Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More USA v Paraguay

I put together a little vid of our bus trip, the pregame tailgate, and some game highlights.  As you can see, we had pretty sweet seats and a pretty great time, despite the result.

According to the announced attendance figures, the match was the biggest in Tennessee history at 29,059.  That's about 7,000 walk up tickets sold, and a lot more than I thought would come out on a cool rainy Tuesday.  Well done, soccer fans!
Record crowd cheering on the USA

As for the game itself...  We certainly had enough chances to score, but when was last time the US were the first team to score in a game?  As much as I respect Bob Bradley as a coach, our team sucks in the first half.  Maybe we can get a interim coach just to run out the starting line-ups and tactical formations, and then let Cheatin' Bob (That's what I call him.  Ask me about it sometime if you see me) finish coaching the match, since he seems to make decent adjustments and substitutions as the game goes on.

Here's a pretty good recap with plenty of pics from the Tennessean, who treated the match as a big event.  Nice!

I'll share some photos of our trip in my next post.

Guest Post: USA v Paraguay, An Armchair Analysis

PWT-Blog is happy to welcome back our guest blogger, Chris Shaffer.  I'm tired from getting home from Nashville wee hours.  So thankfully, Chris breaks down the game for us, as only he can.  I'll have further coverage of the game in the next day or two.

In tonight’s USA/Paraguay friendly, seen as a key warm-up for the USA as it prepares for this summer’s Gold Cup competition, the US succumbed 1-0 to a typically hard-nosed, defensively organized Paraguay side.

I was going to go with a blow-by-blow, minute-by-minute account of the match but, honestly, it’s just not worth the effort.

The approach, therefore, will be a Lessons-Learned tutorial. Mind you, none of these lessons will deal specifically with Paraguay.

Let’s also remember that some key players in the USA’s stunning 1-1 draw with Argentina were not involved, including GK Tim Howard.

USA: 23-Marcus Hahnemann (18-David Yelldell, 46); 21-Timmy Chandler (2-Jonathan Spector, 80),15-Jay DeMerit (3-Carlos Bocanegra, 41), 6-Tim Ream, 12-Jonathan Bornstein (16-Sacha Kljestan, 77); 8-Clint Dempsey, 7-Maurice Edu (13-Jermaine Jones, 46), 4-Michael Bradley, 10-Landon Donovan (capt.); 17-Jozy Altidore (19-Eric Lichaj, 60), 9-Juan Agudelo


 Lessons Learned:
  • If Honduran referee Jose Benigno is any indication, Hondurans have utterly failed to appreciate the great things US companies like United Fruit and our government’s financial and military support of their death squads and dictatorship have done for their people. Also, Jonathan Bornstein’s last gasp goal against Costa Rica in an otherwise meaningless final World Cup Qualifier for the US vs. Costa Rica put Honduras into the 2010 World Cup finals.
  • This is the last positive thing I’ll say about Mr. Bornstein.
  • Paraguay is not just defensively organized and stout, they are masters of the professional foul, yet only one Paraguayan was booked at all despite repeated fouling of US players holding the ball at midfield with their back to goal.
  • Paraguay’s Directo Technico Gerardo Martinez must find a sport coat that doesn’t cause pixallation on TV.
  • Kyle Martinez, doing color commentary, referred to US left back Jonathan Bornstein as, “not the best one-on-one defender.” This is a vast understatement in more ways than I care to list.
  • The aforementioned may have something to do with just how much Bornstein blows at every phase of the game. He minored in giving the ball away under no pressure.
  • Conversely, Timmy Chandler, a right back of Amero-Germano (sic) parentage is really, really good. He defends, he goes forward, he can cross the ball. He plays for Nurnberg. He is the real deal. Meanwhile, Bob Bradley’s out looking for David Regis on the Streets of Metz after the Born-de-bacle.
  • Nike’s new “Indivisible” US Jersey will be plugged continuously from now through the Gold Cup
  • Oscar Cardozo (Par) knows how to finish, especially when US central defender Tim Ream (NYRB), who played respectably, is pulled down from behind. Or maybe he just fell.1-0 to Paraguay. Tim Ream was a Billiken in College.
  • Paraguay received one booking (yellow) and the US none.
  • Did I mention the Honduran ref was awful?
  • Estonia inexplicably drew 1-1 with Serbia today as a Serbian goal in stoppage time was not acknowledged. Look up Luddite in the dictionary and you’ll see a pic of Sepp Blatter.
  • One moment Clint Dempsey seems somnambulant and the next he’s hit a knuckling 30-yarder on goal.
  • The Nashville crowd was great, and was repeatedly acknowledged as such by JP Dellacamera. Evidently 1,000 more than WC qualifier!
  • 37th minute: J. Bornstein completes his 1st pass of the game
  • Jay Demerit is no Carlos Bocanegra…J. Spector is no Jay Demerit.
  • Evidently there’s a product called “ProActive,” you know for acne and whatnot. I’ve never heard of it.
  • BTW, props to Eric Wynalda for his ad promoting AYSO soccer, where you can, “learn soccer and have fun doing it.” And I thought you were an arrogant jerk…
  • 2 halftime subs for USA: GK David (Who?) Yelldell (Duisburg) for Hahnemann, and Jermaine Jones for Mo Edu. I can’t believe Bornstein is still on the pitch.
  • Did you know the new Nike USA “Indivisible” jersey is available?
  • OK, Bornstein’s mark fell down and lost the ball, yet Bornstein still was beaten. Doesn’t this violate a law of physics?
  • 50th minute: Bornstein completes 2nd pas of game.
  • Dempsey/Altidore/Agudelo repeatedly fouled, yet they’re not…Thanks a lot Allen Dulles. (If you didn’t know, who owned a whole bunch of United Fruit stock)
  • US player Eric Lichaj’s last name is pronounced “Lehigh.” He comes in for Altidore, not Bornstein. He actually plays sometimes for Leeds Utd., but is on loan from Aston Villa, where Michael Bradley sits. Bradley is having a solid game in the holding mf spot. Why can’t this guy get a start for Villa?
  • Best US chance of the game comes in the 69th minute when Agudelo crosses from the right side and Landon Donovan, unmarked, can only hit side netting as the ball bounces through the Paraguay box.
  • Clint Dempsey now looks like he’s taken a worse beating than at a Fulham away match to Stoke.
  • Lots of subs now. Sasha Klejstan on for US. Every time he touches the ball the game seems to go into slow motion.
  • Aside from Agudelo and Timmy Chandler, the squad lacks pace and plays too slowly. Of course when Paraguay has 9 field players behind the ball after the 18’ mark and fouls at will with no consequences, Barcelona might have problems.
  • Last 10 minutes: US has some offensive breaks, but they’re all 3-on-6
  • Final: 1-0 Paraguay.
  • This ProActive stuff must be really effective.
  • Credit to the USSF for playing a tough schedule of Amistosos (“friendlies” not in MSWord dictionary), instead of padding its FIFA ranking with games vs. Macedonia and Austria.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nashville Notes

A few last things before I get on the RCU bus up to Nashville:

As of this morning, 22,000 tickets have been sold.  I would expect a few thousand walk-ups and a possible crowd of 25,000.  Despite the frustration I have with the USA's support at home, that's not bad for a cool, wet Tuesday night game.

If you are not heading up I65, the game will be shown on FSC with a full pre-game and post game show.  Coverage begins at 6:30 PM.

There area also some other pretty good matches on TV today.
1:30 PM, Germany v Australia, ESPN2
2 PM, England v Ghana, FSC
4 PM, Columbia v Chile, FSC

There's plenty of speculation that the Yanks goalscorer on Saturday Juan Agudelo will get his first start for the USMNT.  But if it weren't for his call up, he'd be in Guatemala with the US U-20s as they attempt to qualify for the U20 World Cup.  This USA U20 is chock full of seasoned professionals and is probably the most experienced U20 group the US has ever put on the field.  If you have access to, you can also watch the U-20s play Suriname at 7 PM, but if I were you, I'd watch the replay after the US v Paraguay match finishes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

USA in Nashville News

After surviving Saturday's match with Argentina, the US Men's National Team now turn their sights on Paraguay.  Over 20,000 tickets have been sold for the first match at LP Field since the 2009 World Cup Qualifying win over T&T, but I'd be surprised if the attendance numbers will reach the nearly 28,000 that were sold for that match.  You see, the weather and the Tuesday night game time won't be optimal for a large walk up crowd.  

Let's not forget Paraguay no slouch of a teamThe Yanks will be facing fellow 2010 World Cup group winner and top 25 ranked team.  No, they may not have their star players, but they will have a few exciting young players just like the US does.   This should be a really fun match especially since I'll be riding on the Rocket City United bus to and from the game.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Soccer Saturday

Saturday is a huge day for soccer, both locally and nationally.  If you are a soccer fan in Huntsville, you'll have a bevy of opportunities to watch the game you love.  Here's how I'm going to be spending my Soccer Saturday.

10 AM Wales v England,  ESPN2

This is a European Cup qualifier between the two British sides.  I'm no fan of England, so I'll be cheering on the Welsh, but it's too bad we won't see Gareth Bale for this match.
RCU is back in action at John Hunt Soccer Stadium at 1PM on Saturday
1 PM Rocket City United v Martin Methodist College, John Hunt Soccer Stadium
I will make the short trip over to Airport Road to check out the local semi-pro side in action.  Coach Gerry Cleary will be pulling double duty as head coach of both teams.

UPDATE:  The RCU match has been canceled.   Looks like I'll have a chance to watch the Germany match from the start.

2 PM Germany v Kazakhstan,
Hopefully, I'll get home in time to catch the some of the second half before I turn my attention to the MLS action.  This European Cup qualifier should be a cakewalk for Germany's young phenoms.

3:30 PM New England Revolution v DC United, MLS Direct Kick
Time to sit down and watch my hometown club DC United as they try to follow up on their opening weekend win.  Can Charlie Davies continue his amazing comeback with the Black and Red?

BTW, if you don't have MLS Direct Kick, what are you waiting for?  If you have cable, In Demand offers it.  If you have satellite, both DirecTV and Dish Network have it, too.  $80 for the season is just too good to pass up.

6 PM USA v Argentina, ESPN2
Our Yanks against Messi and his Gauchos.  Enough said.

8 PM Real Salt Lake v LA Galaxy, MLS Direct Kick
The best team in MLS, RSL will host some overrated English guy and his pals.  My buddy, Matt, is a Galaxy fan.  So, I'm sure I'll be sending him texts to tease him about his team losing to RSL.  :)

9:30 PM Chivas USA v Colorado Rapids, MLS Direct Kick
A long day of soccer comes to a close as I catch the MLS Cup Champions Colorado facing the baby goats of Chivas USA.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

USMNT in Nashville Update

Disappointing Turnout Expected?
There's a minor debate going on about the turnout for Tuesday night's match between the US and Paraguay at LP Field.  As of yesterday, 17,000 tickets had been for a game in a stadium that holds nearly 70,000.  Some are arguing that a match versus a top twenty-five team that is coming off their best World Cup showing ever should attract more interest.  I'm not so sure, but I do see the valid points of the arguments.

When you compare the 63,000 tickets sold for the Argentina match, the number for next Tuesday's match seem paltry, but Paraguay is not a world power the likes of Argentina.  Despite coming off an appearance in the round of 8 where they were beaten by the eventual champions Spain in last year's Wold Cup, but La Albirroja are certainly not one of the "sexy" teams of world football (unless you count the team's unofficial mascot, Larissa Riquelme).
No word on whether Larissa Riquelme will be in attendance next Tuesday.  Now, that might sell more tickets!

Also, Paraguay aren't bringing their star players.  Even if they did, I'm guessing not too many folks who weren't born along the Rio Paraguay would buy tickets just to see Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Valdez who are being left out in favor of some of the younger talents.  Educated soccer aficionados may know the likes of Lucas Barrios (Borussia Dortmond) and Oscar Cordoza (Benfica), but the typical EPL obsessed fans I know don't know them at all.

But enough about the opponent.  I'm more concerned that a match with the USMNT's first choice players hasn't already drawn more than 20,000.  Landon Donovan. Tim Howard. Clint Dempsey.  These are legitimate international professionals, if not star players.  Considering that the USA's finish in last year's World Cup made these guys household names in countries on the other side of the globe, it boggles my mind that there isn't more interest on the other side of town here in the USA.

Maybe I'm just getting old and impatient, but it's about time the soccer community in the US woke up and started supporting the professional game here in the US.  I know... Rome wasn't built in a day and all that hooey, but hurry up already! 

Bussing It with Rocket City United

At least the Huntsville/Madison area will be well represented.  Rocket City United has provided fans a free trip up to Nashville on their team bus, and if you haven't reserved your seat, it's too late.  All 60 seats on the bus have been taken.  The bus will take off from the Walmart on Madison Blvd. parking lot at 3:15 on Tuesday afternoon. 

Rocking the Red

Looks like the Yanks will be sporting a new look when they step on the field this week.  Nike and the US Soccer have unveiled a red third jersey.  The shirt is an attempt to appease the hard core USMNT fans who always wear red and have been asking for a return to the red shirts for a while.  The last time the US wore red in a real competition was the "last place finish" of the 1998 World Cup.  I think someone at the US Soccer house became superstitious and decided the red shirt was to blame rather than the horrid 3-6-1 tactical formation and the bickering between the players.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

RCU Preseason Friendly This Saturday

Rocket City United has announced that they will play Martin Methodist College this Saturday at 1 p.m. at John Hunt Soccer Complex.  New RCU coach Gerry Cleary will be busy as he also serves as the head coach for MMC.
RCU and MMC Coach Gerry Cleary, center in black, instructs his players.

Here's the press release from RCU:

Rocket City United will kick off their preseason preparations with a friendly match against Martin Methodist College during the Southern Soccer Challenge this Saturday.   The tournament features high school teams from all over the area and will be played at the John Hunt Soccer Complex. 
Group stage matches are scheduled for Friday March 26.  On Saturday, teams will play the semifinal rounds at 9 and 11AM before the two division finals at 3:30 and 5:30PM. 
Between these rounds, at 1PM, RCU will play their first test game of the preseason.  Fans will be able to watch returning players as well as new test players who may factor into the squad come the regular season.  Rocket City as an organization is excited to start building their relationship with Martin Methodist College, as well as for the new season.  RCU’s home opener is May 14 against the new Knoxville Force as Madison City Schools Stadium.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Welcome Back Charlie

Charlie Davies' first match back from his accident was a storybook affair, and I can't help but get a little misty watching the interview at the end.

NPSL Southeast News, USMNT Bus

NPSL Southeast's New Look Keeps Changing?

With the previously announced two new teams in Knoxville and Conyers, GA and the rebranding of the Atlanta FC to Silverbacks Reserves, the NPSL Southeast Region will have a few new franchise locations and there could be an additional one on the way.  Rumor has it that a team from Jacksonville, FL will be added to the mix.  The league has not announced anything, but if it happens, it would make the already strong division even stronger.
Jacksonville is the home of the powerful amateur club Lynch's Pub and Lynch's could be an excellent addition to the league.  Lynch's battled RCU to a 2:2 draw in a friendly in 2009 and has had success in qualifying into the US Open Cup in 2007 and 2009.

Another potential organization involved in the rumored NPSL team is the youth club Jacksonville United FC. The newly formed youth club has high aspirations and could set up an NPSL squad to serve as their "senior team" similar to the Georgia Revolution's relationship with the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association

Take the Bus to Nashville

Rocket City United is providing a bus to travel up to LP Field for next Tuesday's USMNT match against Paraguay.  I've got my seat picked out, but the bus is filling up quickly.  So, contact Kristen Pierce ( to reserve your seat, free of charge!

Speaking of the USMNT, they arrived in Cary, NC for training camp prior to next week's games. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nashville USA Friendly and Caps

US Roster Released

US Coach Bob Bradley announced the roster for the USA v Paraguay match on March 29th and the match against Argentina three days earlier in New Jersey.  If you are one of the 15,000 already for tickets for the match at LP Field, we should see a pretty good squad line up for the US.  Sixteen of the twenty-four named played on the World Cup squad and the FIFA international date allows most of the European contingent to travel in preparation for the summer's Gold Cup.  This year's Gold Cup is being taken seriously as the winner will qualify for the 2013 Confederations Cup.  One interesting name on the list is outside back Timothy Chandler who has been strong for a surprisingly good Nürnberg team in the Bundesliga.

Here's the full list.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton), David Yelldell (MSV Duisburg)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Jonathan Bornstein (UANL Tigres), Timothy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Zak Whitbread (Norwich City)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Mikkel Diskeruud (Stabaek), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht)
FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor), Edson Buddle (FC Ingolstadt)

USA Fan Caps

Preparing this post got me thinking about all of the US games I've been to.  Serious USMNT fans track the games they've witnessed first hand and award themselves caps just like the players.  Now, I'm no Cobi Jones (164 caps), but I think I've done pretty well.  The USA v Paraguay game will be my 15th cap.  That would put me equal with Freddy Adu!

Here are my caps and the results:
  1. May 30, 1992, USA v Ireland, 3:1 W, Washington, DC
  2. June 18, 1995, USA v Mexico, 4:0 W, Washington, DC
  3. June 12, 1996, USA v Bolivia, 0:2 L, Washington, DC
  4. November 3, 1996, USA v Guatemala, 2:0 W, Washington, DC
  5. November 10, 1996, USA v Trinidad & Tobago, 2:0 W, Richmond, VA
  6. August 7, 1997, USA v Ecuador, 0:1 L, Baltimore, MD
  7. October 3, 1997, USA v Jamaica, 1:1 D, Washington, DC
  8. May 30, 1998, USA v Scotland, 0:0 D, Washington, DC
  9. June 13, 1999, USA v Argentina, 1:0 W, Washington, DC
  10. June 3, 2000, USA v South Africa, 4:0 W, Washington, DC
  11. September 3, 2000, USA v Guatemala, 1:0 W, Washington, DC
  12. September 1, 2001, USA v Honduras, 2:3 L, Washington, DC
  13. November 17, 2002, USA v El Salvador, 2:0 W, Washington, DC
  14. April 1, 2009, USA v Trinidad & Tobago, 3:0 W, Nashville, TN
My record is 9 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses. Most of those games came during the 1995-9 period when I was living in DC the US basically used RFK as their home stadium.  This didn't work out to well when the other team had a large population of immigrants in the area and they outnumbered the "home" crowd (see Honduras).  Fortunately, there's little chance of Paraguay crowding out US fans on the 29th. 

How many caps do you have?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RCU News, Sabio Plays for Phillipines, USA 90 Music Video

RCU to Upgrade Website, Hold Tryouts
Sources indicate that Rocket City United is planning to upgrade their website.  RCU already boasts one of the best sites in the NPSL, but a few features I would like to see are live streaming of matches, archiving of the matches, and more player bio information/stats.  Hopefully, some of those features are part of the plans.

RCU is holding another set of tryouts this Saturday morning at 1 PM at Pt. Mallard Park in Decatur.  RCU is looking to add firepower after learning that former RCU winger Paul Willoughby is out for the season with a serious knee injury after resigning with the team. 

Sabio and Azkals Advance

Huntsville native and UA law student Jason Sabio started and played the entire match for the Philippines in the second leg of the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifying against Mongolia in Ulon Bator.  The Azkals dropped the game 2:1 but won the tie 3:2 and move on to play in Group A of the Challenge Cup later this month.  Sabio was in the center of a major talking point of the match when he was whistled for a penalty leading to Mongolia's second goal.

Sabio and his teammates had planned on training in Japan leading up to the match, but last week's massive earthquake understandably upset those plans.  

The "Running Man" is the "Stanky Leg" of the Late 80s

Is that former RCU coach Desmond Armstrong doing the "running man" to the terrible rap song produced to celebrate the USMNT's qualification for the 1990 World Cup?

The only thing worse than the song are the "soccer rocker" haircuts.  So glad I didn't have one of those.

Monday, March 14, 2011

MLS First Kick, RSL in Champs League

MLS First Kick

The Major League Soccer season starts Tuesday night when the Seattle Sounders host the LA Galaxy.  Rather than write up a preview of the season, I invite you to find one of the several hundred that pop up on the various sites and blogs this time of year.  And there are some exciting developments in the league this year with two new expansion teams and several new players.  I'm usually not good at predictions, but I'll take a stab in the dark by saying that my beloved DC United will not finished in last place again this year. 

Tomorrow's game should be a pretty good one, and there will be a viewing party to take in the action at Knucklehead's Sports Pub on Rt. 72 in Madison at 8:30PM.  It's been a while since we did a Soccer Bar review.  So, if you go let us know how you like it.

If you can't make it out to Knuckleheads, you can watch the game on ESPN.  Last week, the World Wide Leader announced that Adrian Healey would replace JP Dellacamara who is now joining Fox Soccer Channel's lineup as MLS play by play caller.

Speaking of TV, MLS will also offer a free preview of their Direct Kick TV package on Saturday, March 19.  I highly recommend this package where you can watch 221 regular season matches for $79.

Ross is the Place to Shop for Soccer Jerseys

On a somewhat related note, I was in Ross on Rt. 72 yesterday and saw several MLS jerseys in their racks.  I even picked up the light blue Colorado Rapids jersey for about 75% off the list price.  I also picked up a national team jersey Spain and Argentina each for the same ridiculous discount.  And these aren't cheap knock-offs.  These are the real deal Adidas brand jerseys.  So, get on over to "Dress for Less".

RSL Hosts Saprissa in Champs League

LA and Seattle aren't the only MLS teams in action Tuesday night.  Real Salt Lake will host Saprissa of Costa Rica in the semifinals of the first leg of the CONCACAF Chamions LeagueThis game may actually be more important to US soccer fans than the opening match of the MLS season, since there has been such limited success in international tournaments recently.  Catch all the action on FSC at 9PM.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

RCU Offers 2 For 1 Deal, Nashville USMNT Friendly Update, Georgia Revolution

RCU Season Tickets 2 for 1
As I mentioned last week, Rocket City United is offering a great 2 for 1 deal on their season tickets.  For $50 you get tickets to each home game, tickets to each NPSL Championship Weekend game, and free food and drink at every home game.  The first 50 to take advantage of the deal will also get a free parking pass.  Act fast because the deal only lasts through March 14th.  Click here for more information.

BTW, here's a nice little article form the Madison Weekly about RCU's recent press conference.

Nashville USMNT Friendly Sale
As reported by Steve Goff in the Washington Post, the US friendly against Paraguay later this month in Nashville has sold over 13,000 tickets so far.   As Goff points out, the opponent doesn't carry the weight of the some of the other world soccer powers, and I think that anything other than a sell out of the lower bowl of LP Field would be a disappointment. 

More Georgia Revolution Info

One of the two new clubs in the NPSL Southeast has sprung to life.  The Georgia Revolution's creation has certainly not had the fanfare of the Knoxville Force or the rebranding of the Atlanta FC to the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves.  But the team has an innovative club model which will use the NPSL as a "senior team" for their youth soccer association.  I'm really interested to see how it turns out.  Looks like they will be holding tryouts at their Rockdale Youth Soccerplex in the next few weeks

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Photos from Chattanooga

Here are some additional photos from Sunday's MLS friendly in Chattanooga.  Thanks to friends of the PWT-blog John and Will for taking these great shots and running down stats for me.
Tickets and a view from the press box
The starting lineups

Will and I staying warm in the press box

A nice view of the 4379 spectators

Pawns on the chessboard

Ryan Cochran sporting the great 'stache

Getting the legs loosened up

Making magic for the PWT-blog

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New England Beats Crew In Front Of Large Crowd In Chattanooga

Despite the cold and dreary weather, a large, boisterous crowd came out to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga to see the New England Revolution defeat the Columbus Crew 2:1 on Sunday afternoon. 
New England speedster and first goalscorer Sainey Nyassi (17) waits for a pass.

Despite dominating possession and having the better opportunities in the first half, Columbus found themselves down 1:0 at halftime.  With his speed out on the right flank, midfielder Sainey Nyassi had been the only real danger that the Revs could muster in the opening half, and it was Nyassi who would capitalize to put the Revs ahead as the first forty-five neared the end.  A corner kick was poorly cleared by the Crew and fell to Nyassi who whipped in a shot from just outside the area that found its way through the thick of it and into the back of the net.
Rev Marko Perovic serves in the corner that led to the first goal.

Wholesale halftime changes led to a little less dominance from Columbus in terms of ball possession, but the result was nearly identical in the second half.  The Crew mounted pressure on the New England goal, only to concede a goal from a corner.  This time veteran defender Ryan Cochran rose in the 81st minute to nod a hard shot toward goal, but substitute goaltender Alex Riggs was able to get down and parry it away from the line.  Revs midfielder Zack Schilawski corralled the rebound and roofed an eight yard shot for the 2:0 lead.  

The Crew snatched a late consolation goal as Tom Heinemann rounded Bobby Shuttleworth in goal for New England in the 89th minute.
New England v Columbus in Chattanooga from Ryan Harbaugh on Vimeo.

Crew assistant coach Mike Lapper summed up the match, "We played well, but this league comes down to winning individual battles and set pieces.  If you can't defend set pieces, you're not going to win. We played well in the first half, and we were all over them. But scoring is the only thing that matters."

All Huntsville Fields Closed. So Get Up To Chattanooga To Watch MLS!!!

With yesterday's deluge, all of the soccer fields in Huntsville have been ruled unplayable.  So, what better time to use your new free time for a short roadtrip up to Chattanooga to spend a nice sunny afternoon watching the MLS friendly between the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew.

With over 2,500 tickets sold already, the Chattahooligans are pumped about the game.  If for some reason you can't make it up there, I'll be there to give you the low down.

Friday, March 4, 2011

More MLS in Chattanooga News and US Open Cup Qualifying

MLS Teams Playing in Chattanooga on Sunday Afternoon

Sunday's friendly between the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew is almost upon us.  I'll be heading up the road to cover the game at Findley Stadium at 4PM ET, and you should really consider the short drive to catch the pros up close.  Tickets sales for the game are strong with over 1,000 already sold.  CFC has been busy promoting the game in all forms of media.  Here's a video interview with some of the CFC board members about the game.

NPSL Southeast Region US Open Cup Qualification Format Revealed?
There's been no official word about the qualification process to be used by the league, but during the interview with WDEF, CFC board member Tim Kelly mentioned that a round robin US Open Cup tournament would be held on May 28th. 
This falls in line with the announcement from RCU president Andy Zorovich about the 2011 RCU schedule.  Zorovich said, "Our league this year won slots into the US Open Cup. So, we will be playing in Chattanooga on Memorial Day weekend for the US Open Cup Qualification Round.  It will be just the teams in our conference."

A round robin qualification process would make the Memorial Day weekend action packed.  The process would have the five teams facing each of the other teams once, for a grand total of ten games in the space of three days.  Wow, the spectators will love all the action, but that's a grueling endeavor for the players!  One things for certain, the team with the best depth with have the advantage. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cleary Named New RCU Head Coach

As the Perfectly Weighted Through Blog speculated a few months ago, Rocket City United announced this morning that Martin Methodist Women's Coach Gerry Cleary will take the reigns for the 2011 season.
New RCU Coach Gerry Cleary from Ryan Harbaugh on Vimeo.
Cleary spoke about building a foundation for Rocket City United and bringing consistency to the coaching staff.  After three different coaches in four seasons, consistency is certainly something that could help RCU.  Notice that RCU's most successful season when they won the 2009 Southeast Regional Championship came in the second season under Greg Petersen.

2011 Schedule

RCU also announced its 2011 season schedule.  The regular season is in the familiar home and away format to determine the Southeast Region Champion.  All RCU home matches will be held at 7:30 PM at the Madison City Schools Stadium.

  • May 7 @Knoxville
  • May 14 home vs. Knoxville
  • May 28-30 NPSL US Open Cup Qualifying in Chattanooga
  • June 4 home vs. Atlanta
  • June 11 home vs. Chattanooga
  • June 18 @ Chattanooga
  • June 25 @ Georgia
  • July 2 @ Atlanta
  • July 16 home vs. Georgia
  • July 28-30 NPSL Final Four + All-Star Game

The NPSL will have 4 automatic qualifiers into the US Open Cup this year and the Southeast Region's qualification tournament will be hosted by Chattanooga on Memorial Day weekend.  The format of the tournament will be announced in a few weeks.

RCU will host an exhibition match against an opponent to be named later on July 9th.
Other RCU News

RCU announced a partnership with the YMCA to help with the soccer program at the Y by holding coaching clinics and other special appearances by RCU players and staff.

I was finally able to get with RCU Director of Operations Jan Henner about how he came to RCU and the partnership with the Y.
RCU Director of Operations Jan Henner from Ryan Harbaugh on Vimeo.

RCU season tickets are on sale now for $50.  If you buy now, you'll get a great deal, because for a short time only, it's buy one, get one free!  With you're season ticket, you'll receive tickets to each home game, tickets to each NPSL Championship Weekend game, and free food and drink at every home game.  The first 50 to take advantage of the deal will also get a free parking pass.  That's the best deal I've ever seen for a season ticket package.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Alabama State Cup, USA v Paraguay in Nashville, Chattanooga MLS Friendly, CONCACAF Champions League

Alabama State Cup

A website for the Alabama State Cup has been created.  The tournament is April 1-3 in Birmingham and is open to all teams from affiliated leagues in the state.  So, if your team plays in HASL, you can enter.  The tournament qualifies teams to the regional tournament to be held in Tuscolusa in May.   For teams who may not be that serious, you can enter the recreation division and just have a fun weekend at a nice facility.  HASL has promised to reschedule league matches, if your team is registered for that weekend.

Nashville USA Friendly
US crowd at LP Field

The Washington Post is reporting ticket sales for the upcoming friendly at LP field has reached over 12,000 and it will be broadcast by Fox Soccer Channel.   But you guys are already going, right?

Chattanoga MLS Match on Sunday

Don't forget that Chattanooga FC is hosting a preseason match between the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew on Sunday at 4PM Eastern.  This should be a fun match right in our own back yard (well, it's closer than the 8 hour drive to Columbus) and they've already sold over a thousand tickets.

CONCACAF Champions League Return Leg Tonight

The second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal between Real Salt Lake and the above mentioned Columbus Crew is tonight at 9PM on FSC.  There won't be a second "Concacaf Ice Bowl" in this match however, as the temperature at game time is expected to be a balmy 35 degrees.

Concussions in Soccer Take Toll

There is a secret in soccer that is rarely discussed. This time, I'm not talking about FIFA corruption.

OK, I'll tell you.  Soccer can be a dangerous sport.  If you play the game long enough, you are going to get your bell rung.

Knocking heads while challenging for a header, taking a driven shot or pass to the noggin, and hitting your head on the ground after a fall happen all the time in competitive soccer.  Sometimes these mishaps lead to concussions or brain injuries.  But it's time to take note.  Recent studies have indicated that multiple concussions may lead to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease.   This is scary stuff. 

Inside Minnesota Soccer has an excellent post that every player and coach should read immediately, before another game.

If you don't feel like clicking on the link, here are the symptoms to watch out for if you suspect a concussion:
  • Confusion, foggy/groggy feeling, sluggish
  • Dizzy, poor balance
  • Sensitivity to noise or light, blurry vision
  • Headache, feeling of pressure
  • Poor memory: can’t remember what they ate earlier that day, the score of the game, what happened, etc.
  • Poor coordination and concentration
  • Nausea/vomiting
If any of those symptoms appear, do not let the player continue playing!  They should be checked out by a doctor ASAP.

Fortunately, in the pro game, MLS has taken the dangers associated with concussions seriously from the early years of the league.  They've led the sports entertainment industry by enacted standard testing for concussion symptoms for years. 

Unfortunately, these types of steps haven't prevented players form being effected by the injuries.  The this list of MLS players who have been forced out of games or even forced to retire as a result of concussions reads like an all-star line-up.  Alecko Eskandarian, Josh Gross, Ross Paule, and Taylor Twellman are former USMNT players who have had their careers cut short by concussion related symptoms.
Eskandarian retired due to concussion syndrome.
Eskandarian told the Bergen Record last year, "I'm a soccer player through and through. If I could play, I would. Being an athlete my whole life, shutting it down is the worst type of torture.  At the same time, this is my brain. It's not a hamstring or an ankle. I don't care how tough you are. This about living a good life after soccer, as well. It's really unpredictable. There's no guarantee and you're forced to think about these things."

USMNT player and Columbus Crew star defender Chad Mashall is currently sitting out of preseason training and missed the recent CONCACAF Champions League match and will miss tonight's second leg because he had failed a concussion test after taking a shot to the head in practice.  He is expected to be back in time to play in this weekend's friendly in Chattanooga.

This is also a personal issue for me.  I've been playing the game for almost 35 years.  I'm certain that I've had at least 2 concussions in my playing career and it's likely that I've had more than that.  I once knocked head while challenging for a header and I knew immediately something was wrong.  The all white uniform I was wearing looked florescent yellow to me.  BAD SIGN!  I told my coach to take me out of the game right then.  Unfortunately, I was back playing the next day.  The other time, I was kicked in the head during a scrum in the penalty area.  I played the rest of the match and don't remember a thing about it.  NOT GOOD!

As a result, I keep an eye out on the concussion syndrome developments in the media.  It's not looking good for me there, I must admit.  I don't see any really overt problems, and I've always had the minor memory issues.  Then again, I can only remember two actual concussion events in my career.  So, maybe I'm not destined for ALS.