Friday, September 3

Guatemala: Referee Batres Retires; Heredia Coach Out

Longtime FIFA referee Carlos Batres announced his retirement the day after officiating the SuperLiga championship match, his second, in Foxboro Wednesday evening. An international official since 1996, the 42-year-old Guatemalan refereed three matches at the recent World Cup in South Africa, including the Paraguay-Span quarterfinal match.

His career off the pitch began with immediacy with his appointment to the CONCACAF Referee Committee Confederation by CONCACAF President Jack Warner. Batres will remain in the post until the term of his predecessor, Carlos Ortiz, concludes. The position was vacant due to Ortiz’s death in January.

The two-time World Cup official (2002, 2010) also served in numerous other international tournaments, including the Gold Cup , CONCACAF Champions League/Cup, Pan American Games, Confederations Cup and the Olympics during his career.

His first career international match was October 27, 1996. It was a qualification match between Canada and Panama for the 1998 World Cup.

"He is definitely one of our most accomplished and decorated referees," CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer said in a statement. "We look forward to him becoming integrally involved in our referee development programs."

A narrow 1-0 loss to league-leading Comunicaciones proved semi-costly for Heredia coach Juan Carlos Elijah, who was released from his contract by the club following a post-game meeting with the club management.

Currently sitting ninth with a 2-2-3 record in the league, the club has gone winless in their last three following a pair of home victories. The team has registered just two goals in the past three games, two matches of which were at home.

His departure was not unexpected, although the circumstances were different. Elijah had indicated several weeks ago that he was considering resigning from the club. The Argentine’s father was very ill and he was contemplating returning home, without a scheduled return, to be at his father’s side.

Replacing Elijah will be Chilean Sergio Pardo.

Thursday, September 2

Coming Up Around CONCACAF

Despite the break in Champions League play, it was a busy time around CONCACAF midweek as the US Open Cup determined its finalists Wednesday, SuperLiga crowned a champion and Guatemala played a full slate of contests. The upcoming weekend, however, is another story as many leagues will see minimal to no action due to the international FIFA break.

The higher-ranked clubs in the TSB Pro Power Rankings held form Wednesday night in three big North American cup matches as the Columbus Crew (12) came from behind to defeat host DC United (59) in overtime, 2-1 while the defending tournament champion Seattle Sounders (26) booked a return trip to the US Open Cup Final with a 3-1 victory at home against Chivas USA (39). Morelia (7) locked up the first championship of the region for the 2010-11 calendar by capturing the SuperLiga title in Foxboro, 2-1, against the New England Revolution (42).

In Guatemala, the three top clubs all picked up positive results with Municipal, Juventud Retalteca and the lone unbeaten Comunicaciones all now sitting level with 13 points through seven games. Another midweek match features Puerto Rico and Portland squaring off tonight in USSF Division-2.

With only one match in Mexico this weekend, the marquee match-ups of the weekend are a pair of MLS contests in which four of the top 13 clubs in the TSB Power Rankings will square off Saturday. Toronto FC (13) travels to Dallas (3) to face one of the hottest clubs in the league while the defending league champion Real Salt Lake (4) plays host to the New York Red Bulls (8).

Wednesday, September 1

Power Rankings: Cruz Azul Climbs to the Top

The top six positions in The Soccer Barn’s CONCACAF Pro Club Power Rankings jumbled quite a bit over the past week between domestic and Champions League results. CCL action also saw some big moves further down the list. The USL-2 Championship leaves the ranking of the clubs in the US third flight at the mercy of those around them until next spring.

The US Open Cup Final Four, set to play tonight, features clubs ranging from 12 to 59 in the rankings. DC United (59) hosts Columbus (12) and Chivas USA (39) heads north to play the Seattle Sounders (26). Meanwhile, in tonight’s SuperLiga Final, the New England Revolution (42) have a shot at climbing quickly with a positive result against Morelia (7).

In the rankings, Cruz Azul moved into the top spot, edging out Santos Laguna. Both clubs were one-goal winners in the Champions League at home versus MLS clubs, but Cruz Azul’s league contest was a 3-2 victory over Tigres, who sat at number four on the list last week while Santos Laguna handily defeated winless Atlas, 3-1. Monterrey’s 1-1 draw against winless Jaguares saw them drop from the top spot to seventh.

One of the bigger mover in the rankings this week was Panama’s Arabe Unido, which rose over 20 spots from 53 to 30 courtesy of a league win and a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC. Saprissa of Costa Rica also made a significant jump with a 3-2 league win against Brujas and a stunning 4-1 victory over Marathon in the Champions League, moving from 74 to 52 after a slow start to the season.

USL-2 Finalists saw very little movement due to the tight nature of the contest that finished in favor of higher-ranked regular season champion Charleston Batttery, which rose just one spot on the list to 51. Runners-up Richmond Kickers dropped four spots as other clubs surpassed them on the list with victories on the weekend.

Busy News Day in Costa Rica

While a postponed match from Monday garnered a lot of attention Tuesday, so did two other significant stories as Perez Zeledon named a new head coach and the federation announced the support of a World Cup preparation plan.

Perez Zeledon, currently sitting in last place in their group and second to last overall in the Costa Rica Primera Division with a 1-1-4 record, named Argentine Marcelo Herrera as the new man in charge. Set to arrive next week, Herrera is an interesting choice for the position, joining the club after a previously unsuccessful run with powerhouse Alajuelense.

A former five-time champion, two domestic and three international, with Velez Sarsfield in the 1990’s, Herrera worked as an assistant manager with his former club in 2007 before moving on to his first stint as a head coach with Alajuelense, which was undergoing a roster overhaul at the time and experienced a poor season under his command. His professional playing career began in 1992 and ended in 2001. In addition to playing for Velez Sarsfield, he spent time with four other Argentine sides and the Miami Fusion of MLS in 1998 - his only foreign assignment.

Interim coach Alexander Madrigal will guide the club once again for the upcoming match this weekend.

The leadership of the league, meanwhile, met with the President of the Federation along with several other key executives from all its member clubs and applicable organizations to formalize and sign an agreement that calls for a plan of cooperation between the league and the federation in raising the quality of the national team in working toward the 2014 World Cup.

The vote passed with a majority although notably missing the approval of powers Saprissa and Alajuelense, along with Puntarenas.

Central America Round-Up

It was a big week of news in El Salvador. Isidro Metapan’s impressive unbeaten streaks in El Salvador came to an end as mid-table Once Municpal registered a surprise 2-1 win that ended a 14-game unbeaten run (7-7-0) and a 13-game home unbeaten streak (6-7-0) for the reigning champions. The other major story was the retirement of Miseal Alfaro, who announced his 23-year career was at an end with his retirement due to life-threatening neck injuries. The Metapan goalkeeper, who has 42 caps for El Salvador, played for numerous clubs domestically, winning four titles while playing for Firpo.

Muddy Salvadoran pitch -
Referees were a huge topic as well with games in El Salvador and Costa Rica marred by allegations against officials. In El Salvador, the match involving Universidad de El Salvador was officiated by a student from the university, sparking accusations of bias and conflict of interest. A match in Costa Rica saw five players sent off in a scoreless affair.

The constant rain over the past few weeks have resulted in many games being played on drenched pitches throughout Central America. The home of El Salvador’s Vista Hermosa became a casualty Saturday as the game was postponed due to the poor conditions of the field, 80 percent of which was damaged to the point of being mud. The contest has been delayed indefinitely. Club officials took some of the blame for allowing the field to be cut the day prior to the game, making the conditions worse. With other fields in the area in similar condition, Costa Rica’s Primera Division saw Monday’s contest at the University of Costa Rica delayed a day due to field conditions as well. Numerous others were played under muddy conditions or with standing water on the pitch.

Tuesday, August 31

North America Round-Up

A week after winning three of four contests in the CONCACAF Champions League, Major League Soccer clubs found themselves falling in all four matches in the second round of group play. Three of the four losses were at the hands of Mexican sides, which were a perfect 4-0-0. North American league-based Puerto Rico rounded out the results with a victory as well. While MLS clubs were looking to rebound on the weekend, the match of the week was the first professional championship of the season as USL-2 came to a close in Charleston with the Battery playing host to the long-time rival Richmond Kickers.

USL Second Division Championship

Richmond Kickers 1-2 Charleston Battery

The regular season champion Charleston Battery posted and early goal and held on despite playing with 10 men to win the league championship, its third USL title, against Richmond Saturday. A shot from Ian Fuller in the 26th found the feet of teammate Tom Heinemann deep in the box, where he slid it off to USL-2 MVP Lamar Neagle for the opening tally. Four minutes later Colin Falvey was sent of for denying a goal scoring opportunity, taking down Richmond striker Matthew Delicate, who was charging toward goal uncontested.

The Battery, however, handled the adversity well and were able to double the lead in the 52nd minute on a throw-in. Mike Zaher sent the ball to Heinemann, who flicked it on to Ian Fuller. The veteran spun to strike a volley for a huge 2-0 advantage. In the 70th minute a fantastic cross from Sascha Gorres was fired home by Edson Elcock at the back post to pull within one. Fuller again played the hero in stoppage time, heading a Delicate strike off the line to preserve the win. Full Report [+]