April 10, 2007
Eric Wynalda has made a name for himself as a candid soccer analyst that will take shots at anyone and everyone. Well, that certainly seemed to be true when Eric gave an apparently alcohol fueled interview to a blogger ahead of the US-Ecuador game recently.
Near the end of the interview Wynalda took aim at Blowhard in the Box, Jim Rome. Rome has become the face of the soccer haters in this country with his tired, cliche ridden, anti-soccer rants that have been cobbled together by his writing staff in the hopes of pumping up the egos of the NFL loving meatheads that worship at the idol of their fearful leader.
But when push came to shove and Rome whined like a spoiled little rich kid that got punched on the elementary school playground and ran and told the teacher what happened, Wynalda folded like a cheap suit and not only had an apology put out by ESPN, but he also went on Rome's show and cowtowed to the head of the soccer haters local 324.
Wynalda had the chance to be soccer's Col. Nathan R. Jessep. To steal a line from A Few Good Men, American soccer fans wanted Wynalda on that wall, they needed Wynalda on that wall. It isn't merely enough to call out Bruce Arena for doing a poor job at the World Cup in Germany or calling out US Soccer president Sunil Gulati for not hiring Bob Bradley full time. A soccer analyst calling out soccer people is easy. Soccer in this country needs a brash, and outspoken personality that not only will call out the people within the game that need to be called out, they need to take on the Jim Romes of the world that mindlessly bash this great game.
I can't wait to see what Eric's Yellow Card/Red Card segment is like this week during the FC Dallas-LA Galaxy on Thursday night. ESPN gave Wynalda a red card for the opener on ABC between DC and Colorado. I wanted to give him a game ball for what I thought was his heartfelt take on Rome. But now I merely have to give him a yellow card and hope that one day he turns into the media personality that soccer in this country needs.
What did I learn from the Rhinos 5-0 win over Colgate?
- The Rhinos are just fine at right back. With the losses of both Ricky Lewis and Frankie SanFilippo this offseason, the Rhinos had a sizable hole at right back. However, with the addition of Kevin Novak, thanks to the Virginia Beach Mariners debacle, and Chris Aloisi, the Rhinos should once again have solid depth on defense. The Rhinos appear to have solid depth across the back line with T-Bone Bonseu, Jason Perry, and Josh Bolton providing depth in the middle behind Kenney Bertz and Scott Palguta. And at left back you have Nate Craft most likely starting with Palguta and newcomer Stephen Shirley-Black capable of playing in the spot.
- I still have no clue who the starting defensive midfielder will be. Neitherguy that played in that role is currently signed by the Rhinos. With Shirley-Black playing left back, Ebenezer Abbey started at defensive mid and Kevin Burns played the second half in that spot. Both guys looked OK, but the level of competition wasn't exactly USL 1st Division calibre. And after the match Abbey was released from camp largely due to the fact that he was a foreigner and the team is apparently trying to sign another foreigner to help boost the offensive attack. Burns is still in camp, but has yet to be signed by the club.
- Hamed Diallo looked like he had potential as a forward for this club. But, given the history of promising strikers who didn't produce for the Rhinos, I'm going to try and wait a bit before getting too excited about what I saw. But, it does appear that the Rhinos might have a forward that at a minimum can provide speed and finishing ability off the bench.
- My four year old son may have been able to play in goal for the Rhinos and get a clean sheet versus Colgate. It made it impossible to judge the battle to back up Scott Vallow between Hector Zapata and unsigned combine survivor Chase Harrison. Neither guy was tested that I saw, so the match didn't do much for me there.
- It was disappointing to see the lack of progress on the stadium from the last time I was at PAETEC Park until Friday. Don't you just love New York State politics?
Minnesota adds US U-20 forward to the mix
In what seems to be a bit of a growing trend, US U-20 forward Rodrigo Hidalgo has foregone signing with an MLS club as a developmental player and instead has signed with the Minnesota Thunder of the USL 1st Division. Hidalgo is one of a handful of players that likely could have signed developmental contracts with MLS clubs, sat the bench, and played in Reserve League matches, but opted to sign and likely play in the USL.
Honestly, I think it's a solid move for the USL and for the players involved to start their pro careers with clubs where they can expect to get on the field in meaningful matches on a regular basis. If a guy is going to see significant minutes right away in MLS, then signing with an MLS club is the right move. However, if they are going to be buried on the bench, then I don't see why a guy would make that move when there is another league where he'll likely get minutes against players whose skill level isn't that far removed on average from those in MLS?
Hopefully we'll see more players make the same type of decision that Hidalgo made.
MLS opening weekend
Toronto FC lost in Preki's debut as Chivas USA head coach. The Colorado Rapids kept the streak intact of team's opening new stadiums winning. And there were some exciting ties (Real Salt Lake 2 FC Dallas 2) and some not so exciting ties (Columbus-NY & LA-Houston played to scoreless draws). And the Chicago Fire took care of the Clint Dempsey-less New England Revolution 1-0 at home.
To me, it was sort of a let down. I was really excited for the start of the MLS season and the soccer just wasn't at mid-season form, which should have been expected. Things will certainly heat up by June with the SuperLiga starting up and a certain #23 coming to LA............
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or SoccerSam.com. Feel free to send any comments or complaints to email@example.com. James promises to read (but not to respond) to all of them.