Final Tuneup

The US Men's National Team worked out for about an hour on the main field at SAS Soccer Park on Monday afternoon ahead of their match with Jamaica Tuesday night. Only the last 15 minutes were open to the media and by that time the only action was some two-man drills for the attacking players. After practice, Ben Olsen could be seen icing his right thigh but it was unclear if he had sustained an injury significant enough to keep him out of action on Tuesday night. Pictures from the last 15 minutes of practice are available on my Flickr stream.

Suit Up!

Scrambling around at the last minute for something to wear to the Jamaica match on Tuesday night? There's not enough time to order something online now but I hear that Premier Soccer has just received a shipment of World Cup replica jerseys. They have both home and away kits plus training tops and t-shirts. In addion to the USA logowear, they also have World Cup replicas from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Cameroon, Czech Republic, France and Spain for those of you that support a second team.

US Men Arrive in Cary

The US Men's National Team arrived in Cary on Sunday and underwent a light workout on Fields 2 & 3 at SAS Soccer Park. With most players having played less than 24 hours previously for their club sides, the brief workout consisted of little more than some slow jogging, light calisthenics, and a friendly game of soccer-tennis. Pablo Mastroeni and John O'Brien, both of who did not figure yesterday in their MLS team's matches, spent a little extra time running through some ball drills with Coach Glenn Myernick while a few of the more veteran players like Eddie Pope, Ben Olsen, and Frankie Hedjuk did little more than catch up on old times with friends. Landon Donovan and Chris Albright, who played a last game on the West Coast Saturday night had yet to join the team by practice time today. Everyone at practice seemed excited for Tony Meola on the ocassion of his 100th cap and folks were ribbing him a little about it. The most excitement of the day came when Clint Dempsey had a discussion with his opponents (two staff coaches) over the TRUE rules of soccer-tennis. Luckily, a punch-up was avoided (just kidding Clint!). Pictures from the practice are available on my Flickr stream. The team will practice again on Monday on the main field at SAS Soccer Park ahead of their match on Tuesday versus Jamaica.

A Long Way to Go for No Johnny O'

Friday while I was over at SAS Soccer Park volunteering for the Rhinos game, Chris Economides got off the phone with the guys at DC United (where he was working on some of the details for the June 14th game) when he turns to me and says: "You want to go to the Chivas USA game tomorrow?" With the wife and kids out of town, who was I to pass up a 10 hour roundtrip roadtrip on a moment's notice to watch a 90 minute soccer match? After last week's display against RSL, I was actually eager to see Chivas USA play and the possibility of being in the stands to see John O'Brien play his first ever MLS game was enticing enough to get me to go. While Johnny didn't get off the bench (not a bad idea given the wet, baseball-scarred pitch), it was nice to see him wearing an MLS kit and I was impressed by the much improved Chivas. They gave DC a run for their money and probably will feel harshly done by on a couple of occasions. I was particularly impressed by the speed of Tim Regan in the back but was left scratching my head as to why a striker like Sacha Kjlestan was playing such a withdrawn midfield role (I suppose this will be O'Brien's position when he returns). One thing is for sure, Chivas USA is not going to be an easy 3 points for anyone this year. The good news is that the tickets Chris secured for us were not outside in the nasty rain and 40 degree weather but rather in a box with the DC United Reserves. So we managed to stay dry for the 5 hour drive home in the blinding rain and got to enjoy the game with Justin Moose, Stephen deRoux, Devon TcTavish, and a few other players whose names I didn't catch. The bad news is that my planned evening of sitting and watching 5 MLS matches on DirectKick was competely shot and now I have 7.5 hours of soccer on TiVo that I need to get through today!

Rochester-Atlanta Battle to Scoreless Draw

The Rochester Rhinos wound down their pre-season training camp with a scoreless draw against fellow USL Division 1 opponent the Atlanta Silverbacks tonight at SAS Soccer Park. Rhinossoccer.com has a great game summary. I spent about 8 hours today volunteering as part of the Event Staff. I never really thought about how much effort went into putting together a soccer event for the public. I had always just sort of shown up 20 minutes before kickoff and enjoyed the fruits of others' hard work. Today gave me an appreciation of what really goes into pulling off a sporting event. (Plus, I'd always wanted one of those yellow T-Shirts that say Event Staff on them). I had a lot of fun and encourage others to give it a try. There will be plenty more opportunities to volunteer with Triangle Professional Soccer throughout the summer. Since I was working Event Staff, my pictures tonight are more documenting the event itself instead of the action on the field. Andy Mead was also shooting at the game and he's got a few action shots up over at YCJ.

Rhinos Bounce Back, Defeat Tarheels 3-1

After dropping their first friendly of the spring season yesterday to Charleston, the Rochester Rhinos bounced back to beat the UNC Tarheels 3-1 in a friendly tonight at SAS Soccer Park. Yesterday's goal scorer Johnny Menyongar continued to impress as he fed Jonathan Bolaños who easily beat US U-20 National Team keeper Justin Hughes in the 7th minute. The Rhinos had the better part of the game for the first 15 minutes of play until last year's NCAA quarterfinalist Tarheels realized that they could play at the Rhinos tempo. UNC's midfield of Ben Hunter and Scott Campbell started to drive more and more play at the Rhinos young defense until in the 24th minute US U-20 National Team forward Corey Ashe split the defense on a through ball and chipped the onrushing Patrick Hannigan to level the score at 1-1. The rest of the first half was very evenly contested with most of the play bottled up in midfield. The Rhinos did manage to get forward a few times through Menyongar and several nice overlapping runs by Scott Palguta out of the left back position. Finally, just a minute before halftime the Rhinos went ahead for good when Menyongar notched his second assist of the night by feeding Matthew Delicâte who finished well past a stranded Hughes. Coach Calloway made plenty of substitutions at halftime while UNC continued primarily with their starting eleven. Fatigue began to show and a good portion of the second half was played in the Rhinos end. On about 60 minutes played, Charles Gbeke broke loose down the left side and fed a nice cross-box pass to Neil Dombrowski who just curled his shot wide of the right post. A quarter of an hour later, Gbeke beat the defense again and was denied on a wonderful diving challenge by Justin Hughes. Finally, with the referee checking his watch for fulltime, Rey Angel Martinez laid a gorgeous pass into the path of former Duke standout Danny Kramer who scored one last time against his rival Tarheels to bring the evening to a close. The Rhinos finish their spring training camp in Cary tomorrow night with a 7:30pm contest against the Atlanta Silverbacks. Pictures from tonight's game are available on my Flickr stream.

It's a Small Blogosphere, After All

The blogosphere is an incredible place. While it allows me to communicate with thousands on a daily basis, it also gives me the chance to carry on one-on-one conversations with folks that I would never meet otherwise. During the course of my blogging, I've had all kinds of interesting feedback from readers ranging from the parents of players I've photographed to even the author of one of my favorite books! Most recently, I struck up a conversation with Steve Olsen who runs a blog very similar to TriSoccerFan which covers soccer in the Springfield, Missouri area. Steve brought my attention to one of his players, Autumn McEachern, who plays for the local Rolla Bulldogs and is headed to Buies Creek next year to play for Campbell (number 14 red in this video). She and her teammates recently made a trip to North Carolina for a few friendlies and visits to both the Duke and UNC campuses. I found it interesting to follow the roadtrip from both the coach's perspective as well as that of the girls. Here's an except from the girls' journal:
Tuesday This morning we left the hotel at 6:45 am to go watch the UNC Women’s Team train. For their training, the girls scrimmaged each other for two 20 minute halves. Something that surprised us was that there were boys on the roster for practicing purposes. These boys were put on the team to increase the speed and intensity of the play. There also were some US National Team players at the session. We saw Cindy Parlow and Cat Reddick. Kendell Fletcher accidentally kicked a ball into where we were sitting and gave one of my teammates a bloody nose. It was pretty funny and a great photo op with a National Team player!

After the practice the assistant coach, Bill Palladino showed us around the athletic part of campus. We got to see Finnley Field, the soccer building, and the actual field that the UNC women’s team plays on. Once we finished touring the campus, we walked through the pit and onto Franklin Street to do some shopping. Another famous face we saw was Tyler Hansbrough. Some of the girls tracked him down and got a picture with the basketball all-star! When we got to Franklin St. we split up into smaller groups and looked in all of the shops.

At about 2:00 pm we left UNC to visit their rival, Duke. At Duke we walked through the student center and did some more shopping. Then we went into the Duke Cathedral. After walking through the cathedral, we proceeded on to the Duke basketball stadium. We spent about 45 minutes there taking pictures, sitting on Duke’s bench, and walking around on the court. Duke also has botanical gardens on campus, so we walked over to the gardens to walk around and look at all the beautiful flowers. By this time most of us were tired of walking and very hungry, so we ended our day with dinner at Cracker Barrel and headed back to the hotel.

Sometimes we take for granted how much great soccer we have in the Triangle. I'm glad I don't have to make a 23 hour bus trip to watch the talent we have here on display every day!

Rhinos Drop 120 Minute Friendly to Battery 2-1

The Rochester Rhinos and Charleston Battery squared off this afternoon at SAS Soccer Park in a 120 minute (4, 30 minute periods) friendly. The Battery got on the board first about 15 minutes in when the Rhinos keeper dropped a long ball which bounced high over his head. As he tried to bring it down he fumbled it right into the path of the Battery forward Ben Hollingsworth who did not waste the gift he was presented. The game was fairly even with neither team really getting many good looks at goal through 90 mintues. Although the Battery seemed to be the more organized side early, both coaches were experimenting with lots of different personnel and the game did not have a lot of flow. The Rhinos seemed to get stronger as the game wore on and just inside the 4th period, Rochester's Johnny Menyongar leveled the scored with a fine individual effort to beat the Battery keeper. With what looked to be a justly deserved draw for both sides winding down, Battery midfielder Ian Fuller caught Rhinos keeper Scott Vallow cheating off his line and buried a 40+ yard lob over the helpless keeper with only 2 minutes to play in the scrimmage. This was really the first time I've gotten to see the Rhinos play in a full speed game since they have been here in Cary. While it was obvious that it's still earlier pre-season, I did enjoy the match and look forward to the remaining games later this week. For me, I was most impressed with the pace and touch or Menyongar. I also noticed that much of Rhinos play went through Juninho who seemed to be the creative force in midfield from his spot on the left wing. Newcomers Danny Kramer (Duke) and Kenney Bertz (Maryland) both acquitted themselves well in their first USL-level match for the Rhinos. Kramer had several nice runs and was just denied a goal on a fine diving save from the Battery Keeper. Bertz looks like a real find for the Rhinos backline in desperate need of a steadying force due to offseason deparatures. He brought both physical play in the box as well as a knack for getting forward on set pieces. I think Rhinos fans will be very pleased with this new signing. Pictures from the game are available on my Flickr stream.

Meola to Earn Historic 100th Cap in Cary

Tony Meola will get one historic last runout for the National Team when the USA takes on Jamaica here in Cary Tuesday night. With the World Cup goalkeeper roster slots firmly in the hands of Keller, Hahnemann, and Howard, US National Team coach Bruce Arena took the opportunity to tip his hat to the 1990 and 1994 World Cup starter Tony Meola who, with an appearance Tuesday, will record his 100th international cap. Meola started every minute of Italia '90 and USA '94 for the Nats, including the historic 2-1 win against Colombia in the Rose Bowl that helped propel the US to the second round in 1994. Meola is a 5-time MLS All-Star and recorded a clean sheet as the USA shutout England 2-0 in US Cup '93. US Soccer is planning a special ceremony at the game to honor Meola as he becomes the 9th American to reach the 100 international appearances plateau. Joining Meola on the roster are former Tarheels Eddie Pope and Kerry Zavagnin along with former NCSU standout Pablo Mastroeni. Also getting a call-up is John O'Brien who seems to be getting healthy at just the right time. The full roster includes:
  • Goalkeepers (2) – Tony Meola (New York Red Bulls), Matt Reis (New England Revolution)
  • Defenders (5) – Chris Albright (Los Angeles Galaxy), Nick Garcia (Kansas City Wizards), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake)
  • Midfielders (7) – Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Pat Noonan (New England Revolution), John O’Brien (out of contract), Ben Olsen (D.C. United), Steve Ralston (New England Revolution), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City Wizards)
  • Forwards (4) – Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)

DC United to Return to Cary June 14th

On this weekend's Kick This (listen now: streaming or mp3 download), Chris Economides, Managing Partner of Triangle Professional Soccer revealed that DC United will be returning to Cary for a friendly on June 14th. No opponent was announced so I guess we'll have to wait for the full details on that one. DC United returns to SAS Soccer Park where they defeated the Rochester Rhinos 3-2 last summer in a similar exhibition match. The entire Kick This episode is a great listen for both Cary and USL soccer fans. Tim Holt, VP of USL, is a guest along with Economides who both spend a lot of time talking about Cary soccer and the direction of USL. Holt goes on to say that the biggest thing to happen in USL in the last 3 months is NOT the signing of Romario, but the expansion to Cary and how thrilled the USL is about putting a team in our little soccer hotspot. In another nice morsel of info that will interest Triangle soccer fans, Economides suggested that the new team in Cary will have the "Carolina" name. The official club name is yet to be determined as part of their name the team contest. Chris also hints at a special USL event in Cary but stops short of actually confirming that it will be the USL All-Star Game as rumored earlier by Soccer Sam. He even takes time to give a shout out to our supporters club!

No Foreign-Based Players for Jamaica Game In Cary

During tonight's LA v. New England MLS match-up, US National Team manager Bruce Arena spent a few minutes in the booth chatting with Rob & Marcello. Although we knew April 11th wasn't an international match day, a few of us had held out hopes that a few international-based players such as Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahnemann (who have now clinched both promotion to the Premier League and 1st place in the Coca-Cola Championship with Reading) would be called in. However, Arena confirmed during the interview that the squad for the Jamaica game would be entirely MLS-based. Arena stated that he has narrowed his roster to 35 players at this point competing for 23 roster spots. 18 will be called in for the game in Cary. The roster will be selected after this weekend's MLS games are complete and the pool's current injury status is assessed.

Raleigh Elite US Open Cup Qualifying Schedule Set

The Raleigh Elite have been handed a challenging US Open Cup Qualifying schedule that sees them play 3 qualifiers over the course of 4 days. The Elite open qualifying at home on May 6th vs. the Nashville Metros. Qualifying continues when they host the Augusta Fireball on May 24th before heading to Florida for back-to-back away matches. Raleigh's full qualifying schedule includes:
  • 5/6 Raleigh Elite v. Nashville Metros
  • 5/24 Raleigh Elite v. Augusta Fireball
  • 5/26 Cocoa Expos v. Raleigh Elite
  • 5/27 Palm Beach Pumas v. Raleigh Elite
The complete PDL qualifying schedule for all teams is available at the US Open Cup website.

CASL Set to Challenge for 2006 Champions Cup

US Club Soccer is set to host the inaugural Champions Cup Club Championship Easter Weekend at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. CASL will compete in both the boys and girls competition -- one of only 3 clubs nationally to be represented in both competitions. The Champions Cup is an invitational tournament that allows some of the most competitive clubs in the country, at all age groups, the opportunity to compare their entire club against other top clubs. Participants are limited in 2006 to eight boys and eight girls’ clubs. A separate boys and girls’ Club Champion will be determined. Clubs will participate in U13, U15 and U17 age groups. CASL teams have won four US Club Soccer National Cup titles as well as a USYSA National Championship. Among CASL’s alumni are Logan Pause of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Chicago Fire; Caleb Norkus, a MLS DC United draft pick and Chilean 1st Division champion; Stephen Bickford, the 2004 NSCAA Boys High School Player of the Year and a member of the U.S. U-18 Men’s National Team; and Casey Nogueira, a member of the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team. Other recent CASL members of the U.S. youth national team programs include Justin Hughes (U-20s), Michael Harrington (U-20s and U-17s), Ford Williams (U-20s and U-17s), Brett King (U-17s), Molly Baird (U-16s) and Ariel Harris (U-16s). Best of luck to our local club in this upcoming tournament!

Six Tarheels Among Women Called to Residency Camp

2007 Women's World Cup Qualifying preparations get underway April 2nd when the US Women's National Team convenes a six month residency camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. Among the roster of players called in for the camp are six Tarheel players -- goalkeeper Jenni Branam, defenders Lori Chalupny and Catherine Reddick Whitehill, midfielders Lindsay Tarpley and Kristine Lilly and forward Heather O'Reilly. As part of their preparation, the US Women's National Team will be meeting 2003 World Cup semifinalist Canada at SAS Soccer Park here in Cary on Sunday, July 30th at 1pm.

UNC Women Announce 2006 Signings

The University of North Carolina women's soccer program has formally announced the addition of nine prospective student-athletes who will join the 18-time national champion program for the fall semester 2006. Head coach Anson Dorrance's recruiting class includes eight individuals who signed NCAA National Letters of Intent to attend the University as well as one player who is a recruited non-scholarship player and who recently formally accepted admission to Carolina. Seven of the nine recruits announced to date are ranked among the Top 25 recruits in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine, including three in the Top 10. The class include Ali Hawkins (La Jolla Country Day, Encinitas, Calif.), Ashley Moore (Shenendehowa High School, Clifton Park, N.Y.), Caroline Boneparth (Lawrence Woodmere Academy, Lawrence, N.Y.), Casey Nogueira (Needham Broughton High School, Raleigh, N.C.), Kristi Eveland (Carroll High School, Southlake, Texas), Melissa Hayes (Cactus Shadows High School, Cave Creek, Ariz.), Nikki Washington (Spring Creek Academy, Mesquite, Texas), Tobin Heath (Ridge High School, Basking Ridge, N.J.) and Whitney Engen (Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.). Carolina's sole in-state recruit, Nogueira has led Broughton High School to one state championship and a runnerup finish in the past two seasons. A forward, she was chosen first-team All-State in 2004 and the most valuable player of the state high school championship game in 2005. Nogueira plays her club soccer for `87 CASL Spartan Elite and she has been a member of both the U.S. Women's Under-17 and Under-16 National Teams.