Brek Shea Completes Move to Stoke City, Capping Busy Week for MLS Exports

MLS: FC Dallas at San Jose EarthquakesFC Dallas and U.S. winger Brek Shea has completed his on-again, off-again transfer to Premier League side Stoke City (pending his work permit, which he’s expected to receive), and the lanky Texan who just doesn’t “like regular haircuts” is the third MLS product to land with a top-flight European side this week.

Shea follows ex-DC United star Andy Najar, who signed with Belgian champions Anderlecht, and Sporting Kansas City attacker Kei Kamara, who went on loan to Norwich City of the EPL.

This is all good for MLS, as it fills the league’s coffers while proving that the U.S. circuit produces quality players—and increasinlgy so: Earlier in the month, Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza, a U.S. citizen who plays internationally for Honduras, signed with Premier League side Wigan, and this past August, U.S. defender Geoff Cameron joined Stoke, where he’ll help Shea get acquainted.

A couple of other notable facts about these moves:

• Najar, a DC United Academy product, is the first MLS Homegrown Player ever to sign a contract in Europe.

• Kamara’s deal with Norwich includes an option to buy at the end of the Premier League season in May. If Norwich declines, KC will get the big Sierra Leone international back long-term: they extended his contract as part of the loan agreement.

• Shea, who was dogged by injuries last season—an off year for him—had surgery on his right foot in November. He’s reportedly a month away from being able to play.

France Football Compiles List of Alleged Qatari Shenanigans Surrounding 2022 World Cup Bid

QatarReturn with us now to the sovereign Arab state of Qatar, home of artificial clouds, next-level stadium air-conditioning systems, and endless streams of petrodollars.

The tiny monarchy (citizen pop: 250,000) was also—according to a 15-page article published in France Football this week—home to a no-holds-barred approach when it came to convincing FIFA that its 2022 World Cup bid was the best one submitted.

Among the many allegations brought by the magazine is that there was a “secret meeting” at the French Presidential Palace on Nov 23, 2010, between then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, UEFA President Michel Platini, Sebastien Bazin, who was representing Colony Capital, the financially-troubled owners of Paris St. Germain at the time, and Tamin Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Crown Prince of Qatar.

The purpose of this meeting, according to France Football, was to discuss a deal for the Qataris to buy Paris St. Germain, and to challenge French sports TV channel Canal+ (something Sarkozy allegedly wanted to do) by creating a rival sports channel in France—all in exchange for Platini to promise to switch his vote for the 2022 World Cup from the United States to Qatar.

Explosive stuff. And of course if you cut to the present day, well, Qatar owns Paris St. Germain (and financed its massive summer spending spree, which brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to the club), and they’ve launched beIN Sport, a subsidiary of Al Jazeera, in France, wresting the television rights to live French soccer away from Canal+.

Platini, for his part, acknowledged that he voted for Qatar (the votes became public knowledge after the bid process was complete) and that he met with Sarkozy before the vote, but told Agence France-Presse:

“As I’ve always stated, president Sarkozy would never have asked me to vote for Qatar 2022 because he knows that I’m my own man. I made my choice with complete independence following a simple logic … opening up countries who have never organized major sporting events.”

In the annals of flimsy excuses, that’s got to rank pretty high. But we’ll have to take the French legend at his word, unless and until Michael Garcia, the former New York Federal prosecutor who now heads up FIFA’s new investigative arm, unearths a smoking gun of some kind.

AFP dredged other juicy bits from the France Football piece, including:

“… what [FF] said was an internal email in which FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke allegedly said that the tiny Gulf state had ‘bought the 2022 World Cup.’

Valcke subsequently claimed a misunderstanding and insisted that the tone of the email was ‘light-hearted.’ France Football also quoted former FIFA media chief Guido Tognoni, who was kicked out of the organization in 2003, as saying he believed there were “strong suspicions” that members were compromised over the 33.75-million-euro ($25 million) Qatari bid.”

Soccer America combed the report as well, coming up with the following further allegations:

• A Qatari representative offered to spend millions on pumping up ailing Argentine soccer to gain the vote of Argentine [Ex-Co member] Julio Grondona.

• Middle Eastern holding companies bankrolled deals struck by since-disgraced Brazilian soccer boss Ricardo Teixeira.

• A sweetheart deal was struck with the Spanish federation to organize a friendly game in Qatar and “silence” Angel Maria Villar, who supposedly had a vote-swapping pact with Qatar to back Spain’s 2018 World Cup bid with Portugal and was furious that in fact Russia won the 2018 contest easily.

• The Qatari sports agency Aspire spent millions on promoting youth sports in countries with members on FIFA’s executive committee.

Of course France Football’s report has not exactly blown the lid off anything yet. In fact, it probably hasn’t been accorded a fraction of the attention its publishers hoped for. But remember back in 1999, when a French sports journal (L’Equipe) first accused cyclist Lance Armstrong of doping? That didn’t get too much traction at the time, either.

World Cup 2022 is still nine years away.

U.S. 0, Canada 0: The, Uh, Highlights

Well, this should be a short clip. The United States B-team took on a fairly weak Canada side last night in Houston, and while they dominated possession, the Yanks failed to break down the bunkered-in Canucks, generating very few chances in a drab 0-0 tie.

Take a look:

The game capped off the U.S.’s three-week January camp, and you might have thought, going in, that a team that had been training together intensively since early January would show some cohesiveness and some sharpness. (Not mid-season levels of either, but some.) Instead, they were disjointed in the attacking third, and unable to deliver that final ball—characteristics that coach Jurgen Klinsmann attributed afterward to their having tired legs.

But, but … oh, nevermind.

This January camp was intended to blood some new players and determine which, if any, of the guys from this group might make next week’s trip to Honduras for the opening of the final stage of World Cup qualifying.

Judging by what we saw last night, we’d say center backs Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, though they weren’t exactly tested by Canada, stand a good chance of going to San Pedro Sula next week, along with midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who Klinsmann loves for his lane-clogging abilities in front of the back four.

Beyond those three, Eddie Johnson looked dynamic at times and did well to keep possession up top, and Benny Feilhaber, when he came on in the second half, looked like the only U.S. midfielder capable of unlocking Canada’s D with a deadly pass. Josh Gatt, though full of too much adrenaline, and looking a little uncomfortable on the left, showed that his speed can be a deadly weapon.

Chris Wondolowski seemed on edge to us (no doubt feeling the pressure as his national-team opportunities dwindle) and he fluffed a couple of half chances. But he does have a knack for getting in good spots in the box, so you never know if Klinsmann would consider using him with a better supporting cast around him.

In any event, it was a very forgettable performance, so let’s file it away and look ahead to next week and Honduras.

Jozy Altidore Counters Racist Dutch Fans with Goal, Assist, Dignity

In a Dutch Cup match yesterday against second-tier Den Bosch and their bottom-tier fans, AZ Alkmaar’s U.S. striker Jozy Altidore was subjected to racist chants and abuse.

In addition to reportedly persuading the referee, who was prepared to call off the game, to continue it, Altidore responded by scoring a goal, setting up another, and then giving the following interview after AZ’s 5-0 victory:

AC Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng had his way of handling this particular sickness earlier in the month, Altidore has his. They’re both justified, and they’re both dignified.

What’s really needed is for Sepp Blatter and FIFA to stop making fatuous pronouncements from on high, and to get in the trenches and do something tangible to confront this problem head on.

Altidore’s goal was his 20th of the season in all competitions—a career high—and his eighth in his last six games. He’s tied for second in the league in scoring, and he’ll be suiting up for the U.S. in next Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras.

WAG of the Week: Karalyn West


Why is there a ZZ Top song in our heads right now?

Long-suffering U.S. and Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden is set to continue his (latest) comeback this weekend in fourth-round FA Cup action against Everton and U.S. keeper Tim Howard. (American defender Tim Ream should also feature in the match for Bolton.)

It’s been a long road back for Holden, and hopefully he stays injury-free this time. But what ever happens in the former Houston Dynamo man’s immediate future, things can’t get too bad so long as he has Ms. West (left) in his life.

Holden, as we recently recounted, had been sidelined by injuries for 16 months before returning to Bolton earlier this month. When he was knocked out of action, he had been playing extremely well and appeared to be on course to become a first-choice player for the U.S. national team.

That team could still use an in-form Holden as the final round of World Cup qualifying kicks into gear in February.

But let’s get back to Ms. West, a Columbus, Ohio, native who appeared on Project Runway in 2004.

Here she is again:



Happy Friday, all.

BPFL Weeks 22 and 23: Wildcards, People, Wildcards


Esteemed BPFL Co-Commissioner and Steve Ralston doppelganger MGlo is here, and he has your recap for Gameweeks 22 and 23:

The last thing OMATV said at the end of his most recent recap was that there was a January Wildcard available and that we should use it. Well, use it I did and it came in very handy for my Old27M squad.

Trying to fend off the challengers from taking the top spot from me, I loaded up on Chelsea players Juan Mata, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta, with Rickie Lambert thrown in for good measure as both the Blues and Southampton had two matches for the week. It certainly worked in Gameweek 22 as I racked up 64 of my 81 points from just those four players. That allowed me to do the double over reigning Champion Rise* of FC Hammer and move five points clear at the top.

Hammer, the Unlucky Loser for the week, saw their string of three victories stopped, and face a tricky match with fourth-place Abes Army this week. The Army saw their two-game winning run come to an end, and drop down to the fourth spot on goal difference. Second-place Colorado Keeper could not get past the Average team and saw their four-game winning streak halted. They are now just a point better than third-place Disgruntled Numpties, who have won four of their last five, and were hell bent on beating this week’s opponent, sixth-placed I Am Liverpool, who as we all remember (or at least he won’t let Numpties forget) took down the Numpties back in Gameweek 10.

Liverpool earned the Week 22 Performance of the Week with 91 points thanks to a defense that produced seven clean sheets!

Gameweek 23 featured two more teams with two matches in the cycle, and by the looks of things, not many of you took advantage of the Wildcard on offer.

My first-place Old27m squad (well prepared for the double week) and second-place Colorado Keeper team both easily dispatched the bottom two clubs and kept the five-point gap between us.

Rise* of FC Hammer moved back into third place with an easy victory over Abes Army, who hasn’t received much help from YaYa Toure recently. However, the Army is still tied for fourth place with Disgruntled Numpties despite having made 21 fewer transfers!

The Numpties suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of sixth-place I Am Liverpool. While the point differential was just four (and that’s because Liverpool used an extra transfer) it’s really more of a psychological blow. Fortunately for the Numpties, they did not see the Liverpool manager dancing on his way to the bus this morning singing “whoa, Theo Walcott!”

The Numpties, the Unlucky Loser for Week 23, do, however, have a bright spot as they are still in the Cup, along with Hammer. I believe this is the round of 32000. Keep the Backpost flag flying bhoys!

Hammer and I shared the Performance of the Week honors as we both feasted on Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla, who earned us 48 of our 93 points.

Games next week are midweek, and it’s your last chance to use your wildcard, so get on the ball!

Thanks MGlo. No games this weekend, folks. Gameweek 24 starts on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

As Usual, Taiwanese Animators Nail It, this Time with Eden Hazard Ballboy Incident

Chelsea winger Eden Hazard was red-carded for swinging his boot at Swansea City ballboy Charlie “Needed for Time-wasting” Morgan late in Wednesday’s League Cup semifinal between the Blues and Swansea in Wales.

For the best recap available, we turn the floor over to NMAWorldEdition, who cover all sides of the story, including the one with the panda stunt-riding a motorcycle:

We first saw the incident in one brief replay that included only Hazard’s kick, and none of the buildup to it. After handsome devil Prison Mike called our attention to the kid’s very obvious time-wasting move that provoked the kick, we looked a little further into the incident.

Turns out the 17-year-old Morgan is the son of a hyper-rich Swansea executive and had boasted on his Twitter feed about his time-wasting ability as a ballboy.

He didn’t get into his acting skills, which were also on prominent display in the clip.

In our view, Hazard was definitely trying to kick the ball, and not the kid, but considering the kid’s flop onto the ball beforehand, we half agree with noted voice of reason Joey Barton that “Hazard’s only crime is that he hasn’t kicked him hard enough.”

Our other half acknowledges that Hazard was stupid to even appear to be kicking a ballboy. He lost his cool, and he’s going to pay for it. The FA announced today that he’ll be charged for the incident, which could add games to his mandatory three-match suspension for violent conduct.

Fortunately, Morgan, the teenage “prat,” as Stan Collymore called him, has been absorbing some richly deserved punishment on Twitter, as the #prayforballboy hashtag proliferated yesterday. Young Master Morgan has also seen his Twitter following balloon from 600 to more than 87,000. It’s doubtful, though, that he’ll be tweeting about any future ballboy experiences.

The game, by the way, ended 0-0, which meant Swansea, 2-0 winners of the first leg, advanced to the League Cup final, where they’ll meet upstarts Bradford City.

Red Bulls Subtract “Interim” Tag from Mike Petke, Name Him Head Coach for 2013


You won’t find bigger fans of Mike Petke than the ones currently roaming the gleaming corridors of the Backpost World Headquarters. We love the guy. New York’s alltime leader in games played, he’s charismatic, hard-working, and was a damn good MLS center back.

He bookended his career with stints in New York, starting with the MetroStars in 1998 before moving on to DC United (where he won the 2004 MLS title) and Colorado (which he helped lead to the 2005 Western Conference final) and then returning to the rebranded Red Bulls in 2008.

He was a three-time MLS All-Star, he earned two caps for the U.S. national team, and he has a fantastic Long Island accent. Petke is aces back-to-back.

So why are we a little lukewarm on his hiring?

For starters, he was clearly the team’s third choice, at best. The Red Bulls courted former Portugese international Paulo Sousa, Scottish veteran Gary McAllister, and possibly several others if reports are to be believed (Eric Wynalda? Tony Meola? Paul Lambert?), while Petke was a placeholder “interim” coach following Hans Backe’s dismissal in early November.

There’s definitely an element of, “Oh, crap, all our choices have fallen through, and the season is  just about to start—Mike, the job is yours.” (Or, to put it another way, the Red Bulls are the squirrel in this clip, and the impending season is the leopard.)

Then there’s the question of Petke’s experience, and his temperament. He has two seasons under his belt as an assistant to Backe, and he also comes across as kind of a good-time guy. He’s not a loose cannon (like Wynalda), but he doesn’t radiate gravitas, exactly.

That may not be a problem: several recent MLS alums have entered the league’s managerial ranks without a ton of coaching experience (or an especially imposing presence) and done quite well, including Jason Kreis (RSL) and Ben Olsen (DC United), or not half-bad, in the cases of Jay Heaps (New England) and Jesse Marsch (Montreal).

(Yes, Marsch was fired, and Heaps’ team finished 9-17-8, but both had their sides playing entertaining soccer, and Marsch’s dismissal was arguably unfair, while Heaps’ team was sunk by a midseason slump.)

A third issue, and possibly the most significant one, is how Petke will handle the locker-room–sized ego of the Red Bulls’ most important player, Thierry Henry. Here’s Petke on that subject at Thursday’s press conference:

“I’ve had two years now to get to know Thierry, and I didn’t think anyone was as competitive as I was, but he made me look like my 5-year-old son. Whether it’s Ping-Pong or the World Cup final, he’s playing to win. I put him in the same category as guys like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in that respect. I have a preexisting relationship with him. There’s nothing to be coddled with these players. I’m going to treat them like men.”

It will be interesting to watch.

On the positive side, Petke knows MLS and the club far better than any European candidate would have, and he’s certainly well-liked by the current roster. Here’s RBNY technical director Andy Roxburgh on those issues:

“He’s charismatic, he’s well organized and he gets the respect of the players. What’s very important in all of this is that Mike is very experienced in terms of the MLS. If you brought a coach in from Europe, he might be experienced in Europe, but he would be totally inexperienced here in the U.S. Mike starts with an enormous advantage because he knows everybody, he knows the league and he’s absolutely passionate about the club. 

Forget the irony that Roxburgh just spent close to 11 weeks trying to bring in a coach from Europe, and he has a point. Petke will be able to hit the ground running in a lot of areas where a foreign coach would’ve been playing catch-up. So there’s that.

Stay tuned to see who comes in as his assistants, and in the meantime, here’s a clip of Petke scoring the second goal ever struck at Red Bull Arena, in an exhibition against Santos (with Neymar on the field) in March 2010:

He’s Fresh from Leading Aston Villa to One of the Worst Defeats In their 139-Year History, So Naturally Paul Lambert Is A Rumored Target in the Red Bulls’ Coaching Search


The New York Red Bulls opened training camp on Monday, and they selected six players in Major League Soccer’s Supplemental Draft on Tuesday, but they still do not have a coach for the 2013 season.

A number of candidates and rumored candidates have come and gone, including former Portugese international Paulo Sousa (who, according to the European press, turned down the job when the club wouldn’t meet his conditions) and ex-Red Bull and U.S. international Claudio Reyna (who was slated to be the top assistant to Sousa, but also reportedly took a pass on the offer), and now, two-and-a-half months after the team dismissed Hans Backe, comes a report from Big Apple Soccer that they are considering an offer to Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert.

Never mind that Lambert’s team lost 8-0 to Chelsea last month, or that they suffered a historically ignominious loss, on aggregate, to fourth-tier Bradford City yesterday to bounce out of the League Cup (or that Lambert has zero familiarity with MLS or U.S. soccer), the 43-year-old Scot is, if the report is to be believed, being considered a viable candidate by New York.


The report also claims that former U.S. international and loose cannon Eric Wynalda is a candidate as well, so, considering the fact that Wynalda was reportedly eliminated from consideration weeks ago, and the fact that this same publication reported in early January that Gary McAllister had been hired by New York (which turned out to be false), the reliability of this information is certainly in question.

Time, of course, will tell, but in the meantime, Red Bulls fans are left wondering, yet again, what in the world is going on with their franchise.

Aston Villa’s Rough Season Hits Another Low As Fourth-Tier Bradford City Knocks them Out of the League Cup

Soccer - Capital One Cup - Semi Final - Second Leg - Aston Villa v Bradford City - Villa Park

With US goalkeeper Brad Guzan and Yank defender Eric Lichaj watching from the bench, Premier League strugglers Aston Villa could only muster a 2-1 win over fourth-tier side Bradford City in the second leg of their League Cup semifinal at Villa Park today.

The result was not enough for the Villans to overcome a 3-1 first-leg deficit and thus eliminated Villa from the tournament and made Bradford City the first fourth-division team to reach the League Cup final since 1962. They’ll play either Chelsea or Swansea City in the final on Feb. 24 at Wembley.

Villa owned 72% of possession in the first half today, and created three clear chances before Christian Benteke put them ahead 1-0 in the 24th minute. They couldn’t translate their dominance into more goals, though, and in the 55th minute, Bradford striker James Hanson (above left) headed in a Gary Jones corner kick to make it 1-1 and restore the lower-level side’s two-goal aggregate advantage.

Hanson nearly scored again just minutes later and Bradford rattled Shay Given’s crossbar in the late stages before Villa’s Andreas Weimann bagged one in the 89th minute to set up a tense finish. But the heavy favorites could not find that crucial third goal, which would have sent the tie into extra time, and the visitors, who dispatched Arsenal in the previous round, were soon celebrating an historic win.

So which is more humiliating for Villa, this defeat to a League Two team, or December’s 8-0 thrashing by Chelsea? Tough call, but it’s probably this one.

The Villans return to Premier League action on Jan. 29, when they host Newcastle in a relegation battle. Villa is currently in 17th place, one point above the drop, while Newcastle is in 16th, two points clear.