Daily news roundups

Camp is open, preseason focus, signings are coming, national teams news, more

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

Today marks the Union’s start of full training at YSC Sports.

Speaking to CSN Philly, Curtin said, “In the preseason, I’m going to focus on game-specific events. How do we play when we’re down a goal, how do we play when we’re up a goal, how do we close out the last five minutes of a game? There will be a lot clearer initiatives. We need a clear understanding from our guys, that when we’re in these moments and you look up at the clock and see where it is, situationally, how we’re going to handle it.”

Closing out games is a priority: “We want to be bastards in the last 15 minutes of games and do what it takes and close [teams] out. Whether that is delaying things, taking a smart foul to slow the game down, whatever it might be, we have to do what it takes. It’s something we struggled with as a club for five years, it wasn’t just last season and it’s time for it to stop.”

Curtin described, “The mentality I’m trying to create and culture I’m trying to create is that the Union badge is two and a half inches big. And no guy in our locker room, front office, technical staff is bigger than that badge. If I can get the players to buy into that, we can compete with the big dogs.”

In another post at CSN Philly, Curtin seeks to reassure fans that new signings are on the way. Acknowledging fan frustration, the Union head coach said, “There’s things that are close right now. I ask the fans to be patient and to trust (technical director) Chris (Albright) and myself. We know what it takes to win in this league, and we know the types of players needed. It’s not always the (designated players). We’re finding the best piece for the personnel that we currently have…They’re coming though. Don’t worry.”

Curtin said that, in addition to a forward, he’s looking for a holding mid or center back. “Whichever one we find the best option on or fits the best, both financially and playing style, we’ll go with. That could dictate where Maurice [Edu] plays.”

Curtin also said he wants “guys that will roll up their sleeves, not back down from a fight and aren’t intimidated by anything. Toronto has signed some big-time players but my guys aren’t scared of that.”

Given the team’s acknowledged financial restraints, Curtin admits he’s using something of a moneyball strategy, adding, “And I understand that sometimes the fans can get frustrated. But they have to embrace this idea that the team is the star.”

On Sunday, for the first time in club history, the Union released its preseason training roster. On the roster was Carlos Valdes. At CBS Philly, Kevin Kinkead reports that “despite rumors linking him to several clubs in South America…Sources tell CBS Philly that Valdes is a Union player and that the team has not agreed to any transfer or loan deal.”

The Union roster announcement also included the names of four trialists. Two standout: Local lad John McCarthy, the Cinnaminson native who was named the USL PRO Goalkeeper of the Year and Rookie of the Year after finishing 2014 with a .72 goals against average over 18 appearances, and 26-year-old Venezuelan forward Hermes Palomino. More on the roster from PSPPhilly.comDelco Times, and Brotherly Game.

In case you missed it, on Friday, PSP, CBS Philly, and Playing for 90.

At the Africa Cup, Rais Mbolhi and Algeria were defeated 1-0 by Ghana thanks to a 92nd minute goal from Asamoah Gyan. ProSoccerTalk describes a “a helpless Rais M’Bholi…got up screaming at his defense, which is understandable given the complete lack of effort displayed not only by Bouguerra (you want some butter for that toast?) but also from the rest of the defenders who simply ease on the brakes and decide to watch their ship sink from afar.”

Tournament favorites Algeria are now third in Group C and next face Senegal in their final group game on Tuesday (12:45 pm, beIN Sports Connect).

At Brotherly Game, a transcript of a fascinating interview with former Union scout, the hitherto mysterious Ricardo Ansaldi.

Local

You will recall we linked to an announcement from USL PRO about the move to a conference format. Here’s an update on the PDL’s format for 2015. Nine new teams have entered the league for the 2015 season, including Lehigh Valley United Sonic.

Ocean City Nor’easters have a post on four alums selected in the SuperDraft: Tyler Miller, Keasel Broome, Jordan Murrell, and Shawn McLaws.

Kelsey Haycook, who played her senior season at La Salle last fall, has been invited to the Portland Thorns preseason camp.

Bucks County Courier-Times has a profile on Archbishop Wood’s Dave Bateman, the Golden Teams boys soccer player of the year.

MLS

At SI, Brian Straus has more on the state of negotiations for the new CBA. Says LA Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant, a member of the MLS Players Union executive board, “Free agency has to be in this deal for the players to play on opening day. I think that’s the bottom line…We have to have free agency to sign this deal. There’s no getting around it anymore. This is where we stand. We’re firmly entrenched in that.”

Soccer America, noting the current CBA was signed only five days before the start of the 2010 season, quotes DC United union rep Bobby Boswell: “There is a ton of time…I remember the last one, a similar message came out of the early meetings. We’ll see. We’ll have more [meetings]. I am optimistic. We all are.”

It’s official: On Sunday, Chicago announced the signing of Scottish midfielder Shaun Maloney to a Designated Player contract.

It’s official: Columbus has signed Argentine midfielder Hernan Grana.

NYCFC has acquired Ghanaian midfielder Kwadwo Poku from the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks.

Real Salt Lake have signed Jamaican defender Demar Phillips.

Amobi Okugo on going to Orlando:

Coach Heath and Paul McDonough had a great pitch. Coach Heath experienced it in Europe; he sat me down and clarified with my agent that he knows Europe is still a big goal of mine, but he felt I wasn’t utilized as best as I could have been in Philly, and he said, “if you come here, you’re going to have a great situation, a great organization, you’re going to be in a place where you can grow as a player,” and down the line if that opportunity comes around he’s going to do everything in his power to make that happen.

Sigh.

The AP reports, “Opponents of a $200 million soccer stadium in downtown Las Vegas have turned in about 8,400 signatures in support of a ballot initiative blocking public funding for the project.”

The Business Standard reports Miami mayor Carlos Gimenez “has pulled back his support” David Beckham’s proposed Miami franchise, leaving “the star midfielder’s dreams in tatters.”

US

On Saturday, Jurgen Klinsmann named the 23-player roster for the friendlies against Chile (Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 6 pm: Fox Sports 1, UniMas and the Univision Deportes Network) and Panama (Sunday, Feb. 8 at 1 pm: ESPN, UniMas and Univision Deportes Network). We’ll have analysis of the roster — which saw DeAndre Yedlin called in — and a preview of Wednesday’s game on Tuesday.

After a poor start to the CONCACAF U-20 championship that saw the team miss automatic qualification with a second place finish in their group, the US defeated El Salvador 2-0 in Saturday’s playoff game to qualify for the U-20 World Cup that begins May 30 in New Zealand. It was the team’s fourth win in a row.

Downingtown native, and Union Academy alum, Zach Steffen made a crucial penalty kick save in the 52nd minute to preserve the 1-0 lead for the US. Steffen said of the save,

I knew it was a PK, so I didn’t even try to argue it. I went back, got a sip of water and relax myself. We did a little bit of scouting on No. 11 on his previous PKs, that he went to my right side. So it was kind of a little mind game to see if he would switch it up and go to the left side. But I saw him look to the left side, and players usually try to trick the goalkeeper by looking one way and going the other. So I saw him look one way and I had a strong feeling he’d go right. And I was able to save it.

After he took it, I was thinking about yesterday and how we practiced them and how I was feeling good. The practice helped get me in the zone. If we didn’t practice I think I would have been a lot more nervous.

Head coach Tab Ramos explained, “I actually thought that he might save it. We practiced penalty kicks yesterday [Friday] and he did really well on them. We’re fortunate that in the US that we always have excellent goalkeepers and I was actually counting on that one, so I’m glad he saved it.

USMNT assistant coach Andreas Herzog has been named coach of the US U-23 MNT. Herzog will now begin preparing the team for the qualification tournament that will take place in the fall for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which are being hosted by Rio de Janeiro.

The USWNT will host New Zealand at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on April 4.

The Cup.us reports that, according to sources, the 2015 US Open Cup final will be broadcast by either Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports 2. Here’s hoping it’s Fox Sports 2 so area Comcast subscribers can see the game.

Elsewhere

The Press Association reports, “The FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, has accused UEFA of lacking the courage to provide a challenge to his leadership and called on the European governing body to be respectful of his wish to continue in the role.”

Reuters reports, “FIFA have rejected suggestions that major sponsors were cutting their ties with the organization because it was a ‘toxic brand,’ saying on Friday that they were in advanced negotiations with new sponsors eager to replace the old.”

Juan Román Riquelme has announced his retirement. “Now I am just a fan. I will go and suffer in the stadium.”

39 Comments

  1. Words can only do so much, but Curtin’s approach is very welcome. He doesn’t censor himself, and he has the right approach towards accountability of the players.
    People want a “name” striker (whatever that means), but finding the right player is better than finding the expensive player.
    After 5 years, frustration is almost at an all-time high (not quite the post-Nowak levels). But give these guys a month or so. Let’s see who they bring in, and see what the opening day roster will look like before we pillory the FO and Curtin.

    • Pillory. Well done.

    • I’m not going to get grumpy until they are in Florida.. but damn, I can’t even look at the MLS homepage anymore ’cause its just full of other team signings…

    • I couldn’t agree more with this! 🙂

    • +1. There is no point in being Needlessly Negadelphian at this point. They seem clearly to know what the team needs. They have to be financially savvy in obtaining it. I also like the fact that Curtin is showing some flexibility: if he can get a high caliber D-mid he’ll put Edu in the back, and if he can get a good CB he’ll play Edu in the midfield. This is the first I’ve heard him say this flat out, and it’s welcome. I for one will withhold any judgment until March.

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        Yeah, except who is Edu going to play next to at CB now thta Valdes is gone? If valdes is gone, they better make a sale and not go through this load B.S. again Valdes and the U are worse then an 8th grade romance.

      • Negadelphian (from Urban dictionary): a Philadelphia sports fan who is unduly pessimistic about one or more of the local teams’ immediate prospects.
        .
        Stress on ‘unduly.’
        .
        The Union have made the least offseason signings out of all of the 2014 non-playoff teams. Including Valdes and the loans, we currently stand at -4 offseason signings. Likely most of that money went towards making Edu’s contract permanent.
        .
        Agreed with Dan C above. Valdes’ departure changes the strategy a bit. We now need a CB regardless of where Edu plays; Edu’s position is now determined by (or should be determined by) whether the second CB we find is better or worse than the first CDM. We also need a striker and a left back, and the left back we got from the super draft is not a proper solution to that problem. To top it all off, we only have five days to get these guys unless they’re coming from within MLS, because that’s when the international transfer window closes.
        .
        So we’re not being Negadelphian; we’re being realistic.

    • I agree that Curtin’s PR methods are refreshing, but he hasn’t really demonstrated the amount of intelligence in player acquisitions that even Hackworth did in the past. The “name” striker was actually what Curtin said they were looking for. Comments clamoring for a name striker have been few and far between on both PSP and MLS, and I think most fans understand the difference between good and popular. If anything, its the owners who want the name striker, for brand recognition and merchandising.
      .
      More importantly, we don’t have a month to give these guys. The international transfer window closes in five days. Anyone brought in after that will have to be from South America or within MLS. With Valdes likely to leave, we have 4 positions that need to be filled. White is our best CB other than Edu, but he’s not starting quality. So we need 1 starting quality player of each: CB, LB, CDM and ST (assuming Edu is playing CB). I know Gaddis is serviceable at left back, but having no left footed players on the left of the pitch has crippled our game for years; we need a true left back for that position.

  2. ‘I will go on and suffer in the stadium.’
    .
    Magical words from one of the great midfielders of all time. We talk of Pirlo. We talk of Juan Roman. Beyond that the talk ceases.

    • old soccer coach says:

      Zizu??

    • Agree with OSC…clearly Zidane is in front of both of those two as far as midfielders go.

      And as far as #10’s go, there are several more on that list (Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, etc.). However, that’s why it’s difficult to compare eras as true #10’s are pretty much a dying species.

      Always loved watching Riquelme play. There’s something about a player who can play slow and seem like he or she has a ton of time when they have the ball at their feet when the other 19 players are flying around them at breakneck speed.

    • Active players.

  3. “Juan Román Riquelme has announced his retirement. “Now I am just a fan. I will go and suffer in the stadium.””

    — He becoming a Union fan?

  4. That interview with Ricardo Ansaldi is pretty interesting, especially regarding the Pablo Perez situation – which details how the ridiculous byzantine MLS rules landscape can screw over teams and that perhaps a touch of incompetence on the Union FO side helped torpedo that deal.
    .
    Also revealing about the Carlos Valdes situation and how his “high” salary played a part in the Union pursuing those loan deals, perhaps as much if not more than Pekerman’s desire for him to play in a “better” league. Raises a lot of questions, especially with MLS taking over the San Lorenzo deal, which in the end was apparently “bad for the player, bad for the Union, and bad for the league”

  5. Gruntled Fan says:

    I am the only one who keeps thinking of Game of Thrones and, “Winter is coming” whenever I hear “Signings are coming”? It has taken about four seasons and Winter still hasn’t really arrived in Game of Thrones, hope this is not the same case with the Union.
    .
    With that being said, I really do enjoy Curtin’s straightforwardness with interviews. He really does seem sincere and honest about the situation and what is going to happen. Just hope he knows what he’s doing, but I’m willing to give him some time to figure it out.

  6. old soccer coach says:

    I thought I had read that the U-20s finished 2nd on goal difference over Guatemala. Isn’t that why they drew El Salvador rather than Honduras?

  7. Jim, Chris, we do trust you.
    Its the guys in the front office that we’re not so sure about…

  8. Um. I don’t trust Jim or Chris either. Just being a straight-talker doesn’t mean you’re a good soccer coach.

    • They just have to deal as best as they can with a cheap organization who hopes to get (some) quality players for little money. But this is far from easy since many other clubs try to do the same. It is also a high risk strategy.
      .
      Look at all the upsets during the FA games this weekend. This shows there are is a lot of quality in the 2nd and 3rd English divisions (as the NYRB Wright-Phillips has shown). The Union should look for players there that can shine and make an impact for relative little money.

      • sorry, but there is very little quality at that level. And certainly the type of skill that will keep people away in droves. Look in eastern europe, africa, but stay away from the Isles if you want to win something.

    • I’m with Ben. Moneyball doesn’t add up when you consider the CDM options they appear to be pursuing cost considerably more than the young CDM they pushed out of town

  9. I just can’t understand why Shaun Maloney went to Chicago. I mean…we sing “Four Leaf Clover” here in Philly! 😉

  10. Sounds like Valdes walked out of camp . . . Just keeps getting better and better

    • The Black Hand says:

      Don’t let the door hit you, Carlos!

    • He wasn’t exactly playing at an all-star level last year. It could have been that he had no rest last year, or it could be that he’s on the downside of his career. Either way, if they can get a good amount of money for him, they can turn it into a new D-Mid, or help with a new striker.
      For one, I’m not upset with a backline of Gaddis/White/Edu/Williams. Yes, Ethan needs to work on his distribution out of the back, but he’s a solid defender. That is a solid and athletic back-four. And it comes without drama, which could be just as important.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Carlos has been quite a headache, over the last two years. He definitely did not come back the same.
        .
        Yes, Valdes leaving will free up some much needed cash (hopeful), but we are now deficient in 4 out of a starting XI positions…with the window closing in days. Albright needs to start pulling rabbits out of his ass, immediately!!!!

      • I pray I don’t see that at my next Vegas magic show!

      • The Black Hand says:

        Yeah…I should have said hat…

  11. OneManWolfpack says:

    “…We’re finding the best piece for the personnel that we currently have…They’re coming though. Don’t worry.” — I said this maybe a 2 weeks ago : that is a big check you just wrote (Curtain & Albright) and you better be able to cash it.
    .
    Bye bye Carlos. It’s obvious you don’t want to be here. Just go and leave a nice transfer fee behind.

  12. Funny when I read about Okugo in Orlando and how the coaches see great things for him and how his potential, in Okugo’s words speaking on behalf of his new manager, wasn’t “tapped here in Philadelphia”
    .
    I do see him growing as a player in Florida and truth be told I can’t say it would have happened here. Sucks. Balls. Trying to move on people but this is a tough one…
    .
    to my reasoning, a scale model is Borussia Dortmund with the diamond that is Gundogan and them hopping like hell to hold on to him- let alone have him go to another team in Bundesliga. Okugo was a diamond. Maybe not polished yet. But certainly a stalwart anchor to a young team looking for credibility. In three years he’ll be off to europe I bet- three years he could have been here.
    .
    Really looking forward to the defensive midfield of LaHoud and Carroll. Or that unnamed player on the lips of all our tongues. Or the signing that shall not be mentioned like Lord Voldemort. Or Edu bouncing between roles of DM/CB.
    .
    ‘Okay Okay Okay’ says Leo Getz.

  13. Steve OMalley says:

    Headaches you give me headaches Adk is only interested in money and the spot light use the money to sign someone and then be in the spot lite and don’t give me the what money

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