5
Mar

USA fail to impress in 2-0 exhibition loss to Ukraine

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The United States men’s national team slumped to the occasion in their 2-0 loss to Ukraine in a friendly marred by circumstances on Wednesday. Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic dealt Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad a harsh blow in a wholly deserved loss. It was the final game in which Klinsmann had his European-based players at his disposal before convening his World Cup camp in mid-May, and he cannot have been pleased with what he saw.

"This game helped us a lot to see where individual players are, collectively where we stand with this group of players," Klinsmann said on ESPN after the match. "Obviously we had to form a couple of new things there, starting from the back line — and you could see that, that they never played together that much."

His motley USA side, comprised of a few regulars and a slew of players on the bubble, were outsmarted by a cunning Ukrainian side. Knowing full-well where the Americans were weak, Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka tore their flanks to shreds while the high defensive line was pelted with through balls.

The tentative American defense let the Ukrainians stroll through its line several times early on. In the 12th minute, a simple ball over the top caught the central defensive pairing of Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks well out of position. That put Denys Harmash through on Tim Howard’s goal by himself. The American goalkeeper made a fine stop on his attempt, but Harmash coolly collected the rebound and laid it wide for Yarmolenko for him to pass the ball into the net.

Just a few minutes later, the Americans were caught out again on a clever play off a Ukrainian corner, but they were saved by a possibly erroneous offside call that time – Alejandro Bedoya actually appeared to keep the play onside. Sloppy and unimaginative in possession, the Yanks produced just two attacks of note in the entire first half. On the first, goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov alertly picked off the cross; on the second, Edgar Castillo’s cross wasn’t quite right and cleared. And they would give away several more fat chances, which a more incisive opponent might have punished, before the halftime whistle brought a respite.

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17
Jan

MLS SuperDraft: Chaos emerges from uncertainty

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PHILADELPHIA — It was quiet the night before the MLS SuperDraft. Just a little too quiet. Uncertainty about this draft class hung over the crowd.

The deadlock broke right around midday on Thursday. A timeout before the first pick set the stage for a frenetic draft with five trades in the first 11 picks as teams jostled for position to purloin their players of choice.

“I should have realized it last night because, in my time doing this, it was the quietest night before the draft of any night I can remember,” New England general manager Michael Burns said. “Half the teams weren’t trying to do anything. You couldn’t find them. But then today, when we went in the back and did the trade with Colorado, all of the league officials were like, ‘you’re kidding me, another trade?’”

D.C. United sparked the fracas by finally choosing a winner in what had been a  languid sweepstakes for the first pick. A handful of teams — including eventual winners Philadelphia — chased the top overall pick over the past few days, but none of packages prompted United to pull the trigger prior to the proceedings.

Union manager John Hackworth eventually enticed United to move down one spot in exchange for an undisclosed amount of allocation money. Both teams got their men — University of Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake to the Union, California defender Steven Birnbaum to United — without  disrupting their plans for the rest of the day. Hackworth explained he decided to flip the picks to secure Blake and ward off any potential interlopers.

“We knew for a fact that he wouldn’t be there,” Hackworth said. “There were a couple of deals on the table. We had to make that decision at the last minute. It worked out.”

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Philadelphia even managed to recoup its allocation outlay and secure a little extra money for two further trades, but other sides focused on sliding into position first and foremost. Montreal jumped five spots to claim Creighton fullback Eric Miller. FCD reaped the benefits of the Impact’s decision by stockpiling allocation money and an international slot in addition to the 10th overall pick and then used them to climb back to six to take Colorado School of Mines forward Tesho Akindele. Toronto FC then swiped number 10 away from the Union for allocation money and the 15th pick to take Xavier defender Nick Hagglund. New England and Colorado swapped spots at 11 and 12 — and the Rapids scooped the 19th pick for their troubles — to send MAC Hermann Trophy winner Patrick Mullins to New England and stop the carousel.

Recounting the craziness may undersell its lingering impact. Clubs acted decisively to secure their preferred options, particularly with a spate of Homegrown Player signings depleting the pool across the board. The uptick in movement inspired Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey to wonder whether those quiet nights will disappear over the next few years.

“It was a little busy,” Lagerwey said. “It’s interesting — and I’m speculating now — but I wonder if we’re in for more of this going forward in first round stuff. There is a smaller number of good players. A lot of times, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We saw a lot of one-spot moves, which you had never seen. I have to attribute that to teams wanting very, very specific players, having only that one guy left and being willing to pay for them. That’s exciting and new.”

Images by USA Today Sports Images

14
Jan

How will MLS move impact Michael Bradley’s World Cup preparations?

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – In the middle of a hectic period destined to alter his professional future, Michael Bradley found a few moments to contact a person keenly interested in his decision to move from AS Roma to Toronto FC: United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

Bradley said he reached out to Klinsmann recently to chat about his impending $10 million transfer to MLS and explain why he decided to swap Serie A for MLS at the start of a World Cup year.

“He and I spoke at the end of last week,” Bradley told FOX Soccer in a phone interview after his unveiling in Toronto on Monday. “We had a good conversation. He and I have always had an honest relationship. I wanted to him to hear from me what I was thinking and how I was sizing everything up. It was a good conversation.”

The reasons behind the transfer — a thought process Bradley detailed here yesterday — matter far less than its impact on preparing for the World Cup at this stage. The lingering concerns about regular playing time at Roma ended once he agreed to terms with TFC. Now Bradley must simply use the next few months to hone his fitness and obtain his match sharpness before the delegation departs for Brazil.

MLS will not match the tactical and technical demands usually found in the upper reaches of Serie A, but its exacting and rigorous fare will test Bradley in a different fashion. He must navigate through those requirements with the pressure of an expectant public and the weight of a lucrative deal upon his shoulders. The difficulty of the task and the heap of the responsibility for its success or failure poses a considerable challenge, according to Bradley.

“At the end of the day, Jürgen wants guys who aren’t afraid to take risks, who aren’t afraid to put themselves on the line and challenge themselves to be better players, to take more responsibility, to be better leaders,” Bradley said. “That’s what I’m doing in Toronto.”

Several of his international teammates face the same challenges with their MLS sides. Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez committed their futures to LA Galaxy last year. Clint Dempsey signed in Seattle. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi stayed the course with Sporting Kansas City. Other players — including potential addition Maurice Edu (linked with a Stateside move by ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman on Tuesday) and recent returnee Michael Parkhurst — now see the league as a viable alternative to plying their trade overseas.

Bradley joined that group when he signed for Toronto FC, but he does not speak for it. Nor does anyone else. This trend place MLS in an awkward position (begrudging respect after World Cup success, vicious excoriation in the wake of failure) without capturing the individual reasons why each of those players made their particular choices to cast their lot at home, Bradley said.

“I’ve always said, at the end of the day, everybody has to make their own decisions,” Bradley said. “Even when I went to Europe and people asked, I always said everybody has to decide what is important to them, what challenges them, what motivates them. I think it’s important, still, for guys in the national team to have and have had the experience of playing in Europe. But, at the same time, guys who choose to play in MLS and challenge themselves by taking big roles here, I think that’s just as important.”

It may or may not represent the ideal path in Klinsmann’s estimation, but it is the route Bradley and several of his peers have chosen. They must now find a way to make it work for them as they spend the next few months preparing for their journey to Brazil.

Photo provided by The Associated Press.

13
Jan

MLS Player Combine: Patrick Mullins is a man in demand

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LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Patrick Mullins spent the past week trying to keep his feet on the ground. The circumstances did not make it easy to accomplish his objective.

Mullins spent New Year’s in his native New Orleans before embarking on a whirlwind journey en route to south Florida. He flew to St. Louis on Thursday to attend the MAC Hermann Trophy award ceremony. He collected his second consecutive Hermann Trophy on Friday night after yet another stellar season with Maryland and then woke up early the next morning to catch his flight to the Fort Lauderdale area on Saturday morning for the MLS Player Combine.

“I was trying to get as much sleep as I could,” Mullins said. “It ran a little late, but it was such a special night. It was well worth it. And then I got some sleep and I got up at 7 AM. the next day to catch a flight here.”

Mullins arrived in time to prepare for the second round of matches on Saturday. He missed the trial-by-fire on Friday and instead spent 24 hours or so preparing to hop straight into the fray for his debut on Sunday afternoon.

His performance on the day offered further encouragement for his already promising SuperDraft prospects. The former Terrapins star displayed clever footwork in the buildup to Kristopher Tyrpak’s equalizer after 24 minutes and worked his way into the play when provided with the proper support.

“I didn’t feel too far behind at all,” Mullins said. “Everybody’s new. They’re trying to gel. You just have to reach out to everybody as quickly as you can to learn styles and tendencies. I felt like I did pretty well with the boys today. There might have been a couple of missed passes here. Maybe I was checking away when they thought I was checking in. Other than that, I thought it was pretty good.”

Mullins will use the third and final game on Tuesday to convince some team at the top of the SuperDraft to select him. Questions linger about his best position at the professional level (Mullins said he likes to take what the game gives him), but his status as a first-round pick remains etched in stone. The next few days will merely determine where his journey will continue into his rookie season.

“It’s been fun,” Mullins said. “It was a true blessing in St. Louis (to win a second Hermann Trophy), but this is what I love to do. I’m out here, playing in front of you guys and all of the coaches. This is what you want if you want to play at a high level.”

Image provided by USA Today Sports Images

8
Jan

#DempseyWatch Turns Into #BradleyWatch

By Kyle McCarthy

Former United States men’s international Taylor Twellman sparked hysteria on Twitter this afternoon with a brief, incredible dispatch about the future of Michael Bradley:

This move carries most of the hallmarks of Clint Dempsey’s stunning move to Seattle last summer with one catch: Bradley, 26, is in the prime of his career.

The thought of Bradley — perhaps the best player in a USA shirt at the moment — exchanging Serie A for MLS at this stage raises a whole host of questions. Most of them permeated through the Internet in the ensuing minutes as people tried to process why Bradley might spurn the chance to fight for his place at Roma or stay in Europe with another club.

Perhaps the most interesting dispatch came from Philadelphia Union defender Amobi Okugo: 

Whether TFC and Bradley eventually complete the move remains uncertain at this point. One thing is clear about the present, though: #BradleyWatch has started in earnest.

17
Dec

Fresh new attitude: Nike launches a football icon

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PASADENA, Calif.

With the 2014 World Cup less than six months away, Nike paid homage to its soccer roots by returning to the iconic Rose Bowl to celebrate their highly-anticipated release of the Nike Tiempo V and Tiempo ‘94.

Inspired by the memorable World Cup tournaments that captivated US audiences in 1994 and 1999, respectively, the Tiempo collection bridges innovative design and boot heritage that stars like Spain’s Gerard Pique, England’s Ashley Cole and USA’s Tim Howard will wear next summer.

FOX Soccer was fortunate enough to get a special invite under the Pasadena stars to chat with Nike’s North America Soccer General Manager, Aaron Barnett, regarding the company’s celebratory moment.

So settle in boot junkies, here is the exclusive interview:

Charles Ventura: Mr. Barnett, can you tell us a little bit about the Nike Soccer Tiempo collection? What makes this boot so special?

Aaron Barnett: The new Tiempo Legend V looks back into heritage. The technology and innovation built into the leather boot is the best that we’ve ever had in terms of detail.

The design of the Tiempo Legend V focuses on providing the lightest touch. With the development of a new upper, the Tiempo Legend V mimics the touch and lightweight feel to bring the foot closer to the ball.

It’s a great update to a classic from our original boot from 1994. When you look at the Tiempo ‘94, the sportswear inspired shoe, the Tiempo V takes cues from the original line, with a pulse for the street and soccer pitch. The combination of this one-two punch is what we’re super proud of and shows what Nike’s all about.

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CV: Being outside the lovely Rose Bowl while reintroducing these boots with rich tradition, where does this rank in Nike Soccer history? Does it feel full-circle returning to a venue with major significance?

AB: In many ways, this is the spiritual and emotional home of Nike Soccer starting with the 1994 World Cup and capped by USA’s World Cup final victory in 1999. It’s a very special place and we look back to the Rose Bowl as where it all started. This is our way of paying tribute while also looking forward to the future for inspiration.

CV: People outside the soccer community have gravitated toward this boot collection. Why so?

AB: Nike feels soccer in the United States is part of culture. Whether it’s skaters, artists or people from all walks of life, everyone tends to have some affiliation with the beautiful game either because they’re fans of a certain club or have kids that play. It’s growing in the American psyche and as a partner of the sport, we want to help it grow.

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CV: Now, let’s tackle some personal questions. Who’s your favorite soccer player of all-time and why?

AB: Mia Hamm. Mia espouses the values of hard work, team work and leadership. She’s ranks right up there with my favorite athletes of all-time like Michael Jordan and Michael Johnson.

CV: What do you think of USA’s prospects next summer?

AB: As a fan, I love the US mentality. We always think we can win. With Jurgen Klinsmann coaching, the belief is there. We can grab three points against Ghana, Portugal can be vulnerable as history has shown and we hope for the best against Germany. I remain cautiously optimistic but feel we can push through the group stage.

CV: Any players that stand out to you come Brazil 2014?

AB: Well, of course, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo. They’re both dynamic players, it will be interesting to see how they fare after their respective club seasons. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are others that come to mind as well. If they’re ticking, the United States have a serious shot of making some noise next summer.    

CV: And finally, who wins the World Cup next year?

AB: Brazil has to be the perennial favorite. The way Brazil played at the Confederations Cup this past summer and the way they’re gelling under Felipe Scolari is noteworthy. Obviously, you can’t rule out Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands. But Brazil remain the team to beat, especially with the entire nation behind their backs. It’s their tournament to lose.

CV: Thank you for your time, Mr. Barnett.

Editor’s note: For more information on Nike’s special boot, click on the video below:

Images provided by Nike Soccer.

16
Dec

Fulham set sights on former club star Clint Dempsey

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With the winter transfer window just around the corner, clubs entrenched in relegation dogfights enter the market with wallets full of cash in a desperate attempt to snag the player needed to remain in top-flight football.

Case in point, Monday’s main rumbling comes straight from Craven Cottage as Premier League strugglers Fulham are reportedly setting their eye on a January loan move for Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey. The current United States captain, who played for the Cottagers from 2007-12, signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Major League Soccer club that allows him to leave on loan in the winter to prepare for next summer’s World Cup.

With Fulham currently sitting 19th in the Premier League table, a move for the 30-year-old would be a welcomed addition for newly-appointed manager René Meulensteen who is keen to beef up Fulham’s gun-shy attack.

To read this and the day’s top rumors, visit Monday’s Paper Chase on FOXSoccer.com.

5
Dec

Mike Magee takes long road to MLS summit as MVP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – MLS executive vice president, player relations and competition Todd Durbin recalled when he first met Mike Magee 10 years ago. Magee joined the league as a promising U.S. youth international, a player brimming with promise and teeming with the skill to fulfill it. His presence on the stage to accept his first MLS MVP award ensured that point had finally arrived.

Magee traveled a long road to fulfill his potential and produce the sort of season (32 games, 21 goals, four assists) worth of this award. He functioned in the shadows behind brighter stars. He revealed his class in fits and starts without pulling everything together. He survived the doubts created by a knee injury seven years ago to commence his ascent toward the top of the league.

 

“Coming back from that was a lot harder than I thought,” Magee said. “The rehab took a big toll mentally and physically. I had set such a high standard for myself. I tried playing for a long time, but I realized my body wasn’t allowing me to do what I wanted to do. There were some dark times. Waking up, I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do. I just stuck with it. Obviously, it’s paying off.”

Magee emerged as a key figure for LA Galaxy over the past few seasons and played a considerable role in the club’s titles in 2011 and 2012. He filled any gap in Bruce Arena’s lineup and provided the flexibility to tailor the team to fit the task on the day. His contributions often went overlooked in a team with David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, but they were essential to the Galaxy’s success.

His complementary role with the Galaxy transformed into a star turn when he returned to his native Chicago in a high-profile swap for the rights to Robbie Rogers back in May. It took less than a day to figure out how much his professional life had changed. He planned to ask Fire coach Frank Klopas about playing forward more regularly after featuring mostly in the wide areas with the Galaxy. Klopas didn’t give him the chance: the ex-Fire boss asked him where he wanted to play during his first training session with the team.

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It proved a wise decision for both club and player. Magee continued to exploit the gaps he located with the Galaxy and polished off the service provided by Dilly Duka, Joel Lindpere and Patrick Nyarko. He grasped the opportunity with both hands on and off the field. And his exploits proved impressive enough to hold off former Galaxy teammate Keane and Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio for his first major honor.

“From the time I got there until now, it’s been absolutely amazing,” Magee said. “I think I’ve had a lot more seasons where there have been more ups and downs, but this year, it just seemed like it kept getting better from a soccer standpoint and a life standpoint.”

Magee hopes the progress will continue into next season. He cherishes the opportunity to play in front of his family and his friends. He harbors hopes of transitioning into the U.S. national team setup (Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t made contact yet, he said). He wants to help the Fire return to the playoffs under new boss Frank Yallop.

There is plenty still left to do, but the discussions about his ability to meet his potential are done and dusted. The trophy now in his hands proves it.

(Images: US Presswire)