World Cup off-day wrapup

World Cup off-day wrapup

By Adam Vaccaro

What happened Wednesday: For the first time since South Africa and Mexico opened up World Cup play on June 11, there was no soccer to be watched. Of course, plenty of news came up to keep us entertained even in the absence of tournament matches.

When Brazilian midfielder Elano, who had scored in each of Selecao's first two games, was held out of the lineup against Portugal in group play finales, it was largely thought to be a precautionary measure. Elano suffered what was considered a mild ankle injury towards the end of his team's win against Ivory Coast. That victory clinched a spot in the Round of 16 for the world's number one team, so it made quite a bit of sense to save the star for the second round.

But Elano was surprisingly held out in knockout play against Chile on Monday and on Wednesday was declared out for the team's quarterfinal match against the Netherlands. The uncertain nature of the injury could cost the 29-year-old the rest of the tournament or he could be good to go for a potential semi-final contest, but in any case Brazil will be without one star against the Oranje, who could prove to be their greatest challenge yet.

Issues related to the separation of soccer and state continued to pop up on Wednesday. On Tuesday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter warned French president Nicolas Sarkozy that should his government actively involve itself in the Les Bleus' matters, the team will face suspension from international competition. Still, the nation's lawmakers went ahead with a hearing that saw retiring coach Raymond Domenach take very little responsibility for the team's failure to perform on the pitch and dysfunction off of it. Some of the legislators' comments seemed quite dismissive of the warning. Though the government claims they are investigating rather than meddling, they're clearly walking on thin ice. With France's government facing much of the same issues as the rest of the Western world these days, you have to wonder if this is the best way for it to be spending its time and money before even considering the possible ramifications of its apparent arrogance.

Nigeria seemingly missed the memo from FIFA. President Goodluck Jonathan (brief aside: what a name!) suspended his nation's team from competition for two years after the Super Eagles picked up only one point in group play and reportedly plans on dissolving the Nigerian Football Federation. FIFA has not yet offered much in the way of comment except to say that it's stance on political interference in soccer matters is well-known. This is a pretty clear instance of such interference much more so than the situation in France. How FIFA responds will be interesting to watch. Would the organization simply tack on more suspension time to Nigeria's self-imposed hiatus as punishment? It remains to be seen.

Tensions have heightened heading into Germany and Argentina's 2006 quarterfinals rematch on Saturday. That match ended in German victory following a penalty shootout, but the real dramatics came after the match when a minor brawl erupted between the two sides. German star midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said on Wednesday that those events had not gone forgotten while adding that the unbeaten Albiceleste squad shows no respect. Argentina's Carlos Tevez provided some bulletin board material of his own when he told an Argentinian newspaper that he considers Mexico, whom he twice scored upon in the team's Round of 16 victory, of better quality than Die Mannschaft.

Neither Jorge Lorrianda or Roberto Rosetti, whose refereeing mishaps respectively effected the outcomes of England and Mexico's Sunday Round of 16 matches, will be assigned any further World Cup matches. Koman Coulibaly, the culprit in costing the US victory against Slovenia, has also been cut, as has Stephane Lannoy. Lannoy issued Brazil's Kaka an errant red card after Ivory Coast's Kader Keita gave us the tournament's most absurd flop by far when he ran into Selecao's star midfielder and collapsed in faux-pain, clutching his face despite it not having been hit.

Asamoah Gyan, who scored Ghana's game winning goal in eliminating United States on Saturday and who has scored three of his team's four goals in the tournament thus far, injured his ankle in training. He's likely to play in the quarterfinals against Uruguay on Friday.

A day after being eliminated by Spain, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo said he felt like a broken man and that he was overcome with an unimaginable sadness. Such words are sure to come as a delight to some, as the Portuguese captain and Real Madrid superstar doubles as one of sports' more polarizing figures. Comparisons in character to the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez have been frequently made over the latter part of the past decade.

In non-Cup soccer news, LA Galaxy coach and former manager of the US National Team Bruce Arena has officially been named the coach of MLS's All-Star team. The All-Stars will face Manchester United on July 28 in Houston. Arena earned the gig as the Galaxy, club team of Landon Donovan, currently boast the league's best record (10-1-3). He selected Houston Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear as his assistant in a nice showing of respect to the host city.
Question of the Day: Why didn't FIFA speak out about government involvement in soccer issues when North Korea coach Kim Jong Hun publicly claimed that he was in constant communication with Kim Jong-Il regarding the team? I suppose it's not that hard to conjure up an image of a confused looking Blatter upon hearing that the two speak during games on a proclaimed invisible cell phone shrugging, sighing, and saying something along the lines of, Whatever. But in seriousness, there seems to be a lack of consistency in how these policies are enforced. It will be interesting to compare the severity of FIFA's responses to the situations in Nigeria and France.

Quote of Note: Theres no denying Major League Soccer is growing and the atmosphere at games can be fun (see the Unions stadium-opener this past weekend), but can people truly get motivated by a regular season game in Kansas City after jumping out of their chairs for Landon Donovans magical World Cup moment? -'s Dave Zeitlin, contemplating where American soccer fans go next. Read Zeitlin's full column here.

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.