Extra #2: Shep Messing En Toto


Just our luck – the US pulls off a miracle, and we’re going to be on vacation this week. So no new Four At The Back this time around (sorry), but on the second Four At The Back Extra, we bring you our entire interview with former star goalkeeper and current star analyst Shep Messing.

Even if you heard the original show, you will want to listen to this one. Did you know the Cosmos went on strike in 1976? Did you know Shep’s book could one day be a movie? Did you ever hear the story about match-fixing in the NASL? It’s all here. Give it a listen.

Thanks to all of you who have found our little show since we started it three months ago. Our audience is small, but apparently none too bright (kidding, we love you). We’ll be back next week. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to subscribe on iTunes and/or give us a rating or a review. We appreciate it. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Potent Quotables

American midfielder Michael Bradley, after the USA’s 3-0 win over Egypt Sunday that, combined with Brazil’s 3-0 win over Italy, got the US through to the semifinals of the FIFA Confederations Cup:

“All the f—— experts in America, everybody who thinks they know about soccer, they can all look at the score tonight and let’s see what they have to say now. Nobody has any respect for what we do, for what goes on on the inside, so let them all talk now.”

Michael can be forgiven for venting. He scored one of the US goals (on Father’s Day, no less – second straight year he’s done that) to momentarily get the monkey off his dad’s back. No doubt he spends more time online than Bob Bradley does, and he’s been as much a lightning rod for criticism as anybody, given his lineage.

Sunday’s win and the remarkable circumstances surrounding it made for a nice story, but the whole situation is neither as sorted as Bradley fils would have you believe nor as dire as the blogosphere would have you believe.

A good effort against the world’s top national team on Wednesday and a Gold Cup title may momentarily keep the wolves at bay. But the son and his teammates will actually have to go out and do the work and not just talk about it.

Where Does Your Club Rank?

From the Comparing Things You Can’t Really Compare Department, here’s a list of MLS, USL-1 and WPS teams ranked by their average attendance to this point:

Team League G Total Average
Seattle Sounders FC MLS 8 234,909 29,364
Toronto FC MLS 9 181,979 20,220
Los Angeles Galaxy MLS 7 135,085 19,298
Houston Dynamo MLS 8 125,510 15,689
Real Salt Lake MLS 6 92,691 15,449
Chivas USA MLS 8 122,494 15,312
DC United MLS 8 118,491 14,811
Columbus Crew MLS 6 74,501 12,417
Colorado Rapids MLS 5 61,054 12,211
Montreal Impact USL-1 4 48,183 12,046
San Jose Earthquakes MLS 7 82,421 11,774
Chicago Fire MLS 6 70,357 11,726
New England Revolution MLS 5 57,557 11,511
New York Red Bulls MLS 8 91,076 11,385
Kansas City Wizards MLS 7 67,924 9,703
FC Dallas MLS 8 69,429 8,679
Rochester Rhinos USL-1 2 17,039 8,520
Portland Timbers USL-1 6 46,466 7,744
Los Angeles Sol WPS 8 53,486 6,686
Washington Freedom WPS 6 40,021 6,670
Vancouver Whitecaps USL-1 6 31,026 5,171
Boston Breakers WPS 5 24,706 4,941
Chicago Red Stars WPS 6 26,840 4,473
FC Gold Pride WPS 5 21,549 4,310
Sky Blue FC WPS 5 19,048 3,810
St. Louis Athletica WPS 5 18,951 3,790
Charleston Battery USL-1 6 21,936 3,656
Puerto Rico Islanders USL-1 10 33,026 3,303
Carolina RailHawks USL-1 6 18,873 3,146
Austin Aztex USL-1 10 30,191 3,019
Minnesota Thunder USL-1 5 14,555 2,911
Miami FC Blues USL-1 6 9,366 1,561
Cleveland City Stars USL-1 6 8,218 1,370

Let My People Go (Through)!

(Okay, that’s kinda lame, but it’s the best I could come up with before 9am.)

Thanks to a fairly miraculous series of events, the US Men’s National Team advanced to the semifinals of the FIFA Confederations Cup yesterday. Having only the slimmest of hopes after two lackluster performances, the US needed to win convincingly and get help from Brazil. They got both – a 3-0 win over the Egyptians and Brazil beating Italy, also 3-0. to advance on total goals scored (thank you, Clint Dempsey).

“We thought it was our last game, honestly, we just wanted to go out and give a good showing,” said Landon Donovan.

Hey, how about go out and give a good showing when you don’t think it’s your last game? Just sayin’.

Obviously, there are still major problems with this team. I’m not yet about to join the chorus calling for Bob Bradley’s head (Kansas City? Really? If you’ve lost Kansas City, you’ve lost America, coach), but the US team has some work to do. Wednesday’s semifinal against Spain (a team the US lost to, 1-0, in Spain just over a year ago) is one no one expects them to win, but an all-out effort is what fans are asking for (and, quite frankly, what they deserve).

To steal a device from Jeff Bradley, who, I believe, used it seven years ago¬† – let’s suppose the USA’s results at the Confederations Cup happened in inverse order. They’d have opened with a convincing 3-0 win over Egypt. People would have said, “Yeah, but it’s Egypt (as they always do whenever the US beats anybody),” but it would have been a good jumping-off point.

Then they’d have been blitzed by Brazil, 3-0. Hey, it happens. They played poorly, but they’d have had everything to play for in the finale against defending World Cup champs Italy. And despite an early red card, they’d have led the Azzuri 1-0 in the second half before falling, 3-1. Italy would have been throwing everything at them in the final 15 minutes or so, trying to get one more goal that would have booked their passage to the next round, while Brazil would have beaten Egypt 4-3 on Kaka‘s last-minute penalty. The US would have been through to the semis (as they are now), but I think people’s attitudes would be a bit different this morning.

Obviously, things didn’t happen in that order, and you can’t rewrite history. But, just like a match is 90 minutes long, a tournament or a qualifying campaign isn’t over until it’s over. There’s still time for this bunch of Yanks to show that they have what it takes.

Fire Sale

Just received an email to this effect. Hold off until Monday, after the Egypt game, the price might go down some more. Then again, if the US beats Egypt by 7 goals and Brazil beats Italy, we’re in, so you take your chances.

Episode #12: Slammed in South Africa, Rossi, USL-1 and Mount Rushmore Revisited

The plight of the National Team, branding Giuseppe Rossi a traitor, the top team in USL-1 and Mount Rushmore redux are the topics on this week’s episode of Four At The Back.

Dan Loney and I look at the first two games of the Confederations Cup for the US and ask “What’s next?” Also, Andrew Bell of the Charleston Battery and Fox Soccer Channel’s USL-1 broadcasts stops by to talk about his top-of-the-table team and its upcoming US Open Cup challenge. And we look at reaction to last week‘s question, “Who would you put on the Mount Rushmore of American soccer?”

Download the show, subscribe (and rate and review, if you would) the show on iTunes and send us your feedback (either in an email or in the comments below).

EDIT: Between the time we recorded Andrew Bell’s interview and this show dropped, Charleston did suffer its first loss, 1-0 at Puerto Rico, on Thursday night. They still lead USL-1 by a point over Carolina, who has a game in hand.

“It’s not the smoking, Steve. It’s the crapness.”

“They’re always going to be the better team, right? It’s just for us about going out and trying to give a good showing of ourselves because the best team doesn’t always win. Today it did.” – Tim Howard, USA Goalkeeper

I don’t think anyone doubts that. What I think people are doubting is whether or not the US is even capable of a good showing against the really elite teams in the world after today’s 3-0 loss to Brazil that (basically) eliminated them from the FIFA Confederations Cup.

It’s not the result – it’s the ability the US team has displayed. Or lack thereof.

I’m not a hysterical type of fan. I’m not calling for Bob Bradley‘s head (there are plenty of people doing that).

I just don’t know where the players are going to come from. I don’t know who we have who can compete with these teams. I think we’re just outclassed. I’m not sure that’s something Juergen Klinsmann or somebody else is going to fix.

The US lacks a truly great player. No real goalscorer. No truly creative midfielder who can be a game-changer. The team has to rely on strength and guile and teamwork. That can (apparently) get you by in CONCACAF. But not on the big stage.

Enemy Of The State

Should have gotten to this earlier, huh?

Giuseppe Rossi is a soccer player of (seemingly) quite exceptional ability. His two goals led Italy to a 3-1 win over the US in the first group match of the FIFA Confederations Cup on Monday and have led to the 22-year-old from Teaneck, New Jersey being branded a “traitor” by many US fans.

Born in America, Rossi has dual citizenship and chose to play for Italy rather than the US team.

Now, it makes for a great story, obviously. Sport doesn’t work as well without heroes and villains. If Rossi was just some stiff who was barely good enough to get minutes for Italy, no harm, no foul.

But as a really good player, he has drawn the ire of fans who feel that he’s a traitor, that he should have ignored the siren’s song of the Azzurri and helped build soccer in his (actual) homeland, or that he shouldn’t have been able to make that choice.

Continue reading Enemy Of The State

Whittling Down the World Cup Stadiums List

The bid committee overseeing the USA’s push for the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup has pared down its list of potential venues to 45 stadiums in 37 cities (37? In a row?) and has issued RFPs to them. The initial list had a lot of college stadiums and other stadiums that didn’t have a chance in hell of hosting World Cup matches, and this one has a few as well.

  • Atlanta – Georgia Dome (71,250) – Could see it. Maybe.
  • Baltimore – M & T Bank Stadium (71,008) – Potentially.
  • Birmingham – Legion Field (71,000) – Don’t think so.
  • Boston – Gillette Stadium (71,693) – Almost a lock.
  • Charlotte – Bank of America Stadium (73,778) – Possible.
  • Chicago – Soldier Field (61,000) – Would be shocked if they didn’t.
  • Cincinnati – Paul Brown Stadium (65,535) – Potentially.
  • Cleveland – Cleveland Browns Stadium (72,000) – Potentially.
  • Columbus, Ohio – Ohio Stadium (101,568) – Unlikely, I would think.
  • Dallas – Cotton Bowl (89,000) – Not with the other venue in the market.
  • Dallas – Cowboys Stadium (100,000) – You betcha. Could even get the final.
  • Denver – INVESCO Field (76,125) – I could see it, yeah.
  • Detroit – Ford Field (67,188) – Maybe.
  • Detroit – Michigan Stadium (108,000) – Don’t think so.
  • Fayetteville – Razorback Stadium (72,000) – Again, don’t think so.
  • Houston – Reliant Stadium (71,500) – I could see it, yeah.
  • Indianapolis – Lucas Oil Stadium (64,200) – Possibly.
  • Jacksonville – Municipal Stadium (82,000) – Maybe.
  • Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium (77,000) – I could see it.
  • Knoxville – Neyland Stadium (100,011) – Longshot.
  • Las Vegas – Sports City USA (N/A) – Don’t even know what that is, but it doesn’t matter.
  • Los Angeles – LA Memorial Coliseum (93,607) – For history’s sake, maybe.
  • Los Angeles – Rose Bowl (92,000+) – Can’t see why not.
  • Miami – Land Shark Stadium (75,540) – Could see it, yeah.
  • Minneapolis – Metrodome (64,000) – No way in hell.
  • Minneapolis – TCF Bank Stadium (50,200) – Possibly.
  • Nashville – LP Field (69,143) – Could see it.
  • New Orleans – Superdome (70,000) – Maybe. Maybe.
  • New York/N.J. – New Meadowlands Stadium (82,000) – Has to be, yeah.
  • Orlando – Florida Citrus Bowl (65,616) – Longshot.
  • Philadelphia – Lincoln Financial (67,594) – Potentially.
  • Phoenix – Sun Devil Stadium (73,500) – No way. No way.
  • Phoenix – U of Phoenix Stadium (71,000) – Very real possibility, I would think.
  • Pittsburgh – Heinz Field (65,000) – Longshot.
  • Salt Lake City – Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,603) – Very, very very longshot.
  • San Antonio – Alamodome (65,000) – Nah.
  • San Diego – Qualcomm Stadium (70,500) – May not even be standing by then. Love San Diego. The venue, though, I don’t know.
  • San Francisco – Stanford Stadium (50,500) – Can’t see it.
  • SF/Oakland – Oakland Coliseum (63,026) – Nope.
  • Seattle – Husky Stadium (72,500) – Unlikely because of…
  • Seattle – Qwest Field (67,000) – …which could definitely get in there.
  • St. Louis – Edward Jones Dome (67,268) – Don’t see it.
  • Tampa – Raymond James Stadium (65,856) – Maybe.
  • Washington, D.C. – FedExField (91,704) – You’d think Snyder would push hard.
  • Washington, D.C. – RFK Stadium (45,600) – Can’t see it in 9 or 13 years still being usable.

FIFA wants 12-18 venues (we used nine last time around), so no more than half of this list (and that’s just to put the bid together – I don’t think there’s any reason that, should the US secure a bid, they couldn’t add a stadium that has yet to be built). US Soccer will put its list into its final bid proposal that goes to FIFA next May. The sites for 2018 and 2022 will be announced in December 2010.