Friday, April 13

Charlotte, Dayton finish scoreless

It was a night of missed chances in Charlotte as the Eagles and Dayton Dutch Lions, who were opening their campaign, finished in a scoreless stalemate. The closest either came to scoring on the night came nine minutes in when Charlotte’s Jorge Herrera free kick took a deflection and ricocheted off the far post.  A couple of opportunities went for naught courtesy of Eric Reed saves.

The Eagles are now 0-1-1 following last week's season opening loss, 2-0, to Orlando City. Charlotte hosts Charleston Tuesday and Harrisburg Friday in upcoming action as Dayton travels to Pittsburgh Saturday.

LD Update: MLS friendly & Player Movement

NASL: The Atlanta Silverbacks signed local product Borfor Carr, who played briefly with the club’s reserve team a year ago after returning from a stint with Romanian club CS Concordia Chiajna.

USL Pro: The Harrisburg City Islanders have had a split of a news day. First, the club announced its annual friendly with MLS affiliate Philadelphia Union. The game is set for June 12.  The club then announced the retirement of two-year City Islander Jason Hotchkin. The North Carolina native made a name for himself closer to home, leading the Charlotte Eagles to the league final in 2004 before spending some time in Germany (TuS Koblenz) and Sweden (IK Brage). He came back and played for the Wilmington Hammerheads and Philadelphia Kixx, who he guided to an MISL title. He also played for the New Jersey Ironmen (MISL) and Cleveland City Stars (USL-1) before moving to Harrisburg… In South Carolina, the Charleston Battery got goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra back. The netminder, caught behind a duel for the DC job, was loaned back to the Battery, whom he played for last year after two seasons and 17 appearances with the Chicago Fire.

USL PDL: The North Sound SeaWolves continue to develop the 2012 roster, bringing back three local players from last year’s team… In Florida, the Ocala Stampede added FIU and former New Zealand youth international center back Joe Dawkins to the roster.

USL W-League: The DC United Women brought back four of its top players from a year ago, including W-League All-Conference selection Marisa Abegg… On the other coast, the Vancouver Whitecaps Women signed two players: W-League/WPSL veteran defender Jenny Jeffers and England youth international midfielder/striker Demi Stokes.

Stories Of the Day: Too Much Hype

Three big stories in the media today, arguably all with too much hype…

MLS Southeast Expansion: Major League Soccer officials concluded their recent trip to the Triangle (North Carolina) for exploratory discussions, which included the NASL Carolina RailHawks, regarding expansion to the region. The trip comes not to long after a similar visit to Florida, where they met with Orlando City of USL Pro. The league, through Don Garber, has been very clear about expansion. Team 20 WILL be in New York City.

Until then, it would be nice if everyone jumped off the crazy train and just treated relaxed a little when it comes to potential expansion. Things are going well and there is no need to add more expansion buzz for a few more years.

Mullan Melodrama: With Colorado coming to Seattle Saturday with Brian Mullan in the lineup, everyone has been keenly focused on Steve Zakuani’s devastating injury suffered a year ago. It all seems to be about how the team and fans are going to react to the return of Mullan, though Zakuani says “My advice [to the fans] is let it go and use that energy to support the team,” Zakuani added. “The guys will need it.”

That’s a good thought. And though I would probably get skewered a bit from the fans for suggesting it, it would be nice to see the media let it go as well. Players do stupid things all the time, but obsessing over the visiting team only distracts the home club from focusing on what they need to do. And with Colorado sitting third in the conference and coming in with a new coach this year, it would be wise not to let side stories leave the club in the bottom half of the table.

Schmoozing in Vancouver: The Whitecaps revealed today - what they termed a major strategic announcement - the addition of former Vancouver Olympics chief John Furlong as the new executive chair of the club. The announcement was vague in what role Furlong will play with the club.

According to this report from Steven Sandor, the decision grew out of a casual chat Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot had with Furlong several weeks ago, prompting the response of being surprised by Furlong himself. That tidbit makes this sound like one of the many lower division attempts at swaying public officials by forming ‘advisory councils’ comprised of city officials and prominent figures that meet on a few occasions. I have never really seen any of these councils amount to much more than their obvious intent to make important people feel special and included.

On the surface it would appear like a good addition, but the Vancouver Olympics were of the Winter variety, having no connection whatsoever to the sport of soccer. Hopefully Furlong has connections in the corporate and political world via the Olympics that will pay off for the Whitecaps, though that would have been more beneficial when they were trying to build their own stadium prior to the renovation of BC Place.

Thursday, April 12

US Futsal to face defending champ in CONCACAF Championship

The United States Futsal learned its opposition for the 2012 CONCACAF Futsal Championship, set for July 2-8 in Guatemala, Thursday. Drawn into Group A, they will face Panama, defending champion and host Guatemala and the winner of the playoff between Canada and El Salvador.

The US squad, headed by MISL Milwaukee Wave powerhouse coach Keith Tozer, concluded a one-week camp with 18 players in Torrance, Calif. last week.

The U.S. has won the CONCACAF championship twice, in 1996 and 2004. In 2008, the USA reached the Futsal World Cup but failed to advance out of the group stage. For the first time in the qualifying tournament’s history, CONCACAF will send four teams to the Futsal World Cup in Thailand, being held from Nov. 2-18, 2012. The eight teams will be split into two groups of four teams each. The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals and earn places at the FIFA Futsal World Cup.

Canada and El Salvador will both head to Guatemala, where they will determine the last qualifier in a two-leg playoff on June 28 and 29, also at the Domo Polideportivo in Guatemala City.

LD Update: Player Signings & Previews:

Coming Up in the NASL: Coming off a pair of scoreless draws, the Carolina RailHawks and Atlanta Silverbacks look to get their first goals of the campaign in hopes of getting their first win. Also on Saturday evening, co-leader Fort Lauderdale Strikers host the defending champion Minnesota Stars while Week 1 losers FC Edmonton and Tampa Bay Rowdies square off looking for their first points, and goals, of the season. On Sunday the expansion San Antonio Scorpions make their home debut against Week 1 winner Puerto Rico Islanders.

Coming Up in USL Pro: Four clubs kick off their seasons in three of the four matches in Week 2 action. The Dayton Dutch Lions open up on the road against Week 1 losers Charlotte Eagles in Friday’s only contest. On Saturday, the Rochester Rhinos and LA Blues both begin 2012 play when they meet in California. The other contest is the continuation of the 20th Anniversary series between the Richmond Kickers and Charleston Battery, who will again don the retro 1993 kits as they square off at Blackbaud in rematch of last week’s 2-1 Battery win. The weekend wraps up with Week 1 winner and defending champion Orlando City hosting the season-opening Wilmington Hammerheads.

Wednesday, April 11

LD Update: Player and sponsor signings

PDL Signings: Four in-state additions announced by Mississippi Brilla… Five players are returning for the Philadelphia Union’s PDL affiliate Reading United AC… Four players are also returning for the second-year North Sound SeaWolves, including Seattle Sounders Supplemental Draft pick Abdul Aman

Corporate Signings: Los Angeles Galaxy sponsor Herbalife continued to show that it is not all about the top flight, renewing its partnership with the PDL’s Fresno Fuego for 2012… USL Pro club Orlando City announced the addition of multitude of sponsors, four of them national.

Tuesday, April 10

Stories Of the Day: Retroactive

Before Chelsea was unveiled as the MLS All-Star opponent, the topic of the day appeared to be retroactive punishments…

Out of England: The referee saw the foul, therefore, according to FIFA and the England FA no punishment could be handed out to Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli for a nasty studs-up challenge on Alex Song of Arsenal this weekend. "Retrospective action can only be taken in scenarios where none of the Match Officials saw the players coming together.”

In the U.S. of A: In Major League Soccer, however, New England’s Shalrie Joseph got more than his game-issued yellow card for his tackle from behind on FC Dallas’ Ricardo Villar. The league suspended the Revolution captain one game in addition to the levy of a fine. 

The retroactive punishment situation is becoming an increasingly discussed topic. Whether or not a ball crosses the line in any given league match is nothing in comparison to a grizzly tackle that takes a player out of the lineup for weeks, if not months at a time. It is still amazing that in this modern time of the sport when we all know that perceptions can greatly vary based on the angle in which you are viewing an incident, that FIFA has not amended this rule to give leagues more latitude in assessing penalties for match behavior.

And as frustrated as some fans may be, let me tell you that it can be just as bad for league officials who have their hands tied. As a long-time league administrator at USL, there were countless times when things occurred off the ball that we could not do anything about either due to lack of evidence or because of the laws of the game. Worse yet were red cards that could not be rescinded. There were almost always at least one or two cases each year in which a foul was either not as bad as the referee though or completely feigned by the player being fouled. But unless the player received the red card out of mistaken identity, there was nothing you could do.

LD Update: Player signings plentiful

Cuevas honored by USL: Charleston Battery midfielder Jose Cuevas was named the USL Pro Player of the Week today for his two goals in a 2-1 win at Richmond.

Harrisburg keeps veteran pair: With a couple weeks still remaining before the City Islanders open the season, the club announced rookie Andrew Welker was returning along with fifth-year Islander Brian Omibiji. Drew Yates and eighth-year Dustin Bixler are back for 2012 after suffering ACL tears during the season last year.

PDL Signing Day: It seemed like a signing day for the PDL with numerous clubs making announcements. The Ottawa Fury unveiled a number of locals for the 2012 roster. Ocean City added a group of All-Americans. Ocala (Fla.) announced that Brooklyn’s Ghanian-born Anthony Asante will be heading south for the summer. 
Pali lands Nikki Washington again: The Pali Blues are loading up once again, adding Nikki Washington, who boasts a U20 World Championship, two NCAA titles and a W-League championship on her resume. She joins recent veteran players Sarah Huffman and Liz Bogus, who were also signed recently.

Lower Division Five Stars

Five Stars of the Week

1 - Stefan Smith – F – Antigua Barracuda: The striker hit the post in a 1-0 loss Friday in a weekend split against Pittsburgh. On Sunday he was fouled in the box for a penalty (missed by Peter Byers) and went on to score the second and third goals to push the lead to three for a 3-1 win.

2 - Jose Cuevas – M – Charleston Battery: Scored both goals in the club’s 2-1 road victory over the Richmond Kickers in a contest of two clubs kicking off their 20th seasons.

3 - Ray Burse – G – Carolina RailHawks: Made excellent saves on the road to blank the defending champion Minnesota Stars in a scoreless draw in first game under new coach Colin Clarke.

4 - Stanley Nyazamba – M – Richmond Kickers: Nearly set up two goals on dangerous chances before scoring equalizer himself in2-1 loss to Charleston.

5 - Pat Hannigan – G – San Antonio Scorpions: Made good saves, five stops total, in expansion club’s scoreless draw on the road in Atlanta.

Five Stars for the Season

First Five: 1 Stefan Smith, 2 Jose Cuevas, 3 Ray Burse, 4 Stanley Nyazamba, 5 Pat Hannigan… The next Five: 6 John Wilson (D, Charleston), 7 Matthew Delicate (F, Richmond), 8 (Scott Lorenz (M, Fort Lauderdale), 9 Nicholas Addlery (F, Puerto Rico), 10 Danilo Turcios (M, Atlanta)

About Five Stars:
WEEK: The top five professional lower division performers in the North American Soccer League and USL Pro.
SEASON: The top five professional lower division performers cumulatively for the year in the NASL and USL Pro. The list is updated weekly.

Stories Of the Day: Henry Player of the Week, Cooper helps roll eggs at White House

It was a fairly quiet day - on this side of the Atlantic, anyway…

Henry Does It Again: With teammate Kenny Cooper and Chris Wondolowski also scoring twice this week, you would have thought French great Thierry Henry would have had a more difficult task in taking Player of the Week honors again. Not so much. He also had an assist in the 4-1 win at Columbus, two other great chances and the finishes on his two strikes were effortless and perfectly executed. That all led to a history-making third consecutive selection, a first in the league’s 17-year history. It also marked only the 10th time that a team had a player honored three straight times.

When I was selecting my vote, it was a difficult choice. I was leaning toward the Red Bull hero again, but went with Chivas USA midfielder Ryan Smith. Trailing 1-0 in Portland, he came on at halftime and provided perfect crosses on both strikes as the LA club rallied for a surprise win on the road that catapulted them above the Timbers and their Home Depot Center rivals in the Western table.

White House Easter Egg Roll: Cooper was invited to the White House with teammate Stephen Keel; the Philadelphia Union’s Danny Califf, Brian Carroll, Zac MacMath; and DC United’s Stephen King, Robbie Russell and Ben Olsen. They helped volunteers and employees from the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition lead youngsters through a simple dribbling course as part of the event’s “Eggtivity Area,” designed to remind participants and their parents of the simple joys of movement and play. Elsewhere on the South Lawn, a live music stage pulsated with sound, renowned poet Maya Angelou read books at a storytelling area and celebrity chefs like Andrew Zimmern and Marcus Samuelsson showed how to cook up healthy dishes.

Cooper spent part of his childhood in Maryland, but never got to visit the iconic building on Pennsylvania Avenue. On Monday, he looked out across the South Lawn and panorama of the National Mall beyond it, and said he gratified by the opportunity to grow the game in such an illustrious locale.

“There’s obviously a lot of kids out here that seem to enjoy the game,” he told between autograph and photo requests from young fans, and even a few Easter Egg Roll staffers. "So it’s fun to see that. Being passionate about the game myself, it’s fun to share that passion with other people. I actually grew up in Baltimore, and even growing up here, I never had an opportunity to come out to the White House South Lawn. It’s definitely something I’ll cherish for a long time and it’s also fun to interact with the kids out here.”

LD Update: St Louis Soccer Hall and Preseason friendlies

Club America Coming to Laredo: A week after a very early preseason contest against the Houston Dynamo first team that finished 5-0 to the MLS club, the Laredo Heat of the PDL announced a preseason friendly against a team that is a bit more of a peer, Club America’s U20 side. The match is set for April 24 at the Texas A&M International University Soccer Complex. Expected to be with the visiting side Mexican U20 goalkeeper Carlos Aurelio Lopez and a handful of other players that have played on Mexican youth national teams and have made appearances with the first team. Club America has dominated Mexico’s U20 flight with three straight league titles and currently are second.

Glavin Going into St Louis Soccer Hall: It is perhaps a little overdue, but the owner and head coach of the PDL St Louis Lions, Tony Glavin, was announced as a member of the upcoming Class of 2012 for the St Louis Soccer Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held September 27. Glavin’s American career began in the NASL with the Philadelphia Fury, but became a St Louis fixture starting in 1980 when he joined the MISL St Louis Steamers.

“I moved to St Louis in 1980 for five months to play for the St. Louis Steamers and I have been here ever since. I love it, it is now my home. I didn’t know too much about the indoor game or St. Louis at the time, but I wanted to keep playing throughout the offseason.” said Glavin “After three months in St. Louis the Steamers offered me a long-term contract and I jumped at the opportunity to stay in St. Louis.”

Glavin scored 157 goals in 150 appearances with the Steamers from 1980 to 1985. He was a three-time MISL All-Star, the 1982 MISL League MVP and the third MVP in the 1981 MISL All-Star Game.

Between 1985 and 1988 Glavin served as an Assistant Coach and Head Coach for the St. Louis Steamers. At the end of the 1988 season, Glavin was hired by the Kansas City Comets to serve as a Player/Coach where he appeared in 29 games. Glavin later went on to coach the Dayton Dynamo of the NPSL in 1990-91 the season. Glavin enjoyed a stellar professional career and had so much more to contribute in the game, so he started his own local youth club in St. Louis.

In 1994 the Tony Glavin Soccer Club was founded in Cottleville, Mo. in St. Charles County. In 2006, Glavin saw a need for another level of soccer in St Louis and he founded the St. Louis Lions. The Lions are the highest-level amateur team in St. Louis, playing in the PDL. The team is comprised of college players between the ages of 18 and 23.

W-League Preseason Under Way: It was not the first game of the preseason for the W-League – LA Strikers defeated Loyola Marymount University 2-1 recently – but the Seattle Sounders are certainly the most talked about team heading into the 2012 campaign due to the five US Women’s National Team stars on the roster. Monday night they cruised to a 5-0 victory against Seattle Pacific University

NASL Weekly Honors: The second division league announced its weekly honors, announcing former MLS stiker Andy Herron (Fort Lauderdale Strikers) as the Offensive Player of the Week and ex-MLS netminder Ray Burse (Carolina RailHawks) as the Defensive Player of the Week.   

Monday, April 9

Stefan Smith gives Antigua split

Stefan Smith scored twice Sunday to guide Antigua Barracuda to a 3-1 victory against the visiting Pittsburgh Riverhounds, giving the club a split in the two-game series on the weekend after falling 1-0 Friday. Things initially looked like a repeat of the opener with Peter Byers failed on a penalty kick, this time missing wide instead of seeing Hunter Gilstrap make a stop. The penalty was created when Smith was down in the box. The disappointment was erased in the 31st, however, when Quinton Griffith struck a free kick past Gilstrap. Two minutes before the break Smith doubled the advantage; and with nine minute left in the contest he ensured the outcome with his second off a breakaway on excellent work on the wing from Byers. With two minutes remaining, Mike Green spoiled James Molvin’s shutout.

Sunday, April 8

LD Update: Match Night Recap from Opening Weekend

Following last night’s opener in Antigua, action across the Lower Divisions got into full swing Saturday night for USL Pro (Div. 3) and North American Soccer League (Div. 2).

Offense was hard to find on the first night of action for the second-year NASL with only two goals across the four matches with Fort Lauderdale and Puerto Rico registering 1-0 home victories. The league saw just as many red cards, however both the Strikers and Islanders managed to score despite playing a man down.

Three games into the four on the weekend in USL Pro, none of the home clubs have been able to celebrate a victory. And for the second consecutive evening, a winning goalkeeper stopped a penalty kick.