Sunday, July 28, 2013

Soccer News (2005)

Q&A: U.S. National Team Coach Bruce Arena
(USA Today website)

     Before the U.S. men's soccer team resumes preparation for its World Cup qualifiers with a May 28 exhibition against England in Chicago, coach Bruce Arena met with a roundtable of USA TODAY reporters and editors to discuss a wide range of topics.  In his eighth year, Arena has become the winningest coach in team history (56-24-22) and has guided the USA to a historic quarterfinal finish at the 2002 World Cup. Now in the midst of the final round of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Arena hopes to get another chance at history.  The USA plays two critical qualifiers after the England match — June 4 vs. Costa Rica in Salt Lake City and then at Panama on June 8. With seven matches remaining, the USA (2-1) is in second place in the six-team group from the North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) region. Only three of those teams are assured a trip to Germany. "This is life and death," says Arena, whose team is ranked 10th by FIFA, soccer's world governing body. "There is no experimenting anymore. We can't afford it.":

USA TODAY: Officially qualifying and setting your 23-man roster for 2006 is still a ways off, but where do you stand in terms of your personnel of 70-plus players and preparation compared to four years ago? Could Freddy Adu emerge from this group?

Arena: "We're ahead. The reason that I feel we're ahead is simply because I've been in the job a long time. The lifespan of a national team coach around the world is probably less than two years. I am the longest tenured national coach in the world. Already this round we've had two countries fire their coaches.  "If you have the tools to play at those levels, experience is what gets you over the top. Being in a cycle now where I've been in this job seven years, there are a lot of players who know me, they've been in camp. It makes it a lot easier transition and that's why I feel we're ahead.  "There are players who (could) score the winning goal to (help us) qualify that won't make this (World Cup) roster. Some players are in their 30s. The World Cup average age of teams is probably 27-28. We're older than that, generally because a lot of our players actually go to college. Around the world, the elite players sign at early ages, and if they're any good they're fully merged at the age of 18 (in the pros). When you get to a World Cup final, you can't have too many older players because of recovery, so this time around we're going to be a little bit younger. Our players right now who are in their 30s are going to be on the fence in terms of making a roster. ...  "This time around we've been able to get younger ones in (during qualifying) and maybe Freddy Adu is one of those stories. Freddy is going to be a great player. He may not be a great player in time for this World Cup, but he's an example of someone who might emerge in another year if he continues to grow in that environment with D.C. United."

Q: How important will be this summer's Gold Cup — the regional championship of CONCACAF — for MLS players hoping to make a World Cup roster?

A: "We didn't use as many of our European players in 2002 (for the Gold Cup) and that will probably be the case this time as well. There's going to be a lot of players in which they'll know that's going to be their opportunity to be part of World Cup qualifying in the last half as well as a chance to be on a World Cup roster. So it's very important."

Q: Do players based in Europe have an advantage in the speed of play since the top leagues are more competitive than MLS?

A: "They have a leg up, but that doesn't mean they're any better. They're not as overwhelmed initially because they're playing in a little faster environment.  "But having said that, there are some guys in Europe who are playing on absolutely lousy teams. It becomes detrimental, and I told this to some of our players after the Mexico game (a 2-1 loss for the USA in a March 27 qualifier). We have so many players who play on bad club teams and then they get on the field and they are very negative in the way they play. They don't know how to win games. If all your players played on club teams that are poor why would you expect them to come together as a group that wins?  "And sometimes when we get too many players from Europe in there, that's what we have because they've never won a big game. They want to tell you how outstanding everything is in their environment, but I might ask them 'When's the last time you won a game?' So I don't want to hear about how great everything is over there. Our job is to win a game."

Q: Are you disappointed that when you face England in Chicago later this month, David Beckham won't be there because he'll still be playing for his club team, Real Madrid?

A: "I'd like to play him in the World Cup, but I still think it's a great game. It's a great game for us to play in, but in the big picture, it's not the most important game. England is a sexy story. I know that. It's not sexy to me. It is what it is. It's a friendly game, a good preparation game for qualifying games, but the most important games out of our next three are Costa Rica and Panama."

Q: What did you think of The Game of Their Lives, a recently released movie about the USA's upset of England at the 1950 World Cup?

A: "I think the movie to make would have been the 2002 World Cup, not the 1950 World Cup. That would have been a heck of a story, a story in this country that still hasn't been told. It would have been a great movie. It would explain what challenges we were up against, that we ended up among the last eight in the world and were close to being among the last four. I think it's an unbelievable story."

Q: Isn't part of the progress for the U.S. team based on your program getting better athletes, which wasn't the case in the past? You can match up better with a country like Germany, which dwarfed your team when you were eliminated in the last World Cup?

A: "We are getting better athletes like Oguchi Onyewu (6-4, 210), a center back without an ounce of fat on his body. He's just a stud. There's Cory Gibbs, our other center back (6-3, 178).  Not only are our players getting better but we're getting some great athletes playing soccer. DaMarcus Beasley is as great an athlete as there is in professional sports, but he's 5-8, 145 pounds. But we have great athletes who are bigger, physical, quick and fast. Eddie Johnson (6-0, 180) is a terrific athlete.  "You're starting to see us attract greater diversity. Fifty years from now Spanish will be our language and this country will be a soccer power. It's not a white suburban sport anymore. It's a cultural thing, and every country is different, but the athletes who are point guards, wideouts, athletes who picked other sports pick soccer (more) now. Today, 11 of our starters could be black. Ten years ago I couldn't identify 11 black players. Our guys come from everywhere now."


Upset Over Playing Time, Adu Hints At Leaving United
(By Joseph White, The Associated Press)

     Freddy Adu vented his frustration over lack of playing time Tuesday, saying it has wrecked his chances of making the U.S. World Cup team and has him thinking about leaving D.C. United.  "It's frustrating at times when you think you've earned a chance to play and you're over there sitting on the bench," said D.C. United playmaker Freddy Adu.  United coach Peter Nowak fired back, saying tersely that Adu has had his chances to play and that "nobody is going to be above this team."  The tension between disciplinarian coach and teenage player resurfaced as United prepared to open the MLS playoffs Friday night at Chicago. The 16-year-old Adu was particularly upset that he didn't start the regular-season finale Saturday against Columbus, one week after winning double league honors for player of the week and goal of the week for a highlight-reel score against Real Salt Lake.  "I got player of the week that week, and the next week I'm sitting on the bench," Adu said. "And I'm just like, 'What is going on here?' It's one of those things where you don't understand what's going on, but you've got to swallow your pride and be a team player."  Nowak pointed out that Adu played the second half of the Columbus game, saying "Nobody is going to be above this team. This is our principle from the beginning."  The Ghanian-born Adu entered the league last year amid much hype at age 14, the youngest and highest-paid player in MLS history with a goal of representing his new country in the World Cup in 2006.  But Nowak isn't about to showcase a budding phenom unless it means winning more games. Adu voiced his frustration over playing time several times last year, even though he started 14 of 30 games and scored five goals with three assists- while Nowak took United to their fourth MLS title.

     This year, Adu has started 16 of 25 games- he missed some games with a knee injury and while he was away at the World Youth Championship.  He has four goals and six assists and has to vie for playing time on a deep roster that includes forwards and midfielders Christian Gomez, Dema Kovalenko, Jaime Moreno, Ben Olsen, Santino Quaranta and emerging scorer Jamil Walker.  "It's hard to find minutes on the field," Adu said. "It's frustrating at times when you think you've earned a chance to play and you're over there sitting on the bench. That's not the kind of player I am. I'm the kind of player who wants to be out there. I'm not saying I should play 90 minutes every single game, but I'm saying I should definitely play a lot more than I've gotten to play."  Thus, on the brink of the MLS playoffs, Adu is already thinking about next year.  "It becomes very, very, very, very tempting to look ahead, and as a matter of fact I am doing that right now," Adu said. "I always have to make the best decision for myself first, and, you know, I'm just looking into things right now, so we'll see what happens at the end of this season and we'll see where my family and myself are headed."

     Adu's goal has always been to play for a top club team in Europe, but the sport's complicated rules essentially prevent such a move until he is 18. If he's not with United next season, he would likely be playing with another MLS team.  Team president Kevin Payne said "I think one of the things that Freddy and the people around him need to understand is that, when it comes to playing time, Freddy is on a very good team.  I'm not sure how this would be any different if Freddy were with Chelsea or Manchester United. They've got some pretty good players."  Adu's frustration is compounded by his desire to play in the World Cup in Germany.  Adu sees his chances to impress U.S. team coach Bruce Arena slipping away.  "Bruce has said it a million times that he's not going to bring anybody in that's not playing regularly for his club team."  Adu wouldn't have been a lock for the U.S. team, anyway. Nowak, Payne and Adu's teammates all make the same point: The kid shows flashes of talent, but it's not there all the time.  "He's still young," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "Sometimes you see him do so well in games and turn games around- and the next time you see him not do as well. You know what the kid has and what he can bring, and I think the coaches might get frustrated with that. I think he gets frustrated himself."

United's Playoff Run Ends In a Rout
(By Steven Goff, Washington Post)
     D.C. United didn't just lose yesterday at RFK Stadium, ending its uneven season and raising critical questions about its direction. The club was embarrassed -- by the Chicago Fire, which slapped United with a 4-0 loss in the finale of their MLS first-round playoff series; by its ruinous performance; and by its petulant behavior as the match slipped away.  "Terrible, just terrible," forward Santino Quaranta said, shaking his head. "I have no answers."  United fell behind after 10 minutes, sunk deeper late in the first half and was out of it when Ivan Guerrero's rocket streaked into the net just before the intermission whistle. The crowd of 20,089, appropriately dressed in black, showered the players with jeers.  United, MLS's highest-scoring team, exited the playoffs without scoring a goal and managed just four total shots on goal in two listless efforts against a short-handed opponent. Yesterday's margin equaled the worst home loss in the club's 10-year history.  The Fire, which played United to a 0-0 tie in the opener nine days earlier, will face the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference final Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.  "We just didn't show up -- perplexing," United President Kevin Payne said. "I just don't think a lot of players played with a lot of conviction."  By the time 16-year-old forward Freddy Adu made his long-awaited entrance at the start of the second half, the outcome had been decided. Adu, who was suspended for Game 1 after complaining about playing time and suggesting he might be better off playing elsewhere next season, declined interview requests after the game.  Payne, however, said he fully expects the teenager to return to the club in 2006. Payne also confirmed that the club has exercised its option to retain Coach Peter Nowak, who has had an increasingly strained relationship with the teenager. 
Nowak's greatest concern after yesterday's game was not Adu, but the rest of his lineup. The Fire, playing without key midfielders Chris Armas (knee) and Justin Mapp (hamstring), displayed a dangerous attack from the first minute and found plentiful space in which to operate. United's problems intensified in the fifth minute when starting central defender Facundo Erpen left with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.  Five minutes later the Fire went ahead, thanks in part to United goalkeeper Nick Rimando's howler. Rimando came off his line on a corner kick, realized he wasn't going to get to the ball and lunged back toward the near post in anticipation of a shot. The ball bounded through the box to the far post, where Jack Stewart easily headed it into the net.  With United's attack nonexistent, the Fire struck again in the 37th minute, Chris Rolfe roaming to the end line and dropping the ball back to Guerrero for a lashing 10-yard shot. Guerrero wasn't done, blasting a 28-yard volley into the left side on the last act of the half, essentially ending the game and the series.  "It's about heart," Nowak said. "If you go into a game like that thinking that everything is going to be easy because we're playing at home, then you're wrong. . . . As champions, we cannot show up with a performance like tonight."

     Adu and Argentine Lucio Filomeno entered at the start of the second half and United began to mount some pressure. But it was desperate pressure, lacking rhythm, and Chicago's defense calmly repelled every foray.  Things turned nasty in the 55th minute when United playmaker Christian Gomez was given a red card for spitting at Fire defender C.J. Brown -- an ejection that could leave him with a multigame suspension at the start of next season. Attempting to draw a foul on Brown that would give United a much-needed penalty kick, Gomez tumbled in the box. Referee Kevin Stott didn't fall for it. Brown yelled at Gomez to get up; he did, and then proceeded to spray Brown with saliva.  Jesse Marsch turned it into a laugher in the 67th minute, snapping a 15-yard volley into the top of the net. The remainder of the match disintegrated into chippy fouls and futile runs by the energetic Adu who almost got himself ejected with about 10 minutes left, sliding with his cleats up into Logan Pause's knee. Stott assessed him only a yellow card. By then, the silenced crowd was heading for the tunnels. 

MLS Awards
(By Steven Goff, Washington Post)

     Pay no attention to those stuffy official postseason awards being handed out by MLS over the next few weeks. Here is all you need to know about the league's 10th season: 

MVP: San Jose midfielder Dwayne De Rosario . Who? He's not American, not from Europe, not from Latin America. MLS's best player this year is a converted forward born in Ontario, has family roots in Guyana, suits up for Canada's national team and once played for the minor league Richmond Kickers. 

Rookie of the Year: New England's Michael Parkhurst and United's Bobby Boswell were the early front-runners, but then the scoring exploits of Kansas City's Scott Sealy and Chicago's Chris Rolfe pushed them ahead. But Boswell's minutes dried up and Sealy and Rolfe stopped scoring, leaving Parkhurst as the winner. He played every minute of the season. 

Coach: San Jose's Dominic Kinnear -- who overcame the offseason loss of several starters, including Landon Donovan, and an in-season injury bug -- assembled a finely tuned lineup that hasn't lost in more than three months. 

Biggest Surprises: Expansion Real Salt Lake's attendance (second best with an average of 18,037) and little-known L.A. forward Herculez Gomez (11 goals in his first full season). 

Biggest Disappointments: Chivas USA (four victories in 32 games) and Real Salt Lake's Clint Mathis (three goals in 27 starts). 

Best Goals: De Rosario's bending, rising free kick from 30 yards last weekend in Los Angeles; Freddy Adu's solo run in Salt Lake City two weeks ago; and Carlos Ruiz's bicycle kick at RFK Stadium in May. 

Wildest Game: The MetroStars' 5-4 victory over New England in September in which seven goals were scored in a 35-minute span.

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