Daily news roundups

USOC scheduling, a trialist, new allocation money, Blazer banned for life, more

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

US Open Cup quarterfinal scheduling madness

On Wednesday, New York Red Bulls and US Soccer announced that the US Open Cup quarterfinal match at Red Bull Arena will take place on Tuesday, July 21. At 4 pm.

That’s right, at 4 pm on a Tuesday.

Why? Because NYRB chose to schedule an International Champions Cup match between Fiorentina and Paris Saint-Germain on the 21st at 8:30pm, and another match between themselves and Chelsea on the 22nd, despite the July 21-22 window for the Open Cup quarterfinals being known since February.

Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz said in a statement after the fixture was announced, “We are happy that it’s been decided to play this match on the originally designated U.S. Soccer date of July 21, but are very disappointed about the 4 p.m. kick off for our fans that were planning to travel.” Curtin concurred: “I am disappointed in the time of the game, but it is what it is.”

Asked before the time and date was announced what he thought of the scheduling process, Jim Curtin said it has been frustrating:

I think it’s most unfair, if I’m being honest, it’s most unfair to the Philadelphia Union fans and the New York Red Bulls fans that don’t know when the game is going to be, the time, the day. I’ve been on all correspondence with it. There’s some good healthy conversations, there’s some that aren’t productive. I think a lot of people are frustrated by it. We knew in February that the Open Cup dates were the 21st and the 22nd; we planned our schedule accordingly. Obviously, in a perfect world, for the athletes, the best day to play this game is Wednesday on the 22nd but, in terms of travel and then other games sandwiched on the weekends, that’s not possible because they [New York Red Bulls] scheduled the Chelsea game then. So, you look to other dates…The one thing that needs to be said: The Philadelphia Union respects the Open Cup competition.

Sakiewicz said the team has secured a block of 500 tickets for the game at only $10 — which also includes free bus transportation from PPL Park — that will be available on a first come first served basis. Season ticket holders have access to a promo code for a presale, with the remaining tickets available on Friday at 10am.

Meanwhile, Empire of Soccer reports, “The reason for the strange date and time is simple: New York wanted to retain hosting rights to strengthen their Open Cup run — and the Philadelphia Union played hardball to rip it away,” hilariously adding that one source labeled the Union as “a ‘bad partner’ in this entire affair.” Omitted is any mention the July 15 date NYRB wanted to play the game — after screwing up in the first place by scheduling a couple of lucrative but otherwise meaningless friendlies on Open Cup dates — was a no go because the Union scheduled their probably not lucrative but otherwise meaningless friendly against Bournemouth on the Open Cup-free date of July 14. Bad partner, bad! (And why no moaning about US Soccer, given this tweet?)

Given CBA restrictions against players playing in games within 36 hours, what kind of a Red Bulls side will the Union face? Will the Red Bulls field a strong side in an attempt to win the actually meaningful Open Cup quarterfinal game, and so risk a blowout against Chelsea on the field, and the resulting damage to the team’s reputation, by featuring a largely reserve side in the ICC game, a game that is essentially meaningless but will nevertheless be vastly better attended at RBA, can be viewed on ESPN Deportes, Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Soccer 2Go, and Chelsea TV (it’s the only game of the US leg of the ICC tournament not on Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports 2), not to mention vastly more reported both in the US and abroad? The New York Post says, “Clearly, they’ll have to prioritize, and sources said they will field the stronger team against Philadelphia.”

In case you’re wondering the leadup to the Open Cup game is not easy for either the Union or the Red Bulls. On Saturday, July 18, the Union play Toronto away at 4 pm, and NYRB play Orlando away at 7:30 pm.

Trialists and such

In his weekly press conference on Wednesday (full transcript here at PSP), Jim Curtin talked about a trialist who is with the team through the end of the week, 22-year-old Chilean midfielder Santiago Dittborn.

There’ll be some minor improvements to the roster, and there’ll be some bigger ones that we’ll look at. I’m confident in the guys that we currently have but I’m not naive to the fact that we constantly need to upgrade our roster, just like any team in our league you’re always looking to upgrade. There’ll be younger guys that are signed and there’ll be some bigger guys that we’re looking at, as well. And he would fall into the category of a good young player that was willing to come here on trial. Has impressed over the past few days. You know, it’s three days so its still early but he’s been impressive: His ability to make a final pass, he can strike a ball with his left foot and score you a goal. Again, young player, though, and it’s only three days, so I won’t get ahead of myself but he’s done very well in the short time that he’s been here…

He’s in for the rest of the week, we’ll make a decision after that…a lot of things have to fall into place — there’s always money involved, there’s always other offers from other teams, there’s always how does he fit int our team, does he displace somebody? He is a foreign player too, so I would like for our foreign players to be guys that come in and are pushing to be starters, if they’re not starting as it is, because foreign spots are valuable, and you see that in out league. So, again, good player, good young player, and we’ll have a decision to make. In his first three days he’s been good but we’ll get a couple more looks at him and put our heads together and make a decision.

You can see Dittborn’s profile at Transfermarkt here. More on Dittborn at Union Tallythe Inquirer, and Brotherly Game.

Curtin explained further of the team’s approach during the current transfer window, “[I]f we’re not doing our homework and looking to upgrade and improve all over the field, then we’re not keeping up with the rest of the league. So, again, we have work to do, we have big decisions to make over this transfer period. A lot of wheels are already in motion, obviously, but there’s no one spot that we’re only targeting. So, again, it’s upgrades across the board and, again, there still is a good core of guys that are playing well right now too, so we have to mindful of that.”

Is rumored Union transfer target Lukasz Gikiewicz interested in going to Chicago Fire? The Hull Daily Mail quotes the forward as saying, “Many clubs are showing interest lately, including Chicago. I think any Polish player would be honoured to play there. Currently, I am looking for a stable move; a club that is committed to me and my future.”

Muelensteen’s evaluation evaluated

At Delco Times, Matthew De George has a welcome report on what resulted from Rene Melensteen’s evaluation of the team. De George quotes Sakiewicz: “We’ve very pleased with the result,” Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz said. “We were pleasantly surprised to see that his analysis, as a youth academy and as a club, it was his determination that we were on the right track and doing a lot of good things here.”

Nevertheless, De George writes, “For all the praise lavished on Meulensteen, measurable impacts appear few and far between…What the Union seem to have returned in the highest dosages is self-affirmation. Hearing ideas you’ve long believed repeated in a different voice and imparted to players with greater gravitas cultivated by the Manchester United stamp on Meulensteen’s passport possesses value.”

De George notes that one area Meulensteen seems to affirmed is the club’s desire to launch its own USL team: “Drawing upon his experience at Manchester United, Meulensteen reiterated an inclination Sakiewicz already held, that the distance between the Union and affiliate Harrisburg City was too great. Incorporating the two under the same roof full-time would be beneficial (if costly).”

Union Academy U-16s advance to semifinals

The Philadelphia Union Academy U-16s defeated New England Revolution 5-3 in the US Development Academy playoff quarterfinal game at the Union training grounds on Wednesday. Jack Skahan opened the scoring in the 12th minute before New England equalized in the 20th, and then took a 2-1 lead 13 minutes later. The Union would find an equalizer in the 52nd minute through Alexander Soto, who was subbed in at the 41st minute, and took the 3-2 lead in the 75th minute through Raheem Taylor-Parkes, who was subbed in in the 69th minute. But one minute later, New England would score again.

Level at 3-3 after 80 minutes of regulation play, the game continued with two 10-minute periods of extra time. Eight minutes into the first extra time period, Taylor-Parkes scored what would prove to be the gamewinner. In the last minute of extra time, New England brought all of their players into the Union box after winning a corner kick, including the goalkeeper, in search of an equalizer. But the Union headed clear, and the ball fell to Taylor-Parkes, who then dribbled the ball the length of the pitch to complete his hat trick.

The Union U-16s now advance to the playoff semifinals, which will take place at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., on July 16. Recaps of Wednesday’s game at Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution, Brotherly Game, and Philly Sports Network.

One last thing

Me thinks this guy is trying to hard.

Local

Harrisburg City Islanders were thumped 4-0 by Charleston Battery for their first home loss of the season. Reports at Harrisburg City IslandersPenn Live, Charleston Battery, and WCSC.

Following Nick Sakiewicz’s comments in an interview with Allentown Morning Call that the team is “looking to launch a minor league team next year,” Harrisburg City Islanders CFO Eric Pettis tells Penn Live that talks on the possibility of the Union launching its own USL club have been underway for the last six to nine months. The report explains,

The Islanders-Union affiliation created five years ago changed the landscape of the USL. But as both clubs grew and soccer’s participation numbers, ticket sales and viewership increased, splits in the philosophy between different organization became more apparent.

It’s a question of whether the priority is winning, or the priority is developing the sport. Another minor league team in Pennsylvania would put more fans closer to professional soccer; it would also likely give the Union more access to a feeder team and the ability to directly develop their players.

Pettis says in the report he believes the City Islanders can survive without an affiliation to an MLS team and that his main concern is keeping the team in Central Pennsylvania. To do that, they need funding to renovate Skyline Sports Complex.

Reading United fell 1-0 on the road to Jersey Express on Wednesday.

Newsworks on how the USWNT’s World Cup triumph is inspiring young players in Delaware.

MLS

The league announced on Wednesday a new salary budget mechanism, “Targeted Allocation Money.” In accordance with the new CBA, each team will receive $100,000 over the next five years “to invest in their roster outside of the player salary budget.” This year’s funds are available now with the opening of the summer transfer window on Wednesday. The announcement says, “MLS clubs may bring forward a portion or all of their allotted Targeted Allocation Money, up to $500,000, to be used in a single season on up to three players at a time. For example, if a club wishes to sign a player at or above the maximum salary budget charge this season, that club may use up to $500,000 of their Targeted Allocation Money this year to acquire him.”

The announcement states that, like general Allocation Money, Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) can be used to sign new players, or re-sign existing players, and can also be traded. However, unlike General Allocation money, which can be used for a player at any salary level, TAM can only be used to sign or re-sign players who earn more than the maximum salary budget charge — $436,250 in 2015 — but who are not Designated Players. Nevertheless, clubs can use “a portion or all of their allotted Targeted Allocation Money to convert a Designated Player to a non-Designated Player by buying down, on a prorated basis, his salary budget charge to at or below the maximum salary budget charge.” If a club uses TAM to free up a DP slot, “the club must simultaneously sign a new Designated Player at an investment equal to or greater than the player he is replacing.”

Todd Durbin, MLS vice president of competition and player relations, said of the new salary mechanism, “When we took a step back and we looked at our rosters and the way in which our teams put them together, we realized that while we’ve been making substantial investment in a number of areas — designated players, youth academies, increased salary budget, etc — one area we felt we needed to drive even more investment toward is players who are making high-level salaries that are going to be difference makers on the field.”

So, a team with three DPs on its roster can buy down the salary hit of one or more of those DPs and so add another. Hence the “targeted” part: the new mechanism is focused on enabling teams to bring in more high earning players. As Kyle McCarthy describes at Fox Sports, “Targeted Allocation Money aims to expand the number of players at the top end of the squad and improve the options available to fill the fourth, fifth and sixth players on the roster.”

The league announcement says, “Importantly, unlike Designated Players for which a club is responsible for any payments above the maximum salary budget charge, all clubs will be provided the same amount of Targeted Allocation Money through the League budget. As a result, all clubs will have the same opportunity to benefit from these new funds.” However, the requirement that a team must bring in a new DP “at an investment equal to or greater” than the player whose DP salary hit is being bought down by TAM puts the lie to the notion that teams across the league will have the “same opportunity” to use the new salary mechanism. Clearly, the Union, for example, does not have the same resources at its disposal as, say, LA Galaxy.

For example, Fox Deportes reporter Mario Malfavón tweeted on Wednesday that MLS sources have confirmed LA Galaxy have signed Giovani Dos Santos and that the deal will be announced after the Gold Cup. No doubt, the Galaxy will use TAM to buy down Omar Gonzalez’s salary, thus freeing up a DP slot for Dos Santos. As Deadspin puts it,

The big teams can now use a sort of mini-DP provision to pay good players they don’t think are worth crazy Pirlo salaries, protecting those real DP spots for the crazy Pirlo salaries. The amount each team can use varies, and it is a tradeable asset, so theoretically a team like the Galaxy could amass a huge swath of money with which to pay a nominally “mini-DP” something approximating those crazy Pirlo salaries. It’s basically creating another (and quite possibly even multiple!) DP spot(s) without calling it that directly.

Whether the new TAM mechanism will be joined next season by the “Core Player” designation that has been reported to be in the works remains to be seen.

Former Inter defender Hugo Campagnaro to MLS?

Preki has stepped down as head coach of USL side Sacramento Republic. The announcement from the club says he’s accepted a position in the UK and Preki says the “opportunity ahead is a lifetime dream for me and a chance to challenge myself at the highest level of the game.” Is he about to be named head coach of Premier League side Leicester City?

US

The Wall Street Journal reports that Friday’s ticker-tape parade down Broadway to honor the USWNT’s Women’s World Cup victory will cost the city $2 million, although efforts are underway to raise private funds to help bring down the public costs. Some $450,000 in private funds have been raised so far.

Planning to attend the parade? WABC has 12 things you need to know.

It’s official: The USMNT will host Peru, who came in third place at the recent Copa America tournament, in a friendly at RFK on Friday, Sept. 4 (7 pm: Fox Sports 1, UniMás, and Univision Deportes Network). Tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday at 10 am.

By the way, the US drops seven spots to No. 34 in the latest FIFA rankings despite winsover Netherlands and Germany. Why? The were friendlies in a period of Euro qualifiers and Copa America. Mexico dropped 17 spots to No. 40, Costa Rica dropper 27 spots to No. 41.

Vice Sports reports they have been told by a spokesperson for Crossfire Premiere, DeAndre Yedlin’s former club, “that high level U.S. Soccer officials have contacted the youth club in the hopes that they would drop their request with FIFA” to initiate legal proceedings against the federation in an effort to collect solidarity fees following his transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. The report says,

The two sides are working toward a resolution, according to the Crossfire spokesman, although the spokesman added that youth club won’t back down from their request to receive some type of compensation for Yedlin. Collecting solidarity fees, which are meant to reward youth clubs for helping develop players, is not permitted under current U.S. Soccer guidelines despite the fact that FIFA mandates youth clubs be paid them…

Allowing Crossfire to receive any compensation in the Yedlin transfer would likely force U.S. Soccer to change its guidelines, which are followed by every professional league in the country. Attorneys for Crossfire claim MLS, which is named in the youth club’s letter to FIFA, has collected these fees on transfers, including Yedlin’s move Tottenham. As proof to FIFA, the Crossfire attorneys included a letter from a Spurs executive, who acknowledges that all fees were sent to the league. Should U.S. Soccer change its guidelines, then MLS might be forced to turn over hundreds of thousands of dollars over to youth clubs not only in the United States, but anywhere in the world where MLS players who were sold to other leagues were initially developed.

Elsewhere

FIFA announced on Thursday the decision to suspend Chuck Blazer from all soccer-related activities for life. The announcement says, “Mr Blazer committed many and various acts of misconduct continuously and repeatedly during his time as an official in different high-ranking and influential positions at FIFA and CONCACAF. In his positions as a football official, he was a key player in schemes involving the offer, acceptance, payment and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes and kickbacks as well as other money-making schemes.” Yep.

CONCACAF announced on Wednesday the appointment of Sonia Bien-Aime, CONCACAF Executive Committee member and president of the Turks & Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA) to serve in a voting position on FIFA’s Executive Committee. The announcement notes, “Bien-Aime joins Lydia Nsekera, President of the Burundi Football Association, to become the second woman ever to serve in a voting position on FIFA’s Executive Committee, and the first to be elected to a non-female designated seat.” Bien-Aime replaces Jeffrey Webb, the former president of CONCACAF currently residing in a Swiss jail awaiting extradition to the US following his arrest in Zurich in May.

Speaking of Webb, Reuters reports, “Suspended CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb was a director 10 years ago of a Cayman Islands company controlled by Jack Warner, the former head of the Americas regional soccer body who is facing U.S. corruption charges, a court document shows.”

ASN’s legal analyst looks at CONCACAF’s reform plan and says it doesn’t go far enough to prevent corruption.

The AP reports, “Sepp Blatter’s decision to step down as FIFA president poses ‘no threat’ to Russia’s staging of the World Cup in 2018, the host nation’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko said Wednesday.”

36 Comments

  1. July 9th – MLS – “We’re very excited to add this new Allocation mechanism that should help all teams across MLS to improve their squads and improve the quality of MLS”

    July 10th – LA Galaxy are proud to announce the signing of our newest DP Giovani Dos Santos . . .

    July 11th – MLS – “After an arduous study we’ve determined the new allocation mechanism isn’t working and as a result we are suspending this mechanism immediately. All players signed utilizing the mechanism will of course be grand fathered in, however sadly no other teams will have the ability to use this mechanism going forward” Ba-Bye

    July 12th – MLS – “The term ‘Mechanism’ is forbidden in all future MLS documentation and should be removed from any existing documentation post haste”

    July 13th – MLS – “”Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.”

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    OK. Who else would like to see the Open Cup game go to PK’s (with the Union winning) just to make it more difficult to clear Red Bull Arena out in time for the game at 8:30?

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    US will likely go up in rankings if the progress far in the Gold Cup since those games will get the continental championship multiplier of 3 and be worth a fair amount of ranking points.

  4. “There’ll be some minor improvements to the roster, and there’ll be some bigger ones that we’ll look at…”There’ll be younger guys that are signed and there’ll be some bigger guys that we’re looking at, as well.”

    Status quo. The minor or younger guys will be SIGNED. The bigger guys will just be LOOKED AT. I am not optimistic about any significant upgrades during this window.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Yeah his quotes could’ve just been summarized by saying, “the Union will be doing nothing, as expected.” Why waste all that’s space?!

  5. I somehow stumbled across that Empire of Soccer article last night regarding the scheduling of the Open Cup game. That article read like it was written by the NYRB PR department, and sent to Dave Martinez to slap his name on it and post it. Since it is seemingly presented as journalistic reporting, and not an opinion piece, it is a pretty pathetic display.

    • Martinez’s “Just reporting what I have come to learn pal. Nothing more.” comment was my favorite part. Reporters that fail to offer context to news the worst.

      I actually don’t doubt that USSF did give NYRB approval to schedule the friendly for 22nd. USSF gets a cut so it would be in their own interest. They probably figured if NYRB did happen to advance, the opposing team would be able to reschedule to another date. All that being said, I hope the Union go up there and beat the crap out of them.

      • Absolutely. I have read some of the author’s stuff before and he’s not bad, so I hate to be too harsh. But that was a de Jonge flying karate kick challenge of an article- total hack job.

  6. I don’t understand the kerfuffle. If the Union would have just done everything RBNY asked them to, everything would be fine.

  7. i don’t know what our cap looks like but this targeted allocation money thing seems like it could let us sign at least one more dp without having to pay any more money than we are already are

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Agreed. If they can move M’Bolhi and DEAR GOD THEY BETTER MOVE M’BOLHI… that plus this LA Galaxy rule money, I mean TAM, could actually allow us to make the wrong signing at a position we don’t need!! Haha

  8. Andy Muenz says:

    My response to the article on Empire of Soccer:

    Given that the arena wasn’t available either of the two days, why did the Open Cup even allow the New Jersey Pink Cows to be eligible to host this round?
    .
    Dave may have just been reporting facts, but to not mention that the Union have a friendly of their own the week before is just irresponsible journalism.
    .
    Here’s hoping for a lightning delay at the Open Cup game followed by overtime and penalty kicks to delay the 8:30 game.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      The ICC game is making TVmoney for Red Bulls and USSF too says so one above in this thread. The USOC will get short shrift in the face of profit.

  9. Brad Wealand says:

    Presumably with M’Bolhi trade/sale as well as the new TAM, we could add two new DPs, right?

    • I suppose. But I have the feeling behind the scenes Union are petitioning the league to be able to use the new allocation money to pay utility bills and property taxes, and that’s all we’ll get out of it.

  10. So the World Cup preliminary draw is on July 25th and, according to FIFA, they will go by the July rankings. Ok, not a big deal, but in Europe, Romania and Wales are two of the top 8 European teams and could be seeded(?). Hopefully this is wrong and no offense to either because they’re decent but…Romania and Wales!?!

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Both Romania and Wales are on top of their groups in Euro 2016 qualifiers which is the biggest factor in the rankings at this point (since the 2014 world cup points just degraded 25%).
      .
      The big wild card there is France. Since they have the automatic berth, they don’t get the juicy qualifiers in their rankings and have dropped from a world cup quarter finalist to barely being in the top 16 in Europe.

  11. Jim Presti says:

    One thing not mentioned: The TAM can be saved until the following year, but would need to be used next year. So unless LA, Seattle, Orlando, NYCFC etc make an offer to the Union for this year’s TAM, its in the Union’s best interest to save it for 2016. This way, the front office could see what the demand is for TAM plus you can use $200k next season and then the remaining $100k every season there after. No point in spending it. We aren’t making the playoffs.

  12. Sak talking about the Meulensteen Report reminds me of FIFA after the Garcia Report. Take the positives, pat yourself on the back, bury the rest.

    Also, anybody else catch Twellman and Nicol on ESPNFC taking quick little jabs at the U during the TAM discussion?

  13. In contrast to the clown show up I-95 scheduling the USOC game, it’s nice to see the Union make a good faith effort to actually get fans to the game. 10 bucks and free transit is a damn good deal if you don’t have to work that day. Not sure they’ll sell half of those 500 tickets, but credit where credit’s due.

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