Saturday, April 7

Riverhounds edge Antigua in USL Pro opener

Byers denied by Gilstrap and the post in loss
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds picked up a road victory, 1-0, at Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Opening Night for USL Pro on Friday.

Goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap was key in the victory, stopping a Peter Byers penalty kick for the Barracudas in the 35th minute when Sterling Flunder handled the ball.

Four minutes before the break, the Riverhounds capitalized on a corner when Mike Seth put it past goalkeeper Molvin James for what stood as the winner.

Byers was denied again just before the break with a hard shot ringing off the post.

Stories Of the Day: Dark Clouds

Red Bull Lite: It is a good thing the Red Bulls found its offense of late. It will surely need it to be highly-caffeinated for a while with more bad news at the other end of the pitch. First there was concern over Wilman Conde’s health, which has sidelined him for, at least, this weekend. Now, it turns out a knee injury suffered at training Thursday by Teemu Taino, who impressed in his last outing, will cost him 4-6 weeks.

Nice Threads in Minnesota: Clubs unveil special jerseys all the time, usually with some unique color scheme or patch on the sleeve or chest. In Minnesota, however, the club announced a true first for North American soccer – a literal tribute to its fans.

“They are unbelievable. The away kit that we’ve done this year is something that I don’t think anyone else in the country, maybe even in the world has done before,” said team CEO Djorn Buchholz prior to the unveiling in a Q&A with local writer Jon Marthaler.

Djorn is right, though the home fans will not see them in the Opener Saturday at the Metrodome. The special jersey is the club’s away jersey, which is adorned with the motto, “Everywhere We Go… Dark Clouds Follow.” The saying is in tribute to the club’s supporters group, the Dark Clouds, whose name was derived from the former club name, Minnesota Thunder.  The away jersey’s unique feature though is the jersey numbers on the back. Instead of being the typical solid color, the filler of each number is made of a the Dark Clouds in match-day celebration. 

Interesting Stories: Michael C Lewis of the Salt Lake Tribune has a good story about the new wave of coaches in Major League Soccer. Not only are they younger, but many of them are players with lengthy history in the league.   Scott French writes about the slow start of the LA Galaxy and how there is plenty of time, something coach Bruce Arena points out, laughing about how seriously everyone is taking their struggles thus far. Question is, is it really a laughing matter?

Friday, April 6

LD Update: MLS signings and friendlies

Dynamo blank Laredo Heat: In the midst of an off week, the Houston Dynamo broke from intra-squad play to face the USL PDL’s Laredo Heat, picking up an easy 5-0 win – rosters not available – at the Houston Amateur Sports Park.

Not a lot can be gleaned this far before the season for a USL PDL team because the college players do not report until May 1, but the Heat are one of a handful of teams that tend to have a number of older players. “Under normal circumstances we would not be playing teams such as the Dynamo so early in the preseason,” General Manager J.J. Vela said. “However, because of their schedule and the start of their season we welcomed the challenge to firstly help them out with an exhibition game and also to see what we have in order to secure the best players for our Premier Development League season.

The Dynamo, “ramped up a bit” following the loss at Seattle according to Brad Davis were expected to utilize much of their squad.  “I think we’ll mix it up,” Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear said about his planned approach to Thursday’s match. “We’ll probably make a lot of changes like we’ve done in preseason.” 

Philadelphia Union to play affiliate Reading: The MLS club and its affiliate, Reading United AC, will continue their series of friendlies with a third installment. The Union will face the PDL club Saturday, June 9 at Albright College’s Shirk Stadium. Last year the two clubs played to a 1-1 draw at the end of May.

Battery bring in Sanyang: There seems to be an unexpected pipeline between Seattle and Charleston, SC. The Sounders have signed two former Battery players in Osvaldo Alonso and Alex Caskey over the years. Now it looks like it is a two-way path as former Sounder Amadou Sanyang was added by Charleston along with University of Washington product Taylor Mueller.

Despite only being 20, Sanyang has already been around MLS for three seasons having originally signed with Toronto FC at the age of 17. The Gambia youth international spent last season with the Sounders.

Opening Weekend for Lower Divisions

Friday night marks the beginning of the 2012 campaigns for the lower divisions of American-based professional leagues as the North American Soccer League and USL Pro celebrate their respective Opening Weekends.

USL Pro will be the first to get things going as the Pittsburgh Riverhounds visit the Antigua Barracuda in the first of two matches on the island between the pair this weekend.

On Saturday, all eight clubs will take part in Opening Kick for the NASL with season-opening fixtures in Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Puerto Rico and Minnesota.

In contrast, only six of USL Pro’s 11 clubs will take the field for the first weekend of play as longtime rivals Charleston and Richmond meet in Virginia and defending champion Orlando City visits Charlotte Saturday.

Here is a quick glance at all of the teams in the lower division professional leagues in reverse alphabetical order (just for the fun of it) followed by more information about watching the leagues online and participation in the US Open Cup...


Tampa Bay Rowdies: With the rights drama over the Rowdies name finally over, the club can now focus solely on what happens on the field. Ricky Hill heads into the second season as coach with the addition of former Bristol Rovers captain Stuart Campbell. - More

San Antonio Scorpions: The expansion club, led by veteran coach Tim Hankinson, comes into the league with a handful of name players, including three former MLS Vancouver Whitecaps (Greg Janicki, Kevin Harmse, Wes Knight) and former Revolution back Ryan Cochrane. They also nabbed leading NASL scorer Pablo Campos, goalkeeper Daryl Sattler. - More

Puerto Rico Islanders: The importance of Colin Clarke, who was also often criticized, will be unveiled this year as Adrian Whitbread picks up as the new head coach. The club lost Logan Emory to Toronto, but added Edson Edwards from FC Dallas. The big question, aside from having to play in an alternate home venue for half the year, is whether or not the club find renewed success in the Champions League or has their window come and gone. - More

Minnesota Stars: The club may not have had a winning record last year, but it won the league championship. They lost team leader Joe Warren, who has finally officially retired after a lengthy career in goal. - More

Fort Lauderdale Strikers: The Finalists have a lot of players returning, but lost Brian Arguez to Montreal of MLS. Coming down the ladder, though, is Scott Lorenz (KC); and the club added ex-Chicago player Andy Herron from Limon in Costa Rica. - More

FC Edmonton: The geographic misfit of the league, the club will be not only challenged by travel, but is playing in a different venue at home this year as well. Unknown foreign players will likely decide the club’s fate this season. - More

Carolina RailHawks: What do you do after winning the regular season title and then lose your coach (Martin Rennie) to an MLS club? You go out and get Colin Clarke, who built Puerto Rico into a dominant club and was successful in improving the island’s national team program at the same time. The club, however, also lost Etienne Barbara, Matt Watson, Brad Knighton and Floyd Franks to MLS as they followed Rennie to Vancouver. They picked up Jason Garey from Houston and youth US international Gale Agbossoumonde from Germany, but it looks like another re-building project for Clarke. - More

Atlanta Silverbacks: The club is back for its second season hiatus, looking to improve on dismal return a year ago. They lost Tyler Ruthven to MLS (NY) and in return have a number of incoming foreign players. Among them is Honduras international (85 caps) Danilo Turcios, who joins the Silverbacks from Olimpia, where he has played in the CONCACAF Champions League. - More

USL PRO – Third Division

Wilmington Hammerheads: The club was one of the better sides a year ago, but lost a couple key players. The team will be looking to a pair of former New York Red Bulls - defender Tyler Lassiter and goalkeeper Alex Horwath - to solidify the defense as they search for a new star striker.  - More

Rochester Rhinos: Former Richmond Kickers assistant Jesse Myers heads into first season as a head coach. G Neal Kitson moved onto League One side Northampton Town, but the club gets Danny Earls back after two seasons with Colorado Rapids. - More

Richmond Kickers: Longtime assistant Jesse Myers is gone, but the story of the year will continue to be the final campaign of stalwart keeper Ronnie Pascale. - More

Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Off the field, the buzz will be surrounding the club’s new stadium set to open later this season. On the field, the team is hoping newcomer Tino Nunez of Real Salt Lake provides a spark. - More

Orlando City: Nowhere to go but down? The club’s debut finished in a championship and success off the field. Season two will, perhaps, be overshadowed by the quest for MLS expansion. On the field, Yordany Alvarez (RSL), Lawrence Olum (KC) and Lewis Neal (DC) moved onto MLS while the other big-name signing was John Rooney. - More

LA Blues: Heading into its second season, the club lost Josh Suggs to San Jose, but brought in Brian Farber (Portland) and Irving Garcia (NY) from MLS. The big hurdle is still the travel as the lone team west of the Mississippi. - More

Harrisburg City Islanders: The club lost a pair to MLS with Chase Harrison (Philadelphia) and Jose Angulo (NY) moving on. Coming the other way, Vancouver Whitecaps defender Bilal Ducket joins the team, plus the club has its affiliation with the Union that could help bolster the squad. - More

Dayton Dutch Lions: The experiment that is this club continues. It heads into its second season still in mystery with no big-name or established domestic players on the roster. - More

Charlotte Eagles: The club remains a group of dedicated players, on and off the field. A few pieces have moved around, but one key loss is longtime Eagle Brady Bryant, who may miss the season after an ACL tear suffered in the MISL this winter. - More

Charleston Battery:
Another year and another pair of players move onto MLS. Keeper Andrew Dykstra moved to DC and Alex Caskey followed Oswaldo Alonso’s footsteps to Seattle. No big names have come down the ladder, but coach Mike Anhaeuser  is known for preparing players for the move up, anyway. - More

Antigua Barracuda:
Heading into its second season, the club is the only team this year from the Caribbean. The team is looking for improvement on its modest debut, though the experiment is already showing positive results on the international level with good World Cup qualifying results this year. - More


Partially due to the NASL actually returning for a second season, and with the expansion in the number of berths in the tournament, the NASL’s American clubs will participate in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup this season. The league’s sanctioning issues late last year left the club out of the planning stages of the tournament a year ago, upsetting many that were used to seeing their clubs play in the tournament when members of USL.

FC Edmonton, however, due to the small nature of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, did participate in Canada’s equivalent to the Open Cup.

Once again, all USL Pro clubs will be automatic entrants into the tournament.


United Soccer Leagues announced that it has a new streaming partner, UNation. There is a lot of hype and promises, mostly from UNation, about its social interaction capabilities. Unfortunately, it looks like the full system won’t even be online until May.

It is the fourth streaming platform in five years for USL and may not be good a sign that the company, located in Tampa with USL, does not even know the proper nomenclature for the league as seen on its website and twitter. It also appears that while they have done a number of events, USL is the first sports league that it is working with. The good news is that all of the USL clubs are experienced on the production end as USL nears its

Most important to longtime USL viewers… the name is now USLnation (USLlive will still get you there though). It is a shame the league is moving away from USLlive just as Major League Soccer adopted the same exact branding this year with MLSlive, utilizing, ironically, the company USL used in 2009 - Neulion - after Turner Broadcastcasting shut down its online streaming department, PlayOn!, which launched USLlive in 2007. A leading streaming company that also worked with the NHL before adding MLS, Neulion proved too costly with the internal USL club strife, leaving the organization with a need to search for a more budget-friendly service two years ago.

In contrast, the North American Soccer League will return to U-Stream for a second season. The low-budget option, however, will have improved standards from a team production standpoint, according to the league commissioner. It may be the league's first observable off-field test as many teams, in the past, have either balked at the cost and refused to upgrade bandwidth, or were just unable to do so at their facilities.

Stories Of the Day: Faces in new places

Stepping away from the big leagues for a moment…

Superstars in Seattle: Fresh off their three-team, two-match tournament in Japan, a handful of US internationals landed in Seattle yesterday and took in, as spectators, a Sounders Women training session before getting in the action themselves soon. The group signed on to play with the W-League team is Stephanie Cox, Sidney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo, who is a Washington native and University of Washington alum. It will certainly be interesting to see how this turns out with the Olympics on the horizon, and in the long-term for professional women’s soccer.    

Islanders in Alternate Venue: Just days before they are set to kick off their 2012 campaign at home, the Puerto Rico Islanders revealed that the club has expanded the Bayamon Soccer Complex from 1,000 seats to approximately 3,000. The club has been forced to relocate to the training facility due to renovation delays at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium, which will now be unavailable for nearly half the season, if not more. The smaller venue will certainly create some drama, but it is a shame the momentum the team has created off the field the past few years with the community may be curbed by fans being alienated due to inability to get tickets.

Swinehart is not in Charlotte?: I have been reading and skimming numerous player signing reports over the past few weeks as the lower divisions prepare to kick off their 2012 seasons. Sure, the signings of WPS and international players in the in the W-League and WPSL Elite have been headlines, but those leagues have always had those kinds of players come and go when the pro leagues have not existed or with collegiate internationals.

Today, however, one signing really caught my eye. Ashley Swinehart signed with someone other than the Charlotte Lady Eagles, where she has played since 2002. One of the star players of the W-League, Swinehart will not be donning the orange this year in favor of the blue and red of Central SC Cobras, located in Columbia, SC.

"Ashley has had a great career as a W-league player with the Charlotte Eagles. When I learned she was living in Columbia, I knew she would add great leadership and experience to a first year franchise. We are excited to add a player with her goal-scoring pedigree," Burris said.

It will certainly make for some interesting Carolina derbies as the two clubs will meet three times this season with the first coming just three weeks into the campaign.

Thursday, April 5

Best of the Month - March

My top three picks for the following…

MLS Players

Thierry Henry -While the Red Bulls are only 2-2, Henry has literally been a part of all the offense. Whether it is scoring them himself (5), getting an official assist (3), playing a key role in the build-up (1) or providing the pass that led to a penalty foul (1), he has played a factor in all 10 goals.

Joe Cannon – Three and a half games in goal and zero have gotten past the veteran netminder. The three complete shutouts matches his total from a year ago already, but more importantly, the shutouts have been critical for a club that has struggled at the other end of the pitch with only three goals scored.

Graham Zusi – Similar to Henry, Zusi has been involved in nearly off of the offense for the unbeaten Kansas City side. Through March, he scored one goal and had assists on four of the club’s five other goals for the month.

MLS Clubs

Sporting KC – Outscored the opposition in March 6-1 for a 3-0 record, defeating DC on the road and winning at home versus New England and Dallas.

Real Salt Lake – It was a good month with a 3-1 win road win against the Galaxy and a 3-2 win at Portland to go along with a 2-0 win at home versus New York. The only blemish was a surprising 1-0 loss at home to Chivas USA.

San Jose Earthquakes – If you are grading solely on defense, San Jose may be your club of choice. It allowed just one goal in March, falling to Houston in a narrow 1-0 decision. They blanked New England, Toronto and Seattle.

Lower Division Players: No games
Lower Division Teams: No games

Women’s Players

Alex Morgan – She netted a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory over Sweden  in Portugal at the Algarve Cup, which the US finished third at.

Abby Wambach – She scored two goals in the Algarve Cup, tallying in a 2-1 win against Norway and a 4-0 victory against Sweden.

Christine Sinclair – Scored both goals in Canada’s 2-1 victory over Brazil in Foxboro, Mass.

Women's Teams: No games

Wednesday, April 4

Stories Of the Day: International Issues

No matter how much you may want to forget about it, the topic of Olympic Soccer is not going away…

Injury Concerns: The United States Women have played seven friendlies since wrapping up their Olympic qualifying campaign, and fellow qualifier Canada has also played some recent exhibitions. Both were fortunate not to lose any significant players to injury. The same can’t be said, however, for England. The Brits may have lost star striker Kelly Smith for the Olympic tournament not from playing a friendly, but from a promotional video shoot.

Smith is expected to be out for two months, making fitness and availability a major concern for the July 25 Olympic break start date.  The injury was an aggravation of a stress fracture that remained from a broken leg she previously suffered. It was worsened while not wearing a protective boot when she kicked a ball during a video shoot.

Keeping Caleb Porter?: US Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann held a media conference call today, and among the topics was the U23 team  led by Caleb Porter. Klinsmann: "We had a long meeting with Caleb and discussed the whole experience. Obviously it's a huge disappointment for all of us not having our Olympic team going to London this summer. The goal is to keep Caleb connected to us, because we really think that he has a lot of upside. I think he learned a tremendous amount during the last four months."  

The idea of keeping Porter will anger many, but if Klinsmann likes the style Porter is instilling in the players for transition to the senior team, then this makes sense. As I noted in a previous post about the Olympic failure, I think we have moved past a point where we need to live and die on the performance of our youth national teams. They should be used for development and not be relied upon to be our standard bearer on the international stage – that is what the senior team does.

Klinsmann: "How mature are they really for the senior team level? You look at these players and say, 'OK, they couldn't get the job done, so where are they in the bigger picture going into our May/June camp?”

Toronto Trounced in Mexico: The fact Toronto FC led on two occasions in the first half gave many some false hope as they eventually fell 6-2 in Torreon, 7-3 on aggregate. It is a familiar result with Seattle being bounced by the same club, 7-3 on aggregate, in the last round due to a 6-1 loss in Torreon.

It is nothing new either as many clubs from all over the confederation run into the same problem in Mexico. The heartbreak goes back to the tournament’s debut when the Montreal Impact, then second division, saw a 2-0 first leg lead vanish against the very same club in a 5-2 second leg loss in the quarterfinals and the Puerto Rico Islanders saw their 2-0 home win countered with a 3-1 road loss to Cruz Azul in the semifinals.

Maybe Seattle and Toronto can take solace in the fact that it just seems to be the year for Santos Laguna and defending champion Monterrey. Monterrey drubbed fellow Mexican side Morelia, 7-2 on aggregate, in the quarterfinals and is dominating the other semifinal series, up 4-0 aggregate at halftime as I write, against another Mexican foe, Pumas.

Back on Track: It has been a week since the last edition of SOD; and for good reason. I have been working on creating a new site to cover my home region – Inland Northwest Soccer News. It is off to humble beginnings with plenty of room and plans to grow. We may not have any pro clubs in the region, but it is not exactly void of the game; so I want to share it with everyone. As for the The Soccer Barn, I am also planning to add more coverage of lower division soccer to the mix, also a topic lightly covered on a national scope.