Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Gulati: Fire Klinsmann Or You're Fired

After a rather uninspiring effort that saw the USMNT's winning streak against Mexico in World Cup qualifiers in Columbus come to an end, one might have thought Jurgen Klinsmann would have tried to light a fire under the team's butts for last night's match in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Unfortunately, that's what we get for thinking. If Klinsmann tried lighting a fire under his players, last night's disastrous result is just further proof that his matches are all wet.

In the worst shutout loss in a qualifier since 1957 (and the first loss in a home qualifier since 2001), the USMNT fell to Costa Rica 4-0. The sad part is that that scoreline made it seem closer than it was.

All you need to know about the state of the locker room for the USMNT can be found in this paragraph from Ives Galarcep's article on Goal.com that was posted Monday:

Klinsmann called out Bradley and Jermaine Jones for not playing well enough in the first half of Friday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico, blaming their struggles for the issues faced by the U.S. team’s surprising 3-4-3 formation. Bradley issued some not-so-subtle suggestions that the team didn’t have clear ideas about how to carry out the tactics of Klinsmann’s experimental formation.
That's right. Klinsmann throws two players under the bus, saying they didn't play well enough, but one of those players says they didn't know how to carry out the coach's plans. It would help things immensely if Klinsmann didn't feel the need to tinker with the lineup all the time, rather than just finding one that works and going with it.

I used all of those words to say the USSF needs to fire Klinsmann. Today.

As much as it pains me to say this as a proud American soccer fan, the Mexican national team takes results much more seriously than we do. Since Klinsmann was hired as the manager and technical director of the USMNT on July 28, 2011, El Tri is on their sixth coach. Juan Carlos Osorio, best known in this country for his disastrous tenure at the helm of the New York Red Bulls, is the current occupant of the job, but El Tri have a lot more talent than his team in NY did.

Speaking to reporters before Friday's match against Mexico, USSF President Sunil Gulati said, "We've never changed coaches in the [middle of the final round]. No one has started the process and not finished it since 1989 and I expect that to be the case here."

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 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, despite the unsatisfying nature of the team's results, Gulati's shown he has absolutely no interest in making a change.

I first wrote that I thought Gulati should be fired after the Confed Cup playoff loss to Mexico last October. The following list of people I would like to see succeed Gulati hasn't changed since then and is reproduced for your perusal here.

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.

Biden is also out of a job on January 20, 2017, so he's available soon.

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.

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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. The USMNT is currently dead last in the Hex, behind Trinidad because of a goal differential of -5.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Thank You, Rangers, For A Magical Ride

Well, that certainly wasn't how I envisioned the season coming to an end. I was fully aware that NYRBII was the regular season champ and set league records for points, wins and goals, but attributed some of that to the fact the Eastern Conference was weaker than the West.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Red Bulls were just as strong as their numbers would suggest. While a couple of those goals were after the air had already been taken out of the Rangers balloon, it was still a 5-1 result for the home side and makes this a time to reflect on the season.

If I had to pick one moment where I had to pick up my jaw off the floor, it would have to be Dane Kelly's extra time game-winner against the Orange County Blues. To give you an idea of how impressive the feat was (not necessarily the goal, but winning down to nine and not having to go to penalties), I'll use a pair of lines from the movie Tombstone (still one of my favorites).

After the scene where Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp kills Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Boothe) after wading into the creek, Sherman McMasters (Michael Rooker) says, "Have you ever seen anything like that before?" Turkey Creek Jack Johnson (Buck Taylor) replies, "I ain't even heard of anything like that before."

The heart that the team showed in that match, and really, in every match down the stretch, has been the most impressive thing about this run. The fact they never got negative or nasty, not even in June when they were in 13th place, shows they never gave up in their belief in themselves. With a master motivator in Marc Dos Santos, anything is possible.

There were a couple moments where I just couldn't help but smile, one in the regular season and one in the playoffs. The regular season one happened early on, probably in May (wish I'd written it down). After the first yellow card of the match, I said, "A yellow card caution has been to the referee...," instead of "...by the referee..." I knew the mic was on when I heard people outside the press box clapping. When Chris Wyche, EVP of Operations for SKC came up behind me in the press box, I turned and looked at him and he had the biggest turd eating grin on his face.

The one in the playoffs happened after the first round game with the Los Angeles Galaxy II (or "Los Dos"). After a rather hard-fought match, I was talking to a player on the field and he said, "I really hate those t***s!" It made me laugh because you never think of certain guys as saying things like that.

There have also been some moments that I classify "Only with the Rangers." For example, Mark Anthony Gonzalez's mom Marisa follows me on Twitter and Amer Didic's dad Jida is Facebook friends with me. There was also the time that Johnny Grant thanked me for waiting for him. All I wanted to do was give him a message from a mutual acquaintance. Those things wouldn't happen in a bigger club.

Now, not everything was positive. After all, the club was in 13th place in June before making a run up the table to finish fourth with a home playoff game. The moments that really broke my heart mostly dealt with injuries to players I liked. The first was Kevin Oliveira tearing his ACL in late June. Even after that, though, Kevin was still named to the USL's list of the 20 best players age 20 or younger. Ualefi blew out his knee during the playoff run and missed out on the conference final.

There are a couple people I would like to thank, individually, for their roles in this happening. The first would be Rangers GM Kurt Austin and Mr. Wyche. They were the people that gave me the opportunity for a dream job. While I had worked in radio (a long time ago), I had never worked as a public address announcer before (outside of one wrestling dual meet while I was in high school). They did what they could to make the process as painless as possible for me. I will be eternally grateful for the faith they put in me.

I would also like to thank Patrik Bergabo, Rangers Communications Manager and fellow Liverpool FC fan, for putting up with me. I didn't always make your job very easy (especially this week), but I appreciate you and your assistance before, during, and after games this season.

I would be remiss if I didn't also thank Marc Dos Santos, Rangers head coach this season. Marc was always warm and positive when I talked to him, win or lose. In fact, after one match, he said the loss was his fault as the subs had not been the right ones. I will miss seeing him around next season. He's already been announced as the head coach of the San Francisco Deltas, an NASL expansion side for 2017. It will be his third team in three years, but I can't blame him, really. He's an ambitious guy and I can't blame him for wanting to be the guy in charge and he can't do that in Kansas City with Peter Vermes around.

The 2016 season has come to an end and we'll have to wait until March for it to start again. If next year is anywhere near as good as this year has been, I can hardly wait for it to get here.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sporting KC Give Up Late Equalizer; Drop Points at Home Again

If there's one thing that seems to be able to be counted on in the 2016 season for Sporting KC, it's probably their knack for giving up late goals. It's almost to the point where you can see them coming, really.

It happened again on Sunday afternoon, about fifteen minutes from time, and less than two minutes after the league's all-time leading scorer subbed into the match.

It's got to be frustrating for the players and coaches to constantly face questions about why they couldn't hold onto a lead late in a game.

It seems as if the team's luck has simply run out, or at least very low. A team that used to be able to get by with a few mistakes simply can't afford that luxury anymore. The slightest mistakes are now ruthlessly punished every single time.

The thing of it is, I'm not sure what can be done about it. I'm sure Peter Vermes could tell them to cut out the mistakes until he's blue in the face (and has) and mistakes would still happen because players are still human.

The more points the club drops at home, they have to make them up on the road, but their road form has been pretty poor. At 2-8-4, only San Jose and Portland have fewer road wins, while only Vancouver, Houston and Real Salt Lake have more road losses in the Western Conference.

I hate to say it, but the chances of this club making the playoffs are starting to look more remote than they did even a few weeks ago. That may not be the worst thing in the world for this club. The fans wouldn't like it, but it would allow the club to start to rebuild just that much quicker.

What it is, exactly, they need to do to make this club better for next season and beyond is probably a question for someone smarter than I am. I'm just the Rangers PA guy and I've watched a lot of soccer, as a fan and an official.

Whatever it is, though, will need to be done quickly as the game moves too fast to do anything less.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Maybe it's just me, but with Sporting Kansas City going into a bye week, I think it's about time Connor Hallisey was given time with the Swope Park Rangers.

While Connor has played in both of the CCL games for Sporting KC, he hasn't appeared in a league game since the 3-0 loss to Portland on August 7th.

The Rangers are in the middle of a five-game homestand. They have two home games this week, one Wednesday against San Antonio FC and one Saturday against Rio Grande Valley FC. They're currently one point out of 8th, the last playoff spot, in the Western Conference with six games to play.

Now, I know that some of you don't think much of Connor's ability. I've seen some of you, on Twitter and elsewhere, find a variety of ways to say you think he sucks.

The problem with that is Peter Vermes doesn't agree with you, and when it comes to talent evaluation, I'll take Peter's opinion over a lot of other people.

Strikers need two things, really, to be good at their jobs. First, they need athletic ability, which Connor has or the club wouldn't have drafted him in the first round last year.

The other thing they need, frankly, is confidence in those abilities. With some people, that confidence is reliant on finding success. With strikers, that means finding the back of the net.

In Connor's case, when you're getting paid to put the ball in the net, and you're having trouble doing that, you start trying too hard. When you try too hard, your task becomes that much more difficult. It also gives your critics more examples to point to and say, "See, we told you he couldn't do it."

The point I'm trying to make here is that giving Connor time with the Rangers could end up helping both. Connor gets a chance to find his scoring touch and the Rangers get help in making their playoff push.

That said, I'm not saying that USL is easy. Anyone who was at the Rangers match with Galaxy II on Saturday night can tell you that guys in this league play hard with the goal of impressing the coaches and technical staff on the big club.

If I could tell Peter Vermes just one thing, it would be this: Give Connor Hallisey time with the Rangers. There aren't any league matches for him to warm the bench for this week, and he just might find the scoring touch that made you draft him in the first place.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hope Solo's Suspension: It's About Time

When USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo called Sweden's team a "bunch of cowards," I was angry. That is not how I want any athlete, male or female, to act when representing the United States.

Was I mad they'd lost? Sure. Any passionate fan of the game of soccer would have been.

However, as former USWNT star Julie Foudy said, Solo's comments were "classless and ridiculous." Teammate Megan Rapinoe said she was "really disappointed" in the comments, adding, "That’s not our team, that’s not what this team has always been, that’s not what this team will be in the future."

Wednesday's action by the USSF terminating Solo's contract and suspending her for six months sounds like it's harsh, taken as a reaction to this one incident.

That's what Rich Nichols, the general counsel of the USWNT Players Association, wants you to think.

Nichols called the suspension/contract termination "excessive, unprecedented, disproportionate, and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment rights." While Solo will receive three months of severance pay, Nichols said they will be filing a grievance on her behalf.

Here's the thing. It's not like this is the first time Solo has behaved poorly in public. Not even close.

In 2007, Solo threw then-coach Greg Ryan under the bus for benching her for the World Cup semifinal the team ended up losing. She never played for Ryan again, but was brought back in to the team by Pia Sundhage after she took over after Ryan was fired.

In 2014, Solo was arrested for beating up her half-sister and nephew at a family gathering. That case has not yet been resolved.

In 2015, Solo was suspended for 30 days after allowing her husband to get behind the wheel of a borrowed team van while he was intoxicated.

Then, earlier this month, Solo called the Swedes a bunch of cowards for successfully using a tactic that teams have been using against superior opposition for ages.

In his statement announcing the suspension, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati referenced this past behavior, saying, "Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. national team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action."

To Nichols' point that the disciplinary action taken by U.S. Soccer violates Solo's First Amendment rights, that's just ridiculous.

I support the First Amendment just as strongly as anybody else in my position, but Nichols is incorrect when he says Solo's rights were violated.

The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

As written, the First Amendment refers to the government not being able to tell you what you can or can't say. It doesn't say anything about people's employers not being able to discipline their employees for the stupid stuff they say.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, let Solo's productive career for the USWNT come to an end and let someone else have a chance. Lord knows they might actually have a sportsmanlike bone in their body.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sporting KC, Weather Down Disinterested Sounders 3-0.

Standard disclaimer: Just because I may represent an organization doesn't mean they necessarily agree with my opinions. It's great if they do, but don't assume they do.

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To say that it was hot for Sporting KC's match with the Seattle Sounders in Kansas City, KS, on Sunday would be an understatement. One of the guys would would know told me it was 111ยบ on the field before the game. The fact that the league would mandate playing in this weather seems pretty brutal.

Benny Feilhaber said he didn't think it was "humane" to play in this weather, but I can't say that he's wrong. There are a few places in the league you could get away with playing at 2:00 in the afternoon in July, but Kansas City isn't one of them. Considering the way summers usually go in this part of the country, you can expect it to be hot and humid. Period.

As former major league pitcher Jim Bouton once said, "What's better than a Fourth of July doubleheader in Kansas City? Anything up to, and including, a kick in the ass."

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Don't get me wrong, I've never been a fan of the Sounders, but manager Sigi Schmid is someone you can't help but feel a little sorry for. The last time his club had consecutive wins in league play was early May. Since May 7th (a 2-0 win over the Earthquakes), the Sounders are 2-8-1 and are averaging 0.91 goals per game over that span. That last stat is actually a little misleading. They beat FC Dallas 5-0 on July 13th and have been shutout six times, including this afternoon against Sporting KC.

Schmid looks like a broken man. He looked like he hadn't been sleeping well, hadn't shaved before the match, and was very blunt in the post-game press conference, saying that his club wasn't very good today. He even went so far as to say he thought Sporting was "trying to pour it on" late when pushing for another goal. As long as Peter Vermes has been the manager of Sporting KC, would you expect anything less?

I think part of Schmid's demeanor goes to the fact that he's probably a dead man walking. Honestly, I would be surprised if he is still the Sounders manager by the end of the week. Sometimes, when you're pretty sure you're going to lose your job, you say things you wouldn't normally say.


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It would be fair to say that if the performance had been better in front of goal, Sporting could have hung a seven-spot on the Sounders. Connor Hallisey should have had at least one and Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei made three saves. Some of the shots were just wide but probably would have gone in if they'd been on frame. That's not to say Frei wouldn't have stopped them, but I'm not sure he would have, either.


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To say the defensive performance was good is a fairly major understatement. Sporting's defense officially allowed one shot attempt. Not one shot on goal, but one attempt period. It came in the 88th minute by Joevin Jones and it wasn't much of a shot. It looked more like a cross, to be perfectly honest.

It also came from someone who shouldn't have even been on the field. Jones went into Roger Espinoza two-footed, studs showing, and from behind. If I saw a foul like that in I game I was officiating, they would have been shown a straight red and they would have earned it.


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Up next for Sporting KC is the first of a home-and-home with the Portland Timbers. SKC's task became a touch easier yesterday with the injury to Nat Borchers of the Timbers, but it will still be a tough ask, if only because Portland is playing fairly decently and are the defending champs. Kickoff is set for 1:00 on Sunday, July 31st.

Also, next Sunday is the media game at halftime of the match with the Timbers. Yours truly will be on the field and I'm praying as hard as I can that it's cooler then than it was today. Probably wouldn't be a good look for the club if the media people are puking all over the field.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sporting KC Extends MLS Unbeaten Streak to Five; Down NYCFC 3-1 at Home.

Standard disclaimer: My thoughts do not, in any way, reflect on any of my employers, paid or unpaid. Anyone who thinks they do isn't paying attention.

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It may just be me, but I think things are finally starting to click for this club. The defensive decision-making is getting better and the offensive pressure is starting to pay off. In this match, Sporting KC managed to get off 18 shots, putting nine on target. If not for some good saves by Josh Saunders, this could have been closer to the 7-0 drubbing they received from NYRB.

And it's not just guys like Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer that are scoring. Last week, Matt Besler got his first goal since the season finale in 2011. Tonight, Ike Opara got his first goal since getting the game-winner against NYCFC on the road on March 28, 2015, and Jimmy Medranda got the first goal of his MLS career on a shot from about 25 yards out.

The defensive performance tonight was outstanding. Sporting's defense held NYCFC to only four shots and 34 percent of the possession. That's the lowest percentage of the ball that NYC's had since they joined MLS last season. Tim Melia really didn't have that much to do all night, but he got the job done when he had to.

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Speaking of Jimmy Medranda, I may give him flack over his shot selection (once tweeting that he'll take a shot from anywhere on the field, including the bench), but he's probably one of my favorite guys on the club.

He's one of the nicest guys on the club, and that's saying something with this group. He has also worked incredibly hard since he arrived from Deportivo Pereira in 2013. He's athletic and he's still very young, only having turned 22 in February. Jimmy still has a lot of upside and can get even better than he showed on the field tonight.

And even when I do give him flack on Twitter, he understands what I tell everybody I'm acquainted with. If I'm not giving you a hard time, it's because I don't like you.

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Speaking to Ike in the locker room after he scored his first goal since he returned from his latest season-ending injury, he said he wanted to thank the fans for all of the messages they sent him. He said he loves the fans as much as they love him and wanted to thank them all individually.

In fact, during the standing ovation he received on his way off the field, he said deep down inside he was getting really emotional and had to "smile it out." He's incredibly appreciative of all the fans and how the club and coaching staff stood by him. But it's how he stood by himself that the rest of us appreciate about him.

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Next up for the club is a mid-week match in Chicago to take on the Fire at Toyota Park before ending the week in Denver to play the Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. They will return home on Sunday, July 24, to play the Seattle Sounders at 2:00 on ESPN.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Ted Unkel Missed Potential Game-Changing Call

Standard disclaimer: I'm speaking for myself only. Anyone I'm connected to may agree with what I say, but don't assume they do.

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Now, people who know me know that I've been defending referees on this blog, especially since I began carrying my own whistle as a USSF-certified official in August of last year. I've been trying to stick up for them when I think they're being maligned unfairly while also pointing out when they've made mistakes.

Today, it's the latter. I have to call out Ted Unkel for missing a potentially game-changing call in the second half of Sporting KC's 3-2 win over Columbus at Children's Mercy Park tonight.

Quoting from the Laws of the Game, 2016-17, Law 12 (Fouls And Misconduct) emphasis mine:
An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offences:
  • controls the ball with the hands for more than six seconds before releasing it
  • touches the ball with the hands after:
         -releasing it and before it has touched another player
         -it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate
         -receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate
In the 88th minute and with the score tied, Corey Ashe intercepted a Sporting KC pass and directed the ball back to goalkeeper Steve Clark. By the rule cited above, that would be a back-pass, and punishable by an indirect free kick from the spot where Clark picked it up.

Now, in the end, it didn't matter. Matt Besler scored his first goal since 2011 a couple of minutes later, but it shouldn't have come to that.

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Speaking of that Besler game-winner, it was good, but it doesn't happen without an inch-perfect cross from Jimmy Medranda that Ike Opara heads to Besler to put it in. Take another look.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/07/03/goal-matt-besler-heads-game-winner-sporting-kc?autoplay=true

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Graham Zusi was in fine form tonight. He was in "Shoot first, ask questions later" mode, something we really haven't seen from him in a while either.

In the first half, he put a 25-yard free kick off the crossbar, but it was this strike in the 55th minute that really showed how well he played...



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Next up for Sporting KC is a date with NYCFC, or as some of us like to call them, Manchester City JV. Kickoff is set for 7:00 on Sunday, July 10, also on FS1.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sporting KC Down FC Dallas 2-0, Lucky to Come Away with Three Points.

Thoughts about today's match at Children's Mercy Park between Sporting KC and FC Dallas only reflect the sounds echoing around in my own head. If you think that sounds bizarre, it goes along with the match we just watched.

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In the 16th minute, Lawrence Olum directed a pass back towards his goalkeeper, Tim Melia. Well, towards where he thought Melia was. Melia appeared to get back and clear the ball off the line.

One problem. Replays (and many still photos) later showed the ball was approximately two feet over the goal line and should have counted.

To be fair to the AR on that side of the pitch, Sean Hurd, a sliding Tim Melia was between him and the ball, screening him on the play. The center official, Jorge Gonzalez should have to be the one that made the call, but I honestly don't think he would have had a shot at making the call.

It's calls like this, or non-calls in this case, that make video replay or goal line technology that much more important to get done. Sometimes they try to make it sound like all officials are against technology, but that's not true. I am an official and the most important thing for me is getting the call right. However, I also don't want them to entirely remove the human element from the game. It's part of what makes sports so compelling.

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You know you're living in a bizarro world when, among other things, Fabian Castillo was in alone on Melia and took a shot that bounced off the post and right to Melia. If the own goal no call didn't, this should have alerted Dallas that today wasn't going to be their day.

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How much did Dallas control the game in the 2nd half? They controlled almost 72 percent of the possession and out-shot Kansas City 10-1. In fact, they took the last ten shots of the game. The key, however, is that not one of those ten shots was on target.

Another sign that Sporting wasn't getting forward as much as they usually prefer? They weren't awarded a single corner kick for the entire match. Now, I'm sure part of that could be attributed to the fact that most of the SKC starters went 120 minutes in the midweek Open Cup match in Minnesota, but Dallas also played 120 minutes on Wednesday, beating Oklahoma City in penalty kicks.

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Something else that was odd about this match was the fact that referee Jorge Gonzalez actually handed out three yellow cards for time-wasting in the 2nd half of this match. The thing is, Sporting KC players weren't doing anything they hadn't seen their opponents do in previous matches.

It seems to me that referees in this league don't punish time-wasting like they should, with plenty of yellow cards. Yellow cards add up (just ask Bobby Wood) and players will get suspended if they get too many. Yet, too many players consistently do things to waste time and yet aren't punished for it when they're playing here at CMP.

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As if the game wasn't bizarre enough, there was a movie star in the locker room after the game, Paul Rudd, in town for the Big Slick fundraiser for Children's Mercy Hospital, was in the Sporting KC locker room after the match. Rudd, a Kansas City native and big sports fan, was wearing a Benny Feilhaber jersey. I know some people will say, "Pics or it didn't happen," but I am not permitted, by the terms of my credential to take personal photos in the locker room.

What's the worst that could happen? I'll tell you. "Any unauthorized use of this credential or violation of any term of this credential automatically and immediately revokes all permissions granted in this credential and subjects bearer to ejection from the stadium and possible prosecution for criminal trespass." Ain't worth it.

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Next up for SKC is a date with Montreal on Saturday, June 25th at 6:30pm CDT. They return home on Sunday, July 3 to face Columbus, but not before a trip to Houston (June 29) for the Round of 16 match-up in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

In Last Pre-Copa Friendly, USMNT Handles Bolivia 4-0 in Kansas City

The thoughts and ramblings shown below are reflective of nothing but the electrical impulses from my brain to my hands and nothing else. The 8,894 fans in attendance (as well as anyone else, to be honest) are welcome to agree or disagree with anything I say.

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One of the few things that didn't impress me about Saturday's match at Children's Mercy Park was the attendance. The announced attendance of 8,894 was actually below the average of the four home friendlies the team has played in 2016.


I'm sure there were a few reasons for the ticket sales being so poor. Some of the contributing factors probably included the Royals being in town, the fact it's Memorial Day Weekend and the play the team's shown the last several months, but one of the most common complaints I saw was the price of the tickets.


When the tickets are, as one tweet said, double the price to get into a Sporting KC game, you can't expect people to pay that for a friendly. A World Cup qualifier or a Gold Cup doubleheader, sure, but not for a tune-up against a team they're supposed to beat. If US Soccer is serious about wanting to sell as many tickets to these friendlies as they can, what they need to do is look at lowering the prices. Sure, they'll make a little less per ticket, but they'll sell more of them, making up the difference, as they say in retail, on the volume of the sales.

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One of the things that did impress me about this match was the play of Sporting KC's Matt Besler. Anybody who knows me well knows that I love Matt Besler to death as a human being, especially his dislike of talking about himself, rare among professional athletes.

While Besler was played out of his natural position at center back (something of a pattern with Jurgen Klinsmann), I thought it worked well. He got up and down the left side really well, had several overlapping runs, played in some nice crosses from the left and even had a moment of magic in heavy traffic.
That's right, Matt Besler, the steady captain of his hometown club, showed us he still has a couple clubs in his bag that he doesn't use very often, but he should. My chin's still a little sore from where it hit the floor when Besler nutmegged that poor Bolivian.

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Now, while the match didn't mean quite as much as some the USMNT have played here since the stadium opened in 2011, don't tell that to the American Outlaws. Most of the South Stand was covered (more thickly in the middle than on the sides) with fans wearing the red white and blue. They were loud and did not stop singing.

There was one bewildering decision by one of the capos in the thickest group of Outlaws that made you wonder just how much they were paying attention to what was going on around them. If you've been to a US match at CMP, you've probably heard the call and response chant "United!" "States!". Well, some goofball down there thought it would be a good idea to start that chant while pointing at the Member Stand. That might have worked if the Member Stand, normal home of the Cauldron, hadn't been virtually empty. How empty? If there were 100 people on that end of the stadium, you may have had to count some people more than once to get that high.

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Something else impressive about the match was the field itself. Less than 24 hours after Sporting KC fell to DC United during a torrential rainstorm, the field looked good. How good?
Not only could you not tell a match had been played here Friday night, you honestly couldn't tell how hard it had rained. The drainage on this field is something else and the grounds crew at CMP is the best in MLS with good reason.

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Next up for the USMNT is their Copa America opener at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, against Colombia. Mistakes they could get away with making against Bolivia will be punished mercilessly by the Colombians, who the USMNT have a 3-10-4 record against.

On a Wet Night in Kansas City, Sporting KC Drops Another One, Fall to DC 1-0

Thoughts about Friday's Sporting KC loss to DC United are reflective of only those neurons firing in my own head. The 19,118 fans at Children's Mercy Park may, or may not agree with me.

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Mother Nature had her hand in this match in more ways than one. First, because of the weather in the Kansas City metro area on Thursday, DC United was unable to fly in, spending the night in Chicago. Since DC was unable to fly out of Chicago until early Friday afternoon, the clubs agreed to delay the match until 8:30 instead of the original 6:00.

After the whistle was blown to end the first half, Mother Nature decided to pop Kansas City again, with torrential rain and frequent lightning. The beginning of the second half was delayed approximately an hour. The full-time whistle wasn't blown until almost 11:30, more than five hours after the original start time.

As Peter Vermes said in the post-game press conference, the weather delays were not an excuse as both teams had to deal with them. It's nice to get some honesty, but Vermes has never been one to make excuses.

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Another source of some honesty after the match was midfielder Paulo Nagamura, Sporting's captain for Friday's match. In the locker room, Nagamura said that it was obviously frustrating and the club's just not good enough right now. I honestly don't think very many people would disagree with him right now.

The thing is, they're really not playing that badly. In fact, Friday's performance was a better than last week's against Real Salt Lake. They seemed to have quite a bit of the possession and, other than the one glaring example of Kamara's goal, DC didn't really have that much of an attack. The problem is that one exception to the rule. The thing Vermes has been stressing in his postgame press conferences of late is the giving away of soft goals. He says that while the lack of finishing is something they need to address, the defensive mistakes are what's killing the team. Allowing soft goals means you're dropping points, something Sporting KC has been doing a lot of lately, especially at home.

According to a tweet from Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst), so far this season, Sporting has dropped 14 points at home (a draw and four losses). The six teams above them in the Western Conference (Colorado, Dallas, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose and Real Salt Lake), have dropped 17 point at home combined.

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There was at least one positive thing about this match tonight. After the weather delay, there was no standing water on the pitch. None. Considering the amount of water that got dumped on that field, that's simply amazing. Even as the rain picked back up after the match resumed, the only puddles were the ones on the concrete walkway around the grass.

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After Thursday's match away to the Galaxy, they have 13 days off until their next match (a road match to begin the defense of their US Open Cup title. That would be a perfect time to fix whatever it is that needs to be fixed, considering the club has already almost reached the halfway point of the season.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sporting KC Drop Third Home Match of 2016, Fall to RSL 3-1.

Thoughts about tonight's game, witnessed by 20,618 fans in attendance at Children's Mercy Park, are reflective of only my own head. Agree or don't, that's okay.

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The first sign this night wasn't going to go according to plan was probably even before the game started. While KSHB meteorologist Gary Lezak was giving the forecast (pre-recorded) that said it would stay dry, it started to rain. Some in the crowd used a chant they usually reserve for officials ("You Don't Know What You're Doing"). I may give the weather guys flack for what they say or how they say it, but as Bryan Busby from KMBC would say, "Predicting the future is hard."

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During the match, I was asked for my "off the top of your head" reason that I thought this team wasn't very good right now. I said too many turnovers in the defensive third and not enough good finishing. Now, there wasn't really anything that Sporting could have done about the second goal. I mean it's hard to do anything with a ball the defender, Brad Davis in this case, can't see coming.

I think it's fair to say, though, you can't really put much blame on goalkeeper Tim Melia for either of the other two goals. He got hung out to dry by his defense. It's hard to fault him for the third one. Tim came out to cut down the angle and Movsisyan chipped it over him. It's just one of those things.

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Considering how talkative RSL manager Jeff Cassar was at his postgame press conference, you would think the club would have an open locker room after the match, as they're required to do by league policy.

Evidently, that's what you get for thinking. After trying to get into the RSL locker room, Sam McDowell of the KC Star came back to the SKC locker room to talk to public relations head honcho Rob Thomson, telling him RSL had refused him access to the locker room. For those who've never gotten the 25 cent tour of Children's Mercy Park, there is a sign on the door to the locker room that says media access is granted 15 minutes after matches. It's not just league policy, but an order from MLS commissioner Don Garber. When the man in charge says to do something, you really need to do it.

I could possibly see not wanting to give access after a bad loss, but RSL won their second straight game in Kansas City for the first time in franchise history. This isn't so we can embarrass professional athletes talking about stupid stuff. This is so we can tell people about the game that just happened, just in case they couldn't watch it, or if they did, give them more context about what went on that night. MLS needs to make sure RSL is following league policies, or what do they even have rules on this stuff for, honestly.

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It's a short week as they return to Children's Mercy Park on Friday to take on Handball United, also known as DC United. Sporting will be without Graham Zusi and Matt Besler as they've been called into the USMNT for Copa America Centenario. Here's hoping the time away can help them find whatever it is that's missing from their games. I wish them, and the US team luck in the tournament, even if I do want Jurgen Klinsmann to get fired.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sporting KC Falls To Undermanned RSL 2-1.

Thoughts from tonight's 2-1 loss by Sporting Kansas City to Real Salt Lake at Children's Mercy Park. 20,553 fans attended the match and they may, or may not agree with any of what I'm about to say. Do I care? Not one bit.

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Honestly, one of the things that is starting to really drive me crazy is all the criticism of the referees from people who, quite honestly, need to try it before they open their mouths. Especially, if they're opening them to do things like the "Who's your daddy?" chant or yelling "The (ref shirt color) team sucks."

Just because a call goes against your team, it doesn't mean the call is a bad one. The players on your team foul the players on every other team in the league. It happens.

Do bad calls happen? Sure, because referees are human and sometimes make mistakes. We've all done it. I know I've made mistakes on the field/court as I officiate multiple sports. The greatest signal in sports has to be the double thumbs up for volleyball ("replay"). It's got to be the only sport I know of that allows the refs to just do the point over.

But in sports that don't have that, you just have to live with the call that is or isn't made. Did Ted Unkel make some decisions that were incorrect? Sure. The foul for the penalty may have been borderline on whether it was in the penalty area, but in consultation with the assistant on the bench side of the field, he gave it. Personally, my seat was just about even with the top of the 18 and it looked to me like he got it right.

The point, and I do have one, is that the way you view a call made on the field by either the center official or the ARs depends on your point of view. The way you see it isn't necessarily the way the ref sees it because of their angle to the play. Do I agree with everything Unkel did in tonight's game? No, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because he was in a lot better position to see the game than I was. I was in the upper deck of the stadium. He was on the field.

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The two goals Sporting KC gave up were, to put it mildly, incredibly soft and entirely preventable. The first, off of the free kick just in front of me, was an example of poor defending. To be perfectly honest, it appeared the team didn't even bother marking any of the three RSL players around the ball after Joao Plata put it into the 18. Justen Glad got his first MLS goal on the play and the defense hung Tim Melia completely out to dry.

The second was a product of a bad giveaway. To his credit, Luke Mulholland thought he'd take a crack at it and managed to put the ball on frame. Again, Melia didn't really have a chance to get a hand on it, but the ball should have been cleared properly.


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To be honest, one of the strangest things I've ever seen, at least on a soccer field, has to be what happened after Benny Feilhaber took his penalty. Now, I've seen plenty of players run into the net to get the ball after scoring to try to get the game restarted quickly, especially when they're behind. The strange part is when RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella jumped in on top of him. Had I been the center official, that would have been worthy of at least a yellow, possibly a straight red for endangering the safety of another player.

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One other situation I don't think Unkel handled very well was the inordinate amount of time-wasting RSL was doing the entire game. Plata's yellow card in the 76th minute was entirely too late to try to get them to speed things up. Now that I think about it, I can understand why Plata was so incredulous after Unkel booked him. He was probably thinking, "We've been doing this all game and you choose to care about it NOW?"

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There are two stats from tonight's match that really stick out to me as reasons why Sporting KC didn't get more out of this match. The first is the fact they were flagged for offside eight times. Well-timed runs are a hallmark of this club and they just weren't there tonight. Whether that's due more to RSL's defensive strategy or the runs just being mistimed is debatable, but it happened.

The other stat that stuck out, like a sore thumb to be honest, was the fact that Sporting KC wasn't credited with a shot until the 35th minute. Not a shot on target, mind you, but a shot of any kind. RSL actually outshot Sporting KC 15-9 tonight, and with a Peter Vermes team, that just doesn't happen very often. If you're not generating opportunities to get shots, much less the shots themselves, you're not going to win very many games that way. It's just one of the reasons the club didn't get anything out of the match, which is exactly what they deserved.