Archive for May, 2009

The first day of a new era

May 29, 2009

Today is May 29, 2009, and on the calendar, it looks very much like any other day as an Oriole fan for the last 11 years or so.

But this isn’t an ordinary day.

Matt Wieters, the Orioles’ first pick in the 2007 draft, a catcher that scouts say looks like a switch-hitting Joe Mauer – with power, will make his major league debut tonight at Oriole Park against the Tigers.

It really is the best I’ve felt as an Oriole fan in quite some time.

I remember the last time the Orioles were any good. It was October 15, 1997.

I was working the grease pit at Ichabod’s in Shelby, N.C., during my junior year at Gardner-Webb University. The Orioles were hosting the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 of the ALCS.

Tony Fernandez, of all people, hit a home run off Armando Benitez in the top of the 11th and Jose Mesa came in and got the save in a 1-0 Tribe win.

Since then, to say the wheels have fallen off would be a massive understatement.

In the years since, the birds have been 4, 6, 14, 36, 28, 20, 6, 14, 22, 24 and 25 games under .500. There’s plenty of blame to go around. The owner, Peter Angelos, usually garners most of it.

You won’t find it in his Wikipedia entry, but the lawyer-turned-owner has guided the team to just three winning seasons since he purchased the team in 1993 – and the last one of those was the aforementioned ’97 squad.

While Angelos graces his fair share of dart boards in the hearts and minds of Oriole fans, some venom should be spared for the folks handling the draft.

Since 1993, Baltimore has had 26 selections, including supplementals, in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft. Now, the MLB Draft is an even bigger crap shoot than its NFL and NBA cousins, but of those 28 players, only two of those, Brian Roberts (1999, 50th pick) and Nick Markakis (2003, 7th pick) lived up to their lofty draft positions.

It really is an incredible list:

2008 – Brian Matusz
2007 – Matt Wieters
2006 – Billy Rowell
2006 – Pedro Beato
2005 – Brandon Snyder
2005 – Garrett Olson
2004 – Wade Townsend
2003 – Nick Markakis
2002 – Adam Loewen
2001 – Chris Smith
2001 – Mike Fontenot
2001 – Bryan Bass
2000 – Beau Hale
2000 – Nelson Johnson
1999 – Mike Paradis
1999 – Richard Stahl
1999 – Larry Bigbie
1999 – Keith Reed
1999 – Joshua Cenate
1999 – Scott Rice
1999 – Brian Roberts
1998 – Rick Elder
1997 – Jayson Werth
1997 – Darnell McDonald
1995 – Alvie Shepherd
1993 – Jay Powell

Not exactly a who’s who of major league talent.

Which brings me back to Wieters. In a year in which pitching prospects Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez have arrived at the big club and young outfielder Nolan Reimold has smacked five homers in his first 53 big league at-bats, the arrival of Wieters is just the latest member of what Oriole fans are calling “the calvary.”

First-round picks Matusz and Snyder will likely follow the Georgia Tech product in the coming months, but for now, it will be nice to relegate Gregg Zaun to backup catcher duty, where his .209 batting average won’t hurt quite so much.

His rise through the minors has been a rapid one. He combined for a .355 average, 27 homers and 91 RBI in 437 at-bats in A and AA ball last year and, after a minor hamstring injury slowed him down a bit early, he’s hit .305 with 5 home runs and 30 RBI in 141 AAA at-bats at Norfolk.

Hope they enjoyed the show down there, because it’s not likely he’s heading back there anytime soon.

“I’ve never been around a prospect with this much hype, and it’s something he’ll need to get used to,” David Stockstill, Baltimore’s director of player development, told MLB.com. “It’s something he’s already begun to deal with, but it’s magnified tremendously at the Major League level. That’s something he’s going to have to live with, and the better he does on the field, the more of it there will be. So hopefully, this is just the beginning.”

So, while a four-game winning streak still leaves my favorite club at 22-26 overall –  fifth place in the rough and tumble A.L. East. – today I have something that I haven’t had as an Oriole fan since that fateful night almost 12 years ago.

Hope.

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All-Conference teams

May 28, 2009

The Two Rivers and Mid-Southeastern All-Conference teams are out.

As usual, the folks at ncprepsports.net are on the ball.

Anyway, here they are:

Two Rivers

Mid-Southeastern

A few items

May 28, 2009

I’ve had this for a few days, and I really don’t know why I haven’t posted it.

Check out the Campbell men’s soccer schedule for this season.

Games against William and Mary, N.C. State and North Carolina will serve the Fighting Camels well when Atlantic Sun play gets going.

All-Region Team

The selection process for the Cape Fear All-Region Girls’ Soccer Team is well under way. Thanks to Jeremiah Mattingly, Andrew McCarthy, Daralee Wiggins, Bryan Madej, Nat Bunphithak, Colin McDavid, Richard Kaiser and John Callahan for their nominations.

If you don’t see your team’s coach – or if you’re a coach and you don’t see yourself – it’s not too late. I’m still taking nominations for the first and second teams, as well as player and coach of the year. Get them to me A.S.A.P. at cappsr@fayobserver.com.

Champions League final

May 27, 2009

Champions League

Hello, gang. We’re minutes away from the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United from the eternal city of Rome.

The teams are set.

Manchester United will start:

Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Anderson, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Ronaldo and Rooney

Barcelona will counter with:

Valdes, Toure, Puyol, Pique, Sylvinho, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Henry and Eto’o

On the bench for United will be:

Kuszczak, Berbatov, Nani, Scholes, Rafael, Evans and Tévez

And on the pine for Barca:

Pinto, Cáceres, Gudjohnsen, Bojan, Keita, Rodríguez and Muniesa

It’s not too late to get predictions in. Let’s have ’em…

2:20 p.m. – Trying to decide if I want to eat popcorn, watch soccer and blog all at the same time…

2:30 p.m. – ESPN’s “experts” weigh in with predictions: Shaka Hislop and Robbie Musto take United. Yanusz Michallik takes Barca.

2:34 p.m. – Tommy Smyth pulls a prediction out of his onion bag and takes United.

2:36 p.m. – Went with the popcorn. A napkin would have been a good idea, too. Players are gathering in the tunnel. Won’t be long now.

2:41 p.m. – A pregame ceremony, featuring that massive cup, is playing out on the pitch at the Stadio Olimpico.

2:43 p.m. – Puyol’s playing on the right for Barca. Oh my…

2:45 p.m. – Kick off! United defends in their white strip as Barca attacks from right to left.

2:46 p.m. – Anderson wins a free kick in a dangerous spot in the first minute. Ronaldo lines it up…and tests Valdes. He spills it, and Park blasts the rebound over the bar. A corner for United comes to nothing.

2:49 p.m. – United has started strong, while Barca looks a bit nervous.

2:51 p.m. – A sideline reporter? ESPN is going all out. Oh yeah, this game is being broadcast in beautiful, crystal-clear HD. And as I wax poetic, Ronaldo rips a blast about five feet wide of the Barca net.

2:53 p.m. – GOAL, BARCA!!! Out of nothing, Iniesta drives forward, finds Eto’o on the right wing and the Cameroon international slams it past Van der Sar into the net.

2:56 p.m. – United look stunned. If the Red Devils aren’t careful, they’ll be even farther behind.

2:58 p.m. – Really, though, that’s what makes Barcelona so dangerous. They’ve had one chance and they’re winning.

3 p.m. – Ronaldo hauled down by Pique at the edge of the box. Card for Pique. Giggs blasts the free kick harmlessly over…

3:02 p.m. – Messi hits a missile from about 30 yards out. He didn’t miss by much…

3:05 p.m. – Ronaldo misses. Again. To the right.

3:05 p.m. – Valdes is down receiving treatment after bumping into Park. He looks OK. Nothing magic spray won’t fix.

3:07 p.m. – The boy Rooney wins a corner. Ronaldo misses a header. High, this time.

3:11 p.m. – Barca is playing a bit of keep ball in the midfield. United gets frustrated and gives away a free kick from about 25 yards out. Messi and Xavi stand over it, and Xavi just misses outside the right post.

3:12 p.m. – Barca on the front foot now, as Messi wins another free kick deep in United territory. They play it short, and pick up another round of keep ball…

3:16 p.m. – United is playing long balls over the top to Rooney, but none of them have come off yet.

3:18 p.m. – The Spanish champions have taken over the edge in possession, as they’re passing the ball all over the pitch. United is in bad need of a spark…

3:20 p.m. – Xavi sends in the second corner in about 30 seconds time and Pique just misses heading it in.

3:22 p.m. – United is having a great deal of trouble just hanging on to the ball. Barca look far more likely to make it 2-0 than United looks to equalize.

3:24 p.m. – I always enjoy Derek Rae’s play-by-play effort. Good stuff.

3:26 p.m. – Valdes comes way off his line to rub out a long pass to Ronaldo. Only three minutes left to halftime.

3:28 p.m. – Messi makes traffic cones of the United defenders and lashes a shot that Van der Sar grabs, then spills. United clear it away…

3:30 p.m. – The one minute of added time passes and we arrive at intermission…

3:37 p.m. – Anyone want to guess when Park comes off for Tevez?

3:45 p.m. – Here comes the players. The second half is looming, and here comes Tevez, as predicted here. Anderson is coming off, which is a little surprising.

3:46 p.m. – Barca struts on late, and the second half gets rolling.

3:50 p.m. – Henry skins Ferdinand on the right wing and Van der Sar makes a brilliant save for United.

3:51 p.m. – Barca on the move again, as Eto’o just misses connecting with a good cross from Sylvinho.

3:52 p.m. – Messi comes screaming through and just misses out on a through ball. A minute later, United give away a free kick at the top of the box by fouling Iniesta. Surely they’ll have a shot from here…

3:55 p.m. – Xavi hits a rocket off the right post. Van der Sar was not getting near that one.

3:58 p.m. – Here’s an odd sight – United has the ball in Barca’s end. A little possession and a few passes, but no real chances until Park almost hits a header on goal.

4 p.m. – Dave Roberts reports that Barca keeper Victor Valdes isn’t totally healthy. With the lack of punch in United’s attack today, that strikes me as a non-issue.

4:02 p.m. – 30 minutes to go, and Barcelona is still in control.

4:05 p.m. – United is starting to look a little more dangerous. It’s about time. They’ve been pretty disappointing for the last 50 minutes or so.

4:07 p.m. – Berbatov is warming up for Man U. Ronaldo makes a deep run, only to lose the ball and set up a Barca counter. It’s end-to-end stuff all of a sudden. Park coming off for Berba.

4:11 p.m. – The English champions look a bit frustrated, but they’ve still managed to win a corner. Giggs sends it in, but Barca clears it away easily.

4:13 p.m. – GOAL, BARCA! Xavi wips a lovely ball into the box and Messi heads it into the right side of the net. That could be the dagger…

4:14 p.m. – Barca swap Henry for Keita as United swarm forward. Valdes makes a great save to deny Ronaldo at point-blank range. The corner comes to nothing…

4:16 p.m. – Barca wins a free kick on the right wing, and Puyol’s header is saved by Van der Sar.

4:17 p.m. – Giggs gives way to Scholes as United struggles to find a way back into this one.

4:20 p.m. – Ronaldo finally gets a yellow for another late challenge on Puyol. It’s been coming a while…

4:22 p.m. – Scholes gets a yellow for a nasty challenge on Busquets. Really could have been red.

4:25 p.m. – This would get far more interesting if United could pull one back. It doesn’t appear likely, though…

4:27 p.m. – Barca is putting on a passing clinic as United chases. Finally, Puyol charges through and forces another fine save from Van der Sar.

4:29 p.m. – United win a pair of corners, Van der Sar cheats up for the second one, but Berbatov sends it well over.

4:30 p.m. – Barcelona has been impressive. They could really be ahead by three or four.

4:34 p.m. – Only waiting for the final whistle. Barcelona are champions of Europe.

4:35 p.m. – There will be quite a party in Catalonia tonight. Barcelona are your champions!!!

Campbell adds seven to soccer program

May 27, 2009

Camels logoThanks to our friend Doug Hess for sending this over…

BUIES CREEK – Head coach Doug Hess has announced the addition of seven players from across the country and world to the Campbell University men’s soccer roster.

The recruiting class includes three players from North Carolina, two from Texas, one from Colorado and one from New Zealand.Four of the seven signees – Jackson Ferrell, Mitchell Cardenas, Justin Smith and Patrick Tinucci – play for U.S. Soccer Development Academy club programs .

“We are very pleased with the quality of this class of student-athletes,” said Doug Hess, who is entering his eighth year as head coach of the Fighting Camels. “They bring a host of soccer abilities, as well as the commitment and competitiveness needed to be successful as both a student and athlete. Our program has been very fortunate to bring in groups of impacting young players over the last several years and I suspect this group will be much of the same when all is said and done.”

A native of Whitby, New Zealand, Andrew Bailey enrolled at Campbell in January and practiced with the squad during the spring season. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound goalkeeper was a standout for his club teams. In 2007, he was named player of the year for PN Marist, while he claimed young player of the year honors in 2008 for YoungHeart Manawatu.

Jackson Ferrell joins the Fighting Camels from the highly successful Fayetteville Academy program, which won two North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state championships and finished as runner-up twice during his four-year career. He is the son of two former Campbell athletic standouts – Tony Ferrell (who played on Campbell’s nationally-ranked men’s soccer teams in the mid-70s) and Laura Bolton Ferrell (a women’s basketball letter winner from 1973-77).

At Fayetteville Academy, Ferrell was coached by former Campbell goalkeeper Andrew McCarthy. During Ferrell’s prep career, his teams posted a 67-11-4 won-lost-tied record and won the state titles in 2005 and 2008, while finishing as runner-up in 2006 and 2007. Ferrell scored 25 goals and assisted on 14 others as a senior and finished his career with 58 goals and 65 assists. He was a two-time all-state selection, while earning all-Cape Fear region recognition on three occasions and all-Cape Fear Independent Conference notice all four years.

In addition, Ferrell was a standout on the 91 Olympic Development Program (ODP) State and Region III teams. He led the North Carolina state team to a runner-up finish at the 2008 ODP National Championship that was coached by Hess. As a member of the Region III ODP team, in 2007 and 2008, Ferrell was named to the 2008 Disney Showcase all-tournament team. He also played with the region squad in the 2007 and 2008 Adidas International tournament in Argentina.

Ferrell also plays alongside fellow Camel recruit Justin Smith with the U-18 CASL Chelsea USSF Academy team, where he is coached by former Camel standout Rusty Scarborough. Together they claimed the 2008 Disney Showcase Division Championship this past winter in Orlando. Their team has already clinched the Atlantic Division Championship and will be the top seed for the Southern Conference in the USSF Academy playoffs at the end of June in Greensboro.

Mitchell Cardenas was a three-time all-district selection at College Park High School. As a senior, Cardenas scored 20 goals and set up 11 others while earning district and county MVP honors. He also was named to the all-district and all-country first teams and second-team All-Greater Houston. His four-year high school career totals include 52 goals and 40 assists.A resident of Spring, Texas, Cardenas also plays club soccer for the Texas Rush AHFC AS Monaco U-18 Academy. His father, Alejandro Cardenas, played professionally for 17 years, including a stint with Pumas of Mexico.

A product of Raleigh, Ben Iiames joins the Camels from Broughton High School, which won two state championships during his prep career. Over Iiames’ final two seasons, the Caps garnered a 47-3-2 overall record, including a 28-0-1 mark in 2007 when Broughton won its second-straight 4-A crown.

As a senior, Iiames earned all-conference and all-region honors for the 19-3-1 Caps after scoring 11 goals and adding nine assists for the Cap-7 Conference champions. In addition to his high school career, Iiames played for Hess on the 90 CASL Elite club team. After a second place finish in the NCYSA Premier Division, they captured the 2009 NCYSA State Cup Championship in May and will be participating in the USYSA Region III Championships in Frisco, Texas this June.

In addition to his club team responsibilities with U-18 CASL Chelsea USSF Academy team, Justin Smith helped lead Green Hope High School to runner-up finishes in the Tri-Eight 4-A Conference race in each of his three varsity seasons. A three-time all-conference selection, the mid-fielder helped guide the Falcons to three-straight state playoff appearances.

Forward Keegan Terry of Carrollton, Texas is the third sibling from his family to play Division I soccer. His older brother, Kevin, played at A-Sun rival Lipscomb (2004-2007), while his sister Kaili will be a red-shirt junior this fall at Campbell, where she earned A-Sun all-freshman team honors in 2006. His soccer family also includes his father, Kevin, who played collegiately at Cleveland State and professionally indoors for the Cleveland Cobras before becoming a FIFA and MLS referee.

During his prep career at Hebron High School, Keegan Terry earned all-district honors in each of his final three seasons. As a senior in 2009, he was a first-team all-district pick for the second-straight year and also gained a spot on the TASCO all-state academic team. Terry also is a member of the Dallas Texans Red 91 club team that clinched the Region III Premier League West Championship with an undefeated record and has qualified for the USYSA Region III Championships in Frisco, Texas.

Keeper Patrick Tinucci from Denver, Colo., helped lead the Colorado Rush Nike to the 2008 U17B state cup championship and a quarter-final appearance at the Region IV Championships in the summer of 2008. He is now the starting goalkeeper for the Colorado Rush AS Monaco U18 Academy team. Currently, his Rush team sits atop the Frontier Division of the Central Conference in USSF Academy play and will compete in the playoffs in Greensboro at the end of June.

The 2009 recruiting class joins a Fighting Camel program that concluded the 2008 season with a 14-6-0 (.700) overall record as well as its first-ever year-end national ranking and highest South Region rating in the program’s Division I era.Soccer America ranked the Camels number-25 in its final 2008 poll, while CU was rated third in the always-tough South Region by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.Over the past four years, Campbell has won two A-Sun regular season championships (2005, 2008), one A-Sun tournament title (2007), and made the school’s first appearance in the NCAA Division I College Cup (2007).

The Camels have been ranked in the South Region in each of the last four seasons and have compiled a 50-25-6 overall record (.654). The Camels also own the best A-Sun regular season record (25-4-4, .818) of all league members since the start of 2005.

Champions League Final

May 27, 2009

The day is finally here. It’s time for the Champions League final, and we’ve got you covered here on the ‘ol soccer blog. Check back at 2:30, where I’ll be blogging live from an undisclosed location.

No, it isn’t Rome. That wouldn’t look good on my expense report… 

So come back later for the live blog, but until then, why not read my preview?

I wrote the following this morning for EPLTalk.com:

Today is the day when we will crown, or perhaps re-crown, the champion of Europe.

As usual, EPL Talk has you covered. At 2 p.m. EST today, don’t forget to check out the live blog, hosted by Dave Warner from a sports bar in Cary, North Carolina – or about 55 miles from where I’m writing this.

Who knew the Tar Heel state was such a hotbed for football commentary?

You can also try your hand at prognostication with the EPL Talk Predictor, which is also good fun.

At any rate, let’s look at today’s match:

History lesson: Manchester United has three wins in head-to-head meetings with Barca to go along with two losses and four draws. The Red Devils bounced the Catalonians from last year’s Champions League, thanks to a rocket from Paul Scholes in the second leg of the semifinal tie.

Here’s the list:
CL Semifinal, 2008: Manchester United 1, Barcelona 0
CL Semifinal, 2008: Manchester United 0, Barcelona 0
CL Group Stage, 1998: Manchester United 3, Barcelona 3
CL Group Stage, 1998: Manchester United 3, Barcelona 3
CL Group Stage, 1994: Manchester United 2, Barcelona 2
CL Group Stage, 1994: Barcelona 4, Manchester United 0
Cup Winners Cup Final, 1991: Manchester United 2, Barcelona 1
Cup Winners Cup QF, 1984: Barcelona 2, Manchester United 0
Cup Winners Cup QF, 1984: Manchester United 3, Barcelona 0

Scoring for fun: Barca has 30 goals in this season’s Champions League campaign and Lionel Messi leads everyone with eight. In addition, the new champions of La Liga have put in 104 goals in domestic action this season and have an amazing goal difference of +70.

Streaking: United has not lost a Champions League match in its last 25 appearances. … This is the fifth straight final to involve an English side. … The Red Devils have won seven straight against Spanish sides. … Barca has won only one of its last eight matches against English opposition. … Lionel Messi has never scored against an English team.

A patchwork defense: A knee injury to Rafa Marquez and suspensions to Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves will force Barcelona to field what amounts to a second-choice back four of Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique, Sylvinho and Yaya Toure. Victor Valdes may be busy today in net.

A stingy defense: Aside from the health of Rio Ferdinand, who promises to be fit and ready to go, United have few worries at the back. Edwin Van der Sar has seven clean sheets in Champions League play and, should last year’s Moscow scenario play out again, he’s one of the best penalty stoppers in the world.

A strong attack: Few teams can trot out talent to match Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o for Barcelona, but United comes closer than anyone with Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez to choose from. Look for Berbatov and Tevez to start on the bench, but one or both will come on as substitutes.

Coaching: The temptation is to mark this down as a huge advantage for United, but Pep Guardiola has injected a swagger and belief into this Barcelona side. They believe they are the best team in the world, and they may very well be right.

Sir Alex Ferguson keeps winning everything in sight. There is no better manager in the world today, and he’s making a case to be considered the best ever.

It’s an advantage for Man U, just not as big of one as you might think.

One man’s take: I don’t see this matching the boring, cagey final that United and Chelsea put on in Russia last year. Both teams should play a positive, attacking style, which at first glance, would seem to favor Barca. But with three first-team defenders out, I think the Spanish champions may get caught pushing too far forward a bit too often.

I think we’ll see at least three goals, with United getting two of them.

Our nation’s capital

May 26, 2009

Every year since 2004, my wife and I travel somewhere to watch the Orioles play.

Yeah, I know. It’s a sickness.

Anyway, the birds were on a two-game losing streak with me in attendance. They lost to the Yankees in the Bronx last year (the only game of that three-game set they DIDN’T win) and, the year before that, Colorado’s Ryan Spilborghs hit a pair of homers to topple my O’s at Camden Yards.

This year, I decided to stack the deck.

We went to Nationals Park in D.C. to watch “The Battle of the Beltways,” featuring two of the worst pitching staffs in baseball.

Of course, the Orioles won.

But it was 2-1!

An unexpected pitcher’s duel broke out between Baltimore’s Koji Uehara (who left early with a sore hammy) and Washington’s Ross Detwiler. It was a good, fast-moving, well-played game.

Some impressions…

1. The park is nice – We sat in the third level behind home plate in seats that probably cost a little too much, but the sight lines were good, the food was reasonably priced and, aside from the fact that they ran out of nachos, there was enough of it.

2. The Metro was an adventure– Our friend Mike Bollinger, who we scooped up in Northern Virginia, may never go anywhere with us again. We took the Metro (D.C.’s version of the subway) to the park without incident, but the trip back to our lavish hotel (thanks, William Shatner) was a nightmare.

Apparently, there hasn’t been 31,883 at a ball game in the capital in a while. There was a crush of people trying to get on the train. We waited. Then we made it to the platform. And we waited.

We took our first train, made it to Chinatown, got out and waited for the next train.

And waited. And waited. And waited.

For all I know, people are still standing there like cattle, straining their neck to see a board list the trains in and out of hell.

OK, maybe I made that last part up, but it was way too hot down there.

So, we finally gave up waiting, walked up and walked outside into the heart of Chinatown. There were five police officers and a transit guy hanging out by the door. That made me happy, but apparently my wife and Mike didn’t share my glass-half-full assessment of the scene.

Luckily, Shanna channeled her inner Carrie Bradshaw and hailed us a cab.

I’ve never enjoyed riding in a minivan quite so much.

So, in summary, if there’s a game, take a freakin’ cab.

3. This entry is brought to you by Priceline– Going somewhere? Use Priceline. Seriously, it rocks. We paid $90 a night in a place that charged my wife’s non-profit agency about $240 two weeks earlier. Captain Kirk doesn’t lie, kids.

Next year, I’m thinking Fenway…

More on the Premier League

May 21, 2009

I have a new EPL preview up on EPLTalk.com.

See it here.

Cohen, Liverpool supporters wage war of words

May 18, 2009

I find myself torn a little this morning, as I continue to ponder the situation between World Soccer Daily and Fox Football Fone-In host Steven Cohen and Liverpool FC supporters, both in England and here in the U.S.

Listeners and viewers of these two shows know the back story, but for those of you who do not, here’s the summary.

On April 15, 1989, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were set to play an FA Cup semifinal in Hillsborough, the home of Sheffield United. What resulted instead was the Hillsborough Disaster, where 96 fans lost their lives in the Leppings Lane end due to overcrowding in the areas available for fans to enter the ground to watch the match.

The Taylor Report, a study commissioned by the government, blamed the tragedy on a lack of police control of the fans trying to enter the stadium.

Around the 20th anniversary of the incident, Cohen suggested that “6,000 to 8,000 ticketless Liverpool fans” were trying to enter the stadium and that the club and its fans have “a shared responsibility” for the incident.

The Taylor Report directly refutes this, angering Liverpool supporters.

This isn’t the first time Cohen, who was born in England but has spent the last 30 years in the United States, has expressed his views on Hillsborough. He made a similar statement in 2006:

“Liverpool supporters are directly responsible for causing the two worst disasters in English football history, Heysel and Hillsborough.” he said on Dec. 5, adding “there is a disgusting side of Liverpool’s history that he would be happy to talk about.”

He went on to add, “They have five stars on their shirts but should have 39 coffins,” in reference to the Heysel Disaster, where Liverpool fans breached a barrier between them and Juventus fans, eventually causing a fencing collapse that claimed the lives of 39 people.

This time, however, he isn’t backing down.

Apparently, neither are Liverpool supporters.

The Liverpool Supporters Club in New York and other groups around the country are sponsoring a boycott of Cohen and any potential advertisers.

Here’s the e-mail they’re asking their members to send:

To whom it may concern,

You advertise on either or both of Steve Cohen’s shows on Fox and Sirius. Steve Cohen has, and not for the first time, told lies about the deaths the 96 fans at Hillsborough, claiming that Liverpool fans were responsible for killing their own, amongst other lies. Is this the type of person you want representing your company? Steve Cohen has done this before, apologising when the outrage grew too large. Clearly, he will not stop, so our objective is to see him being put off air permanently.

I urge you to reconsider your purchasing of advertising.

I will be boycotting all your products and services until your support for Steve Cohen and his lies ends.

Cohen has his defenders as well, as the New York Times’ Jack Bell and the L.A. Daily News’ Scott Wolf  have weighed in on the dispute.

Now, two items of full disclosure are in order here. First of all, I am a huge fan of both FFF and WSD and I listen/watch both on a regular basis. I also do some writing for Christopher Harris’ EPL Talk, the first site to attack Cohen’s most recent comments.

Being a regular listener to his show, it’s no state secret that he:

1. Supports Chelsea
2. Doesn’t like Liverpool – the city or the club

As a journalist, I respect his First Amendment right to free speech. His job is to be entertaining, produce opinions and drive up listener-ship – and sponsorship – of his shows. He says that he has received death threats. That’s obviously the wrong response to any dispute. As much as I’ve grown to love the sport in recent years, it is still just a game.

Reading his comments in the aforementioned Daily News article has me a bit troubled, however:

“I’ve seen the Taliban less defensive,” Cohen said. “If this was being done in Afghanistan or Pakistan, we’d call these people terrorists. A lot of them are little cowards hiding behind their computers. (But) I feel my life and my livelihood is at stake.”

Now, if he’s referring to the death threats, then that’s OK. If he’s addressing the boycott, which the last line there suggests, then I have a problem.

If I believe in Cohen’s right to freedom of speech, then I have to support the American branches of the Liverpool supporters clubs to respond with a boycott. Call it free trade, a free market solution or whatever.

I’m hoping for a peaceful resolution here, one that suits both sides. Ultimately, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

As a vocal supporter of the beautiful game in a place where, beyond youth level, it gets very little attention, situations like this one make the game a tougher sell.

I think we can all agree that the fact that 96 people went to a soccer match and didn’t come home is a terrible tragedy.

No matter what color shirts they might have been wearing.

Jata staying sharp in Florida

May 18, 2009

You might remember the story I wrote about Richard Jata, the Campbell midfielder drafted by the Chicago Fire in the MLS Draft earlier this year.

Well, things didn’t work out with the Fire, but apparently he’s staying ready for another chance at pro soccer.

There’s a blog dedicated to Jata’s pro ambitions that’s worth checking out as well.