Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jozy Loaned To Xerez

After much speculation and a couple of false starts, Jozy Altidore's loan deal from Villarreal to Xerez is now complete. The 19-year old American will join the Spanish second division side the rest of the year after scoring once in six appearances for the Yellow Submarine. His new team is currently first in Spain's second division standings and looking for Altidore to add the spark they need to stay on track for promotion to the Primera.


"This is a good opportunity for me because I will be able to get more playing time which will help me adapt to this country and continue to develop my career," said Altidore according to the club's web site.

Mixed Bag For American Players In Europe

It hasn't exactly been a banner weekend for American soccer players in Europe with too many sitting the bench or being on the losing side.

Friday night, Landon Donovan made a late substitute appearance in Bayern Munich's 1-0loss to Hamburg. The result has proven that Bayern has not become an invincible juggernaut over the break, as Kicker magazine had touted it.

Over in England, Clint Dempsey shined in Fulham's 3-1 win over Portsmouth, playing a key role in two of the Cottagers' goals.

Michael Bradley went the distance for Borussia Moenchengladbach in a 2-0 loss to Stuttgart, a team which rebounded well from its 5-1 German Cup drubbing against Bayern.

Neither Steve Cherundolo nor Sal Zizzo played for Hannover in today's 1-0 win over Schalke.

Freddy Adu matched from the bench tonight (again) as AS Monaco topped Grenoble 1-0.

But there is some good news but its no surprise: as usual, Carlos Bocanegra started at left back for Stade Rennais against Toulouse - game which is still underway.

BRADLEY RECALLS 20 PLAYERS TO BEGIN PREP FOR MATCH AGAINST MEXICO

Courtesy of US Soccer Communications:

CHICAGO (Jan. 29, 2009) — U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley has called 20 players back to U.S. Soccer's National Training Center at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., to begin preparations for the USA’s first match of final round qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The U.S. will take on regional rivals Mexico on Feb. 11 in front of a sold-out crowd at Columbus Crew Stadium live on ESPN2, ESPN2 HD and Univision beginning at 7 p.m. ET. The match can be heard live on the Futbol de Primera radio networks, and fans can also follow along on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.

The 20-man group is made up almost entirely of players who participated in the previous camp from Jan. 4-24 at the HDC, with Columbus Crew defender and three-time World Cup veteran Frankie Hejduk the only new addition. The U.S. team will train in Carson for nine days before departing on Feb. 7 for Columbus.

Fourteen of the players on the roster appeared in the USA’s 3-0 win against Sweden on Jan. 24, including midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who became the second player in U.S. history to score his first three goals all in the same game. Both Robbie Rogers and Chris Wingert made their debut for the full team in the victory.

Tickets for the USA-Mexico clash sold out in 90 minutes following the beginning of the public sale. The match is the first of 10 in the final round hexagonal that will determine the three automatic entrants from CONCACAF into the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In addition to qualifying, the U.S. will compete in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in June, having been drawn into Group B along with five-time World Cup winners Brazil, current World Champion Italy, and Egypt. Just days after the tournament, the U.S. will begin its defense of the CONCACAF Gold Cup title.

U.S. Men’s National Team Training Camp Roster By Position
Carson, Calif.
Jan. 29 – Feb. 7, 2009

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jon Busch (Chicago Fire), Will Hesmer (Columbus Crew), Matt Pickens (Colorado Rapids)
DEFENDERS (5): Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Ugo Ihemelu (Colorado Rapids), Chris Wingert (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Brian Carroll (Columbus Crew), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Jack Jewsbury (Kansas City Wizards), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), John Thorrington (Chicago Fire)
FORWARDS (4): Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Russian Champs Eye Onyewu

Reports out of Liege indicate that Russian champions Rubin Kazan have their eye on Standard's American defender Oguchi Onyewu.

My take? I highly doubt Gooch would say yes to an offer to play in the Russian league since he still seems to have his eye on England or France. With just over 24 hours left in the winter transfer window, there is still plenty of time for Standard to make a pretty penny instead of losing him this summer on a free transfer.

So, when Onyewu suits up for Standard's match against cellar dweller FCV Dender tomorrow, it could be his last for the Belgian club where he has earned so much respect and praise and from fans and opponents alike.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bayern Stomps Stuttgart In German Cup Quarterfinal

Bayern Munich put the league on notice that they are taking no prisoners when Bundesliga play resumes this weekend after tonight's 5-1 thrashing of VFB Stuttgart in a German Cup quarterfinal match. Bastian Schweinsteiger opened up scoring for Bayern with a 14th minute goal followed two minutes later by Franck Ribéry in the 16rth for a 2-0 lead. Just before halftime Luca Toni scored to send the team to the locker room with a 3-0 lead.

In the second half, Schweinsteiger scored a 55th minute another goal on a penalty for a 4-0 lead, and five minutes later a shell shocked Stuttgart side saw Zé Roberto make it 5-0. American Landon Donovan came on in the 69th minute for Luca Toni and almost made it 6-0 a few minutes later with a shot that went just wide.

Finally, in the 85th minute Stuttgart's Mario Gomez (a previous Bayern transfer target) saved some honor for the Swabian side with a goal to cut the deficit to 4 at 5-1 - a score which stood until the final whistle.

Beckham: Just Let Him Go

I've been wondering when (depite the drumbeat of reports from Europe) people back home would finally realize that David Beckham really wants to stay in Milan. Now it seems they are waking up to it and none too happy.

Perhaps it was too much to load onto one man's shoulders -to popularize the game in a vast nation of 300 million people. Perhaps MLS and others close to the league lost some perspective in overplaying Beckham's star power. One popular media outlet even had a special "Beckham Watch" feature on its web page which just looks strange when you consider that even at the height of Michael Jordan's dominance of the NBA, you would never see such a thing.

For Beckham himself, its obvious that he still dreams of playing at the highest levels and his aspirations to earn England some silverware remain unfulfilled. Perhaps he went for the big paycheck in LA but then did some soul searching and remembered that he had some unfinished business. He obviously believes he can't achieve those goals by playing in MLS or he would not have gone to Milan with the intent to seek a longer term stay.

I truly believe cutting Beckham loose will allow the league and its fans to focus on the fundamentals; attractive, compelling soccer featuring exciting young players who want to be there. Cutting Beckham loose will allow the spotlight to shine where it should; on exciting young players like Kenny Cooper, the dean of US keepers - Kasey Keller, or the return of "Big Cat" Tony Sanneh.

For LA fans who were hoping for a turnaround under new coach Bruce Arena, the realization that they stand to lose Beckham and perhaps Landon Donovan (to Bayern Munich) this year may be too much to bear. The league would do to take some of the money they'll save on Beckham's massive salary and bring home DaMarcus Beasley, buy a few quality foreign players, while paying rookies enough so they won't need to live in their cars.

Still, its a shame that AC Milan couldn't at least have a dialogue on this with the LA Galaxy, instead of communicating to them indirectly through the press - something that happens all too often in Europe these days. Arena seems none too amused in remarking to the LA press that “I'm not sure it's appropriate for club officials at the biggest clubs in the world to make comments without having made contact with us. If I had a player on loan then I wouldn't be talking about acquiring him unless I had spoken to the club."

Here in Bella Italia, Danny Szetela played the final seven minutes last night in Brescia's 0-0 draw with Sassuuolo. Brescia is now third in Serie B with 38 points, just one behind second place Livorno and two behind leaders Bari.

Eduardo Salvio: The Next Big Thing?

While Arsenal courts Zenith for Andrei Arshavin, Real Madrid begs and pleads for Cristiano Ronaldo, and other clubs are going after the hottest players in the game, there is still a wave of scary talent coming forward from the youth ranks. One in particular is 18 year-old Argentine wunderkind Eduardo Salvio who has already scored 4 goals in 14 appearances for Lanús, including putting two past Boca Juniors. He is also working his way up through Argentina’s highly competitive youth system, recently shining in the South American U-20 championship. Just three days ago, he led his Argentine team to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Peru, scoring the winning goal.

"I can play anywhere, inside or outside, but it does not frighten me to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper," said a confident Salvio to Gazzetto. "My mirror player plays in another position, and he is Juan Román Riquelme."

Salvio is a combination of fast, clever, and very technical and with his diminutive 5’5” frame, nothing but trouble for defenders once he has the ball at his feet. He is already being hailed as the next Lionel Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi (who are both mentioned as the next Maradona) in the great tradition of Argentine supporting strikers such as Carlos Tevez, Messi, Javier Saviola, and others.

Now, teams like Roma, AC Milan, Inter, Napoli, Fiorentina, Juventus, CSKA Moscow, Genoa, Sevilla, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Villarreal and Atlético Madrid are hot on his trail.

So, it is no surprise that in today’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, we see that Juve’s management are making their move by sending chief scout Renzo Castagnini to Argentina to work out a deal before another club gets there first. They’ll be hard pressed to trump Napoli, which has always been a second home for Argentine players on the continent, including Maradona, Lavezzi, German Denis, and others. That said, Juve's deeper pockets would probably carry the day.

According to Gazzetto, to seal the deal Juventus is ready to ante up with at least €8.5 million and plans to finance it through the sale of forward Vincenzo Iaquinta to an interested Russian club Zenit St Petersburg (which also indicates they are resigned to losing Arshavin).

But any deal may not happen until summer since Lanús president Alejandro Marón, has a stated policy that the club’s youth players must play a full season before any transfers are allowed.

Meanwhile, Juventus has reportedly approached Chelsea to discuss a loan deal for French winger Florent Malouda. Malouda has not fared well since the arrival of Chelsea boss Felipe Scolari but his old Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri, now at Juventus, thinks he can help the team challenge Inter for the Scuddetto.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Eddie Johnson Sighting!

For those of you who may have forgotten about him, there was an Eddie Johnson sighting in Cardiff, Wales yesterday!

Johnson entered Cardiff City's FA Cup match with Arsenal right at the stroke of 90 minutes to help preserve a 0-0 draw. The mighty Arsenal Football Club marched into Cardiff on Sunday with one objective; to quickly dispatch last season's FA Cup finalists and avoid another fixture on their already cluttered match schedule.

Instead, Arsenal were in a dog-fight most of the afternoon and Cardiff City lived to fight another day (although that next fight will be at Arsenal's home digs - The Emirates Stadium in London. Perhaps, Johnson will see more time during this fixture - you never know.

Now, if we can just get Freddy Adu some minutes down in Monaco...

*Brought to you by Keith Richardson, who should soon be signed by LFV once his agent comes to terms with Natasha, our evil head of human resources.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rangers' Edu Out Injured - Yet Again

Rangers' Maurice Edu was not available to play in yesterday's Scottish Premier League match with Aberdeen due to a knee strain.

Its been a tough road so far for the young American, who joined Walter Smith's side last summer after a transfer from Toronto of MLS. Since then, he has only played in two league matches and one friendly.

But Smith isn't giving up on him yet, stating: "Maurice played in a bounce game this week and twisted his knee. He is not having much luck with injuries. Hopefully he will be available again next week."

Some Great Soccer Writing

As we do every now and then, its time to point out some of the great soccer writing out there these days.

Here is piece of brilliant writing by Rob Hughes on how after a terrible storm took the lives of four boys in Barcelona, the team gave the grieving city something to cheer about.

Also, this one is three weeks old but its still worth pointing out Brent Lathem's insightful article on Neven Subotic's decision to play for Serbia instead of the USA. Brent offers some perspectives few others have been privy to (including yours truly) which I've got to say has opened my eyes. So, In my humble opinion, Brent's piece is must reading for anyone who wants to know what happened.

And for you Liverpool fans out there enjoying the club's success after the doldrums of the 1990s, the Observer's Andy Hunter does a great job of examining the downfall of Kenny Dalglish in "The Day The Magic Walked Out Of Anfield."

If you want to nominate some great soccer writing you'd like us to feature, just drop us a line here.

Kljestan Hat Trick Powers US To 3-2 Win Over Sweden

A Great Win But Come On Folks - Not Even 10,000 Fans In The Stadium?

Sacha Kljestan scored the 11th hat trick ever for the U.S. Men’s National Team Saturday evening to earn a 3-2 victory against Sweden to open their 2009 campaign at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. If any club was on the fence about signing him, last night's performance should have his agent's phone burning with calls.

In a fairly tepid first 45 minutes, Kljestan provided the U.S. with a 2-0 lead going into the locker room. His first goal was a stunning 35-yard free kick that he placed perfectly into the upper left corner, before following up that effort by burying a penalty kick with five minutes remaining in the half.

With Sweden pulling a goal back in the 73rd minute, it was Kljestan once again who answered for the U.S., taking a feed from Brian Ching to bury a left-footed shot just one minute later. In the 89th minute, Sweden struck again to make things interesting, but the U.S. was able to kill off any last minute attacks for an equalizer.

The three goals by Kljestan were the first of his career with the full team, and put him in unique company as only the second player ever to open his national team scoring account with a hat trick. The only other player to pull off the feat was Aldo “Buff” Donelli, who tallied four goals in a 4-2 victory against Mexico on May 24, 1934, in the lone qualifying match for the 1934 FIFA World Cup in Italy.

“Getting a hat trick is pretty exciting for me,” said Kljestan. “I’ve never scored more than one goal in a game as a professional, so it’s definitely exciting. I’m just as happy about the win and I’m glad we held on in the end. It was great to do it [score a hat trick] here at the Home Depot Center. I have a lot of friends and family that come and support me every game, so that was pretty cool to have them here.”

The victory kept the U.S. undefeated in eight matches at The HDC (7-0-1) and was the eleventh straight time the U.S. has either tied or won their opening game of the year, with the U.S. also defeating Sweden 1-0 to start the streak in 1998. Overall against Sweden, the U.S. now holds a winning record with four victories and three losses in seven games.

Despite a fairly inexperienced roster, the U.S. was able to control the majority of the match and provide an effective attack, especially in the second half. Of the 18 players on the roster, 13 had less than 10 career caps, and six of the starters chosen by U.S. head coach Bob Bradley had less than 5 caps, including two – goalkeeper Troy Perkins and midfielder Robbie Rogers – who earned their first caps on the night.

The slow and controlled beginning of the match was jarred awake by Kljestan with his stunning free kick in the 17th minute that gave the U.S. the early lead. Ching, the leading U.S. capwinner on the roster (33), was brought down by Marcus Lindberg about 30 yards out and on the free kick Rogers ran over the ball allowing Kljestan to unleash his drive into the upper-left corner of the goal.

The U.S. continued to control most of the possession and doubled their lead near the end of the half with some nice possession play that led to a penalty kick. The ball was knocked out wide right where Ching was able to collect the ball and touch it to John Thorrington along the sideline. With Marvell Wynne involved in the attack, Thorrington slipped the ball through for him and he took one touch to get into the penalty area before getting tripped up by Adam Johansson. Kljestan stepped up to bury the penalty shot to the right of the goal as Dahlin went the opposite direction.

During the first half, the U.S. was able to thwart Sweden’s attack as captain Danny Califf and fellow central defender Michael Parkhurst controlled the backline, while midfielder Ricardo Clark also broke up numerous attacks. Wynne and Jonathan Bornstein were also staunch in their defending on the wings, while also choosing wisely when to dart up the sideline and join in the attack. Overall in the first half, Sweden only had two shots, and just one on goal, which came from Mikael Dahlberg in the 24th minute, a 18-yard effort towards the lower left post that Perkins was able to cover with ease.

Kenny Cooper came on to replace Charlie Davies to start the second half, and the 6-foot-3 forward almost tallied two minutes in when he got his head to a Rogers corner kick. The header got past Dahlin, who had challenged for the service, but Lindberg was able to clear it off the line and over the bar.

Despite controlling much of the play, Sweden pulled one back when Alexander Farnerud supplied a service into the penalty area for Daniel Nannskog, who lost Bornstein at the right post and finished past Perkins with a diving header.

The U.S. was quick to respond a minute later. Once again it was Kljestan getting the accolades with the finish, but the set-up by Ching was what provided the U.S. breathing room once again. Following a long ball from the back from Califf, Ching brought the ball down with an impressive first touch at the top of the penalty area between two defenders which allowed him to turn and then slip the ball to the left for the streaking Kljestan, who slammed his one-timer into the right side netting.

The action continued with Sweden getting another great opportunity a few minutes later, but Dahlberg’s header from six yards out bounced in front of the goal and bounced over the bar.

Sweden did tally their second goal of the night when Farnerud served in another dangerous cross and this time Dahlberg didn’t miss the opportunity, heading it off the right post and into the net.

Cooper had one final chance to give the U.S. another two-goal lead, when he slipped behind the Sweden defense for a breakaway against Dahlin, but his touch around the ‘keeper was too much and Dahlin was able to recover and make the save on his shot from a tight angle.

“It’s important to start the year off with a win,” said Bradley, who opened the calendar year with a victory for the third straight time since taking over in late 2006. “When you’re in a long camp, with three weeks and a lot of work, it’s nice at the end to have the reward of winning. From a coaching standpoint there’s always going to be things, at this time of year, that you feel good about, and there’s always going to be things that need improvement.”

Chris Wingert was the third player to earn his first cap with the MNT on the evening, coming on as a 79th-minute substitute for Bornstein.

The U.S. now looks ahead to their opening match of the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying against archrival Mexico on Feb. 11 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The match, the first of 10 games in the final round – commonly referred to as the ‘hexagonal’ – will kickoff at 7 p.m. ET and fans can watch the match live on ESPN2 HD and Univision, or listen on the Futbol de Primera radio network.

Tickets for the USA-Mexico match go on sale Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 12 p.m. ET.


Match Highlights Here:



Bob Bradley's Comments After The Match:



U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report

Match: United States Men's National Team vs. Sweden
Date: January 24, 2009
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: The Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif.
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. PT A
Attendance: 9,918 Weather: 59 degrees, mostly cloudy
Scoring Summary:
1 2 F
USA 2 1 3
SWE 0 2 2

USA -Sacha Kljestan 17th minute
USA -Kljestan (PK) 40
SWE – Daniel Nannskog (Alexander Farnerud) 73
USA – Kljestan (Brian Ching) 74
USA – Mikael Dahlberg (Farnerud) 89

Lineups:

USA: 1-Troy Perkins; 12-Marvell Wynne, 2-Danny Califf (capt.), 4-Michael Parkhurst (3-Ugo Ihemelu, 82), 6-Jonathan Bornstein (15-Chris Wingert, 79); 17-John Thorrington (20-Chris Rolfe, 61), 13-Ricardo Clark, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 30-Robbie Rogers (22-Brian Carroll, 69); 10-Charlie Davies (27-Kenny Cooper, 46), 11-Brian Ching (29-Eddie Gaven, 77) Subs not used: 18-Jon Busch Head Coach: Bob Bradley

SWE: 12-Johan Dahlin, 7-Markus Jonsson, 8-Marcus Lindberg, 9-Max von Schlebrügge, 5-Adam Johansson; 10-Andreas Dahl (14-Rasmus Elm, 62), 6-Daniel Andersson (capt.) (13-Martin Ericsson, 71), 20-Gustav Svensson, 16-Samuel Holmén (15-Alexander Farnerud, 62); 11-Mikael Dahlberg, 19-Daniel Nannskog Subs not used: 1-John Alvbåge, 2-Patrik Anttonen, 3-Rasmus Bengtsson, 4-Mattias Bjärsmyr, , 17-Andreas Johannson, 18-Andreas Landgren, 21-Denni Avdic Head Coach: Lars Lagerbäck

Stats Summary: USA / SWE
Shots: 13 / 9
Shots on Goal: 6 / 6
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 7 / 1
Fouls: 15 / 15
Offside: 2 / 5

Misconduct Summary:
SWE – Daniel Andersson (caution) 27th minute
USA – Danny Califf (caution) 59 Officials:

Referee: Silviu Petrescu (CAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Hector Vergara (CAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Darren Clark (CAN)
Fourth Official: Baldomero Toledo (USA)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Sacha Kjestan

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Countdown To USA-Sweden Friendly

In just a few hours, the US National team opens its 2009 campaign in a friendly against Sweden in Carson, California. The match will feature a US side drawn primarily from MLS (so they may not be as sharp) against what will basically be a Swedish B team.

Still, its a good chance to see some of the up and coming talent who will be competing for spots in the 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup teams. And while almost everyone doing a preview of the match has focused exclusively on the US team, kudos go to Andrea Canales for providing a good look into what to expect from Lars Lagerback's side.

For those Stateside, you can catch the match at 5:30 (Pacific) on the Fox Soccer Channel or Galavision. In Western Europe, the game time is 2:30 AM but unless you are in Sweden, you'll need to find it through a streaming web service.

If you are in Columbus, head on over to Claddagh Irish Pub ( 585 S. Front St. ) to join Crew captain and all-around great guy Frankie Hejduk for a USA vs. Sweden viewing party this Saturday, Jan. 24. Hejduk will be signing autographs and engaging in a meet-and-greet starting around 7:30 p.m. and he’ll then be sticking around to watch the match. Four members of the Crew are in Bradley's side for the match including midfielder Brian Carroll, Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers and goalkeeper William Hesmer.

In other news this weekend, Clint Dempsey and Fulham had a bit of trouble putting down an upstart Kettering side in FA Cup action.

Also, Javier Saviola, the perpetual Argentine would-be sensation is once again looking for a new team after not fitting in at Real Madrid (which follows being bumped out of Barcelona in 2007). While he is currently linked to Plymouth after a potential deal to Boca Juniors fell through, Saviola remains a talented and potentially explosive player looking for the right situation.

Note to MLS: Take a good look at Saviola (who is available now) before its too late. He could add a creative spark to any team and he'll put butts in seats.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Beckham Wants To Stay In Milan

So, I started out this sunny Napoli morning as usual; with a cup of coffee and a copy of La Gazzetta dello Sport, and there on the front page was the headline: Beckham Forever: He's fallen in Love With Milan and Doesn't Want To Return To The USA.

Of course sensational headlines are the norm over here so I had to turn to the three page spread on this topic (that's right, three pages) to find out how much substance there was to it. After all, the only other real news they could talk about was last night's Copa Italia snoozer between Lazio and Torino (especially now that the Kaka transfer spasm is over).

In between snippets of how Beckham is taking Italian lessons must be an indicator he wants to stay (nevermind that understanding his teammates may be the reason) , there were some indications that AC Milan may indeed want to keep him. Club administrator Adriano Galliani made it clear that they see Beckham first as a player, claiming he is "not just a beauty figure."

Rossoneri coach Carlo Ancelotti has been starting Beckham in the team's two league matches so far this year where he has proven he still has the pace, touch, and vision to contribute to the side.

And not only the print media but also Italian television today seems filled with Beckham-mania, with unattributed reports that Beckham is willing to take a pay cut (from his cushy deal with MLS and the LA Galaxy) in order to play for Milan and increase his chances of playing in the 2010 World Cup. Its all laughably ironic because Beckham is the only player for whom a move from MLS to Europe would mean a pay cut (OK, that may apply to one other Galaxy player).

Beckham's loan deal ends in March and his deal with MLS lasts until 2011. He does however have a clause in his contract which would allow him to move elsewhere during the 2010 winter transfer window of 2010 but by then he may be too old, at almost 35.

And while Beckham may be falling in love with Milan, he is also winning fans over both on and off the field. Most recently, he won praise for visiting former AC Milan striker Stefano Borgonovo yesterday at his home. Borgonovo is suffering from the paralyzing illness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the team stays in close contact with him. Remarking on Beckham's visit, Ancelotti told Gazzetta that "David has a golden heart."

The question remains however, whether Beckham still has a heart for LA and whether new coach Bruce Arena can count on his return at the end of March (along with Landon Donovan, currently on loan to Bayern Munich).

During a time of economic downturn, it may not be a bad move for MLS to unload his massive salary bill, so long as they reinvest some of it in exciting young players who can capture fans' imagination. I'd be happy to see Beckham move on if it improves the league's balance sheet and allows them to bring DaMarcus Beasley back home, keep Donovan in the league, pick up a few youngsters from Boca Juniors and Independiente, and start to pay rookies more than garbage collectors.

Copyright Chris Courtney 2008

Monaco: Park And Adu Doubtful For Sunday

AS Monaco will probably go into Sunday night's match against Nice after the club announced that strikers Chu-Yong park and Freddy Adu have picked up similar injuries in training this week. Park is suffering from pain to the patellar tendon of the right knee while Adu is experiencing hip pain after taking some hard knocks during practice. Both are sitting out training for 48 hours and are doubtful for Sunday's match unless they pass a last minute fitness test.

Friday Musings

I'll be adding bits and pieces to this one all day so be sure to keep checking for more.

LFV friend Gruffgoat has a good catch with a link to a nice Sunday Observer article on Clint Dempsey by World Cup pal Jaime Jackson, a fine soccer journalist who has not forgotten his roots as a player and fan. Writers like Jaime, Amy Lawrence, and others at the Observer are the reason their newspaper has some of the best soccer coverage of any paper in the English speaking world.

How about those Seattle Sounders who have already sold 18,600 season tickets for home games at Qwest Field? Its nice to know Kasey Keller (who has some nice quotes in the article link) and his teammates will be well supported as they start their inaugural season. I've often wondered why MLS had not yet expanded into the soccer hotbeds of our country to places like Seattle, Portland, and St. Louis? Of course you need the perfect storm of investors, available facilities, and a supportive local government to go with that ready-made fan base but come on - couldn't those be lined up for Portland and St. Louis as well?

My spidey sense tells me that singer-songwriter and friend of LFV Greg Seltzer will have a juicy story to break sometime soon. Can you say Kljestan in green and white stripes for more than a week or two? And no, I don't mean a South Carolina prison uniform!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Donovan Does It Again!

Landon Donovan made a substitute appearance in Bayern Munich's friendly against FSV Mainz tonight, scoring just ten minutes after stepping onto the field. Then in the 90th minute, he scored again! That makes three winter friendlies in which Donovan has scored a total of four goals for the Bavarian giants - a strong statement that he plans for this stint in Germany to be much different than previous ones.

Just five days before their German Cup match against VFB Stuttgart, Bayern appears to be firing on all cylinders, putting five past Mainz in a 5-0 romp.

And as promised earlier, here is a better rundown on the match from our man in Germany, the one and only Keith Richardson, an old friend from my Germany days. Keith, a fellow Nuernberg fan, used to be part of the cabal of expats covering Americans Abroad for Soccer Times (along with Harris King, Mark Flannery, and others). More recently, Keith is the English language translator for Borussia Dortmund's official website while readers who hang out on BigSoccer probably know him better as Footyfan1

Take it away Keith...

By the time Landon Donovan entered the match in the 60th minute, Bayern was already ahead 2-0 through goals from Germany international striker Miroslav Klose in the 4th minute and Italy international striker Luca Toni in the 55th minute.

Let me note now that I am not a big Landon Donovan fan. I’m one of the few USA fans who still have a hard time with the way Landon’s first two tries here in Germany ended. However, some of the guys over at BigSoccer have convinced me that I should finally totally forgive him. Which I am working on, but I can’t say I’m a fan.

Now, given my feelings, it should not be a shock to anyone that the first thing I noticed when Landon entered the match is how much shorter he was than every other player on the pitch. But I also knew what Landon lacks in physical stature, he more than makes up for in talent and hustle. I may not be a fan of his, but I certainly have an open mind and I am fair whether dishing out praise or criticism.

Having said all of this, you will understand why I was laughing my head off on the 70th minute of the match when Landon scored on a HEADER of all things after a cross from Italian Massimo Oddo out on the left wing. Oddo’s cross went over Bayern’s Germany international midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in the middle of the Mainz penalty area. And before you ask, no, not all of Bayern’s players are internationals, but the majority of them are! Anyhow, as the ball flew over Schweinsteiger, Landon was behind him unmarked and Landon then put a perfect header into the left corner of the Mainz goal to give Bayern a 3-0 lead.

Two minutes later, the aforementioned Schweinsteiger raised Bayern’s lead to 4-0 after simply tapping the ball in from about eight yards out after a nice cross from Bayern’s Germany international midfielder Tim Borowski.

In the 82nd minute of the match, Donovan, who has had quite impressive performances in his test matches for Bayern, put the ball in the back of the Mainz net once again. However, before he could even begin to celebrate, he noticed the lineman’s flag up. The call was a tight one, but television replays confirmed the call was correct.

However, on this night, Donovan was not going to be denied his second goal. Just before the end of the 90 minutes, a pass was pulled back to Donovan who had just entered the Mainz penalty area. Landon put a blast straight at Mainz goalkeeper Christian Wetklo. However, the shot was so hard, that Wetklo, despite getting his hand up in time, allowed the ball to deflect off his hands and just behind him before he could slap it back into play. The Mainz defense played on as if the ball never crossed the line, but the same linesman who denied Donovan goal glory in the 82nd minute made it clear that the ball did indeed cross the goal line after deflecting off Wetklo’s hands.

Shortly afterward, referee Dr. Jochen Drees sounded the final whistle sealing Bayern’s 5-0 victory at Mainz.

I don’t have any problem in saying that my Man of Match was indeed Landon Donovan. Donovan kept up his string of good performances for Bayern, now having scored at least once in Bayern’s last three test matches. Landon has showed hustle and desire for Bayern. He hasn’t faced 1st Bundesliga level competition yet, but Bayern’s last two matches, against 1. FC Kaiserslautern this past weekend and Mainz tonight were against top 2nd Bundesliga sides who are both in contention for promotion to the 1st Bundesliga for next season.

With Lukas Podolski’s downturn, if Landon Donovan can continue the impressive performances he has been turning in when Bayern starts German Cup, Bundesliga and Champions League competition, Bayern may have a pretty tough decision to make when Landon’s loan expires in March.

Donovan's First Goal:



And the Second:

Zizzo, Hannover Drop Friendly To AC Milan

American Sal Zizzo made a rare appearance for Hannover 96 in last night's friendly against visiting AC Milan. The Bundesliga side put in a surprisingly strong performance against the star-studded Milan team, especially on defense, but was unable to hold off the Rossoneri for good.

With his team down 2-1 in the second half, Zizzo came on in the 66th minute, replacing Jan Rosenthal at right midfield where he immediately got into the mix. In the 74th minute, Zizzo's sent in a cross to Mike Hanke, who bicycled the ball in to tie the score at 2-2.

But this could not last as three minutes later, a Kaka combination with Fillipo Inzhagi found Luca Antonini - who then sent in a good cross which "Pippo" converted to make it 3-2. All in all, the former UCLA man made a solid showing but only time will tell if the young American (who was recently linked in a loan deal to Hansa Rostock) will see more playing time this spring.

American defender and Hannover stalwart Steve Cherundolo did not play in the match.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Few Things

My fingers are still sore from picking bass strings so all I can offer on this historic inauguration day are a few links worth checking out.

The New York Times/IHT on Bradley's depleted squad for Saturday's friendly against Sweden.

Dave Clark's thought provoking idea to rapidly expand MLS. Can it be done without catching the same flu that the NASL succumbed to? You decide.

Is ESPN about to buy the US broadcast rights for Premiership matches?

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has announced that Kaka is going nowhere.

And to make matters worse for Manchester City (after failing to land the big fish), Robinho has walked out of training camp.

And speaking of transfers, just how close is Arsenal to signing Russian phenom Andrei Arshavin from Zenith? It seems about $11.7 million.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Have A Dream

Before we get to soccer today, let's not forget...

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident:that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the redhills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.... I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nationwhere they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. ... I have a dream that one day little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today."

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Washington, DC, 1963

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Deportivo Takes Its Turn Behind Barcelona's Woodshed

Barcelona has taken another Spanish primera team behind its woodshed, crushing Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 in the Nou Camp. 5-0 is the kind of score you expect when playing your reserve team, or a lower level club during an off season friendly, not another team in one of the best leagues in the world. Yet Barca seems to be making a habit of it as they stretch their lead to an amazing 15 points in La Liga.

Thierry Henry and Sammy Eto'o scored a pair of goals each with Lionel Messi scoring one. Check out the highlights below.




Don't forget to support our sponsors!

Donovan, Bayern Win In Bamberg Snowball Match

After all those years in sunny southern California, Landon Donovan may have forgotten just how cold and snowy it can be when German football enters orange ball season. If practicing all week in the cold and blowing snow wasn't enough top remind him, playing the second half of a friendly today at Regionalliga side Eintracht Bamberg should have done the trick.

Playing in front of 15,000 hearty Franconian fans in a snow-filled Waldstadion von Weismain, Bayern showed up missing six key players due to illness injuries including Mark van Bommel, Franck Ribéry, Lukas Podolski, José Sosa, Lucio, und Toni Kroos.

The match started 30 minutes late after the Bayern team bus got caught in a traffic jam caused by the heavy snowfall but that did not stop Luca Toni from tossing a few snowballs at teammates during warmup.

The poor field conditions made it difficult for either team to put together any fluid passing. Nonetheless, Bayern did get some good chances early while Bamberg barely threatened FCB's goal. After 27 minutes Tim Borowski finished a good combination with Miroslav Klose to open up a 1-0 lead. Eight minutes later Bayern's Phillip Lahm slalomed the defense well and finished well to stretch the margin to 2-0.

Donovan came on as one of five subs in the second half paired up front with Luca Toni. Donovan helped to set up a 50th minute chance which Toni could not convert and the two combined well on the sloppy field throughout the half. Bayern's third goal came when a clearance from Bamberg keeper Stephan Kurz' clearance found the feet of Klose, who hammered it home for a 3-0 lead. Bamberg managed one more scoring chance in the 71st minute which was well saved by Joerg Butt to preserve the win.

After the match, Bayern coach Juergen Klinsmann remarked to the German media that "Above all, it was a big adjustment for Landon Donovan and Luca Toni to play on the snow."

Game Stats:

1. FC Eintracht Bamberg 0 FC Bayern 3 (0:2)

1. FC Eintracht Bamberg: Essig (83rd Horcher) - Pickel, Bechmann, Grasser, Stumpf - Dennerlein, Kaiser, Dotterweich, Zang, Deptalla - Heyer

FC Bayern Munich: Rensing (46th Butt) - Oddo, Van Buyten (46th Donovan), Demichelis (46th Breno), Lahm (46th Lell) - Altintop , Ottl, Zé Roberto (46th Schweinsteiger), Borowski - Toni, Klose

Official: Georg Schalk (Augsburg)
Attendance: 15,000
Scoring: Borowski (27th), Lahm (35th), Klose (54th)

Friday, January 16, 2009

AC Milan on Kaka: "Talks Can Begin"

As Manchester City's ever-rising bid for the Rossoneri's Brazilian playmaker climbs higher into the stratosphere, we're starting to see the first kinks in Milan's armor. After Silvio Berlusconi's spokesmen continued to say no, City finally looks like they are making an offer Milan can't refuse. Last night as the bid reportedly hit $145 million, word came out that "talks can begin."

Rumors that the player's father had travelled to Manchester were confirmed this morning and by this afternoon, the price was rumored to be approaching $150 million. I mean let's face it, that is a sick amount of cash, especially in a depressed economy. There are a lot of things you can pay for with $150 million, including:


- Tuesday's Presidential inauguration


- One F-22 Raptor Fighter Plane


- 15 Jozy Altidores


- The entire Werder Bremen team


- DC United's planned new stadium


- The entire MLS player salary four+ times over

Or how about an entire new AC Milan team for the future? That's right, the ageing Rossoneri still have a lot of quality in the side but its a club in need of a fresh wave of young talent (and $150 million can buy a lot of talent). Juve's Gigi Buffon, Roma's Phillipe Mexes, and Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos are just a few of the players they could scoop up with change to spare for Barcelona's Sammy Eto'o or Lyon's Benzema. Instead of being the big loser, AC Milan could end up paving the road to the Scudetto using Manchester City's gold.

Meanwhile, City's move is not without a great deal of risk. They are currently a 15th place team with only 22 points, 15 behind Wigan, and have lost five of their last 10 Premiership matches. They'll need to spend even further to build the right cast to play around Kaka and Robinho, lest they stay mired in mid-table without a Champions League or UEFA Cup slot.

Indications are that City plan to do just that as they are close to signing Hamburg's holding midfielder Nigel de Jong for 15m euros while they continue to chase strikers Roque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy and Scott Parker respectively from Blackburn and West Ham. On top of that, they are reportedly about to close a deal for Espanyol's talented keeper Carlos Kameni.

Onyewu's Got Game

While all the talk about Oguchi Onyewu's potential transfer to a bigger club in France or England lingers in the air, Gooch is proving that he is not only ready to step into the role on the field but off the field as well. You see, these days the English tabloids aren't satisfied if a 'baller has great skills, tactical brilliance, and great speed - you need a top shelf WAG as well.

Now, Gooch's girlfriend, Persian model Salomé Khorasanchi has made the list of top WAGs in Europe (coming in at number 257) so he is nearly set (and it appears already jumping ahead into modeling). All he needs now is a big fat transfer offer.

Meanwhile, in actual football news, our pal Greg Seltzer has a nice scoop on Sacha Kljestan's potential new gig.

Also, its heartbreak for Hoffenheim as striker Vedad Ibisevic has suffered a knee injury that will have him out for the rest of the season.



And of course, here is a little something to get you charged up for the weekend...



And don't forget to support our advertisers by clicking the ad you see above!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Few Things...

I'm sick as a dog today so here are a few things to tide you over.

DaMarcus Beasley is not ready to leave Rangers in Walter Smith's January fire sale.

In yet another sign that Fulham's Clint Dempsey is finally coming into his own, a London paper calls him the "One to Watch" in this weekend's match against West Ham.

And the nasty flu bug working its way around Europe appears to have hit three Hansa Rostock players particularly hard, including American defender Heath Pearce. The crud appears to be keeping Pearce out of training, just at the time when players are trying to prove themselves to new coach Dieter Eilts. Let's hope Heath gets well soon and can get back into the groove.





Get well soon Heath!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Where Are They Now? Tom Dooley

While many US fans are still crestfallen over Neven Subotic's decision to play for Serbia, perhaps now is a good time to remember how we've benefited from similar decisions by players who chose to play for the Stars and Stripes. I can't think of a better example than Tom Dooley

I must admit that Dooley is still one of my favorite players ever to pull on a US jersey. He, along with the wave of Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda, John Harkes, and others carried the USA up the next level, setting the stage for much of what has followed.

His playing career included stints at FC FC Homburg (1983-1988), FC Kaiserslautern (1988-1993), Bayer Leverkusen (1994-1995), Schalke 04 (1995-1997), Columbus Crew (1997-2000), and the MetroStars (2001). He then went on to coach Second Bundesliga side Saarbrucken (2002-2003). At Kaiserslautern he led the team to the 1990 German Cup and 1991 Bundesliga title, In 1997, he won the UEFA Cup with Schalke 04.

Along the way the speedy defender earned 81 caps for the USA, scoring seven goals in the process. In 1993, he was named the US Soccer Athlete of the Year, and later he captained the US national team in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups .

But Dooley, the son of a German mother and an American serviceman, first longed to play for Germany. He had led the small club FC Homburg to win promotion to the Bundesliga, then moved to Kaiserslautern where he hoped to get noticed and called by the German national team - a call which never came.

"I was gutted," Dooley recalls. "Three times I was on the verge of being called in, but each time I suffered serious injuries and the chance went begging. I despaired that I would never play international football, but my wife assured me, ‘there must be a reason for it."

So Dooley dug in and focused on his club team, helping them to win the 1990 German Cup and 1991 Bundesliga championship.

Then, in 1993, US Soccer contacted Dooley when someone pointed out that he had an American father and may qualify for citizenship. Dooley remembered that "They came to ask more questions and eventually I was invited to join the US team. I had to run around like a mad man and get my passport in order and learn some basic English."

But Dooley was happy to have found his own soccer family; "It was a great time and so much fun. We were together for a year, and it was amazing. We brought the game of soccer into the public consciousness in America."

And anyone who watched how hard and focused Dooley played in the USA jersey would never guess that he was once a youngster who had longed to play for Germany.

One match that I'll always remember was in June 1993 when the US played Germany at Chicago's Soldier Field during the World Series of Soccer. Dooley played the game of his life, battling a powerful German attack while scoring two goals (in the 25th and 79th minutes). All the while, he seemed to have his teammates convinced they could beat the mighty German squad, which had won the World Cup just three years prior. The team lost 4-3 but not before Earnie Stewart scored a 72nd minute goal, and a few other US chances nearly tied the match.

That day Dooley finally achieved a boyhood dream of pulling on a German national team jersey, which he did after exchanging with another player after the match. But in the post-game interview on German TV, all he could do was gush about his US teammates and how proud he was to play for the Stars and Stripes. It was performances like these on and off the field that make it clear that of all the dual-citizen players the USA has brought into the side, none has had a greater impact than Dooley.

Today, Dooley lives in Laguna Niguel, California where he founded the Orange County Kings and Dooley Soccer University with the goal to "train young players like they do in Europe and prepare them for careers in the big leagues of the world."

He is also involved with Match Analysis, a cutting-edge provider of video and statistical analysis tools, archiving services, and value-added content for professional soccer.

TICKETS FOR U.S.-MEXICO QUALIFIER ON SALE STARTING JAN 28TH

OK vagabonds, its time for a road trip...

Courtesy of U.S. Soccer:

TICKETS FOR U.S.-MEXICO QUALIFIER GO ON SALE WEDNESDAY, JAN. 28

Sell-Out Crowd Expected at Columbus Crew Stadium Where the U.S. Remains Undefeated in Seven Matches

CHICAGO (Jan. 13, 2009) — Tickets for the United States’ FIFA World Cup qualifier against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, go on sale on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 12 p.m. ET. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 11, and will be televised live on ESPN2 HD and Univision.

The game marks the third-consecutive time that Columbus Crew Stadium hosts the final round home leg between the U.S. and Mexico. The match in Columbus is the first of five home qualifiers for the United States this year.

Tickets ranging in price levels from $48 to $125 go on sale to the public Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 12 p.m. ET through ussoccer.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 and at all Ticketmaster ticket centers throughout central Ohio (including Kroger), as well as the Crew Stadium ticket office (open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Due to anticipated demand, tickets will be limited to four per purchase. Ultimate Fan Tickets (special VIP packages which include a premium ticket, a custom made official U.S. national team jersey with name and number, VIP access to the field before and after the game, and other unique benefits) are also available exclusively through ussoccer.com.

As a sponsor of U.S. Soccer, Visa® is pleased to offer all Visa cardholders access to an advance ticket sale for this match before the sale to the general public. This advance sale will take place from Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 12 p.m. ET until Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 8 a.m. ET at ussoccer.com. Tickets will be limited to four per purchase. Visa will be the only payment method accepted through the Visa presale and is the preferred card of U.S. Soccer. Terms and conditions apply.

“We are very excited about returning to Columbus,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley, who guided the U.S. to a 7-1-0 record through the first two rounds of FIFA World Cup qualifying. “Our national team has enjoyed a great history there, and the team has always appreciated the fantastic support from the fans. We are looking forward to an incredible atmosphere as we continue the difficult task of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.”

The Columbus Crew Stadium match will be the sixth World Cup qualifier hosted by the nine-year-old venue. The U.S. has a 3-0-2 record in qualifying and an unbeaten 4-0-3 all-time record in the stadium. In the first meeting on Feb. 28, 2001 – dubbed the “Guerra Fria (‘Cold War’)” because the game-time temperature topped out at 29 degrees - goals by Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart paced the U.S. to a 2-0 victory. Four years later on Sept. 3, 2005, goals by Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley earned the United States another 2-0 win and officially booked their place in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

The match on Feb. 11 will mark the 55th meeting between the USA and Mexico. The U.S. has dominated the series of late, collecting an 8-0-2 home record against Mexico since 2000. During that span, the USA has netted 17 goals, while Mexico has scored only three on American soil in this decade.

The U.S., along with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Trinidad & Tobago, is competing in the 10-game round-robin format through Oct. 14, 2009, with the top three teams automatically advancing to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The fourth-place team will compete in a two-game playoff to be held Nov. 14/18 against the fifth-place finisher in South American qualifying.

The U.S. Men’s National Team will kick off a busy 2009 schedule when they face Sweden on Saturday, Jan. 24, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Kickoff for the USA’s only tune-up match prior to the start of final round qualifying is set for at 5:30 p.m. PT, and the match will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel and Galavision. Fans can also follow the game live via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.

Donovan Scores in Bayern Friendly Win

Bayern Munich won its second straight winter break friendly last night, beating Al-Wehda 3-1 in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. Making his second appearance for the Bavarian juggernaut, American Landon Donovan came on as a second half replacement for Luca Toni at forward.

Goals by Frank Ribery and Tim Borowski in the first half had the visitors up 2-0 before Al-Wehda's Al-Kuwaikabi made a brilliant carry through the Bayern defense to slot home a 53rd minute goal to make it 2-1.

Both sides produced more scoring chances as Donovan had a few shots go wide in the 50th and 66th minutes. In the 59th minute, he made a dangerous header which glanced off the woodwork. It was not until injury time that Donovan sealed it for Bayern, collecting a high ball 16 meters out with his back to the goal, then quickly turning and firing a hard shot low and left past the keeper for his first goal in a Bayern jersey.

One bit of concern for Bayern was the apparent injury of Mark Van Bommel in last night as he limped off the field with a knee inujury. But, not long after the team landed in Munich this morning, it was confirmed that his injury is not serious and that he'll only miss 3-4 days of training.

Donovan and Bayern will now resume training in icy Bavaria in preparation for their German Cup match against Stuttgart on the 27th, followed by a match at Hamburger SV on the 30th.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ronaldo Named 2008 FIFA World Player of The Year

Tonight at Zurich's Opernhaus, Portugal and Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo was named the FIFA World Player of the Year, beating out Argentina and Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Brazil and AC Milan's Kaka (the 2007 winner), Spain and Liverpool's Fernando Torres, and Spain and Barcelona's Xavi (Euro 2008's Best Player).

As he presented the award, Pele remarked that at last year's ceremony when he handed the award to Kaka, he turned and shook Ronaldo's hand, telling him "next year I'll be handing it to you."

An emotionally charged Ronaldo dedicated the award to his family, his friends, teammates, and all those involved in his career.

Perhaps FIFA was tipping its hand before it made the announcement, having the Zurich Opera perform scenes from Handel's Rinaldo just minutes prior to the final award presentation.

The World's Female Player of the Year was also named; Brazil's Marta, winning for the third year in a row.

The winners of the FIFA Best Player Awards are selected by votes from the captains of all 208 member federations' national teams.

The winners of the 2008 FIFA Fair Play Award were Armenia and Turkey, who overcame years of enmity to play each other three times in 2008, including a September World Cup qualifier attended by both heads of state. These matches set the stage for both sides to begin a reconciliation process which continues to grow.

The FIFA Presidential Award went to the US Women's National Team for their contributions to the popularity and growth of the women's game around the world (not to mention their overflowing trophy case). Heather O'Reilly accepted the award on behalf of the team.

Adebayor Named African Player of The Year

Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor has been named the African Player of the Year.


Benitez Blasts Sir Alex

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez comes out swinging against Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson's record with the officials.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rangers Exec: Edu Has A Future At Ibrox

Its no secret that Rangers, having seen so much of its lineup not available this season due to injury, are looking to sell a few players to produce the cash to buy a healthy new player or two. In the midst of these decisions, DaMarcus Beasley's future remains in question while Maurice Edu's place is looking more secure.

In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, Rangers number two man Ally McCoist found himself being questioned for why newcomer Edu has seldom seen the field at Ibrox. He admitted to SOS's Tom English that "You can argue that we've been a little bit unfair to Maurice. I've been looking at some of the team selections and, I can't speak for the manager, but maybe there have been occasions when we could have and should have used Mo."

The sputtering Rangers have a stacked roster at central midfield with Edu, Steven Davis, Kevin Thompson, Pedro Mendes, and Barry Ferguson (who may soon be sold off).

But even with a roster spot, is Edu still the odd man out? McCoist went on to tell SOS; "He excites me. I like Maurice. He's got just a wee niggling ankle injury that kept him out the last couple of weeks and will do for the next week or 10 days but I'm looking forward to getting him in the team. No element of regret there. You could make a case that it's our fault for not giving him the chance. He'll play for Rangers for years to come,

Bernardo Loan Deal Drawing Closer

SSC Napoli primavera striker Vincenzo Bernardo appears even closer to a loan deal for the second half of the season.

The new twist, as he told LFV, is that instead of possibly going to a Serie C side, there is a good chance the 18 year-old New Jersey native could end up in Serie B.

We'll find out more in the coming weeks as he and his agent consider options, bearing in mind their priority to find a club where he can play every week - but also one which will support any possible callups for US U-20 World Championship qualifiers. Stay tuned.

Speaking of Serie B, American Danny Szetela and his Brescia team were snowed out of their match with Sassuolo which will be rescheduled for January 27th. Brescia has been tinkering with a 4-3-3 formation which may leave Szetela as the odd man out. We'll find out more this weekend in their match against Pisa. Meanwhile, in Serie C action, Gabe Ferrari and his Perugia team will be looking for three points in today's road match at Benevento.

In other news, Carlos Bocanagra went the full 90 for Rennes as they vaulted themselves into second place (at least for today) with a 1-0 home win over upstart Grenoble. Freddy Adu did not dress for AS Monaco's 2-1 loss to FC Nantes. And, rounding out the Americans in southern Europe, Jozy Altidore did not play in Villarreal's 3-3 draw with Valencia. A late penalty by Villarreal's other New Jersey native, Giuseppe Rossi, saved the point for the Yellow Submarine.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Donovan Shows Well In Bayern Debut

American forward Landon Donovan made a strong showing in his debut for Bayern Munich, earning two assists in a friendly against the UAE's Al Jazeera tonight in Abu Dhabi.

On loan from MLS side LA Galaxy, Donovan started up top with Luca Toni and quickly had a few good scoring chances in the 2oth and 25th minutes but was unable to convert either.
The host side did not make it easy, scoring early with a fourth minute Fernando Baino goal to give Al Jazeera the lead 1-0. Donovan worked well on the right setting up Bastain Schweinsteiger for a score to make it 1-1. The home side attacked well again with a good shot from distance by captain Ebrahem Diake but Bayern went on the offensive again. This time, Donovan layed off a gorgeous ball to Christian Lell, who seeming surprised by the service, muffed it wide.

In the second half coach Jurgen Klinsmann replaced nine players but left Donovan on but now playing up top alongside Miroslav Klose. After Donovan was taken down hard 20 meters from goal, Daniel van Buyten converted the resulting free kick in the 47th minute to put Bayern on top 2-1. Yet, the nine new players did not seem to get into much of a rhythm and a poor Van Buyten backpass to keeper Joerg Butt went in for an own goal tying the game at 2:2. Finally Miroslav Klose secured the win for Bayern with an injury time goal to give them a 3-2 win.

After the match, a few German online fan forums also seemed positive on Donovan's performance with comments from Bayern supporters such as "...thank God Donovan is here and Podolski is gone" or "Hoeness sure knows how to find good players."

Donovan's next opportunity to play will be on Monday in a friendly against Al Weda in Saudi Arabia.

Forget Beckham, Watch The Brazilians

It seems much of the English speaking soccer world is working itself up into a lather over whether the ageing David Beckham will play for AC Milan on Sunday against AS Roma. Beckham, on loan from the LA Galaxy, sought out the loan to stay sharp in order to stay in England manager Fabio Capello's future plans.

The real story behind tomorrow's match in the Stadio Olimpico is not Beckham but the chance to see a large portion of the Brazlian national player pool on the field at one time with 13 of them suiting up for the match. Add that to a mix of top talent from Italy and elsewhere and you're in for some attractive attacking soccer. If he sees the field, Becks better have his wheels on, lest he be left in the dust.

On the AC Milan side, you could see Dida in goal, Kaka and Emerson in midfield, with Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato up front in the attack (all served by Italy's "Brazilian" Andrea Pirlo).

With a whopping eight Brazilians in the lineup, AS Roma features an all-Brazilian goalkeeping corps of Doni, Julio Sergio, and Arthur. The defense is anchored by Juan and Cicinho with the recently-recovered Taddei and Filipe in midfield plus possibly Julio Baptista up top at forward.

Both teams need a win as Milan is sitting in third place on 33 points and needs to secure at least an automatic Champions League spot.

10th place Roma, with 23 points, has struggled with consistency this year. Now, with their talisman Francesco Totti out with a hamstring injury for at least the next month, they'll need to dig deep to top Milan tomorrow. The Rossoneri will need to overcome a road losing streak that has not seen them win away from home since a 1-0 win over Atalanta on October 26th.

But Roma is always tough to beat at home, having lost only once this season. Plus, with Milan missing mainstays defender Alessandro Nesta and defensive midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, I've got to give the edge to the Giallarossi.

(Full disclosure: I'm a former resident of a Roma neighborhood in Rome and my friends would beat me senseless if I predicted any other outcome).

Don't have the game on TV? Follow along here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Gooch Transfer Rumor Of The Week

Well Vagabonds, its Friday and what week would be complete without some new wrinkle in the Onyewu transfer saga? Its either that or gratuitous links to Soundgarden videos.

Since the Soundgarden discography is so finite (given that they broke up in 1997), we need to use them more sparingly. So, I guess Gooch transfer rumors will have to do.

This week Belgium's ExtraFoot is reporting that Olympique Marseille thinks the price tag on Oguchi Onyewu and his teammate Milan Jovanovich is too high. My spidey sense tells me that we should not take such reports as the final word but rather as part of the transfer dance between two clubs.


Aaah, why not?

Zizzo: Would "Gladly" Go To Rostock

Germany's national daily Bild is reporting that new Hansa Rostock manager Dieter Eilts still has his eyes on three new players to strengthen the side and Hannover's young American Sal Zizzo is one of them. In previous weeks, reports out of Hannover indicated that the club was not keen on selling the 21 year-old San Diego native.

At the same time, Hansa may be able to take Zizzo on loan since he has primarily seen action with the reserve team this season (11 appearances) while only seeing three first team matches as a substitute in one cup and two league matches.

After making a strong showing at the 2007 U-20 World Championships, Zizzo's European pro career has gone reasonably well but he appears ready to kick it into the next gear. When asked about the potential move, Zizzo told Bild: "I'd gladly go to Rostock."

Eilts appears to have the pedigree to bring Hansa's ship back on course, having previously led Werder Bremen to Bundesliga and German Cup wins.

Podolski To Cologne: New Chance For Donovan?


Reports out of Germany this morning indicate that Bayern Munich is close to sending Lukas Podolski back to his old club, 1st FC Cologne. The five-million euro deal will open the fourth striker space on the Bayern lineup, a space which Donovan will be filling during his loan period.

This long-expected development could open a new opportunity for Donovan to stay in Munich longer, perhaps until the end of the Bundesliga season (if not longer). Bayern had their eyes on Stuttgart's Mario Gomez but then opted for Hamburg's Croat Ivica Olic who will arrive this summer.

Given the constantly clashing personalities at FC Hollywood, there always seems to be a top player asking to transfer out. So, if Donovan fits in and performs well during his loan spell, Bayern may need to make MLS an offer they'll have a hard time refusing.

Donovan is expected to make his debut in the Bayern jersey tomorrow in a friendly against Al Jazeera in Dubai, where the club is conducting its winter training.

In other news from the Bayern training camp, coach Juergen Klinsmann has quelled the rumors that French ace Franck Ribery may be moving by stating to DPA that "he will stay with the club until at least 2011."

Calciopoli Figure Moggi Receives Suspended Sentence

According to various Italian news agencies, former Juventus boss Luciano Moggi, the central figure in the 2006 Calciopoli scandal that rocked Italian soccer, will receive an 18-month suspended sentence. His son Alessandro, who was also involved in the match fixing scheme, received a 14 month suspended sentence.

Moggi allegedly influenced referees and players in the match fixing scandal that saw Juventus stripped of the 2006 Scudetto and relegated while AC Milan Fiorentina were docked points with the Viola, who were never directly linked to the scandal, losing its Champions League spot. The relegation of Juventus led to an exodus of quality players to other teams in Europe.

Of course the paymasters behind the entire scandal appear to have gotten away without a scratch.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bocanegra at Rennes: "A Real Leader"

On Monday, Carlos Bocanegra and his Stade Rennais teammates got off to a good start in 2009 with a 1-0 Coupe de France victory over Sochaux.

The team is currently in third place in Ligue 1 with 34 points, four points behinds leaders Olympique Lyon and one point behind second place Bordeaux.

Reflecting on how the team's new additions have done during the first half of the season, manager Guy LaCombe told the Ouest-France: he saw "a good surprise with Kader Mangane (pictued on the far right) in central defense and as for Carlos Bocanegra, on balance I knew he would fit right in and he's turned out to be a real leader. ”

Bocanegra and the rest of the the Rennes squad will start the chase for the league championship on Saturday at home against FC Nantes. At the same time, Lyon is reportedly interested in acquiring Rennes right back Rod Fanni, who has started every game for the club this season.

When asked about the report, Fanni told the French media: "I've heard talk. Lyon has made contact with my agent. I won't lie, there were discussions but between that and saying I'm on my way… it's way too soon. They simply made enquiries. I would like to stay at Rennes for at least the rest of the season because things are going well here. After that, we'll see."

If the club ends up selling Fanni this summer, they would be wise to consider picking up FC Toronto's Marvell Wynne, whose speed and technical ability would make him a perfect fit.

Photo courtesy of Ouest-France

Everton Eyes Altidore

According to the UK's Sky Sports network, Premiership side Everton is interesting in acquiring Villarreal's American striker Jozy Altidore. Check out the story here.

According to the article, manager David Moyes has no money to so they may have the idea to take him on loan for the second half of the season.

Alas, injury issues at the Yellow Submarine and Altidore's early season form have led the club to spurn the Toffee's offer - for now.

And watch this space because Altidore's growth in Spain is not just being noticed by Everton - FIFA just named him as one of the young players to watch in 2009.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bradley Named To Kicker's Flop List

German soccer weekly Kicker has just put out its annual mid season list of "Tops and Flops" and Borussia Moenchengladbach's Michael Bradley made the list - the wrong one.

The annual list is complied based on interactive results from the magazine's fantasy soccer managerspiel but the results are usually pretty reliable. This week, Bayern Munich's French international Franck Ribery was named the best midfielder in the Bundesliga (the Tops) followed by Bayern Leverkusen's Renato Augusto and Hoffenheim's Sejad Salihovic.

The list of the three most disappointing midfielders (the Flops) was "led" by Hamburg's Jonathan Pitroipa, followed by Roda Antar of 1. FC Köln, and Gladbach's Bradley in third.

Bradley's ranking is largely due to his Kicker rating average of 4.75 (on a scale of 1-6) in 11 league appearances, including a match against Energie Cottbus in which he was given a seldom awarded 6 - the lowest score possible.

In the grand scheme of things, these ratings are basically meaningless since they are highly subjective and have no bearing on what a player is capable of doing in the next match. That said, consistent low ratings can help apply greater public pressure on a player to step up their game.

Over the years, less than half of the Americans playing in the Bundesliga told me they paid attention to the Kicker ratings while the rest said they ignore them altogether. Either way, let's hope Bradley can kick it up a notch this spring and re-capture the mojo he seems to have left in the Eredivisie.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Adu Shines in Monaco-Juventus Friendly

Freddy Adu put in a strong performance for AS Monaco tonight in a friendly match against Juventus, played in Sicily. During the match he showed a few reasons why he deserves a chance in this Saturday's league match against Nantes, including a 13th minute attack in which he beat two defenders and nearly scored.

His pièce de résistance came in the 35th minute when he once again infiltrated the Juventus penalty area but was taken down for a penalty. His Croatian teammate Jerko Leko nailed the penalty shot past Gigi Buffon to give his team the 1-0 lead.

Adu helped to create a few more dangerous chances in the second half before being replaced by youngster Valère Germain in the 68th minute. Juve's Vincenzo Iaquinta saved the home team's honor by brilliantly one-touching a long ball past Yohann Thuram in the 90th minute to make it a 1-1 draw, leading to penalty kicks (for some odd reason). Thuram then redeemed himself by stopping two penalty kicks, giving Monaco the win with a 6-5 advantage.

Elsewhere, American Danny Szetela played 62 minutes at left midfield in Brescia's 2-1win over Monza on Saturday.

Support Our Soccer Brethren: Vote For Ives

OK vagabonds, we're up against the rest of the sporting world in the Best Sports Blog 2008 competition. This year, the beautiful game's entry is LFV friend Ives Galarcep and his blog, Soccer By Ives.

Be sure to vote early and often here, and don't forget to have your friends, friends with benefits, family, girlfriends, wives, husbands, children, cousins, step-brothers, neighbors, plumbers, second-cousins, AYSO pals, co-workers, proctologists, podiatrists, massage therapists, bartenders, congressmen, tree surgeons, IT help desk people, and cable guy vote as well.

Good Luck Ives!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Onyewu To PSG In June?

As the long-running Oguchi Onyewu transfer saga becomes closer to achieving War and Peace epic status, the strongest links remain with French clubs. We've all seen recent statements from Standard Liege that he is not for sale this winter and after the club just pocketed 20 million euros to send Maroune Fellaini to Everton and appears set to make another 10-12 million euros in selling Milan Jovanovich, who can blame them?

As we've mentioned earlier, Marseille's defensive needs are immediate and they are looking for a fix in January to battle for a Champion's League spot. They've got their eyes on Fiorentina's Da Costa but may not be able to outbid his other suitor, Juventus. So, if Standard is unwilling to sell Onyewu now, L'OM may need to look elsewhere.

But Paris Saint-Germain seems a bit more patient and may be willing to wait until the summer to acquire the American defender. Some observers in Paris seem to think this may be the case but again, its all speculation until a deal is done.

My spidey sense tells me its a June move to either PSG or L'OM unless an English team (Fulham?) swoops in with an offer. Both one English observer and the always reliable Matthias Seidel estimate Onyewu's transfer value at circa 4 million euros ($5 million).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Arguez, Three Others Sent Home From US U-20 Camp

Steven Goff and others are reporting that Hertha Berlin's Bryan Arguez and three other unidentified players were sent home from the recent US U-20 camp, reportedly for disciplinary reasons. For Arguez in particular, it confirms a pattern of disciplinary problems which began early in his tenure at Hertha; missing practice and showing up late for practice - unpardonable sins when you are being paid to play. The press in Berlin is already lambasting Arguez for being tossed out of the US camp and wondering aloud when his club will do the same.

Last summer, Arguez had been whispered as a strong possibility to seee significant playing time for the high flying Hertha this year before disciplinary issues put the rangy midfielder into coach Lucien Favre's doghouse. Since then, he's made only one appearance with little hope of seeing the field in anything but a reserve team match. Still, he is young (20 years-old), loaded with talent, and has a chance to redeem himself if he can cease this pattern of standing out for all the wrong reasons.

Its not clear yet who the other three players are but according to Goff, they'll all be eligible to return to the next U-20 camp. I hesitate to speculate on who they may be but the truth will come out eventually.

One thing these young players will learn quickly is that while clubs enjoy the honor of their players being called up for national team duty, they are not amused when those same players are sent home under such circumstances. There will be some awkward moments for each of them as they return to their club team's training camps over the next few weeks.

While many players are ready to play at the next level, not all are ready for the level of scrutiny and professional standards which are expected by coaches and team management. I'm glad that U-20 coach Thomas Rongen is putting the hammer down now, six months before the world championships, rather than trying to correct disciplinary problems in the coming months.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year Vagabonds!

Happy New Year to all of our readers wherever you are; from Dubai to New Jersey and from Korea to Texas - thanks for stopping by this year.

2009 should be an exciting year and here is just a bit of what we can look forward to:

- The USA taking on Sweden on January 24th
- Gooch perhaps finally making the jump to a new club
- Players like Marvell Wynne and Sacha Kljestan possibly moving across the pond
- Vincenzo Bernardo and Jozy Altidore possibly being loaned out
- Young Giuseppe Nazzani getting a chance with Bologna's first team
- The Confederations Cup and U-20 World Championships
- Seeing if Clint Dempsey can keep his hot touch into the spring
- Waiting for Freddy Adu to establish himself as a first team player at Monaco
- Michael Bradley finding his stride and tearing his way through the Bundesliga
- Carlos Bocanegra continuing his strong play at Rennes and earning a CL spot
- Danny Szetela continuing his solid left midfield play at Brescia - with few at home noticing
- Seeing if Landon Donovan can prove that he can hang with the big boys every week
- Whether DaMarcus Beasley heads home to play in MLS or finds a new European club
- Watching Maurice Edu assert himself as a key player in Rangers' title run
- Watching Bruce Arena turn the LA Galaxy into a winner
- Watching juggernaut Barcelona dominate La Liga all the way to the title
- Seeing if TSG Hoffenheim can keep the dream alive and win the Bundesliga championship
- Seeing if anyone can challenge Olympique Lyon's dominance of Ligue 1
- Whether Cristiano Ronaldo can avoid the burnout syndrome that comes with being the world's hottest player
- Wondering when Brad Friedel is finally recognized as one of the best keepers in Europe
- Whether Steven Gerard goes to jail for some recent brawling (doubtful)
- Whether Juventus can catch Inter from running away with another Scuddetto
- Whether Real Madrid qualifies for a UEFA Cup spot, much less a CL one
- Whether Fiorentina sells all of its talent (again) or makes a run for the top three
- Seeing how far Edy Reja can take his bargain-basement priced Napoli team...all the way to the Champion's League?
- Seeing how far AS Roma will continue to slide, especially now that Francesco Totti is injured
- Watching and enjoying how well Seattle (a great soccer town) supports the return of the Sounders
- Wondering when the scary young talent on the Argentina side starts to gel into a world-beater


Here are some fun highlights from 2008 which we hope you'll enjoy:

Best Goals:


Best Keepers:


Best Skills:


Flops and Follies (Multisport):