Daily news roundups

Notes from Curtin’s presser, Mbolhi speaks, no Pfeffer on US U-20 WC roster, Reading advances to USOC 2nd round

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference (transcript here at PSP) included a terse exchange in which he reiterated Rais Mbolhi will be transferred when the summer window opens and that he has no plans to play the Algerian before then:

Was there a specific reason Rais Mbolhi was brought back?

The initial plan in that one was the move was going to be for the summer. That was the plan, and that, we thought, had been communicated. Unfortunately, that changed. He was at training and I had a further discussion with him that he wouldn’t be in the plans and that we’d look to move in the summer. He agreed to that, he said he just wanted to continue to train. I just said that it would be at a separate time from the team. So, that’s what we have set up now, and all of it’s geared to a move in the summer, in July.

So, you were not planning to play him?


Why was he called back then?

He wasn’t called.

After the press conference, Kevin Kinkead tweeted that, according to a Union spokesperson, “there was a ‘miscommunication’ between Rais and his agent, and that’s why he came back last week.”

Curtin’s comments on Wednesday appeared to contradict comments he made during last week’s press conference after Mbolhi’s return:

What was the discussion like with Rais? Was he called back? 

Yeah, we’ve been in contact with Rais, and we had him scheduled to come back and the thinking was: to train, to stay fit, to stay sharp…

When Rais left the first time, whose idea was that?

That was my idea. I decided that it was best for him to be away from the team. He took a month away, and we decided it was time for him to come back.

As was noted in the roundup that followed last week’s press conference, it was apparent that Curtin was not resoundingly endorsing Mbolhi’s return (see the discussion in the roundup about the pronoun shift in Curtin’s comments last week from the use of “I” to “we”), a player he could have had little input in signing being that he was interim head coach when the goalkeeper arrived, and whose arrival has resulted in continuous disruption, be it in replacing Zac MacMath as a starter and MacMath’s eventual loan to Colorado, or by underwhelming and costly performances on the field. Indeed, in a report at Philly.com from Jonathan Tannenwald two days after last week’s press confrence, Curtin made it clear the Algerian would never play for the Union again.

With rare exceptions, we’ve been posting transcripts of the weekly press conferences for sometime now and attentive readers will understand that Curtin, like John Hackworth before him, is often in a position as head coach of being required to say things that he may not necessarily agree with, or be able to say as much as he would like. I note this not to specifically defend Curtin but as a reminder that press conferences are by their nature part public relations exercise, and part theater, as much as they are opportunities to learn the truth about a given subject, that the division between having to parrot the company line and being able to express personal belief can necessarily become clouded. Parsing the balance of these different elements is simply part of the game.

Dave Zeitlin wrote at CSN Philly of the apparent contradiction,

Curtin has been put in a tough spot in these press conferences as he’s been asked time and again to answer for a player it seems clear he never wanted in the first place. (If Curtin valued Mbolhi at all, ask yourself why he’d pull the plug on him after only nine games and essentially forbid him from interacting with other players on the team.)

Kevin Kinkead said much the same on Twitter: “Do you really think Jim Curtin would have recalled Rais Mbolhi, only to tell us a couple days later that’ll never play again for the team?”

The Mbolhi news was not yet finished for the day. The Algerian, who has famously refused to speak to the local press this season, did speak to French website Foot Mercato for a report (crappy Google translation here) about his current status with the Union that appeared after Curtin’s press conference. On the his return to the club last week and the question of playing against Vancouver last Saturday, Mbolhi said,

I returned from France on Monday after a month with my family, because the coach thought it was best for the team and for me. I trained on Tuesday, before a game on Saturday. I was asked to play this game, only I did not see myself ready to play a game as I was returning from a month in family without training. I did not feel myself physically ready to play a game. From there a lot of things have been said in the press, but all I can say is that until proven otherwise, I am under contract with the Philadelphia Union and I want to get back in good condition physically to be available to the club, quite simply.

That Mbolhi had been asked to play by the team but he declined because he didn’t believe he was prepared is notable (even if it is unclear what he means when he says, “From there a lot of things have been said in the press.”). Who knows, perhaps the timing of Curtin’s comments in the Philly.com report was connected to Mbolhi declining to play in Vancouver? Kevin Kinkead tweeted of Mbolhi’s comments, “I haven’t heard this version of the story from any of my sources,” adding, “Rais hasn’t spoken to the local media in 2015, so we don’t have anything from him to compare to these European/African reports.”

As to the notion that he has been the source of strife in the locker room, as Curtin also suggested in the Philly.com report, Mbolhi said, “I have no problem with the group, you can ask everyone in the locker room. I never had any problems with anyone, I get along with everyone.”

Mbolhi concluded, “For now I am under contract with the club and I’m here. I’m under contract here, so I’m at the disposal disposal of the club. The day when I will not be under contract, OK, no problem, but for now I’m under contract so I do what the club tells me to do, it’s as simple as that.”

One suspects the Mbolhi story will still include plenty of twists and turns before he is no longer a Union player, be it in the form of further revelations or what will surely be the usual transfer rumor chasing from foreign sources. The day when “ex” is added to describing him as a Union player can’t come soon enough.

Regarding the status of Brian Sylvestre, who joined the team on a short-term loan from NASL side Carolina RailHawks for last weekend’s loss to Vancouver, Dave Zeitlin reports at MLSsoccer.com, “The loan, as it’s currently constructed, would end before Sunday.” Curtin said, “We’re currently trying to work something out with extending the Brian Sylvestre loan,” adding, “There’s always a way to get a deal done with the club.”

The Sylvestre loan extension is especially critical because Curtin said John McCarthy continues to be evaluated for concussion symptoms and that it is questionable if he will be available for Sunday’s game against DC. Curtin said bringing in a league pool goalkeeper is a likely possibility. (Curtin said Andre Blake had already undergone surgery for the torn meniscus in his left knee, but that the injury “wasn’t as minor as they had hoped.”)

Issues remain with the Union back line, with Richie Marquez suspended for a questionable red card and Curtin saying Steven Vitoria had undergone an MRI for a knee issue. Curtin said while Vitoria is “hopeful for the weekend,” the team is preparing without him. Maurice Edu and Sheanon Williams were both discussed as possibilities to partner with Ethan White at center back.

Curtin also discussed Fernando Aristeguieta’s call-up for Venezuela’s preliminary roster for the upcoming Copa America tournament, admitting that losing the forward is “difficult.” Curtin said the Venezuela roster will be trimmed in the “next eight to ten days.” Saying that Aristeguieta “wants to be here with Philadelphia,” Curtin explained, “[I]f he gets the feeling or he has a discussion with the coach that it’s probably an unlikely scenario where he makes the team he’ll get back as soon as possible.”

Another topic in Wednesday’s press conference concerned Zach Pfeffer’s status with the US U-20s ahead of the roster deadline for the U-20 World Cup. You will recall that when head coach Tab Ramos announced his roster last week, only 20 of the 21 spots were filled, with Ramos soon confirming the final spot would be taken by Gedion Zelalem if he was approved to play for the US, or by Pfeffer if he was not. Only a few hours after Curtin’s press conference, Sunil Gulati tweeted, “Pleased to report that Gedion Zelalem has been cleared by #FIFA to represent @ussoccer.” Exactly one minute later, the final 21-player US roster was announced and Zelalem, not Pfeffer, was on it. As a Pfeffer fan, I’m gutted for Zach. As a Union fan, I am relieved to know he won’t be away from the team for the next month.

More from Curtin’s press conference at the Inquirer, Delco Times, CSN Philly,

The latest podcast from Prost Amerika includes a discussion of “the three ring circus that has been the Philadelphia Union” and the team’s goalkeeper situation.

An article at ESPN on the influence of Bob Bradley on MLS coaches includes comments from Jim Curtin and Union assistant coach Mike Sorber. Curtin says of Bradley, who was his coach at Chicago Fire,

Everyone around Bob becomes a student of the game. He has a way of questioning and challenging you and getting the most out of you. My second year with him I realized I wanted to be a coach. The environment Bob created, he challenged players to kind of think as coaches, as well. He’s a guy I looked up to, a father figure, and I didn’t want to let him down.

Danny Cruzelio Cabezas Vera

Danny Cruz started for Bodo/Glimt against IK Start on Wednesday, scoring in the 6th minute with a fantastic, if deflected, strike in what ended as a 1-1 draw. The goal sequence in the video below begins around the 54 second mark.

Cruz played 58 minutes in the game, gaining an awesome new name in the process.

In related news, a Union spokesperson confirmed after Wednesday’s press conference that neither Cruz, Zac MacMath, nor Austin Berry could be recalled from their loans, although Leo Fernandes could be recalled.


Reading outlasted Maryland Bays for a 1-0 first round US Open Cup win on Wednesday night, thanks to a 19th minute goal from Brett Campbell that was assisted by Neco Brett. Reading will now host Harrisburg City Islanders in the second round on Wednesday, May 20. At theCup.us and US Soccer, roundups of recaps from all of the first round games.

The USL has announced “global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm” HOK as its “Official Stadium Design Partner.” HOK is the firm that designed San Jose Earthquakes new stadium as well as the stadium now under construction in Atlanta that will be shared by the NFL’s Falcons and the as yet unnamed Atlanta MLS franchise, as well as the proposed NFL stadium in St. Louis that could also house a new MLS franchise. USL President Jake Edwards said in the announcement,

A critical part of our strategic growth plan is to have all USL clubs as owners or primary tenants of soccer-specific stadiums by 2020. Not only will these new and upgraded stadiums add value to the league and each club ownership group, they will establish a permanent base for the clubs within their local communities. These venues will serve as cultural hubs and bring fans together in support of the clubs while offering state-of-the-art amenities and an unparalleled game-day experience.

So, will Harrisburg City Islanders be able to secure backing from local government to build a new stadium in Harrisburg, or will the club move elsewhere?

An editorial at the Pocono Record says the proposed plan to build a new home for the National Soccer Hall of Fame deserves “a fair hearing.”


DC came from behind at home to defeat Orlando 2-1 on Wednesday night. United comes into PPL park on Sunday undefeated in the last eight league games.

In Canadian Championship semifinal play, Montreal eliminated Toronto on away goals after losing 3-2 at BMO Field on Wednesday night and winning at home 1-0 last week. Last week’s semifinal first leg between Edmonton and Vancouver was postponed due to snow in Edmonton, making Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw in Vancouver the first leg. The second leg will take place in Edmonton next Wednesday.

At SI, Brian Straus reports that Frank Lampard “will earn an annual base salary of $6 million according to the terms of the 1.5-year NYCFC deal he signed in January.” Straus adds, “Lampard’s wages will be pro-rated this season. He’ll then earn the full $6 million in 2016, as well as a marketing bonus.”

NYCFC have waived Ecuadorian defender Andres Mendoza.

Following up on Bruce Arena’s comments that having to pay New England Revolution a fee to waive their discovery claim on Sebastian Lletget amounted to blackmail, the midfielder’s agent, Chris Megaloudis, posted on Twitter background on the deal that says while the Galaxy had been working to sign Lletget for months, the Revolution was never in contact. The tweet also includes some very thought provoking ideas on how to improve the discovery rules (click on the photo to page through Megaloudis’ comments). More at Goal.com.

Don Garber will visit St. Louis next week to discuss expansion plans in that city. More at St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Business Journal, MLSsoccer.comESPN, and the AP.

Garber will also speak at the Soccerex Global Convention being held in Manchester in Spetember.

Awful Announcing looks at the slightly growing — but still growing, nonetheless — ratings numbers for MLS games.

Is Fiorentina targeting former Union man Amobi Okugo (original; crappy Google translation; follow up report)?


More on Gedion Zelalem: At the Washington Post, Steven Goff writes,

It is unclear when Zelalem will join Jurgen Klinsmann’s senior U.S. squad. The U-20 World Cup takes him out of consideration for friendlies next month and his inclusion on the Gold Cup team in July seems unlikely. Zelalem will almost certainly figure into the 2016 Olympic qualifying plans, which feature the under-23 national team. The CONCACAF tournament will take place this fall.

At ESPN, Doug McIntyre says that the process of approving Zelalem’s eligibility took longer than expected may turn out to be a good thing. More on Zelalem at ASN, Goal.com, and SI.

Fox Sports on the continuing disappointment among USWNT players that the upcoming Women’s World Cup will be played on artificial turf.

Fox has announced its broadcast teams for the network’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup and JP Dellacamera, Cat Whitehill, and Tony DiCicco will be the announcing crew for the USWNT’s group stage games. Let me be very clear: three person broadcasting crews suck.

Former USMNT goalkeeper Brad Friedel has announced his retirement. The announcement on the Tottenham website says, “Brad is returning home to America to become an analyst, pundit and co-commentator for US channel Fox Sports and will also be our Club Ambassador in the United States.”

At Soccer America, a Q&A with Professional Futsal League commissioner Keith Tozer.


An ESPN E:60 report claims that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has not traveled to the US for four years because he fears being detained by US law enforcement officials investigating allegations of corruption in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights.

The ESPN report says FIFA refused repeated requests for comment. However, a FIFA spokesperson told the Guardian, “The information from ESPN that the FIFA president is avoiding travels to the USA because of any alleged FBI requests is absolutely untrue. Fifa has never received any request from the American law enforcement.” The Guardian report notes, “The ESPN broadcast did not suggest that the FBI had made any such request. However, US sources said that FIFA would not need to be informed if the intention of the FBI was to question Blatter and other senior football officials.” More on the ESPN report at the New York Daily News.

Vice Sports talks to the German journalist investigating the conditions of workers involved in the construction of infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup who was recently arrested by authorities in Qatar.

The AP reports, “A Spanish court has suspended a strike called by the Players’ Union (AFE), allowing the final two rounds of the season to go forward.”

The Guardian reports, “Save the Children has denied reports that Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo made a £5m donation towards its earthquake relief effort in Nepal.”


  1. The Cruz, MacMath and Berry deals shouldn’t be called loans, they should be more accurately called exiles.

  2. Ok, watching that video about Danny Cruz has caused me to rethink some things. First, that Danny does has some skill, and I’ll eat my words from the past few months. Second, and more important, how much better is the team that he went to. I think Cruz should be happy he’s there. Those guys had structure in attack and defense. It was like I was watching soccer. I had no idea the Norwegian league was so skilled. Ok, maybe its just I’ve been watching the Union. Can we get some Norwegian players soon?

    • The Black Hand says:

      He is definitely not the most skilled player, but Danny Cruzelio Cabezas Vera would be an asset that we could really use right now.

      • we didnt know how good we had it

      • The Black Hand says:

        True. He is not the answer, never was…but he is a soldier and you never saw him go half-assed, on the pitch. DCCV’s value lied in his situational-versatility.
        On Cruz’ worst day, he was more effective than LeToux and Wenger have been this year. (He might even have a better touch than Seba.)

      • Dr. Union says:

        Totally disagree with the better touch then Seba. I have no idea when Cruz learned to actually hit a shot like that, but the dude had terrible feet the number of times he touched it and had to run 30 yards and fall over to get it was unbelievable. Sorry but he had lead feet maybe even worse the lead. While Le Toux has not been good this year I would add he still leads the union in goals and assists. Danny Cruz had what 4 goals and 2 assists in his 2 or 3 years here.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Maybe the “better touch” comment was a stretch. That said, Letoux’s touch is awful and always has been…just not as bad as Cruz’.

      • +1 Dr. U

      • Agreed. I actually miss the guy a lot. We could use a little fire on the current lineup, and you always knew Cruz would compete game in, game out.

      • The Black Hand says:

        If he had a better finish, he would be the Union’s all-time leading goal scorer. He always got himself in position to score…he just didn’t…score.

      • Phil in Wilmington says:

        This only underscores how bad things are.

      • The Little Fish says:

        Year after year it remains true

    • Cruz always drove me crazy, but in the last half-dozen games of last year, I thought he really showed some substantial improvement — like, he would actually take the ball into the offensive third and look and around and think about what to do with it, and maybe pass off to a teammate sometimes, instead of just running full speed ahead and winding up on the grass. It seemed to me like they loaned him right when he was possibly getting better. And Lord almighty could we use him back. This is one example of a bad move that is clearly on Curtin and Albright, not the front office.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Kid’s been playing the game for 10-ish years.

      • This might actually have been a great move that showed some decent long-range planning. Phase 1: Cruz played for the Union for a few years, was frustrating sometimes and limited as a player but ok. Phase 2: Cruz showed some ability to improve over the offseason, and a bit better situational awareness on the field. Phase 3: The U realize they are terrible – just simply awful – at developing players who show promise, and figure maybe somebody in Europe knows more than them. Phase 4: They develop a plan to loan Cruz out for development purposes, hoping to bring him back next year with a much better developed game. Phase 5: PROFIT! Sure, they might miss him occasionally this year (although now we know that’s much more than occasional, but nobody would have claimed that at the time the loan was made) but that trade-off will be worth his better-developed game when he returns.

        Or – maybe more likely – there was no plan, it was supposed to be an exile and Cruz is proving himself despite the Union, and the whole thing is an accident that they’ll somehow find a way to screw up.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Is Brad Friedel allowed to go directly to Fox Soccer? Isn’t he required to spend a year as the Union announcer first?

  4. Can we borrow Chip Kelly’s Sport Science for injury-management/prevention? I think it would be nice if Curtain had an option or two, if for no other reason than to punish slackers who aren’t working hard.

  5. Would Amobi be the first ever purple to purple transfer?

  6. The Realist Brian says:

    To lose out to Zelalem is not at all shameful. Zach did great, as did other notable missed players like Gall and Gooch. Having to make tough choices, and not having a single field player (not goalie) from college is a HUGE advance in our National Team program. For those who don’t know Gedion, the kid is about the most legit player that can pull the strings for years to come. Think Reyna and John O’Brien combined with a better vision for finding players.
    As for Zach, adversity makes you better. Hopefully he and the others use this to push themselves to a higher level. There are plenty of players that have been cut from youth teams that have gone on to make the Senior National team (Beckerman) and Zach does have parts of his game that need to improve. Even with the shitty team performances, thus has helped him improve.
    Now I do still blame the Union for not bringing ing him along sooner, and last year he languished on th bench. If he played, I think he would have played his way onto the US team. I firmly believe that, and it was a little late to catch back up.
    One final point, we do have one other prospect that was on the initial camps: Darius Madison. In a college environment, he has slowly developed. I wonder how much further along he would be if the Union had brought him in as a HG? Playing college soccer holds kids back with their development due to a bullshit compacted playing schedule (3 games in 7 days- no wonder Darius got injured the last two years). If the Union were smart (and they are most certainly not) they would consider signing young players AND PLAYING THEM.. Darius, Colton Storm, Brett Campbell, the other Campbell playing for IU, shit there is a ton of talent to sign. The Georgetown kids ect. We have no plan….
    And I don’t include Steffen, because he smartly moved to Europe to continue his development. This is another idiotic move by the front office to let him get away, as he could have shored up our goalkeeper debacle for years to come. Did the Union even try to give him a good $$ offer? That would be some good journalism to see how much they tried to get him for…all it would take is a phone call or two. It would also be interesting to see if they spoke to Barbir and Pulisic to see if they put out feelers. (PULISIC IS THE NEXT LEGIT PLAYER BTW)

    • The Black Hand says:

      Good stuff!
      Bummer for Zach, but (as you have said) he is left with a real opportunity to hone his game. His confidence is there. He isn’t afraid of players being close to him. I would like to see Pfeffer look to expand his game as a playmaker. He’s got the short-game vision. Now, he needs to expand his parameters. If he can establish himself, and not go missing for chunks at a time, he will walk back on to the USMNT stage.

    • i’m so bummed that we missed out on pulisic

    • Great One says:

      That’s a lot of good young talent that we never had a sniff of.

    • alicat215 says:

      I am so glad Darius did not sign a HG….THAT would have set him back. Darius got hurt this year, he still was the man in the final four. He will be the poster boy for UVA and college soccer next year, God willing he stays healthy……he will have a great year and his stock will be stronger than it ever was. The Cosmos have been on him hard the past two years….I wonder if that will factor. D’s marketability will be stronger than ever after this year…..and I really hope he goes somewhere with a brighter future. Up until last year, I wanted to watch him weekly at PPL park. Now, I want him to stay as far away from the Union as possible…..for his own benefit. Oh yeah, There are a number of European clubs interested in Darius too. Stay away D! Stay away as far as you can and don’t look back!

      • alicat215 says:

        Pfeffer and Madison are the same year….one went the pro route, the other went the college route. Ask yourself….who was better off? Darius has played in 10x more matches than Pfeffer, been in pressure situations that Pfeffer hasn’t, and played with Reading every summer. Really, what has the HG done for Pfeffer? It was a PR move that screwed the kid. He’s played in a handful of matches for club and country over the past 5 years….thats it. Yes, he has had great training abroad…..but what good is training if you never get to test your meddle? I bet Darius had a better pro career than Zach does……..and right now, I really hope its somewhere else.

      • Pfeffer went to Germany and could have had a great future there if he had done better. This was a chance Darius never had.

      • alicat215 says:

        I bet if Darius was given that opportunity…….he would still be there!

    • Christian Pulisic is lovely to watch. Plays simply but can bust you up in a heartbeat.
      That said, if you had a kid on the Union 14 or 16 team and there was interest from abroad the answer to me is a no brainer…. go. go. go. go. go.
      From my POV the Union Academy, thus far, is a dead end. Maybe that will change, but……

      • alicat215 says:

        +1. “Plays simply but can bust you up in a heartbeat”………….the way your suppose to play!

      • alicat215 says:

        “you’re”…….my bad

      • alicat215 says:

        Dude, 95% of those kids are there to get a college scholarship……..nothing more. The same reason we would play for FC Delco back in the 90’s……same shit….different day. Again, the old boys network found a way to get paid handsomely!

      • Agreed. What is staggering to me is it is a professional development model still designed to get you to amateur collegiate play.

  7. Stay out of Malibu, Blatter!

  8. Great One says:

    So here’s a question. Looking at the current state of injuries, would you rather: Edu slide to CB and have Carroll play DM, or slide Shaenon to CB and have Fabinho play LB? These are the great choices we have these days.
    Given the state of the team, I would go with a formation change, especially bc I don’t want to see Le Toux running randomly and chasing people up top by himself. Go with some sort of 4-4-2, with Casey and Le Toux up top and Pfeffer, Maidana, Nogs and Ayuk in the middle. Not the best defensive shield I know, but maybe if we can possess a little it will stop the attacks on the defense.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Here’s the lineup:

      Loyden (heck she’s already signed with the team as pregame and halftime announcer)

      A former national team keeper. No LeToux, Wenger, or Carroll (although LeToux will probably have to relieve Casey by halftime at the latest). Gives Edu a chance to go forward from the back. And a chance for Fabhino to get an early start on the hat trick predicted for later in the season.

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