Wednesday Kicks: Chivas USA Offseason Manoeuvering Begins & More

  • Modestly, one should note, with Portland and Chivas USA swapping spots in the player allocation rankings, with the Timbers receiving Chivas USA’s second overall spot and the Goats taking the third overall position. Chivas USA will also receive either a 2013 international roster spot or a second-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft should the Timbers acquire one. Translation: Chivas USA want to load up on international spots ahead of a likely influx of Mexicans, while Portland has a specific player they want to acquire from overseas.
  • U.S. international forward Clint Dempsey, was chosen by 183 US journalists as the “212 Player of the Year Award presented by Fútbol de Primera. It’s the third time Dempsey has won the award, which either he or the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan have won ten times in the last eleven years. Dempsey scored six goals in nine U.S. games this year.
  • The 54 college seniors invited to the increasingly unimportant MLS Combine next month in Florida include defenders Joe Franco (Cal State Northridge); and midfielders Carlos Alvarez (University of Connecticut) of Los Angeles, Kory Kindle of (California State Bakersfield of Ventura; and Ryan Hollingshead and Fernando Monge (UCLA).

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Wednesday Kicks: Boxx, Donovan, Press, Leroux lead U.S. Soccer player award nominees & more

First, the & more: follow the MLS expansion draft here. The Whitecaps just took former Galaxy striker Alan Gordon, now late of Chivas USA. They like big, bruising English style center forwards up north.

Vancouver also took the Palos Verdes Peninsula’s John Thorrington off the hands of the Chicago Fire with their tenth and final pick.

Award season is heating up with U.S. Soccer announcing their nominees today for male, female and young male and female athletes of the year.

Local nominees include Stanford’s Christen Press of Palos Verdes Estates and UCLA’s Sydney Leroux for the Young Female Athlete of the Year, Torrance’s Shannon Boxx for the, um, senior female award and the usual suspects for the male version.

Here’s the list:

U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year Finalists
Shannon Boxx, Midfielder
Rachel Buehler, Defender
Amy LePeilbet, Defender
Amy Rodriguez, Forward
Abby Wambach, Forward

U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year Finalists
Carlos Bocanegra, Defender
Michael Bradley, Midfielder
Steve Cherundolo, Defender
Clint Dempsey, Midfielder
Landon Donovan, Midfielder

U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year Finalists
Morgan Brian, Midfielder
Crystal Dunn, Defender
Bianca Henninger, Goalkeeper
Sydney Leroux, Forward
Christen Press, Forward

U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year Finalists
Gale Agbossoumonde, Defender
Zac MacMath, Goalkeeper
Alessandro Mion, Defender
Dillon Powers, Midfielder
Andrew Souders, Defender

Cast your vote here. You can vote daily through Dec. 10.

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MLS Tuesday Kicks: Rosters expanded, reserve league returns, Galaxy place four on MLS Best XI

Nothing we didn’t really know. But at least I didn’t have to listen to MLS Commish Don Garber thanks to Associated Press Writer Nancy Armour:

Major League Soccer’s reserve league will return in 2011, another step in improving player

The reserve league will have a 10-game regular season and playoffs, giving young players match experience on a consistent basis. Most top European soccer leagues have similar systems.

“Our technical committee … it’s their strong view that we need to have a reserve division as an essential part of our player development ladder in the United States,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday in his annual state of the league address.

The reserve league was disbanded in 2008 after four seasons because of costs and logistics problems, but its return had been expected since Adidas extended its sponsorship deal this summer. The new eight-year deal, which begins next year and is worth more than $200 million, included a significant investment in youth development.

MLS and its teams are already devoting significant resources and attention to their
development academies, which groom high school-age players and have already produced first-team starters such as MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar. But it’s hard for most players to make the leap from high school or even college straight to an MLS game-day roster, and there is a fear future American stars are stagnating while they fight for playing time.

When the U.S. was eliminated in the group stage of the Under-20 World Cup last year, coach Thomas Rongen blamed part of his team’s erratic play on the lack of an MLS reserve league.

“We go from full-time residency to a black hole,” Rongen said then. “That’s the reason we are erratic from game to game. There’s no game sharpness, there’s no game fitness and no game rhythm. Because of the MLS dropping the reserve league the black hole will become deeper and darker.”

MLS rosters will expand from 26 to 30 players to accommodate the reserve division, with six spots designated for players 24 years old and younger. Development academy players will eligible to play on reserve league teams, as will players on tryouts with MLS franchises.

In other news:

*Garber said he expects changes to the current playoff format, including the
possibility that the MLS Cup could be held at the home of the highest-seeded team. The
championship game is currently held at a neutral site chosen months in advance, just like the Super Bowl.

This year’s MLS Cup, featuring FC Dallas and Colorado, will be played Sunday in Toronto.

*With expansion to Vancouver and Portland bringing the number of teams in the league
to 18 next season, Garber said MLS will consider doing away with conferences and going to the single-table format the top European leagues use. That will not, however, mean an end to playoffs, Garber said.

“We will never do away with playoffs,” Garber said. “There is absolutely no reason to do

*Garber continues to talk with New York City officials, the Wilpon family, the group
that owns the name of the Cosmos and other potential investors about adding a second franchise in New York, and hopes to have something done by 2013. (Montreal begins play in 2012.)

*This season’s Best XI are: goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (Galaxy); defenders Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), Omar Gonzalez (Galaxy); midfielders David Ferreira (FC Dallas), Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC), Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Landon Donovan (Galaxy); and forwards Edson Buddle (Galaxy) and Chris Wondolowski (San Jose

Here’s why Donovan is listed as a midfielder, straight from The Commish in today’s State of the League speech:

You probably noted that Landon (Donovan) is listed as a midfielder as opposed to the forward that he was listed on the ballot. Here’s the reason why. For obvious reasons, Landon has been an absolutely standout player this year, including leading the league in assists. He is a guy that clearly has earned the right to be considered one of the best players in our league not because of who he is or what he’s done for the national team, but for what he’s done in Major League Soccer (this season). He had 16 assists, and he finished in the top handful in MVP voting. Due to the large number of votes that he received and the fact that it was in the Galaxy lineup as a midfielder nearly twice as many times as he was a forward, he was included on the Best XI as a midfielder rather than as a third forward.

So our view is we need to do the right thing. It is certainly right to have Landon as a Best XI.

So what will it say about the above XI if Colorado wins MLS Cup Sunday?

Incidentally, the six additional roster spots are reserved for players 24 and under and they will not count against a team’s salary budget, which for 2011 will be $2.67 million per team.

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Tuesday Kicks: December Club America exhibition in Carson scheduled & more

*Well, they had to find some way to generate a little cash over the holidays now that InterLiga has gone the way of the dodo, I guess.

It’s being called “a new tradition of playing a holiday friendly at Home Depot Center prior to the start of the Mexican club soccer season” for Club America. Which is a way better title (but a bit less honest) than calling it a “new winter tradition of extracting as much cash from the local soccer public for a meaningless game as we can.”

Tickets starting at $20 go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Nov. 18 for the game against the Guatemalan national team set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29. Former Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz is expected to play for the Central American nation.

It’s the 11th time Club America has played in Carson in just seven years. It’s Guatemala’s sixth match at the HDC. Wow, that’s more games than Chivas USA showed up for this year at the same stadium.

*And here’s something else to look forward to: the inaugural MLS Re-Entry Draft.

*The Galaxy’s Juninho and Donovan Ricketts are up for MLS Goal of the Year and Save of the Year, respectively.

*Meanwhile, eat this up: Food Network show “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills” will prepare an “international themed menu” (and hopefully they’ll get to eat it, too) for Galaxy Assistant Coach Cobi Jones and players Donovan Ricketts, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzlez, Dema Kovalenko, Tristan Bowen, Edson Buddle and Mike Magee on tonight’s episode, which airs at 9 o’clock.

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Hartman, Ricketts, Buddle, Gonzalez named MLS awards finalists

i-59c5b01c132568003f6938e20c00849a-buddlefuture.jpgGalaxy striker Edson Buddle, up for MLS MVP, tries to peer into the future at a recent game and guess the winners (AP Photo).

But no Bruce Arena for Coach of the Year.

And why is Thierry Henry up for an award (I’m guessing former CSUDH, UCLA and Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is not casting his vote for the Frenchman).

Here’s the finalists for each award as announced by MLS this afternoon and the schedule the winners will be announced:

Goalkeeper of the Year Finalists
Kevin Hartman (FC Dallas)
Donovan Ricketts (Galaxy)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Fair Play Finalists – Individual
C.J. Brown (Chicago Fire)
Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Comeback Player of the Year Finalists
Chris Albright (New York Red Bulls)
Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes)
Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

Visa Defender of the Year Finalists
Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake)
Omar Gonzalez (Galaxy)
Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake)

MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year Finalists
Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo)
Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards)
Seth Stammler (New York Red Bulls)

adidas Referee of the Year Finalists
Mark Geiger
Kevin Stott
Baldomero Toledo

Rookie of the Year Finalists
Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia Union)
Andy Najar (D.C. United)
Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)

Coach of the Year Finalists
Hans Backe (New York Red Bulls)
Schellas Hyndman (FC Dallas)
Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake)

Newcomer of the Year Finalists
Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)
Joel Lindpere (New York Red Bulls)
Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)

Volkswagen Most Valuable Player Finalists
Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy)
David Ferreira (FC Dallas)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthqakes)

Awards Announcements Schedule:

Tuesday: Rookie of the Year, Fair Play Individual & Team of the Year, and Goalkeeper of the Year

Nov. 5: Visa Defender and adidas Referee/Assistant Referee of the Year

Nov. 8: MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year

Nov.10: Newcomer and Comeback Player of the Year

Nov. 11: MLS Coach of the Year

Nov. 15: 2010 MLS Best XI

Nov. 17: AT&T Goal of the Year and NAPA Auto Parts Save of the Year

Nov. 19: Volkswagen MVP & Commissioner’s Award

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Sanna smiles as Sigi Schmid’s Seattle Sounders snag second successive U.S. Open Cup crown & more

i-7dbe2a3ddfe668ac7103ffe73aea89db-drewkeller.jpgAn unusually svelte-looking Sounders part-owner Drew Carey and customarily bald goalkeeper Kasey Keller celebrate in Seattle after the Sounders’ U.S. Open Cup win (AP Photo).

The South Bay boy done good.

Sigi Schmid, who grew up in Torrance, guided Seattle to a second successive berth in the CONCACAF Champions League courtesy of this 2-1 come from behind U.S. Open Cup victory against the Columbus Crew Tuesday at Qwest Field. Sanna Nyassi scored both Seattle goals.

Things could have been different had Rolling Hills Estates’ Robbie Rogers – a protege of Schmid’s – hit the goal instead of the woodwork with five minutes left.

But Rogers missed and the typically loud 30,000-plus Seattle crowd basked in their richly deserved victory just a few minutes later.

And fun to watch.


“I’m extremely proud of our team,” said Schmid. “We talked about being able to win tonight and doing something special. We’re the first MLS team to repeat and the first to repeat in a long time. The guys really took it to heart and even though we went down 1-0, they showed a lot of character.”

Notable: The crowd of 31,311 smashed the U.S. Open Cup record of 21,583 – set way back in 1929.

In other soccer news:

*Central defender Yohance Marshall will miss Thursday’s Galaxy game in Philadelphia against the Union after being called up into the Trinidad & Tobago squad for friendlies Wednesday against Bermuda and Sunday against Jamaica. Marshall didn’t start against Chivas USA, giving way to the former Maryland pairing of Omar Gonzalez and AJ DeLaGarza, after starting the previous two games.

*Voting has opened for the LA Riot Squad Player of the Year award, pretty much the most prestigious Galaxy-related award out there.

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Galaxy’s Arena Named MLS Coach of the Year

Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena, ably assisted by Assistant Head Coach Dave Sarachan, revitalized the fortunes of the once-moribund Galaxy this season and has the team in the Western Conference Final against the Houston Dynamo at 8 p.m. Friday at Home Depot Center.

i-b18ca9780435f8f2683d016c7c649bbf-Arena.jpgAnd deservedly so after leading the Galaxy from worst to first in MLS and adding a second MLS Coach of the Year honor a dozen years after first claiming the award with D.C. United.

From the Galaxy press release:

In his first full season with the Galaxy, Arena helped lead the Galaxy to a 12-6-12 record and a first place finish in the Western Conference, giving the club their first postseason berth since the 2005 season. Arena claimed the award after garnering the most votes in polling of MLS players, general managers, coaches and members of the media.

Arena, 58, was named the Galaxy’s head coach on August 18, 2008, replacing the recently departed Ruud Gullit. He helped guide the club to a 2-5-3 record in his 10 games in charge at the end of the 2008 season. Following his initial season in Los Angeles, Arena overhauled the Galaxy roster, with 16 of the 26 players on the club’s current roster having joined the club since the end of the 2008 season.

With his new look roster in place, Arena guided the Galaxy to a club record 12 shutouts in the regular season and just 31 goals allowed, exactly half of the league-worst 62 goals that they conceded in 2008. Arena’s improvements paid dividends in the attack as well, with the club receiving nine goals and 15 assists from players that he brought in following the 2008 season.

Seattle Sounders FC Coach Sigi Schmid and Columbus Crew Coach Robert Warzycha were the other finalists this year.

BTW, Arena paid tribute to the role the players have played this season after last weekend’s game:

“These are special games and on Friday it will be a special game. I’m real pleased to be part of this group. This has been one of my more enjoyable jobs in the last 30-35 years. You come in every day (and) these guys are a pleasure to work with. I think their vested interest in this team has made a difference. They buy into everything.”

Also, here’s Arena’s not-so-secret strategy for Friday night: “Show up.”

A more detailed preview is here.

Arena’s introduction.

Previous Coach of the year winners:
2008: Sigi Schmid – Columbus Crew
2007: Preki – Chivas USA
2006: Bob Bradley – Chivas USA
2005: Dominic Kinnear – San Jose Earthquakes
2004: Greg Andrulis – Columbus Crew
2003: Dave Sarachan – Chicago Fire
2002: Steve Nicol – New England Revolution
2001: Frank Yallop – San Jose Earthquakes
2000: Bob Gansler – Kansas City Wizards
1999: Sigi Schmid – Los Angeles Galaxy
1998: Bob Bradley – Chicago Fire
1997: Bruce Arena – D.C. United
1996: Thomas Rongen – Tampa Bay Mutiny

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Tuesday’s Column: Struggles Continue for Mexico; Donovan Training with Bayern, Schmid is MLS Coach of the Year & More

Mexico’s Burden
With the head of the Mexican Football Federation in L.A. Monday, it seemed like a good time to look at the continuing struggles of that nation ahead of its final first round World Cup qualifying game for today’s column.

As always, it’s hard to fit everything into a column.

Here’s a few bonus quotes from Lalas (and while he declined to speak in detail about his Galaxy experience until January – presumably he’s still under some form of contractual obligation – you can read between the lines with some of his quotes).

On the new environment Eriksson finds himself in, despite his track record:

*”I have some experience with making a big splash in terms of who you sign, but ultimately it’s in the results. Just because somebody has experience doesn’t mean that translates into success. Just because somebody has made a name for themselves some place else doesn’t mean it translates into coming into some place else.

He’s a great coach and he thinks about things in a certain way, but he has his work cut out for him here in CONCACAF and I think he’s recognizing some of the challenges.”

*On where Mexico lags the U.S. and other nations:

“I don’t think they have enough players who are playing around the world and I don’t think they encourage enough players to come into the Mexican league to augment what they have because it is a great league and it is at times wonderfully entertaining.

“Certainly if you look at the Mexican futbol league compared to MLS they have a much greater history and much more to build on, but it’s not translating into results.”

*On what the U.S.has done right in comparison to Mexico:

“We’ve been open-minded in terms of the different types of coaches and different types of philosophies. We’ve encouraged players to play overseas and use that experience in terms of bringing them back.

“We’ve also recognized that maybe the physical advantage that Americans enjoyed for a while and used to their advantage wasn’t enough – the tactical part of it had to be sound also. We also got more wily and less naive in our approach on and off the field in that we understand how to manage games, we understand the difference in playing a home and away game.

“We’ve thrown a lot of money and a lot of resources into developing our younger players and our national team. It’s paid off.”

Donovan in Germany
In the least surprising news of the day, the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan will train with Juergen Klinsmann’s Bayern Munich for 10 days to “stay fit.” Yeah, sure.

Of course, Donovan is looking to play overseas, Klinsmann has had close ties with the Galaxy in the past and has said he’s in search of a new striker when the January transfer window opens. Goodbye and good luck, Landon.

MLS Awards
Former Galaxy Coach and long-time Sigi Schmid was not surprisingly named MLS Coach of the Year today after leading his Columbus Crew to first in MLS during the regular season.

Here’s a look at Schmid’s career by the numbers, courtesy of the Crew:

*17 – His number of playoff wins is the best in MLS.

*57 – The Crew’s point total this season was the best in club history.

*17 – The Crew’s win total this season was the best in club history.

Lalas, who will continue as MLS analyst for Thursday’s Crew-Fire playoff game and for MLS Cup, said Columbus is his pick to win the title:

“I am nothing if not a believer in karma and that you are rewarded for your efforts over a period of time. It doesn’t always work like that in MLS and in fact we almost discourage that, but a team like Columbus that has played consistently well, that has given their fans an entertaining and ultimately successful product from the beginning of the season – that that will bear out.”

Huck’s Trucks
Finally, San Jose’s Darren Huckerby was named MLS Newcomer of the Year today after scoring six goals and assisting on four others in just 14 games after joining the Earthquakes in mid-season.

I’ll be back later in the day with the Honda Player of the Year winner and more.

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Midweek Kicks: Pasadena’s Yura Movsisyan & More

Great story in The Salt Lake City Tribune today about the life and death struggles Real Salt Lake striker Yura Movsisyan endured as a child growing up in war-torn Azerbaijan before his family emigrated to Pasadena. His proud parents will be watching their son from the Home Depot Center stands at Saturday’s playoff decider against Chivas USA.

Read the story here.

U.S. Soccer began accepting nominations today for its seventh annual end of year awards for best blog, soccer bar, store and video. Details here.

Finally, one of the best executives in MLS got his just reward today: the Galaxy’s Tom Payne was named president of business operations by Anschutz Entertainment Group.

From the (edited) press release:

Payne will oversee all of the Galaxy’s business operations, including corporate partnerships, ticket sales, marketing, programming, communications, broadcasting, operations and community development. Payne, who has been with the organization for six seasons, will report directly to AEG President Tim Leiweke.

“From the start, there was no doubt that Tom was the ideal person to take on this new position within the Galaxy,” said Leiweke. “With his vast knowledge of soccer and MLS, Tom has the respect of the staff, the players and the fans and will now play an even bigger role in helping this club to grow and become more successful. Despite our struggles on the field, Tom has done an outstanding job on the business side and together with (Coach) Bruce (Arena), we are confident that with their leadership, next year will be a positive one for us.”

Payne, 44, carries with him an extensive background in the sports and entertainment industry. He has worked for the Galaxy since 2003 and previously served as the club’s Assistant General Manager (2006-08) and Vice President of Programming and Business Development (2003-05). He was instrumental in opening a number of additional revenue streams for the club, including negotiating international exhibitions against teams such as Yokohama F. Marinos, the Korean National Team, Real Madrid and Chelsea F.C. Payne has also been instrumental in helping the Galaxy lead MLS in attendance in all six of his years with the club, including an MLS-best average of 26,009 fans per game in 2008, which is the second highest single season average attendance in MLS history.

Arena, you’ll recall, is GM on the soccer side of things for the Galaxy. And in case you were wondering, yes, Payne is the brother of D.C. United GM Kevin Payne.

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Tuesday’s Column: Fans Vote With their Feet When It Comes to the MLS Playoffs & More

I cast my vote against the current MLS playoff system.

And I’m not the only one to address this issue at the ballot box.

Pasadena City College product Yura Movsisyan was voted MLS Player of the Week after scoring the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation in Real Salt Lake’s Western Conference semifinal against Chivas USA.

Chicago’s Jon Busch was voted MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

And how will David Beckham vote on staying with the Galaxy and MLS in 2009?.

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