Morning Ticker

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Good morning everybody. Let me start by apologizing for the low number of posts recently. I can assure you that the action will pick up after New Year’s Day. For now, I will try to keep you updates on the goings on in the American and international soccer world.

Before we get into the day’s events, I must make another request for SBI readers to take part in the SBI reader roll call. If you haven’t already taken part, please do so. Your input is going to go a long way toward helping me shape and set a direction for SBI as we head into 2008.

Secondly, I have not forgotten about the most recent Q&A session. I am working on it and am hoping to have it done for tomorrow. It will be done by Monday at the latest.

Now, onto the news. Here are some recent tidbits you may or may not have heard:

U.S. Olympic qualifying games set. The U.S. Under-23 national team learned the path it will take to Olympic qualifying yesterday as the match schedule for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying was announced. The Americans will face Cuba (March 11), Panama (March 13) and Honduras (March 15), with all matches being played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. There will be tripleheaders played each of these days, with the U.S. team’s game serving as the nightcap on each occasion.

The top two teams in the group will join the top two teams in Group B (Mexico, Canada, Haiti, Guatemala) in the semifinals and final, which take place in Memphis Nashville on March 20 and 23.

I was going to point out that the Americans should have little trouble qualifying, but you know what happened the last time around. That said, this Olympic team should qualify and this qualifying tournament should give us a good glimpse at what Peter Nowak has planned for the Olympics.

Man U takes over first place. Manchester United destroyed Sunderland, 4-0, while Portsmouth held Arsenal to a scoreless draw, which means Man U is in first place at the mid-way point of the season. The lead is a point, but is effectively two points based on Man U’s superior goal difference.

There is still plenty of soccer to be played, so you shouldn’t go chiseling Man U’s name in the trophy just yet, but you have to like the Red Devils’ chances of holding on in the second half of the season. And you can wave goodbye to Chelsea’s already dim chances of winning the league after its crazy 4-4 tie against Aston Villa, a match that saw two Chelsea players red carded and goalkeeper Peter Cech look like a shell of himself. I’m still trying to figure out why Avram Grant would play an injured Cech when he has some pretty decent goalkeepers on his bench.

Ronaldo to transfer back to Brazil?  Beleaguered Brazilian striker Ronaldo has gone to Brazil to receive treatment for an injury, but now reports are surfacing that link the 2002 World Cup winner with a move to Brazilian club Flamengo. Ronaldo has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, and has yet to make any sort of contribution to AC Milan this year, so a move to Brazil could help him regain his form. I’m sure some Red Bulls fans would say that a stint in MLS could help Ronaldo’s form as well. Too bad AC Milan is already denying the rumors. It sounds like some wishful thinking from Brazilian journalists. Sound familiar?

Trouble for former MLS player. Remember Onandi Lowe? The former Jamaican national team and Kansas City Wizards striker? He had a little trouble with the law in Jamaica recently. Apparently Lowe thought it was a good idea to go for a drive with 42 marijuana cigarettes in his car. Yes, you read that right, 42. Save your "Marijuana is illegal in Jamaica?" remarks. My first thought was, "how long a ride was he going on?" Major League Soccer’s version of Nate Newton apparently didn’t learn his lesson when he was nearly convicted for trying to smuggle crack out of England.

I’ll be back with a Boxing Day recap in a bit. For now, share your thoughts on these stories, and any other stories making the rounds this morning.

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