Wednesday, July 23, 2008

TFC @ RSL -- the TLA cup on July 28th

I’ve been giving a lot of attention to the Cougars recently, and I’ll probably do one or two season wrap up posts about them now that their season is over, but now my attention is turning more toward RSL and the rest of MLS. Grabbing my immediate attention, RSL will face visiting Toronto FC in a battle of turf based, recent expansion teams this Monday.

RSL didn’t do too well against Santos in its last friendly, but has a chance to redeem themseves tonight against Saprissa. Their league record has been pretty good of late though, and their defense has been outstanding. With Fabian Espindola returning to the lineup tonight, I think we can look for some offensive spark to be added to the mix.

Toronto hasn’t looked good in league, tournament, or friendly play. They’ve not won a game since mid-June, and have dropped games (including the Canadian championship) to USL teams. I’m sure that pride and passion will be at the fore for TFC when they play in Salt Lake City.

RSL has a chance to pad their Western Conference lead with a win at home, and I think that’s what we’ll see. I think Rimando will extend his unscored upon streak, and that RSL will put a couple of balls into the back of the net, call it a 0-2 final.

RSL will probably need the full three points to stay on top since LA should beat FC Dallas. I don’t think Colorado or Houston will be taking any points from their games this week though, so (hopefuly) we’ll start to see some separation in the west.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vancouver Whitecaps Residency @ BYU

I wasn’t able to watch the game live Friday night, but I did record the BYU-TV broadcast to watch on Saturday. I really wanted to see how the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program looked. I’ve got to say that it’s an impressive program.

For the most part, Vancouver owned the field last night—coming away with a 2-0 win. While the whole team looked good Randy Edwini-Bonsu stood out, with both great speed and nice control. At one point he turned on the jets and made up about 20 yards overtaking a BYU midfielder in front of him.

I’m interested in seeing which other teams (USL or MLS) might start up another PDL level residency program. I don’t know that we’ll see anything for another year or two. If the Whitecaps can capture a couple of solid players I think we’ll see more teams picking up the idea.

While BYU didn’t manage to put anything into the back of the net, they did have some dangerous looking moments. Steve Francis and Zack DeFrancis both had good looks at the goal but weren’t able to convert. Bryan Black started in goal and looked pretty good, his size and positioning worked out pretty well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RSL Reserves @ BYU

Last night was a rarity in soccer, a big game in which the final score didn’t really matter. RSL’s reserves beat the BYU Cougars in the Coug’s brand new Stadium at South Field in front of 3110 fans. Beat is probably too soft a word, RSL’s Robbie Findley put the ball past BYU’s Brandon Gillam twice in the stretch of two minutes midway through the first half, at which point RSL seemed to let off the gas. They continued to play very well in the defensive and middle thirds of the fields, but didn’t look like they were trying very hard in the final third. RSL put a third goal on the board minute when Quinney Varela scored in the 90th.

Oft injured Nathan Sturgis started for RSL and took a knock in the opening minutes, and was off the field by the fifth minute. I saw him at halftime with ice on his ankle, but not looking too put out. Hopefully it’s just a ding and doesn’t affect his return to the senior side or his olympic aspirations.

It was also interesting to see Clint Mathis in the midfield for RSL. A Real staffer I was sitting next to said that he was just a friend of Jason Kreis and was playing to keep in shape for the upcoming European season.

Kenny Deuchar and Robbie Findley both started the game. Robbie looked pretty good, but my first up close and personal view of the good Doctor didn’t impress me too much. His touch seemed off, his passes were often weak dribbles, and he put another nice chance over the crossbar. Hopefully he gets past whatever is holding him back, but I’m no longer convinced that he’s the answer for RSL’s front line.

Mattias Mantilla started in the back, and looked good and not-so-good by turns. By the tenth minute of the game, it was obvious that Mantilla was unhappy with the refs. He seemed to be getting awfully close to a card for dissent at several points in the game. His tough challenges also earned the displeasure of the crowd who were booing his every touch by the end of the game. He did come up with several big plays, but also had a couple of gaffes—misjudging a long ball and letting BYU get control in the backfield at one point in the first half, and being undressed by a BYU player (Jordan Cushman?) in the second.

One last RSL observation, it was interesting to see how intent Jason Kreis was even in the closing minutes of the game. Although he was very gracious in his post game comments (see Drew Daniel’s write-up for Kries’ comments), it was obvious he was ‘on task’ during the game.

On the BYU side of the ledger, they put a lot of players out on the field (working through four different keepers for example). I’m sure the experience was good for all of them, and they all seemed to have enjoyed the night. The usual suspects looked good. Jace Green and Zack DeFrancis both looked as though they might score at several points in the game.

The new stadium looks like it will be a great place for BYU mens’ soccer. The crowd was loud and fairly involved in the game. (They even drowned out the small contigent of RSL fans—at least from where I stood.) I don’t envy visiting PDL clubs, this place has the makings of a PDL fortress.

I also really enjoyed sitting with the BYU-International Spanish-speaking commentators. I loved hearing them call the game, and thought it was cool to hang it with them as they interviewed Javier Morales at the half. Javi seemed to enjoy being interviewed in Spanish, and it was nice to be able to follow along with most of the questions and answers.

Oh, and I’d like to thank Robbie Findley for being very friendly and posing for a picture with two of my former scouts who caught up with him right after the game. Moments like those go a long way in community building.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Good Weekend for RSL and BYU

It’s been a good weekend for the teams I follow. Both BYU and RSL won their games, with BYU claiming the season series over Ogden 3-0-1 and RSL climbing into 1st place in the (somewhat weak) west. RSL’s U-17 team also won it’s final round game against DC United’s U-17 team, earning both the SUM U-17 championship and entry into the 2009 Trofeo Quixote U-17 tournament in Madrid, Spain.

BYU and the RSL Reserves will be facing each other on Tuesday night to open BYU’s new ‘Stadium at South Field. This should be a fun game, and I can’t wait to go and see it. (As usual, I’ll be taking my son—not quite as usual, he’ll be on crutches after dislocating his knee.)

One interesting bit is that RSL’s win put them at 1.43 ppg, good enough for first place in the MLS West, while BYU’s 1.64 ppg is only good enough for fourth in the PDL Northwest and leaves them out of the playoffs. The PDL might be a few steps below the MLS in terms of quality, it looks like they’re ahead of them in terms of competition …

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

US Open Cup 2008: Thoughts after the quarterfinals

Intersting results last night. Crystal Palace Baltimore has to be a huge surprise, even in losing last night they were impressive taking the New England Revolution to penalties—what more could you ask from a USL2 side? I’m also glad to see both USL1 sides moving on (Seattle on PKs over the Kansas City Wizards after a 0-0 tie and Charleston on a 3-1 win over FC Dallas).

I’m not sure how I feel about the USL1 v USL1 and MLS v MLS semi final round. On the one hand, it guarantees an MLS v USL1 final, but it would have been nice to see two usl1 v MLS games in the semis too.

As the semi’s stand, I think we’ll see a very hot DC team beat New England and the MLS-bound Sounders beat Charleston. I’d like to pick Seattle in the final, but I don’t see anyone outside of the Super Liga stopping DC United right now.

Ogden at BYU: July 8th

Tonight I’ve decided to try something new. I’m typing up this blog entry and will post it once I get home (I’d have posted it from here, but I can’t get any WiFi signal here at Haws Field). Hopefully this goes pretty well.

After last weeks loss, BYU coach Chris Watkins talked about using the remainder of the season to get younger players some time as the Cougars build toward next season. Given the rivalry between these two teams you’ve got to think that the grooming process might have to wait for another game. We’ll see how things look when we get to game time.

Okay, BYU’s starting lineup seems like it’s pretty seasoned. It looks like the rivalry trumps last week's comments.

Game starts

At five minutes in, the game has been fairly balanced BYU has had a bit more posession, but Ogde has looked more organized. I still think BYU loses too much posession on the long balls they tend to play out of the back.

Jordan Cushman is taking the right side corners tonight.

Drew took a bit of a knock in the 12th minute, but game back onto the field quickly and doesn’t seem ot have lost a step.

Fifteen menutes in and things are about the same, BYU seems more energetic but not as crisp as Ogden.

BYU is starting to look like they’re getting it together. Their passing is more crisp and they’re winning more balls and creating some chances.

at the thirtieth minute BYU is controlling most of the possession, but can’t put the final touch together. They look pretty solid on defense though, when Ogden does gain control and pressese the attack. Steve Fellows almost put in a beautiful cross by Zach DeFrancis, bu the effort goes just wide.

I can’t tell if BYU’s problems are chemistry or concentration. They show flashes of great play, putting together good passes and nice control, but then drop a cross into a slot without a runner coming on to it.

Ogden puts a nice attack together with about nine minutes left in the hald, but it comes to naught as the shot is over the crossbar. The Outlaws continue to come on strong as time is winding down, they’ve put together three or four good attacks while allowing BYU only one.

Maybe I spoke too soon, with about two minutes left, BYU get’s a great run from Steve Fellows resulting in a corner kick. Derek Taylor gets on the end of it, but puts a header high and left. They take the ball back just past midfield and drive again, only to see a beautiful ball go just left of the goal.

Britton Osborn earns a yellow with a minute left on the clock, but Ogden isn’t able to capitalize. Brit continued to jaw at the ref, and could well have drawn a red.

End of first half.

Overall, the center ref has been a bit hesitant to call anything, but the game hasn’t gotten out of control. Neither team has been able to put their stamp on the game. It's been great fun to watch so far, I'm looking forward to a strong second half.

Second half starts

Ogden has owned the game in the early minutes of the second half, controlling posession and forcing two corner kicks.

BYU is able to take back some possession and go on the attack, though Zack DeFrancis put the final shot wide.

(BYU) Curt Graham goes in for Derek Taylor in the fifty-second minute. The substitution pays of moments later as Curt puts the ball in the back of the net.

0-1 BYU

The Ogden bench is steaming abut what they’re claiming are non-calls. But they manage to put a sitter over the crossbar when it’s dropped in their lap. You can complain about the refs all you want, but you have to make those shots if you want to win a game.

Play has evened out a bit, both sides are attacking well and looking dangerous.

Ogden makes a double substitution, let’s see if it pays off as well from them.

BYU counters with a substitution of their own, brining Steve Magleby on for Jordan Cushman.

Ogden has been on the attack, but is a call or two and a big save from Brandon Gilliam from equalizing.

BYU just dodged a bullet with a goal line clearance on a a shot by Ogden 21. Ogden earns a corner from the clearance though.

BYU subs their captain off, with #26 going on in his place. It looks like a trade for fresh legs and a bit of height.

Ogden equalizes on a beautiful cross to an unmarked Kyle Christenson.

1-1 Ogden

BYU gets it right back on a quick goal by Steve Fellows (assist Brit Osborne). One of the Ogden players had stepped out of play with an equipment problem and BYU struck fast.

1-2 BYU

BYU nearly picked up another goal as Steve Fellows drove a nice pass just beyond a driving Zack DeFrancis.

Another sub on both sides are standing on the side just waiting to be signaled in. BYU’s Zack DeFrancis is coming of and being replaced by Jace Green. While James Jarmillo is being replaced by Zach VanWagenen for Ogden.

BYU misses wide left on a nice shot by Jace Green. Brit Osborn is coming off and Scott Heaton replaces him after the shot.

Steve Magleby is able to take a shot, but it’s a low roller that’s easily stopped by Ogden’s keeper.

BYU has controlled the last 10 minutes or so of the game at the end of regulation. The ref has indicated 3 minutes of stoppage time, and the Ogden bench is going crazy.

Jace Green gets another great chance, but the Ogden keeper is able to touch it wide.

End of game

This was a very fun game to watch. The Ogden coaches and players are obviously still unhappy, but I don't think either team was unduly favored by the ref tonight. As usual, there were more chances left on the field by both teams than potential scoring opportunities lost to bad calls or non-calls.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Interview with James Edward and Michael Lewis

I’ve really enjoyed seeing more coverage of soccer in Utah (although it’s pretty RSL-centric). I wanted to get a better feel for the coverage, so I asked Michael Lewis from the Salt Lake Tribune James Edward of the Deseret News if they’d be willing to answer some questions in a joint interview. They were both happy to respond, and the following is the result:

Covering soccer seems like a dream job to a lot of fans, how did you end up in your positions?

Michael I’ve covered a lot in my 15 years at the Tribune, including college football and basketball, the Jazz and the Olympics. So when RSL came along, it was sort of something new that I hadn’t done. Plus, let’s be honest, they make some great road trips (though we don’t travel much anymore, with the slumping industry and economy) and nobody else really wanted the beat.

James I guess you would say I’ve been in the right spot at the right time each step of the way. I was a student at the University of Utah when women’s soccer was added for Title IX compliance 1996, and I ended up covering the Utes for two years for the Daily Utah Chronicle. That was my springboard to cover high school soccer for the Deseret News after college. Within a few years I’d established myself as the soccer beat writer for the Deseret News, so when the Utah Blitzz came to town that was my beat as well. From there it was a natural transition to Real Salt Lake.

What are the up- and down-sides to covering the game professionally instead of just being a fan?

James One of the reasons I love soccer is the unpredictability of when a goal will be scored, and thus the excitement when it finally happens. In journalism neutrality is one of our main responsibilities. You can’t be a fan, it’s a simple as that. There are times when I would like be excited about Major League Soccer in my home town from a fans point of view, but it’s just not realistic with my job.

Michael The upside is getting to know a little bit firsthand about why coaches and players do what they do, in terms of strategy, in particular. Not many fans have access to those guys, to ask them questions about the way they work. The downside? That’s easy. You can’t go right home when the game’s over; you have to stay and write your articles. Plus, no beer during. Ouch.

It looks like interest in soccer is on the rise in Utah and the rest of the country. What do you see as the next steps for the sport locally?

Michael I don’t know. I’ve grown a bit skeptical of the whole “soccer on the rise” story we’ve been hearing for a number of years now. Not that it hasn’t grown or won’t continue to grow, but I don’t know that it’s going to suddenly “explode” in the fashion that sometimes seems to be expected. Rather, I think the sport’s growth will be more gradual, as it slowly becomes more a part of the culture, particularly with children as they grow up. But the dominance of other sports in the United States is going to make that a very long road, in my opinion. However, if the U.S. men’s national team could ever become an elite team—that is, capable of regularly beating some of the best teams in the world, and not just Grenada and Turks & Caicos—I can see a bit more of a surge happening because of what I presume would be significantly more exposure.

James In actuality, attendance is on the decline for Real Salt Lake this year. If you take away the Chicago and L.A. Galaxy games, and their obvious draws, RSL is averaging several thousand fewer fans than in previous years—despite a better product than those previous years. I think the team is paying past disappointments. Fans are deciding to spend their money elsewhere (maybe on gasoline). There are probably countless reasons why, but Utah is a fickle sports town and fans won’t come if you aren’t winning. And when you aren’t winning local TV stations don’t pay attention, which only compounds the issue. In this market, it’s all about winning.

Since both of you are playing the skeptic card, do you think RSL and Soccer in the US are going to make it?

James As for being skeptical, I’m more skeptical about RSL’s current attendance predicament than soccer in this country. I am a soccer guy, and I believe it’s here to stay. But I just don’t see it becoming mainstream for another 15 or 20 years, until my kid’s generation become adults who are more likely to purchase tickets to matches because they’ve been exposed to it their whole lives. The majority of 40, 50 and 60 year olds in this country have never had any exposure to soccer so it’s completely foreign to them. My generation (early 30s) is much more accepting because it’s been around professionally and therefore we’ve been exposed to it for over a dozen years. I give it one more generation until our U.S. National Team is truly competitive, and MLS is playing in front of sellout crowds almost every weekend.

Michael Certainly, James is right about the waning attendance at RSL games; I do believe they ruined their chance to enjoy a greater degree of public goodwill with a stadium effort that was widely viewed as a boondoggle and a product that was atrocious for three years. I know a number of people who wanted to be fans early on, and bought tickets, but ultimately couldn’t bring themselves to do it anymore, because the team was so bad. That’s an element that might be hard to recapture. I would venture to say that most—not all, but most—people who would identify themselves as sports fans in the SLC market would not call themselves RSL fans.

How do you think the fans will respond to starting the ‘09 season in the new stadium?

Michael Very much like they did with the team itself. I expect a great deal of interest in what really will be a beautiful stadium—for awhile. But after an initial surge of interest, I think fans once again will attend or not depending entirely on whether RSL is any good. Nobody goes to games for the stadium, after all, with a couple of rare exceptions. Once fans get familiar with the new place, the novelty will wear off and the team is going to have to perform to fill it.

James Utah a front-runner town, everyone loves a fad. Beanie Babies, the Cheesecake Factory and the Utah Grizzlies just to name a few. Some anti-stadium people will never set foot in the stadium—until there kid plays a high school football playoff game there somebody and then they’ll forget about their lame boycott—but enough people will come each weekend to check out the novelty of the stadium many nights will be sellouts. If RSL treats them to victories and entertaining soccer, many of them will come back.

One complaint that I’ve heard is that the RSL front office doesn’t do a good job of marketing to the local latino population. How do you think they could improve?

James I honestly have absolutely no idea. It’s clear though that they would prefer to keep their affiliation with a team they can only ever watch on television instead of embracing a team where they live. At the end of the day, the overall level of soccer is comparable.

Michael That’s a good question, and one to which I don’t really have an answer. I’m not a marketing guy, after all. I would posit that even successful marketing might not show a tremendously tangible result here, considering that while the Hispanic/Latino population is growing in Utah, it’s still a small minority. That said, it might help to have some players on the team from Mexico and/or Central America, which I think is the region from which most of our local Hispanic/Latino population originates. In fact, RSL has never had a Mexican player, and its only Central American players of any consequence were Costa Rican—and there were only two of them, now gone. (Currently, I think all of RSL’s Spanish-speaking players are South American, from Argentina or Colombia.) It might also be that local Hispanic/Latino fans are accustomed to a higher level of soccer and/or more educated about the game, and perceive RSL to be a poor quality substitute. Certainly, the results on the field in the first three years could have reinforced that idea. And if that’s the case, no amount of marketing is going to “work.” Winning is the best marketing, always.

What’s your favorite RSL memory?

James For me it has to be that first game ever in New York in 2005. I was fortunate enough to be there, and excitement leading up to that game was unbelievable. It was surreal that an MLS team from Salt Lake City was actually taking the field for the first time. Then there was the weather. The wind and rain were so strong, it was really a comedy of errors. In reality, the game should’ve just been postponed. There were maybe 300 people there watching the 0-0 tie. It’s one of those stories I will always tell, one with a disclaimer that says you really had to be there to believe it.

Michael I think it’s probably the first game-winning goal they ever scored, by Brian Dunseth in RSL’s first-ever home game. Dunseth scored in the 81st minute to beat Colorado, then ran over and lifted the corner flag, theatrically “planting” it again into the turf, as if to “announce his presence with authority,” to paraphrase one of history’s greatest fictional baseball players. It seemed like great theatre at the time—the demonstrative start of a great story—but after everything that has gone on since then, it seems now so laughably impotent.

Other than RSL, what are your favorite soccer teams/leagues/events?

James I follow high school soccer for my job, but other than that there really isn’t time to get involved locally. I've watched the EPL and other European Leagues for several years now thanks to Fox Soccer Channel. I struggled to pick a favorite team until Bobby Convey helped Reading make the jump to the EPL. Now Reading is back in the League Championship, but I'm committed to the core when it comes to being a Reading fan from now on.

Michael I must say, I was pretty new to soccer when I started covering it (can’t tell, can you?), so I don’t have much of a built-in history with the sport. However, I have been to exactly one (1) English Premier League game, at West Ham, thanks to a player who helped my wife and I secure tickets. So I’m a big Hammers guy now, still angry at ManU for taking Carlos Tevez. :-)

If you had a friend that was headed out to his first MLS game, what would you want him to be doing/watching for to have the best experience at the game?

Michael For starters, I would hope that he gets to see his first MLS game at the Home Depot Center, or BMO Field, or somewhere that has a better atmosphere than Rice-Eccles Stadium. That’s half the fun, it seems to me, enjoying the excitement of the fans when they’re really geared up. Otherwise? Geez, I don’t know. The one thing I’ve always told people who ask is that watching soccer live is so much better than watching it on TV, if only because your full-field view allows a much better appreciation for what the teams are trying to do, strategically. You can see the way they try to set up attacks, or get back to defend, or what have you. Much of that is difficult to appreciate on TV. I guess I would tell him to try to appreciate the athleticism involved in doing what these guys do. That’s another thing I think is much better communicated in person.

James This is a tough question. I think everyone watches the game differently. If I had to explain one thing before the game to a friend I would let he or she know that the game might end in a tie. That’s just the way soccer is. Each game represents 1/30th of the entire season, and you have to treat each game as extension of the season. Explain why overtime isn’t played because of a fatigue. Soccer haters just can’t grasps this, but I think it’s because no one’s every explained it to them properly. I think most objective people will understand why a 0-0 draw wasn’t worthless if they have a little background.

Will RSL make the playoffs this year?

Michael Dare I say it? Yes. But just barely.

James That’s a tough one. I will say yes, because you’ve got to think RSL will find a way to win a few more road games. But that stretch in August and September when RSL plays 6 of 8 games on the road, that is going to be brutal. It will definitely make or break their season, which is why 0-0 draws against Kansas City and San Jose have the potential to be extremely costly in the long run.

Ogen Outlaws at BYU Cougars: July 4th

Last night my family and I went to take in the Ogden Outlaws – BYU Cougars game, and watch the fireworks afterward. It was a hard fought game, though the Cougars (who have come to expect to beat the Outlaws) have to be disappointed with their play and the result. With the fireworks show after the game, and then yardwork that needed to be done this morning, I haven’t been able to get to my write-up until now. I was glad to see Drew from the Deseret News was able to get his story done, and Kim Christenson got her press release out on time … sometimes it’s nice not to be tied to a deadline though.

As I watched the teams warm up the Cougars looked more composed, though that’s probably just my bias showing through. I asked BYU coach Chad Sackett about two of his players suiting up for the RSL reserve game earlier that day—forward Zack DeFrancis suited up as a midfielder but did not play, while midfielder Richie Bindrup suited up and played about 30 minutes as a left back. Coach Sackett said:

Well, it’s better for us that Zack didn’t play and I think Richie could play three games a day if he wanted to. But really, anytime these guys can get that kind of exposure, well, that’s why we’re here. Originally, we thought the game would be yesterday but that’s the way things work out sometimes.

I was also able to catch Bindrup to ask him about the difference between an MLS reserve match and a PDL match. He said:

They play at a faster pace, and everyone is more involved. I came in as a left back, but I was able to get up into the attack. The biggest difference is that they just finish their chances. It’s like we played last year.

During the first half of the game, BYU controlled long stretches of possession, earning several corner kicks (and having one goal called back on an offside). Ogden seemed to play a prettier game though with more one touch exchanges moving the ball down the field compared to BYU’s over reliance on long distributions to start attacks.

BYU opened the scoring in the 51st minute, when Richie Bindrup scored on a free kick earned by Zack DeFrancis. Ogden answered with 2 goals in an 8 minute stretch, the first by Flynn Stewart (set up by a free kick taken by Matt Broadhead) and the second on a Matt Broadhead free kick.

As you’d expect in a game where all the goals came from free kicks, it was pretty chippy out on the field with 18 fouls and 6 cautions. I don’t think either side was really happy with the officiating though, as the crew seemed to lose control of the game a couple of times. Zach DeFrancis said that, “It’s always a physical game, this is out big rivalry. Both sides are probably unhappy with some of the calls, and we both started to lose our composure.”

Zach also said that while the team had talked about getting knocked off their game plan saying, “We’ll be working on it.”

After the game, I caught up with coaches Sackett and Chris Watkins to follow up on the RSL Reserve game. Coach Watkins said that the whole team looked tired after running soccer camps all week in addition to Richie playing earlier, and that being tired certainly affected them. Coach Sackett said that he didn’t think Richie and Zack’s involvement in the earlier game affected the outcome of this one because: “There was a whole team out there, not just the two of them.”

Coach Watkins also said: “We’re not a very good team right now. ... In the next several games.” He seems resigned to missing out on the playoffs this year, when asked about his plans for the rest of the season, he responded that “during the next couple of games, we’ll focus on getting some of the young guys in to get them experience.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

DesNews coverage of the Cougs

Hey, it looks like the Deseret News has some coverage up from Thursday’s game. It’s not much, less than BYU’s own press release, but it is something.

I’d love to see more regular coverage of the PDL (especially the local Ogden and BYU teams) in our local papers. If you’d like to help make it happen, drop a line to the Sports Editor, Kent Condon. If he sees enough interest, maybe we’ll get to see some deeper coverage of the PDL to go along side their improved coverage of RSL.

Week Ten in the PDL Northwest

Saturday night, the Cougars will visit the suddenly hot Cascade Surge. BYU has been playing well too, chalking up road wins at Ogden and Spokane. Zack De Francis is continuing to score with a goal in each of the last two games bringing him to a season total of 7 (check out my interview with Zack if you’re a De Francis fan). Brandon Gilliam has been excellent in goal, posting a 0.505 GAA (which would be good enough for 3rd place in the PDL if he had another 150 minutes or so of game time).

This is a tough, but winnable game for the Cougars, and a win could push them into a tie for 3rd place in the division with the Yakima Reds (who face a tough test at the Abbottsford Mariners).

Other interesting games this weekend include a Saturday evening tilt between the Tacoma Tide and the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency and Sunday’s Tacoma Abbotsford and Yakima Vancouver matches. Depending on how things turn out, Monday could see some new rankings in the PDL Northwest. For what it’s worth, here are my predictions:

  • BYU Cougars @ Cascade Surge 1-0
  • Yakima Reds @ Abbotsford Mariners 0-1
  • Tacoma Tide @ Vancouver Whitecaps Residency 0-1
  • Tacoma Tide @ Abbotsford Rangers 1-1
  • Yakima Reds @ Vancouver Whitecaps Residency 0-2

Monday, June 9, 2008

Interview with Zack De Francis

Zack De Francis has been the most searched for name on my blog, and has played a big roll in BYU’s success so far this year. Over the last several days, Zack has been kind enough to trade emails with me to create the interview below. Read on to learn a little bit more about BYU’s star striker.

Right now you’re among the statistical leaders in the PDL, despite having played fewer games than the other players. Looking over your roster page at, it looks like you’re in familiar territory. What do these kinds of individual recognitions mean to you?

Zack Individual recognitions of all kinds have served as motivators in my life. Many times, they serve as milestones. In soccer, I try not to dwell on the fact that I played well for too long. Instead, I feel more motivated to work hard so I can get better and better.

RSL has been known to pick up the occasional BYU player for their reserve squad, would you be interested in doing something like that? What value do experiences like that bring to a player?

Zack First of all, I feel lucky to be part of a program that is connected to a professional organization like RSL. I have been contacted a couple of times to work out and play in reserve games and think it’s a great opportunity. Being in that kind of environment introduces a new level of professionalism and commitment to the game. It’s very exciting. It has also been valueable in bringing me closer to friends I grew up with playing soccer, who are now professionals.

After your last home game, Coach Watkins said that you had velcro on your feet, and were able to create your own chances. What’s your secret?

Zack I feel like there are a couple of things that help me improve consistantly. First, I try to find time to do individual training each week. After evaluating my performance, I try to work on my weaknesses and fine tune the things I already do well. I feel like individual training is equally important to training in a team setting. Secondly, visualization helps me a lot.

Where do you see the biggest opportunity for improvement in your game?

Zack I believe the biggest opportunity for improvement in my game at the moment is getting more shots off, especially from a distance. Getting shots off tests the keeper and keeps the opposing defense honest. It also builds confidence in the entire team when we see scoring chances.

You mentioned evaluating your performance. How do you do that? Do you have video to look at, or are you working from your in-game observations and those of the coaching staff?

Zack Evaluating my performance mostly comes from in-game obeservations. My mind goes over many plays from the game where I made a difference or should have made a difference. The observations include plays where I could have done better and plays where i executed well. My coaches help all of us players recognize areas where we need to improve and spend extra time in training.

Can you walk us through one of your goals this season?

The most recent goal I scored was in Washington against Tacoma. I expected the ball to come to me and it did (in this case it was an excellent pass). At that point, you can sense where the defender, the keeper, and the net is. Then I just hit the ball where the keeper couldn’t get it. It happened without thinking as I had made similar shots in my mind and practiced them hundreds of times before.

The last couple of weeks haven’t gone so well for the team. What do you think the next couple of games (this weekend) hold in store.

Zack The games coming up next week are crucial for us and will most likely set the tone for the remainder of the season. We face two of the best teams in our conference at home and need wins. We will have had two weeks to build confidence in ourselves again and make adjustments to our game. We had our chances to beat both Yakima and Tacoma the first time around, so we are optimistic about our chances at home. Two wins this weekend will require a disciplined effort.

Finally, a non-soccer question. What’s your favorite part of being a student-athlete at BYU?

Zack My favorite part of about being a student athlete at BYU is the unique opportunities that we have in representing the University. We are able to participate in international trips where we play soccer as well as address the local communities. Each team member has the responsibility of speaking to a large group or contributing to the community in some way. I feel like i’m growing in several areas of my life, not just soccer.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

BYU 2 games and 2 wins

Just a short report for now, I'll post more on Monday when I have some time.

The Cougars got a big win (1-5) over the Cascade Surge last night. I was out camping with my scouts, so I didn't get to see it. It sounds like there were some injuries coming out of that game though.

Tonight, BYU took 3 more points in a 1-2 win over Spokane. Zach DeFrancis scored twice tonight, and was easily the man of the match. With three goals over two games, I wouldn't be surprised to see him show up in the PDL team of the week.

Coach Watkins didn't sound like a coach with a +5 goal differential and an undefeated team. In his post-game comments. He talked about the teams need to get better at finishing, saying that the cougars need to work on their finishing and that they should have scored 5 goals tonight. He also talked about a need to improve defensively.

I can't wait to see how BYU does if they're going to improve on this start.

Monday, April 28, 2008

MLS Scariness: 2008 Week 5

Okay, time for another look at MLS scariness. I’ve settled into the formula I hope to use for the rest of the season (I’m not going to go back and recalculate scariness for the previous weeks, but I am scaling the scores down to match the current range). The formula is as follows:

pts (game) + gd (game) + opp ppg (last 5 games) + 1 (away team)
I figure a weighted average over the last five weeks (or as many
weeks as the teams have played) to come up with the current

Enough about math though, here’s the current table:

Team Scariness Ranking Change
NY 4.9 1 (3) +2
CLB 4.14 2 (2)
DAL 3.76 3 (4) +1
KC 3.75 4 (1) -3
TOR 3.72 5 (8) +3
NE 3.49 6 (7) +1
CHI 3.29 7 (5) -2
DC 2.94 8 (12) +4
LA 2.93 9 (14) +5
COL 2.22 10 (6) -4
HOU 1.98 11 (9) -2
SAN 1.75 12 (11) -1
SLC 0.93 13 (13)
CHV 0.9 14 (10) -4

LA and DC moved way up the charts based on lopsided wins. Toronto also moved up, but I think that’s based more on a three game winning streak (man, BMO is looking like a fortress and a great place to catch a game1.)

Chivas and Colorado were the big sinkers. Chivas isn’t playing very well in general and got clubbed by LA, while the Rapids are settling into what I think i a more realistic ranking after some surprising early wins.

My only other thought is that being an RSL fan kinda stinks … oh well, I guess I can always get my kicks watching the ‘Fire Kreis’ folks get wound up.

1 I’ve gotta say, I really envy a young friend who just got called on an LDS mission to Toronto—he was on BYU’s reserve list last year and is going to love being in a soccer hungry area.

USL1 Scariness: 2008 Week 3

Okay, for a first post on Monday morning, I thought I’d put up my scariness rankings for the USL1 (now that they’ve got three weeks of games under their belts. I’ve also settled into a formula for each game:

pts (game) + gd (game) + opp ppg (last 5 games) + 1 (away team)

I figure a weighted average over the last five weeks (or as many weeks as the teams have played) to come up with the current scariness.

Team Scariness Rank
POR 4.27 1
MIN 3.9 2
CAR 3.05 3
ATL 2.88 4
MON 2.25 5
CHA 2.2 6
SEA 1.7 7
PUE 1.51 8
MIA 1.18 9
VAN 1.15 10
ROC 0 11

At this point, Portland is looking like the cream of the USL, unbeaten and untied in 3 games with a +4 goal differential makes them look awfully good. It will be interesting to see how they do in US Open Cup play.

Down near the bottom of the table, Miami and Vancouver are separated by only .03 points, and are ahead of only Rochester (who has yet to play a game).

Don’t look for a USL2 scariness post from me, but I am planning on doing one for the PDL Northwestern conference.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

2008 Week Four Scariness

Last weeks scariness rankings were impacted by an error I made in caclulations … This week I’ve tried to ensure no such wonkiness has occured. This week’s edition also contains a new feature—I’ve added a sparkline-style graphic showing points earned over the last several games (I’ll add a similar graphic showing scariness fluctuations as the season progresses).

Kansas City has really pushed to the front of the pack this week, with Columbus looking like a strong second. The third through sixth spots aren’t as firm.

LA has cemented a place at the bottom of the table, but I think the 7-13 spots will continue to see a lot of flux as the teams build a bigger body of work to be evaluated against.

Team Ranking Scariness
KC 1 13.96
CLB 2 11.25
NY 3 10.33
DAL 4 9.78
CHI 5 8.73
COL 6 8.25
NE 7 7.92
TOR 8 7.88
HOU 9 5.4
SAN 10 5.25
CHV 11 5.18
DC 12 4.73
SLC 13 4.6
LA 14 3.8

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Javi And Kyle TV -- Good Stuff

Okay, I’ve not been one to post other people’s stuff on my blog, but these are just too good to pass up. Javi and Kyle TV looks like a really fun look behind the scenes at RSL. Go on, you know you wanna watch ‘em.

Monday, April 14, 2008

2008 Scariness: Week 3

With three weeks under our belts, the scariness rankings are still looking a little odd, but better than last week. Scariness is calculated from results versus the opponents recent points, and then weighted so that recent results count more than those in the past. Here’s where things stand today:

Team Ranking (LW) Scariness Pts
KC 1 (1) 6.36 7
NE 2 (7) 6.24 5
COL 3 (3T) 6.12 6
CHI 4 (2) 5.18 7
CLB 5 (12) 4.92 6
DAL 6 (6) 3.74 5
SLC 7 (8) 3.68 4
CHV 8 (5) 3.66 4
NY 9 (3T) 3.36 3
HOU 10 (9T) 2.68 2
TOR 11 (13T) 2.4 3
DC 12 (9T) 2.16 3
LA 13 (9T) 0.54 3
SAN 14 (13T) 0 0

Even with the tie, the Wizards are hanging on to the top spot, one of just three teams to hold position along with FC Dallas who look stuck on sixth and the Quakes who don’t look to leave the basement anytime soon.

The Revolution and the Crew rode wins (over Kansas City and Chivas, respectively) to big improvements. The New York Red Bulls were the big losers, dropping six spots on their loss.

One nice thing about this system, is that I don’t have to defend any teams position since I didn’t put them there. I guess I could spend time trying to improve the math behind the system, but that’s a topic for another day.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Week Two in 2008

Well, I managed not to post my predictions before the weekend—I guess that’s what happens when you try to juggle to many things. I had two results correct from the 5 games I called. Here’s what I thought would happen, alongside what really did.

Game Projected Winner Projected Score Actual Result
COL @ KC KC 1-2 2-3
TOR @ DC DC 0-1 1-4
CLB @ NY 1-1 0-2
RSL @ CHV 1-1 1-3
DAL @ HOU HOU 0-1 3-3

I’d called one other game, the Wednesday night game of New England @ Kansas City. I think Kansas City will take this one 1-2, New England has too many players out due to injury or suspension to win this one on the road against a good looking Kansas City.

My scariness rankings are starting to make sense. They’ll really clear up over the next couple of weeks though, at this point there’s juts not enough data. Here’s my table at the momement:

Ranking Team Points
1 KC 4.08
2 CHI 2.48
3 COL 1.92
3 NY 1.92
5 CHV 1.56
6 DAL 1.16
7 NE 0.96
8 RSL 0.8
9 DC 0.54
9 LA 0.54
9 HOU 0.54
12 CLB 0.48
13 SAN 0
13 TOR 0

Scariness is a function of a team’s PPG and their opponents PPG in a weighted moving average. Last year, I was fancier than this, but I’m not sure it really matters.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Team Names

Over at the Soccer Insider Steve Goff wrote (quoting Don Garber):

As for the push in Seattle to name the club the Sounders — something that MLS adamantly opposes — Garber said: “The good thing about team branding is that it involves a lot of people and there are passionate views on different sides of the issue. I believe our league and the sport has come so much further than the days of the NASL. While we have the name ‘Earthquakes’, I am very focused in trying to have our teams look forward as opposed to look back. That’s not taking away from the value of the ‘Sounders’ ... I think there is tremendous history there and a very passionate fan base but I am thinking about what this team is going to be 20 years from now or 50 years from now because that’s how long team brand names should exist.”

The club will allow fans to vote for the club name: Seattle Republic, Seattle Alliance or Seattle FC.

Say what?!? The Sounders name goes back to 1974 … so that’s 34 years of history. How in the world can someone claim (with a straight face) that ‘the Seattle Republic’ or ‘the Seattle Alliance’ positions a team better for the future than ‘the Seattle Sounders’? Throwing away the history and goodwill of the Sounders name is just silly. To choose names like Alliance or Republic instead seems even worse. I guess the good news is that if they choose Seattle FC, the fans can always use the Sounders as a nickname.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

USL Updates

I just saw a couple of articles that update my recent posts on SYL players training with West Ham and BYU’s new soccer facility. In the interest of keeping people informed, here’s what I found:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New BYU soccer facility

Wow! You go away for a week to take a boring HP class (in beautiful San Jose, there are always upsides) and what happens? News of the new BYU soccer facility breaks, of course. On Monday, March 10th at noon, BYU is breaking ground on their new soccer facility. This is really just an expansion of the existing South Field, and will be used by the men's and women's soccer teams as well as the lacrosse team (for televised matches). The worst part of the whole thing is that I'm going to be at work when it happens — sigh — at least I'll be able to watch the progress, and catch some games in the new stands.

Monday, March 3, 2008

2008 BYU Tryouts (Day Three)

Coach Watkins stopped me on Friday evening and told me I didn’t want to miss the Saturday evening (and final) session of the tryouts. He told me the competition was intense and there would be a lot of great soccer on display. With a teaser like that, how could I stay away.

The first two rounds of cuts took the pool of players from eighty-five down to fifty, and by the end of Saturday night, it would have to be trimmed to twenty-five plus six incoming freshmen. After warming up, the players were divided into groups that would scrimmage on a full sized field.

This provided a different look at the players than the reduced field 6v6 games I’d seen up to that point. Some of the players that had looked dangerous on the smaller fields didn’t seem to bring the same presence to the bigger pitch. The palyers with real class continued to shine though.

After two scrimmages, the coaches pulled out twelve players to rotate through a very fast paced series of 3v3 scrimmages on a 1/4 sized field. These were the players on the cusp and they played like they knew it. Jukes and step-overs alternated with blistering shots on goal, quick tackles, and rapid fire passes. Players would come off the field, sweat-soaked, after 5 minutes.

KC John, a high school goal keeper was relegated to the sidelines due to regulations about how many days of tryouts the high schoolers could take part in. He watched the play intently. When I asked him what he thought about it, he responded, “This is just sick, there’s so much going on out there … I just wish I could be out there playing.”

Listening to the returning players on the sidelines I heard the same kind of comments—“Did you see that?” ... “I can’t believe he got that shot off” ... “Wow! That was a rocket.” ... “Did you see that save? How’d he stop that?”

Interspersed among their appreciative comments came an almost constant stream of advice—“Take your shot.” ... “Play into space.” ... “Watch the open man. Pass! Pass!”

The scrimmage also brought out one of the scariest moments of the night, when one of the veteran keepers took a blast of a shot to the face. He dropped immediately, and stayed down for what seemed like forever before being assisted off the pitch by the trainer. Fortunately he was up and around by the end of the session, looking just fine.

There were a number of injuries during the evening. By the time the coaches went off to huddle over their selection process, I counted eight players iced, wrapped, or hobbling around to various degrees. None of them looked too serious but I did overhear comments about not being able to run for a while.

More painful than the injuries though, was watching the final cut. The coaches walked through the crowd of players to post the roster on the doors of the facility, and as they moved away the players moved forward looking to see who’d made the cut. Nearly half of the fifty players who’d started the evening went away disappointed. A couple of the trialists that I’ve been watching survived, two more made a ‘reserve list’, my term, and will in place to join the team later in the year in response to missions, graduations, or other circumstances.

This was my first year of watching tryouts. I was really impressed with the level of play, the camraderie between players, and the kind of effort required of the coaching staff. If you’ve got a PDL team near you, go check out their tryouts—it’s a great way to get a pre-season soccer fix.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

BYU 2008 Tryouts Day Two (Evening)

I ended up catching a bit of the evening session of the tryouts on Friday. At this point, the tryout roster had been trimmed by over 20 players (there are still some big cuts to go though). I was really happy to see that KC, Bryan, and Robert (the three keepers I’d noticed Thursday and Friday morning ) were all still on the roster.

The scrimmages I watched were even more interesting than the others. At this point, they were playing one-touch ball and the player’s skill levels were showing more clearly. There were a number of good plays, and good players, but here are some that stood out:

  • Richie Bindrup (a returning player who earned PDL Team of the Week honors last year) was serving up some nice crosses and was very vocal in organizing the backline and midfield.
  • Ney Augusto Batista, one of the Brazilian trialists, looked like a solid target forward. He played with his back to the goal and made some nice looking shots, including a header that was just wide of the frame.
  • Saul Santos was another good looking forward. He seemed to always be making dangerous runs on goal and nearly scored on a bicycle kick—he beat the keeper, but it was cleared by a defender at the goal line.

I had to leave before the end of the session, so my notes are certainly incomplete, but I’ve blocked out the time to watch the entire final session. Coach Watkins promised that it would be the best session yet, especially the concluding scrimmage.

Friday, February 29, 2008

BYU 2008 Tryouts Day Two

No pictures today, since I made an unplanned stop at the tryouts while dropping my son off for early morning seminary classes. I was only able to stay for 30 minutes or so, enough time to catch two rounds of 8v8 scrimmages. They play two scrimmages at a time, side by side on the indoor field, which makes it hard to pick out all the good stuff that’s going on—it’s awfully fun to try though.

The play was faster and more aggressive today. I was talking to one trialist today right after he’d scored an opportunistic goal on a rebound off the top bar (I don’t see him listed on the roster, so I don’t know his name). He mentioned the increased urgency as well saying, “People are more aggressive today, there’s always someone going for the shot.” Another observer and I thought the players looked like they were getting more confident with each other too, resulting in much smoother play.

I also spoke with Robert Grant, a keeper from Scotland, after the first scrimmage. He made a comment that must be common around the PDL, “I’m tired, homework just knocks me out.” It's got to be hard to juggle playing soccer and keeping up on the classes.

Bryan Black, one of the keepers I wrote about yesterday, was at it again this morning. He seemed to be holding his own, making a tough challenge during the second scrimmage.

Just before I left, I talked to Chad Sackett. He’s not looking forward to trimming the roster down to the 24 player limit. He also mentioned that they’d recruited three high school players to come out, and would have one more slot to fill from the other high schoolers who’d come out.

One final note, I was surprised at how international the trialists were. There were a couple of guys from Scotland, a couple from Brazil, and some from Mexico. It’ll be interesting to see how many of them make the team, and how that will affect the flavor of play this year.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

BYU 2008 Tryouts

My son and I hit the Indoor Practice Facility over at BYU at 6AM this morning to watch the first session of tryouts. It was really exciting to see 70-odd players there, everyone from returning players to high school students looking for a spot on the team.

After a quick briefing by Coach Watkins, the players were split into a number of teams to play a series of scrimmages. Two short field games at a time, plus players in other parts of the building made for a lot of soccer watching opportunities, but not a lot of insight from me. (I’m glad there were multiple coaches there to keep an eye on things and that there will be four more sessions to get everything sorted out.)

One of the players who jumped out at me immediately was #2, Bryan Black (he’s the guy in red in the picture above). Bryan’s a lanky keeper, who’s just come back from two year mission in Minnesota, “not a big soccer hotspot” he said. Bryan’s reach proved formidable to opposing strikers, as he did very well at stopping nearly everything kicked toward his goal.

Another keeper that stood out was KC, a High School Senior. KC was vocal and effective in organizing his defense, this was complemented by some very athletic play including a great diving, twisting save.

Even solid displays of talent in goal by the newcomers won’t necessarily lead to a spot on the team though. Returning standout keeper Brandon Gilliam talked about this being a tough year since there were three returning keepers. The upside to this is that BYU should be able to field an excellent stable of keepers this year.

There were good players at every position at the tryout this morning. Coach Chad Sackett said that with the talent here, the team was probably going to “need to cut three or four players from last year, returning players.” While we were talking about the quality of the trialists, I asked Brian Black if he saw anyone that impressed him, he replied:

There are a lot of good players here, so it’s not really that someone stands out as being good. You can see some little things though. The returning players are a little different too. You could field a couple of good teams with the players here this morning.

Given my schedule, I won’t be able to catch any more sessions until the final one on Saturday evening. I’ll do what I can to keep up on things in the meantime.

Other notes:

  • I saw a small crew from True Blue there to catch the tryouts and talk to some of the players, coaches, and hopefuls. I think this is a good sign for BYU soccer coverage.
  • I also talked to the guys working on a new website for BYU Soccer—it sounds like they’ve got some good stuff in store for fans this year. I’m hoping to start seeing some highlights up on YouTube.
  • The funnest competition to watch was between some of the keepers on the sidelines. There were a couple of balls caught in the rolled up side netting of the facility, and the keepers were throwing balls at them to knock them free.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Wow! I just found out that The Globe and Mail has started a soccer blog called "on Soccer". Their archive only covers February of 2008, while mine goes back to April of 2007. I'm guessing the just didn't know about my blog, but I'll pretend that they're just trying to flatter me.

Since they already have a "Globe on Basketball" blog, maybe they could rebrand their soccer blog to "Globe on Soccer" — just so people don't get us confused.

Friday, February 22, 2008

SYL players abroad

The USL recently released a list of Super Youth League (SYL) players who will train with West Ham. It looks like the list was pulled together by SYL staff based on the players performance at the 4 day U-13 and U-17 camp held in Cocoa, Florida last month.

Here are the players, 10 field players and 2 goal keepers:

Justin Maheu F Ottawa Fury
Fabian Bastidas M Sunrise SC
Ryan Lehman M Atlanta Fire United
Glenroy Chapman D South Jersey Barons
Giovanni Freitas D Sunrise SC
Aaron Liang D Santa Cruz County Breakers
Alan Narvaez D Juventus Sport Club
Renato Pezzulo D Parsippany SC
Antonio Schneider D Chicago Magic
Sekani Sinclair D Schulz Academy
Cody Cropper GK Bangu Tsunami
Cody Mizell GK Atlanta Silverbacks

Given the presence of so many SYL and PDL players in the MLS SuperDraft, it’s probably worth watching these players over the next several years. It will also be interesting to see how many of these players end up skipping the USL and MLS to play in European leagues when they get older.

I’m a little surprised at the number of defenders on the list, but as the program continues through the coming years I think we’ll see other positions show up as well.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Open Letter

I've really liked James Edward's new RSL blog and wanted to pass along the news to James and a couple of the editors over at Deseret News to let them know about it. Unfortunately, the mail bounced due to 'content restrictions'. So I've decided to make this an open letter instead. Here's the message itself (along with the failure message from the desnews mail server).

  This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification

  Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

    jedward at desnews dot com

  Technical details of permanent failure:
  PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 16): 550 5.7.1 Message rejected due to content restrictions

    ----- Original message -----

  Received: by with SMTP id a13mr7307458wff.196.1203580103267;
       Wed, 20 Feb 2008 23:48:23 -0800 (PST)
  Subject: RSL Blog

  I just wanted to send off an email to tell you how much
  I'm enjoying your RSL blog.  I've really appreciated
  the extra coverage of the team during the FL segment of
  their pre-season.

  Too bad you can't make the Argentina leg too, it would be
  great to get the inside scoop on what's sure to be the most
  important phase of RSL's pre-season.  Hopefully you'll be
  able to get some good info from the team.

While I didn't write it in the original email, this seems like a good time to put in an additional plea. I'd love to see the blog (and the Deseret News in general) cover other aspects of Utah professional soccer as well. We're not too far away from the PDL preseason for Ogden and BYU, and it would be great to see them both get better coverage.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

West Virginia Chaos Staffing News

The PDL’s West Virginia Chaos have made a move that looks new to me. I’ve been thinking about the PDL’s impact on the upper level USL leagues and MLS for a while, and this seems like another step in the right direction.

On January 29th they announced the hiring of a ‘international consultant’, Dave Beasant. Beasant was a goalkeeper for a number of english clubs and for the English National team (playing in the 1990 World Cup). With his links to Fulham (as a goalkeeping coach), his move to American soccer seems a natural fit.

What’s really appealing to me is the role that Beasant is supposed to play. Quoting from the press release:

Beasant will take an active role in Chaos camps and with talent evaluation through videos and personal visits to several matches this season that will help the Chaos place players on MLS, USL-1, USL-2, and potentially European teams.

The idea of a member of the FO working as a ‘reverse scout’ or a pseudo-agent is intriguing. It will be interesting to see how many Chaos players end up moving on to more senior sides because of it and how many other PDL clubs start doing the same thing.

In the same announcement, the Chaos also announced the hiring of another Brit, Jack Thompson. Thompson will be a player/coach and the Director of Chaos Camps. He’s 24 and holds a USSF ‘C’ coaching license.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Changing Face of the PDL Northwest

The face of the PDL Northwestern Division is changing. In addition to a brand new team this year (and one more for 2009), there are a couple of new coaches on existing teams. None of these coaches appears to be super well known, but here’s what I know about them.

Cascade Surge

The Cascade Surge have hired Larry Delamarter as the team’s new Head Coach. He has been a High School level coach for the last seven years, being named Coach of the Year for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. His Chieftains have posted an incredible 62-6-9 record over the last four seasons. He also coached the Azusa Pacific University and University of Tampa. (In fact, he coached current Surge President Dave Irby who played at Azusa and later made Irby an assitant coach there.) It will be interesting to watch Coach Delamarter’s transition to the PDL.

h2 Abbotsford Rangers

Last season, Coach Colin Miller joined the staff at Derby County in the EPL. Hehas been replaced by Shaun Lowther. Coach Lowther is a former Canadian mens’ national team player, and earned 14 caps. He played professionally from 1980-1988. He’s also been involved in managing soccer clubs in the CSL. Coach Miller is the only one of the three new coaches to have a page on wikipedia so far.

Vancouver Whitecaps Residency

The new team in the bunch, the Vancouer Whitecaps Residency, has named Thomas Niendorf, Managing Director and Head Coach. Quoting from their site:

Thomas Niendorf is a European coaching specialist who holds a DFB (German Soccer Federation)professional coaching license, and maintains an extensive network of contacts in Europe.

Coach Niendorf has a long history with Canadian soccer. He coached the Calgary Storm (and then Mustangs) of the old A League for a number of years, he also coached in Germany. He ‘discovered’ Owen Hargreaves, helping him get a trial with Bayern Munich when he was cut by the Canadian U17 squad.

It’s safe to say that Coach Niendorf has the best credentials of the three. It will be interesting to see how he does with a first year PDL team.

Victoria Highlanders

Since they won’t start playing until 2009, there’s not much to say about this club yet. Victoria is a great city though, and did well hosting U20 World Cup games. This should be a solid addition to the division. (Not to mention taking the ferry from Port Angelas, WA or Vancouver, BC will make for a fun trip—and a great pre-tailgate party.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

BYU's 2008 Schedule Released

The PDL has released its schedule for 2008. I’ve extracted the BYU games here:

Date Day Visiting Team Home Team Time (MDT)
May 16 Friday Cascade Surge BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
May 17 Saturday Spokane Spiders BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
May 23 Friday BYU Cougars Yakima Reds 8:05 PM
May 24 Saturday BYU Cougars Tacoma Tide 8:05 PM
May 30 Friday BYU Cougars Abbotsford Mariners 7:30 PM
May 31 Saturday BYU Cougars Vancouver Whitecaps 4:00 PM
June 13 Friday Yakima Reds BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
June 14 Saturday Tacoma Tide BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
June 17 Tuesday BYU Cougars Ogden Outlaws 7:00 PM
June 13 Friday Yakima Reds BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
June 14 Saturday Tacoma Tide BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
June 17 Tuesday BYU Cougars Ogden Outlaws 7:00 PM
June 26 Thursday BYU Cougars Spokane Spiders 8:00 PM
June 28 Saturday BYU Cougars Cascade Surge 8:05 PM
July 4 Friday Ogden Outlaws BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
July 12 Saturday BYU Cougars Ogden Outlaws 7:00 PM
July 15 Sunday Ogden Outlaws BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
July 18 Friday Vancouver Whitecaps BYU Cougars 7:30 PM
July 19 Saturday Abbotsford Mariners BYU Cougars 7:30 PM

This year, all of BYU’s games are against conference foes (unlike last year when the Colorado Rapids U23 played at BYU). Ahh, the joys of expansion.

I did see some interesting bits:

  • BYU plays the Ogden Outlaws four times in 2008
  • BYU plays Tacoma and Yakima each twice at home and once away
  • BYU plays all the other teams just twice, once at home and once away.
  • BYU begins and ends their season with Friday and Saturday home stands
  • BYU plays ten home games and only nine away games

This looks like a pretty exciting season. I’m really looking forward to mid-May when I can catch my first regular season game. Who knows, maybe I’ll b able to sneak in some pre-season action too.