By JOEL HOOVER
The Philadelphia Union have lacked an experienced goalkeeper since the departure of Faryd Mondragon before the start of the 2012 season, leaving starter Zac MacMath and backup Chris Konopka without much in the way of tutelage and instruction. The Union filled that void Wednesday morning, as the team confirmed the signing of Macedonian goalkeeper Oka Nikolov, a 19-year veteran of German club Eintracht Frankfurt.
“We’re really excited that we have our first summer signing in Oka,” manager John Hackworth said at his weekly press conference later in the day. “He is first and foremost a fantastic person, something we believe very strongly in when we bring people into the club. I’m impressed with him as a person as much as I am by his playing record.”
Nikolov played in 379 matches for Frankfurt over his 19 seasons with the team, but opted out of his contract in order to pursue playing in the United States. He had been in talks with several other MLS teams before a deal was confirmed with the Union.
By DAN KARELL
After a recent rare day of no soccer, the Confederations Cup kicks back into action on Wednesday afternoon with two high-profile matchups.
Brazil face a beleaguered Mexico side in the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza in the first match of the day. El Tri kept the game close during their last match against Italy until the strength of Mario Balotelli proved the difference. Against Brazil, they’ll once more have to face an impressive combination of speed (Neymar, Dani Alves, Oscar) and strength (Fred, Hulk, Thiago Silva). The game is a re-match of last year’s Olympics tournament final, which Mexico won, 2-1.
In the second match of the day, Italy faces Japan in the Arena Pernambuco in Recifi. A win for the Italians will almost qualify them for the knockout round of the competition, while the Japanese squad will need three points to keep their hopes alive.
If you will be watching today’s action, please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions and some play-by-play in the comments section below.
Enjoy the action (Today’s TV schedule is after the jump):
Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
The Los Angeles Galaxy couldn’t have asked for a better time for star forward Robbie Keane to return, as the defending champions look to get back to winning ways when they host the one-loss Portland Timbers on Wednesday night at the newly christened StubHub Center.
While there is a top-five matchup on the West Coast, an equally compelling game is taking place in Montreal, when the Impact host the Houston Dynamo. The Chicago Fire takes on a weakened Colorado Rapids side missing their head coach and two starters due to suspension, and the Vancouver Whitecaps host Chivas USA, the first match under new manager Jose Luis Real.
Here is a rundown of the midweek Week 17 slate:
By IVES GALARCEP
SANDY, Utah– How does a player who has scored more than 50 goals for his club team over the course of two years become a forward that national team fans lose faith in?
That question relates to Jozy Altidore, or at least it did before he obliterated concerns about his U.S. Men’s National Team effectiveness by scoring in four consecutive USMNT matches. Suddenly the question has gone from “Why can’t Jozy score for the national team” to “Can anybody stop Jozy from scoring for the national team?”
It really isn’t a great mystery as to why Altidore has replaced a goal drought with a goal deluge, and it isn’t about any transformational experience, or any of the mind games Jurgen Klinsmann has played in his attempt to push and prod and cajole Altidore into being the player Klinsmann wants him to be. No, Altidore is scoring for two reasons. The first is he’s riding a wave of confident form after a 31-goal season for AZ Alkmaar.
More important, Altidore is finally receiving steady service after starving for national team service for the better part of two years.
“I think the teammates have done a better job of creating chances for him,” said Clint Dempsey. “He’s been doing a good job with the chances that he gets in the game, he’s finishing them off.
“He’s been great for us and it’s been important to have another player chipping in with those goals and be able to make it difficult for our opponents because they have to watch more players,” Dempsey added. “We have more threats, and when you have more threats you’re able to get more goals and open up space for other people.”
By FRANCO PANIZO
UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Abby Wambach is excited about the prospects of making history and potentially breaking Mia Hamm’s all-time scoring record some time soon. In the same breath, Wambach just wants to get it over and done with so that the focus can shift elsewhere.
Two goals shy of Hamm’s 158 international goals, Wambach is well aware that she will soon break a record that many believed to be insurpassable. But the U.S. Women’s National Team forward has known that for several months now and she’s been asked about it ad nauseam while also being compared to Hamm at length by both fans and media, deserved attention considering the nature of the milestone but attention that is more than Wambach likely could have ever asked for.
“The fact that it possibly could get done here in the United States, that’s exciting,” the recently-turned 33-year-old Wambach said following the U.S.’s practice on Tuesday. “That brings more excitement to games that might not be necessarily so exciting to come watch … but the truth is, the sooner I can get over with it and move on looking towards (the World Cup in) 2015, the better.”
Wambach is not the only one who wants to see the illustrious record broken already. U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni is also publicly hoping that his veteran striker ties and passes Hamm’s total in the not too distant future, and it appears as if he will give Wambach a lengthy opportunity to do so in Thursday’s friendly at Red Bull Arena against a Korea Republic team that the Americans defeated, 4-1, over the weekend.
By DAN KARELL
When news spread that long time Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Oka Nikolov had terminated his contract with the club and was bound for the United States, many signs pointed to the Philadelphia Union.
On Tuesday, the Union confirmed the rumors, announcing the signing of the 39-year-old Nikolov on a free transfer. Per club and MLS policies, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Outside of starting goalkeeper Zac MacMath, the Union have not had as much goalkeeping depth as they had hoped for. Nikolov will be able to step right into the number two role at the club, and could even potentially challenge for the starting spot depending on performances. Nikolov made over 400 appearances for Eintracht in his 22 years with the club, including 229 appearances in the Bundesliga.
What do you make of this signing? Do you see MacMath continuing to be the number one?
Share your thoughts below.
By DAN KARELL
In less than two months, the new English Premier League season will kick off.
The Premier League announced their fixture list on Wednesday, exciting fans with early colossal matchups between Manchester United and Chelsea and Arsenal and Tottenham all before the end of August. The first matches of the season will occur on August 17, with the final weekend coming on May 11.
Manchester United will have a difficult time early defending their title. In addition to facing Chelsea in the second week at Old Trafford, United travel a week later to face Liverpool at Anfield, which will be the first time that new manager David Moyes will return to the city he called home for 11 years. Moyes won’t make his Goodison Park return until April 19 of next year.
Other interesting matches of note include Jose Mourinho’s first match back in charge of Chelsea against Hull on the opening weekend, as well as his first matches against Tottenham (9/28), West Bromwich Albion (11/9), and Liverpool (12/28), where Mourinho will face his former assistant coaches.
Here are some more stories to get your Wednesday started:
Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
SANDY, Utah– The first half was a showcase in frustration, but for the U.S. Men’s National Team, the story of Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory vs. Honduras was the team’s resolve and ability to improve in the second half.
The U.S. attack generated in the second half, and controlled possession throughout the match, while the American defense held firm, and bent while not breaking to post the team’s fourth shutout in six qualifiers.
Jozy Altidore’s evolution as the team’s goal-machine continued, while Fabian Johnson turned in another solid showing on the wing. Graham Zusi and Eddie Johnson provided some quality on the flanks as well, while Clint Dempsey contributed despite playing a relatively quiet match by his lofty standards.
So how did the U.S. players fare individually on Tuesday night? Here are SBI’s USMNT player grades for their 1-0 victory vs. Honduras:
By DAN KARELL
The Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee was busy this week, handing out suspensions and fines to three players and one head coach.
FC Dallas left back Jair Benitez, Vancouver Whitecaps forward Kekutah Manneh, Colorado Rapids midfielder Hendry Thomas, and Thomas’ manager Oscar Pareja have all been suspended for one match and fined an undisclosed amount for various actions this past week.
The Rapids are now forced to play their next match at the Chicago Fire on June 19 without their head coach and two starters, as forward Atiba Harris earned a straight red card in the team’s 2-1 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday.
Thomas earned his suspension and fine for a “reckless challenge that endangered the safety of an opponent” on Earthquakes defender Steven Beitashour, while Pareja will miss the match for leaving his technical area to separate players during a short-lived scrum along the sideline.