Dear Marvell Wynne: Please take up another sport. Regards, American soccer fans

Look, I get that Marvell Wynne is an extraordinary, maybe even world class athlete. I get that. I’m not blind. I’m not cruel. I’m not stupid.

But I think it’s quite clear that he’s just not a very good soccer player. Quite honestly, I thought he was the kind of “one-tool” player that MLS had passed by at this point, and yet there he was tonight, stumbling around aimlessly in the penalty area and directly responsible for Chile’s lone goal. Grant Wahl called him “out to sea” on that first goal, but really that’s an insult to the sea. The Pacific Ocean covers 63.8 million square miles. Wynne can’t cover three square yards.

I hope Colorado likes having him around because they’re not going to have to worry about losing him to international duty for long time. Gary Smith and company seem to like him at center back and that’s good for them. They stumble-bummed their way to an MLS Cup win, after all. Great champions, yada yada yada.

But if Wynne wants to represent the United States again, he needs do so in a sport better fitted to his ability to perform occasional feats of outstanding athleticism in between longer periods of positional aimlessness and technical incompetence. Maybe, and I’m being only half-facetious here, he should take up the decathlon or bobsled, something that just uses his skill-set to greater effect.

Moving on to Dax McCarty. He actually looks like a good player then. I’m still not quite sure what position he most belongs in, but he’s now impressed me the last 3-4 times I’ve seem him play on TV. It doesn’t mean I’m ready to start throwing rose petals down on ground in preparation for DC United’s “inevitable” march back to the MLS Cup final, but at least he gives fans some hope.

Speaking of hope, Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo ought to giving fans palpitations of hope. I loved the way Bunbury stepped up to take the penalty and I liked the way Agudelo drew the, admittedly softish, penalty. As I said when Agudelo scored against South Africa, it’s only a matter of time until we start hearing the chorus of “HE’S GOTTA GO TO EUROPE RIGHT NOW RATHER THAN THROW HIS CAREER AWAY BY STAYING LONGER IN MLS!!!” Right, ask Dominic Cervi how that’s working for him? He’s seen so little match time that he was left out of this game for two guys who played their last matches before Thanksgiving. Let’s hope that the Wizards (you bet I’m in denial) and Red Bulls don’t sell either of them off anytime soon.

Finally, US Soccer says they drew over 18,000 to that match. Really? Did it look like that in the stadium? If so, booze and hookers to the sales people who got that done. That’s an achievement when the most well-known and intriguing guy involved in the entire match is other team’s coach.

A Cosmos PR staffer asks me “How could I have a girlfriend?” and calls me “a child.”

If you’ve been following the rip-roaring excitement that is my Twitter feed, you’ll know that I’ve been aghast at the amount of publicity this “team” called the Cosmos has received despite having no professional players, no home field, and no league to play in.

Like seemingly the rest of the American soccer community, I had a bit of fun at the club’s expense today. Examples included:

and finally…

That prompted this response from a woman who is listed on her Facebook page as the Director of New Media for the New York Cosmos.

It’s impressive as much for its ee cummings-esque eschewing of punctuation and capitalization as for its total lack of professionalism.

Now, I’ve had my balls busted by many, many PR people over 10 years of writing about sports. Not once have I ever received a response this unprofessional and one that I think best embodies the sheer idiocy and sleeze that I think underpin this Cosmos “organization.”

If this Cosmos organization wants to be perceived as something more than the “Hello Kitty” of American soccer, then it needs to act like it. If people, even PR folks, are unhappy w/what I write, I’m almost always happy to discuss it privately with them if they approach me in a polite way. This woman, quite clearly did not do that.

In this case, I’ve decided to print the correspondence because a) it was so unprofessional, b) at no point in that message did she ask for it to be off the record, and c) it just goes to show what a joke this iteration of the New York Cosmos is.

Finally, for reasons relating primarily to my dislike of getting sued (for the second time), I’ve decided to redact the woman’s name from the Facebook image and this post. Be sure though, if anyone from the Cosmos attempts to publicly deny this in any way, the gray boxes are coming off in a very big way.

Congrats to Akron and Caleb Porter

So this weekend, I watched most of Akron’s two matches en route to the school’s first ever National Championship in any sport. I must admit, I was gob-smacked by what I saw.

With the proviso that I was too young to remember Arena’s teams at UVA, Akron was the single best college team I have ever seen – seriously. One or two of Cirovski’s Maryland teams come sort of close, but none played with the kind of unbelievably good possession-oriented soccer that Akron did this weekend.

Akron’s coach, Caleb Porter is, without question, the most promising young American soccer coach I’ve seen since I began covering soccer.

I’ve taken my shots at the Akron program and Porter before. Quite simply, I don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong about any subject at any time. Porter is the real thing, and so is Akron’s program.

Porter should, in theory, have his choice of any MLS gig that comes open in the next couple of years. If he can get a team to play like that in college soccer, where the rules practically beg coaches to have their teams run around like headless chicken, I do not doubt for one minute that he could get pros to do it even better in MLS.

Bruce Arena’s almost 60 years old and not getting any younger. Why do I think we might have just found his future successor in Los Angeles?

For more on Akron’s triumph, read Bill’s summary of Akron and where it’s come as a program.

It’s easy to say Gulati should go, but is it the right thing for American soccer?

As one of Sunil Gulati’s chief defenders over the years, I think I ought to come out of hiding to discuss the near-majority position of American soccer fans (at least those on Twitter and Bigsoccer), that US Soccer head Sunil Gulati must “go” for his role in the US 2022 World Cup bid failure.

Here’s what I think. The question of whether Gulati should go is almost irrelevant – Gulati recently won his second four-year term and will not face the voters until February 2014. What is relevant is the question of who would replace him. Supposing he did go, who would replace him? Merely saying “anybody” isn’t a real answer.

Here’s the other situation, until FIFA changes its bidding rules to allow the same confederation to host twice-in-a-row, the USA is now the enormous favorite to host the World Cup in 2026. Australia, China, and the whole of Europe (w/Russia hosting in 2022) are out, leaving the US the limited potentially opposition of South America (more to come on them), Africa, and erm, New Zealand.

Now, if you believe the rumors out of FIFA (and my good friend Jon Tannenwald did on Dan Levy’s podcast recently), FIFA wants the centennial World Cup of 2030 to go to Argentina and Uruguay, the two finalists of the first ever World Cup. That almost literally leaves Mexico, New Zealand, Egypt, and Morocco as opponents and that’s only if you accept that FIFA would go to a second Arabic-speaking country in three tournaments before returning the USA.

Here’s what all this means. How big of risk is it to chuck Gulati and his allies out of US Soccer when so many of them have the personal contacts, lessons learned and maybe even dirt on FIFA members that you’d want to win the World Cup in 2026? Is dumping Gulati before 2026 is selected not a case of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater?” While canning Gulati would certainly feel good after the 2022 loss, it doesn’t change the fact that he and his staff’s experience in the process makes them more valuable if you’re going to try again in 2026. If you thought 2022 was a “slam dunk,” then 2026 is setting up as one of those Blake Griffin monstrosities.

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eRKXGiAAnw"]YouTube – Dunk of the Night (11/20/2010): Blake Griffin’s Monster Slam Dunk on Timofey Mozgov[/ame]

Yeah, like that.

By the way, if I have to name the biggest mistake by Gulati’s World Cup bid team it’d be this one. I think they got overexcited and started talking up the bid too early. Instead, they should’ve kept themselves and the rumor mill quiet and once they saw that Qatar and its billions were going after it, simply let Asia have 2022 and possibly even support Qatar in that effort. The problem is that once it became clear that US was bidding, they couldn’t be seen dropping out because of Qatar, it would’ve made US Soccer look bad and would’ve set off the collusion alarms even earlier than they ended up going off.

But getting back to my point, there’s no doubt that Gulati has been weakened politically by this loss. Even I, as a defender of his, will admit that. But behind him is a total void. Who do you want running US Soccer. (And just as importantly, who would want to?)

That’s my point.

Until there is a qualified, motivated figure standing “in opposition” to Gulati, all this talk of him resigning doesn’t matter one iota. Elections aren’t won by “Mr. Else, Anybody,” they’re won by people. And until that someone emerges publicly, all the anti-Gulati noise is just that – noise.

Two things that deserve never to be mentioned again: Last night’s match and Toronto FC fans

Well, say this for MLS Cup 2010….. no one was killed.

So there’s that.

Yay.

Okay.

Sigh, I’ve got to actually talk about this match?

Jesse Hertzberg from offstage: Yes!

Can I trash Toronto too?

Jesse again: Yes, but try talking about soccer first, please.

Deal! Okay, then let’s break this down, shall we?

The on-field action:
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t artistic, but for about one-third of it, it was pretty engrossing, which when you consider the two teams on offer in the conditions at hand, was probably about as good as anyone could’ve asked for. The ending was completely compelling as Dallas attempted to come up with new and creative ways to miss chances. Prior to that, Colorado summoned up the spirit of Pippo Inzaghi in scoring two of the most ludicrous goals in MLS Cup history. If for no other reason, I’ll remember the final for that, which is more than I can say for some of those New England finals, right?

I don’t think I’m alone in saying Conor Casey disgraced himself throughout the match only to be rewarded with that goal and unbelievably the final MVP award (only to have is name screwed-up by the VW flack on stage). Casey was like Claude Lemieux out there – just running around the attacking area in the general direction of the ball and then just elbowing, grabbing, or bodyslamming anything that got in his way. On that first half penalty appeal, Casey clearly committed a foul on the defender before getting hacked down in response. It should’ve been a FK to Dallas and then a yellow card to both participants for the subsequent after-party. But any talk of cards, brings us to one of the final’s true enemies – referee, and I use that term extremely lightly, Baldomero Toledo.

Toledo was a joke. He tried to follow the age-old British maxim of “don’t ruin the occasion” but then in true USSF-fashion, ended up totally ruining the occasion. While Toledo was making his Palin-being-interviewed-Couric-face, Dallas but especially Colorado proceeded to turn the game into slightly better-attended version of a Wednesday night “tilt” between Michigan State and Purdue. For those of you who both missed Sunday’s match and have never watched Big Ten soccer, it was grim. I wouldn’t say that Toledo ruined the match because that would be downplaying the role of the hosts Toronto in the entire mortifying occasion. This brings us to the…

Off-field matters:
Let’s start with Toronto. I know from my family who lived up there that it seems to be an inherently decent place, one filled with decent people like my late great-grandmother, Rose.

That proviso being made, allow me to say that Toronto FC fans are officially the biggest bunch of scum, frauds, jokes, and assholes I’ve ever seen in the history of MLS. Seattle fans, you’re off the hook, and off the hook for a long, long time. Reports claim that many Toronto supporters showed up for kickoff and them almost immediately left in a protest against their owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) for a) forcing them to buy Cup Final tickets as part of their season tix and b) fielding a fairly mediocre team this year. Look, I’m no fan of MLSE, but this was such an unbelievably bit of destructive and malicious behavior by Toronto fans that hopefully it has ensured MLS doesn’t go anywhere near Toronto for an All-Star Game or a Cup Final ever again. Remember when Michael Wilbon said he’d rather go to Beirut than Detroit for a Super Bowl? Well that now applies to Toronto for any major event.

I know TFC fans seem to have this “love the team, hate MLS” perspective on things; but allow me to remind TFC fans that without the much hated MLS and MLSE for that matter, there would be no TFC and they’d be left watching Serbian White Eagles play Metros Croatia in a high school stadium as genocidal scum on both sides attempt to re-live the “good ole’ days back home” in the streets outside.

Toronto fans embarrassed their club and all of Canadian soccer last night and I’m not even counting the ones who left early during the second half or during overtime. Casual fans are casual fans, but for allegedly real fans of TFC to leave because of their unhappiness with management is a joke and a really big reason to think that maybe MLS should’ve just told the CSA to pound snow and start their own league. I’ll reserve judgement until we see how Montreal and Vancouver are before declaring Canadian soccer totally rotten and asking that Dunc and Gord MacAsshole go start their own league that almost certainly wouldn’t even reach WUSA-level heights before crashing miserably.

One final note, a taunt really, to TFC fans. You might really hate MLS, its structure and its salary cap but you know who loves it more than almost anyone – your ownership. MLS is designed for owners who want a low-risk, low-cost sports investment where even owners who don’t try to win all that much can make a nice return. Who does that sound like? It sounds like MLSE and its main shareholders the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund. Pretty much, you’re ********ed, Toronto fans! Your owners absolutely LOVE MLS because even if the fans truly give up on the team (which looking at the Maple Leafs’ history, they never will), MLSE will still be sitting pretty, mired towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference counting its cash. You can yell and scream all you want, but when the best you’ve been able to show for four years is zero playoff appearances, Danny Dichio, and a dilettante German consultant – you’ve really got nothing. Have fun with your mediocrity Toronto fans, and after last night, allow me to speak for every other fan in the league when I say HARDY, HAR, HAR.

Moving on to the two most over-discussed nuggets of the weekend, I think that the playoff format isn’t a total disaster and I think the pro/rel talk is nothing but talk.

While we don’t know the 2010 playoffs’ final form, the addition of two teams through a play-in game actually has the potential for some dramatic action, especially if they are one-game play-ins. As for the shift back to more geographically “conventional” playoffs? Fine, whatever. It makes it less odd and easier to explain. Works for me.

As for the winter calendar. All I learned about that this weekend is that Sepp Blatter must literally be so stupid as to be brain damaged after using some his time with President Obama to bring up MLS playing a summer calendar. If this were any other normal business or non-profit enterprise, we’d tell FIFA and the USSF refereeing clowns to pack their stuff and get out so we could go off, innovate, and find a better way to do things. That MLS and other soccer leagues around the world cannot do this without being declared “REBELLIOUS” is one of the truly, truly stupid things about this sport.

Getting back to the winter calendar, it will never happen. This is all talk, politics, and evidence to those (like me) who think Qatar is now the clear favorite to win the 2022 World Cup bid. This is a move that shows the US is now playing from behind. That said, win or lose, it will never happen. If these “consultants” Garber talks about have even half a brain, they’ll say exactly what I said in a earlier column. It would be a very, very bad move for the league.

Well, that’s it from here. I’m sure I’ll have more now that the draft (otherwise known as the only part of the season that DC United fans are allowed to forward to anymore) is approaching.

Oh and more thing.

Toronto fans: You’re ********ed.

Ha ha ha.

Join the Fighting Talker NCAA Men’s Soccer Bracket Contest!

Since we all know that most, not all, but most of the actual soccer on offer during the NCAA Tournament will be unwatchable dreck, let’s liven it up with some casual gambling.

That’s right, it’s the 2010 Fighting Talker Men’s Soccer Bracket Contest. Sign up, and this time I promise, I swear, there WILL be an actual (small) prize on offer for the winner.

Here’s how to signup.

  1. Goto the NCAA’s Bracket Challenge Site
  2. Make your picks and then join the group called Fighting Talker League. The password is diablo (case sensitive).
  3. If you have any questions or problems, leave them in the comments here and I’ll try and sort them out.

The deadline to signup is 12pm on Thursday.

Thanks and good luck!

Could Marco Etcheverry be the next coach of DC United?

So yesterday evening I had a brief conversation with someone in MLS who tends to know things. He said that while he doesn’t think anything is brewing quite yet, it would be wrong of DC United supporters to think that Marco Etcheverry has no chance of ending up as the team’s head coach in 2011. He said that Marco actually has a chance.

“El Diablo,” who is currently managing Oriente Petrolero would fit many of GM Kevin Payne’s traditional requirements for staff including a past with DC United and an understanding and appreciation of attacking soccer.

What was really interesting to me was that this person I spoke to never once framed a possible “Diablo” hire in terms of his tactical or management ability. It was all in terms of how this hire might help rejuvenate a depressed fan base and draw a few more fans to RFK Stadium. It would also help to at least increase the team’s national relevance at least a little bit and might serve to just lift the “death grip” [his words] that Will Chang’s lack of finance and the lack of a new stadium hold over the club. But not once did this person ever raise the subject of Etcheverry’s actual ability to manage an MLS club.

But before folks get too excited over the mulleted one returning to RFK as coach, he said that this hire was a hugely risky one for the already beat-up DC front office. Here’s why. If Marco does well and DC improves, than everyone looks like geniuses, fair enough. But if DC struggles, or Marco just doesn’t have what it takes to succeed, the DC organization absolutely, positively couldn’t fire him. The person said how United could not afford to anger the Bolivian community, not after the not entirely amiable departure of Jaime Moreno. He said that no matter how bad things got in DC, the club could never fire him without seeing the bottom drop out of their attendance and goodwill in DC’s Latino community and amongst DC’s supporters in general.

The conversation wrapped up this way:

“If Payne fired the guy, the reaction would be so awful that he might as well just move the team….. But hey, that might happen anyway.”

Not getting “Sporting Kansas City,” not getting it one bit.

So rumors are flying out of KC that they’re going to get a new name along with a new stadium. The rumored name?

Sporting Kansas City.

Seriously.

That’s it.

Okay, I get that MLS teams are currently on a “let’s make ourselves sound as European as possible” jag now. And in some cases like Dallas, Toronto, and Salt Lake, the results weren’t that bad.

But it was transparent what those teams were trying to do. They were trying to look/sound like big successful European clubs like Arsenal FC, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and on and on. I got it. It was poseurish, but at least they were posing in the direction of something successful.

But now, here’s KC seemingly wanting to associate itself with Sporting Lisbon, the third-most successful club in Europe’s sixth-best league that itself isn’t known in this country outside of some older folks in Newark, NJ and Fall River, MA.

This is just bad marketing and the kind of really misdirected poseurism (yeah, I made that up) that actually makes the league look more bush-league rather than less.

I get the whole European name thing. Hell, I cheer for DC United. I get it. I really do. This isn’t a slap at KC for Europeanizing their name, it’s a slap at KC for doing it really, really badly.

Please KC ownership team, while there’s still time, think this out. If you want to re-brand the team, do it. But think this move through. Sporting Kansas City doesn’t really stir any echos, only the bowels.

Moreno Walks Away, as DC United Sticks to the Script

It was a melancholy night at RFK Stadium Saturday, as it always is for DC United supporters when the season finale hits, and we know going in there’s no playoffs to be had.

Beyond simply being the final game, it’s the final tailgate, and in many cases, the final time you’ll share stories and beverages and food with friends until hope springs to life again in March.

This was combined with the fact that United fans were seeing the final game for club and MLS legend Jaime Moreno. Fittingly, Moreno drew and then converted a penalty for his 133rd career goal (for now, the all-time MLS best). It was what we had all hoped for – that Moreno would tally in his finale, and with the goal giving United a 2-1 lead over Toronto FC, we hoped the second part of the script would include United holding on to the lead and giving Moreno a victorious sendoff.

But in the end, even on this special night, it perhaps wasn’t wise to think United would shed what has been their 2010 identity. United did in fact give up the lead early in the second half, then fell behind as Toronto scored twice and walked out 3-2 winners.

Despite the score, most United fans stayed, and Moreno was given a warm, emotional sendoff when subbed off in the final 10 minutes. He exchanged greetings with all his teammates, and even with a couple members of classy and sporting TFC players. And in that moment, Moreno walked out of our lives forever. It was hard to watch Moreno’s family be so broken up after the game, as the player greeted fans in front of the supporters’ club sections at midfield.

Perhaps just as sad as that thought, is the realization of what now is left. Which, barring a keen offseason from the front office, is very little. There’s the young Andy Najar, and a full season of Branko Boskovic and Pablo Hernandez is somewhat intriguing to me.

But as we’ve seen multiple times this season, a complete defensive upgrade is needed, United have to be more dangerous on the wings, and perhaps an upgrade in goal could be sought (though, better defensive work might make the Troy Perkins/Bill Hamid combo look better, to be fair to both).

All of this, however, makes this the perfect time for Moreno to exit. There’s no reason for him to hang on for another season that may well look much like what we saw in 2010. He’s done all he can do, more than anyone else in league history. His records will be surpassed, his legacy never will be.

United have many changes to make, and even if we don’t like it, it’s time to move on. I know there’s a big segment of fans that would love to see Moreno play forever, just as we did when the end finally came for Ben Olsen as a player. United fans hold their heroes dear, and the bond between Moreno and the community has been tight and has uplifted all involved.

No one replaces Moreno. No one will step in next year and instantly become that kind of hero. And it would be unfair for us as fans to put those expectations on a single player.

Seeing the end of Moreno’s career is a monumental transmission for the club and the fans, even if his goal and assist numbers have declined (as almost everybody on the team’s did this year). With Moreno gone and Olsen not likely to continue as head coach, the links to the glory years are now just about completely fractured for good.

United have never gone this long without winning an MLS Cup. No one would make them favorites in 2011. There are many changes to be made, and there’s no time like the present to get down to business.

My heart wishes Moreno could be a part of it. But my brain knows that 99% of good things must end … and it was time for this to end. I wish Jaime Moreno nothing but the best in whatever endeavors he takes on. I have no doubt he will be a success. He will always be a hero to me.

And I wish United nothing but the best in getting themselves out of the MLS cellar. I have no doubt … there’s a long way to go.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s what made last night all the more difficult.