- Jason Davis

Zurich is the hub of the universe, at least for now. Blatter's reign of willful exploitation of the world's game is just a day away from a disheartening four year extension, and only the English (and now, as I write this, the Scottish) seem to care enough to question the process. Jerome Valcke's public pronouncements that everything is fine would be meme worthy if they weren't so depressing and even emoticons in his email to Jack Warner don't provide much glee. It has even become difficult to find the corner of our souls that will let us laugh at Sepp's usual antics; the stonewalling, the attempts to shame those who would question the leadership of FIFA, the odd turns of phrase that equate proper journalistic behavior with whatever it is Sepp thinks happens at a bazaar.

- Keith Hickey

FIFA has become a parody of itself, a farce. By associating ourselves with these crooks and saying nothing, we are complicit in their crimes against the sport and against every fan who takes joy from it. Trusted with safeguarding the sport, they have instead turned it into their whore. I don't need to recount to you, dear readers, what they have done. We know. They know we know. And they know we can do nothing to stop them, so they barely attempt to hide their crimes. The only ones who can check FIFA's power in any way are the sponsors and the federations. Since we can hardly rely on a multi-national corporation (especially a credit card company) for an attack of conscience, the only way FIFA will change is if national federations refuse to give FIFA their support.

It's a major step. Leaving FIFA would mean no more Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, or World Cup until FIFA is reformed. No Friendlies against FIFA nations. No international club competitions. But are those worth selling our souls for? It is easy to be a soccer fan when all that requires is sitting in the sun with a beer and watching the World Cup. It's a far harder prospect when you have to stand for your principles.

Our country was founded on the idea that the strong should not trample the weak. Why should we be beholden to men with no loyalty to anything but their expense accounts, men with the audacity to spout bold lies with impunity and then laugh behind our backs about how well they've screwed us?

Would you be willing to make that sacrifice? Do you want the United States to withdraw from FIFA?

- Jason Davis

If only soccer had a 007. Jared and I hit just three topics this week, topics that require a significant investment of time an energy to cover properly.

First up, after we cover my superhuman ability to avoid getting a nickname, is Bob Bradley's Gold Cup roster. It wasn't necessarily what we expected from Bob, so Jared and I go down the full list giving our thumbs up or down on every choice. Bradley took some understandable risks while others are shockingly odd. Freddy Adu?

- Ethan Gomberg

SANDY, UT - Both Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders needed desperately to get 3 points on the night. But it was Seattle who did something that hasn’t happened in league play since the Kansas City Wizards came to Utah over two years ago, win at Rio Tinto Stadium. Coach Sigi Schmid, whose team ran out 2-1 victors, said “It is something we're proud of and something we talked about before the game. We wanted to try and be the team that ended the streak, and it was something that was a goal for us as we went into the game."

- Jason Davis

UEFA chief Michel Platini's baby - a soft salary cap that would require clubs to keep player compensation in proportion with their revenues dubbed "financial fair-play" - is supposed to take effect by the start of the next European season. No one yet knows what the ramifications will be; bigger clubs might not take a hit at all (or could even benefit), while smaller clubs will constantly have to watch the books to ensure they're in compliance. From the fan's perspective, there's some worry the change will mean higher ticket prices. The more a club brings in, the more it can spend. Infusions of cash from a rich owner don't count towards turnover.

- Ben McCormick

Without a new head coach, the US U-20 National Team kicked off its next cycle with a pair of
friendlies against France. A 3-3 draw on May 17 and a 2-1 loss on May 19 saw the US start the
new cycle in a positive fashion.

The 3-3 draw featured the talents of Molde FK winger Josh Gatt, who was held back by his
club when called up for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Gatt’s dribbling was a particular
highlight, using his speed and skill to weave in and out of French defenders. He scored a goal,
as did Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil and Derby County striker Conor Doyle. Match reports
suggest the Americans were the better side for much of the match despite the French squad’s
superior athleticism.

Much Adu About Something

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | View Comments
You're not a real soccer writer until you've used that pun in the title.

- Keith Hickey

Coach Sweats has released his roster for the USMNT's friendly with Spain and the 2011 Gold Cup, and while most of the group was as expected, there are a couple of selections and omissions that raised some eyebrows. The most notable inclusion was that of the former child prodigy himself, Mr. Freddy Adu.

As the FIFA Turns

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | View Comments
Chuck and Jack in happier times (from Chuck's blog)
- Jason Davis

This site has yet to address the USMNT roster for the Gold Cup, and Bob Bradley certainly gave us plenty to talk about. Freddy returns. Fascinating.

But Bradley for his picks and framing this as this all-guns-blazing-tournament (he'll either lay waste and win the title or go down giving us all the middle finger) will have to wait. FIFA news is breaking.

The Good


It might not have been a sellout, but the crowd at Empire Field for the first leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final was still pretty impressive considering it was going head-to-head with a Vancouver Canucks playoff game.  This was just the precursor to Saturday with great attendance numbers across the board.

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AmSoc 74: Rise and Shine

Monday, May 23, 2011 | View Comments
- Jason Davis

It's the Rise and Shine edition of The American Soccer Show. Jared and I set aside just enough time to cover the major happenings of the week wrapped around a chat with one of the people behind a soccer movie all of us should want to see released to wide distribution.

- Jason Davis

It's insidious, this "did not rule out" business. It conjures belief that something might happen or that action might be taken, when there's likely no chance of either. Headline writers love to lean on "did not rule out" because it's a negative phrase that seems to convey a positive message.

Meanwhile, the actual "news" reads something like this:

- Jason Kuenle

As the US talent pool has developed, the league’s ability to attracted foreign players has increased, and the league generally has matured, the diversity of formations and tactics in MLS has grown. Successful tactics hinge on two primary factors: 1) the individual skills of a team’s players and 2) the tactics and skills of your opponent. In other words, soccer tactics is a chess match; you can make moves with your pieces, but to be effective, those moves need to take advantage of the openings being offered by your opponent. While I hope to analyze how opponent tactics and skills affect MLS formations throughout the summer, the more straightforward analysis is on the chess pieces themselves.

The relative cheapness of US talent is caused by a host of factors including MLS’ single entity structure, European foreign player limits, and the US not having a mother nation that has an expedited passport process for nationals of former colonies. These factor, combined with a limited number of foreign slots, create a dynamic that places a premium on using foreign talent to fill holes in US development. This allows an analysis of MLS players to be a approximate reflection on US player development. The first part of this analysis looks at where managers have most often looked for talent outside of the US to fill out their first team rosters.

MLS First Choice Players and National Origin
PositionNumberDomestic*US DevelopedForeignPercent
* Domestic includes Canadians playing in Canada and all US nationals

There are many difficulties in creating the list that underlies this chart (i.e. should a player be classified as a center mid or a defensive mid or who is first choice for San Jose right now), but I don’t believe that there is any systematic bias that brings the results into serious question. Not surprisingly, this chart reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the national team pool; depth on the right and in more defensive midfield positions, left midfield covered well by inverting a right footed midfielder, reasonable depth, though in transition, at centerback. Also, there is a noticeable lack of strikers, attacking midfielders (either in a No. 10 role or as a more attacking box-to-box midfielder), and left backs. It underscores that MLS coaches know the limitations of the domestic player pool and have done a reasonable job augmenting it.

With every team in MLS playing a two centerback system, it is perhaps easiest to explore the use of players as chess pieces there. Tangible examples of combinations possible can be seen in the pairings of Marshall-James, Ream-Marquez, and Borchers-Olave. In functionality, the Marshall-James pairing in function reminds me of the Marshall-O’Rourke pairing in the Crew’s double winning 2008 season. O’Rourke and James fill similar roles, with their strength in covering space balancing well with Marshall’s marking and aerial abilities. The combination of Ream and Marquez are likely the best passing centerback combo in league history. The quality of their deliveries helps create the fluid attacking style that Hans Backe has put together in New York. The aerial prowess of Olave and Borchers protects RSL from crosses played from wide spaces, the tactical area of weakness when playing a diamond midfield. These are all examples of how, on a most basic level, pieces work together.

The above examples intentionally use a domestic-international pairing. It, in part, highlights a lack of diversity in the US central defender player pool. While anecdote does not equal data, looking at Americans in MLS who played centerback throughout college gives us an idea about the development of domestic talent. By grouping these centerbacks in age ranges, we can compare the play style diversity of each age range. The below chart is approximately in order from oldest to youngest.

Age RangePlayers
28+Gregg Berhalter, Jimmy Conrad, Eddie Robinson, Jay DeMerit, Danny Califf, Cory Gibbs, Nat Borchers, Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell, Scott Palguta
27-24Ryan Cochrane, Jason Hernandez, Ty Harden, Drew Moor, Steve Purdy, Bobby Burling, Chad Marshall, Greg Janicki, Eric Brunner, David Horst, Raushawn McKenzie, Matt Besler, Darrius Barnes
23-19Sean Alvarado, Kwame-Watson-Siriboe, Michael Holody, Chris Sculer, Tim Ream, A.J. DeLaGarza, Ike Opara, A.J. Soares, Omar Gonzalez, Jalil Anibaba, Ethan White, Sacir Hot

The 28+ crowd consists of a fairly uniform type of player; a bigger, stronger centerback who is good in the air and a solid interior defender. In the 25-28 range, you continue to see that model of defenders in Brunner, Marshall, and Janicki, but you all see the emergence of a “utility” defender. These defenders, like Moor, Besler, and Hernandez, while primarily centerbacks, have some positional flexibility allowing them to move more easily into side back or defensive midfielder roles. Within this same age range, the “utility” role also developed in the reverse as players like Marvell Wynne (age 25), Heath Pearce (26), and before he left the league Jonathan Bornstein (26) all moved in from the side, while players like Danny O’Rourke (27), Geoff Cameron (25), Brandon McDonald (25), Patrick Ianni (25), and George John (24) have moved back to central defense either temporarily or permanently. This should not be overly surprising as the earlier chart demonstrated that the US over produces defensive midfielders and right backs.

However, in the 19-23 age range, the central defenders more naturally reflect the diversity required of different tactical systems. While there is still the prototypical back of the 28+ crowd, in a back like Omar Gonzalez, the diversity of the younger backs means getting solid delivery out of the back, no longer a team to move a Geoff Cameron-type from the midfield, they can instead choose Tim Ream and not have to trade defensive training and experience for passing proficiency. A team looking for more speed in its central defensive pairing, no longer needs to pull in a Marvell Wynne-type player from the wing, but can choose Ike Opara or A.J. DeLaGarza.

Again, this is all anecdotal, but if what is occurring in the center back position also occurs throughout the field, it seems likely that MLS coaches will have an increasingly diverse set of players on which to draw on, especially taken in combination with the growing international stature of MLS. Hopefully, this increases the diversity of play, the diversity of systems that coaches are comfortable with implementing, and the development of unique styles of play within MLS. The process of having our domestic pool produce the full array of chess pieces is the gateway to formation flexibility both for MLS and ultimately for the USMNT.

- Jason Davis

John Spencer, the fiery Scottish head coach of the Portland Timbers, is, at the most understated end of the spectrum, expressive. On the sidelines, he's nonstop action; a whirling, cursing, maelstrom of a man alternatively exhorting his charges and berating the referees, adequately meeting every generalized notion of Scottish soccer coaches to which a wide-eyed American soccer public ascribes. Off the field, he doesn't hesitate to let loose with white hot eruptions of pointed commentary invariably tinged Timbers' green and gold. If it didn't seem like he was calculating every word, no matter how sensational they seem, we might call him "volatile."

- Keith Hickey

The last time the CONCACAF Gold Cup was here, it came as an addendum, an afterthought to the FIFA Confederations Cup. Watching the B team take on Haiti and Panama was hardly an exciting prospect compared to playing Italy, Spain, Brazil, or Egypt. Getting our proverbial backsides handed to us by Mexico on our own turf didn't help our estimation of the competition, either.

AmSoc 73: Wax On, Wax Off

Monday, May 16, 2011 | View Comments
- Jason Davis

Another American Soccer Show, another 80's movie reference. This is what we do. As usual, we complement our pop culture inanity with some quality soccer coverage. Since we've avoided bringing up "Mannequin" to this point in the show's history, it looks like we're doing okay.

- Ethan Gomberg

SANDY, UTAH – Over 16,000 came out to Rio Tinto tonight to watch the Houston Dynamo get a point in a very difficult away match against a RSL team in flux. Real Salt Lake, after losing its midfield star, Javier Morales, also walked away with a point despite questions over the starting lineup.

Houston Dynamo needed a result this evening to keep pace with other surging Eastern Conference rivals. Houston has lost their last 2 matches in terrible fashion. Losing to defending MLS Cup champions Colorado Rapids is one thing, but losing to a struggling Toronto FC was not what Houston skipper Dominic Kinnear had in mind.

From Dropping Timber. There's a time commitment involved, but this is a nice peek at the buildup to the Timbers' first home MLS game.

 The Good


The two star-studded sides didn’t disappoint Saturday night, turning in a match worthy of all the hype and anticipation. We have to wait awhile for the rematch (August 28th), but it should be a good one with a little extra hostility thanks to...

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-Chris Ballard

MLS announced this morning that MLS Cup 2011 will be help at the Home Depot Center in California, home of both LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. It will be the fifth time that the League's showpiece event has been hosted by Carson City; the last time was in 2008, when Columbus emerged 3-1 victors over New York Red Bulls.

- Keith Hickey

There are times when this whole blogging kick seems like a lot of trouble for not a lot of reward, but then something comes along that makes the work seem so worth it. Match Fit USA was recently given the esteemed honor of sitting down and interviewing U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati.

- Keith Hickey (With special thanks to Ray Escamilla)

The MLS Players' Union released the salaries for all of their members (every player in Major League Soccer) today. I sifted through the raw data to bring you the most interesting nuggets of information. All figures use the "guaranteed compensation" statistics.

- Jason Davis

To the delight of a few (thank you) and the dismay of many, the American Soccer Show train rolls on. It even managed to make the usual stops on time this week, leading to a new show with several topics somewhat adequately covered therein. Yahtzee.

- Ethan Gomberg

SANDY, UT - Real Salt Lake found their feet with a 1-0 win over Chivas USA at Rio Tinto stadium, to bounce back following losses to Monterry in the CONCACAF Champions League and Portland in MLS play. Will Johnson scored for Salt Lake in the 87th, but the home side also lost the services of playmaker Javier Morales for a significant period of time after he was stretchered off with a fractured leg.

- Ben McCormick

America’s youth development took a huge step forward on April 21 when Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna presented his curriculum for coaches across the country. The first step in standardizing youth development in America’s complex and convoluted youth system, the curriculum brings a small step America closer to forming a uniquely American player and playing style.

Rongen Out, But Who's In?

Friday, May 06, 2011 | View Comments
- Ben McCormick

Yesterday, word came down that the USSF has decided not to renew Thomas Rongen’s contract, which expires at the end of the year. Tab Ramos takes the helm of the U-20s for their trip to France next month, though he hasn't officially named interim coach. With that in mind, here is a quick rundown of some of the possible domestic candidates to take over as U-20 National Team steward:

AmSoc 71: Negative Ghostrider

Thursday, May 05, 2011 | View Comments
- Jason Davis

Better late than never, right? After the craziness of my weekend, when real life concerns kept Jared and I from getting together to record the next installment of the American Soccer Show, the work week has been relatively free of stress. That meant that we could convene on Wednesday night to do the show. That's a good thing, both because we enjoy it and because I was getting tired of people bitching about the lack of a new episode (My routine is thrown off! What will I listen to? I can't live without the podcast! Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a touch with that last one).

Seriously, those of you who did express your sadness over us missing a week definitely encouraged me to get it done. You're appreciated. Now send us email. Or buy a t-shirt.

Matt Acconciamessa | US Soccer Daily

Better late than never, a look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly from another week of MLS action:

The Good

Will Bruin:

Sure, it was against a DC United defense that has been positively porous over the last couple of weeks, but Will Bruin’s hat trick over the weekend was still impressive. He became the second youngest MLS player to accomplish the feat, getting help along the way in the form of some quality service from Brad Davis and Geoff Cameron.

Columbus’ gorgeous goal:

I’m a sucker for a good team goal; the Crew’s 17 pass build-up on Emilio Renteria’s second goal against Vancouver was a beauty.

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- Jason Davis

We've all been there: down a goal in the dying stages, you desperately search for a way through a bunkering defense. Players in the opposing color are seemingly everywhere, breaking up every pass, tackling the ball off your best attacker, flummoxing every chance with superhuman feats of agility. Finally, you find it: a bit of space at the edge of the box, the perfect place for a curled shot to the far post. You mash the buttons like a morphine addict laid up in a hospital bed after back surgery. The ball flies—for all the world looking true—and you prematurely jump off your couch to celebrate what is surely the goal that will bring you level against some guy from California that deserves to lose because he picked Barcelona.

- Keith Hickey

Mid-morning, The Oval Office. It's grey and raining outside. A visibly tired President Obama is reading a file, only half paying attention. A secret service agent walks in, leading four other men. Three are dressed in suits. The third, a standard-issue USMNT warmup tracksuit. The President lays down the file and rubs his eyes wearily.

- Jason Davis

We felt bad that there was no American Soccer Show available for your listening pleasure on Monday. We know how many of you look forward to it. We heard your anguished cries of disappointment. We're here to make amends.

The 71st weekly episode (not counting all of the other pre-game, post-game, and interview-only shows we've done) of the American Soccer Show is set for 8 PM ET/5 PM PT tonight. We're even streaming it in case you want to listen in while it happens.

- Jason Davis

French football is dealing with a crisis. Investigative website Mediapart claims officials in the country's soccer federation discussed, planned, and perhaps executed a quota to limit the number of non-white players accepted into France's academies. Caught up in the scandal is national team head coach Laurent Blanc, a man who played on a celebrated multi-ethnic World Cup winning France squad in 1998.

No Show This Week

Monday, May 02, 2011 | View Comments
A quick note for fans of the podcast: due to some personal matters that needed my attention, we weren't able to record a show. Apologies, of the sincerest kind. We promise to return next week.

- Jason

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