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Soccer Culture

11 April 6:17 pm

The latest list released by fashion magazine Cosmpolitan is sure to cause banter, discussion and laughs in MLS locker rooms across the country.

“Hottest Major League Soccer Players,” is a photo gallery Cosmo has put together, showcasing the 19 sexiest players to grace MLS.

Click here to check out the full gallery

There are sure to be a few MLSers flicking through this gallery hoping to see themselves, but they are sure to be sorely disappointed as only one player from each club was selected.

Household name David Beckham makes the list, (I can already hear the ladies sighing and saying, “Obviously”) but other players looking suave and seductive include the chiseled Chris Wondolowski, Stephen Keel with his endless golden locks, and Montreal rookie Andrew Wenger sporting a textbook smile with a slicked-back hair style.

The photo captions alone are worth checking out. This gem about David Estrada may be the pick of the bunch:

“If recent games are any indication, this Seattle Sounders forward really knows how to score.”

09 April 10:08 am

Behold: The jerseys for Euro 2012 have been released. And there are many sashes.

The US men's national team made waves before the 2010 World Cup by reintroducing a sash to their jerseys in homage to the 1950 team that famously beat England. And while it's not exactly unique – teams like Trinidad and Tobago and Peru have been rocking the sash for years – it's not exactly standard fare.

So from whence come the sashes? This is undoubtedly jingoistic, biased, and self-aggrandizing, but I tend to think that the US brought the design back into vogue.

Which would also mark the first time that Europeans have ever taken fashion advice from Americans. Give yourselves a pat on the back, readers.

I, for one, feel pretty good about it. I like the sash on the US jerseys. I think they'll look good at Euro 2012. Undoubtedly, you feel differently. And... discuss!

06 April 5:34 pm

You may have noticed that this Saturday's match between the Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls has shifted from Galavision to Univision Deportes.

The reason for that is that the Univision Deportes Network, the new all-sports network from Univision, is set to kick off on Saturday on DishLATINO and DISH’s America’s Top 200. The new network launches at 3 pm ET on Saturday with a live broadcast of New York's visit to Crew Stadium and will also air the Red Bulls match against Chivas USA on May 23. Viewers can also watch the Crew and Red Bulls' meeting on MLS LIVE outside the Columbus and New York areas.

“We have created a programming lineup that will connect and inform sports fans all day long on the teams and leagues they follow so passionately,” said Eric Conrad, vice president of Programming, Univision Deportes. “Univision has been bringing many of the most-watched matches to Hispanic viewers for 50 years and created Univision Deportes Network to bring expanded access to the content we know our viewers can’t get enough of. And through our partnership with Televisa, we are now able to offer U.S. audiences access to even more sports content.”

Univision Deportes Network’s launch day schedule for Saturday includes:
 
3 p.m. – 5 p.m. ET                 Major League Soccer: Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls
5 p.m. – 7 p.m. ET                 Solo Boxeo Tecate: Special Edition
7 p.m. – 8 p.m. ET                 “Futbol Central”
8 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET               Liga Mexicana: Santos vs. Estudiantes Tecos
1 p.m. – 12 a.m. ET               Liga Mexicana: Monterrey vs. Tigres de la UANL
12 a.m. – 1 a.m. ET               “Univision Deportes Extra”

06 April 4:51 pm

With the Twitter world working overtime during the MLS season, every Friday we'll post five of the most inventive and interesting tweets from the North American soccer community from the previous week.

The best snippets of entertainment, knowledge and intrigue from inside the world of North American soccer will be displayed here, so be sure to keep up to date on what the players, coaches and journalists are tweeting about.

In our first week, we see how SI.com's Grant Wahl is having pet issues, USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann addresses his squad and an MLS star enjoys early morning word puzzles.

Don't forget to follow our two official Twitter handles to find out the latest from inside MLS   

So here they are: our five favorites from soccer's Twitterati:

06 April 12:51 pm

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

With the exception of Shaquille O'Neal – known to some as the Big Aristotle – pro athletes are not necessarily known for their smarts. Leave it to the Swedish to shatter our worldview.

A new study by Stockholm's Karolinska Institutet on the cognitive function of top-tier soccer players in Sweden reveals that they are way smarter than we are. As a matter of fact, the 29 players tested combined for an average score in the top five percent of all participants.

My immediate reaction is that these results are skewed: I assume everyone who lives in Sweden is smart, attractive and interesting. But apparently even by that lofty standard, these soccer players are at the top of the heap, because they also scored better than guys in the lower divisions.

So now the people who are in much better shape than us are also better at using their brains. Ladies and gentlemen, we are truly, desperately in trouble.

05 April 7:50 pm

Not many MLS players are the focus of a documentary, let alone lend their first name to the film's title.

Kei Kamara is one of the few (only?) to have that honor. Copper Pot Pictures chronicled his return to Sierra Leone for a Africa Cup of Nations qualifier and life in general for a short documentary called KEI.

In the filmmaker's own words:

KEI is a short documentary about Kei Kamara, a forward for Major League Soccer's Sporting Kansas City. Set against Kei's return to his native Sierra Leone for a critical match with his national team, the film relives Kei's epic journey from refugee to soccer star.

Check out the trailer below, and visit the official website for more information and additional clips.

04 April 1:56 pm

This ex-soccer player could perhaps rival the star of the cult Dos Equis commercials as the "most interesting man in the world."

German goalkeeper Lutz Pfannenstiel is now an international scout for Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, yet his playing career, which included a stint with current MLS outfit the Vancouver Whitecaps, wasn’t quite as conventional.

He was signed by 25 teams in 13 countries and to date is the only professional to have played in all six of FIFA’s confederations.

He was declared dead while on the pitch when playing for Bradford Park Avenue and was also locked up in a Singapore jail. He has spent five days in an igloo in a German ski resort, during which his antics were streamed live over the internet. He was also, believe it or not, a member of the "crazy gang" at Wimbledon and was stripped naked by Vinnie Jones and his teammates during a jog through London on a cold November morning in his first few days with the club.

Pfannenstiel spent time playing in North America with Vancouver in 2007, making four appearances, while also turning out for the Calgary Mustangs in 2004.

His title as an international scout for Hoffenheim means that current US national team players Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson and U-23 player Joe Gyau are all know to the eccentric German.

If those three have careers half as interesting as Pfannenstiel's, then we are all in for a real treat.

Stay thirsty my friends.

04 April 1:42 pm

TORREÓN, Mexico – Toronto FC's hotel on the eve of the Canadian club's CONCACAF semifinal second leg against Santos Laguna was a scene of tranquility.

Only one state police car waited outside, watching on.

The legions of fans that Aron Winter was expecting to be chanting, banging drums and keeping the players awake throughout the night did not turn up and the Reds arrival was decidedly low key.

Not that it should lull the Canadian club into a false sense of security, as could be witnessed when I reported the above via Twitter last night.  

“The hell will be tomorrow … we don't need to disturb them today,” responded Santos fan Braulio Rodríguez.

Fellow Guerrero Nick Simonis summed up the mood: “Don't you know … it's the calm before the storm.”

A sellout is likely at the Estadio Corona, with 25,000 tickets sold by yesterday afternoon, the Santos Laguna press office confirmed to MLSsoccer.com.

On-form US striker Herculez Gomez – fast becoming a legend in Torreón, according to locals – did his bit to promote the game yesterday, teaming up with Santos Laguna teammate Marc Crosas to buy and then give out 100 tickets to local fans.

Around town this morning, there are plenty of green-and-white Santos Laguna shirts and a sense of excitement is building, with los Guerreros and their fans determined to reach the Club World Cup.

Toronto FC, on the other hand, have already achieved more than most expected by reaching this stage of the competition.  

Is a surprise in store? We'll find out a little later, but at least the Toronto boys go into the game after a good night's sleep.

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. E-mail him at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.

02 April 2:17 pm

After being subbed off at halftime against the New England Revolution on Saturday, it appears superstar LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham is no longer worthy of a full 90-minute performance. I don't know, man. Ask Bruce Arena about it.

But no matter how LA are doing on the field, one thing remains clear: Beckham is still in the conversation for "Dreamiest Man in MLS." I dare you not to get lost in those eyes.

And don't worry if you can't, because you are not alone. Apparently the poor people at Burger King can't manage it either. Or at least that's what this new commercial would have us believe.

In reality, I'm skeptical that one could remain smitten by a man who says "smoovie." But it's still a funny ad, and Beckham is still a dashingly handsome man. Seriously, just look at the guy...

02 April 11:19 am

NEW YORK -- Giorgio Chinaglia died on Sunday.

Younger and newer soccer fans in the United States probably know nothing about Chinaglia. On Wikipedia, they can learn that he scored 242 goals in 254 games for the New York Cosmos, 98 goals in 209 appearances for Lazio, and earned 14 caps for Italy (including two in the 1974 World Cup).

On YouTube, they can watch his famous assist on a Fabio Capello goal against England at Wembley from 1973 (below). And on Twitter and various blogs, they can discover his famously prickly personality, the one that dared to criticize Pele and in all seriousness said things like: "I am a finisher. That means when I finish with the ball, it is in the back of the net."

But what you can't learn from Wikipedia, Google, YouTube, or Twitter is the symbolism of Giorgio Chinaglia. He was a living symbol of the efforts made in the 1970s and '80s to make soccer a major sport here. Sometimes, he seemed like a ghost of the NASL's bittersweet run, but he was always there, carrying the banner of the game's past that eventually gave rise to the its present. 

Unlike Pele or Franz Beckenbauer or Carlos Alberto, Chinaglia remained in New York after he retired from the Cosmos. He didn't just pick up and move on when the money ran out on the NASL. Instead, he stayed, worked in the game, did some TV analysis (including his legendary head-to-head on-air battles with Eric Wynalda during the 2002 World Cup), and c0-hosted a radio show on Sirius XM with longtime friend and soccer executive Charlie Stillitano.

And because of all of that, he was one of the most visible flagbearers for the NASL's ongoing legacy.

MLS, early in its existence, wanted nothing to do with that legacy. The league was meant to be a break from the past, a new venture, one that would not fall into the same patterns and turn down the same dead ends that the NASL did.

But in recent years, MLS' mindset has shifted with regards to the NASL and the past in general. The Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Portland Timbers all chose to fully embrace their NASL histories, right down to the clubs' names. This year, the San Jose Earthquakes -- who likewise adopted their NASL moniker -- celebrated their past by putting historic images on their season tickets. And, of course, there is the on-again, off-again New York Cosmos resurrection.

To me, the remembrance of things past is vital to the success of the present and the potential of the future. I enjoy both watching MLS matches and sporting my Detroit Express t-shirt. It reminds me that, no matter what people around the world say, soccer is not a "new" thing in the US and Canada. It's been around for a 100-plus years.

I believe that Giorgio Chinaglia died appreciating that history. He was just waiting for the rest of us to appreciate it too.