Filed under: Brad Friedel, Uncategorized | Tags: 1974 World Cup, 2014 World Cup, Aston Villa, Belgium, Blackburn, Brad Friedel, Columbus Crew, England, English Premier League, France '98, Germany, Gregg Berhalter, Hermann Trophy, Iran, Jan Tomaszewski, Juergen Sommer, Kasey Keller, Korea/Japan 2002, Liverpool, Major League Soccer, Mexico, Ohio, Poland, South Korea, Tim Howard, Tony Meola, Torsten Frings, Tottenham Hotspur, UCLA, Yugoslavia
Brad Friedel, one of the most decorated players in U.S. history, announced that he would retire at the end of Tottenham Hotspur’s English Premier League season.
The 44-year-old, who made his EPL debut 17 seasons ago with Liverpool and went on to play for Blackburn and Aston Villa, holds the league record for consecutive starts with 310 and made 450 overall. He’s eighth all-time in career shutouts with 132, and he is only the second goalkeeper in league history to score a goal.
Friedel made 82 international appearances from 1992 through 2004. He won the 1992 Hermann Trophy as a UCLA junior and two years later was the USA’s backup goalkeeper to Tony Meola, along with Juergen Sommer, at the 1994 World Cup. He was the 1997 Goalkeeper of the Year, with the Columbus Crew, in his only season in Major League Soccer. Friedel then left for England, where he made 450 starts–310 consecutively. The Ohio native recorded 132 shutouts (eighth all-time in the EPL) and became only the second goalkeeper to score a Premier League goal, still only one of five to do so.
The 44-year-old Friedel, described by one writer as “follicularly fulsome” at the beginning of his career and bald as a soccer ball since, now brings his curious British/Midwestern accent to the tube as a full-time commentator for Fox Sports. [May 14]
Comment: For all the accolades that came Tim Howard’s way for his heroic performance in the USA’s overtime loss to Belgium in the second round of the 2014 World Cup, the greatest sustained World Cup performance by a U.S. goalkeeper was Friedel’s at Korea/Japan 2002.
Friedel was the guy who, at France ’98, was known as the USA’s No. 1 1/2, losing to Yugoslavia, 1-0, after No. 1 Kasey Keller had lost to Germany, 2-0, and Iran, 2-1. But four years later, he was the undisputed starter.
He saved penalty kicks against host South Korea and Poland in the first round, becoming the only ‘keeper to accomplish that feat since Jan Tomaszewski during Poland’s run to third place at the 1974 World Cup. Friedel’s performance against Korea included three saves of shots from inside 10 yards–without those, the U.S. doesn’t survive with a 1-1 tie and doesn’t advance out of its group. Then, Friedel doesn’t post his 2-0 shutout of Mexico in the second round. And in the quarterfinals, maybe there’s a call on Torsten Fring’s goal line handball on the shot by Gregg Berhalter, maybe the U.S. takes the game beyond overtime to penalty kicks, and maybe Brad Friedel . . . .
Filed under: Juergen Klinsmann, Uncategorized | Tags: 2006 World Cup, Alamodome, Baerum, Berti Vogts, Bobby Warshaw, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Claudio Reyna, CONCACAF Gold Cup, Denmark, England, FC Dallas, Fox Sports, German National Team, Ireland, Joachim Loew, Jordan Morris, Juan Agudelo, Juergen Klinsmann, Liga MX, Major League Soccer, Manchester United, Mexico, MLSsoccer.com, Norwegian first division, Portugal, Rob Stone, San Antonio, Stanford University, Swedish first division, Switzerland, U.S., U.S. Soccer, U.S. U-17s
Stanford University sophomore Jordan Morris scored four minutes into the second half and his replacement, erstwhile striker Juan Agudelo, applied the clinching goal in the 72nd minute as the U.S. defeated Mexico by that familiar score of 2-0 in a friendly played before a sellout crowd of 64,369 at San Antonio’s Alamodome.
The 20-year-old Morris, who made his international debut in November at Ireland, became the first college player to start for the U.S. in two decades. Agudelo hadn’t played for the U.S. since November 2012 and hadn’t scored since March 2011.
With the match not on the FIFA international schedule, the U.S. lineup was dominated by Major League Soccer players while Mexico was largely a Liga MX side.
The U.S. is 13-5-5 against Mexico since 2000, 17-11-9 since 1990 and 19-33-14 since the two nations first met in 1934. [April 15]
Comment: Just a friendly and just a warm-up to this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup between two sides missing their biggest names, many of whom stayed with their overseas clubs. U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann had this to say to MLSsoccer.com a few days before the match, which was played a couple of weeks after the Americans lost at Denmark, 3-2, and earned a 1-1 draw at Switzerland:
“. . . It is a great opportunity for everyone (individually) to show where they are right now, where they are at this stage with MLS teams, down in Mexico, and just show us at what stage you are. And then obviously the closer we get to the Gold Cup the more we kind of define things.”
And because of logistics, Klinsmann and his predecessors have had to play the hand they’re dealt when it comes to personnel, rounding up European-based starters for one friendly, then European-based bench sitters and MLS and Liga MX players for another. (Playing outside the FIFA international window, like the Mexico game, only makes things more difficult.) But in his nearly five-year tenure as U.S. boss, Klinsmann has established not just a revolving door but a spinning revolving door to his team’s dressing room, frustrating observers who would like to see him, at the very least, settle on a back line so those four souls don’t have to introduce themselves to one another before every kickoff. They might even learn to play as a unit.
True, the U.S. got a shutout victory in San Antonio with yet another eclectic group, but that quote and that game only made a recent online article by Bobby Warshaw all the more interesting. A 26-year-old midfielder for Baerum of the Norwegian first division who played for the U.S. U-17s, FC Dallas and two Swedish first division clubs, Warshaw wrote:
“Juergen Klinsmann is a tough cat to understand sometimes, but his comments prior to the U.S. men’s national team game with Switzerland shed a little light for me. Whenever Fox Sports’ Rob Stone asked a question about the team, Klinsmann put the emphasis on the players. He never mentioned team goals. Rather, he kept referring to the players, suggesting that ‘the players have the opportunity’ and ‘it’s a big time in their careers.’ It annoyed me.
“That doesn’t answer the question, Juergen. Why are you putting the weight on the players here? You’re always criticizing the players. He asked about the TEAM. How are you going to prepare the TEAM? You’re the man in charge.
“It seemed he was missing the boat.
“And then I remembered back to one of the first conversations I had in a European locker room. I had been there for a week on loan from my Major League Soccer team. I started talking to a guy in a nearby locker about his career. He said he didn’t want to be with the club long; he was going to move on to a bigger club soon. It seemed a strange thing to tell a teammate.
“I realized Klinsmann wasn’t shirking responsibility in the interview. He was making a statement that reflects his view of the game, and it’s something I think I’ve failed to understand about the coach: The European football culture where Klinsmann was raised revolves around individual ambition. Personal success means more than team accomplishments.
“It’s a funny feeling around a European locker room. Everyone is happy to be on the team, but everybody also wants to be on a different one. A lot of the players have one foot out the door as soon as they step in. If a European player could pick between a trophy at the end of the season and moving on to a bigger club, he would choose the move. And it’s all perfectly accepted. It’s a strange way to conduct a team. (I can’t imagine what it’s like to play for a feeder club like Ajax, where not a single person really wants to be on that team.)
“Every player in Europe has a small sense he will someday end up in Manchester United red. Seventy-five thousand fans, Champions League, multi-million-dollar deals all feel within your reach.
“In MLS, the ceiling seems so low. The league office won’t sell you; it has no incentive to. You work hard to get some playing time and then become a starter. Hopefully the team rewards you with a new contract, but it’s not likely. They pat themselves on the back for getting a good deal within the salary cap. They tell you to sacrifice for the team. You chug along.
“In Europe, the sky’s the limit. It’s an incredible feeling. It only takes one game or one good run for someone to spot you. The next morning your club sells you to pay the electric bill. You move up a step in a matter of days.
“It changes the way you see the game. Winning isn’t the be-all and end-all. You don’t play to win the game . . . . You play because you’re personally ambitious. Ambition drives performance. And if everyone plays well, then the team wins the game. That drive, that ambition, that personal selfishness helps players, and the team, perform.
“This is strange to Americans. We hate to think anyone is playing for himself. We loath selfish players. And that’s one of our disconnects with Klinsmann. Klinsmann doesn’t view it as selfish. He sees it as natural, if not necessary.
“The way you talk about the team doing well is to talk about the players playing well. All of a sudden, ‘the players have the opportunity’ makes a lot more sense. It’s the individual’s drive that moves the team forward.
“But players still need direction and game plan, neither of which Klinsmann seems to provide. Emphasis on a player’s individual ambition aside, at some point coaching needs to be done.
“Klinsmann has a general view of the team that we don’t seem to like. Some wise person in history surely said that hatred is fueled by ignorance–and seeing Klinsmann through this European lens at least helps us understand the man a little more. But who knows, maybe that understanding simply gives a little more merit to the hatred.
“Klinsmann grew up in a sporting model different than the one touted in the United States. I don’t think it explains everything, but it explains a little.”
Warshaw is certainly right in that Klinsmann’s outlook runs counter to American sensibilities. The U.S. sinks or swims as a team; for decades, it has been a one-for-all, all-for-one outfit out of necessity. Go down the list of the USA’s greatest upset victories–from England in 1950 through Portugal in 2002 and beyond–and in every case the whole was greater than the sum of its parts compared to the individual international stars they defeated.
And U.S. Soccer has even had to stand its approach to youth soccer on its head in an effort to match the player development methods of top soccer-playing nations. When Claudio Reyna was appointed the USSF’s youth technical director in 2010 (a year before Klinsmann took the helm of the national team), his curriculum could be summed up by this quote: “We care about how many players you develop rather than how many trophies you win.” It was refreshing . . . and altogether Klins-ian.
So the focus now is on the individual, not the team. It can only be hoped that when these sparkling individuals reach the national team, it is Berti Vogts who can help the rugged individualist Klinsmann turn a collection of talent into a unit, supplying Warshaw’s “direction and game plan.” With Klinsmann under fire for his selections and methods and tactics, it was Vogts who was brought aboard two months ago as technical advisor to do for Klinsmann, perhaps, what Joachim Loew did for him at the 2006 World Cup when Klinsy was German National Team boss. Vogts, an unselfish, blue-collar player nicknamed “The Terrier” would’ve been Warshaw’s prototypical American, a guy playing for the team, not to move up the soccer ladder. Vogts, after all, toiled 15 seasons in the Bundesliga, all with the glamorous Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Filed under: 2015 Algarve Cup, Uncategorized | Tags: Abby Wambach, Africa, Alex Morgan, Algarve Cup, Amy Rodriguez, Argentina, Asia, BC Place, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, CONCACAF, Copa America, Denmark, Estadio Algarve, Estadio Municipal, European Championship, Faro, FIFA Women's World Cup, Fox Sports, France, Germany, Holland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Lagos, Mexico, NCAA Division I, Norway, Parchal, Portugal, Spain, Stadium Bela Vista, Sweden, Switzerland, U.S., U.S. National Women's Team, Uruguay, Vancouver, Vila Real de Santo Antonio
The U.S. National Women’s Team awoke in the second half to score three goals and cruise past Switzerland, 3-0, in an Algarve Cup match at Vila Real de Santo Antonio and take over first place in Group “B” with a 2-0-0 record. Alex Morgan opened the scoring in the 54th minute, Amy Rodriguez doubled the lead with a brilliant finish off a goalmouth scramble in the 72nd and Abby Wambach, aided by a poor Swiss back pass, sealed the victory nine minutes from time.
The Americans will play Iceland three days later in Lagos their its final group match. The two best group winners will meet in the first-place game; Brazil leads Group “A” (1-0-1) and France tops Group “C” (2-0-0). [March 6]
Comment: This 22nd Algarve Cup underscores how far women’s soccer has come . . . and how far it has to go in comparison to the men’s game.
Held in the tourist-friendly southernmost region of Portugal, it’s the biggest annual tournament in women’s soccer. Nine of this year’s 12 national teams have qualified for this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. With the exception of host Portugal (No. 42), every team is in the top 20 in FIFA’s latest Women’s World Rankings. How tough is the competition? The U.S. won two Women’s World Cups before it won the first of its nine Algarve Cups. And Fox Sports is televising it live.
Yet despite the prestige and world-class quality of this event, attendance puts the Algarve Cup on a par with a decent NCAA Division I women’s match. The U.S.-Switzerland game at Vila Real de Santo Antonio’s Estadio Municipal drew a crowd generously listed as 500; the USA’s 2-1 win over Norway at the same site two days earlier also attracted “500.” Not all five of the Algarve Cup venues have bothered to report turnstile counts, but through the first two rounds of group play the biggest turnout was 769 for Sweden’s 4-2 upset of top-ranked Germany. Denmark appears to be a particularly hard sell: 133 patrons watched the Danes lose to Japan, 2-1, at Stadium Bela Vista in Parchal, and another 45 returned to see them get thumped by France, 4-1. How seriously are the Portuguese organizers taking all this? The U.S.-Iceland match cannot be televised due to inadequate lighting at Municipal Stadium in Lagos.
This is not unusual. The local Portuguese have a history of being completely indifferent to this showcase of women’s international soccer. Most matches have been played before crowds in the dozens–a stark reminder that outstanding women’s soccer doesn’t always draw. A women’s Olympic soccer gold-medal match? Sure. And the 2015 Women’s World Cup final on July 5 in Vancouver will fill the 55,000-seat BC Place. As for last year’s Algarve Cup final at Estadio Algarve in Faro, 600 bothered to show up for Germany’s 3-0 rout of defending world champion Japan.
Imagine, then, a men’s Algarve Cup, an annual tournament involving the world’s 12 best national teams–virtually a combination of the European Championship and Copa America. To the critics of the expansion of the men’s World Cup over the years, this would be a Hyper-World Cup with none of the long-shots and no-hopers from Africa, Asia and CONCACAF (apologies to the U.S. and Mexico) that those critics dismiss as mere fodder. Play it in Portugal, where the national team is currently ranked seventh worldwide, and you’ve got No. 1 Germany, No. 2 Argentina, No. 3 Colombia, No. 4 Belgium, No. 5 Holland, No. 6 Brazil, No. 8 France, No. 9 Uruguay, No. 10 Spain, No. 11 Switzerland and No. 12 Italy. Not bad. And chances are it would out-draw the Algarve Cup.
Filed under: Qatar World Cup in November and December, Uncategorized | Tags: 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2022 World Cup, Bahrain, Christmas, college football, Cristiano Ronaldo, ESPN, EuroSnobs, FIFA, FIFA Executive Committee, Muslim world, NBA, NFL, NHL, Portugal, Qatar, Ramadan, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, UEFA Champions League, Univision, USA, Winter Olympics, Zurich
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be an autumn affair, the first World Cup not to be played in late spring/early summer.
A task force formed to look into ways to avoid the sweltering summer heat in the tiny Gulf state is recommending that Qatar ’22 be played in November and December. Its report is expected to be ratified by the FIFA Executive Committee when it meets in Zurich on March 19 and 20.
Summer temperatures in Qatar routinely top 100 degrees while the heat drops to the high 70s in late fall.
The task force, headed by Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, considered a January-February tournament, but that would clash with the Winter Olympics. April was rejected because Ramadan will be observed in the Muslim world in that month in 2022.
Under the recommendation, it is believed that Qatar ’22 would be shorter than the traditional 31 or 32 days, kicking off November 26 and ending on December 23, two days before Christmas.
Though FIFA says all of its confederations favor the move to November-December, it is expected to encounter fierce opposition from Europe’s top leagues. Most of those leagues traditionally schedule a winter break of up to four weeks for weather reasons, but the task force’s plan would idle players not involved in the ’22 World Cup for up to eight weeks [February 25]
Comment: A very bad idea got worse.
The FIFA Executive Committee’s expected rubber-stamp to this topsy-turvy scheduling of a World Cup is further proof that the world’s soccer-governing body is hell-bent on holding its world championship in Qatar at all costs. Allegations that the Qataris won over a solid U.S. bid through bribery have been swept under the rug. Reports that foreign workers involved in World Cup preparations have been mistreated or even died in accidents is worth a shrug, all the more troubling because the stadiums and infrastructure promised by Qatar are being built from scratch. At No. 109 in the latest FIFA World Rankings, the Qatari National Team is poised to be the worst host side in World Cup history, far weaker than South Africa in 2010. And if a June World Cup in Qatar is being considered unworkable, then Qatar isn’t likely to be able to host the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup, the tradition World Cup dress rehearsal for a host nation.
On a much, much smaller scale, there’s something for Americans to consider, and it’s not just the fact that, among EuroSnobs, their favorite club’s schedule will be interrupted by a November-December World Cup after just a dozen matches.
TV ratings, those figures that determine in the future how often you can see your favorite European club or whether you can watch UEFA Champions League games on cable or network television here, will take a serious hit if the 2022 World Cup is played in late fall.
At last year’s World Cup, the USA’s first-round match against Portugal was played on a Sunday. America was sitting on its couch with nothing more than mid-season baseball and a golf tournament as a diversion, and the TV audience for what will be remembered here for Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-gasp, heartbreaking assist, was 24.7 million on ESPN and Univision combined, a record for a soccer telecast in the U.S. There were no NFL games, no college football games, no NBA games, no NHL games to syphon off viewers. A similar World Cup game, played on an NFL Sunday in 2022, will be buried in the ratings. NFL games last season averaged 17.6 million–five pro gridiron games attracted more than 29 million.
Perhaps, in seven years, a November World Cup can steal casual viewers from the NFL. At present, it’s doubtful.
Filed under: ISIS executes boys for watching soccer, Uncategorized | Tags: 1972 Munich Olympics, 2015 Asian Cup, Al-Yarmouk, Australia, Black September, Brisbane, Doha, FIFA, FIFA Executive Committee, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel, Japan, Jordan, London, Madrid, Mosul, New York, Persian Gulf, Qatar, South Korea, Sydne, Tokyo, U.S., Zurich
ISIS militants executed 13 teen-aged boys in Islamic State-controlled Mosul for watching the 2015 Asian Cup first-round match between Iraq and Jordan.
The youngsters were caught in the Al-Yarmouk district taking in the match being televised from Brisbane, Australia. Accused of violating Sharia law, they were rounded up and, after their crime was announced over loudspeaker, machine-gunned to death in a public execution. Family members did not immediately recover the bodies out of fear of murder by ISIS gunmen. [January 12]
Comment: The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar. The tiny Middle Eastern state on the Persian Gulf was selected host nation in a vote of the FIFA Executive Committee in 2010 that had a strong odor to it and left runners-up the U.S., Australia, Japan and South Korea dumbfounded. Since then, concerns over the heat in Qatar in June and July–the traditional World Cup months–have stirred speculation that the event would be shifted to December-January for the first time ever, a move that would turn many of the world’s club schedules upside down. And, most recently, the release of the report of an investigation into suspicions that the Qataris bought the Executive Committee has been stonewalled by FIFA. But if matches played in 107-degree temperatures and bald corruption aren’t enough to prompt FIFA to reconsider its decision to risk its prime jewel (a.k.a., its prime cash cow), perhaps it’s this heinous execution in Mosul.
As the Qatari delegation asked of the Executive Committee in its final pitch to become the ’22 host nation, “When?” When would a World Cup be awarded to a region that is as passionate about soccer as any on the planet? But the turmoil in that part of the world continues to grow, and with it the fear that if ISIS is ultimately defeated over the next few years, another extreme Islamist force will take its place. And, as these ISIS monsters demonstrated, while soccer is blithely called a religion around the world, to a few on the edge of sanity, to them it’s an anti-religion.
That raises the formerly unthinkable prospect that a World Cup could be a prime target of terrorists–namely, Qatar ’22. Previously, it was easy to believe that the World Cup was immune to any sort of attack because of soccer’s sky-high popularity. The Black September massacre of Israeli wrestlers at the 1972 Munich Summer Games shattered the image of the Olympics as a joyous festival of global goodwill–and turned the planet against the terrorists behind it. But today’s terrorists doesn’t care. We’ve seen through the beheadings and the summary execution of boys that they have no public relations department and don’t want one. If they enrage soccer fans around the globe, they’ve made their point in the strongest possible terms. Worse still, they may be able to reach New York, London, Madrid, and Tokyo, but striking in their own backyard is so much easier. And that should be cause for concern at FIFA headquarters in Zurich. This latest atrocity was committed in Mosul. That’s only 910 miles from Doha, the capital of Qatar.
For the record: Iraq, whose soccer triumphs have united the country like nothing else, beat Jordan that day, 1-0, and later finished second in its Asian Cup group to advance to the quarterfinals, where it edged arch rival Iran on penalty kicks, 7-6, after a 3-3 draw. The Iraqis succumbed in the semifinals to South Korea, 2-0, in Sydney.
Filed under: 2014 World Cup, Uncategorized | Tags: 2014 World Cup, ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Bud Light, Chardonnay, Clippers' Sterling Banned, Conchita Wurst, Denver Broncos, Doritos, Ebola, Ferguson, Flappy Bird, Frozen, Giants, Google, ISIS, Kevin Miralles, LeBron James, Malaysia Airlines, NFL domestic violence, pate de fois gras canapes, Pope Francis, Robin Williams, Seattle Seahawks, Sochi Winter Olympics, Super Bowl, Tim Howard, Time Magazine, Tony Stewart, Ukraine
Google has released its 2014 list of most-searched subjects in America and abroad:
1. Robin Williams
2. World Cup
4. Malaysia Airlines
5. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
6. Flappy Bird
7. Conchita Wurst
10. Sochi Winter Olympics
1. Robin Williams
2. World Cup
4. Malaysia Airlines
5. Flappy Bird
6. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Comment: The World Cup in Brazil generated record television ratings in America–a cumulative viewership of 391.65 million. Record activity on social media throughout the tournament, including 3-plus billion Facebook posts and 672-plus million tweets. And now the No. 2 spot among the most-Googled subjects in America for the year. Meanwhile, on the cover of Time magazine’s special issue, “The Year in Review,” along with photos of Pope Francis, Robin Williams, and those tending Ebola victims, was a shot of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard and Belgium’s Kevin Miralles doing battle at the World Cup. Inside, the headline, “The Whole World is Watching,” above the subhead, “Move Over, Winter Olympics–Americans Join the Rest of the Planet in Making Soccer’s World Cup the Year’s Premier Sporting Event.” (Interesting that the Winter Olympics didn’t make Google’s U.S. Top 10.)
Some dismissed the inroads made by the sport here in 2014 with, “Sure, a lot of Americans paid attention to soccer, but it’s only every four years, during a World Cup.” Indeed, a lot paid attention last summer. But those numbers dwarfed those for 2010, and 2010 dwarfed those for 2006, and those for 2002, when the U.S. nearly made it to the semifinals.
In this country, as usual, the Super Bowl back in early February was our TV behemoth, with a biggest-ever 111.5 million viewers and a 46.4 rating. It impacted about one-third of America for one primetime evening, for at least those who were actually watching the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 blowout of the Denver Broncos, not those who were in the vicinity, zeroing in on the commercials between bites of Doritos with guacamole, handfuls of cheese doodles and chugs of Bud Light, or, at other Super Bowl parties, pate de fois gras canapés and sips of Chardonnay. But the 2014 World Cup was a party that saturated an entire month, captivating viewers over 64 matches, 90 minutes at a time.
So, how big a leap forward was this year’s World Cup in the eyes of those who help determine what you see and hear? Here’s what, in an Associate Press vote of 94 U.S. editors and news directors, were the top 10 sports stories of the year:
1. NFL Domestic Violence
2. Clippers’ Sterling Banned
3. LeBron Goes Home
4. Firsts for Gay Athletes
5. Giants Win World Series
6. College Football Playoff Pays Off
7. Tony Stewart
8. World Cup
9. Seahawks Win Super Bowl
10. Sochi Olympics
The answer, obviously, is somewhat.