Sports talk with Steve Goff

Jul 07, 2011

Steve Goff chats about D.C. United, the Women's World Cup and everything else soccer

Haven't heard much on the DC United stadium fiasco lately, Goff. We fans take no news as bad news. My questions are 1) have you heard any news/rumors lately from the management suite and 2) if you had to rate our chances of keeping the team in the DC metro area, right now, what would you guess? (1=gone; 5=DC stays in DC for sure).

Thanks for joining the fun.

Nothing new to report on the DCU stadium, which isn't necessarily bad news. From the start of the latest stadium-search cycle (post-PG County), the club has said it won't comment on negotiations and potential sites. Through independent reporting, The Post was able to identify possible locations, most notably Buzzard Point, which, to me, is the prime place for this team in the city. I'm optimistic, but until there's a formal announcement from the club, I wouldn't count on anything. Chances of staying in immediate DC area: 3.

With the emergence of Blake Brettschneider and the option of playing Dwayne De Rosario up front if need be, it would appear that Joseph Ngwenya might not get much time in real games. While he does a lot of "little things" that coaches always value more than fans, it has to be said that DC is paying him the kind of salary that requires goalscoring as a striker. Are Ngwenya's days in DC numbered?

Ngwenya's salary is listed at $156,000 -- quite high for a fourth-choice forward. I suppose it's possible the club re-worked his contract, which isn't uncommon in the league, but I haven't heard that. As a league veteran, I assume his deal is guaranteed, meaning he counts toward the salary cap all year, regardless of whether he's on the roster.

Uber-Insider! I've got two questions for you. DCU is always looking for upgrades but what's your sense of the combination of (a) cap space and (b) the brain trust's satisfaction with the existing talent--is DCU seriously looking for another piece or two to add to this season's roster (other than the odd tryout or youth lottery) or is the team mostly set at this point? Second: it's been a year of challenging matches but less than impressive results by the US Men's NT. There is muttering that the team has plateaued, that we've got bunch of key players who are aging with no replacements in sight. What's your take on the state of the US men at this point: glass half empty, half full or so bad we need to invent a beer drinking game every time Bornstein gets on the field?

MLS clubs aren't required to reveal their salary cap space, allocation money, etc, so no way of knowing DCU's financial flexibility entering the summer signing period. They could sign Jamaican national team defender Adrian Reid, who showed well on a recent trial, and as Kevin Payne told me, if the right player comes along at the right price, they'll consider it. Otherwise, the De Rosario and McDonald acquistions addressed two serious concerns (central midfield attack and central defense). As for the national team, we're at the start of a new World Cup cycle. Players will come and go. The results at Gold Cup were largely disappointing, but with several friendlies lined up this year, Bradley will look at young players and begin to phase out older ones. The focus is to build a roster ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying next summer.

Looks like you broke one of the most underreported stories of the year with Donovan & Dempsey blowing several consecutive days of training before a huge match and then being irresponsibly late, private jet and all. This would be unnacceptable in every serious pro sport. What's your take on it, in hindsight?

They didn't miss the match and the U.S. team didn't lose. End of story. Donovan's twin was getting married. Dempsey's other sister (another sister died suddenly in 1995) was getting married. Some things are more important than a few days of training. In granting them permission to leave the squad for a few days, Bradley did the right thing.

Hi Steve, How much longer can DC United survive without a real and permanent home? The league is moving forward, attendance is slid and yet United were dead last among matches over the July 4 holiday weekend. Quality of play + decrepit RFK are bringing us down...does the ownership get this??

Of course, ownership gets this. And they're trying to find a solution to the stadium problem. Just because nothing has surfaced in the media doesn't mean they're not aggressively pursuing a plan behind the scenes. After the PG County pr fiasco, they decided to go about this project quietly. At times, The Post will uncover details, but for the most part, this is a secret initiative.

Why is the womens game able to attract so much attention where as the mens game seems to be restricted to spanish language channels and brief mentions on news networks? Surely the Mens game can learn from the femalde side of things?

Huh? The Women's World Cup is a once-every-four-years ESPN production. Otherwise, where do you see women's soccer setting the example for the men's game and attracting attention? The World Cup (men), European Championship, MLS, Gold Cup, World Cup qualifying, major friendlies, Confederations Cup all receive mainstream coverage on U.S. outlets. The only disappointment is not seeing Copa America on a regular English channel. (Those matches are available on Univision/Telefutura and online at

I've been watching the sport of soccer more and really beginning to appreciate it. But there's a minor, can't figure it out question which probably has a very simple answer and I'd also appreciate an explanation to that. Why do goalies wear different color uniforms than the rest of their team?

The goalkeeper must be distinguishable because he/she is the only player allowed to use hands. If the keeper wore the same colors, the referee would have a harder time identifying a handball in the box.

That is the question...


Does DeRo bring DCU back to the promised land? How much more does he have in his tank, two years...maybe 3?

No way of knowing. Still plays at a high level. DCU is counting on an immediate impact this season (re: playoffs) and into next season. He is 33, though.

The proposal for 0 points given out for 0-0 ties is intriguing. Yet, many purists reject that idea feeling that if it is not approved by FIFA, then we shouldn't do it. Yet, I feel ties are an anomaly in American sports. Out of the four major sports, only football can end in a tie and very rarely that is. NHL had ties, but did away with that and for the better I believe as a hockey fan. I don't think we should get rid of the ties in MLS, but we should recognize the consequences of that system and recognize that growth of MLS in America may be hampered by that system although I wouldn't have any proof one way or another. My main question is: Are there any slight variations of the rules, scoring, etc that other leagues use to either make the game relevant to their fan base? Besides the main schedule of the league that is.

The 0 points thought for scoreless matches is a non-starter. It's a fundamental rule of international soccer and isn't going to change. American soccer lives in a world soccer community. Such a radical rule change is unacceptable. Scoreless ties aren't ideal, but not all ties are the same: You could have a lively match with numerous chances and you could get a lifeless match -- with the same result. I don't see how they affects the relevancy of a league to the fan base.

Why has the Post given so little coverage to the Women's world cup and the US women's team? Yesterday there was no lead-in article or even simple blurb on the game time of the US-Sweden game. And other coverage has been relegated to the middle of the sports section. No player profiles, no US team profiles, no international profiles, no nothing. The Post coverage of the premier Women's Soccer event in the world has been very, very disappointing.

Fair point. We haven't had a reporter on site but have provided ample coverage in non-traditional means online (live updates, video, links to stories, etc). As for the print edition, we offered a front-page story on Ali Krieger, a front-page USA tournament preview and a front-page story of their first match. I'm guessing the Brazil match will also make the front the day after.

Is he staying? Is he going? Why hasn't Gulati said a thing about it?

Bradley is the coach. He has a long-term contract. The team advanced to the Gold Cup final and lost to the best side throughout the tournament in front of a pro-Mex crowd -- no disgrace there. What was Gulati supposed to say? I'm disappointed, I wish we had won? Look, Bradley has flaws, just like any coach, but if you think someone is going to come in (for a modest salary) and turn the USA into a world power, you're fooling yourself. Managing a 2-0 lead and other personnel moves are certainly subject for scrutiny, but as far as Bradley's status, I haven't heard a word about a change.

Hi, Just a comment about how depressing it is to be a fan of womens' soccer (and the U.S. team) and those same local bars/restaurants hyped up for last year's World Cup are not promoting the WWC. Thanks.

I'm afraid there's just not enough interest in Women's World Cup for those establishments to promote special viewing events. No comparison between women's and men's World Cup popularity.

If Sunil Gulati really means to keep Bob Bradley as coach od the USMNT, would he really let him be eviscerated for this long by not confirming him as his man for the job? This is only hurting Bradley and his ability to do the job the longer it drags on. Care to elaborate, Steve?

"Confirming him?" He signed him to a long-term contract last year. Case closed. If Gulati feels the need to make a change, he will, but he's not going to make declarations of confidence in his coach after every match.

Is Ben Olsen's job in jeopardy if United fail to make the playoffs this year? Second topic, is there any realistic hope of getting a Soccer Specific Stadium in the District before the start of the 2013 season?

Barring a major disaster on the field and in the locker room (players quitting on him), he's the long-term head coach, regardless of the playoff situation.

Hi Steve, Not a huge soccer fan but do enjoy watching the the Mens World Cup and FIFA Championships. However, I've lost a lot of respect for the officiating and many of the players. I've never seen so much diving EVER! Sure, people flop, dive etc... in football, basketball, hockey etc... but no where close to as they now do in soccer. A colleague of mine who has coached soccer for over 20 years shares the same view of todays game. When watching some of the replays of the guy who is down and rolling around on the ground yet the replay shows that nobody even touched him. Yes, their was diving years and years ago but definately not as much as their is now. Do you think anything can be done about this? Or is this the new "ART" of the game that coaches teach their players?

Yup, it's bad, and getting worse. Very sad to see. Referees need to use better judgement and perhaps leagues/FIFA needs to get involved in penalizing blatant dives.

A friend just returned from Seattle. Just saw his first ever MLS game with 48000 screaming fnas in the park....What do you see, besides,zzzzzzzz a staddium that DCU can do to get that level of support? Or are they pretty much what they are already?

A new stadium would enhance DCU's fan experience, which would translate into larger attendance. Right now, for all its charms and history, RFK is not a destination for casual sports fans. An improved product on the field would also help. It's been several years since DCU's last playoff appearance.

Goff, Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, still on the stadium front?

I'm tired of zzzzzzzzz. How about xxxxxxxx? (As in, fill in the blank)

Any news on Baltimore since they folded up?

Crystal Palace Baltimore? I don't think we'll hear much from that group again. Go Blast!

In the US-Mexico match last month, I was struck by how much the Mexican players out ran us and controlled the game (similar against Spain before the cup). It was like they always had multiple options to pass the ball at all times and when they didn't have it, they closed down space and passing lanes to get it back. On the other hand, it seemed like whenever the US had the ball, there were hardly any players nearby moving around to receive it. We were left having to attempt 30-40 yard long balls, which ended frequently in loss of possession to the other team. Then, we just seemed to let the other team run around and pass the ball with impunity. Very frustrating to watch. Why can't the US team better match these other teams? Is it because the other team has better well conditioned athletes? Or is it because we somehow, collectively as a team, don't have an equal soccer "smarts"? I hate to use the word lazy, but we really look both lazy and slow (mentally and physically) sometimes.

Mexican players are technically superior and forced the USA to chase the game. In the big picture, it's a great rivalry -- one of the world's best -- and will have ebbs and flows. The USA enjoyed the better results for a long stretch, and now it appears Mexico will have the upper hand. While the result was disappointing to American supporters, I encourage everyone to enjoy the spectacle of a special rivalry.

I've been a stranger to SI because the new program takes impossibly long to load and then even impossibly-er longer to read comments. So I thought I'd drop by the live discussion for a hit of news, music reviews, and snark. Unfortunately the SI software curse appears to have hit the live discussion, so at 11:24 I give up. I am bereft. BaRRD

Superb. Wish I could help you. Hopefully, someone with considerably more technological insight will read this.

Steve, I used to go to several United games per season. I was there at the start of MLS and through all the championships. I still love watching soccer, yet I haven't been to a game in years. Hockey, yes. Baseball, often. But no soccer. I started asking myself why and realized that I'm getting my "fix" with all the highest quality soccer now broadcast on my TV. And MLS frankly pales in comparison. I want to be a true fan, but given limited time and money, I keep staying away. Am I alone? Has the wider distribution of EPL, Serie A, and other leagues hurt the TV or live audiences of MLS? And if so, what can the league do to get guys like me coming back?

You are not alone. "Soccer" is very popular in this country; "MLS" not as much. Because of the high-quality global options, many fans concentrate on Euro and Latin American leagues. No other pro league has this problem because they are the best in the world (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL). MLS has made considerable strides but will need many years/decades to match the salaries/popularity of well-established leagues. Work in progress.....

While it is never fun to be upset, I don't think the WNT path is that much more difficult. If the USA had won the group, the path to the title would likely have been Australia - Germany - Brazil. Now the path is likely Brazil - England - Germany. Germany and Brazil are on the menu in either case. Basically, we are facing a tough opponent in the quarterfinals instead of the semi-finals and we have to play England (or France) instead of Australia. The path isn't easy, but still within reach of the US Women's.

True, but they haven't looked good along the way. They got by in the first two matches were against weak teams -- ESPN's gushing, notwithstanding -- and labored against a quality side. While the path to the championship remains the same but with a different order of opponents, USA elimination in the quarterfinals would be embarrassing.

Goff, I feel like its been forever since we had a chat.My question is do you beleive that DeRo's acquisition will fill the void that was created that Boskovic was supposed to fill? Are you hearing any rumblings about any additional roster moves? In my opinion, I feel like its time to upgrade the defensive midfield position, as well as left back. What are your thoughts on the issues that have plauged United for the past couple of seasons? Thank you.

Had Boskovic not gotten hurt, I don't know if the DeRo trade occurs. Olsen seemed to be moving toward a Boskovic-McCarty partnership in central midfield, with Simms as an option. Simms is a nice, stable player. Some believe DCU needs a hard man in that position. No roster rumblings at the moment, other than the Jamaican trialist, but with the window opening next week, we're sure to hear more soon.

When should we hear word on who his next club will be (assuming it's not Benfica)?

His agent told me last week that clubs have shown interest in acquiring Adu on loan from Benfica. He's not returning to Rizespor and seems unlikely to remain at Benfica. I would expect a loan move in the coming weeks.

What happened to the announcement that Sunil Gulati was going to make regarding Bob Bradley within a week of the Gold Cup final loss? Did I miss it? Please don't tell me that Gulati slept on it and is either ignoring that he made such a comment or is trying to say that playing Costa Rica and Belgium was the announcement. When is Sunil Gulati"s term going to end and who can I contact that votes in the next USSF presidential election? I'd love to see an ex-player (ex: Earnie Stewart) or proven coach (Arena or Quieroz) elected USSF president to try improving what we've got. Thank you Steve for all of the work that you do at the Soccer Insider.

Thanks for your kind words.

Who said Gulati was going to make an announcement?

Off the top of my head, I'm not sure when Gulati's term ends. It will be interesting to see who else is interested in the job (it's an unpaid position in the ussf).

I assume that in addition to District (or another municipality) approval or cooperation with a future stadium plan for DC United is one aspect of the stadium situation. But I'm also assuming that a future stadium is somewhat dependent upon Will Chang getting some additional (loaded!) investors. How's that process going?

Yes, Chang is actively seeking local investors. Has been for quite a while. No announcements by the club, which, like with the stadium process, has declined to comment.

Doesn't the Women's loss to Sweden spell the end of Kevin Payne and Bob Bradley? We should stand for this.

Ha, well played, sir!

Steve, I'm not really a soccer fan, but maybe you can enlighten me on one thing. DCU used to be really, really good for a long time, but lately they have become really bad. In a nutshell, what happened?

They were really bad last year, mediocre this year. Progress. We would need an entire afternoon to break down all the issues with the club over the past three years.

Do you think we've seen the last of Jonathan Bornstein in a US jersey, or does Bob Bradley think he sees something the rest of us don't?

Bornstein was pretty good in the World Cup, not so good in the Gold Cup. Future call-ups will hinge on playing time and form in Mexico.

At this point, does it look like DC will be looking to buy Davies at the end of the season?

Still too early. Terms of the transfer have been agreed upon, but a move depends on how he performs the rest of the season, his interest in remaining in MLS, Sochaux's plans, etc.

Stever, are you hearing anything on a potential re-vote for the 2022 World Cup venue, given all the corruption allegations?

Nope. Nothing. I'd be surprised if a re-vote occurred.

Thanks for joining me. Apologies for the technical problems.


In This Chat
Steven Goff
Steven Goff is a D.C. United and soccer writer for The Washington Post. You can follow him on the Soccer Insider blog and @soccerinsider on Twitter.
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