Ralston's retirement ceremony takes center stage following Revs' 1-0 win

Ralston's retirement ceremony takes center stage following Revs' 1-0 win

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO --Retirement press conferences arent usually scheduled for 10p.m. on a weeknight. But thats the way things went down at Gillette Stadiumprior to the New England Revolutions 1-0 win over Monarcas Morelia on Tuesdaynight.

With the win, the Revolution clinch the top seed in theirgroup for SuperLiga 2010, and will host a semi-final game in the first week ofAugust.

But following the game, Steve Ralstons retirement pressconference stole the show.

Ralston is known as the MLS Iron Man and has played inall four of New Englands MLS Cup appearances. Hes one of the best right-sidedmidfielders in MLS history, but called it quits on Tuesday night.

Obviously it wasnt an easy decision, but Ill look backwith a lot of great memories from being a part of this organization, saidRalston, with Revolution coach Steve Nicol to his right, and several members ofthe organization sitting with the media.

Ralston didnt have a speech prepared. The reason? He waspreparing to suit up for one last game in front of the Revolution fans.

We wanted him to start the game, and we wanted him to be acaptain, said Nicol after the win.

An administrative issue at league level forced Ralston tocall it quits without getting back on the field again.

I was hoping to play in the game tonight, and I wanted toprepare for the game, like I always do, and go about the business and enjoyit, said Ralston. Unfortunately, some things came up, and I wasnt able toobviously play in the game. So this is kind of off the cuff here.

Playing in front of the crowd one more time, I would haveloved that opportunity, but some things kind of came up, unfortunately, that wedidnt know about, and just kind of deemed that it just couldnt happen,unfortunately.

Those things that came up most likely have to do with therumors that Ralston will join the Houston Dynamo as their assistant coach oncehis retirement is official.

When asked what hed take with him into coaching, Ralstonresponded by saying, Well if I get into that stuff, obviously theres a lot ofthings.

After Ralston got up from the press conference, Nicol mayhave slipped up about his now-former players future.

Steve Ralstons as good a player as weve had on this club,ever, said the Revs coach. Theres absolutely no doubt about that.

Somebody else is going to get the benefit of a greatperson, and he certainly was a great player, and Ill be shocked if hes not agreat coach.

Regardless of what Ralstons future holds, the Revolutionwill have to finish this season without him, and the post-Ralston period beganon Tuesday with a win over Monarcas, thanks to Marko Perovics third goal infour games.

Perovic put the Revs on top 1-0 in the 62nd minute, after hefound a loose ball in Monarcas box and put a bullet into the top-left corner.

Hes got talent. Theres absolutely no doubt, hes gottalent, said Nicol about his Serbian midfielder who's in his first MLS season. And wed like to find more ways of trying to show histalent.

I think he realizes the game is quite physical, addedthe Revs coach. As soon as he gets it, teams understand that he can hop them,so theyre going to be at him quick, and theyre going to be physical with him.I think that was probably a shock for him to begin with.

Its about getting it right between your ears. Once you canunderstand whats happening and whats coming at you, then obviously, it givesyou a head start. And I think hes taking advantage of that."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team


Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team

NEW YORK - Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as coach of the U.S. soccer team Monday, six days after a 4-0 loss at Costa Rica dropped the Americans to 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena is the favorite to succeed Klinsmann, and his hiring could be announced as early as Tuesday. Arena coached the national team from 1998 to 2006.

Qualifying resumes when the U.S. hosts Honduras on March 24 and plays four days later at Panama.

"While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth consecutive World Cup."

A former German star forward who has lived mostly in Southern California since retiring as a player in 1998, Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley in July 2011 and led the team to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and the second round of the 2014 World Cup, where the Americans lost to Belgium in extra time.

The USSF announced in December 2013 a four-year contract extension through 2018, but the successful World Cup was followed by poor performances. The U.S. was knocked out by Jamaica in last year's Gold Cup semifinals and lost to Mexico in a playoff for a Confederations Cup berth. The team rebounded to reach this year's Copa America semifinals before losing to Argentina 4-0. But this month Mexico beat the Americans 2-1 at Columbus, Ohio, in the first home qualifying loss for the U.S. since 2001.

And last week, the Americans were routed in Costa Rica, their largest margin of defeat in qualifying since 1980. They dropped to 0-2 for the first time in the hexagonal, as the final round of World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean is known.

While there is time to recover, given the top three teams qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia and the fourth-place finisher advances to a playoff against Asia's No. 5 team, players seemed confused by Klinsmann's tactics, such as a 3-4-1-2 formation used at the start against the Mexicans.

"Today we made the difficult decision of parting ways with Jurgen Klinsmann," Gulati said. "There were considerable achievements along the way ... but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes. He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come."

The U.S. had not changed coaches in the middle of qualifying since the USSF made the position a full-time job and hired Bob Gansler in 1989 to replace Lothar Osiander, who also at the time was a waiter at a San Francisco restaurant.

Klinsmann made controversial decisions, such as dropping Landon Donovan from the 2014 World Cup roster while taking along relatively inexperienced players such as John Brooks, Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin. Brooks and Green were among five German-Americans on the 23-man U.S. World Cup roster, which drew criticism from some in the American soccer community.

He coached the team to a 55-27-16 record, including a U.S.-record 12-game winning streak and victories in exhibitions at Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. He has worked in the past year to integrate more young players into the lineup, such as teen midfield sensation Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris.

Arena, a 65-year-old wisecracking Brooklynite known for blunt talk, was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010. He coached the University of Virginia from 1978-95, then coached D.C. United to titles in Major League Soccer's first two seasons before losing in the 1998 final. As U.S. coach, he led the Americans to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals in the team's best finish since 1930.

He was let go after the team's first-round elimination in 2006. Gulati unsuccessfully courted Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup with West Germany and the 1996 European Championship with Germany, then coached his nation to the 2006 World Cup semifinals.

When Gulati and Klinsmann couldn't reach an agreement, the USSF hired Bradley, who coached the team to the second round of the 2010 World Cup. A year later, the Americans stumbled in the Gold Cup, and Klinsmann replaced Bradley.

Arena coached the New York Red Bulls of MLS from July 2006 to November 2007, then was hired the following August by the Galaxy. He led the team to MLS titles in 2011, '12 and '14.