Tuesday, December 30, 2008

5 Crew Mates On Board With U.S.A.

By Gory Guerrero

Five Columbus Crew members have been tapped by Bob Bradley on the 25-man roster for the January U.S. National team training camp.

Top of the list: Chad Marshall. Just yesterday, there were those who were questioning El Luchador’s prediction that Marshall’s decision to stay with the Crew in 2009 enhances his prospects for a call-up. Voila. Next stop: South Africa.

Also on the very young list: goal keeper Will Hesmer, midfielders Brian Carroll and Eddie Gaven, and midfielder-forward Robbie Rogers.

"This is the beginning of a big year for the national team, and it is important that we get started off heading in the right direction," Bradley is quoted on MLSnet. "This is another great opportunity to reinforce the principles of how this team operates both on and off the field, as well as getting players ready for the match against Sweden and the first World Cup qualifier this year against Mexico in February."

The training camp begins Jan. 4 at the National Training Center at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. The 25 will train for the United States’ first 2009 match-up, a friendly against Sweden 8 p.m. EST on Jan. 24 at The Home Depot Center. The game is scheduled to be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel.

Of course this means that members of Crew Soccer Nation likely will have an opportunity to see five of their own in action on Feb. 11 in the World Cup qualifer against Mexico.

Hesmer will have to compete with Goalkeeper of the Year and former Crew man Jon Busch (Chicago Fire), Troy Perkins (Valerenga IF) and Matt Pickens (out of contract).

There are only two veterans on the young team, Cory Gibbs (Colorado Rapids) and Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo).Clearly, Bradley is pursuing an Arsene Wenger-style young blood strategy.

That’s fine, but where is Frankie Hejduk?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Marshall Makes Smart Move, Finally Gets Bank

Chad Marshall made an excellent decision staying with the Crew. Rather than warming the bench for a second-tier Bundesliga club that gets almost no TV exposure outside Germany, he returns to a championship team in one of the fastest growing soccer leagues in the world.

Ironically, it likely was Crew management’s calculating, impersonal Machiavellianism with Sigi Schmid that made the Marshall re-signing possible. The ransom money that Mark McCullers extracted from Seattle to release Sigi allowed the Crew to compete to keep Marshall.

Terms were not disclosed, but El Luchador has learned that the Crew’s offer was competitive with what was on the table in Mainz. Sources indicate that the three-year deal will exceed $1/2 million (over the life of the contract) including options and bonuses. So, Marshall is finally making a salary that reflects his status as the top defender in the U.S.

Marshall’s salary was $75,000 in 2006, $100,000 in 2007 and $125,000 in 2008. Despite being the MLS Defender of the Year, he was paid less than 21 other MLS defenders in 2008. By comparison, the highest paid, Dallas’ lackluster Duilio Davino, made $400,000.

There are fools who still believe that it is necessary to play in Europe in order to compete for a spot on the U.S. National Team. Wrong. By guaranteeing continued playing time and domestic exposure and earning one of the top salaries for an MLS defender, Marshall has now increased his odds of playing in the 2010 World Cup.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Does Marshall Plan Involve Columbus?

So, allegedly Chad Marshall is declining an offer from Bundesliga’s Mainz and instead staying in Columbus, according to Crewture, citing the Fighting Talker, who cites anonymous sources.

El Luchador has his doubts, but if this is true, it is huge for the Crew.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sigi Will Take Crew Players If He Can; Moreno at Top of His List

On the day the Crew announced Robert Warzycha as the new head coach, Sigi Schmid made his first national television appearance since his less-than-amicable departure from Columbus. Interviewed live in the second half of “Fox Football Fone In,” Sigi emphasized the positive and focused the discussion about his decision to leave Columbus on the opportunity in Seattle and not on anything negative in C-Bus.

But, one doesn’t have to read too much between the lines to see that he feels scorned, and he made it clear that he would have no qualms about stealing talent from the Black & Gold if given the chance.

On the contract negotiations, Sigi admitted for the first time publicly that the Crew made an offer before he met with Seattle and that the offer was on par with his expectations and with what others could do. But it was too little too late.

“It just got dragged on. And it’s just like if you’re negotiating a contract, you expect something to happen like within a week or two weeks, and it didn’t happen in that time frame. And by the time an offer came in that we felt was compatible and was close to what we were hoping for, it was at the end of the season and I said, 'That’s it I’m this close to the end, I want to see what’s out there.'”

He joked that one factor in his decision to leave was his memory of being summarily fired by LA in 2004 while holding a winning record: “I didn’t want to get kicked out of town like last time.”

Asked by host Steven Cohen whether the failed contract negotiations and the way he was treated by management in Columbus left him with a sour taste, Sigi had this to say:

“It is what it is. I’m not going to worry about that. I’m not going to have hurt feelings or anything else. I enjoyed my time in Columbus. I thought it was great that they were patient with me and allowed me to build the team and we were able to reward and have a great season. I’m going to miss the players because I always have attachments to them. I’m going to miss my staff because I thought we had one of the best staffs in the league and it was great cooperation, but it’s not important whether my feelings were hurt, it’s just important that I’m on to the next adventure.”

Does he have regrets that he will not be able to lead the Crew in the coming CONCACAF Champions League campaign?
“Definitely, I mean anyone that knows me knows that I am a very competitive person … but I have to weigh everything, and it didn’t carry enough weight at the end of the day.”

Does he plan to pillage players from the Crew and take them with him to Seattle?
“Unfortunately, the way the rules are you can’t really grab all your old players. But as players become available, just like I brought Alejandro Moreno to Columbus and he was very helpful to me, if people become available and I think there’s somebody who can help the team, I will do it.”

What about the Columbus coaching staff? Will he take some of them with him? The rules are more lax there.
“All my (assistant) coaches (in Columbus) are under contract … It’s not like in Europe a lot of times where the assistant coach goes with the head coach … That’s just not something that happens in the MLS. You’ve got to build all over again.”

Sigi also offered a strong vote of confidence for Warzycha as he takes the helm.

Watching this guy with his soccer knowledge, his class and his control, it’s clear that the Crew really let the best coach in America slip away, and it’s clear that while he has too much integrity to say so, he’s not entirel happy about how it all went down.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crew Gets More For Less

The Columbus Crew not only won their first MLS Cup and the Supporters Shield in 2008, they did it with the cheapest payroll in major league soccer, a Nordecke Luchador analysis has found.

With an average salary of $79,949, the Columbus Crew ranked dead last in the amount it paid its field workers in 2008. The second cheapest team, Chivas USA ($74,723.37), paid its players nearly 4 percent more on average than Columbus.

The team with the most generous average payroll, the Galaxy, paid its players an average of $278,181, nearly four times as much as the Crew. Of course, this figure is somewhat skewed by the ridiculous salary paid to David Beckham.

El Luchador based his analysis on the official numbers from the MLS Players Union. The salary listed for each individual player is an average of that player’s base salary and his guaranteed compensation. For a copy of the Excel database, email nordeckeluchador@hotmail.com.

On the one hand, it is a tribute to the hard work and talent of the players that they had the best performance with the worst compensation. On the other hand, the capitalists who run the Crew factory should be ashamed of themselves, and should look to increase compensation in the coming year as certain contracts come up for renegotiation.

Here’s a look at some key numbers:

  • Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the league MVP and MVP of the MLS Cup, who was snubbed in the MLS All-Star game, was the 16th highest paid player in 2008 at $312,500.
  • Schelotto was the only Crew player in the top 20.
  • The second highest paid Crew player was mid-season acquisition Pat Noonan, who earned $175,008 and was the 45th highest paid player in the league.
  • The highest paid goalkeeper in the league was San Jose’s Joe Cannon at $213,000.
  • By position across the league, goalkeepers are the lowest paid ($58,147), followed by defenders ($74,792).
  • Midfielders are paid the most on average ($156,498), but if you remove Beckam’s unearned and exorbitant pay, the number is actually $114,000, making forwards the highest paid at $134,916.

USA v Mexico Feb 11 Crew Stadium

The rumors were wrong. US Soccer has done the right thing. As much as El Luchador disdains nationalism and xenophobia, he will be at Crew Stadium Feb. 11 to cheer the US National Team to their third consecutive home victory over Mexico. Our brothers and sisters south of the border are deserving of our respect, but this is business. South Africa calls. USA!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Marshall Waits, Sigi Announcement Tomorrow

Some random dispatches from El Luchador:
  • Tribal Football reports that Chad Marshall’s agent has said the Crew big man will not get an answer on whether he has made the Mainz squad in Budesliga until after the New Year.
  • The Seattle Sounders official site reports that the new coach (Sigi Schmid) will be unveiled at a news conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. Pacific Time (2 p.m. Eastern). It’s reported that Mark McCullers will be there to throw his shoes at Sigi.
  • It’s still not official, but Sports Illustrated is the latest to report what is looking like a forgone conclusion: USSF has decided to forgo Crew Stadium for this February’s World Cup qualifier between the U.S. and Mexico and instead hold it in the newest soccer stadium in the U.S., Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium. Many in the blogosphere are up in arms, and this is understandable. However, El Luchador looks with disdain on anyone who would root against their own country just because the game was moved.
  • Finally, a non-soccer related note. In case anyone missed it, here is a good video of an Iraqi folk hero throwing his shoe at George Bush. El Luchador strongly endorses this type of behavior.

Friday, December 12, 2008

'Tampering' Charges Dropped; McCullers Found Out

ESPN reports that the Crew have secured an undisclosed amount from Seattle for Mark McCullers’ trumped up “tampering” charges. Sigi Schmid is now released from all obligations to the Crew. The MLS found no evidence that there was ever any violation by Sigi or the Sounders. (The complete official statement is available at the Dispatch).

How does it feel Mark McCullers? You did it. You shook down the Sounders for a few measly pence, disrespected the most successful coach in Crew history who just won you your first MLS Cup, and showed your true colors. In just a few short weeks you took the glory that we all witnessed in Los Angeles and reduced it down to a petty, materialistic fight over the fine print in a legal contract. What are you going to do now, go to Disney World?

Did it really have to happen this way? Of course not.

If McCullers had integrity, he simply would have let Sigi go without generating this unseemly controversy.

What is integrity? In Dustin Hoffman’s classic Little Big Man, Old Lodge Skins said: “There is an endless supply of white men. There has always been a limited number of human beings.”

By “white men,” of course, Old Lodge Skins was not referring to race. He was referring to those who lack integrity, those who fail to see that there is more to this world than the purely material. In the movie, the “human beings” are those who value the collective good over selfishness. Human beings are those who are reflective, thoughtful and forward looking. Human beings respect the interconnectedness of all living things.

The “white man” in Little Big Man’s definition, is not race based. The movie portrays the U.S. campaign against the Indians and the slaughter at Little Big Horn. The “white man” is the unthinking materialist, the fundamentally corrupted misanthrope who lacks integrity.

In short, a human being at the helm of a soccer club that finally won its first championship after 13 hard years of struggle would find it unthinkable to reduce this down to a vulgar fight over “tampering” charges and a few dollars.

I know, I know, “It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business.”

Old Lodge Skins: “Human beings, my son, they believe everything is alive. Not only man and animals. But also water, earth, stone. And also the things from them ... That is the way things are. But the white man, they believe EVERYTHING is dead. Stone, earth, animals. And people! Even their own people! If things keep trying to live, white man will rub them out. That is the difference.”

Yes, that is the difference. Sleep well Mark McCullers. You earned it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mob Boss McCullers Makes His Move

As he is about to rub out a rival gang leader, Michael Corleone in the Godfather famously tells his assistant, Sonny: “It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business.”

Mark McCullers is channeling his best Michael Corleone this week as he takes the knife to Consigliere Sigi Schmid.

The Dispatch reports this morning that Schmid made his decision not to return to the Crew after Boss McCullers filed tampering charges with the league office in an attempt to screw Sigi out of the coaching job at expansion Seattle Sounders. Sounds personal to El Luchador.

“Just because your contract expires doesn’t mean your obligations do,” McCullers told Shawn Mitchell. Obligations to do what? Kiss the Mob Boss’ ring?

Schmid clearly is leaving with a bad taste in his mouth, and who can blame him? The way McCullers and the other capitalists at the Crew Factory have handled this is shameful.

Now McCuller’s game is to hold Sigi’s Seattle candidacy hostage and shake down the Sounders for loose change. If McCullers has any class at all, he will drop this “tampering” charge immediately, announce Robert Warzycha as the new head coach and move on to the next play.

El Luchador is very upset with these developments: "Say hello to my little Friend."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

McCullers Concedes Loss of Schmid

What El Luchador predicted two weeks ago has now come to pass. Sigi Schmid is leaving. Crew president Mark McCullers issued this statement Tuesday:

“Sigi Schmid has formally declined our last contract offer and will not be returning as head coach of the Columbus Crew. Sigi was the ideal person to turn around our competitive program and create a championship mentality within our club. As a result, we are well positioned moving forward and toward continued success. We respect his desire to seek the next challenge and wish him nothing but the best.”

In an interesting twist, the print edition of the Dispatch (not online yet), reports that Crew management have filed a complaint with the league against expansion Seattle Sounders for holding talks with Schmid, when he has a one-year non-compete clause in his contract. If this is true, not only has the Crew let slip the MLS Coach of the Year, but they are also screwing him on his way out the door.

Everyone seems to think it is a done deal that former Crew player and current top assistant Robert Warzycha will get the job. Not so fast comrades. Remember, a couple important facts: 1) Warzycha would be a good choice and McCullers is incompetent. 2) Last time there was a vacancy, Warzycha was made interim, then passed over for Schmid. Odds are 50-50. The one thing Warzycha has in his favor is that he would come cheap. McCullers and the Hunts are nothing if not tight wads.

The hard working men and women of Crew Soccer Nation deserve better than to lose their Great Leader. The struggle will continue without him. Let us put our support behind the Polish Rifle and persevere in the Black and Gold.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Players Union Case Against League Bosses Moves Forward

A date has been set and an arbitrator selected to hear the MLS Players Union’s grievance against the Big Boss Men of the league for their exploitive decision to short change the players on the supposed $1 million SuperLiga Tournament purse.

Players Union Executive Director Bob Foose told El Luchador today that respected sports arbitrator Shyam Das has been selected by both the union and the league bosses to hear and decide the case under Article 21 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

“The arbitration proceedings will likely be held in Philadelphia and they will not be public,” Foose wrote to El Luchador in an email this afternoon. Foose, a friend of working men and women, said the arbitration is tentatively scheduled for late February.

The dispute stems from the league bosses’ decision to imply in numerous public statements that the $1 million purse for the tournament would be split among the workers (i.e., players), when in typical capitalist fashion, they really schemed to keep most of it to satisfy their bottomless greed and avarice (i.e. league management).

“MLS is misleading its great fans,” the players union said in a statement in July. “What has not been revealed by the league is that its New York office has unilaterally set its own bonus structure for players, who will receive only a small fraction of the $1 million. On top of that, the league has gone even further by prohibiting its teams from providing their own bonus pool for their players, despite the fact that this right is protected under the league's CBA.”

“It's a shame that MLS doesn't pay its players – the persons responsible for making the tournament exciting – their fair share of the proceeds. Their refusal to do so has left the players with a bitter taste in their mouths as they enter the tournament,” the statement said.

In August, the players on the Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution announced an agreement that they would split evenly the bonus money at stake in the SuperLiga final.

“The players have made this decision to show their solidarity and in protest of the league's violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with respect to the negotiation of bonuses for this tournament,” the union said.

The SuperLiga was started last year by a bunch of suits in an effort to milk every last bit of revenue from the players’ hard work. The tournament pits top teams from the Primera DivisiĆ³n of Mexico and Major League Soccer.

El Luchador encourages all the united members of Crew Soccer Nation to observe a boycott of the tournament. Thankfully, this will not be hard to do this year, as an agreement with the league means the Crew will participate in the CONCACAF Champions League (a legitimate tournament) instead of the SuperLiga nonsense.

The arbitrator who will consider the matter in February, Das, 64, is a Harvard educated lawyer who works out of Ardmore, PA, near Philadelphia. He has arbitrated disputes for decades in many different industries, most recently making a name for himself in sports arbitration as the designated arbitrator for both the NFL and Major League Baseball. A list of recent baseball related actions Das has been involved in can be found at USA Today.

According to Eugene Freedman at the Baseball Think Factory: “Of his 120 cases decided, Arbitrator Das has sided with management 44 times, the union 51 times, and has issued a split decision 25 times.”

El Luchador predicts the following: Workers 1, Capitalists 0. Stay tuned.

Cubans, Homeless World Cup, Hull City & More

El Luchador gives a shout out to the following partners in the struggle:

  • The Cuban National Men’s Football Team. A soccer team from a baseball nation, the Cuban National Team has earned a berth in the Gold Cup and are undefeated in the group stage of the Caribbean Cup of Nations. Long live the revolution.

  • Aston Villa. In dramatic fashion with a last-minute winning goal, the Villans defeated Everton 3-2 on Sunday. Former Crewmate Brad Friedel made several key saves, as Aston Villa continued their epic proletarian struggle to break into the English Big 4 and earn a long-awaited UEFA Champions League appearance.

  • The Afghanistan National Homeless Football Team. On Sunday in Melbourne, Australia, these ruffians defeated their counterparts from Mother Russia, 5-4, in the final of the sixth Homeless World Cup.

  • Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexiy II. He revived Russia’s religious mojo after decades of Soviet atheism and healed an 80-year rift with a branch of the Russian Orthodox church in the West. He died on Friday at 79.

  • Hull City Tigers. Are you kidding? 6th place in the EPL near the midway mark? Phil Brown’s side earned their seventh win of the season against Middlesbrough Saturday. Arguably the least likely promotion team from the Championship this season, Hull is still within striking distance of the UEFA Champions League. Do you believe in miracles?

  • Elvis, William Howard Taft & Sigi Schmid. All three were enormous presences in their respective fields. All three earned doubles (Taft was president and chief justice; Elvis was the King of Rock and the King of Roll; Sigi, the first MLS coach to win two MLS Cups with two different teams). The Dispatch reports that Sigi will return Wednesday from his week in Seattle interviewing for the Sounders job. Elvis is back in the building, but not for long.

    Columbus ‘till I die, brothers and sisters.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Naked Cartwheeler Off to Deutschland?

Let’s hope Andy Iro can jump. The rookie Liverpool native who the Crew picked up in the 2008 Super Draft may have to grow up real fast in the Black and Gold defense.

MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall is in Mainz, Germany, today for a try out with FSV Mainz 05. He is scheduled to remain with the club through Thursday.

Mainz is in the second division of the storied German Bundesliga soccer league. El Luchador’s anonymous sources indicate Mainz are very interested in the 6-4 California native, and a signing there is likely.

Jeff Goff of Soccer Insider has reported that Marshall’s reps are seeking $500,000 for any oversees transfer. He earned $148,000 in 2008, not including bonuses and incentives, well over the average for an MLS non-designated player, but about average for a regular roster player.
Just one year after a nearly career-ending concussion injury, Marshall not only won Defender of the Year, but scored the equalizer over Brian McBride in the Eastern Conference final and made the go-ahead goal in MLS Cup just seconds after New York had scored an early second half equalizer.

"Chad has grown by leaps and bounds," said soon-to-be-ex Crew Coach Sigi Schmid. "I don't see how (U.S. National Team Coach) Bob Bradley can look past him anymore with the national team. He's a guy that definitely deserves a solid look. He's matured as a player and, on the offensive end, on set pieces, there's obviously not a player who's a better target in the league than Chad Marshall is right now."

Marshall is also known for his celebratory Naked Cartwheel, which he performed in front of countless media in the locker room of the Home Depot Center after the Crew’s MLS Cup victory.

"It's something I do sometimes to lighten up our spirits, so I am glad I could do it today in front of all the media," Marshall said. "I can't wait to see how many internet sites it pops up on."

Memo to Marshall: When you land in Germany, have the Mainz publicity boys shoot a new head shot. Dude, you look so baked.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sigi Interviews in Seattle

Sigi Schmid spent Thursday in Seattle and will remain there today as he prepares for his inevitable move from Columbus, the Seattle Times reports.
It is truly odd that Clark Hunt and the other capitalists at the Crew factory seem to have no qualms about letting go the man who took them to the Promised Land. Goal.com agrees with El Luchador on this point.

Will Robert Warzycha be named the permanent head, or will he suffer the indignation of another interim stint as the men who control the means of production at Crew Stadium look elsewhere for a leader of the club?

The Polish Rifle deserves the support of all working men and women of Crew Soccer Nation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Aston Villa Worth a Look

With nearly four months to go until the Crew’s home opener, how does a true fan get through the long Ohio winter? Take heart, comrades. Across the pond there’s one club that is worthy of your massive support.

Here are El Luchador’s Top 5 reasons for Ohio soccer fans to support Aston Villa Football Club of the English Premier league:

5. Villa's starting keeper is former Crew star and Cleveland native Brad Friedel. Not only is Friedel one of the greatest keepers in U.S. history and one of the the firsts keeperd for the Crew, at 37, he is one of the oldest players in the EPL, but still one of the sharpest. He is the current holder of the English Premier League record for 167 consecutive appearances.

4. Their No. 2 keeper is also an American, former Chivas USA keeper Brad Guzan, making Villa the only top flight football club anywhere outside of North America with two top keepers from the U.S.

3. It is unclear why, but one of their supporter groups is called “C-Crew.” El Luchador met a couple of these fellows when the Crew played host to Aston Villa in a 3-1 loss at Crew stadium in July 2007. They were a good group for hooligans, especially when compared to the wankers from West Ham who polluted our fair city this summer.

2. Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner is also Villa’s majority owner and CEO. After attending college in England, the Brooklyn native acquired a lifelong passion for the beautiful game. He purchased the Browns in 2002 and took control of the Villans in 2006. The Browns season is over (they suck). Root for their sister club in Birmingham.

1. Villa actually have a chance at hardware yet this season. With the English football season reaching the midpoint, Villa are currently in 5th place, with 25 points in 15 games played. They are only one point behind 4th place Arsenal and three points behind third place Man U. They actually have a chance at their first UEFA Champions League appearance in more than 25 years. Any Crew fan should find it easy to get behind this underdog in their bid to break into the Big Four of English soccer against all odds. Also, they are alive and well in the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup competitions.

So, take El Luchador’s advice: Raise a pint to the Lions of Villa Park.

Long time ago in Birmingham

Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-four

By the light of a gas lamp

This famous club was born

Hark now hear the Villa sing

A club was born that day

Who's name will live for evermore
Aston V I L L A

Terrible Acting, Even Worse Judging

Steven Goff always finds the best of the best in worldwide football. In this case, the worst of the worst, a diver who makes Christiano Ronaldo look like an honest gentleman. Click here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Guille to Remain in C-Bus

All the signs pointed this way, but it is now official: The Crew has re-signed Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

"Securing Guille's return was one of our top priorities entering the off season and we are pleased to get that accomplished," Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers said. "It goes without saying that he was one of the keys to our championship season and, on top of that, he helps attract international attention to both the club and our region. We look forward to his continued dynamic contributions next season."

Schelotto was voted league MVP after scoring seven goals and making 19 assists in 27 games during the 2008 regular season. He earned six assists in four games in the 2008 MLS Cup Playoffs.

We’re not worthy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

MLS Cup Win Also Brings CONCACAF Champions League Berth

Overlooked in the Crew’s double championship season has been the fact that in addition to winning the MLS Cup and the Supporters Shield, the Crew has gained its second ever berth in the CONCACAF Champions League (formerly the CONCACAF Champions' Cup).

Beginning in July of next year, Columbus will compete in the premier club competition for the 40 countries that make up the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.

The winner of the 24-team tournament, which runs through April 2010, will gain CONCACAF's spot in the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup

Under the current rules, the United States’ top four club teams are admitted. The other three U.S. teams who have qualified are Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls and DC United. In the 46 years of the tournament, only two U.S. clubs have ever won it: DC United (1998) and Los Angeles Galaxy (1997 & 2000). The only other team to qualify so far for the 2009-10 tournament is Panama’s Arabe Unido.

Columbus’ only other CANCACAF bid came in 2003 by virtue of their 2002 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup victory. That year, the Crew was knocked out 6-2 on aggregate by Monarcas Morelia of Mexico.

In the 2009-10 competition, 16 clubs will compete in a two-leg preliminary round, with the eight winners advancing to the group stage. The other eight teams in the group stage are seeded directly by virtue of their finish in their domestic leagues the prior year, meaning Columbus will be seeded directly into the group stage. The group stage involves four groups of four with each team playing the others in its group in both home and away matches. The top two teams from each group move on to the knockout rounds, which consist of two-legged home and away series. The final also will be a two-legged home and away series.

This is going to be a great opportunity for Crew fans to see some premier clubs from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. El Luchador predicts a strong showing from the Crew. Columbus till I die!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Schmid is Gone, Now Who Does He Take With Him?

Sadly, El Luchador has concluded that Elvis will very soon be leaving the building.

Sigi Schmid, the Buddha of Columbus, the William Howard Taft of American soccer, the MLS Coach of the Year will join the Seattle Sounders FC. The announcement will come this week, probably on Monday, sources tell the Nordecke Luchador.

"I don't know where I'll be next season," Schmid told the Chicago Tribune. "I need to make the decision that's best for my family. But regardless of what happens, the fans in Columbus will always have a special place in my heart."

Sound like someone who intends to stick around?

Sigi, we were never worthy. Thank you for your service to the brothers and sisters of Crew Soccer Nation. El Luchador will pay tribute in greater detail at a later date.

For now, let us all give thanks for what we had. And let us hope that Sigi does not demonstrate the same proclivity for luring players away with him that he did when he left LA.

A friend of Ryan Junge, who was in LA for The Game, tells El Luchador that Schmid will take several Crew players with him to Seattle. Among these will be Danny O’Rourke. Yes, I know he just re-signed with the Crew. That doesn’t matter. Just watch.

At least we will keep Schelotto.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Is Sigi Leaving?

Soccer by Ives is reporting that it’s nearly a done deal that Sigi Schmid will turn his back on Columbus and head for Seattle. Now, the Columbus Dispatch joins the chorus. The Luchador is still holding out hope that Sigi and the capitalists at the Crew will do the right thing. But time is running out. Come on Crew!

A Tale of Two Footballers

As everyone knows, the story goes like this: David Beckham came to America with much fanfare in 2007. He was sent to save “soccer.” He was promptly injured and missed most of the season. In 2008, he stayed mostly healthy but posted mediocre results for a man whose annual income (more than $6 million) exceeds the payrolls of most entire MLS franchises.

Meanwhile, another 30-something foreign soccer legend came to the U.S. at around the same time, making about one twelfth the salary, with no celebrity endorsements, no Posh Spice wife, no entourage and no breathless commentators analyzing his every move.

The Columbus Crew’s Guillermo Barros Schelotto is everything David Beckham is not.

Both men were born in the early ‘70s, enjoyed storied careers in their native countries and are making a last stand in the United States in the twilight of their careers. Both are midfielders, team leaders and play makers known for their ability on set pieces.

But the similarities end there. In short, Schelotto is an honorable man destined for greatness, grounded in the essence of the beautiful game, humble, with an exemplary work ethic and now the double MVP for 2008’s indisputable best team in the U.S., the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup winning Columbus Crew.

Beckham is a washed up has been, a poser who pretends to care about the game when all he really cares about is (to paraphrase Johnny Rotten) his self, his beautiful self.

Schelotto is a worker. Beckham is a member of the ruling class.

Beckham lives in swanky L.A. with his celebrity wife and three children being raised by paid help. Schelotto lives in New Albany, Ohio, by himself, as his wife looks after their three sons in their native Argentina while he completes this temporary adventure in America. Schelotto is a family man who makes frequent trips home to be with the boys and is known on the Crew as a teetotaler with no interest in “partying.”

Beckham globetrots preens, poses, changes hairstyles and has his own blog. People magazine writes articles about Beckham spending the Thanksgiving holiday with Tom Cruise and his family.

When Beckham comes to MLS stadiums, the home teams sell special three-game package deals to hordes of mindless bourgeoisie from the suburbs who normally couldn’t care less about “soccer” but show up wearing LA Galaxy gear, packing the stands like Catholics who show up to church only for Easter.

Schelotto doesn’t have a blog. He has not a single friend who has jumped on Oprah’s couch. He can walk unrecognized down the streets of Columbus. He shows up to all the tedious promotional events he is asked to. He is the real deal.

Schelotto's results on the field are impressive. Beckham's are average. Schelotto had 7 goals and a league-leading 19 assists and was voted by sports-writers and coaches as the best player in the league. Beckham had 5 goals and 10 assists and led his Galaxy to a tie for last place in the league with expansion San Jose.

Schelotto made some of the most artistic plays of 2008, including the final goal of the 2008 MLS season, a wizardly flea-flicker chip to the head of Frankie Hejduk to seal the deal on the MLS Cup final.

But the past week tells the real story. As the Crew prepared to face the New York Red Bulls in Beckham’s home stadium, a true American soccer fan might assume that the British saviour of Football would be doing wall-to-wall commentary in and around the stadium, using the occasion of America’s closest thing to a soccer Super Bowl to promote the game in the hopes that one day the MLS Cup might at least approximate the Super Bowl. Well, not exactly. Beckham did not attend the premier U.S. soccer event taking place in his own back yard. No, he flew to Las Vegas for a boxing match, then was spotted that night back in LA, not at the MLS Cup but at the LA Lakers game.

Here’s the moral of the story: A great man came from a foreign land in 2007 to save American soccer. That man was not David Beckham.

He lives a humble existence among the toiling masses. He is authentic. He led his team to the pinnacle of success, has fallen in love with soccer in America, and has announced his intention to stay next season.

His name is Guillermo Barros Schelotto. And he makes David Beckham look like the wanker that he is.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

O'Rourke Re-Signed, Evans Let Go

There are mixed signals as to whether Clark Hunt and the Crew management are serious about building on the 2008 success.

On the one hand, unsung workhorse defender and homegrown Columbus hero Danny O’Rourke was resigned on Wednesday to a new contract.

However, foolishly, the bourgeois capitalists who control the means of production at Crew stadium have let midfielder Brad Evans slip to the expansion Seattle Sounders.

First, O’Rourke: Smart move, even though there was little doubt he would leave. At 25, O’Rourke has played in 96 career games, including stints with the San Jose Earthquakes and the New York Red Bulls (losers). He had a career-high 6 assists this year, but stats aren’t the name of the game for a defender. Crew bourgeoisie Brian Bliss called O’Rourke a “vital cog” in the defense, which indeed he has been.

Of course, the terms are undisclosed, but chances are it wasn’t a lot of money.

The average Columbus Crew member makes less than the Nordecke Luchador and most of his faithful readers.

The Crew Capitalists exploited O’Rourke’s labor last year for $59K and change.

The Crew players will share $211,000 in postseason bonus money because of their MLS Cup win, under to the league's collective bargaining agreement.

Each player would get $6,800, if management were to split the postseason bonus money 31 ways among all players. $6,800 is well over half what a developmental roster player at the bottom of the pay scale makes like Ryan Junge or Adam Moffat ($12,900).

As far as Evans, he was paid a measly $33K. For that, the Crew 26 solid games with one assist and 5 goals, three of them game winners in matches with one-goal margins. Not bad.

Moffat, whom Evans replaced early in the season, will get his starting spot back. And, the Crew will be required to pay him more this year, as he will move off the development roster.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Schelotto, Schmid

Not to throw a downer on the MLS Cup celebrations, but more bad news: Sports Illustrated reports that unless the Hunt ownership group ponies up some serious cash, the prospects are not good for retaining double MVP (regular season and MLS Cup) Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Coach of the Year Sigi Schmid. The next year will be a huge test for the organization. With all the talk by Clark Hunt about "family" and yada, yada, yada, how committed is he really to making the Crew a dynasty franchise. They have taken Sigi right up to the brink with his contract set to expire in a matter of days. Wewill know within the next week whether they intend to rest on their laurels or offer a serious defense of their newly acquired title. The Nordecke Luchador was on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday evening as hundreds of Crew faithful gathered to honour the club in the company of Gov. Strickland. Every time Clark or Schmid was mentioned, the crowd chanted, "Re-sign Sigi!" Indeed. Resign Sigi, do what it takes to keep Schelotto, and don't let go of Lenhart, Moffat, and Gaven to name just a few. It's not as challenging as it sounds. "Cash moves everything around me."

Expansion Draft

The MLS today released the list of Columbus Crew players eligible for the expansion draft. Just days after winning their first MLS Cup in its history, the Crew is willing to part with some of the young talent that got them there? Notables on the list: Eddie Gaven, Steven Lenhart, Stefani Miglioranzi, and Adam Moffat. Predictions: Moffat and Lenhart are both gone (Moffat makes $14K, Lenhart not much more and both are exceptional goal scorers, although Moffat was injured most of the season). This would be a shame. Gaven's too expensive and will stay. Sad to see Duncan Oughton on the list, but he won't get picked up.