Angelo’s Word: On Or Off The Pitch?

Simply, can I ask a couple of questions? It’s been reported that Alex Morgan will be featured in the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, again. That’s not a question. It’s a statement. But a question that I ask is this, is it possible to assume, that women’s soccer in this country, has a higher profile when it comes to being marketed, than men’s soccer in this country?

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What I am saying is, or what I am really asking is, would men’s soccer in this country garner a bit more to a lot more mainstream respect via media and public alike, if there was an Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, or Mia Hamm to market, if you catch my drift.

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It’s been said that the attention given to men’s professional soccer in this country will increase to mainstream levels when there is an athlete that transcends the sport in the vain that Michael Jordan transcended basketball or Muhammad Ali transcended boxing. I get that, that makes sense. But is the sentiment really true?

Women’s soccer in this country is astronomically less visible then men’s soccer in this country. Yet, I feel for some obvious reasons, and maybe some not so obvious reasons, the women’s side of the coin seems to hold more value and carry a bit more weight when it comes to infiltrating pop culture. Which given the limited soccer opportunities that the women’s game has overall in comparison to the men’s game overall in this country, seemingly goes against all conventional wisdom.

Would the men’s game going forward in this country, be better served producing an uber athlete that achieves supremely on the pitch? Or would the men’s game be better served by producing a talent whose profile can simply extend beyond, “soccer matters” and infiltrate pop culture? Or by both?

Angelo Lawford

Will City prevail against Barcelona today in Champions League? Messi to be judged!

All eyes are on the Champions League match today between Manchester City and Barcelona at the Eithad Stadium in Manchester.

For me this one is incredibly intriguing, a clash of styles and possible the perfect moment for City coming off a decisive performance against Chelsea in the FA Cup beating them 2-0

So what did City learn against Chelsea and their talented midfield players in that win?
Simply that you must have a close to perfect performance in midfield getting pressure on the ball. Eden Hazard and company never got going due to wonderful “team pressure” on the ball in midfield.

That pressure on the ball plus the power that Manchester City has through the likes of Vincent Kompany and YaYa Toure sees me giving them the advantage.
Barcelona stills seems susceptible to the counter attack and the aerial game which could be problematic.

If Manchester City is successful today they must get strong “pressure” on the ball limiting space and time in midfield on the amazing talent laden Barcelona.

Incidentally, all those that say Lionel Messi would not score goals in the Premier League are crazy but he will clearly be judged today against this City Premier League competition.

How do you see it?
Twitter: GlennDavisSoc

Observations from the Dynamo/SMU pre-season match/ Irie Mon

The Dynamo entertained a nice turn out of fans at Houston Amateur Sports Park today taking on SMU in a pre-season friendly. SMU was a large step up in competitiveness from HBU this past Wednesday and served as a good tune up.
One still has to be careful making real judgements on these games but there are glimpses that can be attained.
A few observations:

1.) TALLY HALL- the big man seemed less interested on Wednesday against HBU but today reminded us of his shot stopping ability. The big man gets down well and picked two or three balls out of the corner on clear chances from SMU.

2.) OMAR CUMMINGS- Real pressure is on this striker to produce this year.
One moment stood out to me today when he quickly closed down a defender who was hesistant and earned a pk.
It is something that Cummings can do to help create chances out of moments when defenders are slack and hesitant. The Dynamo could use a few more of these type of moments this year punishing mistakes from the opposition.

3.) DAVID HORST- The big center back is quickly becoming the leader at the back after coming over from Portland. With Jermaine Taylor out he has been partnered with Eric Brunner. Taylor and Horst seem the front runners for the cb position while Servando Carrasco seems secure in a role alongside Ricardo Clark for the moment in place of Warren Creavalle who is coming back from off season knee surgery.

4.) SEONE AND SHERROD- These two players have to be applauded for giving everything they have trying to make this squad.
Mark Sherrod is strong in the air and I believe will be signed while Seone’s efforts have been exceptional, my only question mark lies around his “speed of play” being quick enough for MLS.
Seone was discovered in Spain by former San Jac coach Dave Santesteban and played for current coach Ian Holloway.

5.) FAN TURN OUT- Fans turned out on a beautiful day, my only question here was where were more youth teams getting the up close and personal free player development opportunity.
I am sure if a “team” called the Dynamo front office they would have been given the royal treatment. Next up is Pittsburgh on Wednesday but it is a school day.

6.) IRIE MON- Monday night in studio live for Soccer Matters on Espn 97-5 will be the trio of Jamaicans Omar Cummings, Jason Johnson, and Jermaine Taylor. Jamaican food courtesy of the “Reggae Hut”.

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In truth U.S. Soccer Academy helps to develop college player not pro

Recently I got a litany of press releases from MLS teams lauding the number of “their” Academy players that have committed to the college game.

It is truly an exciting time for these young men who move on to receive and education and play the game amongst their peers.

The Academy has been a huge step forward in condensing and organizing talent into the clubs in the program and a major step forward in looking at player development in this country but it is so far from the answer of developing players for MLS that are capable of starting and playing real minutes at 18-20 years old.

Many have been listed as Academy players that actually played the majority of their youth career at other youth soccer clubs who deserve the credit.

The Academy has been a good start, a huge investment but the seriousness of MLS clubs and their Academy programs varies per club and the improvement of long term vision and staff in many cases must improve in the future.
Some clubs are just falling in line due to the mandate from MLS to start a player development Academy.

The good news here is that the set up of the Academy has now allowed for the next platform which is coming courtesy of the LA GALAXY with the LA Galaxy II which is a USL PRO team they have purchased.

LA Academy players will now cross paths with the first team, play 28 games in USL Pro against men coached by former MLS coach Curt Onalfo.
The team will be a mix of Academy players, players signed specifically for the team and first team Galaxy players that need minutes.
In the end Academy players will be in game situations with true professionals and be one step closer visually to the first team.
This additional USL PRO piece now makes the LA Academy program more relevant.

Now this is accelerating player development. It will be interesting to see who is the next MLS team to get a USL Pro squad and truly move forward towards a player development program.

Thoughts? Comments?

Chris Klein – Complacency In The MLS Is Something We Cannot Have

On this week’s show of Soccer Matters, Glenn kicks it with Chris Klein, former MLS player now president of the LA Galaxy.

GD:
Long time Chris, glad to hear your voice and glad to see you so successful not only as a player but also off the field. Talk about the challenge getting the opportunity and sort of finding your way to the management side because a lot of things have to change for an individual when that happens.

CK:
Sure, I think athletes in general, soccer players are certainly no different when its time to walk away from the game since we were kids. You know our lives don’t change a whole lot from the time we are 5, 6, 7 until it’s time to retire. To make the decision to walk away and to really identify something that I was really passionate about in the other end of the business if you will in soccer. To get an opportunity with AEG and the Galaxy is something that I am thankful for, but it is a challenge and it is a learning curve and a lot of the same things you have as an athlete you can take to this side and its starts with an understanding that you have a lot to learn.

GD:
Chris Klein only 38 years of age, from St. Louis, Missouri and now the president of the LA Galaxy. Did you have to pinch yourself when you first got into the management side about this transition and the opportunity that lied in front of you?

CK:
Not really, as I said I am thankful for the opportunity but as I got on into my career, I had an understanding of what I wanted to do. I was heavily involved with our players association and the business side of the MLS. As players, especially in MLS, we are charged with growing the game in this country. It’s like as you said in the open, I started close to the beginning of our league and it would never of got to this point about support from the league, support from the players, and the incredible ownership that we have, so to pinch myself I am not sure but I am definitely thankful to be here.

GD:
Do we have to be careful to stay grounded and rooted with this incredible infrastructure? A lot of players coming into the league know nothing but good infrastructure as the game was very different in the 80s and 90s. Do we have to be careful not to get comfortable and remain hungry in growing, promoting, and marketing this league? I’m specifically talking about players as well.

CK:
Ya there is no question, I don’t know that anyone that understands how far we’ve come have to be extremely proud of what we done in less than 20 years of having the league in this country. However when you put it into context and everyone watches the world’s game now. When you put it into that context, I think that we all understand we have a long way to go. We are gaining ground, we have a model that works. We an understanding of what we need to do as the game continues to grow. I don’t think anyone here will tell you that we made it. Complacency is something we definitely cannot have. There are many areas where we can continue to improve on an individual club basis and the league as a whole.

GD:
Do you feel you have a corporate responsibility to put a team on the field that sort of reflects the city of Los Angeles?

CK:
It’s interesting that you say that, absolutely. I think when we look at our city, our team has to reflect our city. Our city is known as Hollywood, but also known as a trendy and multicultural city. Our roster reflects that. We do feel a responsibility to have a little bit of glitz and glamour. It started with David Beckham. Then it went back to Landon Donovan, Coby jones, and Alexi Lalas. At the end of day, our city come and support teams that win. That’s always what it is about, winning and being successful on the field.

For the rest of the interview please visit http://stationcaster.com/player_skinned.php?s=741&c=5701&f=2391803

Remember to check out Glenn Davis every week on Soccer Matters Tuesdays on 97.5 from 7-9 and Dynamo All Access Thursdays 7-9 pm on Yahoo! Sports Radio 1560.

Mourinho the difference in Chelsea win over Manchester City

Clearly the “special one” was just that as a manager in the 1-0 win over Manchester City.
No only did Chelsea shutout Manchester City on the road (first time in 4 years) but this win was definitive and goes down to one thing: Jose Mourinho.

You may not like his style, you may not like his use of the media but one thing is for sure, the man who was once an interpreter for Bobby Robson at Barcelona is truly a tactician.
Today Mourinho totally out-coached Manuel Pellegrini of Manchester City. In fact Pellegrini must take responsibility for an overanxious City.

Now before you remind me that Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Sami Nasri were not available let me remind you that Mourinho’s Chelsea today lived up to the moment much like Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
This is the sign of a leader.
This is also before mentioning the perfection of his player selection and tactical set-up.
Chelsea smelled blood when seeing DiMichelis in the holding role, add to that an undisciplined YaYa Toure who failed to protect his partner and it was “on” for the “Blues”.
Chelsea took advantage of a poor team shape and a undisciplined City. City in transition was poor going from attack to defense.

Chelsea hit three posts and should have been more comfortable in the win if truth be told and you wanted to find something to criticize..
Mourinho’s Chelsea was more confident, secure, defined and players knew their roles.
In the future they will become more difficult to play against because they have a variety of phases to their game and can set up in different areas of the field.
They are a prototype for the counter attack with break out capability with Eden Hazard, Willian, Oscar, Ramires and more.

In the end Manchester City was made uncomfortable and never found a rhythm.

The difference was the manager, Jose Mourinho.

Comments? Twitter: GlennDavisSoc

New signings Horst and Cascio stand out in pre-season match/ Can Lopez make it?

You must always be careful when assessing players and pre-season matches.

With the knowledge of that, both center back David Horst (acquired from Portland) and Tony Cascio (Loan from Colorado) both impressed in areas the Dynamo need immediate help and support.

DAVID HORST Today vs. Colorado looked good in the air, timing in tackle and was organizing and using his voice like no other center back has for the Dynamo in two years.
His willingness to jump right in and take control is impressive and he can add an “intimidation” factor that has been sorely missing.
Not noticeable problems with the broken leg he suffered last year..
So far so good.

TONY CASCIO I am sure he was buzzing to play against the team he has been loaned from in the Rapids. Cascio scored a goal and showed the ability to come inside as well as bring width.
His activity and “want” to be on the ball trumped all attacking players.
A good start.

ALEXANDER LOPEZ
Still have a real worry here.
Fact is he has a great skill set which is painfully obvious.
How does it translate and does he have the inner strength to help it transfer to MLS?
Only time will tell.
For today, he seemed to wait on the game, the squad got more porous defensively when he came in. Additionally he seems to play at the same speed and expects things to come to him ala Valderrama in Tampa.
Valderrama he is not.
Fitness level is a part of it but it is not the only part. Is he mentally strong enough to live up to the challenge of MLS?
Is he strong enough to improve defensively so that when the ball is lost he is an asset defensively.
If he is hoping to be a true #10 I am afraid that will not happen.
I am pulling for this young man.

Twitter: GlennDavisSoc

My top three performances from U.S. win over Korea

Certainly yesterday’s United States v. Korea match provided far better competition and urgency in a World Cup year then the bore that we witnessed in Houston last year when the U.S. took on Canada.

The highly competitive match at the shadow filled Stub Hub Center was interesting and provided opportunity for Jurgen Klinsmann and staff to assess players. I sure wasn’t hard to pick out those that performed the best.

My top three performances:

GRAHAM ZUSI (Sporting KC MLS):
Zusi’s commitment and work ethic is what really sticks out to me. Precisely the attitude that one needs at this moment to influence a manager. He is a lock to go to Brazil in my opinion and his ability to control wide areas are of real importance.
Impressive workmanlike performance, professional.

CHRIS WONDOLOWSKI (San Jose, MLS)
Who can’t pull for this guy?
A scorer of both of the goals vs. Korea he keeps himself in the mind of Klinsmann. Compare his ethic and knack for pouncing on balls in the penalty area to the sub par effort of Eddie Johnson who acts as though he has already booked his place to Brazil.
Johnson’s athleticism keeps him a possibility but his ethic and attitude are real question marks (good luck Ben Olsen ). Johnson likely remains in the striker “sweepstakes” based on limited choices for Jurgen Klinsmann at the lone striker position.
Wondolowski’s problem is that many of his goals have been scored in friendlies.
He is getting every ounce of what he can out of his game.

NICK RIMANDO (RSL, MLS)
Rimando is clearly the number three and performed well again grabbing the shutout.
One of the most unique goalkeepers in MLS history, Rimando has earned the trip to South America and brings a professional attitude that has to be applauded.
Shot stopper, solid distribution, organizer are his strengths.

A note on Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo:
Davis seems positioned and in contention but must getting picked to play against the Ukraine and produce a solid performance.
His asset is as a possession player and off set pieces which is perfect for latter stages of games off the bench at the international level.
I believe Jurgen Klinsmann is a fan of his and despite some rare moments of loss of possession one has to factor in the weeks of training and influence players have in training sessions.
Davis was entrusted against Mexico and Panama in qualifiers but must push himself over the top.

Twitter: GlennDavisSoc

LA Galaxy adding USL Pro squad bigger than DeFoe/Bradley to Toronto FC

It will be far reaching and I am expecting more MLS teams to follow the lead of the LA Galaxy who now have a USL Pro team that will play a 28 game schedule.
A USL pro team that will train in Carson under the watchful eyes of many in the club.
There will be the constant reminder of the first team of the LA Galaxy in front of youth players on a daily basis.

This truly is the closest to a true reserve team that any club in MLS has and the team will be comprised of Academy players, players signed for LA Galaxy II (name of the team) and first team players that don’t get games on the weekend or are trying to round themselves in to form based on injury or lack of first team play.

The mixing of youth and men is so important here and will accelerate the development of academy players. With this move the LA Galaxy have made their Academy more RELEVANT overnight.

No one denies the Academy program has been helpful in herding the top players in to a more smaller circle for identification but is not providing MLS with “MLS ready” players.
Here in Houston Bryan Salazar signed out of the Dynamo Academy with solid skill set but it is not hard to spot how far off being a professional he really is despite the large fanfare. Do we really expect him to see first team minutes this year?

All MLS teams will need to move in the direction of the LA Galaxy so that their set up for player development becomes “whole”, this is how you can nurture, develop, and bring forth youth players who need the experience of playing with and against men earlier in order to move their maturity forward.

Accelerate the process and we will find more mature players at younger ages in MLS. Players that at 18-19 that can truly get first team opportunity. The league needs more Luis Gil’s (RSL) and Diego Fagundez’s (NE). Both of these players acquired significant minutes in MLS between 16-18 to aid in their development.

Former MLS coach Curt Onalfo will have the hugely important job of coaching and developing the players on LA Galaxy II and working with first team players in combo with youth players.

Now I assume that Bruce Arean, Chris Klein, Curt Onalfo, Jovan Kirovski and Dave Sarachan all had something to say about this move.
One thing was for sure, they realized the “smoke and mirrors” effect that the Academy has had on the TRUE production of youth players ready to play in MLS.

How interesting it will be for fans to see USL Pro games that include current first team players and rising stars against better competition.

It will be interesting to see where it all goes from here as MLS teams have affiliates where they can send players but not a USL Pro team in their own backyard run by their “own” staff. Now the Galaxy can truly monitor and measure players.

It may not seem as big as Defoe/Bradley to Toronto but the long term effects will no doubt be positive in LA. A pioneering move for sure.

Twitter: GlennDavisSoc, Facebook: SoccerMatters

First day of Dynamo training /newcomers

Today I took in the first Dynamo training session at a blustery Houston Amateur Sports Park.
Missing were Brad Davis and Tally Hall.
Davis is preparing with the US National team for a match against Korea this weekend as he makes his bid to be a part of a World Cup squad.
Hall after being released by the US National as one of five players is apparently being given some time off.

College draft choices Aj Cochrane, Mark Sherrod, and Michael Lisch were all in attendance.
New CB David Horst and loanee Tony Cascio from the Colorado Rapids also were out for the first day of practice.

Euan Holden-last at 6th tier Stockport in England, Holden is the brother of Stuart and is currently without a club. Although supposedly just training with the club one would figure he would love to earn a contract. Holden played at UConn and I believe is a left back.

Sito Seone- played at the Austin Aztex and San Jacinto College, had 9g 5a last year with Austin.

Calen Carr was in not in camp after his option was decline and Mike Chabala is not under contract but taking part in pre-season.

twitter: glenndavissoc

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