Daily news roundups

Notes from the end-of-the-season presser, more news

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union

On Wednesday, Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin held an end-of-season press conference that was full of news. Before the press conference, there was also some substantial news, with Kevin Kinkead tweeting that Chris Pontius and Fabinho would both be back with the Union in 2017. For Pontius, it will be the “final year of contract” (Pontius came to the Union in year four of a five year deal with DC, not the last year of a four-year deal as was widely thought) while Fabinho returns “via vesting option in contract,” which is related to the number of games he’s played. Matthew De George tweeted that we should expect Brian Carroll to be back in 2017, quoting him as saying, “I think I proved to myself that I still have a little more left in the tank.” Kinkead also tweeted that Roland Alberg will be home in the Netherlands for part of the offseason with his first child expected to be born in mid December.

Now, some highlights from the Stewart and Curtin press conference, one that largely was made up of remarks from Stweart (full transcript at PSP):

Player news

  • Stewart said the team has not been contacted by other clubs interested in buying Andre Blake. However, he explained, “Andre’s had a great year. Would it surprise me if somebody would call and want to buy him? No, it wouldn’t surprise me. It hasn’t happened up to now and if it does happen at one point you have to look at it from a perspective of what does it do short term, and what does it do long term, for the club. And there’s always a price, it works as simple as that. Do we want to keep our best players here? Yes, for sure. But if we can go forward in selling somebody and become better towards the future, you have to look at that too.”
  • Asked if Blake no longer having Generation adidas status might be a factor in letting him go because his salary therefore will now count towards the Union’s salary cap, Stewart said, “He’s done well, he’s played every single game, so I understand that he’s come off of the Generation adidas and that he hits our books. And still, we’re very comfortable with him being there. So, no problem at all.”
  • Stewart said the Union has declined the options on Matt Jones, Anderson (both of whom were on loan), as well as Walter Restrepo, Taylor Washington, and Cole Missimo.
  • Stewart said discussions are underway with Charlie Davies and Leo Fernandes about their futures with the club.
  • Stewart also said Kevin Kratz “was on loan so he’ll go back to Atlanta,” as in Atlanta United. Matthew De George later reported, “An Atlanta spokesman later clarified that the Union had agreed to a binding trade agreement with Atlanta that will be made official when the roster-move window reopens Dec. 11.” In other words, while the Union announced in September it had signed Kratz as a free agent, it seems they struck a deal with Atlanta to provide Kratz with some training ahead before the expansion side begins its preseason in January. Certainly Kratz gave the impression he had signed with the Union in comments to reporters when asked how he ended up with the Union. Regardless, the question then is what did the Union get from Atlanta in return?
  • Both Stewart and Curtin expressed their hope that Maurice Edu will be fully recovered from his broken leg in time for the start of the preseason in Florida, although Stewart did not want to discuss a timeline for his return. Curtin also reiterated that Edu will play in the midfield as a No. 6 when he returns, not at center back.
  • Asked how much tweaking the Union roster needs to find greater success, Stewart said, “Have we identified some spots within our team that we can get better in? Yes. And we can use an upgrade to make it easier on ourselves during the season. Yes, they are definitely there. Those are discussions that, one, we have right now amongst ourselves, and we’ve been having these for weeks and months going forward, which I think is normal.”
  • Curtin said of roster additions, “[T]he way the that Earnie [Stewart] has set things up for us, our options going into this offseason, and out targets and the players that we’d like to get after to strengthen the squad is clear cause a lot of the foundation has been laid. We have a very good core of young players now to build on and we’ll be aggressive in the offseason and we’re excited to keep working, there’s no off time for us and we’re always looking to continue to improve the squad.”

Endorsements: Curtin, the young backline

  • Stewart strongly endorsed Jim Curtin’s performance as head coach, describing it as “Good, no, really good. And I say that with a lot of confidence, too…We’ve had open, honest discussions with each other, which I think is fantastic and a very good way of working. That evaluation has been really good. I feel Jim has done an excellent job…[T]here’s been a lot of accomplishment during this season, and the guy sitting to the left of me has a lot to do with that.” (This may or may not be nitpicking but, for what it’s worth, a close reading of Stewart’s praise of Curtin indicates the sporting director’s comments were largely related to Curtin’s methods in training — “that’s my form of recognition to seeing how things go” — rather than his gameday decision making, which is of course the topic that fills the comment sections of our match reports and analysis pieces.)
  • Stewart and Curtin both endorsed the young Union backline, Stewart saying, “I feel that is a very, very talented group that’s back there and, towards the end like I said and I think we said this at the beginning of the season too, young players are going to make mistakes down the road, it’s a simple as that. But, we’re going to let them make mistakes because it’s great for their experience. And as long as they don’t make them ten times in a row we’re in good shape…I think they’re more experienced, they’ve been seasoned a little bit throughout this stretch that we’ve had and they’ll be back and be better.”

What could’ve been done differently

  • When asked if the Union could have experimented more with formation adjustments, Stewart’s answer was blunt: “No, I don’t believe in that…there are certain moments in a season where things don’t go your way and you need to fall back on something. And the more you change, and the more you make it difficult, especially for young players in different formations or different tactical ways of setting up, it’s going to hurt you.”
  • Stewart was similarly blunt when asked if he thought the team was tired at the end of the season: “No, I don’t think so. I do know how it works from a player perspective, and that’s my own experience. When you win games you’re never tired. And when you lose games you’re very tired. And that’s just it…Once you lose games, yeah, you feel everything. Once you win games, nobody’s injured, everybody’s ready to go, and everybody feels good.”
  • Both Stewart and Curtin explained the Union’s late season slump was related to a number of factors rather than one. Stewart somewhat wistfully explained, “[W]e could’ve had the exact same season and then not done well in the beginning and finished very strong and then everybody would’ve been very positive about it. But it works the other way around.”

More from the press conference at Philadelphia UnionPhilly.com, Delco TimesUnion Tally, CSN PhillyPhilly VoiceBrotherly Game, and Section 215.

At ESPN, Jason Davis is the only one of four staff writers who pick Keegan Rosenberry to win Rookie of the Year, the rest going with Jordan Morris. The panel did not offer picks for Goalkeeper of the Year (Andre Blake is a finalist), Comeback Player of the Year (Chris Pontius is a finalist), or the Fair Play award (Rosenberry is a finalist).

At the Union website, a numerical look at the 2016 season.

Philadelphia Union Academy

You will recall that Union Academy defender Rayshaun McGann was called up by the US U-17 team for the pre-Nike International Friendlies camp. The US has two friendlies against Jamaica during the camp and the team defeated Jamaica 3-0 in the first friendly on Wednesday but McGann was not in the starting lineup and as of this writing I cannot determine if he was subbed into the game. Former Union Academy goalkeeper Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos, who is now with the Benfica Academy, also did not start. It is also unclear if Chad Letts, McGann’s Union Academy teammate and a forward who was called up by Jamaica, saw minutes but he also appears not to have been in the starting lineup. At Brotherly Game, Matt Ralph notes, “Letts has a goal in one appearance for the Union U16s this season after scoring four goals in 11 appearances last season. He had two goals in a Generation adidas Cup qualifier for the Union last month.” Jamaica Observer has a match report from Wednesday’s game.

MLS

Seattle has removed the interim tag from Brian Schmetzer, who was announced on Wednesday as the head coach of the club.

Michael Bradley is pleased the league disciplinary did not retroactively punish David Villa in suspending him for the second leg of the NYCFC-TFC Eastern Conference semifinal game: “I’ll be honest: I like the decision. I think the league and the disciplinary committee went overboard this year in terms of retroactive suspensions and punishments. If this is a first step in them going back in what I would call the right direction in terms of letting games play, understanding that referees make decisions on the field and [that] you can’t go back and re-ref every single game on Monday morning, then I’m okay with that.”

Nick Rimando to Atlanta United?

Current Minnesota United head coach Carl Craig says he doesn’t know if he’ll be the coach of the team when it begins MLS play in 2017. At SI, Grant Wahl reports, “Sources say that Minnesota has interest in Giovanni Savarese, the New York Cosmos coach, as well as former Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid and current Sporting Kansas City assistant Kerry Zavagnin. One source said the most likely scenario involves Minnesota hiring someone who has not been a head coach in MLS before.”

3-5-2.

The story behind Stephen Hawking and his Portland Timbers scarf.

US

Next Friday’s USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier has sold out. ESPN reports,

Fans from every state and Washington, D.C. bought tickets for next week’s sold-out World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, the U.S. Soccer Federation said on Tuesday.

U.S. Soccer offered seats for the match via a lottery. They received almost 17,000 requests for 56,270 tickets.

Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio is looking forward to the game: “We see it as a fantastic opportunity to go there and change the story and break that statistic. We’ll play [against] a strong team, with their fans, in a stadium that historically hasn’t been good for Mexico. But the opportunity is exactly that.” The Mexico roster will be announced today or on Friday. The team will gather in Columbus on Monday rather than meeting first in Mexico City: “We want to [save] our players the extra four hours traveling from [Mexico City] and back. We’ve arranged it so we’ll go straight to Columbus and we’ll be there for four days.”

Costa Rica has announced its roster for its upcoming World Cup qualifiers, including the home game against the US on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

At SI, Grant Wahl writes of the possibility that the US could make a joint bid along with Canada and Mexico to host the 2026 World Cup: “I’m told there’s a split on the U.S. Soccer board of directors between those who want the U.S. to host the World Cup alone and those who want to share hosting rights with neighbors Mexico and Canada. The U.S. Soccer board does plan to address the issue at its December meeting.”

USA-Mexico comes in at No. 8 in FourFourTwo’s survey of the fiercest rivalries in international soccer.

Pulisic! Pulisic!

US Soccer has announced roster changes ahead of the USWNT’s upcoming friendlies against Romania: “Forward Jessica McDonald and defender Emily Menges will replace defenders Jaelene Hinkle and Meghan Klingenberg on the 24-player squad set to face Romania on Nov. 10 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose (7 p.m. PT; ESPN2) and on Nov. 13 at StubHub Center in Carson (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1).”

Ali Krieger, who is on the roster for the friendlies, was traded by Washington Spirit, where she was captain, to Orlando Pride on Wednesday. The Washington Post reports, “It’s unclear whether Krieger requested a trade or the team made the decision unilaterally. According to sources, she learned of the trade from the Pride, not the Spirit.”

Elsewhere

From Reuters: “FIFA’s investigatory chamber has recommended an aide to former presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam be banned for life from all soccer-related activities after completing an investigation into payments made to several soccer officials. The body wants Najeeb Chirakal to be punished for allegedly breaching seven of the scandal-hit soccer body’s rules”.

The AP reports, “The deputy governor of St. Petersburg has said FIFA has found problems with the retractable pitch at the city’s stadium, which will be a 2018 World Cup venue.”

15 Comments

  1. Interesting how we are releasing so many BSFC starters. Not that I mind. I hope this means our plan is to fill out BSFC even more with Academy graduates and other young players.

    • Maybe they will be signed to the BSFC roster instead of the Union roster? I have no idea but I do think BSFC is going to have major roster changes every year.

      • Fully agree. The Academy cycle will always have players needing evaluation opportunities and those spots will be cleared for them.

    • Current Steel USL roster stands at 8, with one of those being Corey Burke who is on loan from his old side in Jamaica, so maybe 7 by January.
      .
      Restrepo is oldish. Washington’s going surprises me, but a Dan Walsh comment makes me think they want a genuine left footer. Missimo has been passed by two younger players, Justin McMaster, who really passed him badly, and Yosef Samuel who seemed comparable in his whopping 29 minutes but is at least three years younger. Anderson cannot play centerback in North America’s athletic style for a team that plays a high defensive line because of pace.
      .
      My best guess at the moment is that as many as four Academy boys could earn full time practice with the Steel, Mark McKenzie (?RB), McMaster (LW), Anthony Fontana (ACM), and Matt Real (LB) if Real has improved his size and strength. The first three seemed likely as of season’s end. Real is a stretch because of strength especially.

  2. Columbus now holds 56,000 people? “They received almost 17,000 requests for 56,270 tickets.” Are the numbers reversed?

    • That was my thought too. It almost sucks that the US team has had so much success in a smaller stadium. Would be great if it had the capacity to meet that demand. Of course, you’re not getting a team like the Crew to fill out those seats the rest of the year…

    • I think the numbers are correct. Each person (request) could apply for multiple tickets (up to 4 if I recall). I applied and requested two tickets… though I was not lucky. I recognize the history in Columbus, but given the demand for US-Mexico matches, I wish US Soccer would consider alternative venues.

    • Crew’s capacity is officially listed at 23,665 but US Soccer did sell 56,270 tickets for the match. Where they are putting all those fans I have no idea, but that’s well beyond SRO standards. That place should be rockin’.

  3. I wouldn’t mind if the Union switched to a 3-5-2 formation…Or at least had it as a secondary look.

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    IF anyone ever asks you to define the absurd rules of MLS transactions… just show them the Kevin Kratz situation. HA! What a mess. To be clear, I’m not necessarily mad he’s gone, just thoroughly confused.

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