Disclaimer: I wrote this piece when I got home from the match Saturday night while I was still angry so it’s pretty critical of a lot of people.
Rochester Rhinos didn’t show up for the first half of Saturday’s game. Kristian Nicht definitely earned his paycheck by coming up huge when the game opened up in the second half. Looking at the tactical decisions, it seemed head coach Jesse Myers was managing the game from his armchair at home. Meanwhile Lucky Mkosana stole the show scoring his second goal against Rochester in as many games and setting up the winner for Drew Yates.
Rhinos lined up in a 4-5-1 formation with a few headscratchers. Because Drew Cost is still injured, Myers tried to use Earls in that playmaking midfield role. You may remember Earls dropping deep in the center to receive the ball in the match against Philadelphia. On paper this made a bit of sense but more importantly it allowed Michael Tanke to operate as a ball winner. Tanke was constantly closing down opponents and putting his body on the line to make hard tackles. This midfield tandem also freed up Tyler Rosenlund to push forward.
Because Earls moved into the center of the field, Quavas Kirk pushed up from defense to play right midfield. Argentine defender Lucas Fernandez stepped into the backline with Tyler Bellamy, Troy Roberts, and Jack Traynor. J.C. Banks was solid playing on the left side but Traynor’s fragility forced him to defend more than he was used to. Tam McManus started the game as a lone forward but didn’t get any service and was forced to drop deep to receive the ball in midfield.
Saturday night’s match was very disappointing. Rhinos were outplayed at home and didn’t do much to deserve anything from the match. Were it not for a handful of highlight reel saves by Kristian Nicht, Rochester would have suffered a much more embarrassing scoreline. Driving home with my girlfriend and two buddies, no one said much of anything. Someone remarked that none of us had seen the Rhinos win a league game this season because we were all still at our respective colleges when the team beat Charlotte in early May. In case it’s not apparent yet, this is unacceptable given how much talent this team has. Continue reading →
A couple weeks back, the US Soccer Development Academy announced that it would officially switch to the 10-month schedule practiced and recognized by most of the FIFA world for the 2012-2013 season. This would effectively make the DA a replacement for high school soccer as the switch blocks players from competing in scholastic leagues. American youth soccer fanatics with internet access have long been haranguing the detriments of the high school system: limited practice each day, multiple games in a week, three month schedule in large swaths of the country, the physicality of play, the lack of proper officiating, uneven application across leagues and states, and the lack of concentrated possession based development in the face of huge gaps in quality between teams. These bloggers and (let’s call them) “soccer activists” have been making noise telling youth players to skip the high school route for a while now, but until very recently there was no viable alternative.
For the current season the US Soccer Development Academy League (formed in 2009) has 78 participating clubs spread geographically through 10 divisions. You can see the map and national clustering on the East Coast, California and Texas here. From US Soccer’s page on the DA program, “The Academy’s programming philosophy of increased training, less total games and more competitive games is based on U.S. Soccer’s Best Practices utilized by the U-17 U.S. National Team Residency program.” This directly addresses several of the most pressing concerns observers had about high school soccer.
Today the internet is ablaze with people similarly lambasting the college soccer system, myself included. But what the general public might not fully understand is that there is not currently an adequate system to accommodate the thousands of NCAA players. The Development Academy league has grown tremendously since its founding, but only provides access for players up to age 18. After a player reaches the traditional high school graduation age, what are his options? Continue reading →
Amid all the confusion and tattered hopes of transfer deadline day you may have missed that the Rochester Rhinos starting goalkeeper secured a switch to Northampton Town FC. Northampton Town play in League Two, the fourth tier of English football, probably a fair step up from the quality found in the American third division in which the Rhinos currently play.
But this transfer raises more questions in my mind than just comparing leagues across the pond. Broadly, how are the structure of clubs and leagues different on either side of the Atlantic? But more concretely, what does this transfer, and others like it, tell us about the mentality of operating a soccer club in the lower divisions of the United States. Continue reading →
Tottenham Hotspur, Red Bull New York, and Club América were all in action today. Let’s start with the good; Spurs began their match against Q.P.R. strongly and applied pressure from the outset. Bale’s first goal was a result of beautiful movement and seamless passes. Across the Atlantic in Red Bull Arena, we were not treated to such a show in the final third. The Red Bulls were hosting the regular season champion Los Angeles Galaxy but the first leg of MLS’s marquee match-up failed to produce the promised goals. Going south of the border, Club América hosted DaMarcus Beasley and Puebla FC. Even in front of 80,000 aguila faithful, América did not provide the quality of play expected of them.
Tuesday night’s match in Red Bull Arena was a lot more for the United States Mens’ National Team than a simple 1-0 loss to Ecuador. Ecuador was never going to be an easy match-up for the US, but we could have won the game with a little more clarity in front of goal. Ultimately, whether you think Klinsmann’s baby-step process is the correct path to take or you want to see the US try to win at all costs is a bit irrelevant and premature to me. I’d rather examine which players had strong performances that may have earned them the call back into the squad in November and which players floundered with their chances. Probably the biggest winner on the night was Oguchi Onyewu.
The Cuban National Assembly recently approved a package of reforms to reshape emigration and economic policies. A million government workers will be laid off, while average Cubans will now have the chance to start and operate their own small businesses. In addition, the government will initiate an overhaul of the restrictions on travel off of the island. Raul Castro has said that he wants to modernize the country and establish ties to Cuban communities living elsewhere. All of this is good, but what does it have to do with soccer? Continue reading →
”You have the fact that it’s mostly organized soccer, when we know that the best players in the world come out of unorganized events.”
Jurgen Klinsmann, quoted from an interview with SI’s Grant Wahl.
During his introductory press conference Klinsmann alluded that soccer in America would benefit from a better street culture. The first challenge to this hope is the claim that the best athletes in America don’t play soccer, prefering instead to play football, basketball, and baseball. These three sports also happen to be more popular street sports and lend themselves to pick-up games in parks. But it’s also important to mention that the driven athletes referred to by Klinsmann during the 2010 World Cup coverage don’t have the best access to quality soccer programs.
This video further illuminates Klinsmann’s clamoring for “street soccer”.