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Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union

Might we see Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Pontius, and Keegan Rosenberry facing off against Andre Blake? On Feb. 3 the USMNT will host Jamaica on the artificial turf at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga (7 pm, FS1, UDN), the first time the USMNT has played in that city. The match, coming at the end of the January camp will be preceded with the US hosting Serbia at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Jan. 29 (ESPN2, UDN). The roster for the January camp, which opens in Carson, Calif. on Jan. 10, will be announced this week.

At Philly Voice, Kevin Kinkead looks at what Union midfielders can do to improve their game in 2017.

At the Union website, Jim Curtin talks about being in the inaugural graduating class of the new U.S. Soccer Pro License Coaching Course.

ASN’s “status check” on Eastern Conference teams says this about the Union:

Three developments killed the Philadelphia Union in 2016: Vincent Nogueira’s abrupt departure, the inability of Maurice Edu to return to the field, and C.J. Sapong’s goal-scoring drought. These absences overshadowed the acquisition of Alejandro Bedoya, who brought a veteran presence to the team.

The absence of Nogueira and Edu was devastating because both were crucial in the deep midfield to play in front of the young defenders. With Edu uncertain for 2017, defensive midfield help is an absolute emergency for this team so that Keegan Rosenberry, Josh Yaro, and Auston Trusty aren’t exposed game after game.

Philadelphia has only made the playoffs twice in its history and it has never won a postseason game. Securing a quality defensive midfielder and/or a box-to-box midfield is high atop the to do list. After that, it will need to add another forward because right now Sapong and Charlie Davies are simply not enough.

Remember back in November when there was a tweet that became the basis for a report from Colombia connecting the Union with 21-year-old striker Dario Rodriguez, who was then on loan to Atletico Bucaramanga from Santa Fe? Apparently he’ll be staying with Bucaramanga until June of 2017.

Not sure what this means for the Union, but Jay Sugarman recently sold 100,000 iStar Financial shares: “The stock was sold at an average price of $12.21, for a total transaction of $1,221,000.00.” (H/t John O’Donnell Jr.)

Starfinder is hosting a fundraising brunch on Saturday, January 15 that includes a talk from Earnie Stewart. The announcement reads:

Join us for an English pub-style brunch to watch the English Premier League’s heated rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool.

Special halftime and post-game commentary by Earnie Stewart, Sporting Director of the Philadelphia Union and US national team player in three World Cups!

Your ticket includes open bar, buffet hot brunch, and, of course, a viewing party…

100% of the proceeds support Starfinder’s mission of leveling the playing field for Philadelphia’s youth, using soccer to cultivate life-long learners and courageous leaders.

Click here for ticketing information.

In case you missed it when it first appeared on the league website, the Union site has a calendar of important events in 2017.

Philadelphia Union Academy

A post at the Union website notes the Union Academy teams will resume USSDA play on March 5 against local rival Continental FC Delco. The post notes that U-18 forward Tiger Graham “leads the nation with 15 goals scored through the first half of the season.”

Local

The City Islanders will be holding their third open tryout ahead of the 2017 season on Feb. 13-14 at at In the Net Sports Complex in Palmyra. Click here for registration information. The team has also announced the addition of three people to its front office.

MLS

Official: Columbus have signed 26-year-old Ghanaian international defender Jonathan Mensah “as a Designated Player via a Discovery Signing.”

Minnesota have acquired 22-year-old midfielder Collin Martin from DC United in exchange for DC’s natural 4th round pick in the 2018 SuperDraft.

NYRB trades, discovery rights, conditional draft picks, something, something.

At MLSsoccer.com, everything you need to know about the MLS Players Combine, which is taking place Jan. 8-12.

Atlanta United will open its inaugural preseason on Saturday, Feb. 11 in Tennessee against Chattanooga FC.

On the expansion front, Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards tells Empire of Soccer “he has secured the services of former Orlando City SC executives Brett Lashbrook and Forrest Eber – both who played important roles in bringing MLS to Orlando a few years ago.” A key part of the Rowdies hopes to join MLS hinge on their plans to expand their stadium: “The issue of finalizing a deal to expand Al Lang Stadium still remains, however. St. Petersburg city officials are all jumping on board with Edwards’ proposal so far and the city council is already mulling the possibility of putting a lease extension up for a public vote in April or May. Any major construction project or longterm leases on the city’s waterfront must be decided on by residents. The city council is expected to decide on a date for the special election this month and public workshops on the issue of stadium expansion are likely to happen in February.”

Peter Wilt is optimistic the NASL will not only survive its current struggles, it will begin to thrive. He tells Canadian soccer site The11.ca, “Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I think that by the fall of 2018, we could have a 20-team NASL…Within the league, people are optimistic. People are working towards the same end, they want to go forward for 2017.” The article notes, “Wilt, the first general manager of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire and the first president of the NASL’s Indy Eleven, is also working to bring a Windy City franchise to NASL. He has a large, vested interest in helping the league not only survive its current crisis, but create a foundation for growth.”

Empire of Soccer reports wages remain unpaid for players and staff at the New York Cosmos: “Several office staffers were promised to be paid their wages by Christmas Eve. That did not happen. The marker then shifted to a promise of payment by New Year’s Eve. Again, the Cosmos failed to meet their word.”

NWSL

Crystal Dunn has left Washington Spirit to sign with Chelsea’s women’s team. More at Washington Post.

At Fox Sports: “NWSL faces challenge (and opportunity) with Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan going abroad.”

US

At SI, an interview with Bob Bradley.

Press Association reports, “Bob Bradley has denied that players called him Ronald Reagan behind his back during the American’s ill-fated spell in charge of Swansea City.”

Yahoo Sports has a starting XI of soccer storylines for the new year.

Elsewhere

The Guardian reports, “Four Chelsea football fans have been convicted of racist violence and given suspended prison sentences after a black commuter was pushed off a Paris Métro carriage in Paris while fans chanted: ‘We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.’…Only two of the accused attended the criminal trial in Paris for aggravated racist violence. The other two were tried in their absence. All four were ordered to pay the victim €10,000 in total.”

ESPN reports, “Brazilian club Chapecoense, who were devastated by an air crash disaster five weeks ago are ready to rebuild their team with the signing of 18 to 20 news players for the upcoming season…the bulk of the new squad will be loan signings, from rival clubs who have come out in full force to back Chapecoense’s rebuilding efforts after the crash.”

While the Chinese Super League continues pour buckets of lucre into player signings, the New York Times reports on the ongoing national youth development project: “Grooming the next Ronaldo or Messi has become a national project in China, where the country’s No. 1 fan, President Xi Jinping, is bent on transforming the country into a great soccer power.”

After he suffered what turned out to be a broken leg in a challenge in Monday’s 1-0 road defeat to Portsmouth, Luton Town player Cameron McGeehan was shown a yellow card, apparently for punching the ground. Luton manager Nathan Jones said when asked why his player was booked, “I think it was his reaction after, I don’t know, but surely an element of empathy or compassion has to be shown.”

24 Comments

  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Clearly USSF is giving those working to salvage NASL extra time to try to survive.
    .
    Yesterday Bethlehem Steel FC announced a group sales promotion that would yield the presumed organizers of the group two tickets to the Union home opener. And prior to that they have been selling vouchers for 2017 tickets, an ingenious and logical strategy for selling a commodity assumed rather than known.
    .
    But at some point those workarounds will no longer suffice.
    .
    The USL season was announced last summer to start on the weekend of March 24-26, to include 32 games (up from 30 in ’16) and to last for 30 weeks (up from 27).
    .
    Furthermore, Steel FC preseason is thought likely to start at the same time as Union preseason. If that assumption is true, that start date is 19 days away, since the Almanac article referenced above says MLS preseason starts Monday, January 23rd.
    .
    At some point USSF will lose its option to advise USL to provide emergency landings for healthy NASL franchises, no matter how temporary. The window will close. Plans can be made on provisional assumptions rather than actual decisions only to a limited degree.
    .
    USL’s business decisions can be delayed only so long.

  2. Jeeze~ team USA playing on Astro Turf—-Slumped back in desk chair– hands raised in holy supplication to the great mother of what the fuck.

    • The Realist Brian says:

      Agreed. They are doing it to take the wind out of the Women’s sails about playing in AstroTurf. Totally sucks and they shouldn’t be doing it. Although Chattanooga does deserve a game with their level of support.

  3. I still have a hard time understanding why a move to USL is better for club’s like Tampa with MLS aspirations. I get that right now it’s a much more stable league, and that clearly counts for something. But these owners have to realize the odds they’ll get find a golden ticket that grants them entry to the MLS promised land are long.

    That is unless there’s really no limit to how many teams MLS will consider. Show us the money and we’ll let you in. You would think this would create a lot of pressure on USSF to plan towards Pro/Rel. But you’d be wrong.

    Movement of USWNT players to Europe is interesting. Fascinating that a country that dominated the women’s game for so long can’t really field a credible league. Glad there are European opportunities for them.

  4. The Realist Brian says:

    Regarding China: what player wouldn’t want to make $40-$60 million a year for three years? It’s absolutely insane, but the players rightly should do this for their families and for their legacy. China is destroying the world economic soccer order with this, and I’m worried that they have a lot of funny money that’s being pumped into these teams. I don’t know if this is going to improve their standard of soccer, but it could. My view is if a Ronaldo, Messi, Witsel, etc make the move for $$$$$, it opens up a spot for another developing player at Barca, RM, PSG etc that they will bring up. Is it sustainable? Time will tell, and it could go the way of NASL. But the CSL has pro/rel and a population of soccer fans. We will see.
    .
    Speaking of development, China and their President invested in hiring Tom Byers to educate their masses on developing young children ages 3-8 and instituted a program for all their elementary schools to show them ball skills and control. This will have a bigger impact on their soccer culture than buying mega-stars.
    .
    Speaking of Tom Byers: he is speaking at the NSCAA on Thursday and Saturday for any coaches attending the convention. Please make time to attend. The single most important piece that is missed is a players comfort level on the ball, and Tom’s message to parents of small children is spot on and needs to be instituted with using size 1 balls and teaching pull-backs, shielding the ball and using the sole of the foot to change directions.
    .
    Sadly I see a ton of skill videos from older players 9-18 that you can see their comfort level on the ball has never been established at the critical ages of 3-8. So these kids can do fancy step overs unopposed or dribble around garbage cans awkwardly, but it doesn’t translate into the game setting. We need to work with kids younger and get them comfortable on the ball. The vast majority of kids are not and will not be comfortable with the ball at the world standard if we don’t change this in the US.

    • Tom Byers is a very interesting person who has some very strong opinions on player development. If I’m not mistaken, he spent a lot of time in Japan which is known now for the technical skills of their players. Would love to see him involved with US Soccer somehow.

    • I have to agree on big players to China. Why not take a giant payday like that?

    • …everything, everything in its right place.
      .
      Simple messages… anchored around the one simple truth that the game only teaches if a kid is playing all the time with other kids of varying ages… otherwise teachers teach the game. Period.
      .
      I have a coaching friend figuratively writing his own thesis proving that everything US Soccer thinks it knows about youth development at the 6-8 age range needs to be reevaluated. I asked him last night if he has considered this little truth yet and he said, “No.” Probably best not to overthink it
      .
      He’s using set tactical instruction and rehearsed choreographed patterns of play… with 7 years olds- throwing advanced yet simplified tactical concepts at them and they are absorbing the information almost immediately- rehearsing it under zero pressure, then light passive pressure then active pressure and losing games against teams an entire year older 25 lbs heavier 4 inches taller with canons for a shot that no 4 foot kid can stop.. yet otherwise dominating every aspect of the game at times, maintaining pressure, overlapping OB: 5,6,7,8 pass passing sequences through the goalie–its all so beautiful I can barely contain myself watching…. save the scoreboard… but that will change very soon as well. I figure at the rate it is going in about 2 summers these boys could hop on a plane and land anywhere in the world and give any academy team a good game. A beautiful game.
      .
      We’ve talked about this before my friend…IMO the United States of America missed the boat on Horst, really aren’t listening to 3four3– and are missing the boat on Tom too… this comes down to individual responsibility- as the federation can not be expected to lead the way.
      .
      … these messages are loud, clear and dead right. I tell people all the time- watch Bayern Leverkusen’s U8 Academy team play before ever assuming what is or is not possible with 6 and 7 year olds…..Preach away TRB.

      • To be fair, it’s not clear yet that Bayer’s revised youth set-up is going to produce more professional players then they have in the past. Most of their first team talent has been bought and there are other more prolific academies in Germany right now (Schalke, Munich 1860, Mainz, Koln, Gladbach, Bayern, etc). Could this new approach work? Absolutely, but let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.

        Why not strive to emulate FC Dallas?

      • This is my point– Bayern is a mid to upper level club that is not Arsenal, United, RM, Barca… where people could say..oh sure- barca— right!
        .
        Have you seen the Dallas U8 play? Do they even have a team at the age group? How many MLS clubs have U8 Academy teams… I’ve highlighted one coach coaching for a club that is not associated at all with a professional club showing us each week what is possible.
        .
        ….not disparaging anything….simply discussing youth development and what is possible as evidenced by what I have seen and am seeing.
        .

      • Do you mean Bayer or Bayern?

        FCD does have a Juniors programs for players under 10:

        http://www.fcdallas.com/youth/teams/juniors

        I don’t watch youth teams play on a regular basis as I just don’t have the time (I don’t have kids playing either so I miss that connection as well).

        Good discussion, we all want the same thing.

      • German academies are interesting.
        .
        I’m currently reading “Das Reboot” right now and it describes the changes they have made to their youth system as a federation.
        .
        I highly recommend it. Was actually thinking about writing something up about it if I have time – it is that relevant to many of the discussions that pop up here.

      • Yes, Das Reboot is a good read. Bundesliga Fanatic is a good follow on Twitter and wrote an interesting summary of German academies.

        http://bundesligafanatic.com/the-five-best-modern-bundesliga-academies/

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        But, what happens when those kids leave that team or new kids are brought in. When you teach a “system” you are only teaching a system, not skills that one can take forward. I’m not arguing the point, I’m just interested.

      • what what what was that you tried to say…
        .
        only teaching a system? not skills that one can take forward?
        .
        1. there is plenty of attention to functional individual technical skills: passing and receiving (across the body to enhance the next choice) and dribbling (1v1) with functional problem solving moves- no cones incidentally.
        .
        2. they are 7 so we’re not talking about system like I think you are thinking.
        .
        3. they understand how and where and when to find numerical advantage (isolating 2v1) as evidenced by countless repetitions in small sided games especially 3v1 (which is taught specifically to understanding the nature of supporting angle) keep away… and clear attention to positional responsibility… they are not gegenpressing… though actually they kinda are.
        .

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        that makes more sense. I read your first paragraph as running through almost like basketball plays.

      • good stuff. Enjoy the discussion and opportunity to champion my friends’ insight and acumen.

      • The Realist Brian says:

        Great point and I have a story to add: A teammate asked me how my son has developed with his ball skills. Loves seeing the posts on Instagram and Twitter, and he seeks it out to work with his 5yr old. He talked about showing skills vs. the game being the teacher. I brought up Tom Byers, and how in my opinion kids need the invisible hand guiding them to try new moves.
        .
        I asked an incredibly talented and skilled Brazilian on our team how he learned, and he responded that his older bothers, dad and uncles showed him new moves to try on the streets. This is what gave him his edge, his thirst to try new things and ultimately made him a better player. He said that without that “teaching” he wouldn’t have learned the way he did. As you said, playing helps but having that little bit of knowledge passed down goes a long way.

      • And how many American kids have parents that can push them (gently, of course) to try new things, who understand the game enough to work on those skills? Pulisic — with two football playing parents — is no accident. I can see that difference in kids even if they have watched high level football so they know what it looks like when it’s played. Most of the kids on any intramural squad haven’t seen an El Classico or even a Merseyside Derby. I think my kids are the first generation in which that might finally be happening a little bit — where there are actually parents who played and watch the game coaching teams and pushing kids in good direction.

      • Echoing the comments of Brian and Pete above, the sharing of knowledge/love of the game from one generation to the next is critical to the development of soccer in this country. It is not, however, a speedy process. Given our country’s late start, we should not be surprised that the general quality of the game found here in the US has yet to reach the levels played elsewhere.

  5. That Mensah signing sure looks smart…

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