Daily news roundups

Sak discusses wide range of topics, offside rule, KC & Houston joining the West, more

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

In a wide-ranging interview with Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz explained his involvement in recent signings

  • On Maurice Edu: “The coaches came to me and said, ‘We really want Maurice Edu, but we can’t get the deal done. I went to England to meet with my friend [and Stoke CEO] Tony Scholes to see how I could help get this player for my coaches.”
  • On Vincent Nogueira: “I wanted to go visit my friend [and Lyon director of business development Olivier Bernardeau] and also meet Vincent Nogueira eyeball to eyeball for my coaches, who desperately wanted this player. So I went along with Brendan Burke.”
  • On Rais Mbolhi: “People, for some reason, think there is some nefarious thing against Zac MacMath, that I’m the guy who went and got Rais Mbolhi. I’m not the guy. [His] agent came to Chris and Jim, an agent who I’ve known for a long time, who’s very credible and very good…It was a very attractive financial deal. Jim and Chris wanted him, and I said I’ll support that. We don’t need a goalkeeper right now, but I’ll support that. And actually, when I look at Zac MacMath’s record over 100 games, we need better goalkeeping.

Clearly, Sakiewicz’s personal relationships with parties involved in each of the deals were a valuable, important part of getting the deals done. Here’s what Mbolhi had to say at his unveiling on July 30:

I’m really happy to be here today, it’s a big day, really proud to be part of the Union today. I wanted to thank Nick, and Chris as well, ’cause they had to work a lot, but finally we made it. Once again, I’m really happy and looking forward to starting.

I’ve been talking to Hugo, my representative, and it’s been six or seven months that I’ve been calling the Union. Then I got the chance to come over here and meet Nick and to see the club. Nick knows he has a vision of everything, and I have mine as well. Since I met Nick, my decision was already made because he wants to win, he has a really nice project, and that’s what I was looking for, a project and a club with the value, like family and stuff. So, it made my decision fairly easy…

As I said before, once I had the chance to talk to Nick, he showed me what he was trying to build and the spirit of the club. I was looking for this – stability, a really good project.

It is interesting that Mbolhi doesn’t mention Curtin once, does mention Albright once, and mentions Sakiewicz five times.

After affirming in an interview on Monday with the Inquirer’s Marc Narducci, “I don’t do player trades,” Sakiewicz said of Rene Meulensteen’s chances of becoming head coach, “I won’t say that won’t happen, but it isn’t happening now.” No pressure, Mr. Curtin.

In his interview with Jonathan Tannenwald, Sakiewicz had some very meaningful things to say about player development. Recalling a recent conversation with US Soccer president Sunil Gulati about youth development, Sakiewicz said:

When can we be in the final four [of the World Cup]? 2026? Pick a date. If you just did the math, today is 2014. That’s 12 years from now. What are the ages of the players that are going to be playing in that group of four? [Around] 26. Twenty-six minus 12 is 14 now.

So here’s the question, Sunil: What are we doing as a federation and as a league with 14-year-olds?…The answer is, MLS is doing a lot with its academies, but [they are] very new. So we need help to get traction.

What’s U.S. Soccer doing with 14s? Nothing. So how can you expect to be in a final four if there’s 11 14-year-olds in this country [we haven’t found] who can potentially be in that Final four? We had better find them and we had better develop them, and it’s millions of them that we’ve got to look at. Where are the regional camps, where is the coach development?

[Union academy director] Tommy Wilson will tell you we’re not developing players in this country, we’re identifying them. We need to be developing them, not identifying them.

Sakiewicz said patience will be required before the Union sees lasting results from the YSC Academy. “It’s a 10-year slog of refining and developing and identifying, and developing, and developing, and developing. Unfortunately, the downside of youth player development is the time necessary to do it, and the problem, especially in this country, is we have no patience. We want it now. That’s just not how it works.”

Sakiewicz also spoke of the Union’s relationship with Harrisburg City Islanders. He said he expects “more investment by us in them” but also said Harrisburg must get a new stadium.

If they don’t get a stadium built soon, we’re going to have to make a decision to either stop the relationship or maybe partner with them and move them, because they can’t compete in USL with that building. I don’t know that we have to buy them out – if anything we’ll grow our relationship with Eric [Pettis, the team’s president]… I could envision us becoming more of a presence in their ownership, absolutely, but the linchpin of that is the stadium. We are not going to invest in a team that has that kind of a stadium with no hope of getting out.

At Soccer Wire, Harrisburg City Islanders head coach Bill Becher describes the benefits for players of the partnerships between MLS teams and USL PRO teams as “a great opportunity for guys that didn’t latch onto an MLS team to play alongside MLS players and against other MLS players to prove their worth.” Becher explains,

These guys are going to get invaluable experience. You can’t get that in training. You can’t get that in what you used to get with the reserve league. There’s standings. There’s playoffs. There’s atmospheres … that you can’t replicate at practice, that you can’t replicate at reserve games…There’s nothing like it. There’s pressure. They feel the pressure of winning. They have to fight for starting time and playing time. When they come here it’s not just handed to them; they have to earn it.

Becher points to Pedro Ribeiro as one example of how the partnerships benefit teams and players.

In the latest Inside Doop, Dave Zeitlin has a five-point plan for the Union to find success in 2015:

  1. Keep Jim Curtin but get him some more help
  2. Acquire a big-time striker
  3. Bring back Maurice Edu and have him anchor the backline
  4. Secure key young players for the long term
  5. Figure out the goalkeeping situation

At The Reporter, Matthew De George writes,

Among the many needs this offseason, the search for some semblance of consistency on and off the field might be the most pertinent. The club has had three managers in five seasons and, for however potent the indications are that Curtin will be back in that capacity, the team flew back to Philadelphia without a permanent manager announced…The search for constancy applies to the roster as well.

 Zach Pfeffer gets a shoutout at the US Soccer website for scoring his first MLS goal.

About that second Columbus goal on Sunday that everyone from Jim Curtin, to the Crew broadcast announcers, to anyone not wearing bumble bee colors at Crew Stadium thought was offside, Dave Zeitlin writes in a report at MLSsoccer.com,

Unfortunately for Curtin, the rules disagree. The pertinent FIFA offside law states that “a player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save), is not considered to have gained an advantage.” According to the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), the interpretation of this rule — a new interpretation in MLS this year — says that the moment Maurice Edu made an intentional attempt to play the ball on Tony Tchani’s shot, the play was reset. Therefore, Anor — who, video replays indicate, was offside on the initial shot from Tchani — was no longer considered offside because the ball was determined to have come from Edu, not Tchani.

Leaving aside the notion that it seems that only goalkeepers can make a “deliberate save” — like I wrote in Monday’s roundup, if Edu wasn’t trying to save Tchani’s shot from going in goal, what exactly was he doing — you can watch the “Instant Replay” video with MLSsoccer/com’s Simon Borg below for more on why Anor wasn’t offside.


Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parrish says there is no imminent takeover of the club by 76ers owner Josh Harris.

There are always people who want to buy football clubs. Sometimes people approach you and it gets out, sometimes people approach you and it doesn’t, but there is no imminent takeover. We are talking to a number of people on a number of fronts…I’ve always said that if somebody wanted to invest in the club and move it forward quicker than I or we (CPFC 2010) can then we would entertain it. We look at all possibilities that are out there – and there are many – but people have been quite ahead of themselves on this one.

The Penn men’s team hosts West Virginia tonight at 7 pm.

The Intelligencer has this story, and this story, on Philadelphia Catholic League, District One and District 12 boys’ high school soccer league championship games taking place tonight and Thursday.


The league announced on Monday that, effective immediately, Chivas USA has ceased operations. The league will announce on Thursday a new MLS Los Angeles club and ownership group that will begin play in 2017. A dispersal draft of Chivas USA players will take place “in the near future,” with SI reporting the draft will take place “in November.”

Included in the league’s announcement was the news that Kansas City and Houston will join the Western Conference in 2015. With the addition of NYC FC and Orlando City in 2015, that will put both conferences at 10 teams each. The announcement explains,

For the 2015 season, the 20 teams will each play 34 games during the regular season. Clubs will play each team in the opposing conference once for five home and five away matches. Clubs will play each of their nine conference opponents at least twice (one home, one away), plus six additional intra-conference games — three home and three away.

In a conference call after the Chivas USA announcement, Don Garber talked about what went wrong with Chivas, the importance of the Los Angeles market, how the new ownership group will build its own downtown stadium, and more. Philly.comESPN and SBI have reports.

With the end of Chivas USA, Brian Straus writes at SI that the league “may pay millions to keep Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres.”

Clint Dempsey’s agent, Lyle Yorks, has denied reports that the forward will go on loan to an EPL club over the winter. “The rumor that broke about Clint going on loan is completely false and inaccurate. There have been no discussions to that effect. Clint’s immediate focus is the playoffs with Seattle.”

Michael Bradley is to undergo foot surgery today.

The Oregonian reports Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri may have sustained an ACL tear during Saturday’s match against FC Dallas.

Thierry Henry is suffering from inflammation of both of his Achilles tendons ahead of Thursday’s Eastern Conference Knockout Round game against Kansas City.

Orlando City announced on Monday the signing of defender Luke Boden and midfielder Harrison Heath to multi-year deals.

The regular season now over, the league set a new average attendance record of 19,147 per game. 2014 was also the highest goalscoring year for the league since 2005 with an average of 2.86 goals per game.

The Washington Post reports, “D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on Monday delayed the delicate task of weighing council support for a new soccer stadium until after Election Day, leaving District voters with little clarity on where candidates stand on the massive public investment before casting their votes.” A report on the proposed stadium had been scheduled to be presented to the DC city council on today.


Jurgen Klinsmann has made the shortlist of ten nominees for FIFA’s World Coach of the Year.

TSN reports, “Lawyers for the women soccer players who have filed a gender discrimination complaint against the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA say some of the players have been illegally threatened with reprisals for their complaint by groups including the U.S. Soccer Federation.”

The Equalizer elaborates on mention of possible reprisals from Sunil Gulati:

In the legal document obtained by The Equalizer, players’ lawyers claim that Gulati indicated that he believed U.S. players risked suspension by FIFA for their legal action. Gulati goes on to say in an email that “U.S. Soccer plans to continue abiding by all applicable laws, rules and regulations, including state and federal law and the regulations imposed on it by virtue of its membership in CONCACAF and FIFA, in addition to U.S. Soccer’s own bylaws and policies.”

An article at SB Nation on the USWNT says, “Head coach Jill Ellis thinks women’s soccer is about to get way more technical and tactically nuanced, and she’s trying to make sure the U.S. women are at the forefront of that movement…Ellis’ biggest task is to get her players comfortable with where the women’s game is heading without losing what’s made them so formidable, and so far she’s succeeding.”

US soccer legend Mia Hamm has been named to Roma’s board of directors.


Responding to reports that some European countries are considering boycotting the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Sepp Blatter said, “FIFA unconditionally supports the staging of the World Cup by Russia. A boycott will never give any positive effect. We trust the country, its government. Russia is in the eye of the international media. Football can not only unite Russia but show the whole world that it is stronger that any protest movement.” Yeah, those pesky protest movements, Russia is stronger than all that.

The FIFA Ballon d’Or nominees list is out and, once again, no Union players are on it.


  1. On Maurice Edu: “The coaches came to me and said, ‘We really want Maurice Edu, but we can’t get the deal done. I went to England to meet with my friend [and Stoke CEO] Tony Scholes to see how I could help get this player for my coaches.”

    ugh… This fucking guy.

    • UnitedPenn13 says:

      On Dave Zeitlin’s #3 item “Bring back Maurice Edu and have him anchor the backline”. I just don’t get everyone’s Infatuation with Edu. He has a few exceptional moments in matches but he is a very casual player and when he is playing center back he drifts up field too far and strolls back when there is a turnover. The 1st Columbus goal is a perfect example of that. He is a good player but he’s not a $650,000 DP player.

  2. I hope we can get cubo torres

  3. That’s a BS new interpretation by FIFA, which I think is a blatant attempt to increase scoring. For years, the rule has been that attempting to play a ball is not enough, you have to do it successfully, i.e. make a pass. Neither of the touches in the Borg video above qualifies; they just gift attackers the ball. It’s one thing to try and fail, or misplay, a ball. It’s another to be reacting in a split-second to get a foot or head on the ball and have it skim off of you. I object, vociferously.

  4. Holy shit Nick, why not just throw Zac under a train instead.
    I agree that the goalkeeping could at times be better but I’m curious — if the team scored more goals on a regular basis would that help too? Cause nothing says good team like a clean sheet against you for 3 straight games that the starting goalkeeper only let one get by.
    This guy is Kobe Bryant smug and that is not easy to be.

  5. Way to throw everybody under the bus Sak. He’s like a 5 year blaming everybody but himself.

  6. I’m happy for Mia Hamm- maybe she has had desires to be abroad for years and years- but does anyone else find it interesting that arguably the most important female athlete this country has seen in 100 years is helping grow the game in Italy and not here. I don’t know.

  7. Wow, that New England field may be the worst thing I’ve ever seen.

  8. Welp. There goes the Macmath to orlando idea, they just got hall.

  9. FIFA unconditionally supports Russia hosting the World Cup? Unconditionally? No matter how many countries they may invade and annex? You can keep the thing there, but at least not be so dismissive of the idea that some countries see it as the wrong thing to do. Who’s in greater need of a new publicist? Sak or FIFA?

  10. Ed, Excellent contrast of Sak’s version with Mbolhi’s. “Interesting? ” That’s a journalistic euphemism for calling bull$#!+. The late Ben Bradlee would approve.

    As a former college goalie (his pro career.is murky at best), his failure to acknowledge Zac’s growth over those 100 games is inexcusable.

    Where does Zac go now? Is he under contract aafter the December 8th trade window opens?

  11. I understand that the offside call was tied to an odd rule. But generally, I can’t take the blown offsides calls anymore, especially when there’s a simple replay solution. MLS should implement an offsides replay rule where asst ref only flags a player who is >5 ft off to stop play. If it’s too close to call, as it often is, give the offense the benefit. Only goto video replay if a goal is scored, and then take away the goal if there was an offside in the direct buildup or final pass. This satisfies critics who complain about ruining the game flow while also creating more shots, saves, excitement, and it reduces the number of referee mistakes that have a huge impact on wins/losses. C’mon MLS, embrace technology while giving the fans what they want.

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