Maybe it's a tribute to soccer players-turned-NFL kickers like New Orleans Saints great Morton Andersen and placekicking innovator Pete Gogolak. Or perhaps it's due to some fever brought on by the impending arrival of the Super Bowl. Either way Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and trialist Andrew Weber have taken to kicking a pointyball in the Sounders practice facility this pre-season. They're not too bad but I'd be hesitant to say they're ready for a Lawrence Tynes moment just yet.
Introducing the Depth Chart, a shallow look at the hot topics currently dominating the American soccer conversation.
Has there been a more compelling storyline in 2012 than the intrigue surrounding the Philadelphia Union forward corps?
When Peter Novak drafted UCLA striker Chandler Hoffman in the SuperDraft a lot of people either scratched their heads or surmised that Danny Mwanga was on his way out of Chester. But then Sebastien Le Toux turns up on TV one morning seated next to Tim Ream behind the Bolton bench and just like that opinion shifts to Le Toux being the one with his bags packed.
But like any good drama, take HBO's A Game of Thrones for instance, there has to be a plot twist to keep it interesting, keep everyone on their toes. Today we received two of them: Bolton boss Owen Coyle signaling the end of his interest in Le Toux and news that Mwanga is off on what seems like an oddly-late training stint with Aston Villa.
I love the intrigue, I really do, but what's really going on in PA? Is it that Philadelphia is no longer big enough for the two of them? Is there a tactical switch on the horizon that requires some personnel shuffling? Maybe Novak is ready to throw Hoffman into the deep end?
I can't say what's going on in the heads of the Union technical staff but that shouldn't stop you from taking a guess at what they're thinking; let us know your thoughts on Philly's Game of Forwards in the comments below. I'll go get the popcorn, let me know if anyone gets the Ned Stark treatment while I'm away.
The picture above is from the 2010 World Cup but it speaks to today's must-see TV event: the FA Cup face-off between Landon Donovan's Everton and Clint Dempsey's Fulham (FSC 3pm ET). And just to sweeten the pot, FSC will broadcast the match in HD with "Uncle" JP Dellacamera and Eric Wynalda on the call for this unmissable dual between these USMNT stars.
So if you haven't already called out to work today...DO. IT. NOW. Unless you work somewhere where they don't care or encourage you to watch soccer like the MLS Digital office or in a bar. Surprisingly, both have beer but I think MLSsoccer.com might actually have more flatscreens than a lot of places you go to watch soccer these days; 1-nil to MLSsoccer.com.
This just goes to show you that, if the opposition can sell the alleged infraction, you will always get a card even if the referee is not watching.
Now that Tim Ream has moved on it's a perfect time to look back at the day the unheralded St. Louis University defender came into the league. Check out this clip from the 2010 edition of Inside the SuperDraft and you'll see exactly what went on at New York's table on the draft floor: former RBNY assistant Richie Williams showing some hesitance to take Ream in the face of Sporting Director Erik Soler's confidence in his choice. Read into that what you will.
Also of note is Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes trying to pull one over Soler, a SuperDraft virgin in 2010, by offering to trade his 3rd pick straight up for Soler's 2nd round pick. Nice try at Pete. This is almost exactly like the time my older brother tried to trade me a nickel for a dime because it was "bigger."
There are no vows being exchanged. There's no mutually-owned property. Hell, there's not even a joint vacation booked yet.
MLS and USL Pro's Orlando City certainly aren't in a relationship but they are definitely flirting. In the last few days it's been revealed that Don Garber will be meeting with supporters of "The Lions" in O-town in March, Real Salt Lake have signed Yordany Alvarez from the reigning USL Pro champs and, in a turnabout, Orlando have signed former New York Red Bull John "Lil Wayne" Rooney and striker Matt Luzunaris, who spent 2011 under the employ of the San Jose Earthquakes.
Should you read more into these developments than coincidence?
Probably not. Players move back and forth between the upper and lower tiers of soccer in every country regularly. As for the commissioner he's always game for a town hall meeting with supporters. Last year he did one further down the road in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
So am I saying that MLS will never come to Orlando? Of course not. But you know how it is; sometimes you just have to buy each other a few drinks and dance a little before you figure out if you're right for each other.
Graham Zusi may be a newcomer to the USMNT setup but he's definitely making an impression early on by adding creativity to a midfield that sometimes lacks in ideas. He's also adding goals to the scoreboard which also tends to help your cause.
Check out Zusi's game-winner against Panama tonight; it's a strike so deliberate that if the ball killed someone on the way into the back of the net he'd be charged with murder instead of manslaughter.
Earlier today the Red Bulls announced their latest signing, little-known American keeper Jeremy Vuolo. Where did they find him? The Finnish Ykkönen or first division.
So let's recount the membership of Scandinavian-connected contingent currently calling Harrison, NJ home:
- Sporting Director Erik Soler (native of Norway)
- Head Coach Hans Backe (native of Sweden)
- Assistant Coach Jan Halvor Halversen (native of Norway)
Players: under contract
- Markus Holgersson (native of Sweden)
- Jan Gunnar Solli (native of Norway)
- Teemu Tainio (native of Finland)
- Brian Nielsen (native of Denmark)
- Jonathan Barrajo (spent 2010-11 with Hamarkameratene of Norway)
- Joel Lindpere (spent three seasons with Tromso of Norway)
- Roy Miller (spent 2005-09 with clubs in both Norway and Sweden)
- Jeremy Vuolo (spent 2011 with Finnish side AC Oulu)
Players: unsigned, currently in camp
- Willis Forko (spent 2008-10 with FK Bodø/Glimt of Norway)
Players: unsigned, linked to the club
- Victor Pálsson (native of Iceland who claims to be negotiating with the club)
It's a shame this is all happening with the Red Bulls. Not because these are bad players or anything like that. It's just that if there was ever a club screaming out to have "IKEA" slapped on the front of its jersey this is it; I hate to see good kit sponsorship potential go to waste.
Did you watch the live broadcast of the 2012 All Star game press conference yesterday? Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz was absolutely beaming.
And why not? After all the guy did play a pivotal role in bringing soccer to Philly, even funding the first four months of the endeavor on his personal Amex card, so you'd expect that he'd be as happy as an unmarked forward in the 18 yd-box.
But what about the fans? How do the Philadelphia faithful feel about the league's summer showcase coming to town?
"It's going to be fantastic," says Liverpool native and Son of Ben Mark Jenkinson. "It's great that they're all starting to take place in purpose-built stadiums."
Now knowing where Jenkinson hails from you will be in no way shocked to learn who his choice of dream ASG opponent is.
"Obviously Liverpool," he offers with a laugh, "or any really top-tier club. I'd really like to see East v. West again though. It may not have the draw of playing against a Real Madrid but it's definitely in the spirit of what an All Star game is all about."
He's not alone in his desire to see Liverpool trade in the Mersey for the Delaware River.
"I'd love to see Liverpool, Barcelona of course. Pretty much anyone except Manchester United."
Those are the words of Union fan Kelly Christine Delaney who is something of an all-inclusive All Star game fan.
"I was at the NBA All-Star game when it was in Philadelphia, I was at the MLB All Star game when it was at Veteran's Stadium and I'll be at the NBA All Star game again this year," says Delaney. "It's fun. They always feel like a Harlem Globetrotters game, even the baseball one, because there's a lot of showboating and everyone is there to have a good time. At the end of the night I can go home without being upset whether we won or lost."