From College to the Pros - The US soccer ladder

Friday, June 09, 2006

It Is Here...The Copa Mundial!!!

The World Cup kicks off today. The media frenzy has started and right now the big questions revolve around Michael Ballack and Wayne Rooney's fitness. Will they or won't they be able to play? The US is able to live in relative anonymity, however they are getting some of the press focus. I'll try to highlight some media so you guys aren't missing anything.

Studio 90 has been in full swing for the past week. US Soccer sent their own media over with the team and they get access to most everything. They have interviews, interesting side stories about the visit to the Mayor of Hamburg, stuff like that. I think they're doing a good job. They are providing interesting content over the web, for free. I think you'll see more sports teams/leagues do this in the future. The daily updates are no doubt driving more traffic to the website.

Clint Dempsey is one of the best American examples of a soccer playing kid done right. He climbed the ladder I'm always writing about here. There is a good article today on about him. Clint learned the game in Texas from the Mexican immigrants moving north. He didn't get sent to the U-17 residency camp as a "special" player. He fought hard and got into a good college program at Furman. The US U-20 team took him to the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship but he only played as a sub in one match. Clint has worked hard and he is about to blow up on the world stage. I know it.

On the other end of the spectrum is Clint's best friend on the team, Eddie Johnson. Clint and Eddie are similar in that they didn't grow up in traditional soccer settings. They didn't live the posh suburban lifestyle, being driven to practice by their soccer mom in the luxury SUV. However, Eddie's talents were discovered at a younger age. Eddie has been the star of the youth National program since 2000 when he joined the U-17 residency program. In 2001 he joined the Dallas Burn and started a pro-career while still playing for the U-17's. He was the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team’s top scorer in 2000 and 2001. When he moved up to the U-20 team he led the team over the two-year cycle with 12 international goals in 21 appearances. In 2004 he burst on to the international stage with goals in his first few matches, helping the US to the top of the World Cup qualifying group table. Eddie has the potential to be the most lethal US striker, ever. In 15 caps he has 9 goals and he is just 22 years old. Look for him to move up the US goal list during this tournament, and then move to a European club after the July transfer window opens.

In non-World Cup news; the LA Galaxy finally fired Steve Sampson. You all remember Steve, he created the 3-6-1 formation the US used at France '98 and we didn't win a single game. I think Brian McBride scored the lone goal for the team. Sampson is being replaced by a great MLS coach, Frank Yallop. Yallop guided the San Jose Earthquakes to the MLS Cup and really helped Landon Donovan become the player he is today. I'm sure Landon will be happy to return from the Cup to see Frank in the locker room. Yallop joining the Gals will be a real benefit to the youngsters in LA. The Galaxy typically draft great talents, but I become surprised when they fade after a couple years in the league. Hopefully Yallop will be able to get the best out of youngsters like: Marc Burch, Steve Cronin, Michael Enfield, Herculez Gomez, Guillermo Gonzalez, Ugo Ihemelu, Quavas Kirk, Nathan Sturgis & Kyle Veris.

That is all for now folks. Make sure you set your DVRs to catch all the action. Don't be surprised if Costa Rica knocks off the home team today. No one thought defending champs France would lose to Senegal in the opening game, but they did. Remember, the favorites always falter. France leaving Japan/South Korea '02 during group play? No way! Well, they did. The US beating Portugal? Never! :) That is the fun of the Copa Mundial, so don't miss a minute.


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