Soccer: Champions League final, D.C. United and more

May 27, 2011

Steven Goff, who covers soccer for The Washington Post and authors the Soccer Insider blog, will take your questions on Saturday's Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona, D.C. United, the U.S. men's national team, the Gold Cup and more.

Oh Exalted Insider: Any thoughts about the recent FIFA corruption mudslinging and what's your take on US rep Chuck Blazer coming forward and Sunil Gulati insisting that the USA will not vote as part of a bloc as directed by Jack "I wus framed" Warner?

Greetings, pilgrims.  Great to be with you again.

Let's begin on the dark side. FIFA/CONCACAF, great theater, isn't it? As we prepare to celebrate the sport with tomorrow's Champions League final at Wembley, we are dismayed, disgusted and exasperated with an on-going saga that makes the IOC and NCAA look like Habitat for Humanity. We'll have to wait and see how this unfolds, whether true reform is on the way, who will turn on Blatter and what the fall out is. Knowing FIFA and international soccer back channels, I'm guessing very little change.

Nice to see you back on the Q&A. How do you assess US chances in the Gold Cup? Are they still the favorite despite losing to Mexico 5-0 in the last Gold Cup Final?

The 5-0 result two years ago is misleading. The USA priority that summer was the Confederations Cup, and the American roster was no match for Mexico. They'll be on level terms this year. Playing on home turf helps the Americans, but Mexico is perfectly comfortable playing in the States -- and has a massive fan base here to support the cause. Expect a USA-MEX final at the Rose Bowl on June 25.

Is there any rumblings about bringing in any DP type player this summer?

D.C. United, I assume? They already have a DP player, Branko Boskovic, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. His fat contract (12 percent of the salary cap) remains on the books, per league rules, so the club is limited in its summer options. There will be a signing or two, but don't hold your breath for a big name.

Is there anything like a deadline for the team to find a DC site (and financing) before they give up and take what Baltimore has on offer?

No deadline, no timeline, and, for accuracy, no formal offer from Baltimore and the Maryland Stadium Authority yet. The Baltimore option is in a holding pattern until the state legislature reconvenes in early 2012 (pardon my ignorance of Md state politics if I've misstated that). Kevin Payne has said he'd like to take the next step, whether reaching a deal in DC or looking more seriously at Baltimore, sometime in 2011.

Level with me, Steve. What are the odds that DC United will exist in the DC metropolitan area in 5 years?

Define "DC metropolitan area." Do you include Baltimore? I think the team will remain in the "region." No way to predict specifically. United wants to stay in DC, but RFK ain't getting any younger.

I'm so excited to watch this game tomorrow! These are clearly the 2 best teams in Europe and most likely, the 2 best teams in the world, so it will be great to watch them play each other. It doesn't always happen that the cream rises to the top in these torunaments, so this game could be real special. It seems to be that Man U's best chance will be to try and get Barcelona worried somehow. Besides being very good, Barca is a calm team (with the exception of Alves) and doesn't lose their cool often. But if Man U can get under their skin. Also, as much as it pains me to say something good about a player from the Mexcian national team (just kidding), I do think Hernandez' pace may be the key to Man U getting a goal. That said, I still think this is Barca's to lose. Agree?

Well said. I, too, am eager to watch this spectacle. Unfortunately, I have to catch a flight to Portland late in the day and will probably miss the end. Barcelona's style and harmony gives them the edge, but I expect a tight match. With the one-year anniversary of Spain's World Cup triumph approaching, I'm going with Barcelona winning in extra time on a goal by Iniesta -- 2-1

Do you or did you play soccer. If so, have you ever had a kickabout with the DC team?

Played every day as a kid, but lack of pace and talent (not to mention knee surgery) ended my dreams. You'd usually find me coming on in the 85th minute of a 3-0 match. My only kickabouts are retrieving stray balls in the media holding pen at the training grounds.

Is Adu making the roster for the upcoming matches against Spain and the Gold Cup more indicative of his progression and quality OR is it the fact that the US doesnt really have much in the way of reliable forwards and they are trying to figure out who/what works up top to score goals? Combo of both?

Little of everything. He has played regularly this spring (albeit in the Turkish second division) and, at age 21 (22 next week) still offers special qualities. Here's a chance to see what he can do in a USA camp. It doesn't necessarily mean he will play. After all, only 18 of 23 players will suit up for Gold Cup matches, and only 2 or 3 will enter as subs. But the time together offers Bob Bradley an opportunity to gauge Adu's growth as a player and a person.

To steal from Tom Boswell, say you're named Czar of Soccer worldwide, and what you say goes. What five changes would you make?

Hmmm, tough question. I hate the two-yellow-cards-equal-a-suspension rule for major tournaments. Goal line technology for major events must be implemented. Transparency in FIFA World Cup voting (ha!).  Make referees more accountable by making them available to media (under certain circumstances). Okay, that's four, eh?

Can you see a scenario where Blatter gets kicked out? Bonus question: any chance WC2018 and WC2022 get recompeted?

We love Sepp! Making a mockery of the world's most popular sport provides endless fodder. We'll see what happens in FIFA's lair. Regardless, I'd be surprised if Russia and Qatar lose their WC hosting status.

DC United is the only team in Washington that has won National Championships in the last few years. It would only make sense that we chase them away and force them to relocate in Baltimore or another city.

Well played.

Can you give a ballpark time frame of when we might see DCU sign reinforcements this summer and what positions they are looking to upgrade?

The summer transfer window opens in mid-July, so that is when you'll see a lot of activity in MLS. United needs backline depth, another option in the center of the park and, with Boskovic out, additional attacking strength.

Am planning a trip to Barcelona in October, 2011. We'd like to try to see a Barcelona soccer game whlie we're there. Do you know when the schedules are announced? And any idea if you tickets are possible for regular folks to come by?

As I recall, the schedule isn't released until mid-summer. Once in the city, word of mouth usually leads you to ticket availability.

Do you think David Beckham is the most over-hyped player in the history of soccer, and on balance has he done much good for American soccer by joining an MLS club, then leaving for the greener pastures of European soccer, then returning when it is clear he has few other options?

Beckham attracted a lot of mainstream fans (and media) to the league since his arrival, and he has had some special moments on the field. What has turned many off is his lack of respect for the league, skipping town for royal weddings, testimonials and such. If he returns to Europe after this season, his MLS stay is done. We won't see him again -- except for Hollywood events.

Make diving a capital offense.

Ha! NBA players who have begun picking up the habit, you've been warned.

Steve, my roommate says that Liverpool won't contend next year for the EPL title and I say they have a good chance of doing so. Who do you side with?

Contenders! (Let's see how the summer silly season unfolds)

I'm sure you'll be peppered with a lot of stadium questions -- DC v. Baltimore -- but are there other locations that DCU might be considering outside the dualing beltways? Hate to see it but curious.

None that I know of. Baltimore and multiple sites in DC. No options in Virginia. The Maryland efforts at the moment are focused on Baltimore. DCU is not going to re-visit Prince George's after that deal fell through, and Montgomery is not viable. Payne did say developers have approached him with land in the I-95 cooridor between DC and Baltimore. Maybe something emerges down the road.

With other MLS teams already bringing in trialists and signing free agents, what exactly is DC doing to improve the roster? It's clear that there are still a few key pieces missing (a quality CB, a partner for Davies, a distributor on offense), and the team seems to have plenty of cap space, so when can we expect to start hearing about player movement?

They'll make some moves, but as I said earlier, they do not have much cap space because of Boskovic's injury. DCU officials say they can free up some room through current contracts, allocation money and other avenues, but don't expect any blockbuster signings. This is a long-term project: compete for a playoff spot this year, maintain a strong core of players, contend for Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup in 2012 and beyond.

Would it help if the fans start digging the hole at Buzzards Point?

Bring your gardening tools. RFK's resident raccoons said they would help.

Steve, how serious is the option at Buzzard's Point? What land is involved? If part of the stadium solution involves getting rid of a power plant then this seems to be too slow for DCU's needs? Aren't there serious environmental issues with that kind of an option?

The power plant is adjacent to the main property, which is currently parking lots. There are a million issues that would need to be resolved. It's just one option that the club is exploring.

Steve, since it's now a given that United will be playing in their new stadium at Buzzard Point by August, where will the best tailgating parking lot be?

Atop the Douglass Bridge, with wonderful views of the new soccer stadium, the baseball park, Poplar Point across the Anacostia and the confluence of the two rivers.

Do you believe that DC will ever be able to contend for an MLS title as long as Kasper and Payne are in charge of the team?

While things have not gone well the past few years -- and they bear much responsibility for it -- Payne and Kasper were in charge for the 2004 MLS Cup championship, as well as Supporters' Shields in 2006 and '07.

Dax, named team captain before he first stepped on the field in a DC United kit, has been underacheiving. Is there a chance that he will be benched, and if so, who do you think will replace him?

McCarty played a support role behind league MVP David Ferreira in Dallas last year. With DCU, he is being asked to become more of a two-way player. The club seemed set to partner McCarty and Boskovic in the middle until Boskovic went down. His leadership and grit are important on the field, but clearly he needs to raise his attacking influence.

Isn't all this hype (and that's all it is) over Buzzards Point completely moot until DC gets more investment? Is that moving at all, and why should any DC fan believe that this FO is competent enough to attract investors?

Good point. United officials are not talking publicly about the search for additional investment, so no way to gauge where things stand on that front.

It seems like there are fewer Americans playing in the top leagues overseas even though there are more Americans than ever playing overseas. Is that an indication that that our development has hit a plateau?

Premier League: Howard, Friendel, Guzan, Hahnemann, Whitbread, Dempsey, Bradley, Holden, Jones, Spector.

Bundesliga: Cherundolo, Chandler, Clark.

France: Bocanegra.

Scotland: Edu.

Turkey: Altidore.

Many more in second tier Europe as well as Mexico. Each week, I compile a list of about 50 Americans playing abroad. Could it, should it be higher? I don't know. Is it an indication of development hitting a plateau? No possible way to say. We'll wait to see whether the numbers rise -- and the number of Americans in the top leagues enjoy an uptick.

How long will it take for soccer to become the US national pastime instead of baseball or any other team sport?

Soccer has its place in America. It doesn't have baseball's history and nostalgia, the NFL's massive popularity or the NBA's glitter. But it has a place. And there's nothing wrong with where it stands. I hate when Europeans ask why soccer isn't the most popular sport here like everywhere else in the world. First, soccer is not the most popular sport in every last country. And why does it need to be THE most popular sport here?

Is the fact that Man U is much more familiar with playing at Wembley and doesn't have to travel outside of the country in any way an advantage to them in the CL final?

Sure. But Barcelona will have a massive following at Wembley and the atmosphere won't adversely affect them a bit.

Is there any truth to the rumor that Dan Snyder is interested in purchasing DC United?

It's true! Albert Haynesworth in central defense.

For the poster who asked about tix availability: I got tickets the day before the match for last month's Barca-Almeria game. Warning: they're expensive -- over 100 euros for decent but not great seats. I'll never complain about the Nats again. Now for my dumb question: I'd like to see tomorrow's game but don't have a TV. Can someone tell me how to watch it online?

Thanks for the insight.

 

I'm really getting into soccer after the World Cup last year. Already have some loyalties, but want to learn more about the game and team histories. I feel like a big lug for not knowing when what team won what championship 20 years ago. Are there any primers for newbies?

Welcome to Planet Futbol. Great to have you. Subscribe to World Soccer magazine, maybe FourFourTwo as well. Numerous books will help you along the way. Keir Radnedge's The Complete Encyclopedia of Soccer is a good one. Simon Kuper has written several excellent books. Soccer in Sun and Shadow is poetic.

 

Just read this week that besides the monumentally deafening noise that vuvuzelas make, they are also a vector for spreading airborne germs (e.g., cold, flu, etc.). I'm glad that Euro2012 is banning them, albeit on cultural grounds, and wonder if you know of some way to get them banned completely from soccer. Pretty please?

Vuvuzelas are so 2010. (Has it really been a year already?)

On that note, our chat has come to an end. Thanks for all the questions. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them. Enjoy the holiday weekend, and particularly the Euro final Saturday. (Reminder: It's on the Fox national network, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. That's Channel 5 in Washington.)

Cheers!

 

In This Chat
Steven Goff
Steven Goff covers soccer for The Washington Post. He has covered every World Cup since 1994 and D.C. United since the team -- and the MLS -- launched in 1996. You can follow him on the Soccer Insider blog and @soccerinsider on Twitter.
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