Cards set for exciting times

These are exciting times for University of Louisville men’s soccer.

For the past three years, the Cards have reached the NCAA Elite Eight, including reaching the College Cup decider in 2010 when runner-up to Akron.

With deep postseason runs now becoming more a norm than a novelty, Ken Lolla’s charges are preparing to play their final campaign at Cardinal Park before moving to a brand new $18.5 million venue.

The Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium, to be located by Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, will have a capacity of 5,300. The Lynns contributed a lead gift of $5 million toward construction of the venue.

Artist's impression of Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium. Photo courtesy of University of Louisville.

Artist’s impression of Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium. Photo courtesy of University of Louisville.

The stadium will be ready just in time for Louisville’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“The intimacy of the facility will make it a unique and exciting atmosphere for our players and the fans,” said head coach Ken Lolla during a recent Twitter Q&A ahead of the new season.

But for now, attention is focused entirely on 2013, coach Lolla’s eighth at the Louisville helm, and the 10th-ranked Cardinals (NSCAA coaches poll) will feature no fewer than 17 newcomers, many of them transfers.

This Friday (August 30), the Cards will kick off the new campaign away to 25th-ranked Virginia (8 p.m. ET). It will be the first ever meeting between the teams.

Gone from the squad is MLS first-round draft pick Andrew Farrell, now with New England Revolution, but Lolla is excited by the talent he has at his disposal this fall. Among those expected to shine are sophomores Marlon Hairston, Zack Foxhoven and Ricardo Velazco, and freshman Andrew Brody.

“Velazco, Brody and Foxhoven will be very dynamic players to watch with the potential to have a significant impact,” said Lolla.

“We will miss Andrew Farrell yet we expect Daniel Keller and Jimmy Ockford to team up as a formidable force in our defense.”

The regular season will also see Louisville take on College Cup holders Indiana on the road and Connecticut at home, two games Lolla said he is “most anticipating.”

Live audio of Friday’s Virginia-Louisville matchup will be available through CardsTV at GoCards.com.

A Winter World Cup?

Fifa's Sepp Blatter (above) believes it would be mad to play a World Cup in the searing summer heat of Qatar.

Fifa’s Sepp Blatter (above) believes it would be mad to play a World Cup in the searing summer heat of Qatar.

Fifa is to discuss the possibility of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar being held in the winter.

Its executive committee will convene on October 3 and 4 to discuss an issue which is already attracting widespread criticism among Europe’s top leagues.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has questioned playing in the searing summer heat in Qatar when temperatures can reach 120 degrees fahrenheit.

“If this World Cup is to become a party for the people, you can’t play football in the summer,” said Blatter. “You can cool down the stadiums, but you can’t cool down the whole country.”

The English Premier League described the proposals as “neither workable nor desirable.” Such a move would cause major disruption to three seasons — the 2021/22 campaign and the ones either side. Lucrative broadcasting contracts would also be affected.

There was controversy in December 2010 after tiny oil-rich nation Qatar beat fellow finalists United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea to host the World Cup.

It will be the first time the world’s most widely viewed sporting event will be held in the Middle East.

Why Brazil won’t win the World Cup

As far as FIFA Confederations Cups go, this one was fairly eventful.

For a competition thought of as a bunch of international friendlies with a trophy handed out at the end of it, the Brazilian-hosted tournament threw up some watchable games and a final that most everyone wanted to see. Until we saw it, that is.

Brazil’s dismantling of Spain was so emphatic that the matchup was over as a contest by half-time. Be careful what you wish for.

While many are busying themselves dissecting the 2010 World Cup winners and Euro ’08 and ’12 champs’ performance – wondering if their reign as the world’s kings are over – there are others pronouncing Brazil as 2014 World Cup winners-in-waiting. Woahh there!

Here are five reasons why I believe Brazil will more than likely not be winning next year’s World Cup.

Brazil v Spain: Final - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Too convincing for their own good

Yes, sometimes you can look just too darn impressive for your own good.  On the field, and  from the get-go, everything turned out the way Seleção and its soccer-mad fans wanted it to. Better than expected.

And off it, you could argue that the anti-government protests caused by anger over the billions of public dollars being spent on next year’s World Cup versus the lack of investment in public services had a positive influence on Brazil’s on-field antics also.

The political waves of protest was to form a bond between the team and the terraces,  driving the squad to a fourth Confederations Cup victory.

As we’ve all been reminded these past few days, Brazil won the 2009 and 2005 Confederations Cups, but got no further than the quarterfinals at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. In fact, they comprehensively overcame Argentina 4-1 in 2005′s final and went into the big dance as strong favorites.

With superlative achievement can come some unneeded added pressure—as if Brazil honestly need to pile on any more expectation to what has become a massive overflowing wheelbarrow of the stuff. Coming with it will be the examination and re-examination at great length by potential opposition.

2 Weaknesses will be exposed

For all the positives exhibited by Scolari’s men – the performances of Neymar, Paulinho and Fred were obvious highlights – there were just as many questions thrown up.

For example, what will happen in games that they happen to fall behind in – often seen as a true test of a team? The attacking prowess of the likes of Dani Alves and Marcelo can leave holes that will happily be exposed by the top nations. And despite David Luiz’s memorable goal-line clearance in the final, he has difficulty sometimes remaining focused and not being where he’s supposed to be.

3 Persistent fouling

If Brazil looked like they were doing a lot of fouling against Spain, it’s because they were. Officially, the foul tally was 26 to Brazil and 16 for Spain. And they were just the ones that were called.

There are times, of course, when it is quite useful to foul, particularly when breaking down potentially damaging counter attacks when a preceding attack goes awry.

However, the main perpetrators were Neymar and Oscar, and if you were to transpose such play to World Cup 2014, it could invite upon Seleção some serious problems, especially in the presence of a no-nonsense referee. (There will be a few of the aforementioned around next summer.) All it takes is a sending off or a penalty decision to cause the wheels to start falling off the cart.

4 The competitive edge (or lack of)

Brazil will not have another competitive fixture until the World Cup itself. It remains to be seen if this will affect the squad come big-game time, but you can’t help feeling that it will.

5 Because Zico said so 

ZicoWell, not strictly because Brazilian legend Zico said so. Let’s face it, he’s not exactly an expert in the art of winning World Cups, having never done so as a player himself.

But he does have a point about the Seleção’s current experience. “The Brazil team is still very young,” he told The Guardian. “A whole new generation came in at once. So now you get all the responsibility on a player like Neymar, who is only 21 and has never played in a World Cup before.”

While my crystal ball has been known to break down on occasion, it does foresee Brazil being a very strong contender at the 2018 World Cup in Russia once the current crop’s inexperience is overcome.

USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier most watched ever

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So how many was that again you said are watching?

Approximately 7.65 million people watched the USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, making it the most-viewed qualifying game in American soccer history.

ESPN announced that the game, which ended in a 0-0 draw at the Azteca, doubled the highest previous rating for a World Cup qualifier, registering a 1.4 rating (which translates to about 2.85 million viewers).

The previous record for a World Cup qualifier shown on an ESPN network was the 2009 matchup between the same countries, which drew a 0.7 rating (about 1,191,000 viewers).

Meanwhile, UniMas recorded an audience of 4.8 million for the Spanish-language broadcast in the United States – the highest ever recorded by the network for any broadcast.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s troops now stand in third place in the North, Central America and Caribbean hexagonal group with four points behind surprise early leaders Panama, who have five. Mexico lie in fifth place with three points.

Next up for the United States is an away tie to Jamaica on June 7.

Indiana sports park set to be biggest in nation

Indiana Soccer yesterday announced that Grand Park, which it believes will be the “biggest sports park in the nation,” will be ready in 2014.

Following the hosting by the state in Indianapolis of its first-ever MLS SuperDraft, and the announcement last week of a North American Soccer League (NASL) franchise for the city,  Hamilton County Sports Authority continued the buzz with an update on a new $45 million 360-acre sports complex in Westfield.

To be called Grand Park, it will contain 31 soccer fields and 26 diamonds for both baseball and softball. There will also be two indoor facilities which will accommodate year-round play for a variety of sports.

The new complex will also house Indiana Soccer’s headquarters and its executive director, Dave Guthrie, said the complex will be a perfect location to cultivate the state’s talent.

“This complex will attract some of the premier national and international tournaments and players from around the globe,” he said.

The project is being led by the City of Westfield, which is paying for the development with tax increment financing-generated bonds.

However, Mayor Andy Cook said the project would not be possible without the participation of the private sector, which will manage and operate the complex.

Planners recently notified construction companies they are seeking bidders to install synthetic turf on seven of the 31 soccer fields. Bids will be opened next Tuesday (Jan. 29).

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The Grand Park masterplan

Pro soccer for Indianapolis

Indianapolis received good news ahead of hosting tomorrow’s MLS SuperDraft when the North American Soccer League (NASL) announced it as the latest city to be awarded an expansion franchise.

The as-yet unnamed team will becomes the 12th member of the league when it starts play in 2014.

Other NASL teams include defending champion Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Atlanta Silverbacks, San Antonio Scorpions and New York Cosmos.

The club will play its home games at Michael Carroll Stadium, which is located on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), but its long-term goal is to construct a stadium in the downtown area.

The franchise is owned by president and chief executive officer of Keystone Construction Corporation, Ersal Ozdemir. He has led efforts along with Peter Wilt, a soccer consultant who will become the team’s president.

IndyProSoccer, the club’s website, is currently asking the public to help pick a name for the team. The name will be announced along with a head coach and player acquisitions in the coming months.

The NASL, which was founded in late 2009 and started play in 2011, has been sanctioned as a Division II professional league by the United States Soccer Federation, placing it just under Major League Soccer in the game’s U.S. hierarchy.  

Defending NASL champion Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Defending NASL champion Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Fern Creek diversity an ingredient for success

Fern Creek soccer

Fern Creek’s Sixth Region-winning squad comprised players from no fewer than 11 nations. Photo courtesy of Cody Oaks.

Below is unedited version of Fern Creek’s remarkable story, featured in Vype Magazine’s November edition.

They might be a diverse bunch with hand-me-down cleats and shorts, but that didn’t stop the players of Fern Creek Traditional High School achieving a fantastic feat on the soccer field this fall.

With a squad comprising members from no less than 11 countries, the multinational Tigers fought their way to the Sixth Region championship – their first ever – after winning the 24th District crown.

Fern Creek’s incredible run was eventually halted in the state tournament series matchup against North Hardin, ending a nine-game winning streak in a season which saw them post a 15-5-3 record.

First-year coach John Pedro’s varsity and junior varsity charges are a mix of players from Iraq, Kenya, Somalia, Bosnia, Mexico, Liberia, Guatemala, the Philippines, Spain, Nepal and the U.S. (including the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico).

“I’ve never coached a team this diverse in age or ethnicity,” says Pedro, who took over from three-year head coach Jamie Dumstorf. “At the beginning of the season, I really had to sit back, observe and understand the dichotomy of the situation and of the players.”

They had three weeks of grueling preseason training which allowed Pedro, ably aided by assistant Kelsey Krueger, to get to know the players and their mindset a little.

“Quickly, I began to understand that most of these kids live in less fortunate circumstances than your typical high school boy,” he says. “Most of these kids don’t have transportation, relying on TARC to get them to practice or home. Their cleats, shorts and clothes are in many cases hand-me-downs. On many occasions we have players borrow each other’s equipment for games and practice because they simply can’t afford new stuff. Some even wonder if they will be able to eat that day or not.”

Yet despite the obstacles, the players trained hard every day, never missing a session.

“Most these kids know the game,” says Pedro. “They watch it, talk about it, and live and breathe it. Having so many different backgrounds was challenging because they all play a little differently than each other and don’t always understand one another. However, soccer is a universal language I think.”

The hard work paid off and as they gelled, the results followed, being rewarded with a district title courtesy of victories against Bullitt East (5-1) and Whitefield Academy (2-1 in double overtime).

The following day, Pedro discovered how much of a unit they had become. He called an emergency practice, asking captains Greg Pineo and Abdikadir Hussein to round up as many troops as possible. Of the 15 that turned up, eight had no cleats and three trained in their school slacks. However, they all decided to train barefoot.

“The ones who were fortunate enough to bring theirs took them off so they could support the ones who didn’t,” he reveals. “At that point, I knew we were one.”

What followed were wins against Southern (4-1), Iroquois (1-0) and Fairdale (1-0) to give the Tigers first ever Region Six crown.

“It has been a terrific season for these kids and I am truly proud of them for their accomplishments,” says Pedro, who himself won a state championship with St Xavier as a goalkeeper in 1994.

The Tigers pictured celebrating their Kentucky Sixth Region success. Photo courtesy of Cody Oaks.

Junior Cody Oaks, who was chosen on this year’s All-District team and scored that overtime winner against Whitefield, jokes that it was hard at first for the team to unify because when players got frustrated they started to argue in different languages.

“Even though our backgrounds are all different, our goals are all the same,” he says. “We all like to possess the ball and pass it and win, which helped out a lot too.”

Oaks, a member of United 1996 Internationals ’96 team with fellow Creeker Feryad Mezori, says there is no one player on the team that would be considered the star.

“We are brothers — we work hard and play hard,” he says. “Our future is bright since we are losing only two starting seniors and we have a lot of promising young players. I’m looking forward to next year and know we will once again be playing for the state championship.”

Goals, Championships and Fatheads …

Below are the Indiana high school players interviewed for this month’s Vype High School Magazine’s feature for seniors’ soccer memories. You can view the digital issue, which includes a comprehensive list of all graduating players, at: http://www.ihigh.com/vypelouisville

 

Some high school soccer players will carry on their careers on the field into college, while for others it will be their last competitive involvement in the sport.

But they all have something in common:  unforgettable memories.

Whether it was winning a postseason championship, simply getting to play and travel with schoolmates, or being moved by the sideline support, all have a moment or two they will carry with them forever.

Take, for example, Assumption’s Brandy Orth Becker from New Albany. The senior striker may have scored two crucial goals in the Rockets’ 3-1 victory over Sacred Heart on their way to winning the Kentucky girls’ Seventh Region championship, but her best high school memory involves what was happening off the field.

“Just before the whistle blew to start the game, something got my attention in the stands,” she explains.  “Our parents had secretly made ‘Fatheads’ of each of us. It was hard being nervous when I kept seeing an enormous photo of my head floating in the stands. It reminded me that not only do we play for our team and our school, but also for our number one fans — our parents.”

Brandy Orth Becker: Fathead memories

Leah Mattingly, a Ball State University commitment, has participated in two Indiana Class A state championship games for Providence, both against Mishawaka Marian.

Winning last year’s game against the Knights in a penalty shootout as a junior was obviously a top memory, as was beating Christian Academy of Louisville with just one second left on the clock last year. But one moment that sticks out in particular was her part in the Pioneers’ victory over Floyd Central in double overtime in sectional in 2010.

“I made a run the length of the field and made to pass to Casey Marlin at the top of the box for the score,” she says.

It was a good year for Providence as a school on the soccer field as its boys’ program reached the final four of the Indiana Class A state tournament for the first time.

Top scorer Pierce Crawley, who will be heading to Bellarmine University next year, says his freshman year was very special to him because he was on the varsity team with his brother, Zev.  However, this year was his top memory.

“We were unranked and no one gave us a chance of beating  No. 4 Evansville Mater Dei – our soccer team made history,” he says.

Jeffersonville’s Jordan Vejar, alsobound for Bellarmine next year,says he has two memorable moments. The first one came during the 2010 Indiana regional semifinal victory over New Albany when he dribbled from midfield to score a fine individual effort.

“The best part was hearing the crowd gradually get louder and louder as I got closer to the goal,” he says.

The second came after the final buzzer of their 1-0 win against Jasper before going on to win the sectional title this fall.

“The only bit of energy I had left was to fall over and throw my arms up in the pouring rain,” he says. “That was the most collective and unified game I’ve ever played with a team and we won it because it was a family playing as a team and not just a team trying to best another team.”

Jeffersonville’s Leonard Kwitonda, Skyler Davis, Brian Fischer and Jordan Vejar

Jeff teammate Brian Fischer, who will be heading for University of Southern Indiana next fall, says breaking his ankle during his freshman year probably isn’t his favorite memory, but an enduring one which had a deep effect on his character.

“Although I was out of commission for several months, it did make me realize how good I had it,” he says.

He went from breaking bones to breaking records, as the following season he claimed the school record for most goals in a season with 22, on the way to winning regional, which was “something special.”

This year saw New Albany High School win its first ever IHSAA girls’ sectional title, when beating Jasper 1-0 in the championship decider.

Tanner Marcum scored the winner in that game, but her most memorable moment came in the semifinal game when she scored the deciding kick in a penalty shootout against rival Floyd Central.

“I was very nervous as I was the last one taking a kick but I made it,” says Marcum. “It was such a euphoric feeling that I had never felt before.”

Dogs finally have their day

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New Albany captain Phoebe Bauer (left) and goalscorer Tanner Marcum celebrate the Bulldogs 1-0 sectional victory over Jasper today.

New Albany girls won their first ever IHSAA sectional title today when beating Jasper 1-0 at Floyd Central.

Senior Tanner Marcum scored the decisive goal with a fine individual effort six minutes into the second half, rocketing the ball home with her right foot from about 25 yards.

The Lady Bulldogs had several chances to kill the game off but were denied by Jasper’s stout defense, while the Wildcats were reduced to just a couple of half chances by an equally  impressive New Albany back four.

They will now take on Evansville Memorial in regionals at Jasper on Wednesday (Oct 10) at 7pm.

Meanwhile,  Jeffersonville took the Class 2A Sectional boys’ title against Corydon with a 4-1 victory. Goals were scored by Jordan Vejar (2), Isaiah Salazar and Leonard Kwitonda. The Red Devils will play Evansville North in the Washington Regional on Thursday, with the winner taking on Evansville Memorial or Vincennes on Saturday.

Providence reversed last year’s Sectional Class A defeat with a 2-1 win over Christian Academy of Indiana. They will now face Salem in the  Switzerland County Regional semifinal on Thursday (5 p.m.)

Last year’s girls’ Class A state champions Providence hammered Switzerland County 10-0  to progress to its own Regional Championship, where they will once again take on Heritage Hills, who beat Forest Park 3-2 in overtime.

Zidane headbutt captured in statue form

The infamous moment when French star Zinedine Zidane headbutted Italian defender Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final has been given the statue treatment by Algerian-born artist Adel Abdessemed and stands in front of the Centre Pompidou modern art museum in Paris (above).

I wonder will there be a follow-up statue to capture Materazzi going on his backside, a la below.

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