Best Quotes this Week:
“I don’t know if you realize just how much this means to the players, to U.S. soccer and to me. I remember the days when the support was less than what it is today. And your support does make a difference.”
Bruce Arena, who briefly spoke at the American Outlaws tailgate party in Nashville Friday night ahead of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup opener against Panama (The Tennessean)
“In training when there was a ball I couldn’t control well, I’d hand it over to be played as if I’d lost it.”
There is constant discussion about how the United States always looks to South America for creative “Number 10” center-midfielders because we haven’t been able to develop them ourselves. Argentinian Mauro Diaz runs the show at FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo are supposedly close to announcing an Argentine center-midfielder of their own. If US youth soccer can find a way to develop players with this mentality it might be a good start.
Interview with legendary Argentinian midfielder Juan Román Riquelme (Pagina 12-translation from Montreal journalist @RoyNemer.
Best article discovered from outside of The Republic this week:
With numerous LigaMX clubs criss-crossing Texas this month prior to the start of the Apertura regular season on July 21 and dual-national FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez throwing his lot in with the USMNT, this is a timely long-form article discussing player development in Mexico.
Other news of interest in Texas Soccer this week:
National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL):
- The Houston Dash lost to Sky Blue FC in New Jersey last Saturday afternoon, falling 2-1 on a goal just minutes from the end of the game. Midfielder Andressinha scored the Dash goal, converting a rebound after her initial shot hit the post in the 40th minute. The Dash are now 2-4-0 and sit in 9th place (in a 10 team league), 6 points behind league leaders North Carolina. The Dash return home to face Seattle today at BBVA Compass Stadium at 3 pm. (houstondynamo.com)
- Four Dash midfielders have been called up to their national teams for games early next month. Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd, who currently is playing on loan in England, for the United States, Denise O’Sullivan for Ireland and Andressinha for Brazil. (houstondynamo.com)
National Premier Soccer League (NPSL):
An article by Nipun Chopra (https://twitter.com/NipunChopra7) on the upper-Midwestern based Soc Takes website discussed the potential of a new Oklahoma City/Norman NPSL team to begin play next year. In the article he spoke with the potential team’s lead owner, Dustin Hooker, who was previously involved in the set up of OKC Energy’s Premier Development League (PDL) side. Hooker stated that the ownership group were in the process of filing a franchise application with NPSL. They currently have a trial team that is playing against other amateur sides in the Midwest and Texas. In the article he alluded to the potential of other new NPSL teams in Texas in the future. Here is a link to the article that provides additional details on stadium locations and the team name:
Premier Development League (PDL):
Part of the mission for the PDL is to bring top players in their league to the attention of USL, MLS and other professional soccer leagues. As a reflection of this mission, one of their brands is “Path-to-Pro”. The league has enlisted the help of 24 scouts across North America, including coaching directors, technical directors and head coaches, to provide the PDL with valuable insight on the top Under-23 performers in the league throughout the season. This feedback forms the basis of a Top Prospects List, which serves as a resource for professional clubs who are interested in identifying and scouting high-level players, ranks players based on their performance within the PDL, their technical and tactical qualities and their potential to play at the professional level. The league published the first Top Prospects List this week (link below of the Top 50 prospects). No players on our Texas based PDL teams were identified on this first list…not surprising given that the all of these teams are new and the season has just started. (uslpdl.com)
National Soccer Hall of Fame (HOF):
- FC Dallas and U.S. Soccer released new renderings and an updated schedule for the Hall of Fame, currently under construction at Toyota Stadium in Frisco. The new timeline projects that the museum will be completed in the Winter of 2018. Other new seating and amenities in the south end of the stadium, which has been closed since construction began last year, will be completed and open next summer. New renderings of the HOF can be found at this link: (fcdallas.com)
- The U.S. Soccer Federation and FC Dallas have hired Djorn Buchholz to serve as the executive director for the National Soccer Hall of Fame at Toyota Stadium. Buchholz has 15 years of experience in MLS, USL (Austin Aztex) and NASL team front offices. He comes to Frisco from Austin, TX where he ran his own soccer consulting firm that provided insight and operational leadership to teams, matches and large-scale tournaments. (fcdallas.com)
- Former Houston Dynamo players Brian Ching and Pat Onstad are among 33 players nominated for the National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Ching retired following the 2013 season and is in his first year of eligibility. He is the Dynamo’s all-time leading scorer with 56 goals in the MLS regular season and 69 goals across all competitions. He led the Dynamo do MLS Cup titles in 2006 and 2007. Onstad holds Dynamo records for shutouts, wins, saves and goals against average. (chron.com)
Youth Soccer Development:
A 64-player roster has been called to Carson, Calif. for U.S. Soccer’s first Boys’ National Team Futures Camp of 2017. The training camp, which consists of players who were born in 2002 and 2003, runs from May 26-30 at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center. This is a very intriguing camp, designed to identify the most talented players in the ’02 and ’03 birth years who appear to be on a later physical development path and/or are born in the second half of the year. Such parameters serve to reduce the impact of physical maturity and relative age effect on identification and evaluation of talent, according to the US Soccer website. Four North-Texas youth players, two each from the 2002 and 2003 classes and also from the Solar Chelsea and FC Dallas Academy clubs were selected to participate. (ussoccer.com)
International Soccer in Texas:
The MoneyGram SocioMX Tour will come to both Houston and Dallas this summer. LigaMX sides Cruz Azul and CF Monterrey will play in Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday, July 2 at 7 p.m. CF Monterrey will then play Pumas UNAM and Cruz Azul will play Toluca in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, July 8 at 6 p.m. (Match organizer press releases)
After FC Dallas and Vancouver’s elimination from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, MLS participation in this competition is over for the 2016-17 competition. Previously, four U.S. based MLS teams and a Canadian MLS team would enter the Group Stage of the 2017-18 version of this tournament later this Fall. Recent changes in the CCL format, however, have eliminated any MLS participation in the CCL until the knock-out Stage of the 2017-18 CCL, which will take place in early 2018 after completion of a new CCL qualifying round among non-US and Mexico clubs.
This change created challenges for US Soccer because, under current rules, there would now be four potentially different teams who will have qualified for the CCL prior to the start of the 16 team knock-out round in addition to the four who had already qualified.
According to Brian Strauss at SI.com, US Soccer has resolved this issue. The four teams who qualified for the 2017-18 round, including FC Dallas, will still enter the competition in early 2018. The 8-team issue created by the CONCACAF format changes will be addressed by having the MLS Cup and US Open Cup champions from this year and 2018 be the CCL representatives who enter the knock-out stages in early 2019. For this season, the MLS Supporters Shield winner and the first place team from the conference opposite the Supporters Shield winner will not automatically qualify for the CCL. The system will revert back to the original arrangement for the 2019-20 CCL.
For this year, as is usually the case, two LigaMX teams, Tigres UANL and Pachuca will contest the final of the 2017-2018 CCL tournament later this month. The first leg of the match will take place on Tuesday April 18 at 8:00 CDT in Monterrey. The second leg will be played in Pachuca on Wednesday, April 26 also at 8 p.m.
Last night Rio Grande Valley Toros (RGVFC) officially opened their new H-E-B Park Stadium in grand fashion with a sold-out exhibition game against Monterrey FC Rayados of Mexico’s LigaMX. Based on past experience watching Monterrey LigaMX teams playing in Houston it is not surprising that this game had a listed attendance of close to 10,000. Monterrey is only a little over 150 miles from Edinburg and there are a large number of U.S. residents from that region living in Texas.
This game also served as the wrap-up to RGVFC’s preseason schedule…one that included the first visit from the parent MLS club Houston Dynamo, a trip to Arizona for a number of RGVFC players to join the tournament champion Houston Dynamo at the Desert Diamond Cup and a friendly match against cross-border Mexican side Reynosa FC. What appears to be the starting lineup saw roughly an hour of action against the Rayados before being completely swapped-out. It also was a final chance for Toros head coach Junior Gonzalez to assess trialists before finalizing the regular season roster.
Monterrey won the match 3-0 score behind first half goals from Dorlan Pabon and Arturo Gonzalez and a 84th minute strike from Celso Ortiz. A comprehensive victory by Rayados was to be expected. Monterrey, one point out of first place so far in the 2017 LigaMX Clausura season, has a roster full of top players many of whom are likely, without specific data to back it up, to individually have higher salaries than the entire Toros roster. In 2012, after winning the CONCACAF Champions League, they advanced all the way to the Club World Cup semifinals where they lost to Barclay’s English Premier League side, Chelsea 3-1. Jokingly, there might have been a late night meeting at LigaMX Headquarters to relegate the Rayados to the second division immediately if they had lost last night! Regardless of the loss, this match certainly was excellent final preparation for the Toros prior to their USL season opener this Sunday against San Antonio FC (SAFC).
San Antonio FC also had a challenging finish to their preseason, falling 2-1 to the FC Dallas (FCD) Reserves last Sunday in Frisco. New signing Aly Alberto Hassan got on the scoreboard for SAFC in the 65th minute after FCD’s Michael Barrios (8th minute) and Tesho Akindele (30th) had scored in the first half to give Dallas a 2-0 lead. Given the depth of their squad, FC Dallas’s reserves, including players like Barrios and Akindele who did not play a full game for the first team Saturday night, provided an outstanding final preseason test for SAFC.
The season opener for both USL teams is Sunday night at 6 p.m. at H-E-B Park in Edinburg.
After an inauspicious start, FC Dallas came back to defeat C.F. Pachuca Tuzos 2-1 last night in Frisco to secure a 1 goal aggregate lead in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) semifinal series, ahead of the return fixture in Mexico on April 4.
The game certainly had a nightmare beginning and immediately brought thoughts of oh no…not again as it relates to MLS-LigaMX CCL matches. In the 3rd minute, Hernan Grana, FCD’s right back, was burned by Pachuca midfielder Erick Aguirre, who then played a cross into striker Franco Jara. FCD midfielder Carlos Gruezo missed an attempt at a clearing header and Jara coolly settled and finished from 8 yards out to take a very early lead.
In an article written by Scott Sidwell after the game on mlssoccer.com, FCD head coach Oscar Pareja admitted that the team was a little unsettled at the beginning of the match. “We got too uptight in the game and it took seven minutes to really adjust to the game and start feeling it. After that the reaction was great.” said Pareja.
That is was. FCD continued their recent habit of coming back in international matches. Grana played a nice ball into the box before the end of the first half that was parried by the Pachuca goal keeper straight to Maxi Urruti, who scored to tie the match.
After falling behind early in the game, FCD had stretches where they took control of the match. FCD defender Walker Zimmerman attributed the to Pachuca slowing their game down. “I think they got a little complacent with their lead”. Even after Urruti evened the score, FCD came out attacking in the second half. The effort was rewarded when Kellyn Acosta converted a picture-perfect direct kick from well outside the penalty box to put Dallas ahead in the 58th minute.
Both teams had opportunities in the remainder of the match. Dallas goalie Chris Seitz was called on to make an excellent difficult save as Pachuca regained momentum after falling behind. Dallas will be ruing the extra-time counterattack they didn’t convert, off a Pachuca corner, when Tuzos defender Raul Lopez’s textbook-perfect goal-saving tackle stripped Aaron Guillen in the penalty area.
The second leg of the semifinal series will be at Pachuca on April 4 at 9:00 p.m. CDT. Despite the challenge FCD will face down there in a few weeks, full credit to them now as last night was the first time a U.S. based MLS team has beaten a Mexican side in the semifinal stage of the CCL.
Photos courtesy of my son, Chris, who attended the game last night.
FC Dallas (FCD) opens their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) Semifinal round against LigaMX side C.F. Pachuca (Tuzos) tonight at 7:00 C.D.T. at Toyota Park in Frisco.
Pachuca, a city of 256,000 people that is roughly 5o miles northeast of Mexico City, is one of the oldest soccer clubs in Mexico. The club has had recent success in international competition, winning our Confederation’s club championship four times since 2002. During that run, they also were the first CONCACAF club to win a South American Championship when they were crowned Copa Sudamericana Champions in 2006. The club is led by goal scoring leader-Argentinian Franco Jara, Uruguayan Jonathan Urretaviscaya, center-backs Oscar Murillo and Omar Gonzalez and legendary 44 year old goalkeeper Oscar Perez. The Tuzos will be missing young Mexican international, Hirving Lozano, who is out with a long-term injury.
Historically, MLS teams have struggled when playing Mexican opponents in the CCL. Since the Confederation club championship was reformatted away from the Champions Cup to a new Champions League competition in 2008, MLS and LigaMX clubs have played each other 18 times in two-legged CCL competitions. Unfortunately, MLS has only won two of these match ups (Seattle in 2012/13 and Montreal in 2014/15). Coincidentally, the LigaMX sides that did lose were Tigres and Pachuca, the two Mexican representatives in this years semifinal.
This year promises to be every bit as difficult as prior years. Last night, Tigres won at home against MLS-side Vancouver Whitecaps FC and took a 2-0 lead into the second leg a few weeks from now in Canada. The Whitecaps were unlucky to give up an own-goal to fall behind in the second half, but to be fair, they sacrificed the overwhelming majority of the possession, rarely threatened and were never really in this game. FCD faces an in-form Pachuca team tonight. After 9 matches they are currently tied for first place in the LigaMX Clausura tournament. Mexican teams have an advantage in this tournament because they are fully involved in their season, while MLS teams have only played 2 regular season games to this point. When this is combined with the significantly higher salary structure of LigaMX, the competitive challenge becomes daunting. Pachuca also comes into this game well rested, because the referee strike in Mexico cancelled all LigaMX matches last weekend.
Despite those advantages, many feel that FCD can be one of the most competitive teams MLS has ever put on the field against LigaMX opposition. The introduction of new spending mechanisms in the form of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) introduced by MLS, combined with funds generated from the sale of Fabian Castillo last summer, makes this Dallas side one of the deepest and most talented in MLS history.
It is important that FCD attacks early to build as much of an aggregate goal lead as possible (also avoiding a Tuzos away goal) because the return leg at 7,900+ altitude Pachuca in early April promises to be extremely challenging, to say the least.
Of note, Omar Gonzalez, a Dallas native and U.S. international, will be playing his first competitive game for the Tuzos in his home state. MLS.com and Dallas writer Charles Boehm has a great story (link below) with interesting background information on how Omar went from his upbringing in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas and the Dallas Texans youth soccer club to the star he has become today.