Archive for February, 2012

Team Building Exercises With Garth Lagerway

The Salt Lake's Dynamic Duo....

Jay Bell stops by TSG, does interview

The 2011-2012 offseason has proven to be one of the most eventful in MLS’ 17-year history.

MLS clubs flexed more muscle than ever in the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL transfer markets, especially in bringing in another 300 Colombians. Seattle and New York continued to raid Scandinavia and several clubs made seemingly sensible DP signings (Boyd, Portland; Robson, Vancouver; Salihi, DC), though Houston continues to be spurned by DP candidates.

Top teams and bottom teams alike made overhauls of their rosters. The Philadelphia Union will be almost unrecognizable to the team from last season. Chivas USA continues the transformation under Robin Fraser. The Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas had some roster turnover despite their high finishes in 2011. The Los Angeles Galaxy were busy, but ended up being busy re-assembling the super-team that everyone thought was done after the MLS Cup victory + Edson Buddle and Marcelo Sarvas.

Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake has made some of the fewest acquisitions in the league, along with the Houston Dynamo, despite losing numerous players through various avenues. That list includes: Jean Alexandre (traded to SJ), Arturo Alvarez (free transfer), Nelson Gonzalez (loan ended), Robbie Russell (traded to DC), Collen Warner (expansion draft) and Andy Williams (retired). The team also released, waived or did not re-sign another five players.

Instead, RSL has decided to spend funds keeping some of its core players for the next several years and “replenishing” its roster with draft picks and players signed after trials.

TSG was able to speak with GM Garth Lagerway about RSL’s team-building philosophy as the team prepares for MLS, US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League competition in 2012.

Jay Bell, The Shin Guardian: Do you have a specific philosophy when it comes to players that you would like to bring in?

Garth Lagerway: Yeah, I guess we do in the sense that we always look at personality and how they behave off the field as well as how they play on it. We’re looking for good people as well as good soccer players.

Kreis is a big part of directing player traffic...

TSG: I think I have heard before, at least a few times, that Jason [Kreis] has met with a player before you have signed him. Is that a regular occurrence or does that just happen on certain occasions?

GL: It is an always thing. Jason or I or both of us will meet with every player before we sign them. It is the point of the process that we insist on in terms of getting to know them as people.

TSG: This was a big offseason for MLS. The league brought in a ton of players from Central America and South America. I think RSL was already leading the way with a lot of players like Saborio and Espindola. What do you think it says about MLS breaking more into those transfer markets and the way RSL was already doing that.

GL: I think back to my days with DC United as the color commentator and the South American players that they had there like Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno. Going back, I played with Carlos Valderrama in Miami. I think in the early days of the league Jorge Campos was a big player. I think that there is a pretty good tradition of signing Latin American players, so I don’t think we have re-invented the wheel or anything like that.

We have had success. We want to play a possession-style game and we have been very cognitive of going out and finding players that can play in our system. With that in mind, South America has proven to be a very fruitful market for us.

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Saturday Commentary: Landon’s Last Stand

We’re back and so is Landon, to LA that is.

Paul Simon-esque - "Homeward Bound"

On a Night of Tragedy & Triumph

From afar, Matthew Acconciamessa (of US Soccer Daily) is taken by the African Cup of Nations Final

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The Stade d’Angondje fell silent for an instant. Pulsing with support throughout the evening, fans grew quiet, drawing the shortest of breaths as Didier Drogba approached the penalty spot in the 70th minute.

A second later, half of the crowd erupted in euphoric celebration and half howled in disbelief, combining for a cacophonous sforzando as the attempt sailed into the Gabonese night. And on an island stood Drogba, the picture of anguish and, for a split second, quiet resignation. His body looked to finally be buckling under the weight of a nation, with old demons racing back into focus.

Would this be 2006 all over again, where a Drogba penalty miss in the final helped seal another empty-handed exit from the Africa Cup of Nations? Would this Drogba-led squad ever win an international trophy, or were they doomed to become one of the most talented also-rans of their time? Why, Didi must have wondered in true Balotelli fashion, why always me?

All the Chelsea striker could do was wince and look painfully down at the patch of turf that helped author another mishap in the spotlight, as if the grass itself was conspiring against him and his teammates in their seemingly endless journey for international hardware.

Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, meanwhile, was the microcosm of his side in that moment, bursting out of goal with an exuberantly cruel celebration right in front of his distraught opponent’s eyes. But he quickly gathered himself, comically (and, once again, cruelly) tried to shake Drogba’s hand, and then went to get the ball to set up for a goal kick. That was Zambia in a nutshell: a team managing emotions in the biggest game of their careers and in their nation’s history, rising to the occasion and befuddling their superstar opposition.

That was also the Ivory Coast in a nutshell: a golden generation of players on the cusp of long-awaited glory, pressing in vain to bring joy to a country that has suffered through much.

The subplots read like a script, an elaborate and seemingly implausible amalgam of storylines that served as grand exposition for the final. Zambia were returning to the scene of their greatest tragedy, the 1993 plane crash outside Libreville that claimed 30 lives and essentially wiped out their national team. That accomplishment alone was thought highly unlikely just weeks prior, as it required Zambia to reach the final simply to get the opportunity to play in Gabon (their first five matches took place in co-host Equatorial Guinea). Yet here they were, the plucky underdogs that managed to top the likes of Ghana and Senegal en route to the final, a run of form that belied their FIFA ranking. Chipolopolo (the Copper Bullets) sought from the start to honor those victims, and against the odds they managed to reach the point where they properly could.

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Steel, Nationality & Competing for the U.S. Open Cup

John Nyen on the U.S. Open Cup.

Ninety-two

years ago there was some big news in association football.

World War I was finally finished and in England, official competitive football was allowed to resume (between 1914 to 1919 the FA Cup and League Cup were suspended due to the war with regional competitions taking place in their stead). In England, Aston Villa took the 1920 FA cup, winning 1-0 in the 100th minute over Huddersfield Town in front of 50,018 people at Stamford Bridge.

However, what was also quite surprising was that over in the United States, Bethlehem Steel F.C. had failed to progress to the National Challenge Soccer finals (now known as the US Open Cup) for the first time since the first year of the competition in 1914.

The champions of the Lehigh Valley roared through the previous competitions subduing all in their wake as they won 4 of the 5 previous Cup titles, only finishing second in 1917 to the deadly Fall River Rovers. However, in the 1920 US Open Cup playoffs, they were unable to get by Robins Dry Dock of Brooklyn, NY who themselves eventually fell to the 2nd place finishers that year, Fore River of Quincy, Massachusetts. Of course many people suspect that some of Bethlehem’s struggles may have come from the team’s 1919 trip to Scandinavia in which they toured around playing the best teams they could find and racking up 5 wins 2 losses and 4 ties in the process.

Steel...

As the dispatch said,

“A soccer victory garnered before a king was the fortune of the Bethlehem Steel soccer players, champions of the United States, in a contest staged in Stockholm yesterday afternoon. This pleasing information is conveyed in an Associated Press report stating that the American champions lowered the colors of the Stockholm Tigers before King Gustave and a crowd of enthusiasts that shattered all previous attendance records in that country. The final score was one goal to nothing.”

August 15, 1919 – The Globe – Bethlehem

The news reports indicate that Bethlehem lost the 1920 game in a fantastic contest:

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Storybook: Zambia Wins Africa Cup of Nations. Oh My!

Underdogs like Hickory High, Zambia pulled off the unthinkable on Sunday, overrunning the Ivory Coast for an unbelievable penalty shootout victory and a right to hold the African Cup of Nations to the sky.

Zambia was charged and Ivory Coast’s Prem duo of Gervinho and Didier Drogba couldn’t find the netting against the stout side. It was Drogba who could have sealed in regulation, but his penalty was off-target. Gervinho’s miss during kicks opened up Zambia’s chance and subsequent conversion to win it.

It is a tearjerking final for Zambia who returned to host country Gabon almost 20 years after the plane crash which claimed the lives of their coach and 18 members of their squad.

Graphic: Who The Global Rich Are

Interesting...

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