Daily news roundups

Notes from Curtin’s presser, Pfeffer not included on US U-20 roster, more news

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union

“What could possibly happen next?” you might ask.

How about this: The day after the surprising return of your pricey, and benched, goalkeeper from time off in Europe to get his head straight, both of your other goalkeepers suffer serious injuries in training.

Not only that, but in the weekly press conference (full transcript here) — of which, while regularly scheduled, it was widely assumed the main topic would be the return of the pricey and benched goalkeeper — perhaps the main story is that said goalkeeper isn’t an automatic selection for a tough road game that is only three days away.

You can’t make this stuff up, right?

“I mean, you can’t make it up,” Jim Curtin said during the press conference. “Yeah, I’d say the timing is beyond crazy. I’ve never seen two goalkeepers get hurt in one training session. I’ve never seen two goalkeepers get hurt in the same season, let alone, literally, 45 seconds apart.” (Regarding the possibility that McCarthy’s concussion stems from an incident that occurred in last Saturday’s loss to Toronto, Matthew De George reported, “A team spokesman confirmed that McCarthy passed concussion testing during the lengthy delay in the game and afterward, and Curtin is unsure if that contributed to the severity of Tuesday’s incident.”)

A quick aside about the latest injuries. Entering the eleventh weekend of the season, the Union have had by my count 16 players out for varying lengths of time due to injuries. That’s 59 freaking percent of the squad. Are such numbers common in MLS? I don’t know. But I think we can agree that the Union have been hit uncommonly hard by injuries in 2015.

What’s the latest butcher’s bill? John McCarthy: Out with a concussion. Andre Blake: Out with a torn right meniscus after seemingly being close to returning from surgery to his left knee late in the preseason to repair the same injury. Michael Lahoud: Out four to six weeks with a hip flexor injury. Steven Vitoria: Likely to remain unavailable for this weekend’s game in Vancouver with a groin injury. Add to that Antoine Hoppenot, who is also out with what the latest injury report from the league says is a left hamstring strain.

On the plus side, Fernando Aristeguieta had the pin removed from the hand that was fractured against Kansas City and is “100%.” Vincent Noguiera is back to full training, although Curtin said he’s “Probably not 90 minute ready yet, might be used as a reserve.” Also, rookie midfielder Eric Bird, according to the latest injury report, is now listed as questionable rather than out after surgery to repair a hernia.

So, yeah, Rais Mbolhi’s back, what of that?

Reading between the lines, Curtin doesn’t exactly appear to have resoundingly endorsed his return. While acknowledging it “was my idea” to bench him, Curtin said “we” decided to bring him back, adding, “[H]e is still a Union player. If you mutually agree to have time away, that’s fine. You can’t physically prevent someone from training unless there’s a violation of team rules, and in this case there hasn’t been.”

Is focusing on a shift from the singular to the plural in Curtin’s comments about Mbolhi too much? Perhaps it is, but Curtin’s refusal to name him as the starting goalkeeper for Saturday’s road game in Vancouver says something, even if he also said he’s “all for second chances.” Asked about his confidence in Mbolhi, Curtin said, “It’s only been two training sessions, so I can’t say I’ve seen anything different.”

So, what are the Union’s options for Saturday? Curtin said,

There’s a couple options that we’re exploring right now. We haven’t made a final one. We’ll see whether it’s a pool goalkeeper or a goalkeeper on loan. We’re gonna need two, one way or the other, then we’re gonna have to make a decision from there…Rais is obviously up for selection. He’s the last man standing. We’ll still explore a pool goalkeeper and see what that looks like. We have some calls in already to see who’s available and what we can and can’t do. Because we’re going to need to add a second goalkeeper regardless just because you can’t go there with just one.

It’s “last man standing” and not, given two freak training ground injuries, thank goodness you’re now here: “It’s to be determined, we’ll see.” One thing is certain, there will be no end to the Union goalkeeper jokes any time soon.

Aside from “Any goalkeeper in the good ol’ US of A right now,” one loan possibility Curtin mentioned is former Harrisburg City Islanders goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre, who trialed with the Union in the preseason and is now backup ‘keeper with the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks.

Also telling was Curtin’s admission that “there have been teams in Europe that have inquired about” Mbolhi, something that, based on Curtin’s comments during the Mbolhi benching press conference on April 8, would not be publicly discussed. Curtin explained on Wednesday, “Obviously the windows aren’t open right now, so we’ll always listen and explore but he is a Union player first and foremost.” If Mbolhi is transferred over the summer, the Union’s goalkeeping situation is complicated by Blake’s injury: Simply put, if the Union find a taker for Mbolhi, not only will he need replacing, cover for Blake will also be needed, “knowing,” as Curtin said, “you’re going to miss him already in the summer.” (Reports suggesting Blake will be out 4-6 weeks seem optimistic. He was out more than that for the first surgery and his next return will likely involve work getting both knees equally strong.)

Curtin also provided an update on CJ Sapong following his arrest last Friday for reckless driving and DUI. “[T]he league has decided for CJ to go out to California to Malibu right now, and he’ll be evaluated for a weeklong eval, and they’ll make a decision on how to move forward,” Curtin said. “[H]e’s still a player I believe strongly in. He’s a good kid, he’s an intelligent young man. He made a mistake. And he’s dealing with the consequences right now. But, again, a guy I still believe strongly in and the Philadelphia Union believes strongly in.”

The press conference also included some insight into Curtin’s displeasure with Sheanon Williams, who, as Curtin described in last Saturday’s postgame press conference, has been replaced going forward at right full back by Ray Gaddis. Curtin said on Wednesday,

I think all players go through highs and lows in their career. I think the good thing for him is that his career’s still young, it’s early on. In the offseason, we had a tough discussion where I said, ‘I think you have the talent to be a national team right back,’ and it’s up to him now to grab ahold of that and keep going. He does have the qualities. He’s a player that a lot of coaches in our league rate highly. He’s got a good right foot, he’s got an ability to, when he wants to, get up and down the line, but talking about it and doing it are two different things. And we just want to get him back and playing a little more consistently.

“Talking about it and doing it are two different things.” Along with an astounding — and seemingly unending — run of bad luck, it’s becoming something of a refrain for the 2015 Union.

More from the press conference at MLSsoccer.com, InquirerDelco Times, CSN Philly, ProSoccerTalk, and Tribal Football.

Pfeffer not included on US U-20 roster

US US-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos released the roster for the upcoming U-20 World Cup, which runs runs May 30-June 20 in New Zealand. Not on the roster is the Union’s Zach Pfeffer, a US youth international regular who has had strong showings recently with both the U-20 and U-23 national teams.

While the US must submit a 20-player roster by May 15, Ramos named only 20 players. Brian Sciaretta tweeted, “My guess is that if FIFA does not rule on [Gedion Zelalem’s eligibility to play for the US] in time, the spot will go to Philadelphia’s Zach Pfeffer.” We shall see.

More Union bits

At the Union website, a report on the new Gym Class Takeover program.

At Brotherly Game, Andrew Stolzfus has a glass half empty, glass half full look at last Saturday’s loss to Toronto.

Prost Amerika has player ratings from the Union’s loss to Toronto. How is it that no one receives a rating lower than a 6 in a loss? I don’t know.

Philly Sports Rants has an open letter to Nick Sakiewicz informed by two semesters of economics, some input from “two people who have interned at professional sports team [sic],” and a father’s advice to a son.

Local

The Drexel Athletic’s site notes former men’s team midfielder Ken Tribett being named to the USL Team of the Week for his two-goal performance in Harrisburg City Islander’s 4-0 win over  Wilmington Hammerheads.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes former City Islander Jamiel Hardware’s strong play with new USL side St. Louis FC.

Sydney Zandi (Penn Fusion; West Chester, Pa.) and Rachael Dorwart (PA Classics; Mechanicsburg, Pa.) have been called up for the U-17 WNT training camp that will take place at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., May 9-16.

MLS

Salt Lake hosted LA in a 0-0 draw on Wednesday night.

Jack McInerney scored the lone goal in Montreal’s 1-0 win over Toronto in the first leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal series. The teams meet again next Wednesday in Toronto.

The scheduled Canadian Championship semifinal game between the Union’s road opponent on Saturday, Vancouver, and Edmonton, was canceled because of snow and will now be played next week. The Union simply cannot catch the smallest of breaks, can they.

Ireland international Kevin Doyle is joining Colorado Rapids earlier than expected. A statement from the club says he will be added to the roster “by the end of May, pending receipt of his P-1 visa and ITC, after the Irishman agreed an early settlement of his contract at Wolverhampton Wanderers.”

Lee Nguyen has been trying to negotiate a new contract with New England, but the club isn’t interested. So Nguyen did not attend training for two days last week, costing him a starting spot last weekend’s win over New York Red Bulls. Nguyen told reporters before yesterday’s training session, “I was obviously unhappy with the contract situation. It’s just frustrating, and I just feel a little disrespected…Despite what I’ve done for the club and not even being the (fifth)-highest paid player on the club. I just feel a little undervalued.”

Birmingham City announced on Wednesday, “Will Packwood’s Blues contract has been terminated with immediate effect to allow the defender to return to America and possibly join MLS side New England Revolution.” ESPN reports the US youth international “confirmed numerous reports that he is set to begin a training stint with the New England Revolution next week, though he admitted he doesn’t know which MLS team owns his discovery rights.”

New York Red Bulls midfielder Sal Zizzo is out two to three months with a fractured tibia.

Real Salt Lake assistant coach Andy Williams has voluntarily entered the league’s SABH program after being arrested last Sunday for DUI. (Do coaches voluntarily enter the program while players like CJ sapong are required to enter the program?) More at Salt Lake Tribune.

MLSsoccer.com has an update on how progress is going on DC United’s new stadium. The short version? The process continues to move forward.

Boston.com has an update on talks to build a soccer stadium for New England Revolution in South Boston. The short version? Discussions are ongoing.

An article at the Guardian wonders if Florida could become the next “capital” of soccer in the US. Are there serious articles written about “sport capitals” in other countries?

Four Four Two on Minnesota United joining MLS.

San Antonio Business Journal on how the lack of progress in finding a stadium location for David Beckham’s Miami franchise helps San Antonio’s chances for securing a MLS franchise.

US

Alex Morgan talks to Goal.com about a variety of topics, including the effect of the Hope Solo suspension — “I feel like we’re moving forward regardless of what happened in the past” — and Abby Wambach not playing professional club soccer so she can focus on preparing for the Women’s World Cup — “When you think of the specifics, it’s less controversial than people automatically assume without knowing the facts.”

In the latest FIFA rankings, the US drops one spot to No. 28. This despite defeating Mexico in April, presumably because Russia moved up five spots to No. 27. Mexico dropped four spots to No. 22 while Costa Rica remains at No. 15.

Soccer America talks to former Union head coach John Hackworth about his strong start as head coach of the US U-15 BNT. The article notes that Hackworth will also serve as an assistant coach to U-23 head coach Andi Herzog, the US men’s team that will try to qualify for the Olympics this fall.

A lawsuit against US Soccer and FIFA filed in the US aimed at forcing rule changes to protect youth players from concussion-related injuries has been dismissed. Bloomberg reports, “U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, California, said Wednesday she had “grave concerns” about ‘inconsistencies, contradictions and a lack of clarity’ in the complaint against FIFA, soccer’s global governing federation, and five U.S. organizing bodies. She said she may allow the lawyers to try again with an amended complaint.”

Elsewhere

Reuters reports, “The Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) has decided to indefinitely suspend all domestic competition from May 16 over a spat with the government on issues including a new law on collective bargaining for television rights.”

The AP reports, “Sepp Blatter has described himself as a ‘godfather’ to women’s football at FIFA while acknowledging that its appeal still trails behind the men’s game.” Insert creepy godfather joke here.

The AP reports, “FIFA has heavily criticized its broadcasting partner in Germany for a documentary about World Cup hosts Russia and Qatar that was aired after a reporter revealed his filming crew had been arrested in Doha and had footage and personal data deleted.” While criticizing the journalistic standards of the documentary, no where in FIFA’s statement is there criticism of the journalists’ arrests by Qatar security officials while making the documentary. More at ESPN.

The AP reports, “Brazil’s investigative police say they’re seeking homicide charges against 19 people in the deaths of a man and a woman caused by the collapse of unfinished overpass in the World Cup host city of Belo Horizonte.”

The AP reports, “FIFA says it will host the leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian soccer federations within days, seeking an agreement before the governing body’s congress this month. The Palestinian Football Association wants Israel suspended from world football because its security forces restrict movement of players in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Vice Sports reports on the influence of La Familia, the anti Muslim and anti Arab supporters’ group for Beitar Jerusalem.

The Guardian reports, “The Football Association tried to impose an unofficial quota system on the number of black players an England manager should be allowed to use, according to a new book about racism within the sport.” The shameful events reportedly took place in the early 1990s.

Real Madrid tops the Forbes list of the most valuable soccer teams in the world.

32 Comments

  1. “Born under a bad sign. I’ve been down – – – since I began to crawl, if it wasn’t for bad luck – I said if it wasn’t for real. bad. luck.
    .
    … i wouldn’t have no luck at all.”
    .
    Cue Ginger Baker’s lazy hi-hat and Clapton’s glide.

  2. The Black Hand says:

    In my most cynical of days, I could never have predicted a shit-show like this one. Wow…just, WOW…

  3. alicat215 says:

    Andy Williams is one of, if not the best footballer I have ever played against or seen,……dude was filthy good. Get well Andy, we all f#%k up………learn from it and move on.

  4. John Ling says:

    So here is, I think, one creative solution to the goaltending issues right now. As I recall from the roster rules released last week, intraleague loanees can be recalled, but only if released by the team he’s loaned to. So, just as an example… The Union can recall Zac MacMath from the Rapids as long as the Rapids agree to allow it.
    .
    So… What do the Union need to give the Rapids to gain their blessing? MacMath is riding the bench out there – it’s not like he’s starting for them. They have a third keeper on their roster, so they aren’t in an immediate need for a backup. Would allocation money be enough? Andre Blake, based on longer-term potential rather than immediate potential? Fabinho, assuming CO was one of the teams that made inquiries that lead the U to protect our left-footed Brazilian rather than Ribeiro?
    .
    Seems like a solution should be there; it just requires the Union to entice CO to agree to it.

    • I think Nik Sak would rather jump off the bridge into the parking lot than let that happen.

      • alicat215 says:

        he would be ok after the fall…..the dirt and mud in lot A would just absorb him to be retrieved by other FO staff!

      • John Ling says:

        A few years ago, before we moved from A to B, during an open Q&A with somebody from the Union I asked about if they were ever going to pave the parking lots. I was told, “We can’t pave B, and A is already paved.” So, I guess B was because of the training field. But A is paved? I laughed.

      • is there any way this can be arranged, its win win

    • Only in my wildest dreams would that happen…or nightmares since I already bought a ticket to Denver to see the RSL v Rapid game in October. I was thinking he might have a starting spot by that time when I bought the ticket. Looks like I was wrong there too.

      • Jim Presti says:

        I don’t think MacMath will be a regular starter in this league for a long, long time. Way to inconsitent. Decent shot stopper, but his decision making is awful.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Letting MacMath come back, at least for this game, would be in Colorado’s best interest since Vancouver is in the same conference as they are…

    • The Black Hand says:

      If we sent Andre Blake, for Zac MacMath, my head would explode…again…

      • John Ling says:

        Blake was just an example. I don’t even know if league rules allow injured players to be traded. But the point is there has to be something we can give CO to entice them to allow us to recall MacMath. Then the team needs to make nicey faces at Zac, install him as the starter, sign him to an extension, etc. Transfer MBohli in the summer, and end all this nonsense.

  5. I would take Lee Nguyen and his glorious hair in Philly.

  6. So I’m writing a comedy about a former athlete who fakes his way into being rich, then becomes a part owner of a team. After some nice times all his decisions blow up and the main partner starts to figure out he’s not rich and isn’t so great. He has to give up a lot of control to a new know it all coach. Behind the scenes he starts getting all the players in trouble so that for the next season the main owner will give him total control again. In one scene, he’s laying marbles around a goal mouth, in another he leaves towels by the door of his office and calls a good french player in so he trips. In another he hires 2 models to go drinking with a new star prospect then calls the cops when they leave the bar. He cuts off cash so they can’t sign new players, etc. I’m thinking of calling it “Keep my spot”. Does anyone know any producers? It’s great fiction.

    • this is outside the box thinking. well done.

    • Can you please make this happen! I think it would be compelling to see a dramatic telling of how he squirmed in to the owners box. A fun song could be Sons of Ben singing “we want a team please” followed by him hitting that low note “they need me me!” Don’t mess up the fateful scene of Nick and the devil lord of darkness mr Satan himself. The setting is the crossroads, night, driving rain. Nick’s hands shake, kneeling on the ground he is careful to keep his sight trained on the floor. “I have brought what you so surely asked” nick wearily offers the soccerball stitched together from an Eagles gameball v Dallas, a Phillies gameball from
      2008 WS, and errrr some teeth thrown in there from
      some Flyers awesome time, and ahhhh something from the sixers…maybe he used HipHops ears in some way I don’t really know. The Dark One takes the truly Philly soccerball and informs Nick “then it shall be done” at this point Nick finally makes eye contact with Satan and wonders “isint there always like some huge downside to making a deal with you?” The Lord of Darkness doesn’t blink; “Nicky, it just so happens that your one little insignificant dream, if it’s realized, will bring pain, gloom, and if you are even half as incompetent as I hope you are…Doom” Devil laughs scene fades

  7. What. A. Clusterf#&k.

    So people can criticize me for turning this into another critique of the Union FO and thin staffing/coaching issues, and I confess I don’t know who the Union have, if anyone, handling off-field training (weights, warmup and cooldown). So if anybody has that information, please feel free to correct me….but it’s my impression they just use the regular coaching staff for that.

    I used to work for a training company that focused on elite high-school and middle-school athletes. It was a relatively short-lived stint – it was in NYC and it didn’t pay enough to live there – but I learned a lot. One of the things I learned is that proper warmup, cooldown and off-field pre-habilitation exercises can do a LOT to reduce and mitigate injuries. This company used to work with one of the bigger girls club soccer leagues in NYC (I can’t remember which one, it was a while ago) and the first year they were hired to work with the league, they reduced the number of ACL tears in a season (much more common with girls than with boys) from high double-digits to two. Good warmup and cooldown can really reduce muscle strains and injuries, and prehab exercises can strengthen the small muscles around joints to help prevent ankle, hip and knee injuries.

    Yes, some injuries can’t be prevented this way (concussions, for example) and bad luck obviously can play a role – you can’t eliminate all injuries, only reduce the chances of them happening – but 59% of the team suffering injuries before the midway point of the season points to something greater than bad luck. I don’t know what the Union’s regimen of off-field training, game and practice warmup and cooldown is like…but I’m just sayin’, Germany had this guy (see link) and they didn’t suffer too many injuries in the leadup to the WC…

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/16/train-like-a-german-soccer-star/?action=click&contentCollection=Personal%20Tech&module=MostEmailed&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

  8. Just, wow. I mean, yes the ownership is incompetent, and yes Curtin has not shown a whole lot of aptitude as manager, and yes certain players are just woefully underperforming.

    But this… this is just a whole ‘nother level of cursed. Damned. Forsaken. This is beyond anybody’s fault. Clearly some soccer deity has been offended, and propitiation is required.

    I can’t wait to read the next book of the Union Bible.

  9. Matthew Briggs just released by Millwall . . . see how easy it is to find a new LB

  10. Curitn looked and sounded like he was being forced to eat a shit sandwich. And we’re going to have to eat the leftovers.

    • Shit sandwich- new entree Down By The River.
      .
      Brought to you by Sak-o-Subs.
      .
      Holy Hell …..I’m on fire today.
      .
      Improvising with you all makes the day so so so much better. Thank you.

      • Haha Sak o Subs…. Perfect. He’s defitely the one preparing the shit sandwiches.

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