Sunday, January 30, 2011

Photo Essay: Jester King Brewery Grand Opening Party

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The Free Beer Movement had the privilege of getting an invite to the grand opening party of Austin's Jester King Brewery. When we got to the party around five it had been going strong for a few hours and figured that there'd be plenty more good times until its closing at nine.

Dozens of cars and loads of people were sitting outside the gates of the brewery's Hill Country property with one poor soul informing the crowd that the event was at capacity and the county sheriffs, along with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, was not allowing anyone else in for the remainder of the evening.

A quick phone call to Jeffrey Stuffings (owner of Jester King) and we were in! And, really, a massive thanks to him to allow the FBM in to cover the event. Much to the disappointment to the growing hoards of people outside Jester's property we drove past.

Jester King's property is a sprawling piece of Texas Hill Country land. If you've never been to Texas Hill Country is one of the state's most beautiful parts. Rolling hills pop out from the landscape as you drive west from Austin. This place is home to Texas wine country and several other breweries (and a distillery as well).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

NEWS WATCH - Michael Bradley On Loan to Aston Villa

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The Michael Bradley transfer wheel-of-fortune has finally come to a stop and the ticker's stopped on "Aston Villa". After rumors of fellow English Premier League side Sunderland didn't pan out and then the near certain contract with Turkish powerhouses Galatasaray (although conflicting reports say Fenerbahce were the Turkish club bidding for his services) also didn't come to fruition we'll bite on the report that Baby Bradley is moving to Aston Villa.

Good move for Bradley as he abandons the basement dwelling Borussia Mönchengladbach in the German Bundesliga for the, er, greener pastures of English strugglers, Villa.

A few years back Fulham became the preferred destination for Americans across the pond (Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride, Eddie Johnson, even Kasey Keller for a spell), but now American owner Randy Learner has built quite the contingent of Yanks at Villa Park.

Bradley will join U.S. legend, keeper Brad Friedel and American youngster (and heir to Frankie Hejduk's throne), defender Eric Lichaj. (Villa also owns USMNT backup keeper Brad Guzan's contract, but he's on load to Hull and looking for a permanent move).

Michael's move to Aston Villa puts the young midfield in a much higher profile league in England and, if successful, this will be a huge boon for his ability to contribute to the National Team. As for concerns with Bradley making space for himself at Villa (especially after manager Gerard Houllier booted Lichaj deep down the bench after just one poor performance), Sports Illustrated head soccer writer, Grant Wahl said on Twitter,
"Those concerned about Michael Bradley playing time at Villa should know: Like Dempsey, Bradley has earned playing time at every club with every new coach."
We wait, with great anticipation, to see Michael Bradley make his mark in England with Aston Villa.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

VIDEO - USWNT Win Four Nations Tournament (All Games' Highlights)

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Champions, again.
The United States Women's Nation Team took full honors at the Four Nations Tournament with a 2-0 defeat of the hosts in Chongquing, China. The USWNT suffered an early set up, losing 2-1 to Sweden, but then successive wins against Canada and China sealed the tournament win. It was their seventh title in eight trips to the tournament.

Coach Pia Sundhage managed to use all 21 players brought for the tournament, including first caps for Meghan Klingenberg and Sydney Leroux (who we interviewed for "The Shin Guardian"). This was even without Lady Nats stars, forward Abby Wambach (heel injury) and goalkeeper Hope Solo (shoulder surgery).

Some promising stuff from the young squad, where goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was named the tournament's best, as the USWNT shook off the tough qualifying cycle.

The USWNT is off for a week until training camp in early February to prepare for March's Algarve Cup in Portugal.

Highlights from all three matches of the Four Nations Tournament, courtesy of USSoccer.com:

Game 1: Sweden 2, US 1




Game 2: US 2, Canada 1



Game 3: US 2, China 1



Photo Courtesy: USSoccer.com, New York Times

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Monday, January 24, 2011

VIDEO - Highlights, Goals, and Post-Match Reaction from USMNT vs. Chile

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Behind Sporting KC foward Teal Bunbury's first international goal the United States Men's National Team drew with Chile on Saturday night in Carson, CA.

For full, quality analysis of the match head over to our friends at "The Shin Guardian". We're not tactics-people... more of the "America! Fuck Yeah!"-types.

In the meantime check out video from the evening's action, including the hilarious goal call from Telefutura's coverage.

"I like the Boon Boo Ree!"

Highlights:



Teal Bunbury Goal:



Reaction:



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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just A Snowball Fight, But Also A Little Something More

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I called in sick to work this morning. I usually only get sick once a year so here it was. After finally managing to get out of bed I plopped down in front of the computer and pulled up the ol' Twitter box to see what was going on in what appeared to be a painfully slow soccer day.

Midway through the morning, though, the Twitter box started rocking. What? A snowball fight in Kansas City? Organized by Sporting KC player Kei Kamara? Players versus fans? In the good way? "#SpecialKCSnowmageddon" was on at high noon.

In between fever-induced dreams in which I win the Ballon d'Or, I caught the sledding, the snow soccer game, and the snowball fight streaming on Sporting KC's website. Then Kamara took everyone out to his favorite restaurant, Chipotle (Kamara is, apparently nutso for the Mexican burrito chain), on his tab.

I started thinking about how unbelievably amazing an American soccer world it is.

That Kamara even wanted to and then did organize, with big time support from his club, such an event with local fans is a testament to the amazingness of soccer in America.

This sport is more accessible to its fans in this country than possibly anywhere else in the world.

Certainly not one player organized a snowball fight in England when all their matches were snowed out last month?

Certainly not one player from any other major sports league in this country did so either.

American soccer players ARE John Q. Public. Nearly all of them make just as much (or as little) as the rest of us. If you read Grant Wahl's "The Beckham Experiment" you learned that some Galaxy players lived four to an apartment because none of them could afford to live in Los Angeles.

It is this sort of accessibility that leaves me optimistic about soccer in the United States. While other sports' athletes are mired in sex scandals, arrests, and tales of extreme opulence, soccer carries on and moves forward with the quiet do-goodiness of the "boy next door".

For all the mainstream sports media's whining of the "foreign" nature of soccer, this sport and their athletes, here, has more in common with the average American than basketball, baseball, hockey, and football.

Follow any MLS team on Twitter or Facebook and their stars, new draftees/signings, and front office personnel are out and about their community connecting with fans. As I write this Seattle Sounders just Tweeted that Freddy Montero is going to be out at a doughnut shop signing autographs. I bet LeBron sends someone to get his doughnuts.

There are hundreds of examples of this; the accessible American soccer player and team.

It bodes well for the long-term success of any sport that its players, its teams, and its fans be able to interact with each other in a way that goes beyond the one-way street of fans coughing up their hard earned dollars. Certainly the NFL, NBA, and MLB aren't in danger of collapsing because they mostly just run with their fans' money, but it definitely is alienating.

Major League Soccer teams must realize that their greatest asset, beyond the product they put out on the field, is their ability to connect with their fans and potential fans. Events like today's snow ball fight just underscore the positive and long-lasting connections teams and players can make with their fans.

Photo Credit: Sporting KC Twitter

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The Free Beer Movement at American Outlaws Rally (March 4-5)

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On March 4th and 5th, 2011 the first ever U.S. Soccer supporters rally will take place in Las Vegas. The American Outlaws, the loudest most passionate National Team fans, will host a nation-wide gathering for its members.

The rally will focusing on the current and future state of soccer in the United States and how soccer supporters like the American Outlaws can continue to make their mark on the scene. If you've ever been to a U.S. game before and pre-partied, sat in an AO section, or just seen them behind the goal then you know this rally is gonna be HUGE.

AO has already locked down the speaking services of one of the best soccer journalists in the nation, Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, and former USMNT defender/ESPN analyst/recent FBM interviewee Alexi Lalas.

If that wasn't enough to whet your whistle AO partner, the Free Beer Movement, will also be speaking.

Oh... hey! That's us.

Yeah.... the FBM will be taking its shtick to the Strip in Las Vegas. Without giving out too many details we've got an exciting new program to brief the members of American Outlaws that we'd like to see in their chapter bars across the nation. We'll give you a hint... it involves free beer.

So if you're a member of the American Outlaws come and make your voice heard. Not a member yet? Sign up! There's bound to be an AO official chapter or unofficial chapter in your area.

Agenda


Friday:
7 – 10 pm – Cocktail Meet & Greet/Networking
- AO Thank Yous – Overview of Rally

Saturday:
Breakfast (Soccer Game Viewing – optional)

10 – 10:30 am – AO Welcome
10:30 – 12 pm – Alexi Lalas

Lunch

1 – 2 pm – US Soccer Representative
2 – 2:45 pm – 15 minute presentations (Free Beer Movement, Chapter Best Practices)
3 – 4 pm – Grant Wahl
4:15 – 5 pm – AO Presentation (Updates and Future of AO)
5 – 5:30 pm – AO Panel Q&A
5:30 – 6:15 pm – OneGoal Viewing and Q&A
6:15 – 6:30 pm – AO Thanks and Goodbyes

Following Main Rally – Chapter Breakouts (Dinner) 7- 8:30
1. AO Leaders Breakout
2. TenDot Travel – Event Planning Breakout
3. Marketing/Branding Breakout

Night: O'Sheas in Vegas

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cosmos Director of Soccer Eric Cantona's Controversial Training Methods

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Adding to the mysterious aura surrounding the make-believe soccer club, the New York Cosmos named Manchester United "Player of the Century" Eric Cantona their "Director of Soccer" today.

From the Cosmos' press release:
“I am very honored to join the legendary club New York Cosmos. It’s a big project, a wonderful project. The Cosmos are very strong, beautifully made, with a great past. It’s kind of a mix between football and art. I will do everything that I can to help us first find our way to regain the #1 position in the United States, and then for us to become one of the best clubs in the world over the coming years.”
The Cosmos news comes on the heals of their announcement of the hiring of former Los Angeles Galaxy player and coach Cobi Jones as "Assistance Director of Soccer". The two, Cantona and Jones, are expected to become the Batman and Robin of the American soccer world. Racing around stopping the ugly game where ever it arises.

More controversial that the fact that the Cosmos don't have a team, but do have a youth academy, a jersey (that doesn't fit into MLS' contract with adidas... I'm sure they won't mind), and more backroom staff than an illegal "massage' parlor is Cantona's training methods.

Despite Cantona's superb record as a player until his retirement in 1997, his post-playing career has been marred after an undercover investigation revealed dangerous, illegal, and sometimes just absurd training methods he put dozens soccer stars through before the World Cup. No charges were ever filled against Cantona, but his reputation has been sullied in European footballing circles.

It looks as thought the Cosmos are looking pass all that as they construct a viable team for Major League Soccer and global dominance.

The hidden camera footage is below:





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VIDEO - The Onion "SportsDome" on Major League Soccer

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Even got put on the banner!
Hey look we're relevant enough to openly mock!

The Onion (born in FBM HQ North aka Wisconsin!) has a new sport-centric show on Comedy Central called "SportsDome". Last week, in their premier episode, the took a shot at Major League Soccer in a highlight segment that covered the last four years of the league or "since we last checked in on the league".

We guess that soccer fans in American should be proud that MLS is prominent enough (in the "major sports" world) to even be the subject of satire.

Honestly, the best thing about this segment is the fact it highlights how poor the subject of the show mockery ESPN's "SportsCenter" has been in covering our domestic league. The fifty-two seconds "SportsDome" is probably comparable to the time SC has devoted to MLS when you remove any references to Senor Beckham or the arrival of Thierry Henry to the league.

Certainly its a chicken-and-egg argument... does the league have to raise its profile before more regular coverage or does more regular coverage help raise the league's profile?

Our interview with ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas covered this discussion as well. We're in agreement that MLS has got to do more to make the league relevant to the average sports fan (and at least most soccer fans in the U.S.), but would it really kill to network to show a few game highlights instead of the same slam dunks with different team's jerseys on.




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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

VIDEO - USMNT "Inside the Lines" More January Training

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The USMNT continues its preparations for Saturday's international friendly against Chile (9pm CT, Telefutura and ESPN3.com) and USSoccer.com's Studio 90 continues their "Inside the Lines" series covering said prep.

Just like their previous video its raw footage of the Nats practice at the Home Depot Center training facilities. No interviews, no sound track... just red, white, and blue soccer.



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Monday, January 17, 2011

The MLS Super "Draft" - Presented By National Bohemian

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"The kid has got a good head on his shoulder," one scout said of the Chicago Fire's "draft" pick.
(Editor's Note: We've gone back and reviewed every pick from the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft and picked drinks/beers from the kids' college/home town to fill in for them. We'll call them our own "draft" picks". All for fun, folks. Enjoy!)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to Baltimore and welcome to the 2011 Major League Soccer Super "Draft"! My name is Mr. Boh and I am the official representative of Baltimore's own, National Bohemian Brewing Co. I'll be your host for today's festivities.

We've got some of the nation's best "on tap" for "drafting" this afternoon. Each pick has EXCLUSIVE scouting profiles from Free Beer Movement experts!


Round 1


1. Vancouver Whitecaps
"Draft" Pick: Omar Salgado is "Jose Cuervo"
Position: Tequila
School: University of Guadalajara (Jalisco, Mexico)
Profile: "Omar packs a punch. Early on he won't seem like much, but late in the game he'll make his mark. He'll leave you (and defenders) with their hand on their knees, begging for the night to be over."

2. Portland Timbers 
"Draft" Pick: Darlington Nagbe is "Stud Service" 
Position: Stout
School: University of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (Akron, OH)
Profile: "This kid is a real stud. So strong in the midfield. His distribution is excellent. His service on the wings; phenomenal."

3. DC United
"Draft" Pick: Perry Kitchen is  "Whippet"
Hi, I'm Mr. Boh. I'll be your host for
 the MLS Super "Draft",
presented by National Bohemian.
Don't pay attention to the fact I've
changed suits from the above picture.
Position:Wheat
School: University of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (Akron, OH)
Profile: "Have you seen his crosses lately? He can really whippet into the box. It should create a lot of chances for United this season."

4. Chivas USA
"Draft" Pick: Zarek Valentin is "Hoppus Maximus"
Position: India Pale Ale
School: University of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (Akron, OH)
Profile: "Good luck winning the aerial battle with this one. He's got big hops and forwards are going to struggle to get the advantage on him."

5. Philadelphia Union
"Draft" Pick: Zach MacMath is "Helles" 
Position: Lager
School: University of Franklin's Brewery (College Park, MD)
Profile: "This kid is helles on wheels. Keeps his line clean. Not surprised he tapped out so quickly."

6. New England Revolution
"Draft" Pick: AJ Sores is Thunderhead
Position: India Pale Ale
School: University of Pyramid (Berkeley, CA)
Profile: "The great thing about this player is he's multi-dimensional. On the attack he's a threat in the air. Look for him to get a few goals on corners. A real thunderhead, that kid."

7. Houston Dynamo
"Draft" Pick: Kofie Sardokie is "Labrador"
Position: Lager
School: University of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (Akron, OH)
Profile: "His work rate is unbelievable. Running all day. Like a damn labrador or something. Just won't quit hounding his opponent."

"Leghumper" marks his man.
8. Vancouver Whitecaps (from Toronto)
"Draft" Pick:  Michael Nanchoff is "Old Leghumper"
Position: Porter
School: University of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (Akron, OH)
Profile: "Crunching tackles in the midfield. He can really turn the game around and dispossess the other team. His marking is second-to-none. A real leghumper."



9. Chicago Fire
"Draft" Pick:  Jalil Anibaba is "Sky Blue"
Position: Golden Ale
School: University of Carolina Brewery (Chapel Hill, NC)
Profile: "This youngster is golden. A real good head on his shoulders. Smooth; not too hoppy, but that's a good thing in this case."

10. Sporting KC
"Draft" Pick: CJ Sapong is "Smokin"
Position: Scottish Ale
School: Cally's Restaurant and Brewery University (Harrisonburg, VA)
Profile: "One word. Fast. He's smokin'. Starts off fast. Finishes strong. Everything you want in a draft."

11. Houston Dynamo (from Seattle to Portland to Houston)
"Draft" Pick: Will Bruin is "Infinite Wisdom"
Position: Belgian Trippel
School: Upland Brewery University (Bloomington, IN)
Profile: "This player is real smart. He's right out of college, but he plays like an old pro. Lots of wisdom in that head. Years and years of aging really hit the spot."

12. Columbus Crew
"Draft" Pick: Rich Balchan is "Rad Red"
Profile: Amber Ale
School: Upland Brewery University (Bloomington, IN)
Profile: "It might be an outdated term, but this kid is rad. And well he's a Hoosier so red is in his blood, too. This is a real strong addition to our draft lineup we offer at Crew Stadium."

"This prospect finished real well. Pairs well with anything up top."
13. New York Red Bulls
"Draft" Pick: Corey Hertzog is "Double D"
Position: Imperial India Pale Ale
School: Otto's Pub State University (University Park, PA)
Profile: "A good winger. A real threat in front of the goal. Probably will need double D, two defenders on this player"

14. Chivas USA (from Real Salt Lake for $)
"Draft" Pick: Victor Estupinan is "Club"
Position: Pale Lager
School: Cervezas Nacionales Educador (Quito, Ecuador)
Profile: "Victor is a real team player. Someone we can see with his club for a long time."

15. Columbus Crew (from San Jose for $ and Steven Lenhart... bringing a sixer)
"Draft" Pick: Justin Meram is "Sacred Cow"
Position: India Pale Ale
School: University of Arbor Brewing (Ann Arbor, MI)
Profile: "This player is going to find himself a real value asset to his team. A sacred cow, if you will, that will make him indispensable in the attack."

16. Los Angeles Galaxy
"Draft" Pick: Paolo Cardozo is "Quilmes"
Position: Lager
School: Quilmes University (Quilmes, Argentina)
Profile: "He may not look like much, but he's light, quick. Sometimes a tendency to go down too quick. But when he's hot... no one can or will want to touch him."

17. FC Dallas
"Draft" Pick: Bobby Warshaw is "Hell or High Watermelon"
Position: Wheat
School: 21st Amendment University (Palo Alto/San Francisco, CA)
Profile: "Bobby's a real team player. He'll give you 110 percent come hell or high water."


18. Colorado Rapids
"Draft" Pick: Eddie Ababo is "Oktoberfest"
Position: Oktoberfest
School: University of Carolina Brewery (Chapel Hill, NC)
Profile: "If this team can make another late season run. I'll tell you this kid is going to be very valuable come October."

Photo Credit: Original Photos from MLSSoccer.com

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Friday, January 14, 2011

"Going Suds Up" - The Best Soccer, The Best Beers

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

The Major League Soccer SuperDraft—was it good for you? Did your team fulfill your hopes and dreams, or were you left stuttering and confused? If you’re a Galaxy fan, you might as well drink through until the start of the season. And possibly keep going.

Unfortunately for fans of MLS, there’s still over two months to go before the boys take to the field again. Fear not, though, for there’s plenty of soccer on the telly this weekend, and you’re going to have to take sides.

While sometimes it’s fun to be a neutral (for instance, last week’s AC Milan clash with Udinese, which was a thriller) in a derby, there’s always a clear choice between good and evil, and you better choose heaven or hell before you jump in. Assuming you don’t consider West Ham v Arsenal (Sat, 11:30am CT, FSC) a true derby (Do people get fired up about this London clash? Not to the extent that it’s got a name, ergo, no derby) the clashes are all on Sunday. Birmingham City hosts Aston Villa, Everton walks across the park to Liverpool (Sun, 8am CT, FSC) , and Sunderland hosts Newcastle (Sun, 6am CT, FSC+). And, yes, if you’re a west coast fan of the Second City Derby or the Tyne-Wear, you’re waking up at 4am. Have fun drinking!

And for these derbies, which just as likely to be discussed for their handbags as for the goals scored, what better beer than Wychwood Brewery Company's "Dirty Tackle" (Witney, England)? Granted, you’ll likely not find it over here, but if you’re out and about in England, give it a try. It’s a typical bitter, smelling of toasted malt and brown sugar. Has a bit of bitter citrus and some nutty malts in the taste.

Of course, bitters in all their varieties are clearly the beer to have on hand while watching fan bases collide. Since you probably can’t grab a cask of the Dirty Tackle, try to pick up a bottle of Rogue Ales "Younger's Special Bitter" (Newport, Oregon). It’s the best widely available bitter I’ve found (the best is Elysian Barca Bitter, which can’t be argued) and comes in both tiny—Rogue actually calls them XS bottles—and large. Pick up both and choose, depending on if your team is on the receiving or giving end of the brutality. Youngers Special Bitter pours orange-amber, with a thin beige head and some lace. Interestingly enough, it smells peachy, which is unusually for a bitter. The taste starts off crisp, includes both floral hops and toasted malts, and then finishes bitter. Which is likely how you will finish Sunday as well. Or maybe I’m just projecting the emotions of an Aston Villa fan.

About Kirsten:

Ever since Brazil caught my eye during the 1994 World Cup I’ve considered myself a soccer fan, but it wasn’t until the summer 2008 that I decided to find a club. I focused on the Premier League and eventually chose Aston Villa. Initially drawn in by the pretty clarets and blues, I found I liked their organization, their owner and their manager. I fell hard and now it’s too late—I can’t give them up. As for MLS, that was easy, as I live in Seattle. I also support Exeter FC, SSC Napoli, FC Koln, Estudiantes Tecos and Tooting & Mitcham FC, all for a variety of reasons including cider, tattoos, scarves, owls, and a soccer player texting while on the pitch. I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte. I also contribute to Two Footed Tackle.


Images From: Wychwood Brewery and The PerfectHappyMan.com

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

NEWS WATCH - Pia Sundhage Names 23 to Four National Tournament Roster

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United States Women's National Team coach Pia Sundhage released the roster of 23 players that will travel to China for the Four Nations Tournament at the end of the month.

The U.S. has not participated in this tournament since 2007, but is looking to add to its record six Four Nations titles.

The Lady Nats will face the host nation, Sweden, and Canada as coach Sundhage looks to find he perfect squad for June's Women's World Cup.

P.S. Absolutely ecstatic to see Sydney Leroux on the roster.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position
2011 Four Nations Tournament
Chongqing, China
Jan. 21-25, 2011

GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicole Barnhart (out of contract), Ashlyn Harris (Western New York Flash)

DEFENDERS (7): Rachel Buehler (Boston Breakers), Stephanie Cox (Boston Breakers), Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers), Heather Mitts (out of contract), Christie Rampone (out of contract) Becky Sauerbrunn (Washington Freedom), Brittany Taylor (Sky Blue FC)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Yael Averbuch (Western New York Flash), Shannon Boxx (out of contract), Tobin Heath (Sky Blue FC), Meghan Klingenberg (North Carolina), Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia Independence), Carli Lloyd (Atlanta Beat), Kelley O’Hara (Boston Breakers), Heather O’Reilly (Sky Blue FC), Megan Rapinoe (Philadelphia Independence), Lindsay Tarpley (out of contract)

FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers), Sydney Leroux (UCLA), Alex Morgan (California), Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia Independence)

Source: USSoccer.com

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VIDEO - Studio 90's USMNT January Camp Training

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In preparation for their January 22nd friendly against Chile coach Bob Bradley has been running the boys through the ringer. USSoccer.com's Studio 90 put the camera on the USMNT's 7-a-side drill during practice the other day. A real intimate and behind-the-scenes look at the squad in action.

For the first minute or so of the clip listen to the sound of the weed wackers in the background. If you close your eyes you can picture Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo warming up on the sidelines.

Vroom! Vroom!



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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One of These Days They'll Have a Team, Until Then.... They've Got Cobi Jones

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The big news out of the American soccer Inter-Net-Blogo-Sphere yesterday was the former USMNT and Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder, more recently of LA's coaching staff, was named the Associate Directior for Soccer for the New York Cosmos.

This is, of course, a bit of a surprise, given that the Cosmos do not have a soccer team. In recent months, though, this has not stopped the "team" from launching a fancy new website, two academies, jersey, and appointing more members of a burgeoning bureaucracy than Soviet Russia (maybe the New York Cosmonauts!)

We suppose that being able to drag Jones away from the Galaxy, the club that he's been apart of since the launch of Major League Soccer in 1996, is quite the coup for the Cosmos. With all the rumors of the Cosmos potentially become the 20th MLS franchise in the next couple of years Jones must have been let in on the secret.

If the Cosmos end up as a reality then Cobi is on top of a great new gig. The all-time leader in caps for the Men's National Team will most certainly do the club loads of good if they ever take the field.

And until then? Guess we'll just pony up some cash and snag this hat.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Soccer Marketing 101 - In Praise of Sporting KC

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If you're a subscriber or a regular reader of the Kansas City Star you may have noticed a small, column-sized advertisement in the sports section of Sunday's paper. It was wishing the local National Football League's Chiefs good luck in their afternoon match up against the Baltimore Ravens in the first-round of the playoffs. Normally, these sort of well-wishes are very common from local businesses and the like, but the "from" was of particular interest to us.

It was from the Major League Soccer franchise, and fellow KC inhabitant, Sporting KC (formerly Kansas City Wizards). This immediately struck us as genius.

This may or may have not happened before, a soccer club supporting their same-city football side, but it was certainly the first time it popped up on our radar. It struck us as something that was so simple, and yet, so tremendous in the potential positive impact that it could have for the newly re-branded Sporting.

We've talked about it before, but soccer has a bit of a complex when it comes to American football. Many soccer fans, us included, are big fans of the NFL, but when it comes to sizing up MLS and the sport, in general, in the U.S. we know that it comes up far short against the gridiron behemoth. American football is massive, immensely profitable, the center of the sporting universe, and American soccer is, well, not.... yet.

This usually leads to a lot of insecurities and unfair comparisons between football and soccer in America. It doesn't help that most of soccer's fiercest critics come from the media that covers and the fans that follow the NFL. There's a real fear that somehow, somewhere soccer might de-throne the mighty throw-ball, and then, "what will we talk about at the water cooler?!!?!?" these sporting conservatives wonder in their newspaper columns, blog articles, and sports talk radio spots.

That's why it was refreshing to see such camaraderie between Sporting KC and the Chiefs.

Smart ad.
Ties between the Chiefs and KC soccer have been close. When Kansas City arrived as one of the inaugural franchises of MLS in 1996 they were originally owned by Lamar Hunt, who also owned the Chiefs. Hunt was one of the MLS owners that bailed out the league in its darkest days in the late 1990s, purchasing the Columbus Crew and Dallas. In 2006 Hunt, in the year before he passed away, sold his stake in the then-Wizards to a local group OnGoal, committed to keeping the club in Kansas City. During Hunt's ownership tenure the soccer club played its home games at Arrowhead Stadium, and today, for some of the bigger match ups (their exhibition game against Manchester United last summer) still do.

Sporting KC's move to "wish luck" to the Chiefs is a smart marketing move. At the surface-level the club associates itself as a supporter of a successful sports franchise in their local area. The casual fan recognizes the Chiefs, its success this season, and, in the future, may draw a connection between the Chiefs and the next time they see something about Sporting in the news.

Sporting's timing is also crucial. Many would think that trying to make a market impact with a soccer team at the height of the NFL playoffs seems foolish, but by inserting itself into the Chiefs/playoffs conversation it gets (albeit, purchased) column inches it would have never gotten otherwise. It reminds fans (non-fans and potential fans) of their team, their new branding, and gets them (possibly) thinking about the up-coming MLS season.

Also, note the black-and-white thingy on the ad. Smartphone users can take a picture of that and it will send users to the SportingKC.com website. The curious reader/smart phone user is now not just reading the ad, but pursuing the Sporting site.

Lastly, it builds goodwill with the American football franchise in town. You local NFL team is a good organization to have on your side. And why not? American soccer and American football are not necessarily enemies. Their playing seasons hardly touch, they are clearly two different sports, but they both have the same goal (no pun intended): to entertain people through sports. You don't think that the Chiefs won't return the favor and well-wish Sporting the next time they're in the playoffs? You bet they will.

Is any of this a guaranteed butt in the seat? Certainly not, but its a start.

MLS marketing budgets are not massive piles of money. They have to be careful allocated to make sure they make the most impact with the most people and the right audiences. Sporting KC's ad buy this past Sunday may have seemed odd, but, hopefully, they will see the payoff of this smart move come March when the club kicks off its next MLS season and in June when it opens the doors on its new stadium.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

NEWS WATCH - Beckham Staying Put

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After all the drama surrounding where Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder (and global style icon) David Beckham would land on loan this Major League Soccer off-season who had "nowhere" in the office pool?

Anyone....? Bueller....?

Turns out the former England international (and, yes, former... he's not making back into the England squad)  had his loan ambitions spurned by 'Arry Redknapp and Tottenham (like what I did there? "Spurned". Because, you know, Tottenham are called the Spurs?) He will train with the London side for the next month and then return to SoCal to begin the preseason with the Galaxy in February.

Frankly, we're tired of this bullshit with Mr. Golden Balls. If you want to play in England/Europe then go. If you want to fulfill your contractual obligations with Los Angeles then stay. This charade off-season after off-season is getting old.

We want you in MLS. You're an asset to the league, a good pull at the ticket window, and the potential to be a great ambassador to soccer in the United States. All the things that we'd hoped for when you first arrived years ago.

That's still possible and you can still have a great legacy in this country with this sport, but not as long as you keep staring longingly across the ocean. The Galaxy are locked an loaded for a run at the MLS Cup this coming season. They've brought in caging veterans like Juan Pablo Angel and Frankie Hejduk. Even Landon Donovan passed on a loan move to Everton. You can do the same.

Just make a commitment and we'd be happy.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

THE RETURN OF.... "Going Suds Up - The Best Beers, The Best Soccer"

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

2011 football was not supposed to start out this way. A new coach should have brought a fresh approach. We were meant to be climbing into the Champions League spots, not sliding into the relegation zone. Instead, our top players aren’t performing, there are training ground bust ups, and people are placing bets on when the manager packs his bags. And I’m not even a Liverpool fan, for goodness sake!

This weekend, four Premier League managers will be fighting for their jobs (that is, if Roy Hodgson hasn’t been sacked by Liverpool by the time of this piece’s publication): Avram Grant of West Ham, Carlo Ancelotti of Chelsea, Gerard Houllier of Aston Villa, and the aforementioned Hodgson. Apparently beating Chelsea bought Mick McCarthy a bit of a reprieve. Of these teams, the Hammers are bottom of the table, the Villa just ahead in 18th (ugh), Liverpool are safe in 12th and Chelsea should be pleased as punch in 5th. Then again, the Europa League is not enough for last year’s title winners, and Ancelotti is likely not sleeping well these days.

This weekend brings the first round of FA Cup ties for the Premier League—times when managers typically rest their best and are secure in the knowledge that their mistakes can be rectified over 90 minutes. That’s likely not the case for these four.

On Saturday, West Ham host Barnsley, who are not exactly a powerhouse in the Championship. Aston Villa travel to another Championship side, Sheffield United (9:00am CT, FSC), who are facing their own relegation battle. For Sunday, we have Chelsea hosting yet another Championship side, Ipswich, who have just sacked Roy Keane for leading them too close to the relegation zone. Sense a theme, here? Finally, Sunday also brings Manchester United to Liverpool (7:30am CT, FSC), although if the Fenway Sports Group elects to fire Woy after the Reds lose to the league leaders, well, that’s a special kind of harsh.

For these managers, tossing and turning in their beds, wondering when the axe will fall, I present Lost Abbey’s "Judgment Day" (San Marcos, CA). It’s time to get over your qualms about drinking a 10.5% beer before noon, because if you’re a fan of one of these teams, it’s almost necessary. There’s just something indescribable that makes me love this beer. Maybe it’s the aroma, which is filled with raisins, plums, cherries and brown sugar. Or maybe it’s the flavor, which doesn’t hide the alcohol, but enhances it with vanilla and plums. Judgment Day finishes with a spicy bitterness, much like these managers might.

I’d give anything to see one of them take a swing at one of the owners on their way out. Ancelotti taking on Roman Abramovich? That’s blogging gold, that is.

About Kirsten:

Ever since Brazil caught my eye during the 1994 World Cup I’ve considered myself a soccer fan, but it wasn’t until the summer 2008 that I decided to find a club. I focused on the Premier League and eventually chose Aston Villa. Initially drawn in by the pretty clarets and blues, I found I liked their organization, their owner and their manager. I fell hard and now it’s too late—I can’t give them up. As for MLS, that was easy, as I live in Seattle. I also support Exeter FC, SSC Napoli, FC Koln, Estudiantes Tecos and Tooting & Mitcham FC, all for a variety of reasons including cider, tattoos, scarves, owls, and a soccer player texting while on the pitch. I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte. I also contribute to Two Footed Tackle.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Phun With Photoshop - Where in the World is Freddy Adu?

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Ever get the impression that Freddy Adu just doesn't like Major League Soccer? The former "next-big-thing" in American soccer is now on trial with 2.Bundesliga basement dwellers Ingolstadt.

Adu has been thrown overboard by his Greek club Aris and has already been to Denmark and Switzerland in search of employment during the January transfer window. It looks like the child "star" of MLS doesn't want anything to do with the American Dream anymore.

Isn't time that Freddy just come home? Is playing in no where Germany that much better than whatever club would GLADLY have him in MLS? Does he really think that playing (or more likely, not playing) in European backwaters is going to get him another look from Coach Bob Bradley?

Only Adu knows these answers, we guess....


Where will Freddy go next?
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VIDEO - Lilly the Legend

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Kirstine Lilly. 352 caps for the United States Women's Nation Team. 130 goals. Two World Cups. An absolutely legend. Yesterday, Lilly announced her retirement from professional soccer after over twenty years playing for the national team. She was both the youngest (16) and oldest (38) to soccer for the Lady Nats, as well.

She was the last link the National Team had to the famous 99ers, the team that captivated a nation on their dramatic run to the Women's World Cup Final in 1999. Gone were Hamm, Chastain, Foudy, and Akers. Only Lilly remained.

Now the USWNT will be out from behind that great shadow as they prepare for the 2011 Women's World Cup, but the leadership and inspiration that Lilly provided will have to come from somewhere else.

While most of the American soccer world spends its time and energy on the men's team, the Women's National Team has and will always have a special place in my heart. It was that fateful run in 1999 that solidified by love for American soccer (and, frankly, saved me from my disappointment from the 1998 disaster by the men) and inspired generations of American girls (and boys) to play this sport. Lilly will always have an important place in helping build soccer in this nation.

USSoccer.com put together a tribute video from Lilly:




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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NEWS WATCH GRAPHIC - Major League Soccer Salaries Lag Far Behind Other American Sports

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Financial planning website, Mint.com, (why they're all of a sudden doing this we dunno) posted this fascinating graphic comparing American soccer's salaries, budgets, etc with other American sports.

The contrast, in graphic form, is well.... graphic.

Thoughts, anyone?

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Monday, January 3, 2011

A 12-Pack With.... Alexi Lalas

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Alexi Lalas is a former U.S. National Team defender (96 caps), appearing in two World Cups and was U.S. Soccer's Male Player of the Year in 1995. Lalas was the first American to play in Italy in the modern-era and then returned to the United States to be a part of the group of high profile American soccer players to launch Major League Soccer. He's now an on-air commentator for ESPN.




Needless to say he's got an impressive soccer résumé and today he's answering our questions as a part of our "12-Pack" Interview Series.

Free Beer Movement: You were the first American in the modern-era to play in Italy. It was a time when very few Americans played abroad. What was it like to live and play there?

Alexi Lalas: I became a better player and a better person through the experience. At the time, Serie A was the biggest league in the world which meant that every Sunday I was facing world-class strikers. Adapting to the language, culture and the fishbowl that is soccer over there was not always easy but it gave me a life experience that still pays dividends to this day. 

From a soccer perspective, it was incredible to see the tactical detail that is part of the Italian soccer DNA. The way we trained and prepared, and especially the way we organized defensively, was something I had never seen before. It made me look at the game and my position in a different way. It’s too bad that more Americans haven’t had the opportunity to pay in Italy, but Serie A has changed a lot and it’s no longer the league it once was.


FBM: What is it like to suit up for the National Team; to wear your country's colors? Explain that to some who will never get to have that experience.

AL: It’s hard to explain without using clichés. I believe that the inherent patriotism of Americans is fundamental to who we are. It’s often ridiculed or misunderstood, especially from the outside. But I think it’s the one of the characteristics that helps define us and helps unite us. 

So when you’re given the opportunity, even through sport, to represent your country, you’re also representing everything that it stands for. I always took pride in that honor and responsibility. From the jersey, to the anthem to the performance, for me, it was ultimately about being an American and soccer was simply the vehicle.


FBM: What's your best memory playing for the U.S. National Team?

AL: World Cup 1994 changed my life. I lived the power of what a World Cup can do to an individual. It gave me credibility, opened doors and enabled me to have a career in soccer. 

The win over Colombia at the Rose Bowl in front of 100K people will always be special. It was one of those “moments” that I’ll never forget.


FBM: In 1996 you returned to the U.S. to play for the New England Revolution and help break ground for Major League Soccer. What was it like to be a part of the early days of the league and resurrected professional soccer in America?

AL: MLS in the early days was like the Wild West, on and off the field. We were often making it up as we went along. But I think we made many more good than bad decisions. 

One of the proudest moments of my life is being a part of the start of MLS and I think it will remain a source of pride when I’m old and grey. I’ve said it before, MLS is like la Cosa Nostra, it’s our thing. It’s not perfect, but it means everything to me.


FBM: This summer's World Cup was a watershed moment for American soccer in terms of how it broke through into the mainstream, if just for a few days, following the Algeria match. Where does American soccer go from here? How do we build on that moment? Not only the National Team, but the domestic league as well?

AL: We just keep chuggin’ along. I know we’re all looking for that magic bullet, and a successful World Cup certainly helps. But the success of soccer in the U.S. is going to come from a series of moments, some bigger than others, from which we continually step up to another level. 

Sometimes we kick ourselves for what we have yet to achieve, but we also have to pat ourselves on the back for how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time. We’ve got a long way to go and there are many things we need to improve, but I don’t think that any other country could have grown the sport as fast as we have.


FBM: You're a quality, but colorful commentator for ESPN. How are you enjoying your time at the World Wide Leader in Sports?

AL: Love it. I recognize that I’m in the entertainment business and I make no bones about it. My job is to be informative and entertaining. Finding the proper balance is what makes you good and finding it consistently is what makes you great. I’m not there yet, but I think I’m getting better. I’m paid to have an opinion, people don’t always agree with me, but that’s part of what makes it interesting and why I watch sports. I try to be objective and fair without losing the passion and energy that I think is needed to do this job. Hopefully I can keep doing it for many years.

FBM: Continuing on the topic of ESPN. Your network has gotten a bad rap for its perceived hostility towards soccer in the past, but with stepped up coverage of the English Premier League and, obviously, their phenomenal coverage of the World Cup this summer. Is that criticism misplaced? What about their coverage of Major League Soccer, though?

AL: You should always expect more from ESPN, we’re the “world-wide leader in sports”. But it it’s also a business and I think we all understand that soccer doesn’t yet generate the revenue that the other sports do. 

This summer, for the first time, we gave the American public a World Cup that wasn’t dumbed down or diluted. We were inclusive and respected the fact that many people were watching simply for the event, but we didn’t hold people’s hands. This actually gave the World Cup more relevancy and credibility even for the casual viewer because it mirrored the way that other major sports are broadcast. 

MLS is a problem. I’ll be honest; the MLS rating need to improve. We have to find a way to translate the excitement that we see in many markets to viewership. I know the proverbial chicken and egg argument about marketing/promotion and it’s legitimate, but we can’t simply look to ESPN to solve the problem; MLS has to figure out a way to make the league, the games and the players more relevant to the general public.


FBM: You're speaking at the first-ever American Outlaws Rally in Las Vegas in March. What role do fans like the Outlaws play in the support of the team and the growth of the game here?

AL: It’s not lip service when I say that supporter’s groups like The American Outlaws are as important, and in many cases more so, than any of us who ever kicked a ball. They have sustained and nourished our sport through the lean years and, thanks in large part to the new media explosion, are starting to be real influencers. 

I often talk about the soccer army that has been amassing over the years and now has started to come above ground. The battle has only just begun, but I like our odds. The soccer culture is unique and it is enticing to a generation that sees soccer as a legitimate American sport and not just a niche activity. The supporter’s groups are a big reason why the sport has survived, and an even bigger reason why it will thrive.

Less-Than-Serious-But-Just-As-Important-Questions

The Lalas Brothers.
FBM: Do you ever give you brother, (MLSSoccer.com and Goal.com writer) Greg, a hard time for having a more successful soccer career than him?

AL: All the time. I routinely break him down until he’s a sniveling, broken shell of human being. Then I pump him back up and do it all over again…it’s really quite amusing. But I really do love him and he's 10 times the writer that I’ll ever be (but don’t tell him I said that).


The Lalas on the right is wondering what kind of person he's become.
FBM: You were famous for rocking some pretty epic facial hair during your playing career. What led to the decision to lose it? Too much for MLS boardrooms? Will it ever make a return, like a some sort-of band reunion tour?

AL: In 2000 I was in Sydney, Australia working the Olympics. On one of the last nights my girlfriend and I hit the town hard. We returned to the hotel and one thing led to another, I never back down from a dare from a beautiful woman. Now it should be noted that my then-girlfriend has since become my wife and mother to my children. Ah, the things we do for love. 

As far a return of the goatee; maybe when we host another World Cup. It’ll be like when Cher recently sported her 1980’s era “Turn Back Time” outfit on the MTV Awards. I’m a sucker for nostalgia.


FBM: When you're not on camera what's your beer of choice?

AL: Guinness. Like a Porsche, there is no substitute.

There's a whole lotta ugly in this locker room.

FBM: 1994 U.S. World Cup jerseys.... ugliest shirts ever? What did you think back then?

AL: Yes, but also, I suppose, the most memorable. I think there was this notion that faux denim would be the next big fashion craze and that we would have been ahead of the curve…not so much. The fact that we were able to succeed in spite of our horrendous attire is a testament to our team. 

I’ll never forget the first time Bora (USMNT coach "Bora" Milutinović) saw the jersey, the man speaks 5 languages and he still couldn’t find the words to express his complete and utter disbelief. Of course it could have been worse; it could have actually been real denim!

Many thanks to Alexi for taking the time to answer our 12-pack of questions. We leave you all, dear readers, with Alexi's 1997 appearance on an ESPN SportsCenter commercial:



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