1. Seattle’s soccer scene rocks. I know that statement is tagged under “ridiculously obvious.” But good heavens, look at what’s happening this weekend! More than 60,000 fans are set to show up for Kasey Keller’s final regular season match at CenturyLink Field. There’s so much I could write about it all, about a giant of U.S. Soccer and how the city is showing up tip its collective hat. But my man Dave Clark and his friends at Sounder At Heart have done it better than I ever could. So check it out. And even if you aren’t a Seattle Sounders supporter, get your scarves up for Kasey Keller.
2. So I’m watching Fox Soccer Report on Thursday night … I do love me some FSC nightly report. But as FSC anchor Eoin O'Callaghan reported on Sporting Kansas City’s friendly from Wednesday in the Midwest, I thought about one of the real mysteries of our universe: Why do Brits insist on reducing “Kansas City” to just “Kansas?” Most of them tend to do it, and I can’t understand it. It’s “Kansas City!” Those aren’t the damn Jayhawks playing out there at Livestrong Sporting Park.
3. Eight teams are involved in playoffs for Euro 2012. These home-and-away series will be unbelievably tense – and in one sense, they make me wish the United States needed to endure something as riveting during World Cup qualification. Real anxiety helps create memorable moments – and a real chance for true heartbreak. And that helps create real fans, more of the folks who live and die by the fortunes of their beloved teams. (I do suppose you could also file that one under “Be careful what you ask for …”)
4. This one always fascinates me, and I plan to write more about it going forward. It’s the dysfunctional relationship that exists at MLS clubs without a clear hierarchical structure. In most markets, the coaches have higher salaries and higher profiles than technical directors. But they don’t always wield ultimate authority over personnel matters, ceding some of the decision making power to the TDs. For me it works like this: If a GM figure has the authority (think Theo Epstein, one of baseball’s noted personnel gurus), then the chain of command seems clear. Or, think about a situation that exists in Los Angeles, where manager Bruce Arena clearly holds all the cards in personnel choices. Those work. But situations where the chain of command isn’t so clearly defined – that’s a problem waiting to happen. That’s what we have in Colorado, where toxic fissures are becoming apparent between manager Gary Smith and technical director Paul Bravo. Here’s the story in the Denver Post. (By the way, Bravo was at the Galaxy previously but left when Arena took over.)
Read on for six more, including bits on Open Cup hangovers, Wayne Rooney, one MLS manager who is wandering off track and much more. ...
5. Seems like we witness this every year: the U.S. Open Cup hangover. Seattle fell flat in its first match after successful title defense in the nation’s oldest cup competition. So did Chicago, the Open Cup runner-up. The Sounders’ loss won’t have much impact; the Western Conference standings are more or less set at the top. But Chicago still had a wee chance to slip into playoffs. So the Fire’s mid-week loss to Dallas was a serious buzz kill around Toyota Park. Plus, cautions to two key defenders and Pavel Pardo’s ejection makes Saturday’s trip into RFK a real bear. So, good luck with all that.
6. On the subject of the Fire, this is how you deal with a red card – and props to Chicago’s Pavel Pardo, who made a mistake, but then stood up like a man and owned up to it. “It was a play that I came in a little bit late and I know it was a foul. But I think sometimes this is a foul you make 10 or 20 times in a game, but this is the referee’s decision. That is no excuse, I got the red card and I apologize because when you have to play with 10 players it’s difficult to try to win.”
7. Speaking of RFK (from above): I appreciate everything Ben Olsen has done this year for D.C. United. I see a pretty good attack and a good team spirit, although one that’s frequently undermined by a fatally flawed defense. (United’s 48 goals allowed is most by all clubs still eligible for the playoffs.) So, good on Olsen, a young coach who is growing into his job and seems to have a bright managerial future. That said, I always cringe when I see coaches play the “unacceptable” card. Olsen threw it down after Wednesday’s loss in Vancouver, where the defending was once again sub-par. Yes, bad marking should be “unacceptable.” On the other hand, coaches train the players, and then they select the lineup. And somewhere up the food chain, someone signed these guys. I don’t totally disagree with Olsen – but I recoil at any managerial comment that seems to put it all on players. (Along these lines, I like Frank Yallop personally, but he seems to do this a lot.)
8. This one is for all my fans in Kansas City. (Man, there are a couple of folks up there who have a serious hard-on for anything I write about their team.) I recently wrote about some personnel moves around Sporting KC. I wrote that some worked out and some didn’t. It was a pretty neutral piece. But they seemed particularly peeved when I wrote about the choice to jettison Kevin Hartman for Jimmy Nielsen, a decision that has worked out about as well as a fart in church. They disagreed, lobbing the tired old saw that I had just proved I don’t watch Sporting KC matches. I do watch those matches. And I have seen Nielsen. So have the editors at Soccer America Magazine. So … uh … read this and weep …
9. I won’t spend much time on this one, other than to say that I can’t stand the British press default position on American soccer, which they seem to regard as a quaint little distraction to more serious business. I saw this on display again in a story in the Mirror (yes, I know … I shouldn’t pay attention to the Mirror). The story was about Rio Ferdinand potentially joining MLS. The piece said he would make a great ambassador. Ambassador, eh? Well, get this ye British scribes: No, this is far, far away from the EPL in power, prestige and quality. But MLS is, believe it or not, an actual, competitive soccer league. As such, what MLS needs is players. Not effing “ambassadors.”
10. Finally, still “in England …”: Some people took umbrage at my Twitter post yesterday regarding Wayne Rooney. Here what I (@SteveDavis90) said: “Wayne Rooney really is such an amazing talent. But being a hothead (and he always has been) will catch up with you eventually. #GrowUp”
It was probably the cheeky little hash tag that got ‘em, and perhaps that was twisting the knife just a little. Still, I’m sorry if you’re a Wayne Rooney fan. And I’ll admit that he’s cleaned up his act a bit. But he’s still temperamental, still a little volatile and a threat to becoming unhinged. So here’s the deal: he’s a highly paid professional athlete. He has a responsibility to teammates and fans. Keeping his cool is part of the deal. So when he doesn’t keep his cool, there may be consequences. It’s really that simple.