From College to the Pros - The US soccer ladder

Friday, August 31, 2007

Summer Is Over...

At least for the college soccer players it is. This weekend has some big time tournaments kicking off. The top programs will be in action as this is opening weekend! I'm not sure how much will make national television, but if you are in one of the cities hosting a match or two, stop by and check it out. Cheer on those college kids.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

US U-17 Men Can't Advance...

The US U-17 Men's National Team didn't have enough in the tank to beat Germany at the U-17 World Cup. Germany showed early in the tournament they were going to be a top team and they continued to win, pushing the US out of the event.

I've got to think this is a major disappointment for US Soccer. This young team was seen as a strong side going into the event but they stumbled early and couldn't recover. While advancing to the knock out stage is good, US Soccer needs to advance deeper into these events to continue earning worldwide respect. This U-17 is certainly not going to live long in the minds of American fans. Since 1999 the U-17 men have reached the quarterfinals three out of five times.

Back to the drawing board for the next U-17 World Cup cycle.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FIFA U-17 World Cup Update...

The US won't play until tomorrow and the FIFA U-17 World Cup quarterfinals are half set. The biggest shock of the first knockout round? Brazil lost to Ghana, 1-0. The US knows all about Ghana's senior team's quality but the U-17 team was able to surprise Brazil. This is the same Brazil that went through the group stage scoring 14 goals. Brazil lost to England in group play so we knew they weren't perfect, but getting shut out by Ghana...that was unexpected.

European teams have faired well so far. Spain and France will face each other in one of the quarterfinal matches. The other will feature Africa against South America, Ghana vs. Peru. Peru was able to do what the US couldn't, beat Tajikistan.

Tomorrow the US faces Germany. The German offense was the second best in group play, scoring 11 goals. However their defense wasn't too solid in giving up 5 goals. Seeing as that the US gave up 7 goals, they will need to be organized and solid in the back to have any hope against the Germans.

The game tomorrow will once again be shown on ESPNU at 7 am edt. Why ESPN2 can't give up some precious Mike and Mike in the morning time for the youth national team, I don't understand. So, I won't be able to DVR this game. Too bad. Those of you in college should be able to see it.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

U-17 Men...They Did It!!!

The US U-17 Men were able to beat Belgium this weekend to jump into second place in the group. They will play against the winner of Group F, Germany, on Thursday. Way to go!!!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

US U-17 Men...What Happened...Still a Chance...

The US U-17 went into the 2007 World Cup as the team with a lot of potential. They have potentially great players. They could potentially make some noise in the knock out stages. They could potentially win the whole thing. It isn't just me saying this. Worldwide media and FIFA were saying it. FIFA went so far as to say the US is expected to dominate Group E. I don't know what has happened, either no one told the US or people told the opponents.

After the group draw I was telling myself there is no way the US won't advance against these smaller programs. Seriously, we played countries no bigger then many states in the US. Tajikistan is slightly smaller than Wisconsin and 7,076,598 residents. Tunisia is slightly larger than Georgia and has 10,276,158 residents. How do these countries come out and beat the US, population 301,139,947?

These two teams must have had more heart, desire and luck. I can't explain it any other way.

The US next faces Belgium and there is still somehow a chance for the US to make it through to the next round. If the US beats Belgium by a large margin they can move into second if Tunisia beats Tajikistan. Tajikistan's +/- is zero while the US' is -3. So the US would need to win by three goals while Tajikistan loses by at least one. There are also two third place spots the US could qualify for. If the US wins and Korea DPR, Syria and France all lose or tie there should be a third place spot open for the young Americans.

It is hard to stomach that the US is looking at what if type scenarios but here we are. They should have come out and put away early chances to take control of the first two matches, but they didn't. That is what happens in these types of youth tournaments. Let's all cross our collective fingers that the US can crush Belgium with Tunisia also beating Tajikistan by a large margin. I don't want to count on the third place games.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

FCTP Roundup...8/22/07...

- First news, tomorrow is the US' next U-17 World Cup match. This one is on ESPN2 so set the DVR. Check for details.

- One of the Bradenton prodigies is going to be joining MLS according to various sources. I am moving Israel Sesay from my scouting list to gone pro list. There is supposed to be a weighted lottery this week to see where in MLS he'll land. For more detail visit Climbing The Ladder.

- You'll notice a nice little widget on the right hand margin showing what MLS in single table format would look like. I like it. I want it. MLS, ditch the conferences.

- You'll also notice that the player scouting list on that right margin has been moved higher. It displaced the draft because we're switching MLS draft season to college scouting season. Yeah, I know the draft was in January but schools are just now finalizing their rosters on-line, so there isn't a lot of point to get excited about it until now. Sometime in the next few weeks I'll call you eyes to some specific players.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

US U-17 Men's World Cup Match #1 Result....

Ok folks, the first game of the U-17 World Cup is in the books. No, I didn't wake up to watch it. I don't have ESPNU. But I did catch the last 15 minutes on match tracker. Isn't that just the most fun...not. I wish all of these games made it onto the mainstream ESPN channels, maybe next time.

This looks like it would have been a fun one to watch. When I turned it on in the 75th minute the US held a 3-2 lead. The US came out with the early lead after Greg Garza and Mykell Bates hooked up for a 9th minute goal. However, Tajikistan scored the next two goals at went into halftime with a 2-1 lead.

After the break the US took the lead back with goals from Garza (48') and Schuler (53'). But the US couldn't put the match to bed and late in the game Tajikistan started to win most of the balls and get the chances. In the 82nd minute they scored their third goal to tie the game. After the restart they were trying to get the winning goal and the US needed to withstand the pressure. However, in the 86th minute they gave up a fourth goal. It seems the American defense wilted in the infamous Korean heat and humidity and gave Tajikistan too much time on the ball.

Tajikistan took good chances and made American keeper Zac MacMath work as 7 of their 9 shots were on frame. He let 4 of those shots into the goal. With that kind of shot production and those quality shots it takes a top notch effort from the keeper to win the game. The American defense is going to need to tighten up to keep their keeper better protected if they plan on making it into the knockout stages. The US was able to get the large majority of corner kicks taking 7 to Tajikistan's 1.

In stoppage time the Americans were able to create some chances and Ellis McLoughlin almost slipped one past Tajikistan's keeper. The US were not as efficient on the offensive side of things taking 8 shots with only 5 going on frame. Tajikistan only stopped 3 of the on frame shots so perhaps a few more on target would have produced the game tying goal. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. The Americans couldn't overcome giving up two goals in the last ten minutes of the match.

So it seems Tajikistan was a tougher opponent then originally thought. The small Asian nation was able to surprise the Americans and they took advantage of the chances given to them. The American defense is going to have to play much better for the team to have any success in this event. Defense is often the weakness in this age group for any team. The nation that can possess the ball and keep the other from moving towards goal will be the winner. Hopefully the Americans can figure that out by the next match against Tunisia on Thursday, 8/23.

For highlights of this first match, look to FIFA.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

FCTP 2007 MLS Rookie Of The Week...Week 19...

Well folks, this is getting tougher and tougher to keep up with. Especially when there are other interesting things to blog about, read about, etc. Plus, my Rapids have put two wins up on the board in a row, against the top teams in each conference! I've got other things going on people! So, from here on in I am not not always going to write a full blog piece about the ROTW. They will just appear in the magic.

This week was a little disappointing on the rookie front. Only two rookies played complete games this week...and it was the same guy in two games. Congrats to Ty Harden. His play has been solid in the back for LA all season and he's finally won his rookie of the week award. Harden has also played in every LA Galaxy game and started everyone. No other rookie has done that. Maybe we'll have to give him a rookie iron man award or something.

He's been deserving in the past but someone always beat him to it. This time, it is his award. Congrats Ty.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ten Questions With Colorado Rapids Academy Director of Coaching - Brian Crookham...

Brian Crookham was recently named the Colorado Rapids Academy Director of Coaching. In addition to being one of the Colorado Rapids’ television announcers on Altitude, Brian has been working around Colorado in different soccer organizations. Now he’s landed at the top of the heap, in the big leagues. Brian was kind enough to answer some questions regarding the Colorado Rapids developing youth organization. Here is what he had to say:

FCTP: Are you modeling the Rapids youth organization after a foreign model? If so, is there one in particular?
BC: We have looked at a number of models around the world. I don’t think there is one specific model from a club that is the perfect fit for us. We have unique challenges, not all of which are bad, that call for unique solutions. For now, US Soccer’s Development Academy plan addresses many of our needs. That said, our curriculum will be influenced by our experiences both internationally and here at home and we will be constantly working to give our players the best possible environment to develop in.

FCTP: What youth teams will be playing for the Rapids in the fall of 2007?

BC: For the fall of ’07 we will sponsor U16 and U18 teams in the US Soccer Development Academy. Rosters must have a minimum of 20 players, which is where we will be. Our conference will include 2 clubs from Northern California, 2 clubs from the Seattle area, a club from Portland and the two other Colorado clubs, Colorado Rush and Real Colorado.

FCTP: How many kids tried out for the youth teams?
BC: We had a total of 54 players train and compete with our U16 and U17 Super Y League teams this summer. Some had the time and ability to compete with us all summer and some just came to train. They represented clubs from Ft. Collins to Pueblo and everywhere in between. Since we announced that we were joining the Development Academy we have been inundated with phone calls and emails about the program. As we look to set our final rosters over the next couple of weeks we will evaluate dozens more players.

FCTP: What is your vision for the academy 3 years from now? 10 years?
BC: Right now our Youth Academy supports a couple of different programs. The grassroots training and camp programs that John Murphy has done such a great job of running will continue to grow. Our youth teams will start with just the U16 and U18 boys teams but our hope is to have a fully integrated youth development program that will provide year round training for recreational players who will become our competitive players, who intern go on to the U23s, the Reserves or the 1st team. We will have to see how quickly we can make that happen. I think it is safe to say that we need to have a fully functional, top to bottom youth development program that serves the grassroots camp kids, the recreational players, the competitive players, and the aspiring professionals well before we hit the ten year mark. We have the support of the organization on this project, we just have to make sure we grow at a rate that allows us quality control over the product. That ability to put out a quality product will dictate how fast we get there.

FCTP: When will you add more youth teams?
BC: That is a great question. I have no doubt we will add teams (or players) down the line. We are currently finalizing our development model from the littlest ones all the way to the pros. We want to be careful to not end up as just another club. When the time is right and we can support additional participants we will do it. We are in no hurry.

FCTP: What will the new US Soccer Development Academy mean to the Colorado Rapids?
BC: The Development Academy gives us a vehicle to find meaningful, high level games while concentrating on providing quality training as well. When you get to train 3-4 times for every game you play you have the time to teach players how to play the game, not just how to win tomorrow’s game. The Development Academy setup also allows us to meet MLS Homegrown Player initiatives. There are many factors that have created the current club soccer environment and I think it is past time for US Soccer to get a handle on it, even if it is just with the elite players right now. I can’t tell you how important it is that the leadership of this club is supporting our efforts in this program, I really think you will see a difference in the quality of play we have on the field.

FCTP: What will the season look like for the teams the Rapids are putting into the Academy?
BC:Late in the fall we will start competing in Development Academy games. We will play 14 games (7 home, 7 away) within our Conference. We will also play 8 games against teams from a neighboring conference. The remaining 8-10 games will be against national opponents in multi-game weekends. The first week of December, the week following Christmas and Easter week will provide breaks in the schedule where we can compete in other events such as MLS, adidas or international tournaments. The league will finish with a National Championship at Home Depot Center in July.

FCTP: What other events are you planning on entering youth teams into?
BC: As I mentioned earlier, we have the unique opportunity to play in both MLS and adidas competitions when the Development Academy is on break. MLS currently has an under 17 tournament around the All- Star game, there are preliminary plans for another tournament we may look at in December, and our partnerships with Arsenal and Pachuca as well as our relationships with other clubs all over the world certainly present some exciting opportunities for us worldwide. The real challenge is narrowing it down to the opportunities that are appropriate for us.

FCTP: Can a Colorado Rapids youth player still play for The Colorado Rush or another club team?
BC: The players currently on our Super Y League teams are participating with their home clubs. Once they join one of our Academy League teams they will not have that ability. Academy League players will be limited to competing with their Academy club, their high school soccer team and their National Team.

FCTP: Can a Colorado Rapids youth player still play for their high school?
BC: The information that I have today indicates that players should be able to play with their high school teams this fall without major conflict.

Thank you, Brian for your time answering questions on the new youth development system within the Colorado Rapids. I can't wait until the first homegrown player takes the field. Good luck!

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In Four Years Danny Cruz Learned To Play Soccer...

This is a really interesting story. Danny Cruz grew up playing Hockey and Football. In-between the two high school sports seasons he started playing soccer to stay in shape. Now he is on the U-17 World Cup team and going to UNLV to play soccer. He's certainly going to be one to watch.

This story will undoubtedly play into the arguement that American athletes are just good at sports and can play any they set their mind to. If more of these great athletes choose soccer over the other American sports, watch out world. But, will pure athleticism overtake Brazilian creativity and flair? The future will reveal itself.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup Is Upon Us...

US Soccer has had a very busy summer. The Senior Men's team played in two major tournaments back to back, winning one. The U-20 Men played in their World Cup and reached the Quarterfinals. The Women will be playing in their World Cup soon. Countless friendlies have gone in the books and some more are coming up. 2007 has been the summer of soccer.

The next event for the men, the FIFA U-17 World Cup, is kicking off this Saturday, August 18th, in Suwon, South Korea. The US will see their first action on Monday, August 20th, in Changwon against Tajikistan. Below is the team's group stage schedule:

20 Aug - Tajikistan vs. USA - Live on ESPNU at 7:00 am EDT
23 Aug - USA vs. Tunisia - Live on ESPN2 at 4:00 am EDT
26 Aug - Belgium vs. USA - Live on ESPNU at 3:00 am EDT

Note the live television broadcasts on the ESPN network. Previously these games would be on a Spanish language channel, but to my knowledge this is the first time we're seeing them in English. Correct me if I'm wrong. Who's going to stay up for these like they did in 2002? Not I, the DVR is magic. Too bad ESPNU is so hard to come by.

The team arrives in South Korea today to start their amazing journey through a World Cup. For some this will be a once in a lifetime experience. For others it will be the first of many World Cups.

US Soccer has put a couple of videos out so you can meet the team. Say hello to the US U-17 Men's National Team. (For some reason youtube has not posted the embed link, once they do I will post that way.)

You can also see some clips of the kids in action.

It is hard to imagine the US not advancing out of the group stage in this event. However, the three teams we're grouped with are big unknowns. They could rise up and pull an Austria. Should the US make it out of the group, based upon their finishing rank in the group and all of these other teams' final rank in their groups, they could face Costa Rica, Togo, Korea Republic, Peru, Nigeria, France, Japan, Haiti, Colombia, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago or Ghana. Personally I enjoy seeing that Brazil and Argentina aren't on that list. We'll know what the knockout round looks like once all group games are finished August 26th.

Many of the Americans playing in this event are too young to be starting college, however a few will be freshmen once they return from South Korea. Below is the roster and which college they are attending in the fall, if they are headed to college. Additionally there is one professional player in the ranks:

Josh Lambo (Middleton, Wis.) - N/A
Zac MacMath (St. Petersburg, Fla.) - N/A
Larry Jackson (East Palo Alto, Calif.) - N/A

Sheanon Williams (Boston, Mass.) - N/A
Mykell Bates (Roseville, Calif.) - N/A
Tommy Meyer (St. Louis, Mo.) - N/A
Chris Klute (Grand Prairie, Texas) - N/A
Kofi Sarkodie (Huber Heights, Ohio) - N/A
Brandon Zimmerman (Pasco, Wash.) - N/A

Daniel Wenzel (Federal Way, Wash.) - Wake Forest
Jared Jeffrey (Dallas, Texas) - N/A
Kirk Urso (Lombard, Ill.) - N/A
Dane Shea (College Station, Texas) - N/A
Gregory Garza (Grapevine, Texas) - N/A
Brendan King (Naperville, Ill.) - N/A
Alex Nimo (Portland, Ore.) - N/A

Ellis McLoughlin (Seattle, Wash.) - U of Washington
Bryan Dominguez (Atlanta, Ga.) - N/A
Abdusalam Ibrahim (FC Dallas) - FC Dallas
Billy Schuler (Allentown, N.J.) - N/A
Daniel Cruz (Glendale, Ariz.) - UNLV

There is a chance a player on the above roster will turn pro after the tournament. MLS could sign someone and assign them to a club, or a foreign club may sign someone based on their play at the tournament. Anymore all of these players have a good chance at becoming professional soccer players. If you get a chance to watch one of these games, do. The younger teams often play a more attacking style of play, sometimes completely ignoring defensive responsibilities. Enjoy!

You can now find a history of the US' performance in the U-17 World Cup in the right margin.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Colorado Rapids...Embarrassment...

***Note, this post is more of a rant then anything else. This will not feature any news or information on rookies in MLS, college soccer players or the typical fare here.***

Today I am embarrassed to be a Colorado Rapids fan. Today I feel like the team doesn't care about having fans. Today I feel like the players don't want to play for the Colorado Rapids anymore. Today I wish the Rapids ownership, Kroenke Sports Enterprises, would do something to make me believe they care about their club. Today I would not, under any circumstances renew my season tickets. Today I don't want to go to Saturday's Rapids game.

You see, the Rapids have not won a league game since May 26th, 2007. On May 27th I was excited about the Rapids thinking they could make a push to be the best team in the Western Conference. Since then they have earned 3 points by drawing 3 games. In 10 league games they have earned 3 points. The Rapids have 11 games left in their MLS season. If they replicate the last 11 games they will earn 6 points for the rest of the season, bringing their total points to 24. I thought Real Saly Lake was only that pathetic. I seem to have been proven wrong.

Furthermore, last night the Rapids bombed out of the only worthwhile competition left to succeed in, The US Open Cup. They lost 5-0 to a second division Seattle club. MLS teams are supposed to be better than USL teams. Not this year.

Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo is a nice person, I've met him and spoken to him at length about his career as a player and coach. He takes time out of his busy schedule to talk to fans, to call into his friend's radio show, to meet with volunteers. He has passion for the game. However, he has lost the plot. I don't think any of his players want to win for him right now. His practices are rumored to be more about running and fitness then soccer. It has been clear to some that his time as coach has come, now it should be clear to all.

Clavijo has no one to blame but himself. His downfall started last year when he traded Jeff Cunningham to FSL for Clint Mathis. Cunningham was coming off a very productive season for the Rapids while Mathis was coming off a very lazy season for Saly Lake. The Rapids have long needed a proven goal scorer, they had one and then they traded him to a rival. What?

Then in the 2007 off-season Clavijo reshaped the team some more. He traded for Greg Vanney, a skilled veteran defender. Vanney made it through half a season in Colorado before being shipped off for a petulant young defender, Facundo Erpen. Erpen got a red card last night and then proceeded to flip off the host fans in Seattle. Vanney would never have done that.

Clavijo has made some good player moves like the blockbuster trade for Gomez and Ugo. However, good trades ahead of bad won't help a club. Roberto Brown was signed and made it half a season before Daniel Osorno came in to replace him.

Jovan Kirovski has played an entire season despite doing little of merit. The forward played as a defensive midfielder last night and plays many games in the midfield.

Long time Rapid heart Kyle Beckerman was traded to the enemy, Saly Lake, for unproven youngster Mehdi Ballouchy who has come into the team and promptly been suspended for a hockey like cross check to the neck.

It all adds up to a team that doesn't trust their leader and results on the field that are far from professional. So I am embarrassed to be a Rapids fan today.

Here are the steps I think need to happen to start off in the right direction:
1. - Do what the website says.
2. Appoint John Murphy interim head coach and give him the rest of the season to show if he can win games with this lineup.
3. After the season evaluate how Murphy has performed. Did he galvanize a broken team or did the status quo remain?
4. Determine if Murphy stays or goes early in the off-season. A full time head coach must be in place most of the off-season.
5. Remove Charlie Wright. It is hard to tell what input he has on day to day operations of the club but if he is involved in any of the trades/player decisions he is the wrong man for the job. Let the coach handle the job and find a replacement if it is needed. With the VP and Managing Director level above him, it doesn't seem like the General Manager is needed.

Thank you for putting up with my rant. I promise this won't become a regular thing.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy Finalized...

US Soccer has completed the selection process for the first year of the newly created Development Academy. There are sixty four clubs that will compete against each other in an eight month season. The group of sixty four was selected from over one hundred and fifty clubs, showing impressive interest in the fledgling program. One of the "clubs" included in the list is the US Soccer Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida.

The program will kick off this fall in Chicago with the first matches coming in October. Two age groups are being run; U-15/16 & U-17/18. Each team must have a minimum of 20 players. The sixty four teams will be broken into eight regional conferences as listed below:

Northeast Conference

* Albertson SC
* B/W Gottschee
* FC Greater Boston Bolts
* FC Westchester
* Met Oval
* Oakwood SC
* Seacoast United
* South Central Premier

Mid-Atlantic Conference

* Baltimore Bays Soccer Club
* DC United
* Match Fit Academy FC
* New York Red Bulls
* PA Classics
* Potomac Soccer

Atlantic Conference

* Bridge FA
* Greensboro Youth SC
* North Meck SC
* Richmond Kickers SC
* Richmond Strikers
* South Charlotte SA
* VA Rush SC

Southeast Conference

* AFC Lightning Soccer Club
* Atlanta Fire United SA
* Birmingham United SA
* Clearwater Chargers SC
* Concorde Fire SC
* IMG Soccer Academy
* Kendall Soccer Coalition
* Schulz Academy

Great Lakes Conference

* Carmel United Soccer Club
* Columbus Crew
* Empire United SA
* Internationals SC
* Michigan Wolves
* Ohio Elite SA
* Vardar

Mid-America Conference

* Chicago Fire Soccer PDA
* Chicago Magic Soccer Club
* FC Milwaukee
* Metro United Soccer Club
* Scott Gallagher
* Sockers FC Chicago
* Solar SC
* U.S. National Team (U-15/16 & U-17)

SoCal Conference

* Arsenal SC
* Chivas USA
* Irvine Strikers
* L.A. Galaxy
* Nomads SC
* Pateadores SC
* Real So Cal
* San Diego Surf

West Conference

* Colorado Rapids
* Colorado Rush
* Crossfire Premier SC
* De Anza Force SC
* FC Portland SA
* Mustang FC
* Real Colorado
* Washington Premier FC

Each club will play 30 games over the 8 months system. Based on the number of teams and minimum roster size, this is an opportunity for over 2,000 players to get some great soccer games in every year. 30 games over 8 months, that sounds like a professional calendar, doesn't it? The winner of each conference will play in the Academy Finals at The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, MLS playoffs anyone?

To be honest this is the first time I've been excited about this program since it was announced. Previously all of the information given about the new US Soccer program was vague and I couldn't grasp what it was going to do. Now I see all of these conferences and the level of the clubs involved and it is truly awesome. Imagine, there are professional MLS and USL clubs putting teams in competition with traditional American pay to play clubs. Furthermore, these top clubs are going to be playing each other on a regular schedule instead of once a year in a tournament setting. Can you imagine the travel budgets these clubs are going to incur? Maybe they are taking some of the tournaments out of their schedules to help shift the burden.

Here are the professional clubs reaching down into the youth ranks:
- DC United
- New York Red Bulls
- Chicago Fire
- Columbus Crew
- Chivas USA
- L.A. Galaxy
- Colorado Rapids

- Richmond Kickers SC

Based on the inclusion above teams it seems like the US is finally developing an integrated, vertical soccer club system as seen around the rest of the world. I wonder which of the youth clubs will venture into the professional realm in the future.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

2007 FCTP MLS Rookie of the Week...Week 18...

I know, I know. I have fallen way behind. Trust me, catching up has been tough. I have a lot of the data together but it seems doesn't always want to give me the info I need to do my evaluations. So, we're jumping ahead to Week 18 so that I don't fall further behind.

This week we saw similar numbers in terms of the percentage of rookies playing in their matches. 7% of the MLS players to take the field were rookies. 45% of those rookies started the matches while only 27% of the rookies completed their assignments in full. Let's review who played.

Complete Gamers:
Maurice Edu
Ty Harden
Robbie Findley

Guy-Roland Kpene
Michael Harrington

Wells Thompson
Adam Cristman
Corey Ashe
Bakary Soumare
Wells Thompson (2nd game)
Adam Cristman (2nd game)

This week the award comes down to two big plays. On one side of the field a rookie defender scissor kicks a ball off the goal line to preserve a 0-0 scoreline, keeping his team in the game. On the other side of the field a rookie scores a nice goal helping the worst team in the league to take the lead over and beat the best team in the league. This comes down to the age old soccer question...which is more important, defense or offense? Time to vote kids. Who do you think earned Rookie of the Week with their valor?

Personally, I'm giving the award to Findley. Yeah, I know this is his 3rd award and Ty Harden hasn't earned a single one. Yeah, goal scorers get all the glory... But folks, this is a Real Salt Lake rookie taking down the mighty Houston Dynamo. This is a RSL rookie keeping the Dynamo from cruising to a 12th straight unbeaten game. Harden just kept his poor side from losing to a similarly poor side. Actually, if you watched the LA - Toronto match and didn't focus on the fact that Beckham wasn't playing you'd have watched an entertaining match. Who says 0-0 draws can't be fun? Especially when Joe Cannon is in goal making breathtaking saves. Harden, you were close my man. Had Houston beat RSL the way they should have, ROTW would have been yours. Congrats to Findley on his 3rd award and 5th career league goal.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

2007 NCAA Pre-Season College Soccer Rankings...

College Soccer News is out with their 2007 pre-season poll. UCLA, Duke, UCSB, Wake Forest, Santa Clara...the usual suspects for the top five. What do you think about the rest of the list?

Here are my thoughts:

- The always tough ACC will be the class of the NCAA during the regular season.

- If Joe Lapira can have another huge scoring season Notre Dame will not be as low as #11. Incoming freshman Matt Armstrong will be a strong addition coming out of Bradenton Residency. Look for this team late in the season.

- Harvard at #15 seems high. I don't see how a season playing in the Ivy League prepares you for success in the NCAA tourney. Yes, they have Andre Akpan who has played well with the U-20 Men, but it takes 11 players and the Ivy league level of competition isn't there.

- Clemson at #22. Yeah, they graduated the meat of their attack but incoming freshman are well decorated and an injection of youth could keep this ACC power purring for years to come. It will be interesting to see how three freshman All-Americans meld together.

- Old Dominion at #27. Old D's defense was working hard this season in the PDL. Their keeper, Evan Newton, was named keeper of the year and senior defender David Horst was named to the PDL All-League squad. If they can find some offense, look for them to stun one of two in the tourney.

- UCLA #1. Will UCLA be able to take the crown? They've lost one of their most dynamic players, Sal Zizzo, but there is plenty of talent to fill in. David Estrada and Kyle Nakazawa were amazing as freshmen and should lead the charge. However, this is a long season and I'm sure plenty of competition will crop up for the Bruins.

The biggest question at the start of a new season is how will last year's champions fare. Can UCSB repeat the championship that sent the goals into the ocean? Ciaran O'Brien had a strong summer in the PDL making the All-League team and sophomore will certainly try to exert his control over the game. Senior defender and 2006 Soccer America MVP Andy Iro will use his size to keep forwards from scoring goals. Don't forget Eric Avila or Nick Perera either. They certainly have a chance to make it back.

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