Weekly Soccer Column: Gold Cup, Olympic qualifying, Women’s World Cup cram 2015 international calendar

Need a cheat sheet to keep up? Check out this week’s 100 Percent Soccer column

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Beckham heading to Olympics in non-playing role, but backs off lighting flame

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Flame out: Beckham already accompanied the Olympic flame from Greece to England, but said he won’t carry it at the opening ceremony (AP Photo).

No word on how much time he will miss for the Galaxy this time:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — David Beckham doesn’t believe he is the right person to light the flame in the opening ceremony of his hometown London Olympics.

“Lighting the torch in the stadium is something that should be done by an Olympian, an Olympian that has done incredible things for our country and has won gold medals,” Beckham said Thursday at Galaxy.

Beckham helped London’s successful bid to win the games and was disappointed to miss out on Britain’s soccer team but said he will have an undisclosed role to play during the Olympics.

“It is yet to be decided, but I will be part of it in some ways,” Beckham said. “I have been
speaking to Seb Coe and a couple of other people about what it is I am going to be doing.”

With more than 100 games for England, Beckham was heartbroken to be left off of the Britain Olympic squad but had kind words for his former Manchester United teammate Ryan Giggs, who will captain the team.

“Ryan has had such an amazing career with Manchester United … he deserves to be there, and it would have been great to be there with him,” Beckham said. “We have a lot of great memories with Manchester United. I have moved on and am getting on with things now and I hope the GB team wins as many medals as possible.”

The 37-year-old Beckham, who grew up in London, can’t wait for the games to begin in two weeks.

“I am going to be just proud to be there as a fan more so than anything,” he said. “In a part of London where I grew up, and I used to play over the soccer fields that have now been changed, and as an Englishman, I am going to be very proud.”

Meanwhile, in the same interview Beckham also lashed out at his critics and took a few shots from his glass house at those that have the temerity to question his absences from MLS.

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Friday Football: Galaxy buys Torrance’s Soccer City & more

*Anschutz Entertainment Group & the Galaxy have expanded their South Bay sports empire, purchasing Torrance’s South Coast Soccer City futsal facility for an undisclosed amount.

*Chivas USA today waived rookie defender Scott Gordon, who made three appearances this season for a total of 23 minutes of playing time.

*The Vancouver Whitecaps, which plays Chivas USA Saturday at Home Depot Center, have almost sold out their July 18 home game against David Beckham, according to the headline in the Vancouver Sun. Let’s hope he doesn’t somehow manage to get suspended for the game then.

*Pepperdine senior goalkeeper Roxanne Barker was named to the 2012 South African Olympic team. Barker grew up in Irvine. South Africa is making its Olympic debut.

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Torrance’s Shannon Boxx is three-time Olympian

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South High product Shannon Boxx s one of four U.S. players named to the squad for the games in London this summer who will have played in three or more Olympics.

Boxx, who went the full 90 in a 4-1 U.S. win over China Sunday, is one of several Southern California players on the roster.

That list also includes scoring sensation Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar), who collected two goals against China to up her total to 24 in just 39 international appearances; Hermosa Beach resident Abby Wambach, who scored the 135th goal of her U.S. career Sunday; UCLA product Sydney Leroux, 22, the youngest member of the squad; and forward Amy Rodriguez (USC).

Palos Verdes Estates’ Christen Press, currently playing professionally in Scandanavia, was named as an alternate. She has not made an appearance for the U.S.

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Videos: The Fashion Sense of David Beckham

Check out his latest ad released today (also with a brief Lionel Messi appearance) for a new line of running shoes that adidas describes as “ultra-breathable and fashion-forward adidas ClimaCool Seduction (that) features 360-degree ventilation to keep feet cool and dry for maximum comfort during warmer spring and summer workouts. Available in ten bold color combos for $100 on adidas.com, the ClimaCool design helps reduce foot temperature up to 20% and in-shoe moisture by 50%.”

Hey, at least he will look better in those shoes than this questionable athletic attire released last week if Beckham decides to play in the London Olympics:

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Saturday Soccer: USWNT qualifies for Olympics & more

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Got a little Morgan in ya? Alex Morgan celebrates her late goal that clinched a U.S. spot in London’s Olympics Friday in Canada (AP Photo).

Diamond Bar’s fast-rising soccer star Alex Morgan further solidified her undoubted national team credentials by notching the third and final decisive goal:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The final goal in the game that put the U.S. women’s soccer team into the Olympics was scored by Alex Morgan, the super-sub who made her name at last year’s World Cup.

That’s the same Alex Morgan who wasn’t a sub at all in the Americans’ previous game, leading to an interesting moment in a meeting with coach Pia Sundhage.

The formality is that the U.S. beat Costa Rica 3-0 Friday night to earn a ticket to London. The game was quite a bit more suspenseful than expected, with the Americans overcoming some early sloppiness and waiting until deep into the second half to put the game away.

The real fun now begins over the next six months as Sundhage figures out how best to use the best, deepest roster of women soccer players in the world. For instance, the newest hot-off-the-presses talent is Sidney Leroux, who got the call instead of Morgan in the second half of the big win over Mexico three days earlier.

“I asked her how she felt when Sidney Leroux came in the game and she didn’t,” Sundhage said. “I wanted an honest answer. She said ‘I don’t think you want that answer.’ Great. That tells a little about how badly she wants to play.”

Morgan felt she got her point across.

“We both laughed,” Morgan said. “And she said ‘That’s all I need to know.’ … But that’s the great thing with Pia. She lets you feel you can be honest with her. She lets you feel very comfortable around her.”

Morgan’s goal in the 89th minute made the score 34-0 — the margin by which the Americans have outscored their opponents at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament. The only one that wasn’t as lopsided as the score was Friday’s London-or-bust semifinal.

“There were moments where I think Costa Rica were outplaying us, and it just shows you how important it was to all of us,” forward Abby Wambach said. “Nobody wanted to make that mistake. And luckily we didn’t.”

Tobin Heath scored in the 16th minute to give U.S. all the offense it needed, and Carli Lloyd (72nd) and Morgan (89th) provided the insurance.

But the top-ranked Americans were certainly not as crisp as they were when they were drawing criticism for running up the score. Bad passes led to giveaways in the first half, forcing goalkeeper Hope Solo to work harder than she has all tournament.

Then again, so much was on the line that some jitters were understandable.

“We know that sometimes under big game circumstances players can get a little tight,” Wambach said. “And you’ve just kind of got to deal with it. … It was almost as if we scored that goal and nobody wanted to get stuck into a tackle. We were kind of playing a little bit soft, and we fixed that in the second half.”

Costa Rica is ranked No. 41 in the world, has never qualified for an Olympics or a World Cup and has never scored on the U.S. in eight meetings.

Las Ticas proved to be scrappy opponents, however, occasionally frustrating the Americans with physical play and just missing on two solid scoring chances in the first half in the London-or-bust match. As the possibility of an upset lingered deep into the second half, the plucky team in red gained the rousing support of the Canadian fans at BC Place.

“We put together three great games in group play,” said Solo, who played despite a slightly pulled right quadriceps that had been bothering her all week. “You can’t play four, five, six. Not every team is going to play perfectly every single game, but we got the job done.”

The U.S. will be the two-time defending champions in London, having taken gold in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008. It will be the third straight Olympics in which the Americans will be trying to make amends for World Cup disappointment from the previous year. They finished second at last year’s World Cup in Germany, losing to Japan in the final.

The victory also puts the Americans into the tournament final Sunday, a bragging-rights-only game against Canada, a 3-1 winner over Mexico in the second semifinal.

Sundhage’s team arrived in Canada with a bit of apprehension. The Americans, having become somewhat complacent from years of uncontested success in the region, were stunned in a World Cup qualifier by host Mexico in November 2010, forcing them into a home-and-away playoff with Italy just to get for the World Cup. Also, the format for Olympic qualifying is such that everything hinges on one game — the do-or-die semifinals — regardless of how a team performs in the rest of the tournament.

Determined to take nothing for granted, the Americans had been full throttle for every game. They set a U.S. team record for goals in a game in a 14-0 win over the Dominican Republic, then nearly matched the feat in a 13-0 rout of Guatemala. Then came a 4-0 win in the much-anticipated rematch with Mexico to set up the semifinal against Costa Rica.

And even though the vital game didn’t go quite as planned, the outcome was all that
mattered.

“We,” Sundhage said, smiling, “are going to London.”

*Also, Chivas USA narrowly lost its opening preseason game Friday night in Ventura County.

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