Archive for January, 2012

My Soccer Hall Of Fame Ballot

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

For the seventh consecutive year, I’m one of the voters for the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. I’ve made each of my previous six ballots and the rationales behind them public, so there’s no need to change now.

There are 12 newcomers on the 31-player ballot for 2012. Here’s the complete list (*first year): Raul Diaz Arce, Chris Armas, Jose Burciaga Jr.*, Mike Burns, Ronald Cerritos*, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Marco Etcheverry, Lorrie Fair*, Robin Fraser, Chris Henderson, Jason Kreis, Jen Lalor-Nielsen*, Roy Lassiter, Shannon MacMillan, Tony Meola*, Joe-Max Moore, Victor Nogueira, Peter Nowak, John O’Brien, Ronnie O’Brien*, Cindy Parlow, Ante Razov*, David Regis*, Claudio Reyna*, Tiffany Roberts, Thori Staples Bryan*, Carlos Valderrama, Greg Vanney*, Tisha Venturini-Hoch, Peter Vermes and Kerry Zavagnin.*

I voted for seven of those 31 last year, and while I’m not necessarily honor-bound to continue to do so, they’re a good starting point. The seven are Armas, Cienfuegos, Etcheverry, Fraser, Kreis, MacMillan and Noguiera. Meola and Reyna seem pretty obvious to me, which would give me nine. We’re allowed to vote for up to 10, but we don’t have to vote for 10. I’ve gone over most of these people in years past, so let’s take the other 10 newcomers and see if there are one or two deserving folks in that bunch:

  • Jose Burciaga Jr.: Turned pro straight out of high school, and wasn’t ready for it. Came back twice from calamitous knee injuries and was an MLS Best XI pick in 2006. Is still only 30 years old and might be the youngest inductee ever if he made it. I don’t believe he will. NO
  • Ronald Cerritos: The El Salvadoran international is the all-time leading scorer for MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes. He’s already in the ‘Quakes’ Hall of Fame, and I think that’s where it ends. NO
  • Lorrie Fair: Absolutely one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and quite a fine player. Not a Hall of Famer, though. NO
  • Jen Lalor-Nielsen: Played four years for the USA, including on the 1995 Women’s World Cup team (she didn’t see action in the tournament), several years overseas and three years in WUSA. Obviously a fine player. Not a Hall of Famer. NO
  • Ronnie O’Brien: You can say “What if Dema Kovalenko hadn’t broken his leg?” but O’Brien came back from that the next year and was an MLS Best XI player in 2005, when he was just 26. He fell out of favor the next year under Dallas coach Colin Clarke and, despite a career resurgence in San Jose in 2008, just kind of disappeared. He’s still just 33. Good player. Not a Hall of Famer. NO
  • Ante Razov: This is an interesting one. Razov was a gifted goal-scorer (76 goals in 151 appearances for the Chicago Fire, 30 more in four seasons for Chivas USA) who I got to see close up and who I quite liked. I don’t believe he was well-liked by many of his teammates or some of the club’s hierarchy, but if I needed a guy to score a goal, Razov in his prime would be a guy you’d like to have available for selection. He actually scored more goals (in fewer games) than Kreis, for whom I voted last year, and is fourth in MLS history (though his goals-per-90 minutes is behind guys like Roy Lassiter). Became a bit of a journeyman toward the end. I’d be surprised if he got 35% of the vote, but we’ll see. NO
  • David Regis: I think the less said about David, the better. NON, MON AMI
  • Thori Staples Bryan: A great college player who earned 64 caps in a decade spent with the US Nats (and was on the 1995 Women’s World Cup team – starting twice in four tournament appearances and an alternate in Atlanta in 1996). Fast and competitive, she loved the game enough to come back after more than four years away to play in the W-League at 34. Can’t see her making the Hall of Fame, though. NO
  • Greg Vanney: An MLS original, he replaced the injured Armas on the 2002 World Cup roster before being injured himself just days later. Very good defender, hard-working, good guy to have on your back line. Don’t see him in the Hall, though. NO
  • Kerry Zavagnin: A stalwart for the Kansas City Wizards and occasional player for the National Team, his career says solid pro and contributor to championship teams. But not transcendent. NO

So none of the other first-timers are quite there, it says here. That leaves me with nine guys, if I wish to include the players I’ve previously voted for. The only caveat to that is that I’ve voted annually for Victor Noguiera because of the whole anti-indoor thing the Hall has perpetuated. Now there’s an actual Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame (well, it’s virtual for now, but then again, so is the St. Louis Cardinals’, so there), and Noguiera was in the inaugural class (which I’m proud to say I was a voter for as well). I could leave him off this ballot, but I still think he’s one of the very best indoor players ever and should be in this hall, too. So he gets my vote for another year.

Here, then, is my final ballot for 2012: Chris Armas, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Marco Etcheverry, Robin Fraser, Jason Kreis, Shannon MacMillan, Tony Meola, Victor Noguiera and Claudio Reyna. That’s nine. That’ll have to be it this time around.

Your thoughts are welcome.

The 700 Club

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Apparently I’m “soccer historian,” which I’ll take. Though there are others (like Colin Jose, Dave Litterer, Roger Allaway and Steve Holroyd).

Anyway, Milwaukee Wave head coach Keith Tozer won his 700th indoor game Sunday as the Wave beat Rochester 26-10. Just less than two weeks ago, USL asked me if I knew which coaches might have been close to Tozer’s mark, and I didn’t know. As far as I knew, no one had done the research, or kept it all in one place.

So after about 10 days of poring through old media guides, newspaper clippings, videos and audio recordings, I finally came up with a list of every pro indoor soccer coach ever (in all three leagues that called themselves the MISL, the NASL, the NPSL, the CISL, the WISL and the XSL) and found Tozer was more than 200 wins ahead of the next winningest coaches, which turned out to be Ron Newman (expected) and Kenny Cooper (should have expected).

Here’s the list of the top 30, which happens to be everybody who’s ever picked up 100 coaching victories indoors (Baltimore’s Danny Kelly is three away from 100):

INDOOR SOCCER COACH WIN LEADERS
Regular Season + Playoffs, Through 1/29/2012, Active Coaches in Italics
Coach W L Pct.
Tozer, Keith 700 433 .618
Newman, Ron 465 264 .638
Cooper, Kenny 465 370 .557
Liekoski, Timo 352 219 .616
Jago, Gordon 306 277 .525
Popovic, Don 298 185 .617
Doran, Daryl 258 197 .567
Savic, Zoran 257 227 .531
Clements, David 256 248 .508
Turner, Roy 254 231 .524
Dawkins, Trevor 249 198 .557
Geyer, Erich 230 166 .581
Miller, Bruce 176 105 .626
Namazi, Omid 175 125 .583
Polihan, Jim 171 144 .543
Margetic, Pato 168 177 .487
Nicholl, Terry 164 178 .480
Hindley, Gary 157 139 .530
McBride, Pat 139 167 .454
Roy, Willy 132 106 .555
Weller, Keith 132 135 .494
Merrick, Alan 129 116 .527
Hinton, Alan 124 112 .525
D’Ambra, Don 123 121 .504
Kowalski, John 121 114 .515
Fernandez, George 121 117 .508
Wall, Peter 108 182 .372
Roentved, Kim 107 105 .505


Everyone in the top eight won at least one championship (Newman won 10…good luck getting that one). The guy with the most wins and no titles? David Clements who coached the original Kansas City Comets (among others) in the original MISL and won 256 career games but never a ring. At the other end of the spectrum is the guy with the fewest wins who won a championship is former NPSL Commissioner Steve Paxos who fired Trevor Dawkins during the 1988 AISA Challenge Cup playoffs and went 5-0 as the Canton Invaders won their third title.

Incidentally, the worst coaching record of all time belongs to Wayne Jentas, who went 0-16 with the 1992-93 Denver Thunder. The Thunder finished 3-37 as Paul Kitson had a slightly better (3-21) time of it with the one-and-done team.

WTF WPS?

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

WTF?Imagine a bad breakup with someone you shouldn’t have hooked up with in the first place, someone who seemed perfect for you but who belittled you to your friends, was a slob, didn’t pay their half of the rent and utilities and criticized your sexual performance. Now imagine having to have that person spend one weekend a month at your house for the next two years. That’s what’s happening to WPS right now.

Rather than deal with protracted litigation over WPS’ revoking of Dan Borislow‘s magicJack franchise last October (which a Florida circuit court judge said last week had been done improperly), WPS and Borislow have reached a compromise: magicJack will play exhibition games against WPS teams for the next two years, but won’t “really” be a part of the league. This shows you how desperate the other WPS owners were to be rid of this guy – they’re currently playing under another USSF waiver because they have just five teams instead of the mandated eight. MagicJack would at least give them six, but Borislow has alienated his fellow owners and even his own players to the point where the league’s new CEO said she feared the owners might prefer to fold rather than let him back in.

So the team once described as “the Barcelona of women’s soccer” (Distaff Barça, by the way, finished third in the league and lost in the playoff semifinal) is kindasorta back, for seven or eight friendlies (at least a couple in Boca Raton) in each of the next two years. Which means two more seasons of drama for a league that needs drama less than it needs investors.

Our Situation Has Not Improved

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

You may member an indoor soccer team called the Phoenix Monsoon (the one that listed me as its play-by-play announcer despite not actually, you know, consummating a deal with me). This was its maiden season in the PASL, and they had big plans for it. Well, the original owner was out before Christmas and the new owners have changed the name of the team to the Arizona Storm.

The above is what you see when you go to the team’s new website. So, yeah.

“Storm” may be the single most-used name for a soccer team ever. Just off the top of my head, I remember the St. Louis Storm, the Memphis Storm, the Chicago Storm and now the Arizona Storm indoors and the New Orleans Storm, Seattle Storm and Sacramento Storm outdoors. I’m sure there have been others.

Oh, and after winning their first game ever, they’ve lost their last nine and are now on their third home field since Halloween. Surely, things are trending upward.

EDIT: They’ve now noticed their typo.

The Lowdown On Lower Levels In The US Open Cup

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

After hearing the clamoring for years from a vocal minority that changes needed to be made to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the United States Soccer Federation announced a sweeping set of changes to the country’s oldest soccer tournament yesterday.

Among the changes for the 99th competition: the biggest field in the tournament’s history (64 clubs), with all US-based professional sides (from MLS, the NASL and USL Pro) in the tournament proper for the first time; an increased representation by amateur sides; and an increased chance of lower-division sides hosting matches, something traditionalists feel is critical to enhance the charm of the tournament and increase the chance for upsets. Instead of a straight bidding situation to host Cup matches (which has been the case for years), a random draw will take place through the quarterfinals whenever two teams are matched up who both apply to host and who both have stadiums that meet USSF criteria. It’s not a pure 50/50 shot for all matches throughout the tournament, but as long as a lower-division side is interested in hosting and has a decent stadium, they’ve now got a better chance of bringing an MLS team to town.

Today, USSF tells us the lower-division teams are stoked to have a better chance to host MLS teams in the Cup. So I figured I’d look to see how they’ve done, historically, when an MLS team comes to town.
(more…)

The Grapes Of Wrath

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Perhaps had superagent Leigh Steinberg waited for the grapes in the photo accompanying this Chicago Sun-Times story to turn into alcohol, he would have had time to pull himself out of the spiral that cost him millions of dollars.

And, no, there are almost no editors left at newspapers anymore, thanks for asking.

Your Commenting Privileges Have Apparently Returned

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Sorry, I had no idea they’d been turned off. I just thought I was yelling into the wind.

An alert reader hipped me to the fact you couldn’t post comments on here, and it turns out there was a little doohickey that somehow had gotten checked when it once wasn’t and that’s what the problem was.

It’s been fixed now, so comment away.

Taking Attendance: Indoors 1/3/2012

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Back after a hiatus, I present you the latest attendance figures from the Major Indoor Soccer League. As you may or may not know, United Soccer Leagues took over the MISL this season and brought it under their umbrella along with its nascent I-League. The result is a seven-team league that’s averaging right about what the old one was through the same number of games a year ago.

Team
G
Total
Avg.
Med
Hi
Lo
Pct.
Chng
Baltimore 4 23,799 5,950 5,820 8,078 4,081 52.7% -11.3%
Rochester 8 43,749 5,469 5,515 6,997 3,997 48.8% N/A
Wichita 6 22,598 3,766 3,856 4,695 2,700 75.3% N/A
Missouri 6 22,200 3,700 3,640 4,583 2,853 63.8% -4.1%
Milwaukee 7 24,626 3,518 3,242 5,304 3,059 37.0% -6.9%
Syracuse 5 14,549 2,910 2,680 3,670 2,317 47.2% N/A
Norfolk 5 6,027 1,205 1,017 2,347 680 13.8% N/A
MISL TOTAL 41 157,548 3,843 3,500 8,078 680 46.3% -0.2%

Baltimore leads the league, as they have for years, but Rochester is right behind them. Wichita and Missouri, with small arenas (which everyone should have in this sport nowadays) lead the league in percentage of capacity (a new feature many of you have been asking for for years now). The three holdover teams are all experiencing downturns, with Baltimore’s 11 percent drop over the same number of home games as a year ago the largest in the league. The returning teams are averaging 4,154, the new teams 3,622, dragged down a bit by Norfolk. The league overall projects right now (if every team holds its average) to 3,788 for the season, which would be less than last season and very nearly the lowest in the last ten years. Attendance normally picks up after the first of the year (or appears to…it’s largely an illusion because December is such a tough month), so the final average will likely be a bit better than that.