Archive for the ‘Soccer’ Category

Earlier this morning, one of the best teams in the world, Real Madrid, signed Argentinian soccer prodigy Leonel Angel Coira.  There’s only one hitch: he’s seven.  Madrid reportedly signed him because rival Atletico Madrid was also pursuing the child star.

Although Coira should be more at home watching Spongebob than playing soccer over 6,000 miles from

Lionel Messi
Barcelona star Lionel Messi

home, he is not the first person to make the leap from child to professional soccer player.  The two examples that pop into most people’s heads are Lionel Messi (Coira’s idol) and Freddy Adu.

Like Coira, Messi is from Argentina and goes by the name Leo.  Messi was also signed to Barcelona when he was just 15 years old.  He had also been playing professionally for his home town team of Newell’s Old

Leonel Angel Coira
Leonel Angel Coira’s picture from his Facebook page

Boys in Argentina since he was just eight years old.  However, one difference between the two prodigies is that Messi left Argentina for Spain in part because he needed treatment for a growth hormone deficiency.

Freddy Adu is a different story.  Adu was signed to the D.C. United when he was 14.  He was originally from Ghana, but his mother won the Green Card Lottery when he was eight, so he moved to Maryland.  His high school moved him up two grades so he would qualify for varsity sports.  Adu then joined the IMG Soccer Academy and was signed professionally just two years later.

So which path is Coira more likely to take?

It depends on the path that Real Madrid takes.  Barcelona let Messi play sparingly until he was 18 when he played regularly.  However, Adu played on a regular basis from the first time he put on a United uniform.  Of course Messi went on to win World Player of the Year twice while Adu faded into relative anonymity.  Though Adu has made a comeback in recent years, he will likely never become the player that he was made out to be as a teenager.

The biggest difference between the two players is the fact that Adu was signed for publicity.  Neither Barcelona nor Madrid need help attracting fans.  My take: we won’t know for another decade or so.  I think he’ll be a great player, but I wouldn’t use him in a FIFA video game for at least five years or so.


This time, winning wasn’t everything.

Earlier today, Abby Wambach, Megan Rampinoe, Alex Morgan, and Ali Krieger were at a rally at Eastview Mall in Victor, NY for their return to the United States.  Over 2,000 people attended the rally, which was held in a food court.  Wambach emphasized how grateful they all were for the overwhelming support.

Soccer Players at the Rally
From left to right: Abby Wambach, Ali Krieger, Megan Rampinoe, and Alex Morgan

That support was matched tonight at Sahlen’s Stadium as the WNY Flash beat MagicJack 3-1.  Christine Sinclair had 2 goals for the Flash who are now 8-2-2.  But the real story was the sell-out crowd of 15,404, a WPS record for attendance.  Although every game going forward won’t be a sell-out, I expect to see attendance go up for many WPS and lower-tier men’s leagues accross the nation.

Although Wambach did not play, she did give a speech at half-time for her home town.  She acknowledged the loss to Japan and she implied that the team was moving forward and looking forward to the London Olympics, saying:

“I’m not coming home next summer without gold”

“There’s a small difference between winning and losing.”

Truer words were not spoken after the US lost a heartbreaker to Japan in penalty kicks today in Frankfurt, Germany.   The US missed too many shots in the first half.  Had the ball bounced differently, the US could have won in regulation and we’d all be out celebrating.  Regardless of the final result, this world cup have had a tremendous impact on the US soccer scene.

After the 1999 victory, sign-ups in girl’s soccer leagues sky-rocketed.  This set the stage for people like Alex Morgan, who scored the first goal in the loss to Japan.

Hope Solo and Abby Wambach after the loss

Hope Solo and Abby Wambach after the loss

But can the impact be the same even though the US lost?

Yes.  In my opinion, it could even be greater.  The games this year earned higher ratings than those in 1999.  That means more people were tuned in to hear about Hope Solo’s redemption story and Christie Rampone’s quest for a second title.  And more people were able to realize that soccer can be exciting.  This final was the most exciting game of any sport I’ve watched in the past year.  If people can’t get excited about this, they can’t get excited about anything.

Believe it or not, this also affects the world of professional soccer in Europe.  One of the main criticisms of soccer is the lack of talent in the professional ranks in America.  I doubt the talent level will change.  But I expect to see ESPN start to carry more Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga games next season, especially with the NBA lockout.  I also expect Fox Soccer Channel to be carried on more basic cable packages.

And I haven’t even gotten to the WPS in America.  Started in 2009, the WPS has been growing over the past 2 years.  It should explode over the next few months.  In fact, the Western New York Flash vs. magicJack game on Wednesday in Rochester, NY is expected to be a sell out.  Who knows how long this excitement will last, but it is good for America as a whole to have some excitement around a women’s sport.

Finally, even the fact that the US lost can be used as a positive.  Next year is the Summer Olympics in London.  If/When the US plays Japan, the ratings will be as high as they would be for a Michael Phelps race or a Usain Bolt run.  The excitement will be reborn in an oportunity for redemption.  And if the US women are successful, the excitement around soccer will explode, regardless of how the men do.

Having said that, the men do need to step up their game if soccer wants to get to the same level as hockey, basketball, football, and baseball.  The WPS can’t become the 5th major league in America.  But the MLS might be able to.  For that to happen, the men need to get to AT LEAST the quarterfinals of the Olympics next summer.  If they can’t do that, all of the women’s efforts will be for naught and soccer could be set back another 10 years in America.

But for now, the Women’s National Team have brought soccer to the forefront of American minds.