Archive for December, 2012

Petition: Retract US Soccer Support for Sepp Blatter

No more Sepp! No more Sepp!

No more Sepp! No more Sepp! (photo edit by John Roushkolb)

Sign the petition now!

A few weeks ago, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons wrote an in-depth column on the leadership style of NBA star Kobe Bryant.

It was a well-premised piece with the central theme being that Kobe Bryant has choosen which leadership-style–that of an omnipresent, bristled-at, egotistical bull in a china shop for lack of a better phrase–suits him best. Simmons argument is Bryant is completely comfortable with the notion that many, including his own teammates, will detest him at the expense of the team winning.

USSF President Sunil Gulati finds himself in a similar leadership role as the head of American soccer.

Think about it.

Gulati wiped egg off his face not once, but twice because he and his leadership cohorts thought Jurgen Klinsmann was the best present day solution for USMNT stewardship. Gulati was also probably not considering his own brand equity when he dropped down to his knees and begged Pia Sundhage to remain coach of the USWNT after the 2007 campaign.

This is not say that Gulati is a completely white-gloved servant or samaritan. Nor has Gulati been without blame for an ultimately miscalculated World Cup bid strategy or the poorly-juggled exit treatment of Bob Bradley. Many in the inner circles of the US Soccer community simply acknowledge Gulati as a “survivor” and an “operator” in reaching the pinnacle of American soccer hierarchy.

Stop.

Stop.

It’s for these positive reasons that Gulati must be given the benefit of the doubt in his dealings with Sepp Blatter and FIFA … and it’s for this reason that the fans must also give Gulati and USSF the necessary out to say the current dealings are unsatisfactory to US requirements.

First, let’s restate the case against Sepp Blatter. Homophobic and misogynistic views? Yes. Permissive attitude towards racism? Yes. Presiding over World Cup bids ultimately won by nations with opaque oversight and little freedom of the press? Yes. Conspiring to reroute millions in FIFA funds over the years to contractors qualified through nepotism and-or kickbacks? Nearly proven, so, yes.

Any of these aforementioned transgressions above are grounds enough for the US to retract it’s support of Blatter, especially the prejudicial and racial actions and sentiment that are in direct opposition to the ideals the United States was founded. For most, the US ideals of integrity, fair play & hard work are still ideals. What does it say USSF sides w/a “leader” opposite those ideals? (I realize that is a grandiose statement, but take a step back and consider it for a second.)

So why hasn’t the US, in the face of clear under-the-table dealings in World Cup selection for 2022, recent comments by Blatter lamenting the state of the game in the States, a powerful position in terms of commanding the highest WC TV rights and more, continued to author its support in favor of a corrupt leader who favors ideals diametrically opposed to the United States and personal sentiment antogonistic at best, revolting at worst, continued to cast it’s support for Blatter? And with seeing virtually no return on investment from that support?!

The only plausible reason is that Sunil Gulati–whose own equity takes a sledgehammer punch of vitriol with Blatter support–believes the devil he knows (Blatter) is better than the devil he doesn’t know. That despite all of the wretchedness associated with Blatter and with no plausible alternative waiting in the wings, that going against of his (Gulati’s) own volition is a death toll to any leverage in further negotiations over whatever.

Therefore, it’s the contention here that it can be and it should be the voice of the US soccer populace that needs to stand up and demand that the United States Soccer Federation not support Sepp Blatter. In doing so, Gulati & Co. could save face at the highest level of FIFA with an argument that sort of looks like this:

Gulati, “Look Sepp, we can’t support you anymore.”

Blatter, “Okay, what’ll it take?”

Gulati, “Sepp, it’s Sunil over here not Fursenko.”

Blatter, “Oh, right, right sorry. WHY CAN’T YOU SUPPORT ME?!”

Gulati, “Well, I need the support of the people. You know I’m up for re-election in about a year and I’ve got all these folks petitioning me not to support you. I need to still be the choice of the people.”

“Look if it was up to me alone, you’d know I’d be there for you buddy.”

Blatter, “Can you remove the petition from the Internet or pay off the guys that started it.”

Gulati, “I mean, I could try Sepp, but you know we’re into Klinsmann for a hefty paycheck each month. It’s killing us.”

… well not exactly like that, but you get the drift.

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Stand up for women.

Stand up for players and people of any sexual persuasion.

Stand up for the ideals of the United States.

Hope to improve the global game, maybe not now or maybe not for ten years, but hope for it anyway.

Give Sunil Gulati and USSF the out they need.

Demand that USSF retract its support for Sepp Blatter. Publicly. It’s a start.

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Sign the petition now!

2012′s Lasting Moment: Geoff Cameron’s El Tri Flick-Off Header

Forward to minute 2:45 on the video

What’s that singular one-moment which says the most about US Soccer, progress, regression, promise?

In 2009, TSG picked “The Counterattack Heard Round the World” which was the height of the US team’s “Confederation Cup” moment. It was a play of beauty. That play just narrowly edged the Charlie Davies Salute at RFK.

In 2010, TSG picked Landon Donovan’s Corner Flag Pile-On which delivered a fanbase from the potential of four years of pain into a “we-can-come-back-from-anything” state of euphoria. Rescue and exaltation all in one moment. YouTube captured the moment and fan reaction well.

In 2011, TSG picked Steve Cherundolo’s injury against Mexico in the Gold Cup Final which finally nudged the boulder downhill into Bob Bradley’s firing, Jurgen Klinsmann’s coronation and The Reclamation Project that will always be known as Jose Torres. The moment narrowly eclipsed “Megan Rapinoe-to-Abby Wambach” which would have easily walked away the 2011 victor had the USWNT stood at the highest point on the World Cup pedestal. Alas, it was the penultimate stand they would inhabit.

2012 had a lot more subtle contenders. There was no magnanimous moment though you could easily argue that the USWNT’s war of attrition against a committed Canadian side at the London Olympics is easily the best US game of this year (over USMNT friendly wins against Italy and Mexico at their fortresses respectfully).

TSG distilled the 2012 “moments” down to six, in no particular order:

Says it all...

Says it all…

» Deuce Face: The USMNT runs rampant over Jamaica on a special September 11th, 2012 to provide some breathing room on reaching CONCACAF’s “Hex” World Cup qualifying round.

» Nashville Death March: Jamie Alas slaloms through Caleb Porter’s US U-23 defense and caroms a shot off keeper Sean Johnson rattling a death knell to the team’s Olympic dream. The US U-23′s draw El Salvador on a clear night in Tennessee, as clear as their Olympic flame of home extinguishes.

» Flick Off, El-Tri!: Geoff Cameron’s in-flying “FLICK OFF!” header at the Azteca with the US in Preservation and Perseverance Mode against El Tri. The US would see itself to victory with a goal from an out-of-position Michael Orozco Fiscalness, 1-0.

» Grown Ass Gamewinner: Eddie Johnson’s resurrection from the USMNT deadpool with a brace on a soggy night in Antigua & Barbuda to rescue a crucial away victory in

» A Walk in Fenway Park: Michael Bradley’s pristine grounder goal for Roma against Liverpool at Fenway.

» Stomp the Headstomper: The headstomp by Melissa Trancredi on Carli Lloyd during the aforementioned US – Canada battle at the London Olympics. It was a vicious, if surreal, moment. It was one which encapsulated the lengths that Canada wanted to go to try and slay their Goliath neighbor at all costs. (Note: The US women–Abby Wambach in particular–threw some cheap shots as well.) The US, of course, would win the semifinal match by a controversial 3-2 result.

The 2012 runner-up for TSG is simply “Michael Bradley.”

Bradley Cometh...

Bradley Cometh…

By all accounts, 2012 was The Year of The Dome.

The year that Michael Bradley came due. The Roma goal more than his Scotland smash or Russian missile shot was the selection because of its understated-ness.

Here was Bradley cool, calm and looking very much the part for one of Europe’s Champion’s League-challenging superclubs coming back to the States a star after trekking to Europe to prove he belonged and improve his game.

2012 was Michael Bradley’s year, from his transfer to Roma, impact on USMNT play and, yes, because with his father no longer the coach of the national team the dialogue over whether he belonged was cast aside for good.

It’s a shame–it truly is–that Geoff Cameron’s header steals the show here in this text. It should be added that “Grown Ass Gamewinner” came in third in the running while Deuce Face came in fourth.

Cameron’s Flick-Off….

The scene? The Azteca. The minute? 56th.

El Tri golden child Chicharito barreling in on goal ready to drive a dagger into the US and a header passed what-is-sure-to-be another-hapless Tim Howard at the Azteca.

Lo and behold, and without a cape, Geoff Cameron flies in, his velocity towards goal necessitating perfection or a trip to the same place Little Pea is gunning for.

Cameron though with the body control of an over-yoga’d  ballerina flicks the ball on it’s current line and negates Chicharito’s run and almost certain score, toppling passed the goal line he is defending on the follow-through. Tragedy averted.

The US of course would go on to break the seal of the Azteca on Michael Orozco-Fiscal’s mop-up just before time. The only disclaimer on a sterling moment was the game was a “meaningless” friendly.

Resurrection complete...

Resurrection complete…

The US survived scares in 2012, including where it should’ve had to, Antigua & Barbuda. Eddie Johnson made up for five years of nonchalance and misplaced hype to replace and re-stoke the hype. If Michael Bradley was the player of the year for the States in 2012 and the one to watch going forward, then Eddie Johnson is certainly 2013′s most intriguing.

However, the Yanks have notoriously wilted at the Fenway Park to their Yankee Stadium. And they’ve wilted as a result of intense offensive pressure, ad nauseum.

There were periods of that pressure in this August game, but it was a mesmerizing play by a defender-not-named-Tim-Howard, an up-and-coming high potential defender that saw it to it that the US would keep the home goose egg on the scoreboard and break the hex of the Azteca forever.

And it was a play by a recently transferred player at arguably the US’s thinnest position that kept Howard’s sheet clean. (Yes, Howard made two terrific saves, but then again he always does.)

Geoff Cameron and company may not walk into the Azteca next time and state, “I got this!” but when the whistle blows at kickoff they’ll certainly think, “Been here before.”

And maybe the match will end that way also….though don’t count on it.

Big moment. Lasting moment for US Soccer in 2012.

Not the World Cup, but...

Not the World Cup, but…

Boxing Day Live: Who’s Your Papiss?

With Demba Ba in high demand across the Prem, will 1st half dud Papiss Cisse begin to rise as he did after Christmas last year?

Newcastle v. Manchester United kicks of Return-Your-Gift Day.

"Utah, get me two!"

“Utah, get me two!”

Soccer Night In Newtown: January 7th

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In conjunction with Quinnipiac University...

In conjunction with Quinnipiac University…

Happy Holidays from The Shin Guardian

A happy, healthy and merry to you….

TSG_Christmas_Card_2

C’mon Jurgen … what about a RW … or maybe some Canadian-Americans?

This holiday card expertly done by Steven Ericksen of a member of the New England Revolution Rebellion.

Op-Ed: MLS’s Empire State of Mind

Bullseye?

Bullseye?

Why “NYC II” makes sense … by TSG staff

Lucky number 20.

MLS Soccer is a chugging juggernaut nearly every way you turn the sphere.

You want increased attendance? MLS will say, “Yeah, we got that!”

You want increased franchise value? “No problem.”

You want increased soccer stadiums? “Yup, have you seen the House that Lance Enhanced in Kansas City?”

You want star power? “I gave you David Beckham, now I’m twiddling my thumbs on Kaka…oh and we also thumbed our nose at 2002 US World Cup villian Michael Ballack recently.”

You want ratings? “Okay … um we’re not quite there.”

A-ha.

Garber

Garber

A few weeks ago by teleconference, MLS Commisioner Don Garber–a sort of Rudy Giuliani meets David Stern sort of fellow–gave his annual state of the American soccer speech. The dialogue thread checked the box on all the customary questions around a funky regular season and playoff schedule, referee quality, Landon Donovan and swooped gingerly through the section on MLS expansion.

It’s a subject that Garber–once the man that NFL sent across the pond to develop NFL Europe–has handled deftly. Nay, expertly.

See Garber knows that there is enormous value–marketing-wise and league-wise–in moving “potential league suitors” forward as one even though there was very little doubt as to where MLS would cast its expansion shovel next.

By glad-handing and visiting suitors and their cities (“Hello Orlando”) and chastising them (“If only you had a stadium, Atlanta”), an extended  “Garber Hope Morsel” as we’ll call it is all that is, and was, necessary  to send would-be clubs into a tizzy, frantically spinning their efforts–like gerbils energy drinks–to please MLS corporate. This may not get them any closer to expansion–in fact in all likelihood it has no bearing–but for the clubs (Orlando, Carolina) it validates them in the community and for Garber and company it markets US soccer in markets it will hopefully reach out to again some day.

It’s an exercise in mass marketing–leaching off of someone else’s marketing dollars to drive adoption of your own product. Just ask FC Dallas who tried to get into a marketing war with Houston last year after Portland tried the same thing with Seattle by challenging their rivals. (Don’t think for a second those advertisements weren’t orchestrated)

The marketing churns in burgeoning soccer cities on the Garber Hope Morsel until they become viable plane hops in a more thriving league.

Pele once captured imaginations at Yankee Stadium...

Pele once captured imaginations at Yankee Stadium…

It was always going to be concrete jungle of New York that bred the next MLS franchise. MLS needs to swing a sledgehammer to jolt another audience increase, not tap with a few rubber mallets at various pockets around the 50-states.

It’s case of the law of large (population) numbers as much as it is of brand equity. And more acutely it’s a case of converting the obvious as well.

That latter point first.

MLS clubs–through their own druthers or otherwise–have done a terrific job of building strong, loyal fan bases. They represent the early adopters and the strong signal beacons shining the way for the next brigade of audience …. assuming at some point that musters.

Just turn on Sportscenter.

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