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Lots of Q's, a Few A's

Let's go with our Best XI:

1. How do you think Donovan and Beckham will interact? Will playing with someone like Beckham finally challenge Donovan to bring his game up a notch? The announcers during Denmark game, including Arena, certainly thought that Donovan needs to prove himself in big matches. Does having a big name/former EPL player help LD in this improvement or should he still try to play abroad?

SG: Beckham's presence will alleviate pressure from Donovan both on the field and in Landon's mind. He's been the focal point of every team he has played for the last five years. Throw in Beckham, who still has the skills to attract tight marking, and things could open up for Donovan. What he does with it remains to be seen. Donovan has been very open about his lack of intensity during portions of the schedule, essentially saying that MLS's almost all-inclusive playoff format undermines the importance of the regular season. With more attention on the league and his team this year, he's gotta play hard every night. As for Europe? Not going to happen. He's happy and grounded in MLS.

2. Do you have any sense of how the team [DCU] feels about being involved in this SuperLiga competition? More directly, do they consider it to be a distraction from the league? Any word on the location of the SuperLiga match between United and Houston?

SG: United is eager to prove itself on the international stage and has made SuperLiga and Champions' Cup a high priority. The way they see it, international competition is a vehicle for global recognition for both them and the league. (There's a lot of money at stake, too.) Is it more important than winning the league? No, it's just different. As for the United-Dynamo match on Aug. 1, Richmond was the early front-runner since RFK is not available because of a Nats game. But Soccer United Marketing, which is overseeing the tournament, has decided to play the game in Houston, instead of a neutral site, "to preserve the integrity of the event," a DCU official said. No arguments from me (other than the travel involved) -- these games should be played on a home field.

3. What is the status of getting a shirt sponsor for DCU? Any names of possibilities?

SG: Good question. I need to follow up on that topic with Kevin Payne. However, with John Hendricks coming abroad as an investor, "Discovery Channel" wouldn't look bad on the jerseys, eh? Or perhaps "Duke University"?

4. Any idea when the MLS schedule will be announced? I'm specifically interested in knowing when the Galaxy will come to DC, for some strange reason! Will United open up all of RFK if demand for tickets for that game exceeds the current amount available?

SG: As reported in the Post last week and confirmed by more sources this week, MLS has "tentatively" planned Beckham and the Galaxy to play at RFK on Thursday night, August 9. The full league schedule should be finalized and released in early February. I'd imagine United will open up all sections to accommodate 44,000 for Beckham, if necessary.

5. What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of Luciano Emilio's game? Is he a finisher (like Esky) or more of a creative type player (like Moreno)? Also, how much do you sense the new ownership is willing to spend on a Designated Player?

SG: Emilio is a pure goal scorer and will be the recipient of Moreno and Gomez's creative work. In scouting Emilio, the club was also impressed by his ability to set up others for scoring opportunities. How he fares in MLS remains to be seen. DCU has said publicly it does not plan to utilize the Designated Player exemption this year. You have to understand that, not only will it cost a team hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary to the player, it takes a major chunk of their salary cap. This year's cap is a shade under $2.2 million; a Designated Player would count an estimated $400,000 against it. So if you already have several high-priced players on your roster (DC has Gomez, Moreno and Olsen), it is difficult to add a Designated Player, such as Beckham, and stay under the cap.

6. I am a little worried about the huge (and I can't understate this) huge emphasis MLS is putting on building soccer specific stadiums. I understand the desire to build SSS but I am worried that MLS doesn't seem to care at all about where these stadiums are located. One of the main reasons to build SSS in the first place is to provide the fans with a great soccer experience. I think a huge part of that soccer experience is what people do before and after the game, and how they get there. Going to see Arsenal and Chelsea in London would be completely different if people had to drive 30 miles outside of the city and park in a huge suburban parking lot. I would much rather see MLS teams in non-soccer specific stadiums in urban areas with good mass transit (ie: RFK) than teams in soccer stadiums in far-out suburban towns (Galaxy, Dallas, new Fire stadium, potential RSL stadium, etc.) I was in Columbus a few weeks ago and struck by the terrible location of the Crew Stadium. And this was in direct contrast to the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey arena. Think of the difference between the Verizon Center and FedEx Field. If I were MLS I would be requiring new stadiums to get built in locations with access to great public transit and with stuff to do nearby (bars, restaurants, etc) instead of merely parking. Thoughts?

SG: Purchasing acres of property in a nice metropolitan setting is going to cost mucho $$$. MLS simply does not generate enough revenue to allow for such real estate purchases, nor does it have the political influence to persuade gov't support. You build where affordable land is available and, in most big cities, that is on the outskirts of town or in the suburbs. (DCU, though, has a great opportunity to buck that trend with the Poplar Point proposal.) Columbus got a nice deal to build at the fairgrounds. The Dallas, LA and Denver stadiums are part of vast multi-field projects that allow thousands of kids to play on quality surfaces. (No room downtown for such facilities.) In a perfect world, MLS stadiums would be like their English counterparts -- integrated into neighborhoods, with pubs a block away and the subway around the corner. That's just not going to happen in this country. The public's hunger for soccer stadiums as urban centerpieces does not exist.

7. Since the 2006 talent pool for MLS defender and goalie of the year came from undrafted free agents, are there any similar trialists identified who will be attending DCU's preseason camp?

SG: The preseason roster probably won't include any surprises: vets, a foreign addition, draft picks and a couple of longshot invitees. We should know specific names today.

8. With all the discussion over what's hindering MLS's progress, I feel one critical and often-overlooked issue is OFFICIATING. Performance of soccer refs will always be a subjective, controversial topic. And the turmoil around officiating at WC06 proves it's difficult to get it right even at the highest levels. But what's the real deal with MLS refs these days? Aren't there still way too many games in which the officiating is embarrassingly amateurish? Why don't players/coaches/journalists comment more? How experienced are our refs? What are they paid? Are they struggling to grasp the unique style of MLS play? And what can be done to improve their performance?

SG: The USSF is in charge of training referees/linesmen and assigning them to MLS games. Why don't players/coaches/journalist comment more??? Apparently, you haven't noticed all the fines that MLS has doled out over the years! As for the beat reporters, it's not our role to editorialize about officiating; we do, however, write about controversial decisions that affect the outcome of a game. Will officiating get better? I would certainly hope so.

9. I know you're not the Post film critic, but I'm curious about other ways to get through the offseason other than using this blog. So, what are must-see soccer movies? Have you seen Green Street Hooligans? Thoughts about Goal? Other movies?

SG: Green Street Hooligans is worth watching. Very violent and highly clichéd, but you get a good sense of the hooligan culture and what draws fans to it (not for kids). I actually enjoyed Goal. Yes, quite predictable, but great cameos, riveting soccer action and breathtaking shots inside, outside and above St. James Park in Newcastle. Once in a Lifetime, the story of the Cosmos, is a must-see for every fan. Bend It Like Beckham is more about culture than soccer, but well done.
Others (if you can find them): The Game of Their Lives, the story of the 1966 North Korean World Cup team and its warm relationship with the people of Middlesbrough; The Cup, filmed in Bhutan; The Other Final, a documentary about the worst teams in the world, Bhutan and Montserrat, playing each other on the eve of the 02 World Cup final; Fever Pitch, the British version with Colin Firth, not the Jimmy Fallon/Red Sox abomination; and Goal Dreams, a documentary about the challenge of forming a Palestine national team. You can probably skip Kicking and Screaming. Did I miss anything noteworthy?

10. DCU is supposedly taking Champions' Cup seriously this time around, so to ensure peak performance they dealt away playmaker Freddy Adu to bring in the even more spectacular....zzzzzz?

SG: Huh? Freddy Adu, a playmaker? You must be thinking of Gomez and Moreno. Some pro athletes require a change of scenery to invigorate their careers. Freddy was one of them. As for DCU's new players, time will tell. If Emilio doesn't score goals and the alleged other newcomers don't produce, the DC front office will have a lot of explaining to do about their offseason decisions.

11. When is the Goff/Steinberg "Crossbar" Death Match?

SG: Any day now. Serious blog/bog smackdown.

By Steve Goff  |  January 26, 2007; 8:53 AM ET
Categories:  Misc.  
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Comments

Great forum and responses. Thank you.

I appreciated your thoughts on my officiating question, and I am all too aware of the fines the league has issued. I just wish we had some louder voices pressuring the MLS/USSF on this issue. I'll never forget the countless tirades El Diablo hurled at the refs - frustrating at times when he was sent off, but his actions seemed almost heroic and he was so often correct in his criticism...

As for your point about beat reporters and their role, I would love some clarification on who does what with soccer at the Post. I know much of it is new and evolving, and I'm really appreciative of the expanding content. But what are the editor's plans in terms of less fact-focused columns? Beyond the occasional human interest type piece on a player, I would love to see more big-picture, opinion-driven, behind-the-scenes, international/historical context, to add flavor. Your team clearly has the knowledge and talent to excel with this, and I believe the audience is here. Thanks.

Posted by: speculation | January 26, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

One movie missed in the list was 'A Shot at Glory' . I don't know if I know one other person who has seen it despite having some big names in it. Robert Duvall as the manager of a Scottish team, with MIchael Keaton as the owner,Ally McCoist as the team's playboy and Cole Hauser as the Yank keeper....good stuff.

Posted by: Scott | January 26, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Re: Movies

Man, come on, what about Victory? One of the most unintentionally hilarious movies I've ever seen.

Posted by: Goose | January 26, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

One thing you can say about MLS officiating: Every team is affected equally. :-)

As for the Post's coverage, you would have to contact the sports editor, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, or the soccer editor, Jon DeNunzio. I can tell you that our columnists -- who, unlike reporters, have the freedom to express opinions -- rarely take on soccer. Mike Wise is the exception.

Movies...Yes, I saw Shot at Glory and should have mentioned it. Not great, not bad. Love Duvall with an accent.

Posted by: Goff | January 26, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of movies, I'm breaking out "Mean Machine"(2001). Starring ex-Premier League butcher Vinnie Jones, it also has the rest of the Guy Ritchie movie regulars. The story is based on "The Longest Yard", but improves it by using a real sport. Go watch.

Posted by: Dominic | January 26, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Football Factory is similar to Green Street Hooligans, only light years better.

Posted by: Jeff | January 26, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Duke University on the jerseys :-) Maybe Feinstein will come to the matches and write a book.

Speaking of books, read "Fever Pitch" and forget the Colin Firth movie - it's a chick flick with soccer moments.

Speaking of movies, is Desson Thomson excited about Becks? I submitted that question to his last chat, but he was too busy talking about some guy named Oscar, and not Oscar Fabbiani of the TB Rowdies (I'm old enough to have seen him play).

Posted by: I-270 Exit 1 | January 26, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

How bout 'A Minor Miracle" based on true story of Pele saving an orphanage. I can hear the "let them play" chants now.

Speaking of Pele movies, the prize has to go to 'Hot Shot' doesn't it?. Long live the New York Rockers!

Posted by: Scott--more movies | January 26, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

There's an Iranian movie coming out soon about girls who are total fans of the Iranian national soccer team but are forbidden from attending matches because they're, um, not male.

Posted by: Juan-John | January 26, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Chaolin Soccer. Hilarious movie. :-))))

Posted by: out-of-place DCU in texas | January 26, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Damn folks, thanks for filling up my Netflix queue even more.

A book I have to plug for, which is really good, is The Miracle of Castel del Sangro about an Italian team from a tiny village that makes it to Serie B in the playoff. I've given it to non-soccer fans who loved the writing and became a bit more of soccer fans. Worth a read and might make a good movie sometime with all the drama with the players, crazy coach and mafia don owner.

Posted by: Grant | January 26, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

If Duke University becomes a shirt sponsor, I'll cheer for the Red Bulls.

Speaking of stadiums, how fantastic would it have been if NY had built a stadium in Manhattan/Brooklyn/Queens? It would quickly have turned into a storied venue around the world. Could you imagine Barcelona v Chelsea there or a United vs Red Bull road trip?

SGoff--I know you had a lot of questions today but the great Arena shadow from the north has to have DC United worried a tad bit. It'd make a good piece!

Posted by: delantero | January 26, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Are you allowed to title (or subtitle) a column, or blog post Best XI if your brother isn't an interim National Team coach?

Posted by: Kim | January 26, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Regarding refs, I thought I heard at the Supporters' Summit that the USSF was pursuing the creation of full-time paid ref jobs.

If I heard correctly, what's happening with that?

Posted by: seahawkdad | January 26, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Maybe I overlooked it, but you could really use a link to your blog on the Post homepage, or at least in the DC United/Soccer section.

Posted by: Bethesda, MD | January 26, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

for books, i have to second 'castel di sangro' - funny, sad, exhilirating.

also, check out 'football against the enemy' by simon kuper. miles better than 'how soccer explains the world'.

Posted by: fever | January 26, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

As far as the referees, I think they are in a no-win situation. I concede there ar a number of poor officials who work MLS games. However, the best officials want to officate at FIFA standards but that is not what MLS wants and even though USSF certifies/trains the officials, MLS dictates what happens as far as who works games, etc. Of course, the Federation doesn't do themselves any favors because their recent track record in training top officials is pathetic. Look at few referees top quality officials we have in the country.

Referees get two sets of marching orders - one from USSF and one from MLS. Which one do they follow - the Federation or the MLS who actually pay the freight?

If you want to read more on the subject, you should go to Bob Evan website, http://fortheintegrityofsoccer.blogs.com/

Great commentary from someone with experience who's not afraid to call it like he sees it.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 26, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

and 'victory' is to futbol as 'point break' is to surfing. and i mean that in the best and cheesiest way...

Posted by: fever | January 26, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

It was a dagger in my heart to even read that Duke MIGHT sponsor our boys in black. Lord, that just can't happen. Can it?

Posted by: Matt | January 26, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

How far can Red Bull's influence go? Did anyone see the Reyna press conference? Da Bruce was even drinking a Red Bull! Does that mean if we get sponsored by the Discovery Channel that the players will have to watch documentaries on the mating habits of Sub-Saharan Africa primates during halftime?

Posted by: Mike Roadarmel | January 26, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

If Freddy Adu is a "playmaker" in MLS, than I'm a Finalist for the Art Ross Trophy for my exploits in Intramural Floor Hockey...

Posted by: AlecW81 | January 26, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

How far can Red Bull's influence go? Did anyone see the Reyna press conference? Da Bruce was even drinking a Red Bull! Does that mean if we get sponsored by the Discovery Channel that the players will have to watch documentaries on the mating habits of Sub-Saharan Africa primates during halftime?

I think they can skip the half-time videos and just have Bobby on What Not to Wear, then Take Home Chef and so forth. Who gets the motorcycle??

Posted by: bluemeanies | January 26, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Don't sleep on Ladybugs! Rodney Dangerfield gets no respect.

Another good read is from local guy Dave Ungrady called "Unlucky: A Season of Struggle in Minor League Professional Soccer". It follows the adventures of the Fairfax, Virginia-based Northern Virginia Royals, which made its debut during the 1998 season.

Posted by: Ryan | January 26, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Anything Simon Kuper writes is brilliant. Speaking of brilliant soccer-cu-sociology books, 'Brilliant Orange' about Dutch total football as explained through the 60 progressive movement is perfect. It's funny and explains a lot.

Posted by: DCAustinite | January 26, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Officiating. I've always felt that people who do this must have a screw loose. . . they are either incredibly masochistic or perhaps control freaks. Why would anyone put up with the abuse that these guys get? As Steven said, all teams suffer bad officiating equally. Yes, absolutely, there should be an ongoing effort to improve competency, but all of the whining and complaining is just going to discourage potentially good refs from emerging. Plus, it can only damage the development of professional soccer in the US to call so much attention to the fact that there are so many judgement calls in the sport. It's very unpleasant to watch a match when the focus of the spectators (especially youth parents) is on the officiating rather than the play.

Posted by: touchliner | January 26, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

In Portland, our USL First Division team plays in a quirky old stadium right downtown, with mass transit literally on its doorstep and pubs just a hundred yards away. The facility itself has a few problems, largely because it's also used for baseball, but they'd be easy to sort out if an MLS franchise stepped in. Sadly there never seems to be any real interest from the league or investors. Whatever, we are happy with our Timbers if MLS prefers to chase the exurbs.

And anyway I hear Frisco has a rockin' scene...

Posted by: PTFC | January 26, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

For a good book, try Geoffrey Douglas' 1996 book about the USA 1950 squad, The Game of Their Lives. (I do NOT recommend the amateurish 2005 film based on this book, now out on DVD under the title "The Miracle Match" or some such.) Douglas' description of the on-pitch action is sometimes shaky, but he perfectly captures the culture of the inner-city ethnic neighborhoods in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and other Rust Belt cities that produced the players, and the self-effacing, regular-guy nature of the players themselves (at least the surviving ones that he could interview).

Posted by: Go Penn State! | January 26, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I'll forgive your oversight of Shaolin Soccer -- the only sports flick capable of making me snort beer out my nose

Posted by: iammrben | January 26, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Personal opinion, "Mean Machine" (movie previously mentioned as one to see) is pure garbage.

Posted by: Chief Clancy Wiggum | January 26, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"Lady Bugs" on the other hand is pure comedic genius. Good ol Jonathan Brandis as Matthew/Martha along with the girl he liked, Kimberly, who later went on to star as the prostitute in "Eyes Wide Shut."

Also, Dallas has a nice stadium out in Frisco. Brother and I went out there for the MLS Championship. Got to go to the Commissioner's Party where we got to rub elbows with Moreno, Gomez, Boswell, Perkins, Jimmy Conrad, Jeff Agoos, and Alexi Lalas. Pretty sweet stuff.

Posted by: Chief Clancy Wiggum | January 26, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

C'mon, what about Posh announcing with Wynalda? She's better looking than Rob Stone -- all though they both appeal to the same gender (or so it seems)....

Posted by: Becks | January 26, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Touchline said: "Officiating. I've always felt that people who do this must have a screw loose. . . they are either incredibly masochistic or perhaps control freaks."

I ref at a relatively low level and not that often, and can tell you why I do it -- it's a real kick to be in the middle of a very good game, and a challenge to try to keep it fair and enjoyable for all. Some days, it's more of a challenge than others.

I don't feel qualified enough to say whether MLS refs are really as bad as some people say. I will note this -- at every level of soccer I have ever watched, from youth leagues to the World Cup, I have seen howlingly bad calls. It's a hard job (I seem to remember a study that found that it's physically impossible to judge a close offside call accurately at the highest level because of the speeds and distances involved).

Glad to see lots of people enjoying the blog!

Posted by: Goff's Editor | January 26, 2007 7:48 PM | Report abuse

The Fire stadium isn't really in 'a far-out suburban town'. 71st Street and Harlem Avenue isn't the Loop but it's not 30-40-50 mi out either.

anyhow poplar point could be the first downtown stadium - here's hoping.

Posted by: Harold | January 27, 2007 5:18 AM | Report abuse

Has Ruy signed a contract with any club and if so, who?

Posted by: Larry | January 29, 2007 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Scott, you're not alone. In terms of soccer flicks, I also enjoyed A Shot At Glory and recommend it highly to soccer fans.

Posted by: Dsmac | January 29, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

The best hooligan film of all time has to be Alan Clarke's "The Firm" (1988), starring a pre-fame Gary Oldman as top boy of the ICF. As gritty and incisive as "Green Street" is cliched and slickly glamourized. "Green Street" is somewhat interesting to American audiences as it provides a home-grown perspective and entree (Elijah Wood!) into this unfamiliar and darkly alluring sub-culture -- yet the film quickly degenerates into something rather ludicrous. "The Firm," on the other hand, is the genuine article -- difficult, insular, challenging, provocative. It remains clear-eyed and pulls no punches. And at its heart, an absolutely scathing critique of Thatcherite England. A masterpiece of sociology and film-making.

Posted by: SEC | January 29, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

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