar Razo and defensive midfielder Christian Valdez.

Relegation in Mexico is based on results across three years with one team being relegated every year. Tijuana, Atlas and Estudiantes Tecos are tightly bunched at the foot of the relegation table and have added to their squads hoping to avoid the drop.

Tijuana has signed Colombian Duvier Riascos, American Edgar Castillo and Jose Alfredo Gonzalez, while Atlas has brought in seven new players, including Venezuela international Giancarlo Maldonado from Atlante.

Financially strapped Estudiantes Tecos have brought in five new players, but lost Gomez and Argentine Jorge Zamogilny, who moved to relegation rivals Atlas.

Jaguares, San Luis, Pachuca, Toluca, Atlante, Queretaro and Puebla all have an outside chance at the title, but aren’t considered contenders.

On Saturday it’s Queretaro vs. Club America (2:55 p.m. Telefutura), Cruz Azul vs. Tigres (3 p.m. KAZA), Monterrey vs. Jaguares (2:55 p.m. Galavision), Chivas vs. Atlante, Santos vs. Pachuca (4:55 p.m. Telefutura), San Luis vs. Pumas (6:30 p.m. Galavision). On Sunday: Puebla vs. Atlas (10 a.m. KAZA), Toluca vs Estudiantes (9:55 a.m. Univision).

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MLS unveils 2012 schedule

Steel yourself.

The 323-game season, which begins March 10 and concludes Dec. 1 with MLS Cup, is the longest in league history at 267 days.

Each of the league’s 19 clubs will play 34 matches, 17 at home and 17 away, during the 34 week season.

And get ready for saturation television coverage.

A total of 89 games will be televised live nationally by ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, NBC, NBC Sports Network, and Univision. More than 83% of all MLS games will take place on weekends or holidays, with every day of the week having at least one scheduled match during the year.

I always look for a tasty road trip.

Galaxy fans might want to consider games on July 14 and 19 in Portland and Vancouver respectively. You just can’t beat those microbreweries in that part of the world.

For the truly ambitious, the Galaxy’s longest road trip of the year goes from July 28 to Aug.15 and includes games against FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders FC, Chivas USA (well, OK, maybe that HDC game doesn’t count) and the Columbus Crew.

Chivas USA fans might be eying games Sept. 2 and 8 in San Jose and Seattle respectively, assuming the club is still in the playoff mix at that relatively late stage of the season.

Also, the Galaxy’s longest homestand of the year runs from Aug. 26-Sept. 22 and includes games against FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC.

Check out:

*The complete Galaxy schedule here.

*The complete Chivas USA schedule here.

*The national television schedule here.

*The complete MLS schedule you can download to that new iPad/tablet/iPhone/Android you got for whatever holiday you celebrate here.

Game on.

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Galaxy’s Keane to go on loan to England’s Aston Villa?

Maybe. Which is a little curious because Robbie Keane had previously publicly said he would not seek a MLS offseason loan to ensure he was fresh for Euro 2012. Here’s the Associated Press story:

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — Teammates with Landon Donovan on the Galaxy, Robbie Keane could soon be playing against the American in an English Premier League match.

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish said Thursday that his club has opened talks with Keane with a view to signing the 31-year-old forward on loan until March, when the Major League Soccer season begins.

If the Ireland captain completes his move to Villa Park over the next few days, his debut could come on Jan. 14 against Everton — the team Donovan has just joined on loan for the same period.

“We are certainly pursuing it and, at the moment, both parties are keen,” said McLeish, who wants the move concluded by Monday.

Keane is currently training with his former club, Tottenham. He scored three goals for the
Galaxy in the 2011 season and helped Ireland qualify for this year’s European Championship.

“Robbie has got massive experience as a striker. That’s first and foremost. He is a great
character as well,” McLeish said. “Players can enlighten the dressing room as well, and these factors are all so important in this professional game.

“He is capable of hurting other teams with his team play. But, as it just so happens, he is also one of the brighter guys around football and has been for a long, long time.”

Keane has also played for Liverpool, Leeds, Coventry and West Ham in the Premier League, and also had a spell with Italian team Inter Milan in the 2000/01 season.

Thierry Henry is also trying to secure a move back to the Premier League during the MLS
offseason, with Arsenal set to confirm the signing of its former captain once an insurance
agreement is reached with the New York Red Bulls.

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Galaxy’s Gonzalez withdraws from U.S. squad to explore overseas “loan opportunity”*

*Post updated

That’s the word from the Galaxy’s Facebook page, which posted in the wake of U.S. Soccer’s brief announcement that Omar Gonzalez had received permission to leave camp in Arizona.

“The Galaxy defender is currently out of the country having conversations about a potential off-season loan opportunity,” the Galaxy statement said. “We should have more information in the next day or two.”

Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza remains with the U.S. team, which opened camp earlier this week switches to Home Depot Center for a week from Jan. 13-20, then heads back to Arizona for the Jan. 21st game against Venezuela before the team heads to Panama for a Jan. 25 encounter with that nation.

Dallas’ George John has also left camp,apparently for the same reason, while U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has added Seattle Sounders midfielder Brad Evans and defender Jeff Parke to the camp roster.

Update

Well, we now know where Gonzalez has headed on loan. And look who his central defensive partner will be at the club – and is that a precursor for the country, too?

What was that about the U.S. Men’s National Team becoming too German?

Update

Here’s more on the Galaxy defenders’ German team, courtesy of the Galaxy:

FC Nrnberg are currently in 15th place with 18 points at the halfway point of the German Bundesliga season with a 5-9-3 record. Currently on their winter break, Nrnberg will hold a training camp next week in Turkey before returning to Bundesliga action on Saturday, January 21 when they host Hertha Berlin. That will be the first of four league games that Nrnberg has scheduled during Gonzalez’s loan, which will conclude following the club’s trip to face FC Augsburg on Sunday, February 12. In between those two games, Gonzalez is also scheduled to face Hannover 96 on the road on January 27 and host the reigning Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund, on February 3.

Update II

I thought you were joking, Studs, about Omar’s injury. Apparently not!

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Wednesday Kicks: Beckham and Donovan still hogging soccer spotlight*

*Post updated (but American goalkeeper Tim Howard upstaged both Galaxy players today – see more below).

It’s the MLS offseason and David Beckham and Landon Donovan are nonetheless making headlines here and in Europe.

Galaxy fans are still awaiting a decision from Beckham on his next move - and it’s pretty clear what the popular sentiment is - while Donovan hopes to repeat his success of two years ago with Everton and could make his EPL debut of the season today against Bolton Wanderers (noon Fox Soccer Plus).

Everton isn’t the team it was two years ago and Donovan too may have lost a step as he closes in on 30, but it appears Galaxy fans will be as much behind the MLS club’s most influential player as they were then. My guess: Donovan will come on as a second half sub while the cautious David Moyes, the Everton manager, sizes up his match fitness.

And, after all, the drama is tiding us over until MLS camps open later this month.

It’s Newcastle United-Manchester United at noon on Fox Soccer for those of you without the premium channel, BTW.

Updated

Donovan got the start for Everton today – and he’s wearing the #9 shirt.

Lineups:

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Donovan, Neville, Heitinga, Osman, Stracqualursi, Saha. Subs: Mucha, Bilyaletdinov, McFadden, Cahill, Gueye, Rodwell, Anichebe.

Bolton: Bogdan, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Ricketts, Mark Davies, Muamba, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Eagles, Ngog. Subs: Lynch, Robinson, Sanli, Kevin Davies, Klasnic, Pratley, Wheater.

Updated

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Diving Donovan? I didn’t think so – and replays appeared to agree, – but Bolton defender Sam Ricketts wanted to make sure Landon Donovan didn’t make a meal of the opportunity and draw a spot kick today in England (AP Photos).

Landon Donovan got the attention, but it was American goalkeeper Tim Howard – yeah, Howard – who got his name on the scoresheet for Everton against Bolton today in game played in howling wind and incessant rain that saw the Toffees succumb to Wanderers, 2-1.

From the hour or so I saw over lunch Donovan slotted right in to an Everton team desperate for an attacking spark and almost drew a penalty just before the end of the first half. Replays were inconclusive, however, and proved the ref was right in not giving Everton the spot kick.

Donovan played the entire 90 minutes and was a constant threat for Everton playing in a wide and withdrawn role.

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Sticky proposition: Bolton and Sam Ricketts found Donovan a handful tonight in England, although Wanderers ultimately prevailed against the Toffees despite a Tim Howard goal.

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ESPN soccer analyst Rob Stone joins LA-based Fox Soccer

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Veteran ESPN soccer commentator Rob Stone has jumped to Los Angeles-based Fox Soccer, the latest switch in what has become something of a soccer media merry-go-round this offseason.

Already, Brit Arlo “the voice of the Seattle Sounders” White has joined new MLS home NBC Sports Network (formerly Verses) and ESPN dumped John “Brilliant!” Harkes.

Now the seemingly perpetually cherubic Stone has joined Fox Soccer as lead studio host for that channel as well as games shown on FX and the main Fox network. It’s an obvious credibility-grabbing effort for a network that just lost MLS.

From the Fox Soccer press release:

National Soccer Hall of famer Eric Wynalda, the second-leading goal scorer in U.S. history, who has served Fox Soccer’s primary studio host, shifts to become lead studio analyst.

Upon joining Fox, Stone’s first assignment is to host Fox Sports’ coverage of Arsenal vs. Manchester United prior to the NFC Championship Game, at 7:30 a.m. Pacific Jan. 22, the first-ever live Barclay’s Premier League match on U.S. broadcast television. He’ll also host Fox Soccer’s signature studio programs including Goals on Sunday, wich focuses on the Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and UEFA Champions League action and Match Day, two live studio shows bridging the network’s Saturday morning Premier League matches.

Stone, a 1991 Colgate graduate, joined ESPN in 1997 and worked the last four World Cups for the network.

He will also host live coverage of the Chelsea-Manchester United game on Super Bowl Sunday and become lead anchor of the network’s UEFA Champions League coverage.

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