November 6, 2012

2013 NPSL Expansion

Let's make it official.

The Great Lakes Conference of the NPSL is expanding. While conference realignment has taken the Greater Binghamton Bingos to the Northeast Division of the Atlantic conference, the Great Lakes Conference gains two new members. In addition to Detroit City FC, AFC Cleveland, Erie Admirals, and FC Buffalo, the conference will be contested by new boys Zanesville and the locally maligned FC Sparta Michigan

The addition of another 4th division club to the area, where there hasn't really been much demand for more teams at that level beyond City and the Bucks, has caused a bit of frustration and distrust towards the league. The thought is plainly one of exploitation; they see how well followed City is and they must be looking to cash in on a region with that passion for the game.

I got in contact with the NPSL Chairman Andy Zarovich  to get the lowdown on how a club could conceivably enter the league as an expansion team.

"The process to become a new member works this way. An interested group contacts the league and then receives a prospective new member information package. This package outlines information about the league, the minimum requirements for membership and the requirements for application."
The deadline for expansion applications for the 2013 season was October 31 2012, with a presser coming out on November 3 revealing the applicants who had been successfully approved to join the NPSL. In that press release the league officially announced the arrival of Ferndale-based FC Sparta Michigan and southern Ohio outfit Zanesville Athletic to the Great Lakes Conference. They followed that up with another release that said just about the same thing but in a different order on November 4. Continuing on with the expansion process:
"Upon receiving an application, business plan and facility agreement from a prospective new member, a new member committee reviews the material to ensure that all items required for application are there. After this is met, the material is reviewed by the existing NPSL conference members where the prospective new member would be. For example, the existing members of the Great Lakes conference review the business plan, application, and facility agreement of prospective new members for their conference. As a matter of professionalism, the information contained in those documents is held confidential within the conference. Discussion and votes are held by the conference members. If the existing conference approves, then the applicant becomes a new approved member of the NPSL. This is one of the great features of the NPSL, allowing existing members the decisions on their respective regional and conference expansion."
It's great that the league calls for the members of a conference to weigh in on whether or not a team can join. This may not be novel in terms of professional sports leagues, but it's good to see in such a large and amorphous organization like the NPSL. Rather than holding an unwieldy vote amongst all owners, bringing the decision down to the local level allows the conference clubs to tell the league and prospective teams if it's prudent to even allow another club into the fold. Rapid growth is not the entire source of success.
What is unknown at this time is who among the GLC specifically voted to approve each of the 2 new franchises, and if the decision was unanimous in either case. There is a specific question that I find myself wondering, and it's a question that we may never have answered:
Did Detroit City approve the membership of FC Sparta?
They certainly had the chance to vote down a local rival with the potential to steal away a portion of its fan base. The tepid response to the new club by Detroit City fans indicates that this largely won't be the case. Was this all a ploy by the league to get some more money?
If City did approve, could the proximity of a new club be a factor in approving the new local rival? After all, it's cheaper to charter a bus to go a few miles uptown rather than all the way out of state.
Is it possible that the other 3 members of the GLC wanted to see the area weakened with greater local competition for both talent and fans? If the voting doesn't have to be unanimous, then that could certainly have been the case.
How much of the decision making is done over the course of these meetings, and how much (I hate to use the term) lobbying goes on between clubs? Is the process of voting more of a formality?
Is this all just paranoid bullshit?
I can answer at least one of those questions,
It's official.

July 21, 2012

Michigan Bucks 2012 post-season

Check out the full playoff schedule here

As the summer soccer season in Metro Detroit draws to a close, the final event in the area at the highest current level of league competition is the United Soccer Leagues PDL Conference Championships. The Bucks finished in first place of the Great Lakes Division, the Central Conference, and the entire 73 team PDL. Winning 13 of 16 and only losing once, the Bucks enter the playoffs as the regular season PDL Champions.

Leading the league with 46 goals scored and tying Carolina Dynamo and the Thunder Bay Chill for least goals conceded with 10, the Bucks have proven themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Keeper Adam Grinwis set the bar for PDL keepers with a league best .444 goals against average and Tommy Catalano tied for most assists with 12. Add the victory over MLS' Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup, and you have a very productive season that demands respect.

Though wary about past misfortune as the 1 seed in the tournament, the team is focused on advancing to the final, potentially on their home pitch. Per the USL: The Conference Champions will meet in the national semifinals on the weekend of July 27-29 at two host locations to be determined. The PDL Championship will be played on Saturday, August 4 at the home of one of the semifinal winners.

If the Bucks were to advance to the final-final, they could make the argument that as the regular season champions that they would deserve the right to host the final. If the league had a set of requirements for the size of the venue or type of field, that argument could potentially be challenged. August 4 is still a ways off and the Bucks would have to win both this Saturday at home against Real Colorado Foxes and again the next day in the Conference Championship.

The Foxes won 8, lost 4 and drew 4 in the regular season, with a goal differential of 0; 19 scored and 19 conceded. Finishing second in the Heartland Division, behind 13-2-1 Thunder Bay Chill. The Chill hail from Western Ontario off the northern coast of Lake Superior, and are partnered with MLS affiliate Toronto FC. They will play fellow Canadian club and Great Lakes Division runners-up Forest City London in the late game Saturday.

The Battle for Ontario will determine the Bucks' potential opponent for Sunday's final, however one opponent certainly looks more difficult than the other. While a hard fought season paid off with a playoff spot for the Canadian club, the Bucks were still able to do the double against Forest City in the regular season, holding on 1-0 at home and snatching victory away 2-1 with a spot kick. Thunder Bay Chill finished the regular season 1 point behind the Bucks with 40, 12 more than Heartland's 2nd placed RC Foxes. Apart from the Bucks, the Chill are also the only club this season in the PDL to have a 100% winning record at home. Should both teams meet in the conference final on Sunday, the Bucks will look to tap into that run of home form yet again.

Conference Semifinals - Saturday, July 21
Real Colorado Foxes at Michigan Bucks, 6 p.m. ET
Thunder Bay Chill vs. Forest City London, 8 p.m. ET

Conference Championship - Sunday, July 22
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m. ET

July 15, 2012

Michigan Bucks to host Central Conference Playoffs

63' - Zack Steinberger nets the Bucks' 3rd goal
The Michigan Bucks concluded their season in style, breezing past 9-man River City Rovers 4:0 on Sunday. The Rovers are the only team all season to inflict a defeat on the Bucks, and the result of the match was essential for River City's playoff hopes.

The Bucks win means that they will host the Central Conference playoffs next weekend beginning with their first match against the Heartland Division’s number two seeded Real Colorado Foxes. The defending Central Conference champion Thunder Bay Chill will take on the winner of the River City / FC London match which takes place on the 17th.

The match began with a number of threatening chances from the Bucks. They opened the scoring in the 14th minute off a free kick on the flank of the box. Tommy Catalano put the ball in perfectly for Stew Givens, whose header was cleared off the line. The rebound of the clearance fell onto the head of defender Kevin Cope, who hit the ball home past the keeper. Ten minutes later the ref realized that she had lost her yellow card and was able to find it on the pitch.

River City was able to set up a free kick opportunity on the edge of the Bucks' box. The chance was well saved by Adam Grinwis, who then blasted a lofted ball down field to find Tommy Catalano on a counter-attacking run. River City's keeper Matt Soyka charged out to stop Catalano, who pulled the ball away at the last minute, drawing both a penalty kick and red card for the Rovers keeperStew Givens coolly converted from the spot in the 35th minute to make it 2:0.

At halftime, the Bucks organization honored central defensive midfielder Nate Boyden with the Paul R. Scicluna Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded every year to not just the best player on the field, but to the player who best exemplifies the Bucks organization itself. This year's winner was justly picked; despite this being his first year with the Bucks, he is a full time graduate student at the University of Michigan, as well as a volunteer assistant coach. Speaking a few words at half time to the crowd, he thanked the fans for their support and confirmed the team's desire to win a PDL National Championship

The second half showed a renewed fierceness from River City, with greater tenacity in their challenges in order to make up for being a man down. The aggression was a bit much, however, in the 59th minute, when River City's Peter May went in recklessly on Tommy Catalano in the open field. Team mate Stefan St. Louis took exception to the foul and initiated a pushing match with the player, before member of each team intervened. River city were then reduced yet another man down to 9, with the Bucks' St. Louis earning a yellow card for his reaction

The Bucks would maintain possession throughout much of the remaining half; River City only had 2 true chances in the final 45 minutes. In the 63rd minute, Zack Steinberger and Anthony Grant linked up in the Rovers box, with Steinberger able to slice home the Bucks' third goal. The Bucks would continue to threaten with close chances from the likes of Simon Omekanda, Seb Harris, Anthony Grant, and Nermin Crnkic.

The Bucks had a number of chances that only required a single touch to turn them into goals. Most of them came from a break down the right flank, followed by a low slotted pass across the box. While many of these were close but unsuccessful, Matt Bahner was able to find Nate Boyden's strong pass in the 87th minute to finish the match off at 4:0.

14' Goal Kevin Cope
33' Red Card Matt Soyka
35' Goal Stew Givens (PK)
59' Red Card Peter May, Yellow Card Stefan St. Louis
63' Goal Zack Steinberger (Anthony Grant)
87' Goal Matt Bahner (Nate Boyden)

Stefan St. Louis
Nermin Crnkic                   Zack Steinberger              Tommy Catalano
 Simon Omekanda                  Nate Boyden     
Nate Robinson              Kevin Cope                Seb Harris               Stew Givens
Adam Grinwis

June 30, 2012

Reasons why Americans hate soccer

Recently, Detroit City FC and its supporters have been getting a good amount of attention through various media outlets, namely this Detroit News article. While the reporting has been good for the soccer community, the response of the masses largely hasn't. People in the Metro Detroit area and America in general seem to feel very strongly against the beautiful game, so let's sum up some of the main reasons why.

It's boring: Having to pay attention for a whole 45 minutes at a time is hard for some people in the age of ADD America. The only way people will sit through a 4 hour baseball game is if you keep stewards coming to them to keep them fed and having fireworks after the game.

Diving: Understandable, but still debatable. Drawing fouls is a common part of basketball, so why should it be any different in soccer? There are no time outs or tv commercial breaks aside from halftime, so being able to stop the play and start again is a key strategic facet of the game. Let's be clear - I'm not defending the embellishments that we see from certain players, but to say that drawing a foul is a reason not to like a sport is simply ridiculous, considering how often it happens in the other American sports.

Racism/xenophobia: Yes, Americans are still racist and xenophobic (which means you don't like for'ners). Soccer is largely supported by ehtnic minorities in the states, and is seen as something alien by many. Could anti-soccer sentiment be an offshoot of the immigration debate and concern over the rising Latino population of the US?

To make a statement: I'm still not sure what this statement is, other than "there are things that I don't care about, let me tell you about them". If you really didn't care about soccer, you wouldn't feel the need to talk about it. Ever.

It's not a "real" sport: Neither is poker, auto-racing, or the activity known as "fantasy sports"

Anti-soccer enthusiasts in America don't know what it feels like to be absolutely passionate about something, only to have the majority of people around you not only disagree, but who go out of their way to bring you down a peg because of what you like. So let's make them feel the same way.

Football fans: Your sport is based on Rugby, a REAL man's sport that doesn't use pads or have the lengthy artificial breaks in between plays that you need. Admit it, you need those breaks because it's hard carrying 300 pounds of fat 2 yards at a time. You have instant replays that the officials get wrong roughly 50% of the time, despite a mass of video evidence at their disposal. You claim your sport is rough and tough, but you have rules that protect players from roughness. You need 52 men to play 11 positions. Your players wear spandex and touch each others' butts just about every play, but you think soccer is gay. Football is a thug sport, where your coaches cheat their way to the Superbowl, and your teams pay players to injure other players, thus disrupting their livelihood.

Baseball fans: Your sport is based on book keeping and resembles a math story problem. Your players wear dress slacks. It's one of the select few sports where a fat man can be considered athletic, not because of his speed or skill, but because he can hit stuff hard. Your players use more accessories than a fashion show. One of the most exciting moments is watching an old man kick dirt at another old man. Steroids don't even help to make your sport more exciting, and when a player gets caught using them, they don't even have to disprove that they ever took them. Your games are so long you have a point two thirds of the way through each game designated for getting up and stretching.

Basketball fans: Your players are overpaid and went on strike for more money during one of the worst financial crisises in history. There's 4 teams in your entire league that actually garner interest, primarily because of the egomaniacal children that play for them. People only care about March Madness because of sports gambling; nobody gives a shit about Kansas University for the academics. People only ever cheer if a 7 foot tall player does slight hop and places the ball directly into the hoop. Your sport is fixed.

Hockey fans: Your sport went away for an entire season and the entire country didn't even care or notice.  If the Red Wings had a history of losing like the Lions, nobody would follow them. Visibility is so bad at your events that you need a special light to tell you if your team even scored. Your sport is for toothless tough-guys with posture problems. Just admit it, you only go for the fights.

NASCAR fans: I don't use small enough words to really get down on your level, so here's a ball, try not to hurt yourself.


Soccer fans are the best fans there are. Anyone who has been to a match overseas or south of the border will tell you about the atmosphere and how that regular season game was louder than any championship final here. Go to any regular season sporting event in Detroit and you're at just that; an event. People dont go for the game, they go to take the girlfriend or the family out. They go to woo that client and leave early to beat traffic. They get up and go to the bathroom 3 times a game because of all the breaks inserted into play. They go because they're not expected to do anything. People are more excited to do the wave than to pay attention to the game, and it shows. You can't even get fans to applaud good play that doesn't involve a point being scored.

Face it, you're lazy and uninteresting people and you follow slow sports because your brains just don't fire off synapses fast enough any more. You care more about refreshments and accomodations than supporting your local teams. Sure, you buy the gear, but if you cared about your city you wouldn't feel the need to hate on a local team and the sport they play. You make me embarassed to be a Detroit sports fan.

June 24, 2012

Detroit City FC 1:1 AFC Cleveland

City dropped two points, perhaps deservedly, in the final match of the 2012 Rust Belt Derby.

A new record crowd of 1,743 were on hand to see Detroit take on rust belt rival Cleveland at home. This match swung from one side to the other throughout. Much of the possession was contested throughout midfield, and turnovers were the norm in the run of play. City threatened numerous times in the form of Cyrus Saydee and Stefan St. Louis, but were unsuccessful in converting their chances.

Le Rouge were lucky to get a goal off a bit of sloppy defending, with Keith Lough finding Stefan St. Louis for the finish in the 23rd minute. Le Rouge produced a number of shots in the first half, but would go into the locker room at halftime in the lead 1-0.

The second half saw a shift in Cleveland's tactics, going to 3 at the back and 4 in midfield. This effectively clogged ball movement in the middle, forcing Detroit to rely on wing play and switches. The closest chance near the end of the match was Keith Lough's try from above the 6 yard box. Having broken down the right wing, and around the fullback, Cleveland's keeper rushed out to gather the ball. Lough tucked the ball across the box from near the rear touch line, hopped the keeper, and lashed one towards the net, only to have it cleared off the line by a Cleveland defender. A minute later, Cleveland broke down the right flank and slotted one low past the keeper in the 86th minute. Goal scorer Thomas Schmitt ran over to the Detroit fans and taunted them, and was predictably met with missiles.

The match would end drawn at 1, and Cleveland were presented with the Rust Belt Derby trophy at the conclusion. The result is somewhat disappointing, in that Detroit could've scored at least 1 more goal with the chances they had. Le Rouge needed a win to match Cleveland's 7 points in order to win the Derby. The draw kept them in 2nd place with 5 points, with Cleveland in 1st on 8. It was a bittersweet moment for the inaugural season of not only Detroit City but also the Rust Belt Derby, losing it in the last match at home. But what is football without the passion and the drama.

City remain in first place of the Great Lakes Conference, 3 points above Cleveland who are a game behind.

June 21, 2012

Michigan Bucks 5:0 Cincinnati Kings

The Bucks returned to their scoring ways on Thursday night, racking up 5 against the Cincinnati Kings. Despite each side maintaining equal possession for the first 20 minutes, it was the Bucks who were able to convert first; Tommy Catalano puts a corner kick from the left side into the right position for Justin Sass to deliver a rising header in the 19th minute.

A minute later, the Bucks nearly converted on a fast break turnover immediately following kick-off. The pressure would pay off only minutes later, with the Bucks forcing a free kick on the left flank. Similar to the first goal, Tommy Catalano sends in a high cross, this time meeting up with the other centerback, Kevin Cope, who was unmarked as he raised up and headed home for the Bucks second goal. Michigan continued to threaten in the first half, with Stefan St. Louis rising to almost head the ball out of the keeper's hands, and later nearly flicking a fast ball with one touch over the keeper.

The Bucks continued their plan of attack through pressure in their offensive end. This paid off in the form of Nermin Crnkic forcing a turnover near the left edge of the box. He turned inside towards the 18 and across goal, firing home the Bucks' 3rd goal in the 61st minute. Later, in the 65th minute, Sebastian Harris would collect a throw in and send a low pass in to Tommy Catalano on the right corner of the penalty box, who had no problem hitting in the Bucks' 4th on the 65th minute.

Cincinnati's biggest threats of the match came from a volley at goal in the 67th and a free kick outside the box in the 86th, which was hit into the wall. Constant pressure from deep midfield in the form of Nate Boyden would lead to the break down the left side. A few balls back and forth, and Nate slotted a pass from Kenny Uzoigwe into the net a minute into stoppage time.

The match finished 5:0, with the Bucks extending their 2012 regular season unbeaten streak to 9/9 and their current win streak to 5 wins in a row. Although a game ahead, the Bucks sit in 1st place of the PDL Great Lakes Division, 8 points clear of 2nd placed River City Rovers.

Box Score
19' Justin Sass (Tommy Catalano)
23' Kevin Cope (Tommy Catalano)
61' Nermin Crnkic
65' Tommy Catalano (Seb Harris)
90+1' Nate Boyden (Kenny Uzoigwe)

Nermin Crnkic (76' Kenny Uzoigwe)              Stefan St. Louis (45' Anthony Grant)
Josh Steinberger (68' Bim Ogunyemi)
Tommy Catalano (76' Miche'le Lipari)                   Matt Bahner (68' Adam Hintz)
Nate Boyden
Nate Robinson (72' Steven Miller)                                                 Sebastian Harris
      Kevin Cope                        Justin Sass
Sean Teepen

EURO 2012 Predictions, part 2

Welp, it's time to grade my EURO 2012 Group stage predictions. I predicted the following winners and runners up:
Group A: Russia, Poland
Group B: Germany, Netherlands
Group C: Spain, Croatia
Group D: England, France

In actuality the groups finished like this:
Group A: Czech Republic, Greece; 0%
This group demonstrated that a percieved powerhouse in Russia is just as vulnerable as an underdog like Greece, especially when considering the rules concerning who advances to the knock-out stage in the event of a tie on points. I think the difference in the method used in this tournament compared to the World Cup threw a few people for a loop, myself included. But hey, what's football without a range of permutations for a team's future on the last day of play.

Group B: Germany, Portugal; 50%
Germany were widely favored to win this group and they didn't disappoint. 3 wins in 3 matches is admirable, but this isn't the free-scoring Germany from the 2010 World Cup. Each of Germany's 3 wins was by a single goal, and when considering the wide range of offensive talent that the Germans possess, this team has underperformed up to this point. Germany is of a special class of nations that can win 3 in 3 and be considered underperforming.
The Netherlands, my pick as runners-up, had a dismal showing considering they were knocking on the door of the world title just 2 years ago. Portugal demonstrated that they are more than just Cristiano Ronaldo + 10, and while it may be a stretch to call them underdogs, they did very well for themselves to emerge from the Group of Death after falling to Germany in a close 1-0 match.

Group C: Spain, Italy; 50%
Unless you're a fool for crazy odds and big returns, you probably picked Spain to go through on top of their group, as they should have. The defending European and World champions may have been expected to advance without a hitch, and while drawing Italy wasn't the worst result for them, it could have given the Spanish players the motivation they needed to buckle down for the tournament.
Italy, despite the ongoing match-fixing controversy going on in their domestic league, gave a good acconut of themselves in the three matches. Had they dropped the point in either of their ties they risked being eliminated.

Group D: England, France; 100%
While much can be said about hometown moxy, football pillars England and France were clearly the favorites to go through in this group. Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have scored what could be the goal of the tournament (latching onto a wonderful Seb Larsson cross with a leaping volley), but good form a group does not win. Apparently neither does goal differential.

Total: 50%
Not my usual 60% when it comes to handicapping matches, but it could have been (slightly) worse. I guess I should stick to the Premiership

So, what will happen in the upcoming matches? Here are my picks

Click to enlarge
My favorites from each squad:
Czech Republic: Petr Jirácek
Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo
Spain: Iker Casillas
France: Samir Nasri
Germany: Mario Gomez
Greece: Giorgios Karagounis
England: Steven Gerrard
Italy: Andrea Pirlo

My Big Upset: Portugal over Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo is finally showing that he can turn in performances on equal par for his country as he does for his club. Clearly he's not the only elite player for Portugal, but he is certainly the talisman that all eyes are focused on. As I said in part 1, I feel like Spain could be in for a shock. Granted, they could come out and completely destroy France, Portugal, and whoever they face in the finals, but my gut tells me that this rivalry could send shockwaves through the tournament with such a result.

My favorite to win: Germany. This is a team bordering on greatness. They're good in competition, but a string of 3rd place and runners-up finishes for the players on the international and club level to me signal a hunger. Not just for the glory, but for pride. If this current crop of German players fail to take home a trophy having fielded a similar team in the past 4-6 years, they could be considered to be the best team never to win it all.

June 16, 2012

Detroit City 3:0 FC Buffalo

Le Rouge made a record crowd of 1,429 proud by coming away with a win over FC Buffalo on the Saturday before Father's Day.

Detroit dominated both on offense and defense and created numerous chances, finishing the night 3:0. The game took on a chippy feel early, with numerous hard fouls and tough challenges. Joey Dillon came off, his arm in his shirt like a sling after falling and being stepped on. Despite the rough match, Detroit was able to keep their cool, denying Buffalo good chances on net for much of the game and constantly pressing on the attack. Numerous fast breaks saw 2 City attackers keeping 4-5 Buffalo defenders on the back foot and scrambling to cover.

The Detroit win and Binghamton's 2:0 win over AFC Cleveland puts Le Rouge into first place of the NPSL Midwest-Great Lakes Division on 16 points, with a goal differential of 13 (20 for and 7 against).

Scoring Summary:
19' Keith Lough (Knox Cameron)
69' Dave Dwaihy (Kyle Bethel)
90' Kyle Bethel (Keith Lough)

Starting XI
Jeremy Clark
Nick Lewin        Kofi Opare (62' Zach Schewee)          Adam Bedell             Josh Rogers 

                                  Spencer Thompson        Joey Dillon (31' Latif Alashe, 77' John Timm)
 Ezekiel Harris (62' Dave Dwaihy)                                                        Cyrus Saydee (79' Jon Evans)
Keith Lough
Knox Cameron (45' Kyle Bethel)

June 15, 2012

Michigan Bucks 1:0 Forest City London, 6/15/12

The Bucks are unbeaten at home in PDL play in 2012
It was a tight game Friday night as the Michigan Bucks hosted Canadian side Forest City London. Coming into the match, the Bucks sit in 1st place in the PDL Great Lakes Division, 5 points ahead of 3rd placed London. With a game in hand and 2 points over 2nd placed River City Rovers, the Bucks had, in this match, an opportunity to pull away from the pack.

The match opened with pressure by the Bucks on the counter-attack, which paid dividends when Steven Miller set up Scott Caldwell for a goal in the 10th minute. The Bucks did well to break up attacks in their defensive third and to keep London on their heels with offensive pressure. They began the match in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, but shifted during the second half to a 4-2-3-1.

The best chance London had came in the 62nd minute, only to be denied by Adam Grinwis as he came up with a great diving penalty save. While they did threaten on occasion, London would rue their missed opportunities and inability to overcome the gridlock created by the Bucks in the run of play. This, however was not an easy match for the Bucks, their closest opportunity in the second half coming from a free kick; Bim Ogunyemi curls one over the wall, which hits the far post and falls out the Catalano on a run from the free kick fake - his rebound shot, hard and low, is cleared off the line by a scrum of London defenders.

The night ended 1:0 in favor of the hosts. They now sit in 1st place on 19 points, 5 points clear of 2nd placed River City Rovers. Despite the loss, Forest City London remain in 3rd on 11 points, 1 point above Hamilton FC RAGE. The Bucks will face the Toronto Lynx Tuesday the 19th and the Cincinatti Kings Thursday the 21st, both 7:30 @ Ultimate Soccer Arenas.
Check out the PDL standings here

Michigan Bucks:
Adam Grinwis- Stew Given, Sebastian Harris, Kevin Cope, Nate Robinson - Chad Barson - Tommy Catalano, Nate Boyden - Scott Caldwell - Steve Miller, Stefan St. Louis

FC London:
Reece Richardson - Joshua Hughes, Rene DeZorzi, Chris Dillon, Geraldo Garza - Tyler Hemming, Thomas Owens, Gary Ogilvie - Martin Lange, Bryan Da Cruz, Denver Spearman

Goals: 10' - Scott Caldwell (Steven Miller)

Substitutions: 53' Steven Miller Bim Ogunyemi; 60' Stefan St. Louis ↔ Anthony Grant; 71' Nate Robinson ↔ Justin Sass, 79' Nate Boyden ↔ Zach Steinberger, 83' Anthony Grant ↔ Simon Omekanda, 87' Tommy Catalano ↔ Kenny Uzoigwe // 53' Geraldo Garza ↔ Lucas Almeida

Yellow Cards: Nate Robinson, 59' // Rene DeZorzi, 69'; Tyler Hemming, 71', Gary Ogilvie, 78'

June 9, 2012

EURO 2012 Predictions, part 1

With the tournament underway, here's my predictions for the group stage winners and runners up. At the conclusion of the group stage I'll grade my predictions and estimated bracket, and make a second prediction as to how the knockout stage will play out.
My group winners and runners-up:

groupABC D
This would set up the following bracket. I have a feeling we're going to see a number of matches with extra background. I think that England could see Croatia and look at the opportunity as a chance to get revenge after missing out in the last tournament because of a last day qualifying loss to the same team in 2008. I could also see mighty Spain going down in the Semi-finals similar to the 2009 Confederations Cup loss to the United States. Russia will be a strong contender in this tournament, with a number of their players hitting a good run of form while at the same time being put into a group of teams that could struggle to match its level of play. Germany remain my pick for the winner barring any injuries to key players my top two being Philip Lahm and Mesut Özil. If these two can stay healthy throughout the tournament they have the potential to truly exert their will on the game. Both will be hungry after lackluster Champions League results and late tournament exits internationally.
We'll see how accurate this brash decision of mine was on June 19th. Who's your pick?

June 3, 2012

My 2012 Premier League Awards

2012 Premiership Top XI
Walker   Terry   Kompany   Evra

Clint Dempsey   Juan Mata   David Silva   Gareth Bale

Robin Van Persie   Sergio Aguero

Here are who I picked as my top players for each general position. These are the players who consistently performed throughout the season to be the best at their position both in their respective teams as well as in the league. I think that Manchester City followed through well on their goal of winning the Premier league. Having the best players will do that for you.
Best Goalkeeper in 2011-12: Joe Hart, Manchester City, 17 clean sheets, 27 goals conceded
Honorable Mentions: Krul (15), Friedel, Szczesny, Vorm (13)

Best Defender in 2011-12: Vincent Kompany, Manchester City, 15 clean sheets, 3 goals,
Honorable Mentions: Kompany, Terry, Walker, Clichy // Assou-Ekotto, Lescott, Vermaelen, Evra,

Best Midfielder in 2011-12: David Silva, Manchester City, 6 goals 16 assists
Honorable Mentions: Dempsey, Mata, Bale, van der Vaart, Sessegnon, Walcott, Nani

Best Forward in 2011-12: Robin Van Persie, Arsenal, 30 goals
Honorable Mentions: Wayne Rooney (26), Sergio Aguero (22)

Best Transfer: Papiss Cisse, Newcastle United
With 13 goals in 12 appearances since his transfer from SC Freiberg in the January transfer window, Cisse has proven an invaluable asset for Newcastle's fast and high powered offensive machine.

Biggest Disappointment: Joey Barton, Queens Park Rangers
For a man who tweets about himself being the best English midfielder, Barton's wrecklessness has proven to be his greatest weakness. The 12 game suspension he picked up as a result of lashing out at a number of Manchester City players in the last match of the season. Forces outside his own play determined which teams faced the drop, but he's lucky not to have been a catalyst in QPR's relegation.

Best Role Player: Clint Dempsey, Fulham
So much has been said this season about Clint Dempsey. He's one of the top two outfield American players, and the best player abroad. He holds the record for goals in the Prem by an American (50) and got 23 goals in all competitions in 2012, and tied Emanual Adebayor with 17 goals in the Premier league. He's clearly one of the best players at Fulham FC, and he'll be looking for a new club. I'm very interested to see who would try to pick him up as well as the price that they would have to pay for the American. The valuation of the best American abroad could say a lot about the valuations of all American players.
Check out Grant Wahl's interview with Deuce at

May 31, 2012

Bucks 3:2 Fire

The following is from Sports Illustrated's U.S. Open Cup 3rd round recap:

Michigan 3, Chicago 2

"PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) -- Nermin Crnkic's extra-time goal gave the Michigan Bucks a victory Tuesday night over the Chicago Fire of the MLS in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.

The Bucks of the USL Premier Development League took a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute when Tommy Catalano beat Chicago goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi. Michigan outplayed Chicago for most of the first half, but the Fire tied the game on Corben Bone's goal in the 28th minute.

Federico Puppo's shot from the edge of the box in the 51st minute gave the Fire a 2-1 lead, but Nate Boyden's header forced extra time in the 78th minute.
Crnkic hit the winning goal in the third minute of extra time."

Read more:

May 29, 2012

U.S. Open Cup - Bucks -v- Chicago Fire, Major League Soccer

Finally in the big leagues. 7:30 Eastern, 6:30 Central
@ Ultimate Soccer Arenas - directions here
Last Tuesday the Michigan Bucks upset USL-Pro 3 side Pittsburg Riverhounds 1-0. In the 90th minute, the Bucks were awarded a penalty, which was converted by the reigning PDL defender of the year, Stew Givens. With the victory, the Bucks advance into round 3 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The third round is where top tier (MLS) clubs come into the mix, and the Bucks have landed midwest rivals, the Chicago Fire.

The Chicago Fire have won the trophy 4 times; 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2006. 4th placed in the East and with the 9th best overall record in the league at 5-4-3. The Fire's form seems to be rather up and down this season, with a slight edge in their home match-ups by (3-1-2 home, 2-3-1 away). Their most recent 7 matches are as follows: L W D W L W L.

Their most frequent games demonstrate how their stengths and weaknesses. In a home match against FC Dallas the Fire won off a penalty deflection, however the shot was taken by a player who had encrouched into the box before the kick. Despite what you might say about officiating, they fought back to win a close match, which shows determination. An away trip to the Buck's sister club the Columbus Crew May 26th demonstrated how a defensive minded team can stifle their approach. They have the ability to split teams open and work a set play to their advantage, but smart defense can step up and extinguish their attack. The Bucks can't let up on defense for a moment or the Fire will surely take advantage. Despite Chicago resting a number of key players, the MLS side will be analyzing its depth for players to step up against the lower league team.

This quote was taken from the Chicago Fire's website, in regard to the away match @ Columbus.
"For the second consecutive season the club covered the cost of travel for over 600 supporters to board 10 buses and make the seven hour journey to invade Crew Stadium"
Whether or not this will happen today is at this point unknown, but it is likely that there will be Chicago fans there. Hopefully the Bucks can tap into the Detroit City fervant fans and show them how we do in Michigan. A win over a side from the highest of domestic leagues in one of the most interesting American sports tournaments, coupled with passionate support of the local teams is one of the most crucial part of demonstrating to Major League Soccer that the city can sustain a football franchise.

Ticket information here (if there are any tickets still available, that is):

Don't shout Fire XX XXXX
You'd be a liar XX XXXX
You must be Joking XX XXXX
They're not even smoking XX XXXX

May 18, 2012

Michigan Bucks (PDL) -v- Chicago Fire (MLS)?

Stefan St. Louis spotting

With a resounding 6-0 victory over Boca Jersey Shore, the Michigan Bucks are looking to keep that form going in their next two matches - first May 19th, the home PDL season opener against the Chicago Inferno and then away @ the Pittsburg Riverhounds for the U.S. Open Cup 2nd round on May 22nd. Should the Bucks win away to the PDL side, they would then advance to play a home match against MLS side Chicago Fire. While the Bucks have a strong record against Chicago Fire's reserves, a top tier team is an opportunity for the players to really showcase their skills, turn some heads, and maybe even go out there and win at home. Considering the support Detroit City got on their opener, bringing an MLS side to town could tip the scales for the Bucks in terms of fan support. While the result is far from certain, there is another issue that could come up in the event that the Bucks do make it that far: capacity
The following is a statement was put out in a Michigan Bucks newsletter.

"Since the announcement came down from US Soccer on Thursday, we have had calls from all over (including the Chicago fans) asking about ticket prices and information for May 29", said Sherwin Connell, Bucks Director of Operations. "We have made it clear that there will be no announcement of tickets until there is an official game to announce.   But seeing that there are only six days between when we would find out the result of next Tuesday night's match and the actual game on May 29 we are preparing to be able to make tickets available to our loyal fan base at least 24 hours prior to tickets going on sale to the general public.   If the game is going to happen, we are committed to making sure our hard core fans will not be kept out of this match that would certainly be a sell out."  Ultimate Soccer Arena's intimate setting is great for fans to be right on top of the action, but can only seat around 2,000 fans for such an event.

More importantly, fans who attend Saturday's 7:30 home game against the Chicago Inferno at Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac will get an access code. This will allow them to purchase tickets 24 hours before general admissions. I urge anyone who would want to see the Bucks the play the Inferno to go to Saturday's match after the Champions League, and get that code. Heck, why not check out the Upper 90 Pub for the game.

You should probably buy tickets to the games online up to the day before, because they're only $6, compared to $10 at the door. I picked up the season pass for $35; while it doesn't cover Cup matches, if I go to all 8 home games it's less than $5 a game.

Buck up

May 16, 2012

Asst. Coach Cale Wasserman on DCFC's fans

The following is an email sent by associate head coach for Detroit City, Cale Wasserman, on the fans and the atmosphere they create. We are honored to honor you, Rouge;

"I just wanted to send an email out to you briefly, My name is Cale Wassermann, I am the Associate Head Coach for DCFC. You can also pass this message along to all the loyal supporters you are in touch with. The atmosphere you guys created on Saturday night was somet...hing that does not happen many places, it was top notch. Most of our players, even ones that played at Top Division 1 teams and have played from PDL and Semi-Pro teams around the country said they have never seen an environment like that, let alone played for fans like that who were there to cheer them on.

This environment you have created has made these players feel honored (Coaches as well) to work hard for you guys. I am excited to get to training this week because I really think the players understand they are a part of something special and that is thanks to you and all the loyal supporters.

Buffalo had a small group but couldn't get close to what you guys have created, keep up the good work!

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you and hearing you on the 26th!

Cale Wasserman"

May 14, 2012

Champions League Final - My Bold Prediction

With the Champions League Final this Saturday, the pre-match hype is increasing as the match gets closer. Both teams have faced problems with their respective domestic leagues, and this is the last chance to mark the season as a success. These teams have both had to overcome a number of obstacles to reach this far, and despite their respective setbacks, they both should prove a strong threat for one another for different reasons.

Home Town Favorites
Bayern is under immense pressure to win this one at home in the Allianz Arena. This is the first time that a club has hosted its own UEFA Champions League final, and there is a high expectation that being at home gives die roten a mental advantage. At home during the regular season, Bayern have drawn once (0:0, FSV Mainz 05) and lost twice (both 0:1, Borussia Dortmund & Borussia Mönchengladbach). Despite their great home form, the club is surely bitter about losing the Bundesliga title and Deutscher Pokal to Borussia Dortmund, and this final is the club's last chance to mark the season as a success.

Bayern will be without key defensive support due to suspension. David Alaba - a wildcad who primarily filled in at left back this season, Holger Badstuber - the German youth who has grown to be a stalwart defender for the Bavarians, and Luiz Gustavo - an explosive central defensive anchor, are all out because of yellow cards. The fate of center back Daniel Van Buyten is still up in the air; he played in a reserve match, but is that enough match fitness for him to start in the final? With Philip Lahm sure to start at fullback, the opposite flank could fall to Rafinha, Diego Contento or Danijel Pranjic. Next to Jerome Boateng we may see central defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk or a newly returned Daniel Van Buyten. Fucking drams

Having been to the final in 2010 and being soundly beaten by Inter 2:0, Bayern hope to learn not only from their mistakes but from their time as a team together. The bulk of their current team was together for that loss, and it will be interesting to see how this match compares to the former with the addition of Franck Ribéry to the lineup.

Last Chance Blues
Finishing in 6th this season following the departure of André Villas-Boas. His replacement, Roberto Di Matteo, has enjoyed reasonable success, but the coming match will not be without pressure. While he was able to steer the club to an FA cup victory (2:1 over Liverpool), victory is vital should he hope to step up into a full-time position as manager.

The suspensions of John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires, and Raul Meireles weakens Chelsea in two of the areas where they're the strongest: the center of the pitch and the attacking third. The potential absence of Gary Cahill and David Luiz could greatly hinder Chelsea's defensive resilience. Di Matteo in his second leg match against Barcelona at one point had 6 men back to break up Barça's rapid ball movement. Any team that can take down a giant of the game like Barcelona should never be counted out, but do they have all the right pieces to win this match?

Finally, for Chelsea, the result of this match could mean a great financial setback. Last season, finishing in the quarter finals brought the club in almost €45 million. With the season over and Chelsea out of the league via qualification, the Blues' only chance to remain in the competition next season is to win it all. Their league setbacks could come back to haunt them should they fail to complete this task.

My bold prediction is as follows: Bayern will win the match. It will be a scrappy contest, with the deciding goal coming from a penalty kick. Final Score: 3:2

April 26, 2012

Introducing: the Rust Belt Derby

Our very own Detroit City FC supporter's group, the Northern Guard, have come together with supporters groups from Buffalo and Cleveland to create les Rouge's very first rivalry series: the Rust Belt Derby. Here's how it works:

Each team will earn Derby Points based on the result of each match; 3 for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss. At the end of the season, the team with the highest total of derby points will take home the Rust Belt Derby Cup. In the event of a tie, teams will gain a derby point for each goal scored in the series, and lose a derby point for each goal conceded. Everything I've read so far about Detroit City FC has only made me like the club more. Let's hope the Spirit can bring home that rusty cup for the inaugural season of both the team and the competition itself.

The matches for the Rust Belt Derby
5-13-12 Buffalo v Detroit
5-18-12 Cleveland v Buffalo
5-27-12 Buffalo v Cleveland
6-8-12 Cleveland v Detroit
6-16-12 Detroit v Buffalo
6-23-12 Detroit v Cleveland

I think what die-hard football fans will be wondering is: Should we pronounce it 'derby' or 'darby'?

Check it out on the official page here:

Allez Rouge!

April 9, 2012

Euro 2012 Kits - Champ and Chump

Here's the full range of kits for EURO 2012. Let's take a look at the groups, and I'll tell you which ones are my Champ and Chump. Bear in mind this is what I think of the kits, not their respective nations' performance.

Group A
This group share a number of the same colors, so deciding a favorite based on color scheme is a bit arbitrary.
Champ: Czech Republic - Puma always makes sleek and classy kits, and these incorporate the proper amount of secondary color accents without overpowering the base color
Chump: Poland - Nike, as we'll see, is in a color band phase. This kit is similar to Brazil's last kit, and it always reminds me of a big minus sign. I also feel that they should have dropped the PZPN logo, the release of which was a grand spectacle just some time ago. Clearly they want to get their money's worth, but I've always liked the Polish shield better, and it should've stood in for the robot football.
 Group B
This group brings a number of teams with classic looks together, and this is going to be a tough one.
Champ: Netherlands home / Germany Away - The Oranje's home strip is always going to be in orange for the rest of time. Taking that into account, it may be difficult to try different variations, and I think the dark orange slices in the jersey make this Nike's best kit this year. Germany gets props for reviving the green away kit, and of all the kits this year, I want to get this one the most.
Chump: Denmark - Denmark has failed to impress in their last few kits, so I don't have high expectations for their kits. That being said, this shirt looks like it's a knock-off adibas. The patterns and colors on the home kit are too busy, and the away kit has no character. Top that off with a lame logo and you have the worst kit of Group B. 
 Group C
Group C is certainly this year's group of death, considering the skill of all the teams
Champ: Spain - Spain's jerseys always remind me of some kind of royal regalia. They mix colors and patterns well, and they have a very cool crest. I'm not sure how I feel about the digital sash, but on television those generally blur well enough to pull off the effect.
Chump: Ireland - While I like the crest, I can't say the same for the rest of the kit. The stripes aren't bad but the kit is ruined by the out of style tribal fat numbers. They don't compliment their kit's style well at all.
 Group D
Champ: England - This kit is a mix of football kit and golf outfit.
Chump: France - While the away kit is a step in the right direction, I won't say the same for the home kit. The stripes will always remind me of a stereotypical Frenchman, with a beret, striped shirt, moustache, and neckerchief.