Daily news roundups

Sak clarifies comment & backs Curtin, SoBs issue statement, Nog speaks, US to face Mexico in semi, more

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

At CSN Philly, Dave Zeitlin’s article from his interview with Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz, quotes from which created a stir when Zeitlin tweeted some teasers on Monday.

The article includes a clarification of one quote that was tweeted in which Sakiewicz said of criticism from fans, “It doesn’t bother me at all because those fans that are saying that are completely wrong.” The article notes,

Sakiewicz later clarified that his comments were directed at only a couple of the more vocal fans that were spreading “false truths” and not the entire fan base, who he said are “welcome to criticize” the team’s performance.

In the article, Sakiewicz says of the generally disappointing performances of Carlos Valdes and Rais Mbolhi since joining the club in August, “These are important players for our future. I don’t think there was any strategy to get Carlos and Rais in just to make a run [this season]. And it was unfair for people to put that pressure on them.”

Sakiewicz also says,

I think it’s important to understand that we’re only five years old. And we were started from a blank sheet of paper, unlike Seattle, unlike Portland, unlike Montreal, unlike Toronto, unlike New York City FC. We were literally started from a blank sheet of paper and we’re five years into it. And, as a good business practice, we’re constantly looking at ways we can make things better both on and off the field.

We’ve done a lot of things right and we’re done a lot of things wrong. And we’re correcting the things that are wrong and enhancing the things that are right. So it’s a constant evolution.

In a Zeitlin article at MLSsoccer.com also from his interview with Sakiewicz, the Union CEO reaffirms his support of Jim Curtin. “Jim Curtin’s under contract with us and I envision Jim being with us for a long time. Nothing official’s been made. Nothing official will be made until we finalize our discussions. But I expect Jim Curtin will be with us for a long time to come.”

Zeitlin writes, “the Union CEO seems prepared to hand the keys of the club to Curtin and Albright this offseason to make the necessary moves to turn the franchise around.” Sakiewicz said,

I can’t sit here and say there might not be organizational changes. There always will be. I will tell you this though: our full attention is on what’s going on inside the white lines. We’re going to build on the success Jim Curtin has created in the last 22 games at 10-5-7 and getting us to a Cup final and we’re going to add some pieces to make this team a playoff team every year for the foreseeable future.

ProSoccerTalk picks up on Zeitlin’s report and says removing the interim tag from Curtin’s title “the right move for Philly.”

By the way, Sakiewicz was on hand “to give some US insights” for a panel “of soccer administrators new and old” on the “opportunities and threats facing the global game” at the opening of the Soccerex Americas Forum in Barbados on Tuesday.

At the Union website, Kerith Gabriel has a great read on Vincent Nogueira, someone who isn’t exactly renowned for giving interviews. Nogueira talks about playing as a youth in France and, because of his size, learning to adapt his game in order to compete against larger players, the whirlwind that was arrival with the Union, and more.

Nogueira says of the support he has felt from the fans and his future with the Union,

Coming here, I really did feel welcomed by the fans and the city. I was a foreign player, no one really knew who I was; it was the same for me and [Cristian Maidana]. He’ll tell you that the way the fans got behind us was great. I don’t know if it’s the same for every [MLS] team that gets new players, but these fans really made me feel like I made a good decision to come here.

I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t really think about my future. My future as a professional, my future in Philadelphia, yeah, I don’t really think about it. I left France because I wanted to have fun and play soccer in a country and discover something completely new. I am doing that now with my life and I’m happy. I love playing for Philadelphia and I guess the only think I can say about the future is that I hope I continue to perform well and play a lot of games here.

Zac MacMath (“Though his future with the Union seems to be in doubt”) and Amobi Okugo (“could be heading to Europe, and if he stays in MLS, could definitely be making a move out of town”) have been named to Goal.com’s MLS U-23 Best XI.

At MLSsoccer.com, Brian Carroll, who is out of contract at the end of the season, affirms he does not know whether he will be with the Union next year. “I’m still in the mindset of maybe being able to play another year and then take it from there.”

Carroll says of the Union’s playoff stretch collapse, “It’s disheartening. But this group is going in the right direction. I think there are a lot of positives going forward, especially the way the group turned it around midway through the season. We didn’t finish how we wanted to, but from the staff and core group here, I think there’s a good solid base to grow and get better and make that push for the playoffs.”

In ProSoccerTalk’s power rankings, the Union move up one spot to No. 11. “Philly has more than shown its merit this year. Come Monday we may be counting the Rais M’Bohli [sic] miscue as the reason they didn’t get in.”

In the latest Castrol Index Weekly Top 20 Performers list, Brian Brown came in at No. 10 and Cristian Maidana at No. 16. In the Full Castrol Index, the top five Union players are Andrew Wenger (No. 20), Conor Casey (No. 24), Sebastien Le Toux (No. 49), Maurice Edu (No. 62) and Amobi Okugo (No. 66).

Tifogate

In his interview with CSN Philly, Nick Sakiewicz affirmed that he did not see the banners critical of his leadership of the club but that they were properly removed according to stadium policy.

On Tuesday night, the Sons of Ben issued a statement on the removal of the banners.

Ultimately, it is the Front Office’s decision to make on if they feel the rules they set forth were broken, but we feel that was a very tame and low profile way that some of our members decided to show their displeasure with our ownership…[W]e feel many things that happen in The River End need to be organic and should come from our members.  This is an example of that happening and we will defend their right to express themselves as long as it falls with the guidelines of the Sons of Ben Code of Conduct.

We’ll have more on this later today.

Philadelphia Union Academy

The Jamaica Observer reports on Jamaica U-17 national team striker Justin McMaster striker, who is about to join the Union Academy: “He is lethal in front of goal.” The report says McMaster will join the Academy “when his national duties are over.”

Local

At Penn Live, Michael Bullock has some updates on the latest signings by Major Arena Soccer League’s Harrisburg Heat.

Temple is on the road to face UConn today.

Soccer Nation on the restructuring of US Youth Soccer Region I (East) into the US Youth Soccer Region I Champions League.

MLS

In CONCACAF Champions League play, DC, which had already clinched a place in the quarterfinals, defeated Tauro 1-0 in Panama. Portland was eliminated from advancing after conceding two goals in the first four minutes of play before losing 3-1 to Olimpia in Honduras. Tonight, Montreal, who have also already earned a quarterfinal spot, face New York, who are already eliminated, at Red Bull Arena (8 pm, Fox Sports 2).

In league play, Salt Lake will look to move into third place in the West when they host Chivas USA (9:30 pm, MLS Live).

Soccer America reports, “Major League Soccer is set to break its record for average attendance set in 2012. With one week left in the 2014 regular season, MLS is averaging 19,039 fans a game, marking the first time it has topped the 19,000-a-game mark. A record eight teams are averaging more than 20,000 fans a game, and at least five teams will break single-season average attendance records.”

Will Thierry Henry play another season with New York? Who knows?

Jermain Defoe’s 2014 MLS season appears done thanks to that persistent groin injury. So far, Defoe has missed 14 games due to injury or suspension.

ESPN and Reuters report that NYCFC’s David Villa is ending his loan spell with Melbourne City after only four games “due to his commercial commitments with New York City.”

Honduran international and former Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza wants out of Wigan Athletic. Wigan manager Uwe Rosler told the BBC, “Roger came twice to me and wanted to leave the club. He wanted to go back to Kansas…I think after he came back after the World Cup he struggled to find an appetite for football.”

Keith Oberman has weighed in on the firing of MLSsoccer.com’s Colorado Rapids beat reporter Chris Bianchi, including Rapids president Tim Hinchey in his “World’s Worst Person In Sports” segment.

Reuters reports from the Soccerex Americas Forum, “FIFA’s new plans for dealing with concussions have been criticized by some in the United States for not involving an independent medical inspection, but Major League Soccer’s medical chief believes team doctors should be trusted.” Said John Gallucci, medical coordinator for the MLS, “I don’t think there is any medical professional out there that would garner their license by saying that an athlete is not concussed and put them back on the pitch…They understand that it is about being able to diagnose, treat and progress the athlete back to the field safely.”

Reuters reports NASL president Bill Peterson believes the US Open Cup “could be revamped” to help grow soccer in the US. “I think that property is the next big (sports) property in this country, it certainly should be,” Peterson said at the Soccerex Americas Forum. “Here is a chance to get three leagues and the amateurs involved and light up over 70-80 communities at once. Why wouldn’t you do that?” Peterson also affirmed his support for promotion/relegation and that the NASL should have an automatic berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. “We have started to have conversations asking the question – ‘why not us?’. Why can’t our champions have a direct entry? I would argue we have got the third strongest league in CONCACAF behind (Mexico’s) Liga MX and MLS.”

New York Cosmos head coach and technical director Giovanni Savarese says of pro/rel, “I do see that we are reaching a point where [pro/rel] would be a necessity…I think as well the time is not yet set at this moment. Teams need to continue growing in order to incorporate in a system like that — especially in the MLS when teams have paid [exorbitant expansion fees]. It would be difficult to see that structure from an MLS standpoint.”

US

The USWNT will face Mexico in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualification tournament at PPL Park on Friday at 7:30 pm after Mexico defeated Jamaica 3-1 to finish second in Group B. The other semifinal, which kicks off at 4:30 pm, will feature Trinidad and Tobago against Costa Rica. You will recall that in the qualification tournament in Mexico for the 2011 Women’s World Cup, Mexico upset the US in the semifinals, forcing the US to win the third-place match and then a home-and-home playoff against Italy to reach the World Cup.

ASN reviews the US win over Haiti on Monday and notes something a lot have observers have noticed: Despite cruising through their group, something feels off with the team.

Abby Wambach said of the Hope Solo controversy,

It’s hard because we’re in a tricky position because we’re teammates with Hope and we also are role models so we know how massive and we know how big of an issue this is…

That’s not lost on us by any means. But I think on so many different levels, our hands are tied. U.S. Soccer made the decisions that they made and we’re here to play soccer, we’re here to qualify, we know that it wasn’t so easy the last time around, and so we are in a tough position.

I can understand why people ask questions, but at the end of the day, when decisions are made and we’re not in those positions to make decisions, you have to go with what U.S. Soccer and Sunil (Gulati, the organization’s president) has decided.

The Colombian soccer federation has announced (crappy Google translation here) it will play the USMNT in a friendly at Craven Cottage in London on Friday, Nov. 14. No confirmation yet from US Soccer.

Elsewhere

The Confederation of African Football has issued a statement following comments from UEFA head Michel Platini and others that the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations should be postponed because of concerns about Ebola.

CAF under the leadership of its President, Issa Hayatou, has always promoted free expression within it. Far from it therefore, claim to deprive anyone latitude to express themselves.

But we must beware of what appears in every way as interference by a president of a Confederation, in cases involving first and foremost Africa and CAF…

Despite the risks involved in armed conflict in Ukraine, a country where a civilian plane was shot down killing nearly 300 people, UEFA did not consider it necessary to exclude Ukrainian clubs from its competitions as a security parameter by hosting games outside this nation, as treacherously raised once it is about Africa.

CAF hereby reaffirm the importance it attaches to respect of its sovereignty and does not intend to let anyone interfere in the management of its affairs.

Reuters reports, “A leading Brazilian football lawyer believes FIFA’s move to outlaw third-party ownership (TPO) of players could seriously harm the game in South America.” More on whether the TPO ban is good or bad for Brazil at The Guardian.

At The Guardian, the unlikely success of soccer in Greenland.

Speaking of green, the BBC reports, “Heat lamps seized by police in drugs raids on cannabis farms are being used to cultivate the grass at Rochdale’s football ground.” The head groundsman for the League One side said, “I can’t thank police enough. It has saved the club a fortune and the players will be happy, especially the goalkeeper.”

20 Comments

  1. Jimmy Trojan says:

    STFU Sak! Go kick rocks, you loser!

    • That “we’re only 5 years old” line would have worked, if they hadn’t said we’d get a Cup in 5 years. I stopped being patient when they told me I didn’t have to be patient.
      .
      And didn’t Toronto and City start as a ‘blank sheet of paper’, too?

      • Sak’s more further clarification: “About 9 years ago the Red Bulls bought the Metrostars and the next year (2007) I was out. This company was founded in 2008. And we started to play in 2010. So that blank piece of paper is really over 7 years ago but I act like a 5 year-old.”

  2. Brown, Blake and now a kid in the Academy? I like the idea of a Jamaica pipeline into the Union. Now can we get Og’s to open a stand in PPL Park?

  3. James Lockerbie says:

    Mr. Sakiewicz,

    Sir, You need to hire a press secretary, you already mentioned in previous interviews a possibility of hiring a G.M or a sporting Director. Yet you couldn’t resist denying any involvement in Player decisions. Your responses were heavy handed and outrageous. It’s this simple Acknowledgement and lists of actions identified to make corrections.

    Yes we made some mistakes, but he is how we plan to fix them.
    Man, was that so hard? I like Jim Curtin, and Chris Albright and we’re going to bring in a G/M S/D. We will take the off season to identify the needs of the team and players that will best fill those requirements.

    We will use all means of the drafts, transfer windows and homegrown programs to locate and sign new players for the upcoming season. The players signed before spring training will actually be in positions of need, and not another Keeper!

    No I am not asking to be the press secretary, I just hope you help yourself and the club by going out and finding one. Quickly!

  4. It makes me sick that Sak said M’Bolhi is an important part of the team going forward. I can’t say I don’t have anything personal against M’Bolhi, because I do, he made the one mistake that he should not have made during an crucial playoff run. But on the other hand, I also completely resent him because he just should not be on MY team. We all know we were set with MacMath and Blake as a backup.
    /
    Sak is just incompetent, there is not much more to say than that. You can not really compare what he did. Maybe you could relate it too buying Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers(or any other top QB) putting them on the same team. It’s actually makes some sense cuz you could rotate them but I digress.
    /
    I really think it is inexcusable to buy M’Bolhi, who is an overrated goalie at best when we have MacMath, who is growing at an astounding rate, which was on display all year.
    /
    And all of sudden PPL Park is North Korea and the all powerful one is telling the fans that they are dumb idiots that are wrong and then the fans can only criticize the team and not the FO…Sak, this is a poorly executed, totalitarian society you created with all lying about player transfers, telling the fans they are wrong and blaming the people under you for your shortcomings…just leave now.

    • Even worse they can’t go with only M’Bohli and Blake next year because of International breaks so they still have to take up another spot for a third goal keeper who will get about 6~8 games. As we saw this year, losing out on just a few points can knock you out of the playoffs.

      Too angy to even go into losing MacMath in December for nothing when he gets plucked in the expansion draft.

      • Unless they know that next year’s schedule will honor international breaks. That’s entirely possible.
        .
        Ugh. I just tangentially defended Sak. I need a shower…

      • I don’t see MacMath going in the expansion draft. I’d take Kennedy, Attinella or Deric (or Hall) over him. I really like MacMath, but there are better options for an expansion club.

    • McMath has improved significantly this year, but was by no means the answer at goalkeeper. In almost every game he has a major blunder related to coming off his line. If he continues to grow at the same pace he’ll be a solid keeper in two years but, for now, he’s not quite good enough.

      • The Chopper says:

        Sak, may have driven the MBolhi acquisition, but there has been solid sentiment from the technical staff through the front office for some time, that the GK position needed an upgrade.
        Blake was drafted, but was deemed not ready to play.

        The position was upgraded at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, due to the international calendar, the pickup takes place midseason for MLS and it did cause disruption. Throw in a most embarrassing physical (not mental) blunder for Rais and it all comes out bad. In the end, though, I believe the team did improve the position for the long term, and I am ok with that. MBolhi will organize his defense better, control his box better and his quicker more direct distribution will help the offense.

        On another note, we probably expected too much from both Rais and Valdes. Coming off the mental and physical exhaustion of the World Cup run and then being inserted into the stretch run in MLS in another country shortly thereafter was in hindsight a recipe for disaster. Carlos needs a full offseason of rest and maybe even fatigue played into MBolhi’s shank.

      • Not good enough? So saving 2 penalties to take the team to the Open Cup Final is not good enough? Sure he made mistakes, so does everyone else on the team. The point is he is young and learning. He is a player you build a strong core of players on. He is ridiculously young by goalie standards, keep him and let him grow. I think Blake’s ceiling is not as high as MacMath’s and M’Bohli is completely and grossly overrated.

      • Zac McMath is a quality keeper. Andre Blake’s athleticism is way higher. If he develops the IQ to match, nothing Zac McMath every does will be as good. Talent supersedes.
        .
        I like Zac, a lot, but Andre’s ceiling is way higher IMO.
        .
        Rais? I don’t know what to make of him. The whole thing still has me perplexed.

  5. “I think it’s important to understand that we’re only five years old. And we were started from a blank sheet of paper, unlike Seattle, unlike Portland, unlike Montreal, unlike Toronto, unlike New York City FC.”
    .
    I know, right Nick. It’s so awesome being able to go and watch NYCFC play in USL this year before they move up to… oh, wait. That’s right. NYCFC is *also* starting from a blank sheet of paper. *smacks forehead* How could I have possible forgotten that little detail…

    • James Lockerbie says:

      yeah and on that piece of paper players names like Lampbard and villa. Wonder what names were on the Union’s first piece of paper?

    • John O'Donnell says:

      NYCFC didn’t start from a blank piece of paper like the Union. The fact that the team has the name “City” in it, tells that the paper was far from blank. They hired a coach and sent him to England to learn the “City Way”. The team has a number of connections and a vast network of scouts that they can use when signing talent in the future. For the most part, this team started with a letterhead on the paper.

      • old soccer coach says:

        Your scouting comment is much more important than the emphasis it gets. An experienced European as GM might open scouting lines into areas so far unavailable to us. The top teams in the top leagues seem to have scouts around the world. Certainly in major league baseball a scouting department is the foundation on which a farm team system is built.

  6. Hopefully the US-Mexico game is reasonably close, maybe 2-0.

  7. OneManWolfpack says:

    This all needs to get better quick… I don’t know how, or whatever, but all this negativity sucks. It’s all warranted, don’t get me wrong, but it just sucks to hear it all.
    .
    With that said… SAK OUT!!! Ha.. “Sak Out” at let makes me chuckle.

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