Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mission (Un)Accomplished: Sporting KC Falls to Rapids 2-0.

Thoughts from tonight's 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids. They reflect the opinions of no one but myself (and maybe not even that if I get drunk enough).


Normally, when you go up a man in soccer, you get more chances to score. That's normally.

Unfortunately for Sporting KC, that's not what happened in the second half tonight at Sporting Park. Already trailing 1-0 in the 84th minute, an opportunity presented itself to the home side when Rapids captain Sam Cronin received his second caution of the match and was sent off. You would think that would provide the home side a boost.

That is what you get for thinking. Approximately two minutes after Cronin was sent off (but only a minute after his slow walk reached the sideline), second half sub Marcelo Sarvas put the ball in the back of the net and doubled the Rapids lead. Sporting was up a man, but they certainly weren't playing like it.


As was pointed out on Twitter during (or just before) the match tonight, despite the conference switch, Rapids keeper Zac MacMath was the fourth Union keeper (or former keeper) Sporting had faced this season.  Rais Mbolhi, Andrew Blake, and John McCarthy were the other three. Mbolhi was the keeper who gave up the two late goals against Sporting in KC in April. Blake and McCarthy played for the Union in the U.S. Open Cup Final.


It is still possible for Sporting KC to get a first round bye in the playoffs, but it is, as they might say in England, not bloody likely.

What would be required, you ask? They would have to beat the Galaxy on Sunday. How badly? They'd have to win 5-0, the same score they lost to San Jose in August.

If they tie, they can still make the playoffs if San Jose ties or loses. If they lose, they have to hope San Jose loses at Dallas.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

If Gulati Won't Fire Klinsmann, Gulati Should Go Too

Thanks to uninspiring, lackluster efforts during the Gold Cup, the USMNT was forced into tonight's playoff with Mexico for the right to represent CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. Thanks to the piss poor effort tonight, that berth went to Mexico.

I hate to say it, as a proud American soccer fan, but the Mexican national team takes results much more seriously than US Soccer does. Since Jurgen Klinsmann was named manager and technical director of the USMNT on July 29, 2011, Mexico has had five different coaches, and they're about to get their sixth. Juan Carlos Osorio, best known in this country for his awful tenure at the helm of the New York Red Bulls, was slated to take the top job, regardless of the results.

Since US Soccer has so far done nothing to suggest they will terminate Jurgen Klinsmann's contract, which runs through the 2018 World Cup, there's only one thing left to do. The United States Soccer Federation's board of directors must terminate the contract of Sunil Gulati.

With Klinsmann serving as both coach and technical director, he honestly answers to no one except Gulati. With all the votes of confidence Gulati has given Klinsmann in recent months, despite the unsatisfying nature of the team's results, he's shown he has absolutely no interest in making a change.

Normally, I wouldn't write a blog post like this without putting together a list of candidates to take the job I'm asking someone to be relieved of. Despite the abnormality of the circumstances, I have a list of people who I think would do a better job as the head of US Soccer than the current one. This list is in no particular order.

1. Mitt Romney

People who know me really well might be a bit surprised that I would suggest 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney should be given any job, much less a job running the American governing body of a sport I love, but I have a reason for it.

He's done it before. No, he hasn't been the president of the USSF before, but he has successfully run a large sports organization before.

On February 11, 1999, Romney was named president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2002. When he was given the job, the group was running hundreds of millions of dollars behind its revenue goals and there was talk of scaling back the games, possibly even moving them altogether.

We all know what happened next. The 2002 Winter Olympics were very successful and Romney can claim a share of the credit for it. Therefore, he's on this list.

2. Joe Biden

People who know me really well would be a lot less surprised I would suggest Vice President Joe Biden take over US Soccer. Honestly, there are a few reasons Biden is on this list. 

If it's one thing he's known for, Biden speaks his mind, even when it may not be the most appropriate time. You may recall, on March 23, 2010, right after introducing the president at the bill signing for the Affordable Care Act, Biden embraced President Obama and said, "This is a big [expletive] deal..."

He also strikes me as someone who hates to lose. Quite honestly, some of the results the USMNT have had in recent months, especially at the Gold Cup, would have driven him a little crazy, if he's anything like me when I watch games.

Biden is also very well-respected around the world. After Georgia's short, but disastrous war with Russia, then-Sen. Biden called the Georgian president to box his ears over the ill-advised stunt. As a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and now as Vice President, Biden's used to getting his calls answered in foreign capitals.

3. Mark Cuban

Every list like this usually has one or more names on it that make people say, "What?!" I'm well aware Mark Cuban would be one of those.

Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, would not be scared of the amount of money that would be required to terminate Klinsmann's contract. Quite honestly, he could probably write Klinsmann a check and be done with it.

Cuban is also, and I say this with all due respect, a very sore loser. I'm sure it would be fair to say that former NBA commissioner David Stern had Cuban on speed dial for those times when Cuban felt his team had been wronged by the league's referees. I'm sure Cuban treats his coaches the same way when they fail to perform.


Honestly, it doesn't really matter to me who ends up succeeding Gulati. The important part right now is that whoever does, fires Jurgen Klinsmann. Because if Klinsmann is allowed to continue to run the USMNT into the ground, the streak of consecutive World Cups is in serious jeopardy.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mission Accomplished: USMNT U23s Qualify for Semifinals

After two strong efforts in the group stage of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship, the United States U23s punched their ticket to the semifinals. Defeating Canada (3-1) and Cuba (6-1) means the US team has six points out of a possible nine and passage through to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

The best part of the tournament for me, so far, has been the play of the kids called up from the U20s. Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Jordan Morris (Stanford University), Gedion Zelalem (Rangers), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Maki Tall (FC Sion) and Gboly Ariyibi (Chesterfield FC/England) have all acquitted themselves very well. In addition, Miazga, Carter-Vickers, Hyndman, Morris, Kiesewetter all scored in the first two matches with Morris and Kiesewetter tallying two goals each.

This is a welcome change from the team that played in the tournament trying to qualify for London in 2012. The semifinals/finals were held here at Sporting Park, but the US didn't qualify because they played poorly and got knocked out of the competition by Canada, something you don't hear very often, unless it's in relation to ice hockey.

The main change, I think, comes from the team's attitude. While Cuba may be a depleted side with only four available subs on the bench (two of whom were goalkeepers), coach Andi Herzog said after the game that he was pleased with the fact there wasn't a letdown and they kept the foot on the gas. Midfielder Wil Trapp said they'd developed the killer instinct and once they get one goal, they keep wanting to get more, no matter how many they get.

The final group stage game, at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO, on Tuesday against Panama will be more of a challenge than Cuba (I know that's not saying much), but it will also provide an opportunity for Herzog to get some guys playing time that haven't so far. Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is joining the team from his club in Norway (Molde) after playing well against Ajax in the Europa League this past week.

As long as they make the final, a United States soccer team will be traveling to Brazil for the second time in three years. The kids, as they've shown in the last three days, are all right.