Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Did you know that there are 144 players in the EPL that are 30 years or older? MLS has its share of players in their 30s, too. In fact, Climbing the Ladder has named an MLS Old Player of the Year award for each season. As we know, our local league has an appreciation for old guys as HASL has announced that it will start an Over-35 division this fall. And there is also a US cup tournament for old guys with the very PC name of the Veteran's Cup.
Division 2 Preview
MLS began its season this past weekend. Now, the new USSF Divsion 2 Pro League will begin on April 10th. Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer has a complete preview of the league that consists of 12 teams from both the USL and the NASL, including two teams (Portland and Vancouver) who will be joining MLS next year.
Get on Your Bike
Nice overhead kick goal from the Turkish league.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
This summer if you get sick of listening to John Harkes ramble on about "balance and cover", turn the channel to Univision. Sure, they'll be speaking in Spanish, but the "Gooooooooooool" call every time someone scores sounds so Futbol! Univision has announced it's plans for the coverage of the World Cup.
GolTV Will Go HD, too!
Not to be outdone by FSC, GolTV is reportedly going to be broadcasting in HD on August 1st. Of course, that won't mean much unless the cable/satellite providers start carrying the HD channel, but good for you, GolTV!
MLS First Kick Weekend
I watched most of the matches from this weekend's MLS first round. There was some very good (Morales for RSL had two golazos!) and some very bad (DCU's play and Dallas attendance). Steve Dayis of SI has 5 things to take from the weekend's action.
MLSsoccer.com has launched and there are tons of new features. One is the daily video program above called "The Daily" here the guys from last year's program Extra Time break down league new and highlights.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Now, I'm not one to prognosticate, but if you're into that sort of thing, there are a ton of articles previewing the season. With a league like MLS, that is designed specifically for parity, I find that it's absolutely futile to try to predict what will happen. So, sit back, enjoy, and let the season unfold.
As I said yesterday, a good way to see this weekend's games is Direct Kick (it's free preview weekend!), but I've also signed up (for the first time) for the league's online streaming service, called MLS MatchDay Live. That way, if I'm not in my living room in front of my TV, I can still catch the action on my laptop. Sweet!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I'm getting more and more pumped for the MLS season and according to the Globe and Mail, Toronto FC will host the 2010 MLS Cup Final.
As we know, Red Bull Arena will host its first league match this week and the Sports Business Journal has a terrific article with the behind the scenes look at the Red Bull organization and their non-conformist ownership group.
Taking a cue from Red Bull's famous outside-the-box marketing strategies, Real Salt Lake has announced a $75 punch card campaign to attract college students to their matches. The RSL punch card can be presented at the gate with a valid student ID to be granted a $5 supporter's section ticket. The punch card can be used for 15 home games and can be passed between different fans. This is a great idea to hook young adults who will soon become young professionals with expendable incomes.
FIFA admits 650,000 World Cup tickets remain unsold
Thinking about going to South Africa? Well, there are plenty of tickets available. FIFA has announced that over 650,000 tickets remain unsold of the almost 3 million total. Well, it's not for the USA, because we still rank as the highest ticket purchasing nation outside of South Africa. Still, as ESPN tells us, if you do catch a game in S.A., you're bound to see something controversial.
USMNT Player Beers
The guys at the Shin Guardian have taken a beery look at the starting line-up of the US Men's National Team. They've assigned a beer to each player based on their playing style and even one for coach Bob Bradley. Any article that gives props to my college beer of choice, National Bohemian, is OK in my book.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
...As the song goes. But which United? Rocket City United? DC United? Well, the Best Eleven blog has put together a list of clubs from around the world that use the moniker. And the list is long... From Kicks United in Anguilla to Zimbabwe's Monomotapa United, there are over 100 clubs in worldwide professional soccer who claim to be United.
In the early days of soccer, a club that had been formed from two or more previous clubs were then called "United", but the success of big clubs like Newcastle United have spawned teams with the nickname around the globe. In recent years, clubs like RCU and DC United have chosen the name to indicate a united community behind their team.
Interestingly, the Best Eleven list does not include the US minor leagues of which we could add Reading United, West Texas United, and Hollywood United from the PDL to our very own Rocket City United.
MLS Kicks Off Thursday Night
Having signed the CBA with their players (more details here), MLS will now be free to kick off the 2010 season on Thursday night as the expansion club Philadelphia Union will travel to Seattle take on the Seattle Sounders on ESPN2 at 8:30 PM Central Time.
Personally, I'm very excited about this season. There are several exciting foreign players who will be bringing a terrific level of play to the league. The Best Eleven blog has some videos of some of the higher profile additions. They get me so pumped for the season.
As always, I'll be catching the action on the league's Direct Kick package that shows nearly all of the games on my TV at home. This season I may also go ahead and sign up for the MLS live streaming service also. Jacob at Southern Soccer has the goods on the full slate of MLS matches on TV this weekend which will all be shown for free on the Direct Kick's free preview weekend. Check them out!
I have a fascination with maps. So when I found these two maps recently, I spent quite a bit of time analyzing them.
The Pitch Invasion blog created a terrific map of the US with the number of pro players (MLS or USMNT) per state. Hmm... Alabama is the largest state by population without a single professional in MLS. We're gonna have to do something about that.
The second map appears on Jason Davis' blog for FourFourTwo.com called The Real American Football. It's a simple MLS franchise location map, but what struck me is the grouping of the 4 franchises in the eastern I-95 corridor. They're close enough to create a real traveling fan contingent that you see in European football. With two teams in northwest entering the league from the Pacific NorthWest in 2011 (Portland and Vancouver), there might also be a traveling fan culture brewing there, too. Could this be the start of a new traveling fan phenomenon in MLS?
I wasn't the only one struck by that thought, as Jason Davis also penned an article today about the stadiums being built in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest and how it can affect fan culture for MatchFitUSA.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Rocket City United coach Desmond Armstrong has begun building its roster for the 2010 campaign. After a week of practices, Armstrong has begun the job of filling out the 26 man roster he hopes to use to defend the NPSL South East Region title. Most of the players participating in the workouts this past week were local talents including several members of the UAH and Alabama A&M squads. There were also several returning members from last year's RCU team who impressed during the preseason workouts.
Pshew! MLS Strike Averted
MLS and their players have agreed on a 5-year Collective Bargaining Agreement that has averted a threatened strike by the players. While not granted free agency, the players did win concessions to create a "re-entry draft" for out of contract players at each seasons end. Also, the majority of player contracts will be guaranteed and player pay will be increased with minimum salaries set at $40,000 and the salary cap increasing by $200,000.
Jewell of a Stadium
The New York Red Bulls successfully opened their stadium with a 3:1 defeat of Brazilian Club Santos. Here's a nice little video of all of the action in the stands and on the field.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Fulham had been down 3:1 after the away trip to Turin, and battled back after giving up an early goal to Juventus to bring the tie level at 4:4. Then, Deuce Dempsey struck with the no look wedge shot from just off the green.
Every time I watch it, I get goosebumps. I've told many friends that I will retire on the spot, if I ever get good enough to chip a keeper in a game. That, to me, is the pinnacle of skill and audacity. As it is, I'm sure I'll be playing for years to come, because a shot like that is just brilliant!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Heineken's Italian ad agency deserves an award for creativity. In the days leading up to this year's Real Madrid v AC Milan match, they arranged for hundreds of soccer fans to be duped into attending a classical music concert and poetry reading that would coincide with the match. Check out the results below.
MLS Stadiums Opening and Renovating
Lots of good news from the stadium front in MLS. We've already seen the beautiful new Red Bull Arena is complete and will open Saturday.
Down the turnpike, there's a new stadium being built for the expansion club Philadelphia Union with plans to open in April.
PPL Park will be the home of the Philadelphia Union
And the Toronto FC stadium, BMO Field, is expanding and they're laying down grass turf to replace the plastic pitch that they've played on for the past 3 years.
Toronto FC talks BMO Field and other TFC news
These are great developments for the league. Now, if they could only figure out the CBA mess.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Many of the best soccer bars in the U.S. started as Irish- (or English-) style pubs and enhanced that identity by catering to the growing American (and constant expat) interest in soccer from other shores. It’s a match made in heaven when draught Guinness or Bass Ale meet a full slate of weekend matches on an array of flat screens from Futbol Fortress Europa.
Finnegan’s Irish Pub on South Memorial Parkway in Huntsville has the Guinness on tap, an honest-to-goodness dark, dank “who cares if it’s light outside and I’m on #6” feel, and one of the best burgers in town. It also has a substantial U-shaped bar, tables and lounge space replete with couches and coffee tables.
According to Julie the Bartender on my visit one recent afternoon, they are also about to add a “the soccer package” to their television service. All of this is promising.: Good food, good bevies, moderate soccer priority.
One thing, however, stands out as a major negative: Finnegan’s only has two (2) small screen, old fashioned tv’s. This may well add to the substantial charm of this wonderful joint, but is hardly conducive to watching big games from Europe’s biggest leagues simultaneously on a Saturday morning. Finnegan’s opens @ 11:00 am and, as of now, is not planning to open earlier on Saturday’s to accommodate soccer watching. Finally, yes Finnegan’s is a smoking joint, and the soccer crowd tends towards healthy living. Since I don’t, perhaps another tip to Finnegan’s is in order sometime soon, but probably not on a Saturday morning.
Irish eyes won't be smiling to kindly on soccer fans as Finnegan's Irish Pub only rates a "One Soccer Ball" out of four on the soccer bar potential index, despite the perfectly poured Guinness.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Yesterday, RCU announced that Tommy's Pizza will be a 2010 team sponsor. Tommy's had provided pizza for RCU's Ribbon Cutting ceremony, and it I have to say I was impressed. I'm not a huge thin crust pizza guy, but the Tommy's New York style pizza was terrific. I'm looking forward to eating more at all home RCU matches and at Tommy's Bridge Street Town Center location.
American Soccer Culture: Is there one?
Jason Davis of Match Fit USA has written an extremely interesting article about the burgeoning American soccer culture and the influence that British soccer culture has on it. I've written before that American soccer fans have a huge inferiority complex when it should be proud of the rich soccer history. According to MLSTalk, the way to battle the British influence is to support your local club as the American leagues expand their footprint across the country.
RedBull Arena Opening This Weekend
I've heard the new RedBull Arena described as the "best soccer stadium in the western hemisphere", and from everything I've read, that's no exaggeration. The $250 million, 25,000 seat building will open this Saturday when the worst team in MLS, New York RedBulls, will face Brazilian club Santos.
The DC United fan in me is conflicted. Certainly this is an amazing building and a boon for MLS, but how a club that has done nothing but stink up the cellar of the MLS (see the final 2009 MLS standing on the right of this page) gets a stadium built before the most successful team in American professional soccer is mind boggling.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Sorry this took so long to write up. I've had some family in town recently and have just gotten around to writing up my notes.
For our first potential soccer bar review, we selected Steve McQueen's Sports Pub (7407 Highway 72 West in Madison, next to DanTera Salon & Day Spa, between Nance Road and Jeff Road) to take in the USA v Holland friendly last Wednesday. Steve McQueen's has been opened for 3 months and has an impressive 68 TVs that can show up to 16 different games at one time.
The Pub was mostly empty with one or two people sitting at the bar when we entered at 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. We brought in 9 soccer fans and the staff was more than willing to cater to our group by turning on the entire wall of TVs to the game as well as several of the hanging flat-screens around the dining room.
The owner, whose name is Steve McQueen just like the famous actor, mentioned that the Pub will open in the morning for soccer games if given a heads up prior to the event. The food is decent pub fare, and the beer selection is pretty good and very reasonably priced. I had the chicken quesadilla with a pint of Olde Towne Porter.
The atmosphere leaves something to be desired, however. There is no soccer paraphernalia, and we were actually mocked for cheering a good play by some of the patrons of the mostly empty pub. That may be more of an indication of that particular patron's ignorance, but it is still not conducive to a good soccer atmosphere. I've read online of bad service, but we did not have any problems with out server.
So, overall Steve McQueen's Sports Pub rates a "2 and a half soccer balls" out of four. Lot's of TVs and decent beer selection, but low on soccer atmosphere.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Mid to late April will see regular training sessions begin leading up to RCU's first public exhibition match against an opponent to be named later that will coincide with a youth tournament hosted by Valley Futbol Club on April 24th. The first team roster and reserve squads will become clearer as RCU Head Coach Desmond Armstrong will be joined by RCU Assistant Coach Michael Lee. Lee, who has been traveling abroad visiting several clubs in Britain to study training methodologies, will be joining the team May 1st.
By early May, the team who will battle to repeat as Southeast Region Champion and a berth 2010 NPSL Final Four should be close to being finalized as collegiate players come to town after finishing their spring semester studies. Expect RCU to schedule a few friendlies during May leading up to their opening NPSL regular season match at home against Birmingham Pumas on May 22.
Memorial Day weekend will bring a major challenge as RCU will travel down to Tuscaloosa, AL to compete in the Region III Championships of the US Amateur Soccer Association. Region III consists of the southeast quadrant of the US, and RCU will likely have to play multiple games over a period of 4 days. A strong performance by RCU may see them qualify for the 2010 US Open Cup knock-out stages where they could take on fully professional teams from the MLS, NASL, or USL.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
ESPN Soccernet has posted two articles with their best and worst World Cup uniforms. I guess I have no fashion sense, because some of the uniforms on their best list would make my worst and vice versa. But what do I know? I let my wife pick out all my clothes...
EPL Refs Let Too Much Go?
In the wake of the two bad tackles over the past week, EPL referees have been taken to task for allowing too much rough stuff. In fact, Bert van Marwijk, the Dutch National Team coach, chewed out Dutch defender Nigel De Jong after his terrible tackle which broke USA midfielder Stuart Holden's leg in last week's friendly. Van Marwijk lays the blame on the referees who allow such challenges routinely on the EPL pitches. De Jong has apparently gotten used to getting away with the lunging challenge in the EPL where getting "stuck in" is just part of the game.
US soccer geeks have coined a new term. The "jolazo", used to describe a goal by USMNT and Hull City foward, Josie Altidore. It's a mash-up of the term golazo and Josie's name, and is also teasingly used to describe a long anticipated goal scored after a long drought. In fact, it's already appeared in the Urban Dictionary as
"A brilliantly lashed ball that finds the back of the net to end a scoring drought in dramatic fashion.They're even selling shirts.
Any goal struck by Hull City and UMSNT striker Josmer Altidore."
Arena: Dumb or Dumber
LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena used a quote from the famous Jim Carey movie last week when describing the chances that star player Landon Donovan would extend his loan with Everton. "It was kind of like in that movie 'Dumb and Dumber', where the man says that there is a chance, it's just one in a million." Jacob at Southern Soccer has a posted the clip from the classic movie.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
You've gone to the stadium to catch your favorite soccer club and you're troubled by a mighty thirst. Do you risk missing a goal or some other significant talking point by visiting the beer concessionaire during play? Or do you attempt to sprint to the front of the pack of thirsty patrons as the ref whistles the beginning of the halftime break? Long-time soccer writer, Steve Davis, ponders the question.
By the way, Chattanooga FC have eliminated the problem by putting the beer stand in the bleachers with the fans. You wait in line without missing any action. Well done, CFC.
MLS Goes All HD
MLS has mandated that all clubs must offer its local broadcasts in hi-def! This is great news for the domestic soccer fan. Soccer on TV is just keeps getting better.
ESPN Selects All-Brit Play-by-play Team
ESPN has announced that they have selected their World Cup roster of lead commentators for its English language broadcasts. Ian Darke, Adrian Healey, Derek Rae, and Martin Tyler will call the action for the 64 matches in South Africa. The announcement has generated not a small bit of controversy as the blogosphere has questioned the decision not to select at least one American play-by-play voice. The American that most would have assumed would get the nod, JP Dellacamera, has been assign radio duty.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Here's an article from a few weeks ago in the Huntsville Times on one of the Madison City officials responsible for bringing the team to Madison.
Vote for whether the home jersey should be red or black at RCU's website. They have a poll running this week to help make the decision.
Mark your calendars now. Below are the regular season home dates for RCU. All games are held at the Madison City Schools Stadium and start at 7:30PM. You can see the full schedule here.
May 22, 2010 Pumas FC
Jun 05, 2010 Atlanta FC
Jun 26, 2010 Chattanooga FC
Jul 03, 2010 Tulsa FC
I would expect to see RCU add an exhibition match the weekend of June 24th and several preseason exhibitions.
Also, on July 17 at 7PM, RCU closes out the regular season in Chattanooga. Plan on making the drive up Rt. 72 to Finley Stadium to experience what are the rowdiest soccer fans in the NPSL. To make it even better, the match could decide the Southeast Region Championship. I went up to last year's match in Chattanooga and had a great time.
SI With More Joe Gaetjens
Not to be outdone by ESPN's article last week, Alexander Wolf and Joshua Robinson of Sports Illustrated have written a terrific article on Joe Gaetjens. You can see the magazine version with photos here.
FIFA Votes Down Goal Line Technology
FIFA has voted against implementing goal line technology. And now, journalist are lining up to vent about the stupidy, fear, arrogance, and folly of the FIFA fuddy-duddies. If you've read the PWT-blog for a while, you know that I am totally in favor of using goal line technology. It just makes so much sense, but the old men at FIFA don't want to take the "humanity", or what I would call correctable mistakes, out of the game.
Friday, March 5, 2010
I'll have more video from the Q and A section of the press conference later.
Here's a link to my post on the NPSL Insider blog focusing on the NPSL Final Four details of the press conference.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Rocket City United held a ribbon cutting at the new team offices in Madison, AL today. Following the welcoming by Madison dignitaries and the ribbon cutting itself, Team President Andy Zorovich and Technical Director Desmond Armstrong made several very interesting announcements. Here are just a few of the highlights of the event:
- Zorovich announced the first match will be May 22nd vs Birmingham Pumas
- RCU will participate in the US Open Cup Region III tournament in Tuscaloosa, AL over the Memorial Day weekend
- The team will sport kits by Italian soccer outfitters Lotto (photo above)
- RCU will host the 2010 NPSL Final Four from July 29-3
- The NPSL Final Four festivities will include the Semi-finals on Thursday, July 29th
- The 3rd place match and the 2010 NPSL All-Star Match will take place on Friday, July 30th
- The NPSL Championship match will take place on Saturday, July 31st.
- Technical Director Desmond Armstrong announced the signing of several new players who will compliment several returning players
- Armstrong will be joined by Assistant Coach Mike Lee beginning on May 1
- Armstrong and Zorovich announced the building of a practice complex adjacent to the team offices that will be used by the team and the Madison soccer community to be built by spring 2011
Rocket City United and title sponsor Southern Convention Services are preparing for the 2010 season and the NPSL Final Four which will be hosted in Madison in late July. The Huntsville Times has a nice article on the efforts of the club and SCS to make preparations and generate community awareness for the season and the Final Four in particular.
BTW, I'll be heading out to the RCU Ribbon Cutting ceremony today at 4PM and will bring you all the news from it.
USA Coach Getting Help from EPL Coaches
USMNT coach Bob Bradley has gotten some inside tips for the showdown with England from some unlikely sources, the coaches of English Premier League teams. Many of them are foreign born and wouldn't mind seeing the USA take down the English. Speaking of... Isn't it time we starting hating England a little more?
What's Wrong With This Goal?
Here's a goal from a lower division German league game, it's a fluke for sure as the wind catches hold of the ball, but that's not what I really caught my eye.
As one of the commenters notes, this goal should not count. According to the laws of the game, "a goal may be scored directly from a goal kick, but only against the opposing team." It should have been a corner kick for the other team, not a goal. That's one for you referees out there to watch for.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
More US v Holland
BTW, here are a few more photos of the USMNT kits that will debut today.
I'm Sorry, Scotland. No Beer For You.
I feel bad for the lads from the land of kilts. Despite the fact that the Scottish FA is sponsored by Tennet's Lager, the boys on the National team will be denied tossing back a few cold ones after new Scotland manager, Craig Levein, has banned player drinking while on international duty.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
The US will warm up for the World Cup by taking on Holland, the #3 ranked team in the world tomorrow, and I can't think of a better test for them. The last time the played the Netherlands in 2004, they had they're backsides handed to them in a 1:0 loss. The scoreline of that game certainly hides just how outplayed the US boys were outplayed that day. Let's hope the outcome does not resemble that match.
A group of US fans are also warming up for the World Cup by gathering to watch the match at Steve McQueen's Sports Pub (7407 Highway 72 West in Madison, next to DanTera Salon & Day Spa, between Nance Road and Jeff Road). Come join us, while test out the place for our first Huntsville Soccer Bar Review.
Rocket City United Ribbon Cutting
RCU will host a Ribbon Cutting ceremony on Thursday at 4PM at the new RCU headquarters in the Southern Convention Services (SCS) complex at 10446 County Line Road in Madison. Following the ribbon cutting, RCU head coach Desmond Armstrong will announce player signings and discuss team development. The team will unveil the new 2010 RCU jersey and schedule. Team president Andy Zorovich will also discuss Season Ticket packages and plans for the NPSL Final Four to be held in Madison during the last week of July. Following the festivities, the club will host a social gathering complete with beverages provided by returning team sponsor Olde Towne Brewing Company.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Rocket City United has introduced a new feature on their website called Foot Notes, where RCU coach Desmond Armstrong will share tips for players and coaches. Check it out.
Joe Gaetjens: Man vs Myth
Joe Gaetjens is known for scoring the lone goal in the famous 1950 USA upset of England in the World Cup, but little else is known about the man. New ESPN Soccernet writer, Leander Schaeiaeckens, has written a terrific article dispelling many of the myths that have grown over the years about the Haitian born USA forward.
US v Holland at Steve McQueen's and other International Friendlies
The US will take on the Netherlands on Wednesday afternoon. A group of international soccer fans will be meeting at Steve McQueen's on Rt 72 in Madison (used to be Indigo Joe's) to take in the game and see how SMcQ's stands up in our first Huntsville area soccer bar review. Come join us!
There are also some other juicy international matches to catch this week.
Brazil vs. Ireland, 2PM, FSC
USA vs. Netherlands, 1:30PM, ESPN2, Galavision
Argentina vs. Germany, 1:45PM, GolTV
England vs. Egypt, 2PM, FS+
Spain vs. France, 2PM, ESPN Deportes
Italy vs. Cameroon, 3:45PM, GolTV Premiere
Switzerland vs. Uruguay, 4PM, ESPN Deportes
Mexico vs. New Zealand, 10PM, Telemundo
Rocket City United's new home and the site for the 2010 NPSL Final Four, the Madison City Schools Stadium, has been closed due to dangerous field conditions. The Bob Jones High School soccer matches scheduled last week were postponed due to a 15 yard by 60 yard patch of the turf along the west side of the field that was considered too dangerous for safe play.
Due to the wet autumn weather, the field in the MCSS was damaged along the west sideline of the field where football benches a located during high school football games. Field repairs attempted shortly before the soccer season left a raised patch of sod running along the touchline, five yards into the soccer field that disrupts the natural roll of the soccer ball and causes treacherous footing for players and referees alike. Bob Jones and Madison City officials closed the field for corrective action.
According to one official who refereed matches at the stadium, "The repair was the laying of Bermuda sod in an area about 15 yards by 60 or 70 yards long, which is inside the soccer field. The ground was barely, if any, prepared before laying the sod. The sod was not rolled afterward. Basically too late and too poorly done."
The MCSS field is scheduled to be overhauled in late April in preparation for the RCU season. It appears that the recent repairs were satisfactory and games were held last Saturday.
RCU President Andy Zorovich says he and the Athletic Director for Bob Jones High School, Bobby Jackson, have discussed the field issues at the MCSS at length. "I have been aware of the field situation since last December when Bobby Jackson and I discussed the field and plans to refurbish in late April/early May... I have full confidence in Mr. Jackson's commitment to having a high quality field at Madison City School Stadium."