Saturday, October 1, 2011

Soccer on TV/Computer This Weekend

NASL Play-offs Free Stream and EPL On FOX Again and
Every weekend, we fortunate soccer fans in the Huntsville area have a wealth of soccer options to watch on TV and the Internet.  I've compile a list of games I'll be trying to catch on Saturday and Sunday.  This week will include the NASL.  The USA's second division playoffs begin on Saturday evening and they are being streamed for free via U-Stream.  Also, for the second time this season, FOX54 will be airing a tape delayed game from the EPL.  This time the North London Derby will be feature as Spurs and Arsenal line-up against each other at White Hart Lane at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Here's the weekend's offerings with the my picks for the best games in bold

England, Everton-Liverpool 6:30 a.m. ESPN2
Germany, Hoffenheim-Bayern Munich 8:30 a.m. GolTV

Germany, Hertha Berlin-Cologne 11:30 a.m.
Italy, Inter Milan-Napoli 1:30 p.m. Fox Soccer
MLS, Houston-Chicago 3 p.m. Telefutura
Mexico, Morelia-Tecos 5 p.m. Fox Deportes
NASL, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers-FC Edmonton, U-stream
NASL, FC Tampa Bay-NSC Minnesota Stars, U-steam
MLS, Toronto-New York 6:30 p.m. Fox Soccer
MLS, New England-Seattle 6:30 p.m. Direct Kic
MLS, Colorado-Dallas 8 p.m. Direct Kick
MLS, Los Angeles-Real Salt Lake 9:30 p.m. Direct Kick
MLS, San Jose-Kansas City 9:30 p.m. Direct Kick

England, Spurs-Arsenal 10 a.m. Fox Soccer
Germany, Hamburg-Schalke 10:30 a.m. GolTV

Spain, Gijon-Barcelona 1 p.m. GolTV
England, Spurs-Arsenal 1 p.m. FOX
Italy, Juventus-AC Milan 1:30 p.m. Fox Soccer
MLS, Columbus-D.C. United 4 p.m. Direct Kick
Spain, Espanyol-Real Madrid 3 p.m. ESPN2
MLS, Vancouver-Portland 4:30 p.m. Direct Kick
MLS, Chivas USA-Philadelphia 7 p.m. Direct Kick

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Best League in the World?; UAH Wins at Home, Loses on the Road; UAB Cracks the Top 25

What is the best league in the world?

Lately, there's been a lot of debate in soccer circles as to what is the best league in the world.  No doubt, some of that debate is spurred by statements by the MLS brass that they have shifted thier focus from a survival mode to a quest to become the "best league in the world".  It's an interesting question, but what exactly do we mean when we say "best league in the world"?
 Surely, we can narrow the list of hopefuls down immediately to the European leagues, sometimes called the big four, the English Premier League (EPL), the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A, and the Spanish Premira (La Liga).  Sadly, as much as I believe that Major League Soccer is underrated, the reality is that MLS doesn't yet come close to being included in the conversation.   An argument could possibly be made to include the Mexican and Brazilian top flights, but world wide reach of those leagues aren't anywhere near the top four. 
MLS not in this debate
For me, the best league in the world must have:

  1. Quality teams: From top to bottom the teams must be good and able to make for exciting matches.  In other words, there must be parity, so that a league leader's match against a cellar dweller is not a forgone conclusion.  The EPL certainly has strong teams from 1-12, but there are some stinkers at the bottom.  La Liga sees a major drop off after the top 8.  The Bundesliga has good parity throughout making even the bottom table match-ups exciting.  Serie A has pretty good parity this season.
  2. Fan participation and attendance:  There's no question that games with fans who are into the what's happening on the field dial up the intensity and excitement.  However, a few thousand die-hards just can't make up for tons of empty seats in a stadium.  So, attendance across the league must be good. The Bundesliga surely has the advantage here, as they are the best attended league in the world, and their stadiums rock for each match.  Too many of the EPL, La Liga, and Serie A matches are half empty toward the end of the season. 
  3. Champion diversity:  Perhaps this is just different version of my first point about league parity, but a league with one or two teams who dominate the league is a bummer for everyone.  All the league's have deficiencies in this area. See Madrid and Barcelona, Inter and Milan (maybe not this season), Chelsea and ManU, and Bayern Munich.
From those requirements, my pick for the best league in the world is the Bundesliga.
Although they might not have the best teams in the world (Manchester United and Barcelona lead that debate), the league top to bottom provides the most exciting and entertaining games.  Each Bundesliga game is played at a very high level with exciting, attack-minded tactics in front of loud, boisterous crowds.  Despite Bayern's relative dominance in the competition, there have been 4 different champions in the past 5 seasons that provides a level of parity not seen in the other leagues.

UAH Split Results Against Georgian Opposition

Last Saturday, UAH matched its win total from the previous season with a 5:0 shutout of Georgia Southwestern.  The goals came from five different scorers as Mitch Wilson, Jared Muggleton, Kyle Simmons, Oscar Leon, and Brandon Lemier each notched one.  The performance capped an excellent week from Kyle Simmons who was named GSC Player of the Week.

The Chargers then took to the road for the first time this season at North Georgia State.  A slow start saw UAH down three goals after only 22 minutes.  Despite waking up and attempting to make a game of it with two goals from Ragnar Gunnarsson before the end of the first half, NGSU ended all doubts with three unanswered in the second half to hand UAH a 6:2 loss.

UAH (4-3-0) will try to turn things around when they travel to take on St. Leo on Sunday.

UAB Ranked in National Polls
After starting the season with seven games without a loss, UAB, the only Division I NCAA team in Alabama, have been honored with rankings as high as the 20th position in the various national rankings.  Surely a loss to a tough Portland team will knock UAB down a few notches, but the Blazers expect to continue their early success in the hopes of making an appearance in the NCAA College Cup to be held in Hoover, AL this year.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I HEART DirecTV, EPL on FOX on Sunday

DirecTV Still The Way to Go in Huntsville

A few years ago, I posted a study on which Huntsville area TV package provides the most soccer for the discriminating fan.  Since that post nearly two years ago, the landscape of soccer on TV has changed a little bit; FOX networks showing EPL and Champions League; NBC and NBC Sports (Versus) soon to show MLS matches; and Sentanta is replaced by FOX Soccer Plus.  However, my recommendation remains the same.  DirecTV is the soccer lovers choice here in Huntsville.

Note:  The development of soccer on the Internet is a greatly welcomed addition to soccer viewers choices.  From MLS Matchday Live,,, and the various reliable (and nefarious) live streams of matches across the globe adds literally hundreds of additional choices to the soccer fan's menu.  I won't attempt to describe these here, but they are still a viable option for someone looking to view matches on the cheap.

So, here's some update info for soccer on TV in Huntsville.

Leagues/Competitions: Networks

American MLS: ABC, ESPN2, FOX Soccer (FSC), FOX Soccer Espanol (FSE), MLS Direct Kick, RSNs, (2012: NBC, NBC Sports)
English EPL: FOX, FSC, FSP. FSE, RSNs,
Italian Serie A: FSC, FSP, FSE
Spanish La Liga: GolTV, DirecTV LaLiga Channels
German Bundesliga: GolTV
Brazilian Pulista Championship: GolTV
Columbian League: GolTV
Australian A League: FSC
Scottish Premier League: FSP
Mexican MFL: FSE, GolTV, Univision, Telemundo
UEFA Champions League: FOX, FSC, FSP, RSN, DirecTV Europa Channels
UEFA Cup: GolTV, DirecTV Europa Channles
Copa Libertadores: FSE
Concacaf Champions Cup: FSC, FSE
World Cup/Friendlies: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNClassic, FSC, FSP, FSE, GolTV, Univision
American USL/NASL: FSC

To catch all of this soccer action here are the packages you need.

DirecTV Premier Package: Includes FOX, ABC (WAAY), ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPN Classic.

DirecTV Sports Pack Package: Includes the major Soccer related channels like Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Espanol and GolTV. Also included are the regional sports networks (RSNs) and others channels that show the occasional Soccer match or two (ESPNU, CBS College Sports, etc.)  This package also includes at no extra charge the DirecTV Europa Channels (480-489) and Spanish LaLiga (477-479) channels which show all of the Champions League and Europa League matches including a mix channel to watch them all simultaneously.  If you've not seen this Mix Channel in action, you are missing out.  I often record the games with Americans and watch later.   IT ABSOLUTELY ROCKS!

DirecTV's Europa Mix Channel is Awesome!

*FOX Soccer Plus: This is a channel that DirecTV offers that is not included in the Sports Pack and used to be called Setanta. You must pay an extra $15 a month for the channel.  It broadcasts EPL matches, SPL, Italian Serie A, and English 1st division matches. I personally don’t think it is worth the extra money, and that's probably why Sentanta went out of business.  I suppose if I followed a certain team in one of those competitions, I might reconsider. 

MLS Direct Kick: This is the best deal around. For a once a year fee of $70, you get all of the MLS matches not shown on ABC, ESPN2, FSC, or Telefutura including play-off games. That’s over 200 games a year. This is how I watch my beloved DC United.

So, as you can see, there is plenty of soccer to be seen, if you know where to get it. 

FOX54 To Show ManU-Chelsea on Sunday

Keeping with the soccer on TV theme of this post,  FOX54 will air the Manchester United-Chelsea match at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.  The local over-the-air FOX affiliate will show the tape delayed match that will originally air on FOX Soccer earlier in the day.  The match-up of EPL giants will go up against prime NFL broadcasts including the Chargers-Patriots game over on WHNT.

It will be interesting to see if any casual gridiron fans will be turned to the dark side by this game.  I feel conflicted about this for a couple of reasons that are well put by Jason Davis at Match Fit USA.    And then again, maybe I'm just afraid that my love of the game will be overtaken by bandwagon jumpers.

This isn't the only broadcast of EPL matches this season.  There will be at least two more broadcasts in the next two months.  As always, I'll let you know when they do.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

UAH Drops Montevallo In Impressive Fashion, 3:1

Behind two goals from freshman Kyle Simmons, University of Alabama-Huntsville took a large scalp in the fourteenth ranked University of Montevallo.  UAH came out with their hackles up and tallied first after 15 minutes.  Kyle Simmons volleyed Felix Hjalmarsson's cross in from close range.  Montevallo, stunned, attempted to put together a response on Jordan Steelman's goal.  Steelman was making his first start as UAH first choice keeper Kel Markert is serving a suspension.  The Falcons nearly equalized on several occasions only to be frustrated by the Assistant Referee's flag each time. 

However, the Falcons would find the equalizer off a second half corner kick from when Jackson Tolleson nodded home Tyson Eyo's delivery in the 54th minute.  UAH and Simmons were quick to respond when 3 minutes later fellow freshman Mitch Wilson danced around two defenders and served up a ball for Simmons to jackhammer home with his noggin for his team leading 6th goal in 5 games.

The Chargers weren't finished though.  In the 75th minute, Jarrod Muggleton delivered a precise free kick that Hjalmarsson met with aplomb to put the match out of reach and give UAH its biggest win in years.  UAH is brimming with confidence heading into its next match at Charger Field on Saturday at 3PM against Georgia Southwestern.

Friday, September 9, 2011

UAH Wins, Maryland-Under Amour Soccer Boots

UAH Shuts Out Christian Brothers

University of Alabama-Huntsville picked up its second win of the season on the back of a strong defensive effort and the creativity of sophomore forward Felix Hjalmarsson.  Coming off a soggy 1:2 overtime loss to at home to Lincoln Memorial University on Sunday, the Chargers (2-1) shutout victory give the team confidence through the 3rd of their season opening 6 straight home games. 

The Charger defense held strong through out the match, and the Icelandic forward Hjalmarsson would reward them with a goal in the 80th minute from a nice combination with midfielder and fellow Icelander Ragnar Gunnarson.  It was the frosty forward's second goal of the season.  Hjalmarsson wasn't finished as he and freshman forward Mitch Wilson combine to seal the win with Wilson's goal in the 83rd minute.

The Charger's will hope to keep the momentum going when they host Tennessee Wesleyan on Saturday at 2:30 PM at Charger Field.

University of Maryland Flag Soccer Boots Are Awesome!

Fear the Turtle!
The University of Maryland's throwball team has been getting an huge amount of press about their uniforms, but it's the Terps soccer boots that I'm interested in.  The Under Armour Blur boots (and the uniforms) are based on the flag of Maryland with feature the Black and Gold banner of the Calvert family, and the Red and White banner of the Crossland family.
The Terps soccer team also features the Calvert banner
Confession:  I'm was born and raised in Maryland's Calvert County.  So, my opinion in these matters may be a little biased.  I fully understand people who think they are bufugly, but I think they are awesome!

Friday, September 2, 2011

UAH Season Opener, USA v Costa Rica Viewing Party, TV Updates

UAH Kicks Season Off Thursday

UAH hosts Talladega in their season opener at 2PM on Thursday.  Coach Mike Mitchell is looking forward to playing the NAIA school to guage his teams progress from a disappointing season last year.

American Outlaws host USA vs Costa Rica Viewing Party Friday at the Brickhouse

The local American Outlaws chapter will be hosting a viewing party for the USA v Costa Rica match this Friday at the Brickhouse.  Game time is at 10PM and as always there will be food and drink specials.

Soccer On TV Just Got Sexier

Soccer on TV in the USA has reached a few milestones recently.  MLS has announced a major deal with NBC Sports where 45 MLS and USMNT matches will be shown on NBC and the NBC Sports Network (currently called Versus).  Originally, I was lukewarm about the deal, but in the days since,  NBC has announced a major effort to challenge ESPN's dominance and will feature live sporting events like MLS and NHL.  

Another sign that soccer is coming to the mainstream sports consciousness is FOX's announcement that they will broadcast 4 EPL games this season.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

PWT-blog Goes To Germany

I recently got back from a fantastic trip to Germany to partake in two of my loves, soccer and beer.  My traveling companion John and I planned a great weekend with 3 professional matches mixed in with many visits to the local Biergartens.  Unfortunately, on our second day in country before we had a chance to see any matches, John had a medical incident that forced him into the hospital for the entire weekend.  He was good humored throughout and forced our host Jan and I to attend the matches that we had spent so long planning to see.
FC Nuernberg Stadium
The weekend started with a drive past the FC Nuernberg stadium on the way to the Bundesliga 2 match-up between Bavarian sides Greuther Furth and Ingolstadt.  The Furth stadium has old timey feel and is nestled in a quiet neighborhood.
View from the Greuther Furth Terraces
Jan and I were able to score some tickets in the Furth terraces with the fanatics where there was some impressive chanting accompanied by the best drummer this side of the Who's Keith Moon.
Beer and Brats at the Furth Stadium
Furth clears the danger
At half time, we moved into the seated section to enjoy the rest of the match from a different and more low-key perspective.  Furth would dominate the match and come away with the easy 3:0 win. 
Marcel, Jan, and I outside the Paulener Bier Garten and Alianz Arena
Our next destination saw us move from the neighborhood stadium in Furth to the corporate behemoth that is Bayern Munich's Alianz Arena for the Bayern v Hamburg match.  For the match, Jan and I were joined by German ex-pat living in Birmingham, AL, Marcel. 
View from the Alianz Arena's press area
Bayern's Beer and Pretzel
We were fortunate to get tickets through my good friend and Bayern season ticket holder, Juergen. Juergen is a former soccer journalist and current publicist for many of the Bundesliga's biggest players.  He let me use his journalist ticket to get a view from the press area which is very close to the action.  We also joined Juergen and freinds in his normal seats in the upper tier to watch the game.
I'm a happy Bayern fan after watching 5:0 win
A view of the Alianz Arena from the autobahn.  The stadium lights up Bayern Munich red after the match.
As a Bayern fan, I'm happy to report that Bayern had no troubles with Hamburg.  Marcel, who is an HSV Hamburg fan, was not so happy to see his team go down 5:0 to Bayern. 
The Old Mainz Stadium
The Mainz Boys dominate in the old stadium
The next day, Jan and I visited a smaller Bundesliga club in Mainz.  Mainz has recently built a brand new stadium, but first, Jan and I went to the old stadium to watch the U-19 Mainz 05 team play Eintract Frankfurt in a youth Bundesliga match.  Can you imagine playing a youth match in a 20,000 seat stadium?
The New Mainz Stadium
Feuerwurst (spicy sausage) and Beer in the Mainz stadium
Jan formerly coached two talented Mainz youth players in Marcel and Niko Seegert who were kind enough to provide us with tickets to the senior team's match against Shalke 04 later that day.

The Mainz v Shalke match was a great game for the neutral.  Mainz came out of the gates on fire and were up 2:0 after the first quarter hour, but missed chances would doom them.

Inside the new stadium before the game

USA international Jermaine Jones warms up for Shalke
After the half, Shalke made some changes and scored 4 unanswered to travel home with the full three points and the 4:2 win.

SV Silber Workers Schorndorf e.V.
After watching all that soccer, we had to try some of the moves out ourselves.  We picked up John from the hospital and drove down to hang out with Juergen and his buddies from the Silber Workers soccer team. 
At the Bierakademie after the match
We built up quite a thirst kicking around and had to refresh ourselves at the Beer Academy.
Stuttgart practice
After showing off our skills, we went back to learn from the professionals at the VfB Stuttgart practice.
Hoffenheim's Stadium from the Autobahn
With the trip nearly over, we zoomed past the Hoffenheim stadium on the autobahn.

Friday, August 5, 2011

USA v Mexico Watch Party; HASL Season Kicks Off; UAH Preseason Predictions

AOs to Host USA v Mexico Viewing Party at Brickhouse

The American Outlaws-Huntsville will be hosting a Viewing Party for the USA v Mexico friendly with food and drink specials at the Brickhouse Sports Cafe, next Wednesday, August 10.  Several AOH members will be making the trip up to Philadelphia to support the team in person, but for those of us with "real jobs", the local soccer bar is the place to be.  I hope to have more on the trip up to Philly by the local boys next week.

HASL Season Kicks Off On Sunday

The Huntsville Adult Soccer League kicks off its Fall 2011 season on Sunday.  The league will once again consist of five divisions of six teams who will play ten matches to determine division champions.  Also, for the second season, there will be a small sided Women's division.  For more information, check out the HASL website.

UAH Preseason Predictions

The University of Alabama-Huntsville Men's Soccer team has been picked to finish third in the Gulf South Conference in 2011.  The preseason predictions come just a few weeks before the season begins on September 1.  Returning for the Chargers will be pre-season all-conference player Jarrod Muggleton.  There are also a pair of incoming local freshmen, who are expected to make an impact on the team.  Midfielder Kyle Simmons from Bob Jones and Forward Mitch Wilson from Grissom will look to help UAH drive the Charger's attack. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jacksonville United Captures 2011 NPSL Championship

In a thrilling final, first year side Jacksonville United FC complete the incredible midseason turnaround to take home the NPSL Championship with a 3:2 win over Hollywood United.  After losing its first four matches, JUFC turned the results around and rode three goals in Saturday's final from Tommy Krizanovic to finish its season with 8 straight wins and raise the NPSL Championship trophy. 
Krizanovic opened the Jacksonville scoring in the 16th minute with a left-footed 15 yard drive across the width of the Hollywood goal before settling just inside the far post.  Hollywood responded shortly thereafter when Arturo Albarran cheekily swivle kicked a cross to the head of Emmanuel Bentil.  Bentil's downward header was knocked down by a Jacksonville defender's arm and the referee pointed to the spot.  However, Hollywood would fail to convert the spot kick, when Albarran crashed his attempt off the crossbar. 

Albarran would make up for that mistake with a wonder goal just minutes later.  After receiving the ball in space about 30 yards from goal, Albarran laced into a curling drive that swerved into the far side netting and equalized the match.  But it would only take 11 minutes for Jacksonville to retake the lead when Ramak Safin found Krizanovic for the finish in the 37th.  The 2:1 scoreline would be taken into halftime.

After the break, Hollywood implemented its possession oriented game, and patiently probed the Jacksonville defense with good work from Nick Blanco and Jose Miranda coming close several times but unable unlock the Jacksonville defense.  In the 76th minute, the breakthrough came when substitute Brent Whitfield broke into the penalty area and was taken down for a penalty.  Albarran showed real moxie to step up and atone for his previous miss by slamming home his second penalty attempt of the night to level the score.

Hollywood continued the persistent pressure while looking for the winning goal, but in the 88th minute it was Jacksonville who struck against the run of play.  Despite being outnumbered in the Hollywood penalty area, Ramak Safi danced to the endline and sent in a cross for Krizanovic to head home and spark jubilant celebration for the Jacksonville faithful. 

After 4 minutes of desperate attacking from Hollywood in an attempt at a third equalizer, the referee  blew full time and Jacksonville United captured the 2011 NPSL Championship.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

For the Love of the Game: A Soccer Conversation with Donal Logue

I love this gig I have.  I've met many of my boyhood soccer idols.  That's just one of the terrific things about my involvement in the game.  Recently, this gig had me crossing paths with another of my non-soccer heroes.  It was with great pleasure that I was able to spend a few short minutes talking soccer with one of my all time favorite actor/directors and friend in football, Donal Logue.

Since this is my blog, I can digress a little off the topic of soccer, if I feel the whim.  So, bear with me and I'll warn you, skip the next few paragraphs, if you're not interested in reading some deeply personal revelations about how Mr. Logue's work has affected me in a very real sense.

Donal is an actor of immense talent and starred in one of my favorite movies ever, the 2000 independent romantic-comedy, "The Tao of Steve".  In it, Donal played the philisoph-slacker, Dex, who laid down some simple tenets for life (and for picking up women, coincidentally) which can be distilled into the following, "Be desireless, be excellent, be gone".

For me, a guy who struggled with self-image problems, especially around women, these ideas were a revelation.  After dozens of viewings, my roommate and I could be heard around the apartment quoting lines from the Buddha and discoursing on solipsism. Yes, we were wild and crazy guys.

However, those six words became a personal mantra of sorts and I used them to help get over a very real problem with social anxiety and a general lack of confidence.  By clearing my mind of desire or the need to be seen as something other than who I was, I was able to stand tall in who I actually was.  (Does that make sense?)  The second tenet was working hard to be excellent at whatever I chose to do in life; career, hobbies, soccer...  These first two led me to the third tennant of "be gone" which I interpreted as being unafraid to face new challenges, which has eventually led me to the adventure of moving out of my comfort zone I'd built in Maryland and building a life here in Huntsville.  

I know, it sounds kind of silly that a rom-com could affect a person so fundamentally, but life is like that sometimes.  All the personal reflection that the movie inspired gave me the confidence to approach, woo, and eventually win over the smart and sexy woman I now call my wife.  It has also led me to explore and enrich my life through soccer by giving me the confidence to appear on camera as a part time TV soccer analyst and play-by-play announcer.  Art really can influence you in profound ways.

Now, Donal also wrote, directed, and starred another of my favorite movies, "Tennis, Anyone...?" about the celebrity tennis circuit.  My father was the local tennis pro in the rural part of Maryland where I grew up.  So, I certainly spotted some of the same types of  egos in the movie that would swing the rackets around on my father's courts while I was rollerskating outside the fence to retrieve errant tennis balls in the late 70s/early 80s.

Plain and simple, I really appreciate Donal's work and he has more recently appeared in many successful movies and network shows including "Life" and "Terriers".  Now that I've gushed on about my man crush on the guy, we can get down to the heart of the post.

It just so happens that Donal is also a soccer geek like me and has poured his passion into his club Hollywood United.  He's "living the dream" of soccer ownership.  His club will be playing for a National championship in the 2011 NPSL Finals on Saturday night.  Here are some excerpts from our conversation a few days ago.

BTW, the debate is now raging about whether you can use my name in your next game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

RCU Finally Win at Home vs All-stars; Erie beats Milwaukee

RCU Drills All-stars 3:1 for First Home Win
Rocket City United's head coach Gerry Cleary hasn't had much to smile about after home games this season, but he was beaming after Friday night's All-star game.  His side who finished last in the Southeast Region took on and thumped a side filled with the best talent in the NPSL.  On each side of the break, Keniel Hyde took advantage of All-stars defensive errors to give RCU the 2:0 lead.  The All-stars were able to answer back through a familiar face.  RCU's lone All-star representative, Joseph Omondi, scored a poachers goal to pull the All-stars back within one.  But in the dying seconds of the match a brilliant mazy 60 yard run and finish from Andrew Nkururnungi sealed the victory for the home side. 

Erie Admirals Claim Third Place

Disappointed about their loss on Thursday, the Erie Admirals emphatically staked their claim as the third place team with a 5:0 drubbing of the Milwaukee Bavarians on Friday night.  Erie was paced by Gavin Falconer who scored twice.  Aaron Meehl came off the bench to bag a goal before Erie added two goals at the death by Michael Blythe and Shane Howard.

Friday, July 29, 2011

NPSL Final Preview; NPSL Commissioner Speaks

NPSL Final Sets Up To Be A Classic

Two newcomers to the NPSL will kick off Saturday night to crown a national champion.  The match-up will be the second year in a row that the champions of the West and Southeast regions meet to determine a national champion.  Hollywood United will be looking to be the third West Region team in a row to be crowned champion (Sonoma '09, Sacramento '10).  While Jacksonville United is attempting to bring home the winners medals to the Southeast for the first time in NPSL history.  Atlanta FC, Rocket City United, and Chattanooga FC have all failed to raise the Cup for the Southeast region in years past.

If they are to buck the trend, the odds will be stacked against the Florida eleven.  Jacksonville United is undoubtedly the underdog in this match.  The first year club scraped into the post season by the slimmest of margins.  However, coach Eric Dade is not concerned with the early season sluggishness, and has seen his team grow into a side capable of good things, "I think a lot of guys were on a very good men's adult team, and then all of a sudden, we're pros."  He explained that as the season wore on the JUFC's professionalism and consistency took hold and the good results followed.

JUFC is certainly riding a wave of moment while on a 7 game winning streak and Dade is looking forward to the final on Saturday night, "I think it'll be a good game.  I think you'll see two teams play with similarity.  Hopefully, we'll find a way to be there at the end of it."   

Hollywood United is also in its first year in the NPSL having moved over from the USL PDL, but is loaded with professional and international experience.  For instance, both of Hollywood's goalscorers in the semifinals came to the squad with experience in top global professional divisions.   The Hitmen's first scorer, Emmanuel Bentil was captain for the U-17 Ghana team that captured the World Youth Cup winner's medal.  That experience led to three years on the books at Bayern Munich, before injuries led to time with other teams around Europe.  Not to be outdone, two goal scorer Brent Whitfield spent time in the USA's Major League Soccer with Chivas USA.

Coach Jose Botello will be looking to use that experience against a JUFC side that he thinks plays an attractive game, "Jacksonville looks to knock it, looks to play, and get behind through short passes."  Botello urges that a possession style game is also key to Hollywood's success, "It's something we stress.  We want to keep the ball, and possession moving forward.  At times, we struggled moving forward [in the semifinal].  That final pass wasn't there in the beginning of the game, but toward the end, we were much better."

NPSL Commissioner Is Excited About 2011 and Beyond

Dan Trainor has seen his league grow from a provincial outfit to a nationwide developmental league in a very short time and he is excited about the future.  The twinkle in his eye is fully evident when speaking of the "continued steady growth" of the future of the 4th division circuit.


NPSL Finalist Set; NPSL All-star Game; RCU's Sabio's Phillipines Out of World Cup

NPSL Finals Set:  Hollywood United v Jacksonville United
The 2011 NPSL Final will be a battle of Uniteds as Hollywood United will take on Jacksonville United on Saturday at 7:30PM at the Madison City Schools Stadium.

Semifinal 1:  NPSL newcomer and West Region champion Hollywood United scored three second half goals on their way to defeating Midwest Region champion Milwaukee Bavarians.  The teams ended the first half scoreless despite several good chance from Hollywood.  The second half would see Hollywood continue the pressure and a golazo from Emmanuel Bentil two minutes after the break opened up the match.  Bentil roped a drive into the top corner of the goal from outside the area.  Shortly after, second half sub Brent Whitfield made the most of his fresh legs as he paced the Hitmen with a brace of goals on their way into Saturday nights final.

Semifinal 2:  The second semifinal was a wild affair.  Twice the Erie Admirals took 1 goal leads and twice Jacksonville United battled back to equalize before adding two late goals to take seal JUFC's place in the final.  Erie started the scoring in the 22nd minute with a headed goal from Gavin Falconer off a nice cross from Shane Howard.  Jacksonville United got the equalizer before the break when Tyler Williams scored on the second effort after his first shot was knocked down.  Erie then benefited from a deflected cross from Michael Kennedy that found the net for the 2:1 lead in the 58th.  JUFC only took 3 minutes to respond with a blast from Tommy Krizanovic.  Just 10 minutes later, JUFC took the lead for good with a Akinwale Leyimu tally followed two minutes later by a Nick Salafrio's effort that just crossed the line before the Erie defense could clear.  The wild game wasn't over yet as JUFC keeper Stuart McCrory turned away an Erie PK attempt in the waning minutes to keep the score 4:2 in favor of JUFC.

The third place match between the Erie Admirals and the Milwaukee Bavarians will take place Friday night at 5:30PM at the Madison City Schools Stadium.

NPSL All-stars take on RCU
Rocket City United will suit up one more time this season, as they take on the NPSL All-stars Friday night at 8 PM.  RCU will have their work cut out for them as a strong NPSL side has been selected from over 60 recommended all-star players from around the league.  RCU defender Joseph Omondi will have the rare privilege of suiting up against his current club as he was selected for the All-stars.  When asked about which team he'd play for in Friday's match Omondi broke out in his trademark smile, "I've been asked that a couple of times now. Being selected [to the all-star team], it' s a big honor for me.  So, I think I'll be playing against Rocket City, and it's just going to be a fun game for me."  NPSL Technical Director and All-star head coach claims this year's all-stars a much more talented side than the one that beat RCU 2:0 in last year's exhibition match.

RCU's Jason Sabio and the Phillipino National Team fall to Kuwait in World Cup Qualifying
Rocket City United defender Jason Sabio and his Phillipino National Team fell to Kuwait 5:1 on aggregate in the second round of the Asian Football Confederation's World Cup Qualifying.  The Askals needed a miracle win by 4 goals in the return leg in Manilla after losing in Kuwait 3:0 in the first leg.  Sabio did not appear in the second leg as the team fielded an attacking line-up in an effort to maximize its goal scoring capability.  The miracle looked possible after the Azkals took an 1:0 halftime lead, but as they pressed for goals, Kuwait struck twice and eliminated the Phillipines' and Sabio's World Cup dreams.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NPSL Semifinals Tonight!

First, I must apologize to my loyal readers (all three of you, not including my mom) for my lack of posting recently.  I was out of town and on my way back into town I caught a bug of some sort and have been "laid low" for nearly two weeks.  In the meantime, RCU finished up it's regular season, and Jacob and the guys over at Southern Soccer hosted another wildly successful Rocket City Invitational tournament.  

And I have to give a special thanks to an outstanding young writer and friend, Drew Wooley, who stepped in and kept you all up to date on the all things RCU.  Thanks, Drew.  We'll miss you when you move on to bigger and better things.  

NPSL Semi-finals Tonight

It's a great time to be a soccer fan in Huntsville-Madison.  The NPSL Championships area upon us again.  This is the second straight year that the championships of the nation wide league in the fourth division of the US soccer pyramid will be hosted by Rocket City United at the Madison City Schools Stadium.  Last year, we were treated to five fantastic games including a great all-star match, a tremendous NPSL Final won by Sacramento, and appearances by some US soccer celebrities.  This year's championships are looking to live up to last years event.

Semifinal 1 at 5:30PM:  Hollywood United (2) v. Milwaukee Bavarians (3).

Hollywood United (not to be confused with FC Hollywood as German giant FC Bayern Munich is often called), is a first year NPSL team.  Hollywood United has had an impressive Western Region season going 14W-1D-2L in their first year after switching over from the USL-PDL.  The Hollywood in the name is also well deserved since the club was founded by several musicians, actors, and Hollywood celebrity types.  One of my favorite actors, Donal Logue, is part owner of the club and was spotted in Madison today documenting the club's time here at the championships.  Hopefully, I'll get to sit down with him sometime this weekend and discuss his club and his views on soccer in America.

HU's opponent is no slouch either.  Midwest Region champions Milwaukee Bavarians are one of the most storied clubs in American soccer, and I'll be honest.  They will be my sentimental favorite in the tournament, because they were founded in 1929 as FC Bayern, a similar name to my favorite European club (the previously mentioned "FC Hollywood").  Like their German namesakes, they have really come into their own as a soccer power in the last 30 years and are only slightly less decorated by silverware.  The club holds 6 National Amateur and Open Cup trophies, and dominated this year's NPSL Midwest Region with a record of 8W, 2D, 2L. 

Semifinal 2 at 8PM:  Erie Admirals (1) v. Jacksonville United (4)

Northeast region champion Erie Admirals are making their 2nd appearance in the NPSL championships in three years.  You might recall it was this same side that dashed Rocket City United's 2009 NPSL Championship hopes in Madison, WI by handing RCU a solid 4:2 drubbing in the semifinal.  Erie is coming into the finals as the number one seed due to Points-per-game.  They will be without one of their top players in Afrim Latifi who had a personal commitment out of the country and could not travel with the team.

Jacksonville United is the surprise of the tournament.  A 2011 NPSL newcomer, the Florida team had trouble adjusting to the league initially, dropping their first four matches in the NPSL Southeast Region. JaxU then performed a remarkable about-face and reeled off six straight victories to pull level on points at 6W-0D-4L with fellow Region leader Georgia Revolution and qualified for the Championships based on number of wins.  Despite the rough start Jacksonville is an experienced side in American soccer with many team members gaining US Open Cup experience with Lynch's Pub FC.

Sad Note:

The NPSL lost a member of its family as NPSL Board Member Charles Billings was found dead of what appears to be natural causes in his home this week.  Billings was the Midwest Region Commissioner and GM of the Madison 56ers and was scheduled to travel to Madison, AL for this weekend's festivities.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Home Win Eludes RCU in Final Game

Looking desperately for their first home win on Saturday, Rocket City’s final home game of the season went the way of most of their season.
“We dug a hole by going down 2-0,” said Cleary. “We got back in the game at 2-2, had two chances to make it 3-2. Then we give up another silly goal to go down 3-2 and you’re chasing the game.
“This is the story of our season,” he added, “we get back in it and then we kick ourselves in the teeth.”
While the regular season is over, Rocket City will close out the summer with a 6v6 tournament, followed by an exhibition game against the NPSL All-Stars.
As for his future with the club, Cleary seems open to returning but recognized that his record will not be his greatest selling point.
“I don’t know whether they’ll want me back,” he said, chuckling after Saturday night’s loss. “Instead of me they might need a good coach. But we’ll see.”

PWT-blog Visits Red Bull Arena

On my recent vacation I had the opportunity to visit the Red Bull Arena for the New York Red Bulls v Toronto FC match.  Although TFC didn't put up much of a fight in a 5:0 loss to NYRB, I had a fantastic night at a great soccer stadium.  And as a DC United fan, it really pained me to write that last sentence.  Anyway here are some of the action from that night.
Driving up to the Stadium
A converted old warehouse turned parking garage
Tailgate in the Warehouse
Kids game outside the stadium
View of the action from our seats