MW: Mike Woitalla; PB: Pete Bailey
Why aren't there any Spanish (speaking) head coaches in MLS, when many of the players are from Sudamerica?
RM: Most of the top-level coaches in this country are of European/English origin and those selected by MLS teams were picked for their experience in pro soccer, indoor and outdoor, or with U.S. national team programs. Ron Newman has lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years, Eddie Firmani and Timo Liekoski coached in the NASL.
Many of the assistant coaches are Hispanic or Hispanic-American (Ralph Perez -NY/NJ, Cacho Cordoba-Dallas, Octavio Zambrano-L.A., Francisco Matturano-S.J.) Also, Lothar Osiander, although born in Germany, speaks fluent Spanish. I point out that Tampa assistant coach Renato Capobianco has Spanish heritage.
Most good European and South American coaches would laugh at the salaries being offered by MLS teams at this time, and very few owners would take a chance on an untested, which means inexpensive, foreign coach without good reason. In New England, Brian O'Donovan chose another Irishman, Frank Stapleton; O'Donovan liked Ossie Ardiles, but simply couldn't afford him.
If MLS grows and budgets increase, more foreign coaches may be tempted to join the league -- just as more foreign players will be available if salaries rise. But MLS is designed primarily as an American league, and that includes coaches as well as players.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Is MLS likely to retain its single-entity structure for some time to come, or do you think that teams will start to become privately owned in a few years? Also, was it just me, or does the Spartan Stadium field look kind of dinky? Is this simply due to the lack of larger fields available for MLS use, or is MLS purposefully opting for smaller field in an effort to create more end-to-end action and/or a more intimate setting? I know that other MLS venues such as Giants Stadium and Foxboro have the potential to house much larger pitches. Will we see fields as large as those presented at the World Cup in use at these sites, or will they be downsized for MLS play?
RM: We've covered all these topics extensively in recent issues.
About a year ago, I wrote that the single-entity structure will probably be altered to a club-managed salary cap within two or three years as teams demand more freedom to spend their money how they see fit. That's my opinion; Sunil Gulati would say single-entity will live forever. It's much too soon to tell what will happen.
Spartan Stadium's soccer field is 63 yards wide and 106 yards long; Ohio Stadium, the home field for Columbus, is only 62 yards wide. Spartan was chosen because the only other field in the San Francisco/San Jose area, aside from baseball parks, is Stanford, and the school had no interest in being an MLS facility. The league did choose San Jose to host the opener to virtually guarantee the opener to be a sellout, but as you saw, a smaller field is no guarantee of high scoring. In fact, a tighter field greatly restricts creative players by denying them that extra yard of space or additional half-second of time they can exploit. Less skilled players are not so vulnerable on a narrower outdoor field.
The field will be 66 yards wide at the Meadowlands and at Foxboro, 72 yards wide. If anything, the league has encouraged teams to use every possible inch to make the fields as large as possible. And in the Meadowlands, the MetroStars are paying a lot of money to have grass installed, even though it must be removed in August because the Giants and Jets want to play on artificial turf!
Edward E. Callender
I have the impression that U-23 players who are on MLS squads will not be playing for their MLS teams leading up to the Olympics. Am I correct? If so, this would seem to be a mistake given the valuable experience these players could gain even from just three months of professional competition. Please comment!
RM: Unfortunately, the league has changed its interpretation of Olympic-player status as often as you and I change our socks. As of now, Olympic players are exempt from counting against a team's 18-player roster until April 30. Olympic players may play in MLS games, but only as allowed by the Olympic team's preparation schedule and the whims of head coach Bruce Arena. Matt McKeon played for Kansas City in their opener and in their games April 18 and April 21; Damian Silvera and Miles Joseph both played for the MetroStars April 20; Eddie Pope and Clint Peay played in D.C. United's home opener. Brandon Pollard played in the Dallas Burn's last two games.
Remember, it's up to a team's head coach to use his Olympic players, if available, and the head coaches are paid to win games.
David A. Morales
El Paso, Texas
The El Paso Patriots played a great U.S. Open Cup against the Richmond Kickers in 1995. Then I noticed for the MLS. draft soooooo many players from the Kickers (and many other USISL teams) got drafted. Surely, at least one El Paso player could have gotten drafted by MLS team. David Stewart, Guillermo McFarlane and Brian O'Have were three outstanding AMERICAN players that should have been drafted by an MLS team. Do you have any idea why not even one of the Patriots got drafted?
RM: The ability of those players aside, they did not sign MLS agreements, without which no domestic player is eligible to be drafted. Many USISL and A-League players didn't like the money offered to them, and declined to sign.
New Paltz, N.Y.
The departure of Matt Knowles of the MetroStars for the Rochester Rhinos of the A-League brings up an interesting question: Why would players choose to play for a Division II club when they can have the exposure and fame of playing for a First Division squad in a major market? Money? Is this the only case of this happening, and if not, does it concern MLS?
RM: Well, you jumped the gun. Knowles is indeed with the MetroStars. A contractual tangle, triggered in part by Knowles signing an A-League form while under contract to the Milwaukee Wave at the same time he'd been drafted by an MLS team without having secured the proper loan agreement from the Wave, turned his playing status into a murky mess. Knowles is an exception, but many USISL and A-League players weren't thrilled with the deals they were offered by MLS, and in a few cases, can make MORE money in the lower leagues than in MLS.
Earlier this year, I put my money where my mouth is and purchased four season tickets for Washington, D.C. United. At a "meet the team" function here in D.C. a couple weeks ago, there was an impressive turnout. I asked a team representative how many season tickets had been sold and was told "about 3,000." I heard today that, according to USA Today, the Columbus Crew had the most season ticket sales at just over 9,000. Does Soccer America have any more current and comprehensive information about MLS season ticket sales by team? Here in D.C., the Redskins perpetually sell out the RFK Stadium entirely with season tickets, which I suspect is not the norm (or teams would not be moving from city to city). How does the MLS season ticket picture compare to other American professional sports (NBA, NHL, MLB)?
RM: MLS teams have sold far fewer season tickets than most of their counterparts in other pro sports, which isn't surprising given the other leagues have been around for decades and MLS is all of three weeks old. Your assumption about NFL teams not moving because they sell out is not always the case -- i.e., Cleveland and Seattle. Luxury boxes are by far the most attractive income to NFL teams, because it is not subject to the NFL's revenue-sharing formula.
Estimates of season-ticket sales: Columbus and New York: about 9,300; New England: 5,000; Washington: 4,000; San Jose: 3,500; Los Angeles: 3,000; Kansas City: 3,000; Colorado: 2,500; Dallas: 2,500; Tampa Bay: 1,500.
Donald W. Sturman
Why doesn't anyone have MLS merchandise? All the soccer shops in the San Jose/San Francisco Bay area have not one item of MLS merchandise. The catalogs I called don't stock anything yet either. They blame NIKE and ADIDAS due to back order problems. Who deserves the blame for lack of merchandise availability MLS or the manufacturers?
RM: Both: The manufacturers for not delivering product, and MLS for letting them get away with it. Have patience, you should be able to buy MLS merchandise by May 1. Before then, you can only buy MLS gear at MLS matches.
Two questions: First, are Canadian players considered "foreign players" in MLS? And what happens if the league expands into Canada some day? I remember the NASL counted them as "North Americans" so they counted as natives. Strangely though, I don't remember such an exception for Mexican players... Second, is it MLS or THE MLS?
RM: It is Major League Soccer, not THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL (SOCCER) LEAGUE!!!
Canadians, Mexicans and all other foreign natives count as foreign players for MLS purposes unless they hold a green card or qualify under refugee parameters. As for Canadian players in the NASL, they did not count as foreigners due to the presence of Canadian teams in the league. There were no Mexican teams in the league, so there was no provision for Mexican players. In the A-League, Canadians do not count as foreigners if they play for Canadian teams.
How do I reach the MLS, both street address and email? I'm looking for a complete league schedule.
RM: Major League Soccer Communications Dept.; 2029 Century Park East Suite 400; Los Angeles, California 90067. Phone: (310) 772-7505. e-mail: email@example.com
By the way, the MLS schedule is available on Soccer America Online, just use the search engine.
Little Chute, Wisc.
I would like to commend you for your outstanding MLS preview!! Since I have complained about a lack of MLS coverage leading up to the season, I only feel its fair to lavish praise upon SA when it is due!
RM: Thanks, Mike. And do let us know during the season how we're doing.
Any news on U.S. TV coverage of the English FA Cup Final? It looks like a good one this year between Liverpool and Manchester United.
DI: Yes, should be a good one (I'll be rooting for the 'Pool myself). But neither ESPN nor Prime have any plans to televise the game as yet. Looks like a trip to a bar with a powerful satellite dish is your best bet.
Will any of the European Championships (Euro '96) be televised on U.S. TV? Which networks? Which games?
DI: At the moment, ESPN plans to televise only the Group C match between Italy and Germany and one semifinal. No other games are scheduled, nor is it clear whether these games will be screened live.
Virginia Beach Va.
In July there is to be a game played in New York, Brazil vs. Who? How are they picked or who decides? Is it possible we could have a World All Star team play against the World Cup Winners? I personally think that would make for a very interesting game. As world-wide promotion it should pay for itself! What do you think?
DI: Brazil will take on a team of World All-Stars. FIFA sent out the invitations and as of April 23, the following players have accepted: Lothar Matthaeus, Romario (turning out against his compatriots, the little tinker), George Weah, Juergen Klinsmann, Jorge Campos, Marcel Desailly, Krassimir Balakov and Kazu Miura of Japan.
The starting lineup of the World XI will be selected and coached by Steve Sampson, Bora Milutinovic and Denmark's Richard Moeller Nielsen. Brazil probably won't be led by Mario Zagalo, who's in charge of the Olympic team.
The match will kick off at Giants Stadium at 3 p.m. (Eastern) and will be preceded at 12.30 by the MLS All-Star game. (Will the LA Galaxy's Campos suit up both games?)
Proceeds from the match will go to the FIFA Youth Fund, chief beneficiary of which is the SOS Children's Youth Villages.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Why can't Jovan Kirovski receive a work permit to play in England? Would he be able to make Manchester United team or would he have to go elsewhere? I also heard a rumor that if he doesn't receive the work permit after his next attempt he will leave for Spain or Holland. Is this true?
DI: Kirovski is an American citizen with parents of Macedonian heritage. He has no contract with Manchester United, and combines studying with training and turning out for United's reserve team.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson reportedly rates Kirovski highly and if it weren't for the issue of a work permit, I think he would have started him in the first team by now (he's come through the youth ranks with current United starters Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and the Neville brothers).
However, Kirovski is not a citizen of an EU country and United is applying for a work permit through the Department of Employment, which in turn relies on the recommendation of Professional Footballers' Association head Gordon Taylor.
Stipulations regarding the issuance of work permit are strict -- as an international he should represent his country in 75 percent of its competitive matches over a 12-month period, and even after a permit is issued, he'd have to play in 75 percent of United's first-team games (Swiss defender Marc Hottiger and Ilie Dumitrescu of Romania both lost their permits and had to re-apply when they were transferred).
In answer to the other part of your question, he seems to be happy with the current setup and United has hired a top-notch employment lawyer to plead his case.
But if a work permit is denied, look to Kirovski to try his luck elsewhere (maybe as part of a loan deal through United) to get some regular first-team playing time.
He's pretty ambitious though, so it's unlikely (after a number of years in Europe) he'd be interested in joining MLS.
I have noticed the significant difference in field sizes between the two MLS games I've seen, and virtually any European or Latin game. The MLS fields seem significantly smaller, both in width and length. My friends and I have been asking around but nobody seems to know.... What is the regulation field size for FIFA rules? For example, what is the field size of Wembley Stadium?
DI: From the Laws of the Game: "The field of play shall be rectangular, its length being not more than 130 yards nor less than 100 yards and its breadth not more than 100 yards nor less than 50 yards. (In international matches the length shall not be more than 120 yards nor less than 110 and the breadth not more than 80 yards nor less than 70 yards). The length shall in all cases exceed the breadth."
As MLS is using downsized football stadiums, the width in most cases is a little on the narrow side -- San Jose and Columbus' field width are 63 and 62 yards, respectively.
I don't have the actual configurations of Wembley Stadium to hand, but having attended a number of games there over the years, it's one of the widest fields I've seen stage first-class matches.
And you can't always rely on what a club guide will tell you. I remember a European Cup game in '87 when Dynamo Kiev trained at Ibrox Stadium the day before its clash with Glasgow Rangers. The next day the club officials complained that the field was narrower. It was. Graeme Souness had the groundskeepers in overnight to narrow the field -- which obviously suited Rangers -- and the Scottish club went on to win the game. Nothing's sacred.
I read great reviews in your books section, but when I take the article down to my local
bookstores, they can't find the books!. These books sound great --
not just basics or drills. One referred to the autobiography of Sir Stanley Matthews. I even had friends in London look, with no luck. The other was written by a ref. Where can I find these books?
DI: I normally carry an extra suitcase when I go to London, unleash SA's platinum AMEX card and visit SportsPages.
You could go the easier route and write to them -- they have a pretty extensive catalog and if they don't have something to hand, they'll order it for you. Remember to be as extensive as possible (Title, author, publisher are all handy things to know) when you make your order.
SportsPages; Caxton Walk; 92-96 Charing Cross Road; London, WC2 0JG; England.
Soccer Bookshelf; 72 St. Peter's Avenue; Cleethorpes; DN5, 8HU; England.
Do you have information re. a coaching change on the University of Louisville men's soccer team?
MW: Try calling the Louisville Sports Information Dept. at 502-852-6581
Damian J. Sinclair
University Park, Pa.
I am 18 years old and a college student. How do I get a soccer coaching license?
MW: Both U.S. Soccer (312-808-1300) and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (800-458-0678) offer licenses.
After 25 years of playing I have decided to enter the realm of coaching on a full-time basis. Currently I coach a small high school in south central Pa. , but I am very interested in breaking the college ranks. Therefore, I have begun the process of getting certified as a coach. I recently received my Regional Diploma from NSCAA and will be going for my National Diploma in June.
My Question is: How do you feel about the certification received via the NSCAA course instruction versus that which is offered through USSF Licensing ? Is one avenue more complete than the other? Is one more readily recognized than the other?
MW: My guess is that you have learned more during your 25-year playing career -- and by watching others play -- than you'll ever learn at a coaching course. I do, however, understand that licenses on one's resume do impress some employers. Track down some college coaches who have collected USSF licenses and ask them what their thoughts are on the benefits.
Cesar A. Maurtua
Other than looking at a win-loss record, how or what parameters have been established to judge the skills of a coach when the individual players in a team are already loaded with physical and soccer skill talent? Is there a way/criteria to judge the effectiveness of a coach? Do you have any references? Even a mediocre coach with a excellent squad can be made to look good.
DI: This is a point that's been argued for just about as long as the game's been played.
Sadly, there's no dictionary definition of what makes a good coach. I'd say that in soccer's case, the emphasis placed on a coach is less than in other American sports ("There's only so much you can do," said Michel Platini after France tied England 0-0 in a dismal Euro '92 encounter. "You have them before the game and 10 minutes at halftime and even that's of limited use. The rest is up to the players." Now, shut your eyes and imagine the same words coming out of Barry Switzer's mouth!)
I think in some ways you've answered your own question. Big clubs that are loaded with talent are unlikely to hire a layman to coach their team in the first place. And when they do they tend to get found out PDQ.
As a rule, I look at the following and don't just rely on trophies or notches in the win column:
How entertaining is the team? Is the style of play different, better or worse than the coaches' predecessors?
What is their youth policy like? How many first-team players have come through the youth ranks, and are they any good?
How shrewd is a coach on the transfer market? Does he buy his way out of trouble, go with what he has or does he wait for the right player?
Does he have the respect of all his players and the support of his board? If so, how strong is that support.
Is he a good motivator? How does he handle a team crisis, by moaning about a particular player in the press or by sorting matters out behind the scenes?
Most coaches score brownie points in some departments, but none (unless of course God is a coach, and if he is, he's a very good one) has them all. And yes, we all hear the cliche about chemistry, but as with most cliches, there's a level of truth about them.
Brian Clough (at Nottingham Forest and Derby) managed to get the best out of average and discarded players, but was terrible on the transfer market and it's unlikely he'd win any popularity contests.
Arrigo Sacchi had a number of great seasons at AC Milan, but fell out with Marco Van Basten when the going got tough. Result: Sacchi left Milan. He went to the Italian national team, where despite a World Cup final loss, he's still one of the most criticized guys around.
Louis Van Gaal succeeded Johan Cruyff at Ajax Amsterdam. A former PE teacher with no playing credentials, he was roundly criticized by players, the press and fans, who doubted his ability. Van Gaal currently walks on water.
George Graham developed a sterling youth policy at Arsenal, but the team's tactical philosophy didn't change and ultimately the results suffered. Two league titles, two league cups, an FA Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup, but I doubt if he'd make anyone's Top Ten either (obviously it helps if you don't get caught taking money from player agents, either).
Then there's Carlos Alberto Parreira, who won the World Cup but, wondered the purists, at what price? And then a season at Valencia. No trophies and off he went. Did he become a bad coach overnight?
They'll argue this till the end of time, or until we get our definitive answer (which will probably come from an academic, so we'll all ignore it anyway!).
MW: My philosophy is: If a team wins, credit the players; if it loses, blame the coach.
If we are talking about a youth coach, the success of his former players at the higher levels may say more about that coach than the current results.
Scott S Reynolds
New York, N.Y.
Why no updated NPSL info? You know, the ESPN coverage is very delayed, and I'm having trouble keeping up with the playoffs. I'm just surprised you don't have even the scores listed.
PK: As we've mentioned before, we have a huge number of areas we could cover on-line, but we've chosen on the areas of the highest interest to our regular readers and surfers: outdoor American soccer.
We will have on-line complete NPSL playoff results and box scores once the playoffs end.
I am heavily involved in the game of soccer; as a coach and referee. Your publication covers all aspects of the game. Recently there was an article on the topic of referees. I remember when these such articles appeared every couple of weeks or so. I must say that I miss them. What I am asking is what happened? This is one area of the game that not too many cover yet so many are interested. I not looking for a 10 page article; I'll be content with 1/2 a page -- something. Its just that I found referee articles to be exciting, humorous and educational. I would pass them to my colleagues. Some of them began to subscribe or would bug me for more articles. Keep up the good work and thank you for your time.
PK: We've recently added a regular monthly referee column. We do have many referees, and they are among our most avid readers. Please give us your thoughts on the columns we do run and ideas for future columns.
J. Bradley Orchard
My question is, why am I having so much trouble getting my magazine delivered? I have now not received two different weeks magazine. Luckily for me, I have a friend at work who receives SA, so I have been reading his. He and I live in the same general area, yet he receives his issues at least two days before I get mine, when I actually get mine. Why is that?
I really enjoy SA,that is why I get it. Please let me know what can be done to ensure that I get the magazine more promptly.
PB: Your problem sounds like it might be occurring at the local post office, but to be sure, call Customer Service at (800) 997-6223 to see if we have your correct address.
Every copy of SA goes into the mail at exactly the same time in Chicago (the largest mail facility near our printer). From there, the copies are delivered to the regional mail facility for each zip code and then the local Post Office. Problems have been known to occur at the local level. Sometimes, the mail carrier will hold all the oversized mail for delivery once a week. Once, a subscriber noticed coffee rings on his copy and found that someone in the Post Office had been reading his copy. While the latter may perhaps be an isolated case, it might be worth your while to talk to your local postmaster and share your concerns.
Ellen R. Paterson
My husband would like to know what happened to his free t-shirt as part of the promotion for renewing his subscription to SA.
PB: Unfortunately, we had a problem with the T-shirt manufacturer and the whole job had to be re-run. All of the T-shirts are due to be mailed out within the next week.