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01 June 6:45 de la tarde

One of the best stories in US soccer this year has been the rapid ascent of the San Antonio Scorpions of the NASL. The first-year expansion club has a roster filled with former MLS players, an owner who cares and a crowd that turns out rain or shine.

They're averaging more than 11,000 per game, best in the second flight, and now they have plans for what looks like a pretty sweet soccer-specific stadium that'll be expandable to more than 18,000 capacity.

Have a gander.

It's years away, and they're very careful to say that additional seats will be added only if attendance continues to impress.

But the fact that a second-flight team is even considering such things says quite a bit about how far soccer's come in the last 10 years. Even when it's deep in the heart of football country.

01 June 4:56 de la tarde

They aren't even top half of their own league – ninth of 12 teams in the Gran Liga de Oxnard to be exact – but Cal FC are playing on the big stage.

Fox Soccer announced Friday that they would be televising the US Open Cup fourth round match between Cal FC, which is coached by Eric Wynalda, and the Seattle Sounders at Starfire Stadium (correction: The story previously stated incorrectly that the game would be played at CenturyLink Field) live on Tuesday (10 pm ET). In other words, Cinderella is going to the ball and a camera crew will be following her around to document the whole thing.

That's good news for US Open Cup aficionados, of which there seem to be many in the early stages of the 2012 competition. Don't go betting the farm on Cal FC just yet though. They may have knocked off a Portland side that couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but the three-time defending champions are up next and aren't likely to be so wasteful.

Still, they'll get their moment in the spotlight with plenty of reason to believe they can compete at the very least.

01 June 11:29 de la mañana

Ce dimanche, le Canada reçoit les États-Unis dans les cadre des festivités du centenaire de l’Association canadienne de soccer.

Le premier duel entre les deux équipes est aussi le premier match à domicile de l’histoire de l’équipe nationale canadienne. Il a eu lieu le 27 juin 1925 à Alexandra Park, stade de Montréal domicile du club CNR (Canadian National Railway), basé à Pointe-Saint-Charles (si l’un d’entre vous sait où était situé ce terrain, merci de partager l’information).

Environ 3500 personnes ont assisté à la rencontre. Six joueurs du Québec faisaient partie du onze de base canadien. L’un d’entre eux, Ed McLaine, a inscrit le seul but de la partie peu après le quart d’heure. Finisseur redoutable évoluant au poste d’intérieur droit, McLaine a plus tard défendu les couleurs de Providence, dans le championnat des États-Unis, professionnel à l’époque.

Le match de ce dimanche sera le trentième affrontement officiel entre les deux pays.

Canada : Arthur Halliwell, George Campbell, Andy Clarke, Fred Dierden, John B. Foy, Bill McKean, Roy Faulkner, Jim Galloway, Ed McLaine, Dave McKenzie, Alex Smith
États-Unis : Jimmy Douglas, Irving Davis, Jock Ferguson, Tom Stark, Tommy McFarland, Henry Meyerdierks, Barney Battles, Davey Brown, Archie Stark, Bob Millar, Tom Florie
Arbitre : Horace S. Lyons
Le but : 16e McLaine (1-0)

31 May 6:14 de la tarde

The big news out of Brazil on Thursday morning centered around a player well-known to soccer fans worldwide. Former Barcelona and AC Milan star Ronaldinho has been freed from his contract with Brazilian giants Flamengo following a dispute over unpaid wages. (Portuguese)

'Dinho was heavily linked to the LA Galaxy in early 2011, but the move never materialized as he headed back to his home country after leaving Milan.

However, he is now on the market, and though the 32-year-old is all but certainly past his glory days on the European stage, there will be no shortage of clubs both at home and abroad interested in his services. After all, he has appeared for Brazil as recently as a February 29 friendly win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and put in a strong showing against Mexico in the Brazil's 2-1 win over El Tri last October.

Might the Galaxy come or another MLS club come calling once more, or will he opt to go somewhre else, either in Brazil or abroad? He certainly wouldn't be cheap – the dispute with Flamengo was reportedly over wages totaling just shy of $20 million.

Even if MLS does make a move, would Ronaldinho be able to cut it in the physically-inclined league or would he be better off elsewhere? There is no doubting his otherworldy skill and vision, but he's also shown a propensity for Rio's nightlife in the past few years, with his recent performances raising questions about his fitness levels.

Would this onetime superstar be worth the investment for an MLS team? What's next in his storied, if occasionally turbulent, career? We'll certainly know more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, weigh in with your comments below.

31 May 5:47 de la tarde

The annual Soccer Hall of Fame induction ceremony is the place grown adult soccer people come together to cry.

Wherever they hold it. Whoever is inducted. That’s just the way it is. There’s more magic than you would imagine at the event and the emotion flows without the least bit of inhibition.

It was OK if you shed a tear, as many of us did, during Tony Meola’s induction speech. You probably called your mom and dad later that night after hearing Desmond Armstrong address the crowd. And all of us dusted off our fondest soccer memorabilia item thanks to Grahame L. Jones, who used his time at the podium productively.

Read on for the best of the best moments from the 2012 Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at FedEx Field on Wednesday afternoon.

GET OUT OF THE CITY: Hank Steinbrecher, the chair of the Hall of Fame committee told the story of how Armstrong hung up on him when he made the call to give him the news that he’d be inducted. “I know Hank Steinbrecher. This is a joke,” were apparently the words that came out of Armstrong’s mouth. Steinbrecher’s cell was ringing moments later.

HOMECOMING KING: It was a special occasion for 1990 US World Cup member Armstrong, who was born in nearby Washington, D.C. The pride he has for his family was on show, specifically his seven kids who were on hand: “I have a whole team here. Let me clarify, a whole indoor team.”

HUMBLE PIE: Armstrong says that when news came of his induction he wondered “Did I really do anything? … We played during a time when we weren’t really recognized.” He called himself “a great athlete and not so much a great player,” who got turned down about six times in a row for youth national teams as a teen.

DIFFERENT TIMES: This is the generation Armstrong belongs to: He says that when he family moved to Wheaton, Md. they were the first black family in a white neighborhood, revealing in his speech that they moved right next door to a KKK member.

LOW-BUDGET OPERATION: Armstrong gave a snapshot into how times were tough for US national team players in the late 80s. “There were five stops to go from Washington, D.C. to New York because there was no money in the budget. The gear we had back then – for us it was just a white t-shirt with no U.S. soccer emblem. And we used to fight over that stuff … There I am a national team player with a white t-shirt that you can get at Walmart.”

NO CHARLES BARKLEYs HERE: Former US women’s coach Tony DiCicco, who Julie Foudy called the greatest women’s soccer coach in the history of the sport, said that his boys “didn’t have men as role models [growing up]. They had fantastic female athletes.” Unfortunately two of DiCicco’s sons missed the induction ceremony after their car broke down in Goodland, Kan.

SPITTING IMAGE: Anthony DiCicco presented his dad and the resemblance between the two is remarkable. The younger DiCicco told the story of celebrating a world title with the Under-20 women's team in 2008 but his dad instead was up at 4 a.m. with his coaches conducting a video session. “He works his ass off,” DiCicco junior said.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: Who does this at their induciton? DiCicco went out of his way to give credit to his assistant coaches for one of the brilliant coaching moves during his USWNT tenure: subbing in Shannon MacMillan in the 1999 World Cup quarterfinal against Germany. The match took place in the same building as Wednesday’s induction – FedEx Field 13 years before. And it was DiCicco’s assistants who urged him to bring on MacMillan to take a corner kick that Joy Fawcett would head home for the game-winner a minute later. The rest is history.

MISSING REYNA: One 2012 inductee, Claudio Reyna was not present on Wednesday afternoon for personal reasons. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Claudio and his family for sure,” Meola said. He is expected to have a formal ceremony with a future class.

SECOND BEST: Did you know that US national team goalkeeping legend Tony Meola wasn’t the top goalkeeper in his own high school? His childhood friend Sal Rosamilia, who presented him on Wednesday, wore the No. 1 jersey.

TEARS: They were flowing when Meola paid homage to the late Lamar Hunt, who owned the Kansas City team which Meola led to a 2000 MLS Cup title. He struggled to get through these words: “I played for an owner who had a profound effect on myself and everyone in our locker room. He always wanted me not to use his name because it wasn’t about him. I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the impact on my life of the late Mr. Lamar Hunt. He was a gentleman, a role model in every sense of the word and through his actions he taught us all about humility. Thank you for your lessons and for your support, Mr. Hunt. “

MORE TEARS: Meola outdid himself with another story to tug at the heart strings. The subject? His son's Under-15 soccer team he’s been coaching for the last five years: “When I didn’t have a place in the game, there were a few months in my life I wanted nothing more than to walk away [from the sport] … I had an opportunity to coach an 11-year-old boys team, including my son Jonathan. That group of boys gave me more reasons to love this beautiful game than anything that ever existed.”

KUDOS KC: Kansas City supporters received a special mention from Meola. “I especially want to thank the fans of Kansas who supported me for seven years of my life. It’s not easy for a kid from New Jersey to move to Kansas City. I am honored to have shared an MLS Cup and a Lamar Hunt Open Cup with you and I’ll cherish it forever.”

TOAST OF THE TOWN: Reporters always have great stories and Jones, the retired former Los Angeles Times soccer writer who was inducted in the Hall of Fame for his contributions as a writer, told one about Mia Hamm celebrating her 21st birthday during the 1995 Women’s World Cup in Sweden with a glass of champagne at the team hotel. On Jones’s recommendation, his photographer picked up the glass when she abandoned it in the hallway. He still has it 17 years later.

VIRTUAL SOCCER MUSEUM: Jones left us with one final soccer commentary piece to close out his speech. “It would be really nice for US Soccer’s centenary year to have a virtual soccer museum where fans can donate memorabilia or just a photo and build it and find out more about the rich history of this country. There will be 10 to 12 new items every day and there’s a reason to come back to see what’s new. It wouldn’t be expensive. A virtual soccer museum wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

31 May 11:49 de la mañana

Le Cal FC, Petit poucet de la Coupe des États-Unis, a réussi l’énorme surprise des seizièmes de finale, en gagnant à Portland 0-1 après prolongation (résultats complets ici).

De quoi susciter l’embarras du président du club de MLS, qui s’est excusé auprès de ses supporters, et permettre l’espace d’une soirée au Cal FC de faire partie des… tendances mondiales sur Twitter !

Le Cal FC est un club basé à Thousand Oaks, à environ 60 kilomètres à l’ouest de Los Angeles. Il a vu le jour en 2010 et évolue dans la « Gran Liga de Oxnard », une des divisions régionales de la USASA, le 5e niveau du soccer aux États-Unis.

Entraîné par l’ancien international américain Eric Wynalda, il est composé d’éléments locaux, jeunes (le plus âgé a 26 ans) et compte en ses rangs quelques joueurs prometteurs qui n’ont pas réussi à décrocher de contrat professionnel.

Avant de rêver aux exploits de Quevilly (club de D3 arrivé en finale de la dernière Coupe de France), le Cal FC devra commencer par passer l’écueil des huitièmes de finale : un déplacement à Seattle, triple tenant du titre !

Et vous, suivez-vous la Coupe des États-Unis ? Préférez-vous voir les équipes de MLS y démontrer leur suprématie ou s’y faire surprendre par des « petits » ?

30 May 10:08 de la tarde

When Jurgen Klinsmann was hired, the US were a mess. Their spacing was terrible, they couldn't get consistent performance from the fullbacks and the offense was inconsistent.

It looks like most of that has been cleared up. I'd go so far as to say that Klinsmann's done a pretty good job. But there are still some concerns.

This generation of US players is defined by their weakness in central defense

There's no disguising it against top-level talent. The US got a great result in Italy a few months back, but were protected throughout by a flag-happy linesman who blew five offside calls, and a handful of great 1-v-1 saves from Tim Howard.

Against Brazil, there was no such luck. Howard did make a couple of great saves and was bailed out by the post once, but for the most part, Brazil gave the US central defense the old orange cone treatment.

Oguchi Onyewu in particular — even without the (not remotely debatable) penalty — was awful. When defending on the ball he's on roller skates, and when defending in space he's basically lost. And he doesn't read the game well enough to make up for it against top competition.

What's even more disturbing is the US inability to hold a line. It happened at the beginning of the game, it happened in the middle, and it happened at the end with Onyewu (sorry to pick on you, Gooch), failing to step, leaving Pato to rip the fouth past a stranded Howard.

If you're slower and less skilled than the opponents — and against the great teams, that's always going to be the case for the US — then you have to be smarter and more organized.

This group is not. It's how Mexico killed the US last summer, and how Brazil killed them on Wednesday.

There were telltale midfield turnovers even against Scotland

And against Brazil, those turnovers became goals. It's something I stressed in our March to the Match podcast, but which went largely unnoticed otherwise since we were all stunned at the sheer ferocity of that 5-1 win.

I don't know how much scouting Brazil really did, but it's safe to say that the book on the US is "smother them, make them play combinations, and they will eventually beat themselves."

Even the Scots did it for a bit, specifically in minutes 15 through 35.

The Brazilians did it in minutes 1 through 90, and everyone on the US had their turn to play the goat. Including Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson.

Speaking of ...

Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson are really, really good

Bradley's probably too valuable as an attacker and too much of a risk-taker on the ball to play as a true, lone d-mid (as he was in Klinsmann's 4-1-4-1 for most of the game). The other options are unappealing against top sides, though: Maurice Edu has a poor first touch, and Jermaine Jones isn't exactly known for his ability to get out of traffic with the ball on his foot.

So for now, Klinsmann has to keep Bradley in that d-mid role and then find more dynamic players to put in front of him. I'd prefer to see Jose Torres or Benny Feilhaber in one of the "advanced midfield" roles, rather than the uninspiring Edu/Jones combo.

And as for Johnson ... there's not much to say but, "Wow." He's been the best, most consistent attacking force on the US team for the past three games. Who thought we'd ever say that about a left back?

Defensively he still has work to do, especially in 1-v-1 situations (he literally spun in a circle when trying to defend Hulk at one point), but he's got plenty of time to work on it before Klinsmann's side takes on the big boys in a game that counts.

So for now, it's clear that Klinsmann still has a little bit of a mess to clean up. But the good news is that he's already made progress with what was left behind for him in the first place.

30 May 8:45 de la tarde

Pavel Pardo hizo un pare a su preparación con el Chicago Fire – que jugará el único partido de la fecha este sábado en su visita al New England Revolution (7:30 p.m. ET; ONLINE: MLS Live) – para recibir a la que fue su selección nacional en 148 ocasiones.

México esta en la Ciudad de los Vientos para jugar un partido de preparación ante Bosnia-Herzegovina el miércoles y aprovecharon la oportunidad para reunirse con Pardo, quien acompañó a los jugadores y cuerpo técnico en una cena.

FutbolMLS.com charló un rato con el volante del Fire sobre su experiencia de volverse a encontrar con el equipo al que sirvió por tanto tiempo. 

30 May 12:13 de la tarde

For a change, it was the US national team coach's turn to tell someone else how to do their job.

In Tuesday afternoon's pregame press conference ahead of a massive match against Brazil, Jurgen Klinsmann on two separate occasions encouraged the Brazilian press on hand to support their national team. It was also an indirect message to the US soccer media on hand just before CONCACAF World Cup qualifying kicks off on June 8.

"[Mano Menezes, Brazilian national team manager] only has a chance to make that transition to integrate a new generation of players if he has the support by you — the Brazilian media, the Brazilian people," Klinsmann said in response to a question from a Brazilian reporter. "If you constantly doubt whatever he’s doing every game and every loss he has on the way to the World Cup in 2014, he’s going to have a really, really difficult time.

"I think you chose a very good coach and you have a very good coach and you've got to support him. So even if on the path to 2014 maybe it doesn’t work out perfectly, you have a new generation of players coming through. So I hope you give him the support and you don't doubt him every time maybe something goes wrong."

It brings up an interesting debate: Is the media's job to get behind their country's team? Or is the media's role to document, tell the story and analyze a situation when things go right and when they go wrong?

Fans of England's Three Lions may not want to read further. Klinsmann makes an example of the English national team to drive his point home later on in the press conference.
 
"It is very simple. In a soccer-driven country, which Brazil is, Argentina is, Germany is and England is, it all depends on how much you all go in the same direction," Klinsmann said when asked to share his experiences at the helm of Germany when that nation hosted the 2006 World Cup. "So you have two choices you can make: I support my team from a media perspective, too, or I given them trouble or give them doubts or give them nasty comments or whatever.

"If you look at England, England often beats itself. It's not the opponents necessarily. They make themselves so much problems they create before tournaments and you see how the last tournament went for then. So it’s the environment that you create. However, we were able to do that, the people started to be really positive [in Germany ahead of the 2006 World Cup]."

Does he have a point? The media has a role in the type of environment surrounding a sports team. But does the press really have any sort of moral obligation to their country?

30 May 11:00 de la mañana

Pour une équipe qui a des ambitions internationales, remporter la coupe de son pays est un chemin rapide pour accéder à la scène continentale. La Coupe des États-Unis ne fait pas exception.

Alors que le championnat est une épreuve d’endurance qui n’offre qu’une place en Ligue des champions (et deux autres aux finalistes de la Coupe MLS), il suffit de 5 rencontres à une équipe de MLS pour s’y qualifier via la coupe. On peut même y racheter sa saison, mais tout faux pas est interdit ! Le palmarès de cette vénérable épreuve presque centenaire montre toutefois qu’elle échappe rarement à un club de MLS depuis 1996.

Après deux tours qui ont opposé des équipes de divisions inférieures, les équipes de MLS entrent dans la danse cette semaine à l’occasion des seizièmes de finale. Toutes têtes de série, elles ne s’affrontent pas entre elles, ce qui n’a pas empêché 7 surprises à l’occasion des 14 rencontres disputées ce mardi. Pour les détails, voyez la couverture exhaustive offerte par mlssoccer.com.

Les supporters se passionnent aussi pour ce qu’on appelle le Petit poucet de la compétition, l’équipe de la division la plus faible. Au stade actuel, c’est le Cal FC (USASA), qui se déplace à Portland ce soir. Car les surprises font le charme de la coupe où, sur un seul match, les plus grands exploits sont possibles !