Tuesday Kicks: U.S. World Cup Qualifying Morass & More

A quick roundup of essential soccer links for the day:

  • A must-read on the USMNT WCQ on-going meltdown.
  • Recall that more than soft Chivas USA red card issued during Sunday’s SuperClasico? It never happened.
  • Also, Chivas USA has re-signed back-up goalkeeper Tim Melia, 26, to an unspecified contract extension, the club announced today.
  • The Galaxy has named their Dallas Cup roster.
  • Former Cal State Northridge soccer standout Devin Del Do, 26, of Valencia has signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League.
  • Mia Hamm’s LA Fest Celebrity Soccer Challenge is set for Sunday at Home Depot Center.
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Monday Kicks: LA Galaxy Video Highlights & More

MLS beat writer Phil Collin (who you will notice has started blogging here) has the game story.

Also:

*Carson’s Home Depot Center will soon become Stub Hub Center.

*Inglewood’s Jose Villarreal of the Galaxy and the U.S. U-20 team fell to Mexico Sunday, but still qualified for the World Cup later this year.

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Mexican champions Santos Laguna to play July 8 at Home Depot Center*

*Post updated

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Tickets go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. Saturday starting at $25 for the clash between Santos Laguna, led by supersub and Los Angeles native Herculez Gomez, and Club Lon, Orange County-based USL Pro team the Los Angeles Blues announced today.

The club is sponsoring the 5 p.m. July 8 game. Tickets are available at the HDC box office or by calling 888-9-AXS-TIX or 714-738-8011.

Gomez, who has scored two goals in his last two appearances for the U.S. National Team, stars in a team that also includes former Mexican international goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez and current Mexican national team players Aaron Galindo and Oribe Peralta.

Newly promoted Lon boasts Mexican international midfielder Jonny Magalln and former FC Dallas defender Duilio Davino in their squad.

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Smile soccer fans! You’ll be on a Candid Camera as you head down Carson’s Avalon Boulevard to Home Depot Center

Yup, the city of Carson is spending $300,000 of taxpayer money to spy on taxpayers.

So, crooks be sure and use other major thoroughfares such as 190th Street or Main Street where there are no cameras yet.

And sure, while we may have no expectation of privacy in a public place, how many of us really wants to live in an society with such Orwellian overtones here in the alleged land of the free (and watched)?

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Your weekend Southern California soccer weather forecast

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It is still officially winter – and fans who plan to brave the elements for Saturday’s Chivas USA-Vancouver Whitecaps match or Sunday’s Galaxy-D.C. United encounter will know it.

So bundle up if you plan on heading to Home Depot Center for the games because baby, it’s gonna be blustery and c-c-c-cold outside:

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A cold late-season winter storm will reach the Southland this weekend, bringing rain, high surf, strong winds and snow to lower elevations.

The storm’s cold front will approach the Central Coast tonight, then sweep across the
southwestern tier of the state, generating “widespread precipitation” for around six hours Saturday and creating “the possibility of thunderstorms with small hail,” according to
the National Weather Service.

“Behind the front, there will continue to be the threat of additional showers and snow showers over the region into Sunday” as cold and unstable air engulfs the area, said an advisory.

The storm is projected to produce between three-quarter of an inch and 1.5 inches of rain, although between 1.5 and three inches is possible in the foothills and mountains, NWS forecasters said.

The snow level will be at between 5,000 and 6,000 feet tonight and Saturday but drop to around 3,000 feet Saturday night into Sunday, according to the weather service. Between 10 and 16 inches of snow are expected to accumulate above 6,000 feet, it said.

But “snowfall will be possible down to 2,500 feet in heavier showers, which would include the Santa Monica Mountains and Antelope Valley. Dangerous winter weather conditions can be expected to affect mountain roadways … into Sunday morning,” the NWS said.

The storm, resulting from an upper-level low-pressure system, will be accompanied by stiff winds. Gusts of up to 60 mph are possible in the mountains.

“Heavy snow, gusty winds, low visibilities in blowing snow, and icy roads are possible, making for dangerous travel conditions,” said an NWS advisory.

A winter storm watch — denoting the potential for an accumulation of snow, sleet or ice — will be in effect in mountain areas from late tonight through Sunday morning.

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Galaxy Open House Sunday in Carson

The free event runs from noon to 4 p.m. at Home Depot Center.

Current season ticket and mini plan holders will have a rare first-come first-served opportunity to get on to the field at the stadium where the club won MLS Cup last year, participate in drills with players Todd Dunivant, Josh Saunders and Bryan Jordan and play a scrimmage.

All attendees will receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, a 25 percent discount on all Galaxy gear at the TEAM LA Store and watch the Galaxy Academy U-18 and U-16 teams take on their Vancouver Whitecaps counterparts at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. respectively.

Gourmet food trucks Kog, The Grilled Cheese Truck and Coolhaus will serve up food.

And yeah, the club will be more than happy to sell you season tickets.

Full details are here.

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Wednesday’s “ticket nightmare” for Galaxy fan who missed must-see game

Last night’s CONCACAF Champions League game featured one of the most frenzied endings to a game in Carson I can remember.

But at least one fan didn’t even see the beginning.

I received the following email last night from frustrated reader Antonio Marquez
who saw an apparent ticket screw-up compounded by the largely unpublicized 7,500-spectator limit imposed at Home Depot Center for the game in an agreement with the neighborhoods around the stadium.

Here is my story from tonight:

Last week I called my Galaxy ticket representative, Tiffony Warner, and told her I really wanted to go to the Morelia game. Anyway, I also told her I was interested in MLS Cup tickets. So she said that the best option was to buy a three ticket mini-plan which included the MLS Cup and she would comp me the Morelia game. I said great, because for the same price I could go to the two games I really wanted to see, plus as a bonus get to see RSL and Chivas. So I purchased four ticket packages.

OK, so I am all pumped up all week looking forward to a good game. Pick up my son and wife, and we drive to the HDC from San Dimas. I walk up to the will call window to pick up my tickets, and they said sorry nothing for you. My heart sank, I called Tiffony, but no answer. Ok I think, there was a mistake, so I get in line to buy three tickets. When I walk up they say sorry, we are sold out!!!

I feel like the Galaxy office scammed me and I am really upset. There were many people outside the stadium wondering how the game could be sold out when we could see a nearly empty stadium. Regardless of the result of the game, tonight was a disaster for me. I have been a loyal fan since 1996, and I feel like the Galaxy robbed me tonight.

Incidentally, the Galaxy never (to my knowledge) publicized the severely reduced capacity for the game beyond tweeting a picture of the seating configuration earlier in the day that grouped fans together of just two sides of the stadium (and made it appear from outside the gates that the stadium was half empty, as indeed it was).

Given that the previous two Champions league games at the stadium this season drew announced crowds of 8,196 and 9,855 you would have thought the Galaxy could have sensed a possible PR debacle brewing (unless, of course, those figures were inflated as they often are and the Galaxy thought there was no reason for concern).

Anyone else locked out of the game?

I’ll see if I can get a response from the Galaxy front office.

Updated

I heard Friday from Tom Payne, Galaxy president of business operations, who observed that the Galaxy opened up another 100 or so seats before the game when they realised they had fans who couldn’t get in.

He said only a few fans suffered the experience the letter writer above did and couldn’t get in at all. And he acknowledged the club should have done a better job of letting fans know about the small capacity for the game in advance, which by the way is exactly what Antonio wanted.

A larger than expected walkup from Morelia fans caught the club by surprise, Payne said.

The 7,500 stadium capacity was imposed by Cal State Dominguz Hills to ensure students attending night classes had parking available, incidentally.

Let’s hope the school doesn’t make a similar request to limit the the stadium capacity during the playoffs; the Galaxy are likely to host a midweek game.

As for Antonio, the club gave him playoff tickets for his trouble. Hopefully they’ll mail them out to him in advance so he doesn’t have to take any chances at will call before the game again.

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Galaxy and Chivas USA ticket prices: A comparison

A Torrance family I know will attend the Chivas USA game Saturday night at Home Depot Center, not because they are huge fans of the lads in red and white, but because they received cheap tickets via AYSO.

Price is important to casual MLS fans, especially given the continuing weak economy.

Given that, I thought it worthwhile to contrast and compare ticket prices between the two Carson-based teams, which both host their respective home openers this weekend on consecutive days.

Chivas USA, as one might expect given the demographics of their primary fan base and the absence of a huge name like David Beckham, offer cheaper tickets than the Galaxy.

The cheapest single game Chivas USA ticket that’s available is $15 compared to $25 for the Galaxy. Buy an 18-game Chivas USA GA season ticket package and the price per ticket drops to $10.

How good a deal is that? The cheapest Galaxy adult ticket was $22 – back in 2003.

Chivas USA has held the line on ticket prices this year – perhaps wisely after their bottom of the Western Conference showing last year – while the MLS championship-contending Galaxy have instituted modest increases over 2010 and, in some limited cases, decreased prices, too. A Galaxy general admission ticket – the section is also larger and now includes some seats on the upper deck – increased by $1.

Price comparisons cannot be made across the board for Chivas USA and Galaxy games since the clubs define some sections a little differently.

For instance, Chivas USA sells “corner” seats for $22; the Galaxy have folded their corner section where tickets were $50 last year into their endline section and priced those tickets at $35 (the Galaxy also eliminated their upper corner section, which sold for $20 last year). But Galaxy officials observe that in a couple of sections in the north end of the stadium, seats that were classified as being in the corner section last year have been reclassified as general admission seating, thus slashing the price of those seats in half to $25.

The Chivas USA price for the end zone, incidentally, is $18.

Other ticket prices for the two clubs include field tickets (those are deck chairs on the turf) that are $100 for Chivas USA, $200 for the Galaxy; sideline tickets for Chivas USA are $38 preferred, $30 for midfield and $24 all others, while the Galaxy price them at $85 preferred, $75 for reserved sideline, $50 for other sideline seats and $40 for an upper sideline seat.

Galaxy officials, by the way, note that the sideline seats priced at $50 cost $75 last year.

Confusing? Well, yes, so it always pays to consult a stadium seating guide to find out exactly where you’re sitting.

And, of course, if you are a wallet-conscious Galaxy fan you just might want to buy tickets to the May 21 game hosted by Chivas USA.

But even paying the above prices is usually unnecessary.

Ticket deals abound whether you’re purchasing from a scalper outside the stadium (buyer beware) or online at a variety of sites, while both clubs generally offer a variety of ticket deals for every game.

For instance, Chivas USA for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. opener against Kansas City, is selling four tickets plus four hot dogs or four hats or one parking pass starting at $59. The Galaxy have a similar deal for the 5 p.m. Sunday game against the New England Revolution with four tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas for $96.

So it pays to have friends.

Full ticket details for Galaxy games can be found here and for Chivas USA here.

One other thing: As someone who has sat just about everywhere in the stadium at one time or another, I can tell you there really isn’t a bad seat in what is a relatively intimate stadium by soccer standards.

See you at the games.

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LA Riot Squad issue call to arms for Sunday’s Galaxy playoff game

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Galaxy fan group the LA Riot Squad are exhorting fans who like to stand and sing to join them in their designated section this week in an effort to ensure visiting Seattle Sounders fans visiting Southern California for the 6 p.m. Sunday Western Conference semifinal second leg are drowned out as much as possible at Home Depot Center.

The above image was on the groups’ Facebook page and I figured they wouldn’t mind if I reprinted it in all its glory.

Especially after seeing the excellent Sounders supporters first-hand last week in the Pacific Northwest. Duplicating that goosebump-raising atmosphere as much as possible here is not only good for the Galaxy, it’s good for MLS and soccer in general.

So give the Riot Squad a call and tell ‘em 100 Percent Soccer sent you.

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Carson’s Home Depot Center paved way for Red Bull Arena

i-ac4cdf894da4a960a9ddc6205373d962-redbullarenaopens.jpgMajor League Soccer’s newest stadium opened Saturday when the New York Red Bulls beat Brazil’s Santos. Amazingly, the Red Bulls won (AP Photos).

By all accounts, Red Bull Arena surpasses Home Depot Center as the finest soccer-specific facility in the United States, although considering it cost twice as much as the Carson stadium that’s to be expected.

But as writer Michael Lewis points out (in this piece written before the canceled March 13 international youth game that was to act as a “soft” stadium opening) the venue owes a a massive debt to the Anschutz Entertainment Group-built (and paid for) edifice.

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Here’s more on Saturday’s opening:

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) — On a picture-perfect night many fans longed for, the New York metropolitan area finally got its own soccer stadium Saturday.

The long-suffering Red Bulls even got a win, and Major League Soccer ensured five years of labor peace by signing a new collective bargaining agreement before the match.

The sky was cloudless blue, and the first evening of spring felt more like early summer. A sellout crowd of 25,000, many in shirt sleeves on a 73-degree night, filled long-discussed and much-delayed Red Bull Arena and watched the Red Bulls roll over Brazil’s Santos — Pele’s old team — 3-1 in a chippy exhibition.

Joel Lindpere scored off the rebound of his own free kick in the 11th minute, Mike Petke added a goal in the 43rd and Dane Richards made it 3-0 two minutes later. Germano headed in Santos’ goal in the 90th, just before the lights were cut and a fireworks display was shot off from the center circle.

Fans filled the $200 million, two-deck oval, and league officials immediately proclaimed the nation’s eighth soccer specific stadium its finest. The arena had been planned for a decade, but construction repeatedly was pushed back.

“It was six weeks away, six weeks away,” said Petke, the Red Bulls’ captain. “These last 10 years have been the longest six weeks of my life.”

Franz Beckenbauer, a World Cup champion for Germany as a player and coach, was on hand to mark the moment along with Olympic gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn. When Der Kaiser played for the Cosmos from 1977-80, they filled up Giants Stadium in nearby East Rutherford with crowds of nearly 80,000. But with MLS mostly lacking the biggest stars, the Red Bulls averaged just 12,491 fans for league home games last year, 12th among 15 teams.

And they were forced to play on artificial turf that was slightly too narrow. Now they’re in a gleaming stadium that looks as if it could have been transplanted from a wealthy regional club in central Europe, with a translucent glass roof over the seats to protect fans from rain.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, almost no one in the country played the game, and it takes time,” Beckenbauer said. “Also, it’s a question of tradition. So it takes time to get used to, to compete with the best teams in world, which you are doing now.”

In a league that will miss its biggest draw, Los Angeles midfielder David Beckham, for most if not all of this season because of his torn Achilles’ tendon, the Red Bulls hope to add a star later this year. Barcelona’s Thierry Henry and Real Madrid’s Raul Gonzalez often are mentioned as possibilities.

“It should be the beginning of a new era in New York soccer,” said Dietmar Beiersdorfer,
sporting director of parent Red Bull. “For sure we are also working on one other player maybe to strengthen our team.”

The biggest stars were missing from this match because of injury — Santos’ Robinho and New York’s Juan Pablo Angel. Beiersdorfer knows what sells, especially in the Big Apple.

Neymar, the biggest star on the field for Santos, gave his jersey to Red Bulls defender Jeremy Hall at the half. Many fans wore yellow Brazilian national team jerseys, and Santos coach Dorival Junior called it “a party atmosphere” even though he was disappointed with the result.”

“We could feel the love from the crowd,” Neymar said through a translator.

The field needs a little work — sand kept kicking up.

“We’ve always talked about getting away from the turf at Giants Stadium and how bad it was,” Petke said. “What I played in tonight, you could put concrete down, to be honest with you and I would have been, you know, thrilled.”

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While PATH commuter trains go directly to the stadium, allowing fans to travel in the same manner as most European supporters do, those who took shuttle buses from Newark’s Penn Station were caught in a 45-minute bottleneck to the nearby stadium, which looks like a silver spaceship on the shore of the Passaic River.

“We would have been better off walking,” said Suzanne Becker of Bethlehem, Pa.

Now that there won’t be a strike, up ahead is the first official match, New York’s MLS opener against Chicago next Saturday. The Red Bulls were 5-19-6 in the league last year and 6-21-7 overall.

“Even friendly games are important games,” new coach Hans Backe said.

Now that they have a top ground, they need to build an equal team.

“There really is no excuses,” Petke said.

It was almost exactly 10 years ago – and I know because I wrote the story – that the Daily Breeze became the first newspaper to break the news AEG were looking to the South Bay to build a new stadium for the Galaxy.

Just for fun, here’s that story as it ran on Feb. 28, 2000:

The campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, has emerged as one of “three leading contenders” the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer is considering as the site for a new 30,000- to 35,000-seat soccer stadium, the Daily Breeze has learned.

“They actually brought an architect out here last week, so I know we are one of the three,” said George Pardon, the university’s vice president for business and administration. “They’re going to do some renderings and sketches to know whether we have enough buildable room.”

The other two sites being looked at are a vacant parcel in Carson near the Kmart store off Torrance Boulevard between Figueroa and Main streets and an unidentified tract in Los Angeles, said Sergio del Prado, the Galaxy’s general manager.

But the campus near Carson may be the preferred site for what del Prado describes as a $50 million to $70 million soccer complex that would include a stadium, soccer academy and practice fields suitable for the Galaxy and U.S. national teams.

“That’s the one that gives us the easiest ability to do all those things,” he said Friday of the Cal State Dominguez Hills site. “We’d like the one that gives us the most opportunity to really succeed.”

In other signs the campus may have the inside track, del Prado said architects are looking at the design of the 70-acre tract at the university before other potential stadium sites. And the weekly magazine Soccer America reported last month that billionaire Galaxy owner Philip Anschutz particularly liked the campus parcel after taking a Jan. 14 helicopter tour of possible locations.

The Galaxy plays at the 92,000-capacity Rose Bowl in Pasadena but is seeking to construct a smaller venue more suitable for the average crowd of 18,000 it attracts to its 16 home dates annually.

At Cal State Dominguez Hills, the soccer facilities would be built at the site of the cycling velodrome constructed for the 1984 Olympics. The cycling facility, although considered a world-class venue, has little connection to the university and in the past has been a money-losing endeavor.

On the other hand, a soccer stadium would be an ideal fit, Pardon said.

The university needs a stadium large enough to accommodate the 16,000 people who attend graduation ceremonies; last year the university spent $70,000 to rent chairs and erect temporary bleachers for commencement, he said.

The Galaxy would lease rather than buy the land needed for the stadium so the university would retain control in what Pardon called a good example of a public-private partnership.

Moreover, becoming a major center for soccer with its widespread and growing appeal, rather than a niche sport like cycling, is attractive to an institution redoubling efforts to reach out to the community.

“One of the main thrusts of our new president is for this campus to be more widely known as a `communiversity,’ ” Pardon said. “We have a really strong soccer program and it really fit with what we are doing educationally.”

Area has broad appeal

For the Galaxy, the South Bay and the campus have several appealing characteristics, said del Prado, a former Parks and Recreation commissioner in Hawthorne who lives in El Segundo.

For one thing, Cal State Dominguez Hills is accessible for spectators with its proximity to the Harbor (110), San Diego (405) and 91 freeways, he said. And the area has the right demographic mix, ranging from the Latino communities in cities like Carson and Hawthorne that the Galaxy has traditionally relied upon for the bulk of its support to the middle-class soccer hotbeds of the South Bay and Orange County.

“We’re looking for a site that attracts both the youth soccer suburban crowd as well as our Hispanic hard-core soccer fans,” del Prado said. “Sometimes that’s a challenge, but I think to maximize the potential for the MLS in Los Angeles you need to appeal to both fan segments.”

Cal State Dominguez Hills has become a serious contender for the stadium with surprising speed.

The Galaxy has long sought a soccer-specific stadium of its own — the Rose Bowl doesn’t even have adequate practice fields.

But the project has received renewed attention following the completion of the Staples Center that Anschutz’s corporation owns in addition to such properties as two other MLS teams, the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey league and the Forum in Inglewood.

In recent weeks more than a dozen potential sites in the Los Angeles area have been winnowed to three.

It was the university that extended feelers to the Galaxy initially, Pardon said, adding that the school was not interested in being a site for an NFL stadium and the hassle of having 100,000 people flood the campus and surrounding neighborhoods. But officials did make preliminary overtures about locating a possible training facility for the franchise on campus, he said.

Soccer a better fit

When the idea collapsed along with the NFL proposal, it was resurrected when officials heard the Galaxy was searching for a new home.

The idea quickly evolved into a serious proposal after Anschutz’s January helicopter tour when several high-ranking executives with the corporation visited the site and asked for a copy of the university’s master plan, its blueprint for growth, Pardon said.

On Friday del Prado called the campus location one of the three leading candidates. The team needs to move quickly because the team’s lease at the Rose Bowl expires at the end of this season. Ideally, the team wants a new home by the start of the 2002 season, del Prado said.

“Mr. Anschutz is committed to doing whatever he can to make soccer work here in Southern California,” del Prado said, adding that no commitments have been made. “Hopefully within the next two to three months we’ll find out one way or another.”

A soccer stadium that would provide an appropriately exciting atmosphere — something often lost in huge stadiums designed for football — is seen by most observers as essential if the game is to progress.

Galaxy officials consider it no coincidence that the team finished second in league attendance last season to the Columbus Crew, which opened the nation’s first large stadium — capacity 22,500 — designed specifically for soccer.

Positive influence

Carson officials have responded positively so far, noting as they did with the NFL proposal that the soccer stadium would help put the city on the map.

“I don’t know of any problems associated with the site itself,” said City Manager Jerry Groomes. “The concern would be to try to minimize traffic impacts on the surrounding residential area.”

University officials believe that can be done, since the proposed site in the center of campus would help shield surrounding neighborhoods that contain some of the city’s most expensive homes from what would be relatively modest crowds compared to the NFL.

But an environmental report that would include a traffic analysis would have to be performed, Pardon said. And adverse community reaction would quickly kill the idea.

“If the city doesn’t want it here we’re not going to push it,” Pardon said. “That would run right in the face of our whole communiversity objectives.”

But for now, officials with the Galaxy, city and university believe the idea of a professional soccer team in Carson is worth investigating further.

“It’s an opportunity for (Carson) to get a lot of recognition not only in the city, but around the country and even internationally if we do build a new stadium and it does become the West Coast home of U.S. soccer,” del Prado said.

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