Soccer fans are going to get a rare treat to honor a special member of American Soccer on Friday.
Landon Donovan is scheduled to play in goal for the Brian Ching Testimonial in Houston. Also, new goalkeeper coach Matt Reis is also scheduled to take part in some way.
You can watch the testimonial below.
It’s been quite a week for LA Galaxy Academy forward Haji Wright.
The Galaxy Under-16 forward scored two goals during the U.S. 4-1 victory over Brazil to help the Americans win the Nike International Friendlies for a second year in a row. With his two goals against the Brazilians, Wright brought his total to five, taking home the tournament’s Nike Golden Boot.
It’s been quite a run this week for Wright who has started all three games in the tournament against the likes of Portugal, England and Brazil with a brace in each of the final two matches. Wright began the week scoring the lone goal in U.S. 2-1 defeat to Portugal, but then shined in the U.S. victory over England with a pair of second half finishes that helped the Americans win 5-1.
The forward added to his account twice against Brazil as he gave the U.S. the lead in the eighth minute with an unassisted strike off a counter attack. After the South Americans equalized, the U.S. scored twice to take a 3-1 lead before Wright added the final tally with a left-footed finish off a Joe Gallardo cross. While Wright won the Golden Boot, U.S. goalkeeper Kevin Silva won the tournament's Golden Gloves and Christian Pulisic earned the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.
Thoughts on Wright’s performance?
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According to ESPN FC's Jeffrey Carisle, Chivas USA is targeting current LA Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo for their head coaching vacancy.
Carisle cites multiple sources stating that Onalfo is Chivas' first choice for the job should he get a full commitment from the Rojiblancos' organization. The ESPN FC writer also notes, however, that Onalfo would stay with the Galaxy if he is unble to get the Chivas USA gig. In addition to his role as assistant, he's also led the Galaxy reserve league team to back to back West Division titles.
The report comes amid another report in the Miami Herald stating that Kenny Arena is returning to the Galaxy from the head coaching job at Florida International University.
According to a report in the Miami Herald, coach Kenny Arena is returning to the LA Galaxy.
The Miami daily reported on Friday that Arena had left his post as the head coach of Florida International University to take a position within the Galaxy which is led by his father Bruce. Arena departs FIU after two seasons at the helm where he went 8-8-2 (0-7-1 in conference play) in his first season, but 6-10-1 (2-6-1 in conference play) in the second. Arena previously served as the coach of the Galaxy U-16s and an assistant with the UCLA Men's Soccer Team.
When reached for a word on the reprot, the Galaxy declined comment.
Sean Franklin is gone, but now who starts at right back in 2014 for the LA Galaxy?
The frontrunner for the position is veteran A.J. DeLaGarza who started 10 of his 28 regular season league appearances at right back in 2013. This move would allow Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena to start Kofi Opare, Tommy Meyer or Leonardo alongside Omar Gonzalez at center back while Todd Dunivant remains a mainstay on the left-side of the defense.
Meanwhile, behind DeLaGarza is Homegrown defender Oscar Sorto who endured a mixed rookie season that saw him earn a place on the U.S. squad at the Under-20 World Cup and appear in two CONCACAF Champions League matches for the Galaxy. Although the 19-year-old defender was impressive during the U-20 World Cup, he admittedly endured uneven form throughout the season including a poor showing in LA’s CCL group stage finale against Isidro Metapán in October. Heading into his second year as a professional, the Galaxy coaching staff will need Sorto to be more disciplined in training as he seeks to develop into a trusted backup behind DeLaGarza.
Regardless of what improvement that Sorto makes in the coming months, one would expect the Galaxy to use the MLS Re-Entry Draft or the 2014 MLS SuperDraft to bolster their right back depth.
Franklin’s departure will also have an impact on the right side of the midfield for LA as Hector Jimenez and Robbie Rogers appear to be front-runners to start out wide. Each player had moments of success in 2013, but the Galaxy will need greater consistency on the right next season. If Arena is unable to get steady production out of these two players, he may opt to place Landon Donovan along the right and push a player like young forwards Jack McBean, Jose Villarreal or Gyasi Zardes up top alongside Robbie Keane.
Thoughts on these ideas?
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Matt Reis is ready for the latest chapter in his life.
During my conversation with Reis, I asked about his opinion of LA's current goalkeeping situation and the 38-year-old provided a glowing recommendation of the team's goalkeeper corps.
"I’ve seen Jaime Penedo play and I’ve liked him for a long time. I remember watching him in the Gold Cup final when the U.S. played Panama. I think our styles are very similar," said Reis. "The other two goalkeepers Brian Perk and Brian Rowe are both from UCLA and are both going to be exceptional goalkeepers. Perk came from the same [youth] club that I grew up in and went through some minor setbacks last year while Rowe was able to help earn the team get some tough results over the course of the season … They are three guys who have shown that they can compete at this level so it’ll be exciting competition. "
It bares mentioning that Reis did not mention goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini who is expected to depart the club.
Sean Franklin's time with the LA Galaxy has officially come to an end.
The longtime Galaxy right back was selected by D.C. United in Stage One of the 2013 MLS Re-Entry Process while LA passed on making a selection.
Franklin made 160 regular season appearances for the Galaxy during his six-year stint with the club scoring five goals and 20 assists. The two-time MLS Cup champion and 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year also made 18 appearances in the postseason scoring one goal and five assists. Franklin and D.C. United will return to StubHub Center on March 15 to face the Galaxy.
Also selected in the Stage One were Bobby Boswell (D.C. United), Marc Burch (Colorado Rapids), Corben Bone (Philadelphia Union), and Steve Zakuani (Portland Timbers).
A new chapter, path, and journey starts today. Lookin forward to the future. I'll never forget where I came from, LA will always be my home!
— Sean Franklin (@SFranklin5) December 12, 2013
We discussed the recently retired Pablo Mastroeni’s career in part one of my Q&A with the veteran midfielder, but in part two, we look at his life after soccer and what he’ll be planning to do next as he looks to move on from the game that he's played for decades.
Read it below.
LAGI: “Going back to Colorado seems to be a natural move here especially with your family being unable to sell your home.”
“The word destiny is appropriate here. I’ve had my house on the market for the last six months and it sold once, then the people backed out and for whatever reason it didn’t sell. I just kept thinking that there was a reason for all this because at some point, you just have to heed the omens. For me, the kids love it, my wife loves it and I love it as well. I just thought that life would take me to different places, but it hasn’t. As long as it doesn’t sell, it looks like we’ll just stay in Colorado and it’s looking more and more like we’re just going to take the house off the market. That way we can settle in here as I go into the next phase of my career as I look to start a soccer school focusing on youth development without having to worry about results on the weekend. It’ll be a way to give back because I’ve had great coaches throughout my career that inspired me and now I want to put my own spin on [the game] to help develop young players in Colorado."
LAGI: “Have you had any conversations with the Colorado Rapids about working for their club academy?"
PM: "We haven’t had any conversations at the moment. I’d like to work with the Colorado Rapids in some capacity, but that’s the competitive side of soccer that says we’re an academy just like the Galaxy and we want to get results on the weekend. My mindset is that we sometimes put so much of a focus on winning at a young age that we miss some steps along the way. I think that we keep talking about how even though American soccer is growing; it’s not a powerhouse in the world. We have the greatest resources in the world, we have the greatest athletes in the world, and my view is that we only lack true player development where the focus is solely on developing players without the distraction of results. I think that kids do enjoy the competition which is great, but you see these soccer schools in Europe where there are many kids who are eight or nine and already destined for first team football. If you walk around the United States, you find maybe one six-year-old or five-year-old who can do that. Now I’m not saying we should train kids at age three, but just to put more focus on player development and supplement what they’re not getting from the clubs due to the focus on winning.”
LAGI: “What is going to be your philosophy for this soccer school?"
PM: "I don’t want to do what has been going on for the last number of years. I think the U.S. Soccer curriculum that Claudio Reyna put together is exceptional, but I want to take from my own experience and travels in order to figure out what we’re not doing [as a country]. If I just followed what everyone else is doing then we’re probably going to get the same results. I want to take the experiences that I learned and put together a different type of curriculum that focuses 100 percent on development and zero on results which I hope can produce more complete and talented soccer players.
"I believe that anything that you do in life that you’re good at becomes eventually much more fun. If you have complete dominion of the ball and are aware of the game, then the game will be that much more fun which will lead to greater success as the player moves into high school and onward. The other part for me is that it is something that you have to do many repetitions, but still keep it fun for the kids. I have a lot to carve out and think about but I really feel that it could be a nice thing for the youth to experience and get a leg up. I think that teaching the ages of six through 15 would be great.”
LAGI: "You've always been a reflective person so have you ever just thought about what the game of soccer has given you -- helping you meet your wife, allowing you to go to two World Cups. It's certainly been a ride."
PM: “I’ve pondered it quite a bit and it’s been so good to me because it kept me out of trouble in high school. I could have been different but I always went to training and it kept me in line. When you think about all that I’ve seen in my wife and kids. Plus, I hadn’t realized it until a couple years ago but my wife’s family and my family were still getting together for barbeques to watch my games so the game of soccer was a way that my extended family was able to stay together. That’s why I want to start this soccer school because kids would enjoy learning about these experiences that I’ve had while also coming to understand that the game of soccer really mimics the lessons that you learn in life.
LAGI: "Lastly, in just a few weeks your old teammates across the league will be returning to training for preseason while Pablo Mastroeni will be picking up his kids from school. What will that be like?"
PM: “I talked to quite a few guys while I was contemplating my retirement and one of them was [D.C. United head coach and former U.S. National Team player] Ben Olsen. He said ‘the best part of retirement is that you don’t have to go into preseason, you don’t have to train on Tuesday for a game on Saturday. You’re going to love your retirement.’ Now coming from a guy that took it as seriously as he did, it really helped drive it home. I need to find my competitive edge in something else and hopefully starting a soccer school will allow me to educate myself and gets my juices flowing. I know that there won’t be any substitute from being under the lights, at an opposing team’s stadium trying to get a result, and I know that I can’t mimic that. For me, it’ll be tough once the season gets going but for as far as preseason, I won’t miss that one bit.”
LA Galaxy Academy Forward Haji Wright continued his torrid scoring pace with the U.S. Under-17 with two goals in the U.S. Under-17’s 5-1 victory over England at the Nike International Friendlies in Florida.
Wright bagged two goals in the victory, but C.F. Monterrey Academy product Joe Gallardo was the hero with a hat trick against the English. Although Wright was one of the stars of the match, he was stretched off the field in the closing minutes after a hard challenge from an England defender. The U.S. will face Brazil – who tied Portugal 1-1 earlier on Wednesday—in the final match on Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. PT.
Wright wasn't the only success for the LA Galaxy Academy as LA’s Under-18’s defeated New Jersey’s Player Development Academy 2-0 with goals by Jaime Villarreal and Christian Chavez. The U-18's return to action on Dec. 12 against the FC Dallas Academy. Meanwhile, the LA Under-16's begin their participation in the tournament on Dec. 12 with a match against the Carolina RailHawks Academy.
Highlights of the U.S. victory over England are below.
The LA Galaxy Academy lost one of it's coaches on Wednesday as Under-14 head coach Greg Vanney left the position to be the Academy Director and Assistant General Manager with Toronto FC.
Vanney served as LA's U-14 head coach and Technical Director of LA Galaxy Academy partner club LA Galaxy South Bay earlier this year. The 39-year-old had previously served as an assistant coach and Academy technical director with Chivas USA as well as Director of Soccer Operations and Director of Real Salt Lake-Arizona Youth.
Vanney replaces former U.S. youth coach Tomas Rongen who had previously served as TFC's Academy Director.