we’re all grown up

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This is a short excerpt from my first featured post for Football Golazo, the new football site brought to you by UK-based journalist Kristian Sturt (@FootieWriter). To read it in it’s entirety, please click here or click the link at the end of the post.

Jurgen Klinsmann

For years, Americans have predicted American football’s long awaited arrival in the mainstream. But the metrics by which that achievement has been measured are many.

Some believe it can evaluated on international successes such as regular knockout round qualification and a quarterfinal appearance in recent World Cups. Others might cite the tremendous growth in popularity of the US national teams and the professional game overseas. And still others attribute the maturation and expansion of our domestic league as the key indicator. And to be fair, all of those are fair measuring sticks.

But in my humble opinion, it wasn’t until last week’s spat involving US manager Jurgen Klinsmann and Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber that US football well and truly arrived.

That’s right: a legitimate club versus country debate is what we needed to officially declare US football as fully grown up. That may seem a little absurd given how these  generally derided rows are regular occurrences in more established footballing countries. Those headline generators like the the recent quibbling between Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers and England’s Roy Hodgson over the handling of a sleepy Raheem Sterling. Or more seriously, when UEFA threatened to ban an internationally-retired Frank Ribéry if he didn’t turn out for France if Didier Deschamps called him in a few months back.

We’ve honestly never had an actual one of those before in American soccer. Sure, there have been some minor issues in the past — mainly over missing star players when MLS refused to take international breaks. But none of those inspired a national debate in the same way that the verbal quarrel between our national team coach and head of our domestic league has.

Continue reading “We’re All Grown Up” on Football Golazo. →

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renewed crew

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WSOTP - Blog - New Crew.fwIn the world of American professional sports, fresh starts aren’t exactly what I would call “rare”. Nary a year passes without some team in any of the major leagues — MLB,  NBA, NFL or NHL for those who don’t follow other sports — revamping their logo, changing their name, modifying their colors, or even moving cities. It’s a never-ending race to stay modern, current and fresh in the minds of would-be fans.

Major League Soccer has been particularly susceptible to this trend.

Of the original ten teams that still survive — RIP Tampa Bay Mutiny — only Columbus Crew and the New England Revolution still had their original brandings at the start of the 2014 MLS season. We’ve had teams move (San Jose to Houston), teams who have completely changed their names (Dallas Burn to FC Dallas), and teams who have run the gamut (Kansas City Wiz to Kansas City Wizards to Sporting KC AND new colors). Even teams coming in from other leagues (Seattle, Portland, Orlando) have had to give their brands a rethink.

And to nobody’s surprise, Columbus finally decided to join the party.

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EXCLUSIVE: dayton dutch lions moving to cincinnati

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WSOTP - Blog - Dutch Lions Move to Cincinnati.fwAccording to information received from multiple trusted sources, Wrong Side of the Pond believes that the Dayton Dutch Lions will be moving their USL PRO franchise to Cincinnati for the 2015 season.

Rumors place the club leaving their newly minted home at Dayton Outpatient Center Stadium at West Carrollton High School — just opened midway through the 2014 season — and migrating to the Xavier University Soccer Complex. Currently, that facility also plays host to the Dutch Lions affiliate fourth division side playing in the USL Premier Development League.

Multiple attempts to confirm the move with the Dutch Lions went unanswered, as was a request for further information put into Xavier Athletics. Additionally, USL PRO declined to comment on any franchise moves, per league policy.

However, should an impending move 50 miles south actually come to fruition, it would come at the end of a turbulent stretch for a Dutch Lions organization that has alternated between few highs and far more frequent lows.

Established in 2009 as a fourth division USL Premier Development League side before self-promoting to the third division USL PRO — formerly the USL Second Division — in 2011, the Dutch Lions have long struggled to find a firm footing in Dayton and have found success on the pitch equally elusive.

Poor attendance has plagued the team throughout their existence and is likely the primary driver behind a relocation. The Dutch Lions averaged a league-low attendance of 531 at home matches this season, and often times the actual attendance was far less. The club’s struggle to find a permanent home likely contributed to those poor numbers, and a transient history of bouncing around local high school stadiums has made it difficult to establish a persistent fan base.

On-field outcomes have also been rare for Dayton, with a third place finish in USL PDL in their first year of existence being the club’s best ever league finish. But things haven’t gone as well since making the climb up to the third division: they’ve managed only one winning season (2013) and this year finished dead last out of fourteen clubs.

Reportedly, the only income keeping the club afloat comes by way of their youth academy, as club fees collected from each academy member are being at least partially used to help prop up the struggling professional side. Apparently, the Dutch Lions are also operating on what has been deemed “the smallest budget in the league” by a sizable margin. With little match day revenue to add to the coffers, a move South to a potentially more lucrative market would indeed appear appealing.

A move, however, shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.

Speculation of a move to Cincinnati seems to surface nearly every off season around the Dutch Lions camp. And when the organization announced their second PDL amateur side was to be established in Cincinnati just over a year ago, co-owner Mike Mossell — a Xavier Graduate and former player for the defunct Cincinnati Riverhawks — dropped a very telling quote in the official release:

“When Erik [Tammer] and I wanted to start a professional soccer club in the USA back in 2009, Cincinnati was our first choice.”

That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for how the Dutch Lions feel about being in Dayton. Mossel’s ties to the Queen City only strengthen the argument that Cincinnati is where they would rather be setting up shop.

There’s also the matter of the organizations fourth division team, the already existing Cincinnati Dutch Lions, that might lend further credence to a potential move for their flagship franchise. Speculation has been that the placing of a Dutch Lions PDL side in Cincinnati was little more than a litmus test to see how a team might fare playing at Xavier. The lower-division side was able to average 251 supporters per match, hardly a mouthwatering statistic. But, given that there was virtually no media exposure and zero marketing efforts to promote the team, that might be enough to consider it a decent trial run.

While Cincinnati’s larger market and the owners’ original desires to place it there in the first place might be the primary drivers behind a decision to relocate the club, there are still a number of other factors that make it quite the perplexing proposition.

First and foremost is the already mentioned recent move to West Carrollton’s Dayton Outpatient Center Stadium — or “The DOC” as it’s come to be known by the club’s few dedicated supporters. The search for a permanent home for the Dutch Lions in Dayton had been long and arduous, with proposals for a soccer specific stadium failing to gain support from purported communities. The club eventually settled upon yet another temporary home in West Carrollton, where a brand new turf pitch without football lines was laid down in April thanks in large part to hefty investment from DOC’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta upon the completion of a 30-year agreement between the three parties. Should the Dutch Lions leave Dayton, it’s unclear whether that would in some way violate the terms of the partnership and if there would be any ramifications for such a decision.

Additionally, there’s the issue of the club’s youth academy, also based at West Carrollton High School. Though it’s not unheard of for a professional side’s academy to based in a different city, that normally isn’t the case for academies of lower division sides in the US. A move to Cincinnati for the USL PRO team would also leave a far further drive for academy members — normally an easier group to convince to attend — to actually make it to games. As well, it wouldn’t be a stretch either to hypothesize that the appeal of playing for an academy of a team not based in the same city might drop too.

A move to Cincinnati could also cast doubts on the futures of the Cincinnati PDL team and the women’s W-League team that also calls Dayton home.

Ultimately, it still remains to be seen if those or any other hurdles would be enough to block a move South.

Mossell has, of course, dealt with these types of rumors before too. He told Reckless Challenge‘s Chad Hollingsworth in an interview at the time of the Cincinnati PDL side’s announcement that “there are no plans” to move the USL PRO team to Cincinnati as well. But with WSOTP‘s sources now claiming the rumblings are coming from “within the club” as opposed to from outside sources, the ownership’s tune might now have changed.

Will Dayton lose it’s team? While nothing official from the club or league could be obtained, the Dutch Lions’ tumultuous time in the Gem City looks to have finally come to an end.

an interview with professional soccer social worker lawrence cann

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Street Soccer USAIt’s not an infrequent occurrence to hear someone describe soccer as their life.

For many that I know — myself included — that’s a fairly accurate statement. I run a soccer website and spend a majority of my free time watching and taking in the beautiful game. My sister and her husband are both college soccer coaches. A fair few of my friends make their livings training and working for youth clubs. And a privileged few of my acquaintances actually pay their bills by playing the beautiful game.

But it’s a rarity that you ever hear someone talk about how soccer has saved their life. Unless, that is, your name is Lawrence Cann.

Lawrence Cann is president and founder of Street Soccer USA, a non-profit that aims to “improve health, education, and employment outcomes for the most disadvantaged Americans by using sports”. Working most frequently with homeless youth and adults, the program currently operates soccer-based programs in sixteen cities around the country.

Probably best known for the team they send to the annual Homeless World Cup, SSUSA’s biggest project every year is actually the domestic Street Soccer USA Cup. At that, all sixteen cities in the program send a representative squad of program participants to take part in a national tournament.

And as it just so happens, the 2014 edition of the Street Soccer USA Cup kicks off this weekend in San Francisco.

So to help get a better understanding of everything that the SSUSA program and their annual big event does to help the disadvantaged across the country, I spoke with the Lawrence Cann to get the low down on how they’ve managed to use soccer as a vehicle for social change.

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ten words or less #98

bayern are good… like “scary good”. if you don’t believe me, just ask roma.

The waiting game when publishing articles for other sites can be excruciating. I’ve got an article that I finished for one a few days ago, and I don’t know when it will go up. It might be tempting to reach out to the editor of that site and ask when it might go up. But as most writers will attest, you never want to get on the bad side of an editor — at least if you ever want to write for him again. So I wait. “Patiently”.

Luckily, I’ve got this nice links round up for you to keep you patiently waiting for new original content, too.

Del Bosque finally stepping down from Spain post in 2016. – nbcsports.com

How was this NOT a penalty? – youtube.com

I now want Bolton to be promoted so bad. – theoriginalwinger.com

One of the best of the flood of #ThanksLD videos. – mlssoccer.com

Sunderland doing right by their incredibly embarrassed traveling supporters. – bbc.com

The boy who might have jump started American soccer earlier. – wsj.com

Shakhtar’s stadium damaged by a bomb blast in Donetsk. – donbass-arena.com

I wish more MLS teams would do collabos like this. – amongmen.com

Michel Platini wants “white cards” for dirty mouths. – theguardian.com

If I could find a wife, you’d think DaMarcus Beasley could. – soccergods.com

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 10

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 10

I’ll tell you what: there was no short supply of footie talk about in the latest rendition of the WSOTP Podcast. The return of the Premier League had everyone elated, and the guys provided a rundown of all of the highs and lows from the weekend action. Stateside, the rapidly solidifying MLS playoff picture provided ample talking points, as did the recent club versus country debate being waged between Don Garber and Jurgen Klinsmann. Chris is back with his Bundesliga update. The normal weekly segments — Fantasy UpdateWinners & Wankers and Fulham Watch — are all in there, too. And in just in case you missed it when it was tweeted out, Jeremy was kind enough to create a Spotify Playlist with every song we’ve ever used to close out the podcast — in order of appearance even.

Also, remember that we would love for you to send us topics and questions to talk about in next week’s podcast. Get into the mix by shooting us an email to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com, tweeting us or writing it on our Facebook wall using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

you picked a WSOTP scarf, now pre-order it!

Last week, I posted three mock ups on the site to let fans to pick an official soccer scarf design for Wrong Side of the Pond. Well the people — you, our readers and listeners — have spoken, the votes have been tallied, and a winning design for the first ever WSOTP scarf has been selected. And the winner is, with nearly 70% of the vote…

OPTION #1: The WSOTP Hoops Scarf!
WSOTP - Scarf Concept 2.fw

So now that a winning design has been selected, how do you go about getting your hands on one?

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pic of the week 10/13-10/19

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Drone at Serbia v Albania Euro 2016 Qualifier

While the European Championships — to be held in 2016 in France — are often thought to bring multicultural Europe closer together, the latest edition of Pic of the Week illustrates how that’s not always the case. This week, Serbia and Albania squared off in Belgrade in Group I action in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. As you might recall, the two countries have a long, complicated, and often bloody relationship. Tensions between the two are rooted in the conflict involving the former Serbian-province of Kosovo, where Serbia expelled and ethnic cleansed of Albanians and NATO had to step in to stop the bloodshed. And as such, UEFA banned away fans from traveling to either of the fixtures scheduled between the two national teams.

Not content to be totally blocked out of making a statement at the match, a covert Albanian fan flew a remote-controlled drone above the pitch and terraces with an Albanian-themed flag. But when Serbia’s Stefan Mitrović yanked down the flag, the powder keg was officially lit. Albanian players rushed over after taking offence to the action, a scuffle ensued and then Serbian fans began to rush the pitch to attack the Albanians. And after 30 minutes of delaying the match, English referee Martin Atkinson abandoned it.

What repercussions, if any, will come of the event remain to be seen. But you do have to wonder how UEFA — who had prevented Spain and tiny Gibraltar from being drawn together in qualifying — could allow two countries with such deep political tensions to be drawn together.

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 9

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 9

Just because we’re in the middle of yet another international break that’s forced another short sabbatical of the European club game, there was still ample subject matter for Jeremy and D.J. to discuss to warrant another edition of the WSOTP Podcast. So what’s on deck for this week’s episode? The guys spend considerable time chatting about Landon Donovan’s penultimate match for the US national team and the legacy he’ll leave behind. Furthermore, it’s not like MLS went on hiatus. So the guys made room to cover the steadily intensifying MLS Playoff races, including the Crew’s dramatic comeback win against Philadelphia. Speaking of the Crew, some time to was also devoted to Columbus’ #NewCrew logo reveal and D.J.’s experience covering the unveiling event last week — which you can read more about here. Plus, we announced the winning reader/listener-selected design for the first ever WSOTP scarf!

As always, remember to send us your topics and questions for next week’s podcast. If you have something for us, send us an email at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com, tweet it to us, or even write it on our Facebook wall using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

ten words or less #97

Landon Donovan's Final USMNT Match

With tomorrow being the final chapter in Landon Donovan’s US national team book — at least from a playing perspective — many in the sphere of American soccer are busy peddling homages to the man’s career. I’m certainly guilty of it too, though I wrote mine back in August. I had contemplated making this latest edition of TWOL my ten favorite odes to LD, but honestly it just felt like people making the same points over and over. So I scrapped that concept, however I did still manage to include my favorite of the bunch in link #1 below. Nestled below that? A smattering of some of the other excellent reads I’ve come across in the last week and a half.

Enjoy the links, enjoy Landycake’s last ever match in national team colors, and prepare yourself for a full run down on the #NewCrew event in Columbus last night in the next day or so.

Landon Donovan’s biggest obstacle to greatness? His brain. – soccergods.com

These guys built a Pool-Ball table, and I’m super jealous. – facebook.com

Why the USL PRO-MLS partnership is already producing dividends. – mlssoccer.com

Well that’s going to be awkward for United. – telegraph.co.uk

Four MASL clubs decided they’ll play by their own rules. – syracuse.com

The big chance for Indian football. – inbedwithmaradona.com

A cool visualization of the most recent MLS Salary release. – stathunter.com

Hurdles/politics have forced Sacramento to rethink their MLS approach. – empireofsoccer.net

The FA’s poorly thought out revisions for foreign work permits. – weaintgotnohistory.com

Reason #479 why Real Salt Lake are good. – sltrib.com

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 8

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 8

This week’s episode is something of a surprise milestone for the WSOTP Podcast — this is our 50th overall episode! Since neither D.J. or Jeremy remembered that fact until they sat down to record Sunday night, we don’t have anything too special planned for the occasion. Luckily, we get to celebrate by talking about the epic Wenger-Mourinho bout at Stamford Bridge, Spurs getting back on track against Southampton, and Champions League updates. Domestically, we’ll be talking about the intense MLS playoff races in both conferences, the MVP and Coach of the Year debates, Chivas USA’s shuttering/contraction and more Red Bulls drama. You’ll also get your normal weekly installments of Fulham Watch cataloging their plight in the Championship and the guy’s Winners & Wankers from the past seven days. That’s a feast for your ears if you ask me

Also, don’t forget to send us your topics and questions for next week’s podcast, either via an email to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or tweeting us or writing on our Facebook wall using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

goodnight, sweet princes

Goodbye Crew Construction Workers.fwIt’s a weird feeling knowing they are going away forever, isn’t it?

After all, I’ve known the trio for just shy of nineteen years now. There aren’t many who have been in my life that long. If memory serves me correctly, we were first introduced by former Columbus mayor Greg Lashutka way, way back on October 19th, 1995. And though their hardened, steely, cross-armed glares may not appear so to those on the outside, it’s been comforting to have them around over the years — confidently and knowingly watching over us.

Of course I’m talking about the three nameless construction workers that adorn the Columbus Crew’s outgoing crest, as if that wasn’t obvious at this point.

It’s true that some are quite happy to see the hard hats go. They’ve been mocked as cartoonish descendants of 90’s era Microsoft clipart. Some have derided the blue-collar ethos they represent as no longer being representative of the city the team calls home. They are said to no longer capture the spirit of the young, modern professional that the club and league so desperately want to fill their seats. And to be fair, those arguments hold quite a bit of water.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t still lament their impending departure.

This is the only logo my MLS team has ever used; the only face of the organization I’ve ever known. They’re one of only two MLS Originals™ crests that have survived to modern MLS 2.0/3.0 times — the other being the scribbled in crayon logo of the New England Revolution. And as such, I’ve I have a metric crap-ton of special moments attached to it.

The construction workers have presided over some tremendous memories. The guys were emblazoned on the hat that Brian McBride dawned upon being named the first ever Major League Soccer draft pick in February of 1996. They were hoisted up on the facade of the first ever soccer-specific stadium in MLS history in May of 1999. They stared out proudly from the chests of the players who hoisted the club’s first ever major trophy, the US Open Cup in 2002. And they were there too in 2008 as they cast their stern glazes over the lifting of the big one, the Crew’s first and only MLS Cup triumph.

But they weren’t just there in fair weather, as they provided a strong shoulder to cry on in the lean times too.

Some absolute league legends have also been privileged enough to wear these three plebeian workers over their hearts. The aforementioned McBride was joined by fellow notable Americans like Thomas Dooley, Eddie Gaven and Frankie Hejduk. And it would criminal not to mention imported talents like Stern John, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Federico Higuaín. And perhaps ironically, all of those were/are industrious, tireless players who embodied the grit the crest’s occupants conveyed. Even if it was just a team slogan, the players that made the biggest impact here always seemed to fit the “hardest working team in America” mantra.

Columbus Crew Guerilla Marketing #NewCrew

despite the sadness of the departure of our three long-time friends on the old crest, i eagerly await the news of what will fill the yellow spheres scattered around the columbus.

Honestly, it feels a little bit like my dog died: I know I’ll be getting another, but the new one won’t look just like my current one or remind me of all the fun times we had together.

Look, I’m as excited as anyone for the rebrand the Crew will be unveiling this week. The current look is dated and sorely in need of a refreshing. Hopefully the #NewCrew rendition will mesh well with the league’s recent makeover and compare favorably to the newer brands that have debuted recently both inside and outside of MLS. I’m also optimistic the new face of the franchise will better represent the city and fans of the Crew. And my fingers are crossed that it will also give us further indication of the direction that Anthony Precourt and his Precourt Sports Ventures want to take this team.

But I’m still going to miss my guys — even if I don’t know their names. There are too many damn feelings and memories attached to their solemn black, white and grey faces.

Chin up, gentleman: you’ve served us well for nearly twenty years and deserve the (forced) retirement that’s coming your way. Perhaps there’s a warm spot in Florida you can retire to with all of the other brands sunset by the other American clubs over the years. I bet the ex-Wizards of Kansas City would be happy to carpool with you to Orlando next season, if you need a local MLS-fix.

Wherever you end up though, trust me when I say that you will not soon be forgotten. No matter how shiny and well received the new crest is, the three of you will be missed.