It's a sad day for women's professional sport in the USA, but crippling news for women's professional soccer in this country. After two failed leagues in ten years, I'm not sure if another one will arise anytime soon.
Giorgio Chinaglia, the former Swansea, Lazio, and New York Cosmos striker and current soccer radio talk host, died in Florida on Sunday at the age of 65. The AP has a long obituary of him here. Frank Glase of the Star-Ledger has a remembrance here. The new Cosmos club -- of which Chinaglia was a highly visible supporter -- has also released a statement.
On these shores, Chinaglia was best remembered for his goal-scoring feats with the NASL Cosmos, scoring 262 goals during his 8-year NASL career, and later for partnering with Charlie Stillitano on The Football Show on SiriusXM radio. Listening to The Football Show today was bittersweet as Stillitano and Neil Barnett were sharing their recollections of Giorgio, along with special guests such as Ray Hudson, Roberto di Matteo, Tommy Smyth and Fabio Capello, yet at the same time it was clear that they were hurting over the loss of their close friend and colleague. Giorgio had some very strong opinions -- he was fiercely critical of Major League Soccer, for one -- and I certainly didn't agree with him often, but he loved the game from the perspective of someone who had spent almost all of his life around it.
May his family be comforted in the days and months to come. RIP, and Arrivederci.
When a politician suspends his or her campaign, it effectively means the end of the campaign. Even if it is restarted, all of the momentum generated has been lost and almost impossible to recover. Sports league operations are no different, and especially soccer leagues in the USA. So the news today that Women's Professional Soccer has suspended operations for the 2012 season is very bad.
Recently retired LA Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter has moved directly into coaching. But to the surprise of many, it won't be in America.
He was confirmed as the new manager of Hammarby IF in the Swedish second division today -- article from the AP is here, press release from Hammarby's website is here (in Swedish). There's also a video of a press conference that introduced Berhalter to the media; I haven't watched it yet but I imagine that Berhalter's answers are in English unless he has some language skills I haven't heard about.
Hammarby won a Swedish league title in 2001 but slipped down the table over the rest of the decade, culminating in an institutional crisis and a relegation in 2009. They've been midtable in the Superettan (the Swedish 2nd division) over the last two seasons. American soccer fans might remember the club as it was here that Charlie Davies' career took off.
There have been a few US managers who have been linked to European clubs in the past, but they have been people like Bruce Arena or Bob Bradley, and certainly not someone like Berhalter with a year's experience as a manager's assistant. But AEG, who own the LA Galaxy, also have a 49% stake in Hammarby, and former Galaxy player Chris Klein sits on the Hammarby board. So Berhalter was able to make use of the connections between his former club and his new one to obtain his job. Nothing wrong with that, but it's up to him to make the most of an opportunity that probably would not be given to him otherwise.
The semifinals set up like this: Wake Forest will play Duke, and Stanford will meet Florida State. (The order of the matches has not been set as of this post.) Stanford has been the #1-ranked team all season, but one could argue that Florida State is the hottest women's team in the country at the moment. The other semifinal will also be a high-wattage match between sides that finished first and fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. (For the record, Florida State finished fifth, but caught fire in the ACC tournament.)
This year's Women's College Cup will be in Kennesaw, GA, about 30 minutes northwest of Atlanta. I bought tickets to all of the matches and I hope to see a lot of people there.
I had been holding off on writing a post on Bob Bradley's new job as Egypt national team manager until there were firm news of an agreement. (The usual busyness with business is another reason.) Bradley had been linked with foreign jobs before, but those links appeared to be ephemeral. So when Bradley received overtures from the Egyptian national team and Santos Laguna, US soccer observers could be forgiven for feeling incredulous. In the end, the Santos position whose negotiations at one point appeared to be "80% complete" fell through, and the Egyptian federation's overture proved to be genuine. Bradley is now the new head coach of Egypt, and his tenure will start in earnest when Egypt play Brazil in Qatar on 14 November.
A look at Jürgen Klinsmann's selection list for the USA friendly match vs Mexico reveals a high level of turnover from the squad that faced Mexico in the Gold Cup final. Some of the changes were forced by injury (Zach Loyd), others by the start of the European domestic season (Clint Dempsey) or by players' unsettled situations at their clubs (Michael Bradley). Nevertheless, it looks like Klinsmann is attempting to groom the next generation of the national team at every generic position.
The inclusion of DC United's Bill Hamid is a case in point. Hahnemann is too old to be thought of as a replacement for Tim Howard, and Nick Rimando is a quality keeper but approximately the same age as Howard. I'm interested in seeing how Hamid makes the transition from MLS to international play, and hopefully he will get to play half of the match tomorrow night.
The most intriguing selections are on the defensive line which has seen the highest level of turnover. Bornstein, Lichaj, Onyewu, and Spector have been placed on the sidelines and Loyd, Orozco, Pearce and Castillo brought in. Klinsmann will be the latest coach who will try to find a regular starter at left back and it appears that he will look to Pearce and Castillo to fill that role.
The midfield sees the return of Kyle Beckerman and Ricardo Clark from varying degrees of exile from the national team. Beckerman has been arguably the best American midfielder in Major League Soccer over the past two seasons but found it difficult to get a call during the Bradley era. It will be very interesting to see how he is used in the midfield and how he performs.
The forward line has also experienced some turnover, not just with call-ups but also players shifting position. Adu remains in the squad but listed as a forward, as are Beasley and Donovan. Klinsmann has also decided to give another look to Buddle, who had a moderately successful first season at Ingolstadt. One surprising omission was Chris Wondolowski, who is having another good year for the SJ Earthquakes, but perhaps Klinsmann will select him for one of the two friendlies in September.
Another selection list that has drawn interest has been Klinsmann's coaching staff for this game. The selection of Martín Vázquez was not at all a surprise since he has worked with Klinsmann at Bayern Munich. Mark Verstegen (Athletes' Performance) worked with Klinsmann when he was the German national team coach and is well-known for his individualized training programs for pro and amateur athletes. (His facility in the Phoenix area is really fantastic.) Tomorrow's match also sees the return of Thomas Dooley and Tab Ramos to the USA sidelines and the incorporation of Claudio Reyna as a liaison between the senior team and the junior national teams.
With the exception of Hamid the player pool hasn't expanded all that much, although there are players called up who have not been selected for the national team in quite some time. The real changes to the national team, at least in the short term, will be in its interaction with the junior national teams.
Bob Bradley was never anyone's first choice for the US men's national team, but nevertheless I have been a defender of him since he was installed in his post. I felt that the national team had made some positive improvements under his leadership during the 2010 qualifying cycle, while at the same time being aware of his limitations. I try not to be one who overreacts to individual match results (I'm aware that I'm not always successful at this), and I do not believe that abrupt changes to the manager creates an improvement in a team in the medium- to long-term.