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.

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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.

i want: world f.c. shirts

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World F.C. Champions Collection

If you’ve been around these parts any amount of time, you probably already know of my obsession with soccer tees. My shirt preference is usually to buy from the small-shop designers too, instead of the ones coming from the big boys. That helps to explain why I have a closet teeming with shirts from the likes of Bumpy Pitch, 3nil, Copa, Who Are Ya Designs and of course my own original WSOTP Shop tees. So I feel downright shameful that I haven’t yet picked up a shirt from fellow Ohio-based outfit World F.C. And with their new “Champions Collection” dropping soon, this seems like the perfect time to add to my own collection.

World F.C.’s new collection adds seven new shirts “featuring iconic design elements from the champions of yesterday and today”. I particularly fancy the Boca Juniors and PSG designs from this set, but any of the shirts in the line-up are worth a punt. I’ve been eyeing this Spurs shirt from their other shirts for a while now, too.

Anyway, pre-orders on the new Champions Collection are going on now and will begin shipping soon, so make sure to get your order in soon.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT  |  worldfootballclothing.com

RESULTS: surveying american soccer fandom

“Who is the American soccer fan?” After a wildly successful “summer of soccer” in the States, that’s the question we were asking ourselves here at WSOTP back at the end of July.

Due to the influx of new fans brought to the game because of the World Cup, the face of the American supporter has changed. Casual fans became impassioned ones, haters became lovers and a whole generation of young sports fans were transformed into lifelong followers of the beautiful game. So to help us paint the most accurate picture of what the new average American soccer fan looks like, we put together an in-depth survey to collect as much data as possible.

In all, a whopping 996 soccer fans from across the country completed the survey for us — far more than what we had hoped for, thanks in large part to our good friends at The Free Beer Movement and several American Outlaws chapters for giving it a little push for us.

We shared some of the results of the survey on the first episode of this season’s WSOTP Podcast back at the beginning of August, but also had promised to release more in-depth results at a later time. That time is now.

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pic of the week 8/18-8/24

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Providence Stadium in Guyana

For many MLS sides, qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League is one of the ultimate goals each season. The competition provides a chance to test themselves against the best sides in the region, play in some of the most storied venues in North and Central America and — if they can actually win the whole shebang, a feat no American club has yet managed — an opportunity to play in the yearly Club World Cup. But it’s important to remember that not every ground and opponent an MLS side might be drawn to face is exactly worth all of the hype.

Take for example Portland Timbers’ first round opponents in this season’s CCL: Guyana’s Alpha United FC. Already an oddity in CONCACAF due to the fact that the country is technically in South America, Guyana is also a country where cricket is the first love. And despite Alpha being the three-time reigning champion of the Guyana National Football League, they play their matches in the Bourda Cricket Ground.

However, the stadium itself didn’t meet CONCACAF standards, and thus they have to play their matches at the newer, larger and more modern Providence Stadium. Which is pretty ironic, considering Portland play their home matches Providence Park. Yet despite the upgrade, it still featured a humongous dirt patch — used as the cricket’s bowling and batting area — smack dab in the middle of the pitch. And as the picture tweeted out by Portland owner Merritt Paulson shows, it made for quite the rough playing surface. Luckily, the Timbers still managed to pull off a 4-1 victory in spite of the sub par surface they were forced to make their CCL debut upon.

i want: adidas predator instinct 94

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Adidas Predator Instinct 94

Back in 1994, twelve-year-old me was fascinated with all things World Cup. My parents were awesome throughout the tournament: driving us up north from Ohio to Detroit, purchasing tickets to the games, letting me watch way more TV than I was normally allowed so I could watch the others we didn’t attend. They were even cool enough to purchase me the now infamous denim kit so I could look like my hero Cobi Jones. The one thing they refused to spoil me? The amazingly futuristic boots that had their own tent at the games and were being trod about on the pitch by some of the game’s biggest names: the original Adidas Predators. And rightly so, as no 12-year-old needed a pair of boots that cost $150 — which in 2014 dollars is a now “normal” $240. But that didn’t change the fact I wanted them, and badly.

Fast forward to 2014 though, and the folks at Adidas have given me a chance fulfill my childhood dream by releasing the Predator Instinct 94. One of three retro-inspired boots released by the German athletic giants to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Predator line, all of are built on the line’s latest incarnation, the Predator Instinct. I like them all, but these stand out from the pack if for no other reason than my inner 12-year-old is screaming at me to pick them up.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT  |  soccer.com

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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you wanna talk about progress?

Jurgen-KlinsmannThree years ago this week, the hiring of Jürgen Klinsmann as the new US men’s national team head coach was to be a watershed moment in US soccer history. The German legend was charged with taking a plucky, overachieving American side and turning us into a dominant force in world football.

In his introductory press conference, Klinsmann took the bull by the horns. He pledged not only to help take US soccer to new heights, but also promised to help define and proliferate a new style of American soccer.

“[We want to play] a more proactive style of play where you would like to impose a little bit the game on your opponent instead of sitting back and waiting for what your opponent is doing and react to it… We want to start to keep possession, we want to start to dictate the pace of the game, we want to challenge our players to improve technically in order to keep the ball”

But despite helping the US to escape a Group of Death containing the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portagal, long-time nemesis Ghana and tournament champions Germany, not to mention pushing a Belgian side many fancied as Brazil 2014’s dark horse to the brink… those words have proven to be the noose by which many have tried to hang Klinsmann.

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With Jürgen’s three year anniversary of taking charge of the national team passing this week, the US Soccer Facebook page asked fans to weigh in on the German’s progress thus far.

As of the time of publication, nearly 2600 responses had been fielded. A decent number of them were positive and supportive. But an overwhelming majority of them weren’t.

It was an echoing of the sentiments expressed by many in the wake of the elimination by Belgium in the Round of 16. Too, many of the complaints submitted actually were hollered after the original roster announcement prior to the World Cup when Landon Donovan was cast out in the cold.

“We aren’t any better or worse than when he got here.”

“What happened to the offensive game he promised?”

“He is the reason we didn’t go farther in the [World Cup].”

“There has been no progress.”

A veteran internet user, I should have known better than to go to the comments. While there will always be grains of truth among the mire, it was mostly filled with naive and baseless drivel. Those complaints would be easier to ignore if it weren’t for the fact that they were inescapable. Anti-Klinsmann tirades were voiced on my favorite podcasts, Reddit posts were littered with the same thing, and of course they were all over Twitter, too.

And while I understand everyone’s frustrations at not advancing further, believing that Klinsmann has done a poor job during his tenure in charge is just way too far off base to let go unchallenged.

Where to start? How about with the noose of a quote that everyone keeps trying to hang Klinsmann with.

Yes, he committed to attempting to bring in and define a new American style. It was to be an offensive style of play based on possession. But while everyone is willing to hem and haw over how his side at the World Cup decidedly did not play in that fashion — thus “breaking his promise” — they also outright ignore entire portions of that very same press conference. For example:

“If you play Brazil or Argentina, you might [have to] play differently than maybe a country in CONCACAF.”

What Jürgen so clearly stated here was that, depending on the opponent, it might not be possible to play the way he desires to. If you try to play possession-oriented football against Spain, they’ll likely boss you off the pitch. If you try to take it to the Italians and fail to finish, they’ll probably exploit the one mistake you make on the counter. Even the best sides adjust their standard game plans against top opponents; the Netherlands did so three times in this tournament alone.

Furthermore, adopting a new identity isn’t something that will happen overnight. In fact, doing so in the three years Klinsmann has been at the reins is pretty much implausible as well. And low and behold, he even addressed that point in that press conference as well:

“Barcelona was not born in the last couple of years. It was born, the style of play now, in the early 90’s through Johan Cruyff. It took 20 years for that moment today that we see and all admire. Expectations are always based on what was built over the last 10-15 years.”

Translating that, it would be foolish to think that Jürgen could simply declare “WE’RE PLAYING OFFENSIVE FOOTBALL STARTING NOW!” and then do so with this current crop of players. They were all brought up in the old systems that played to various different ethos and mentalities. This World Cup was evidence of that fact.

Now, I would argue that Klinsmann was attempting to make small tweaks in the direction he wants to take the national team in the lead up to this World Cup. We saw the US men playing in more of a 4-3-3 set up in the tune-up matches, a formation geared towards offensive, possession-oriented play. But as I explained in my defense of Michael Bradley immediately after they were knocked out, that entire Plan A went out the window when Altidore went down because there was no like-for-like in the US pool of players who could slot in to those shoes. Plan B had to be different because of the tools Klinsmann then had at his disposal.

So really, the man’s commitment to changing the US style of play is one that is a more of a long-term goal. Klinsmann spoke at length in that press conference of the need to make vast changes in the youth game to achieve that goal — both at academies across the country and in the youth national team system. At the earliest, 2018 in Russia is where we should see the fruits of those labors start to come to fruition.

Klinsmann and Julian Green

julian green’s presence in brazil helped to lay the groundwork for what could come in the future.

Perhaps ironically, before the first ball was even kicked in Brazil this summer, people were already complaining that Klinsmann was focusing on 2018 too much.

Based on the youthful selections he made, the masses were enraged how the manager appeared to be writing off 2014. Which was a bit harsh. Given the hand we were dealt in the first round, most fans had written them off too. Few supporters or pundits actually believed we had the talent to make it out of a group that featured heavyweights like Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

And yet we did.

However, when Klinsmann “abandoned” the new philosophy of attacking and possession to make a run at actually getting out of the group — a tactic that achieved that feat and proved the doubters wrong, no less — everyone hung him out to dry. Once out and no longer just satisfied with the prospects of “just” advancing out of the Group of Death, many went and moved the goal posts on him.

Did they prefer he stick to his guns and get battered, or did they want him to play to this squad’s strengths and a chance to advance? Style over success? Aesthetics over glory? It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario for the German.

Ultimately, Klinsmann chose the later of those variables. And luckily, it worked out.

We advanced out of a group most countries wouldn’t have, we bled in youngsters who will likely feature in four and eight years time in a system likely to be more offensively-oriented, gained a larger following, and gave the sport a boost it wouldn’t have obtained otherwise.

If you ask me, that’s absolutely progress.

And that’s ignoring that Klinsmann and his staff have also instituted a massive change in our youth set up. Working with — and identifying — the 15, 16 and 17-year-old kids to imprint with the new style of thinking that is necessary to achieve a stylistic change require a total rethink of our approach. They’re the kind of changes necessary for changing the team’s style over a period of time that is far more viable. He’s pushed through a new national training center in Kansas City that heavily focuses on coaching this new style. The new training center also helps to lay the groundwork for the technical skills necessary in that system with a slew of futsal courts. He’s also helped to establish a broader and more comprehensive youth academy system that will implement them as well.

That’s progress, too.

And yet still, a sizable chunk of American fans think Klinsmann has done nothing for our national team, running him through the ringer for a partial quote. They choose to ignore the level of difficulty of the things he’s achieved. And they only care to look at a portion of the bigger picture.

So if you’re one of those throwing the man under the bus for a perceived lack of progress, make sure you open your eyes a little wider and remember that progress isn’t always a matter of wins. And just in case you’ve forgotten, there have been plenty of those, too.

in review: campo retro’s brasil ’14 collection

the germany brasil ’14 shirt by campo.

World Cups have an uncanny tendency to bring out the patriot in us all.

Predictably, that has a knock on effect, impelling many of us to open our wallets to outfit (word choice?) ourselves in the latest team gear to show our allegiance. We wear them to show our patriotism, that we belong and that we’re united in the cause of supporting our boys.

But picking up the latest kit isn’t the only way to show that we care. Many pull out their old kits, too. For some, the old kits represent a hipster-ish desire to show how long they’ve been devoted to the cause. For others, and old shirt can represent a good luck charm, hearkening back to earlier moments of glory. And yet for others still, an old shirt might be their favorite look for their favorite team. Fashion, of course, is in play for many of us too… myself included.

Yet for those who want to rock a retro kit as a fashion statement — but lack one — options are often limited. Acquiring old shirts can be an expensive endeavor, not to mention the pickings are slim. So for those who want to go the retro route for representing their team, but don’t want to spend a fortune to do so, where should they look?

My good friends at Campo have come to the rescue once again, and they’ve done so this summer with an extra special line of retro shirts specifically for the World Cup.

The Brasil ’14 collection. Continue reading