Sunday, July 31, 2011

Man U Over Barca in DC

Yesterday the largest crowd in Washington-area history to ever attend a soccer match, were on hand at Fedex Field in Landover Maryland to watch FC Barcelona take on Mancheter United in a pre-season rematch of lat years Champion's League final in Wembley Stadium in London.  Wearing their new all-black away kits-- which strongly resemble DC United's home kit-- Barca played without the talents of several key players, most notably Lionel Messi. 

As reported by the Associated Press:

"Michael Owen scored on a counterattack in the 76th minute to give Manchester United a 2-1 victory over FC Barcelona on Saturday night.

Nani also scored early for United, which exacted a measure of revenge in a preseason exhibition that doubled as a rematch of Barcelona's 3-1 victory in last May's Champions League final.

Thiago tied it for Barcelona in front of 81,807 at FedEx Field, the largest soccer crowd in Washington-area history.

Tom Cleverley set up Owen's goal, stealing Sergio Busquets' pass in midfield, streaking toward goal, and then slipping a pass to Owen just in time to keep the forward onside.

Owen chipped the ball over Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who had rushed out to close the angle.
After a sluggish first half, Barcelona dominated the second until Owen's goal.

Thiago gave the defending Spanish league champions a deserved tying goal in the 70th minute, blasting a shot into the top right corner from about 23 yards out.

Nani put United, last year's Premier League winners, ahead on a similar goal to Owen's. Danny Welbeck collected the ball in midfield, charged forward, and then found Nani alone, who drove a low finish past Valdes in the 22nd minute.

Friendly or not, the rematch had a big-time atmosphere, complete with a halftime appearance from Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

Thousands of fans arrived several hours before kickoff, turning parking lots into a swirling mass of maroon and blue, red and black.

Barcelona's fans were in the majority, chanting "Barca! Barca! Barca!" as early as 45 minutes before kickoff, chants which eventually echoed throughout the stadium during the match's early stages."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Klinsmann Gets The Job!

From the Associated Press:

Now that the United States Soccer Federation's (USFF) perennial coach-in-waiting finally has the job, Juergen Klinsmann (picture) will be expected to kick-start a stagnant men's national team.

The USSF hired Klinsmann on Friday (yesterday morning, Singapore time) a day after firing Bob Bradley.

The US almost hired the former German star striker and coach of the national team twice - first after the 2006 World Cup and again last year, before giving Bradley a contract extension which turned out to be short-lived.

Klinsmann's first game as US coach will be on Aug 10, against arch-rivals Mexico in an exhibition in Philadelphia.

Qualifying games for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins next June.

Former US defender Alexi Lalas, who worked alongside Klinsmann for ESPN at last year's World Cup, expects him to inject energy but insisted that he was not a miracle worker.

"It's not as if all of sudden, because Juergen Klinsmann is coach, that we're going to have an American Lionel Messi drop into our laps," Lalas said.

Klinsmann and his wife, Debbie, live in California with their two children, Jonathan and Laila.

"His greatest weapon is the fact that he understands the American people more than any other foreign coach possibly could," former US star Eric Wynalda said. "If you're going to make the move, he's the perfect choice."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bradley Out! Klinsmann In?

Yesterday the USSF announced that US National Team Coach Bob Bradley was being dismissed as coach of the team.  So ends one of the more curious tenures of any coach of the national team.  As any fair-minded person can see, Bradley's tenure was far from a disaster-- under him the team won its group in the last World Cup, and his cumulative record during his tenure was 43-25-12-- not a bad effort at all.

And yet, it is also true that under him the team tended to fall behind in key games, and despite some key wins over Spain and Brazil early in his tenure, the team was also recently trounced by both Spain and a rising and dangerous young Mexican team.  It's clear that there is an offensive spark missing, and Bradley's cool and somewhat distant demeanor seems too detached from these challenges.

So, I think this was the right call.  And now, the name on everyone's lips is--once again-- Jurgen Klinsmann.  It's no secret that USSF boss Sunil Gulati has wanted Klinsmann all along, and now he will probably get his wish.  Although Klinsmann does not have Bradley's coaching experience, he does having something that Bradley does not-- first-hand experience of European football, and the mindset of championship sides like Germany.  And I think that is what is missing.  When he was the boss of the German national team, Klinsmann made the team engage in team-building exercises devised by the Japanese.  Given the recent success of the Japanese Women's team, maybe there is something to that. 

Klinsmann's philosophy is based on team camaraderie, attacking, and physical fitness.  I don't know how fit or cohesive the team is right now, but it's clear they need Klinsmann's attacking philosophy on the pitch.  That alone makes him the right man for the job.

As has commented,

"Truth be told, Klinsmann is a bit of an oddball. What other coach takes time to speak with groundspeople at games, comes to training sessions for teams he isn't in charge of, just to check out techniques and new approaches, and not only champions yoga as a way to help players prevent injuries, but joins in the sessions?"

Jurgen Klinsmann, the team-building, yoga-practicing philosopher of attacking football, looks like just the right ticket for the team.  If he gets the job and starts winning, he will surely be a strong candidate for the honored title of 'Jedi Knight of Football," bestowed only upon the most worthy players and sides here at Jedi Soccer.

Monday, July 25, 2011

DC United Loses to Everton

From the DC United website:

"It’s never easy to overcome a slow start in MLS, going down two goals early in the first half. Try doing it against an English Premier League side.

D.C. United were unable to accomplish that Saturday night against Everton, as the home side conceded two goals within the game’s first 20 minutes in a 3-1 loss.

“We can’t put ourselves behind 2-0 to a good team,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “Can’t do that in MLS, can’t do that against an EPL team. You’re chasing the game the whole time.”

Despite it being a friendly match with no bearing on the standings, the first 45 minutes were displeasing to DC head coach Ben Olsen.

“First half I was extremely disappointed in several players that just didn’t that you don’t just walk onto a field, any field and play 60-70 percent,” he said. “I know it’s been a long week and maybe I’m making too much of this, because it is a friendly, but it just wasn’t good enough for me.”

Sloppy defending was at fault on Everton’s early goals. In the fourth minute, Brandon McDonald couldn’t keep up with Everton striker Victor Anichebe, who ran in behind DC’s back line.

Just 12 minutes later, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov beat the offside trap, collected a through-ball and beat goalie Bill Hamid.  

After the break things improved as United made several substitutions. Regulars Perry KitchenChris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario joined the fray, and Olsen noticed an improvement.

“Second half I thought was good,” he said. “I thought Pontius and Kitchen both came in and gave us the right mentality.”

They were rewarded with a goal two minutes into the half after De Rosario found Pontius with a long ball over Everton’s back line.

That was all the scoring DC would see despite creating numerous chances. The final whistle brought disappointed, but DC managed to also emerge from the game without sustaining major injuries, and will get some time to rest and regroup."

Friday, July 22, 2011

United and Strikers Both Lose

What does mediocrity look like in print?  When you can 'spin' a club's recent performance one of two ways:  "United is unbeated in it's last five!"  But also, "United has won only one match in their last five."  And oddly, the same also pretty much applies to the NASL Strikers, too-- a team with more draws than either wins or losses.  I am sad to admit it, but both of my favorite American teams-- DC United and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers-- are merely mediocre.

As reported on DC United's website:  "For D.C. United, the chances came early and often against a beleaguered New England Revolution side. A combination of poor finishing — including a missed penalty kick by striker Charlie Davies in the 44th minute — and a strong performance from Revs ‘keeper Matt Reis let all those chances go begging, however, as the Black and Red fell 1-0 at RFK."

And as reported on the Strikers website:  "The Fort Lauderdale Strikers lost by a final of 3-1 against the second-place Puerto Rico Islanders, 8-5-4 (W-T-L), dropping their record to 3-9-5 (W-T-L) on the season. The Strikers took the lead on an own-goal by the Islanders, but gave up three unanswered goals in the loss." 

The only really noteworthy news in either match, was that the Strikers Eduardo Coudet was sent off for physically challenging the Referre for awarding a Penatly Kick to the Islanders, and the NASL disciplinary committee has tacked an additonal five game suspension on top of that, for the physical contact.

So, all in all, the mid-week news in the land of Jedi Soccer is not good.  But there is still enough time in the season to right the ship and salvage some dignity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

League and Team Update

Now that the thrilling Women's World Cup is over, its time to re-focus on the three professional American soccer leagues.  While we've been away cheering on the American Women's Team, changes in the league standings of the three leagues have taken place.

In the MLS, our beloved DC United have fallen to a pitiful 6th place in the Eastern Conference while attention was focused on the WWC, despite being unbeaten in their last five games.  That's soccer for you-- sometimes you do everything right, and still you lose or fall in the standings, as so poignantly displayed by the US Women's National Soccer team.  DC United's next match is tonight against the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium. 

In the NASL, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers are likewise in 6th place in the eight team league, desparately trying to stay out of the bottom two so as to make the playoffs.  The Strikers are also playing tonight, at 8 pm against the second-place Puerto Rico Islanders at the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel in PR.  This is their fourth and final match agasint the Islanders this season, coming off yet another a tie last Wednesday against the 7th-place yet MLS-bound Montreal Impact.  With a 3-9-4 season record, the Strikers have more tied matches this season than any other NASL side.

Finally, in the USL-PRO league, the Charletson Battery is in a respectable 3rd place in the American Division.  Their next match is on Saturday July 23d agaisnt the Dayton Dutch Lions at the Miami Valley South Stadium.  The Battery is thus currently the best positoned of any of the Jedi Soccer sides this blog site follows, to actually challenge for a championship.  The Battery is also scheduled to play an international exhibition match against Portsmouth FC, a former English Premier League side that was relegated to the second division after the 2009-2010 season, next Wednesday July 27 at Blackbaud Stadium.

For DC United and the Strikers, the objective is simply to avoid elimination and make it into the playoffs.  For the Batter, there is still a shot at taking their Divisonal Championship.  Go Jedi Soccer!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Japan Wins World Cup !

Yesterday in Frankfurt German the US National Women's Soccer team well and truly lost the World Cup to sentimental favorite Japan, squandering numerous scoring opportuinities and finally failing to convert three penalty kicks in the dreaded PK 'shootout' to decide the winner after two periods of overtime.

The first half totally belonged to the United States, who dominated both possession and shots on goal, 12 - 5 in the first half and 24-16 overall.  The American women pounded shots off the cross bar, the side posts, and sent shots wide left, wide right, and over the goal.  Despite their many chances they could not score in the first half.

In the second half, US substitute Alex Morgan finally scored for the Americans in the 68' minute of play with a powerful shot for 20 yards out, giving the Americans a 1 goal lead.  But just 12 minutes later, Aya Miyama scored for Japan to equalize after punching in a loose ball in a melee in front of the American goal, and Japan was back in the game., sending the match into overtime.

Then, in overtime the US again took the lead in the 104th minute off a scintillating header from Abby Wambach, and again the American's seemed poised to finish the match.  But 12 minutes later Japanese striker Howare Sawa scored in the 116th minute to equalize for the second time, and the match went into Penalty Kicks to decide the World Champion.

And then the wheels fell off for the American women.  Shannon Boxx had her shot blocked by Japaense Keeper Ayumi Kalhori; Carli Lloyd sailed her shot over the crossbar; and then Kalhori saved a second shot by Tobin Heath.  Only Abby Wambach made her shot, and it wasn't enough, as Japan won the match on PK's to win the first FIFA World Cup Championship for any Asian nation.

This match was the first time that the Japanese women had ever defeated the US women in international play.  Their record against the US is now 1 - 3 - 22... and one world championship.

Despite the heartbreak, the American women have comported themselves with great dignity, congratulating Japan and even expressing a kind of backhanded satisfaction that it was the Japanese who defeated them.  After the match, US goalkeeper Hope Solo said, "I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for this team.  As much as I've always wanted this, if there were any other team I could give this to it would have to be Japan. I'm happy for them and they do deserve it."

Indeed.  It is clear that the US was not defeated, so much as they failed to win.  With so many scoring chances missed, and a final shot count that heavily favored the US, they have no one to blame but themselves.

So congratulations Nadeshiko Japan!  Japan's 'Beautiful Flowers' have delivered a major world championship to earthquake-and-tsunami ravaged Japan.  Perhaps they really did need this more than the Americans did, and the advent of a new world champion instead of a three-peat for the US, can only signify good things for women's soccer worldwide.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

US Women to Cup Final!

With a resounding 3 - 1 vicvtory over a very competent French women's team, today the US Women's National Soccer Team advanced to the Women's World Cup Final for the first time since 1999.  As reported in The Seattle Times,

"The United States is in the World Cup final for the first time since it last won the title in 1999, and once again, it was Abby Wambach coming up big in a 3-1 victory over France.

Wambach broke a tense tie in the 79th minute Wednesday with a monstrous header - what else? - off of a Lauren Cheney corner kick. Cheney delivered the ball perfectly to the far post, and the 5-foot-11 forward soared over the scrum and pushed the ball past French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz. Wambach let out a scream and did a sliding sprint into the corner, where she was mobbed by her teammates.

It was Wambach's third goal of the tournament and 12th of her career, tying fellow American Michelle Akers for third on the all-time World Cup scoring list.

Alex Morgan added an insurance goal in the 82nd, the first for the World Cup rookie. When the final whistle sounded, the Americans rushed onto the field. Wambach found U.S. coach Pia Sundhage and gave her a bearhug as the pro-American crowd of 25,676 serenaded the team with chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

"Abby, she's just the best," Sundhage said. "I'm very happy to have her in our team. Great."

Despite the loss, the World Cup was a resounding success for the French, who made their first appearance in the semifinals and qualified for next summer's London Olympics...

Though the Americans are two-time World Cup champions, they haven't made the final since Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain won it all in 1999. This American team will now play either Japan or Sweden in Sunday's final in Frankfurt."

This fan of The Beautiful Game is very happy to see our fantastic American women's team in the Final.  Go USA!

Monday, July 11, 2011

US Women Win Epic Match

From Huffington Post Sports:

DRESDEN, Germany -- The Americans are moving on to the semifinals after one of the most riveting games in the history of the Women's World Cup - beating Brazil 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie.
Abby Wambach tied it with a magnificent, leaping header in the 122nd minute, and goalkeeper Hope Solo denied the Brazilians again.

"We believe we can win this tournament," Wambach said. "I don't know if you can write a better script."

For Brazil, it is yet another disappointment at a major tournament. And this one is sure to sting more than any others because Marta had it won for the Brazilians on Sunday, scoring her second goal of the game in the second minute of overtime for the 2-1 lead that would have sent the Americans to their earliest exit ever. But Erika stalled when she went down on a tackle, and the delay added three minutes of stoppage time to the game.

That was all the time Wambach and the Americans needed, after pushing themselves to limit while playing a woman short from the 66th minute on.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Megan Rapinoe sent a blast of a cross from the left side that Andreia didn't come close to getting her hands on. Wambach, one of the best players in the world in the air, made contact and with one furious whip of her head, buried it in the near side of the net.

Wambach let out a primal scream and slid into the corner, pumping her fists, quickly being mobbed by her teammates. It was the latest goal in World Cup history...

The Americans, shooting first, made their three penalty kicks only to have Cristiane and Marta easily match them. But then it was Daiane's turn - the same Daiane who'd given the U.S. a 1-0 lead with an own goal in the second minute of the game. She took a hard shot, but Solo stretched out and batted it away.

Though the U.S. still had to make two more, the celebration was already starting. After Rapinoe smoked the net with a blast and Ali Krieger converted hers, the Americans raced onto the field, their joy only matched by that of the pro-American crowd of 25,598. Wambach tackled Solo and U.S. coach Pia Sundhage even broke out her air guitar when AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" began to play.

Shake the tournament, the Americans did. The win came exactly 12 years after the Americans won a penalty-kick shootout against China to win the title at the Rose Bowl.

The U.S. moves on to Wednesday's semifinals to play France, which eliminated England on penalty kicks Saturday."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

US Women Fall to Sweden

Last night the US National Women's Soccer Team was literally out-muscled on the pitch by a physical Swedish side that sucessfully took the American women out of their passing game, leading to a 1 - 2 loss for the Americans.  The physicality of the Swedes kept the American's from playing the passing style of attacking that they have adopted under coach Pia Sundhage, leading the American women to revert to the long-ball-over-the-midfield style that Coach Sundhage has tried to change.  It didn't work.

As reported on Fox Sports,

"Needing only a tie to win its group and the chance for a quarter-final matchup with a far less frightening Australian team, the Americans played a sloppy and disorganized first half and gave a disciplined Swedish side a lead it would not relinquish.  Sweden notched its two first-half goals on a penalty kick and a deflected free kick, giving the Swedes a 2-0 lead at halftime.

American striker Abby Wambach deflected in a corner kick with her shoulder in the 66th minute to halve the lead, but the US comeback ended there. 

Wednesday's loss sends the US to Dresden Sunday for the match against Brazil, which features the five-time world player of the year, Marta."  Widely acknowledged as the best female player in the world at the moment, Marta and her teamates also carry  the weight of Brazil's tremendous legacy of football succes into the match.  It will be a dangerous match for the American women, but despite this Coach Sunhage has publicly stated, "We're going to play in the final."  It was an incredibly bold statement for Pia Sundhage to make, but if the US gets past Brazil and makes it to the final, she will look like a football prophetess.
Let's hope the prophecy comes true.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

US Women Will Play Sweden

On Satrurday July 2, the US National Women's soccer team defeated Columbia in their second World Cup match 3 - 0, giving them a commanding position in Group 'C' and bringing them to their final group match against the powerful Swedish womens team.  Goals in the 12th minute by Heather O'Reilly, Megan Rapinoe in the 50th minute, and Carli Lloyd in the 57th minute were enough to overwhelm the Columbian women, giving the American side the victory.

According to,

"The U.S. has been the best team in Group C so far, outscoring its opponents 5-0 and firing the most shots of any team in the tournament with 46. Sweden, the fifth-ranked team in the world, has been the second best as it also had two shutout wins over North Korea and Colombia.

The U.S. and Sweden have already advanced to the quarterfinals but they are battling for first place in their group. The Americans need a win or a draw to finish first, while the Swedes need a win due to the fact that the U.S. has the advantage in goal differential, which is the tie-breaker to determine placement in group play.

If the U.S. wins or draws, it will travel to Augsburg to face the second-place team in Group D. With a loss, it  would travel back to Dresden for a matchup against the winner of Group D, which will likely be Brazil. Norway and Australia are playing for second place in Group D on Wednesday."

Sweden will be playing without team captain Caroline Seger, who is suspended for one game due to the two yellow cards she accrued in Sweden's victories over North Korea and Columbia.  The American women should thus have a good chance to win this match and advance in the tournament, barring a defensive meltdown or a heroic performance by the Swedish women.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strikers Crushed by Tampa

Yesterday the Florida Derby between FC Tampa Bay and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers was renewed in front of a crowd of 4,248 Fourth of July spectators at Al Lang field in St. Petersburg Florida, who witnessed a resounding 4-2 victory for 'the-team-that-should-be-called-the-Rowdies' over their historic in-state rivals.  It was the Strikers first loss in the last seven outings.

Tampa scored first in the 15th minute, when Millien headed in a corner kick from Andres Arango.  Before the Strikers could respond, the match was suspended in the 31st minute due to lightning in the Tampa area; but after a 59 minute dealy, play was resumed, and the Strikers scored in the 39th minute from a Penatly Kick by Eduardo 'Chaco' Coudet-- his sixth goal of the season-- after a handball in the box by Tampa's Kwame Watson-Siriboe.  Thus the first half ended in a 1 - 1 tie.

The second half’s first goal came at the 55 minute mark when FC Tampa Bay’s Pascal Millien took a pass from Tsuyoshi Yoshitake and slotted home a left-footed shot past Glaeser to put Tampa Bay up 2-1.  Then, FC Tampa Bay threatened to put the game out of reach when Pascal Millien drove in on net and connected with Aaron King for Tampa Bay’s third goal in the 63rd minute.  It was beginning to look like a rout; but in the 68th minute the Strikers Eduardo Coudet found a streaking Mike Palacio who dribbled past two Tampa Bay defenders and scored from just outside the 18-yard-box to make the score 3-2 and bring the Strikers to within a goal.

Unfortunately, that was the last goal of the night for the Strikers.  In the 71st minute, a pass from Pascal Millien found Mike Ambersley, who scored Tampa Bay’s fourth goal of the night and his seventh of the year.  And that was the match, with the Rowdies crushing the Strikers 4-2 at home in the second meeting of the Florida Derby this year.

The Strikers are now tied with FC Tampa Bay at 17 points on the season, and are tied for fifth place in the NASL standings.  Going back to the original series between the Strikers and the Rowdies of the old NASL, these two teams have played 24 times.  Tampa Bay leads the series by one match, 12 wins and one tie, to Fort Lauderdale's record of 11 wins and a tie.  The Strikers return home to Lockhart Stadium on Saturday against the horribly-named Atlanta Silverbacks.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Florida Derby Resumes

This past Wednesday night, the Fort ALauderdale Strikers finally resumed their old rivaly with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, AKA 'Tampa Bay FC.'  In a strange but exciting match which saw Fort lauderdale outshoot their cross-state rivals 24-7, the Strikers dominated play from the opening wistle, and yet had great difficulty finishing with a goal.  In the 68th minute the Strikers botched a corner kick that allowed Rowdies defenseman Tsuyoshi Yoshitake to send a long ball downfield to the streaking Mike Ambersley, who  calmly put in the ball into the net for his sixth goal of the season.  At that point, despite having dominated the match, the Strikers seemed to be on the verge of losing the Florida Derby.

Fortunately for Fort Lauderdale, in the 90th minute of play Eduardo 'Chaco' Coudet came up big for the Strikers.  A beautifully struck free kick from 25 yards out just glanced the hands of Tampa goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, giving the Strikers the equalizer that ended the match.  Despite the tied score, the Strikers have managed to go undefeated in their last seven outings, although many of those outcomes have also been ties.

And so the Florida Derby is back!  The Strikers now take the Derby to Tampa Bay on the Fourth of July for a re-match with their cross-state rivals, before returning on the 9th to Lockhart Stadium against the dreadfully-named Atlanta Silverbacks.